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September 23, 2013

Wikinews interviews specialists on China, Iran, Russia support for al-Assad

Wikinews interviews specialists on China, Iran, Russia support for al-Assad

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Over the past week, diplomatic actions have averted — or, at least delayed — military strikes on Syria by the United States. Wikinews sought input from a range of international experts on the situation; and, the tensions caused by Russia’s support for the al-Assad regime despite its apparent use of chemical weapons.

File:Ghouta chemical attack map.svg

Map of areas affected by chemical weapons in Ghouta, Syria.
Image: FutureTrillionaire.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Tensions in the country increased dramatically, late August when it was reported between 100 and 1,300 people were killed in an alleged chemical attack