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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 37,305

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US Dilemma and reality...We Don't Want Either Side to Win Syrian War.

The need for an immediate U.S. response in Syria to discourage the further use of chemical weapons does not change the fundamental dilemma of U.S. policy, which is that for very good reasons, the United States does not want either side to win this war. Victory for either side would mean dreadful massacres and ethnic cleansing, as well as an increased threat of international terrorism.

All of this is well known to policy makers in Washington, which explains President Obama’s praiseworthy caution. What the administration now needs to do is to start thinking seriously about the real contours of a Syrian peace settlement, and to turn the Syrian crisis into an opportunity to rethink its overall strategy in the Middle East.

In the long run, if Syria is not to disintegrate as a country, there will have to be a peace settlement that guarantees the sharing of power among Syria’s different ethno-religious groups. The participation of Russia, Iran and Iraq in such a settlement will obviously be essential.


NYT: Subtle Tricks Shift Shoppers to Produce (researchers increase purchases of fresh food)

The mirror is part of an effort to get Americans to change their eating habits, by two social scientists outmaneuvering the processed-food giants on their own turf, using their own tricks: the distracting little nudges and cues that confront a supermarket shopper at every turn. The researchers, like many government agencies and healthy-food advocates these days, are out to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. But instead of preaching about diabetes or slapping taxes on junk food, they gently prod shoppers — so gently, in fact, that it’s hard to believe the results.

In one early test at a store in Virginia, grocery carts carried a strip of yellow duct tape that divided the baskets neatly in half; a flier instructed shoppers to put their fruits and vegetables in the front half of the cart. Average produce sales per customer jumped to $8.85 from $3.99.

Here in El Paso a few months ago, the researchers focused on the floor, laying down large plastic mats bearing huge green arrows that pointed shoppers to the produce aisle. The outcome surprised no one more than the grocer.

“In retail, the customer tends to go to the right,” said Tim Taylor, the produce director for Lowe’s, Pay and Save, a regional grocery chain that let the scientists in to experiment with their arrows and mirrors. “But I watched when the arrows were down, pointing left, and that’s where people went: left, 9 out of 10.”


Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Charged With Inciting Murder

CAIRO — Egypt’s chief prosecutor ordered former president Mohamed Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders on Sunday to stand trial on charges including inciting murder, the state news media reported. The order seemed to extinguish hope of a political resolution that would bring the Brotherhood out from underground and back into the political process.

The authorities, who allege that Mr. Morsi stoked deadly clashes outside his palace in December, did not detail the evidence against him on Sunday. There is no public record of statements he may have made to incite violence. Since Mr. Morsi was deposed on July 3, setting off protest rallies and sit-ins across the country, the authorities have killed more than 1,000 of his supporters and jailed much of the Brotherhood’s senior leadership. The former president himself had been detained without formal charges since his overthrow.

The developments on Sunday seemed to close off any chance for an imminent settlement to the standoff between the Islamists of the Brotherhood and the military, and marked another confounding turn for Egypt’s chaotic political transition. As the country has lurched between military rule and fledgling democracy, its judiciary has remained marred by politics, one of many lingering remnants of Egypt’s authoritarian past.

The timing of the prosecutor’s order reinforced that feeling: Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was charged with capital crimes 12 days after his autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, was released from prison, though he remained under house arrest as he awaits a second trial on charges of complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters.

“The military and the state are trying to push the Brotherhood to lose any hope that he will be reinstated,” Khalil al-Anani, an expert on Islamist movements at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said of the order to prosecute Mr. Morsi. “It’s an attempt to paralyze the movement, and affect its activism. It’s very symbolic — this is a political move by the state against the Brotherhood.”


Obama administration using time-tested pitch to get Congress to back military strikes: Israel

White House to Congress: Help protect Israel
Israel’s enemies could be emboldened by a lack of action, administration officials say.
By JONATHAN ALLEN | 9/1/13 7:10 AM EDT Updated: 9/1/13 1:55 PM EDT

The Obama administration is using a time-tested pitch to get Congress to back military strikes in Syria: It will help protect Israel.

Israel’s enemies, including Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah, could be emboldened if Congress fails to approve action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, senior administration officials said Saturday.

And for the second day in a row, President Barack Obama publicly cited the threat against Israel if Assad’s reported use of chemical weapons goes unchecked. “It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq,” Obama said Saturday in the Rose Garden. “It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/white-house-congress-syria-protect-israel-96133.html#ixzz2dhu5Fofa

The anger and disgust from Hillary's top Syria hand, Fred Hof, is amazing

@BuzzFeedBen: The anger and disgust from Hillary's top Syria hand, Fred Hof, is amazing http://t.co/8BCu8kIddt

Foreign Policy Hands Wonder: What’s The Point Of Obama’s Syria Policy?

President Obama has yet to connect his military goals in Syria and his political ones. “Constitutionally sound, but strategically appalling” says Obama’s former top Syria aide.
posted on September 1, 2013 at 11:28pm EDT
Miriam Elder

Frederic Hof spent President Obama’s first term as the State Department’s point man on Syria. He is now a furious administration critic, and a symbol of the crowing consensus in the professional foreign policy community that the Obama Administration — no matter how its last minute detour through Congress turns out — has badly bungled its Syria policy through two years of popular uprising turned bloody civil war.

“The events of the past ten days suggest that there was no administration forethought to the possibility of a major chemical incident in Syria,” wrote Hof, currently a fellow at the Atlantic Council, where his former boss is Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Hof had floated the specter of a chemical attack by the regime months ago.
“The results of this mystifying lack of preparedness have been abysmal,” he wrote, calling Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval for the strikes “constitutionally sound, but strategically appalling” and suggesting the White House find “an objectives-based strategy.”

Hof struck at what, for those who spend their time thinking about grand strategy and not domestic politics, is the heart of the matter. The administration has consistently separated the goals it hopes to achieve with a military strike — punish Assad, send a warning to similar states, restore U.S. credibility — from the objectives it hopes to achieve politically: to reach a negotiated peace in Syria with Assad no longer at the country’s helm. In terms of strategic planning, the separation of the two is almost a rookie error.

No one is underestimating the complexity of a conflict that combines elements of sectarian violence and a wider proxy war between the likes of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Yet a consensus focused on the Obama administration’s foreign policy missteps has begun to emerge.

Since first floating the prospect of military strikes last week in the wake of an August 21 chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians, Obama has insisted that any attack on Assad would be “limited” and “narrow,” aimed at punishing Assad for using unconventional weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that stance while making the rounds of the Sunday morning shows: “We do not believe that this military action the president has decided to take should be more than an effort to try to deter and prevent the use of chemical weapons and to degrade his capacity to use those weapons.”


Which begs the question...where does Hillary stand?

Drug Agents Use Vast Phone Trove Eclipsing N.S.A.’s

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

The project comes to light at a time of vigorous public debate over the proper limits on government surveillance and on the relationship between government agencies and communications companies. It offers the most significant look to date at the use of such large-scale data for law enforcement, rather than for national security.


Syria resolution will be ‘a very tough sell’ in Congress, lawmakers say

The most difficult hurdle comes in the House, which has been incapable this year of approving what in the past were considered perfunctory measures. The farm bill, usually a bipartisan celebration of agriculture policy, failed in late June.

Compounding the troubles is that the debate on Syria comes just as Congress is poised to renew the fiscal showdown with Obama on federal spending and raising the debt limit so the Treasury does not default.

The Syria deliberations will not fall along the normal ideological fault lines. Obama cannot count on the near-universal support he usually has among the 201 House Democrats, a caucus in which doubts are plentiful.

Aware of the growing bloc of Republican isolationists, senior GOP aides warned Sunday that a large number of Democrats will have to support the use-of-force resolution for it to have any chance. Advisers in both parties described the measure as a “vote of conscience” that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will not be lobbying lawmakers to support.


Cyprus: ‘We will not be used as a launching pad for Syria attack’

CYPRUS cannot be used as a launching pad for attacks on Syria while at the same time offering its services as a shelter of stability and security for fleeing foreign nationals, said Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides yesterday.

Speaking at a press briefing, Kasoulides said he has been given assurances that Cyprus will not be used as a launching pad for possible attacks against the Syrian government in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians near Damascus.

At the same time, he said: “Cyprus as a country of stability, peace and security is ready to undertake the responsibility of acting as a shelter in the evacuation of foreign nationals of friendly countries from the Middle East region if needed.

“This is the capacity that we want to safeguard and we have received assurances that (Cyprus’) territory will not be used as a launching pad,” he said, adding: “We cannot be a safe haven of peace and security on the one hand and a launching pad on the other.”

Kasoulides ruled out Cyprus also providing shelter to Syrian refugees, noting that the “current economic situation in Cyprus is not conducive to officially receiving Syrian refugees”.


Russia Restructures Cyprus Debt; Cyprus Prohibits US Strikes On Syria

Yesterday afternoon, Russia agreed to restructure Cyprus' EUR 2.5 billion loan terms to a much more affordable 2.5% semi-annual coupon through 2016 and a principal re-payment over the following four years. While probably still out of reach for the desparate economy, it was a positive step. Of course, this 'offer' by Russia has its quid pro quo. This morning, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has stated that Cyprus territory will not be used to launch military strikes against Syria, as "Cyprus wants to live up to its responsibility as a shelter if needed for nationals of friendly countries who evacuate from Middle East". It would appear Obama's influence is fading everywhere...

Cyprus is located ~183 nautical miles west of Syria and is the EU member nearest to Syria.


Obama’s proposal seeks broad war power despite vow of limits

WASHINGTON — While President Barack Obama insists he wants only a limited air attack on Syria, his proposed authorization of force would empower him to do much more than that. Congress is likely to impose tighter reins, as lawmakers have learned that presidents are prone to expand on powers once granted

The substantive part of Obama’s proposed authorization of the use of military force, conveyed to congressional leaders over the weekend, contains 172 words. That’s significantly more than either the 1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution authorizing the Vietnam War or the 2001 resolution authorizing retaliation for the 9/11 terror attacks, two measures that later became notorious for how aggressively presidents used them.

The proposed resolution gives Obama a go-ahead to use the military as he “determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria.” Specifically, the president could act to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of the weapons or to “protect the United States and its allies and partners” from the weapons.”

Tellingly, University of Texas Law School Professor Robert Chesney said in an interview, Obama’s proposed authorization did not include a sunset date. Chesney suggested that “if the administration is serious about wanting to act in such a truly narrow, time-limited way,” then a sunset measure could be useful.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/01/201002/obamas-proposal-seeks-broad-war.html#.UiQErMu9KSM#storylink=cpy
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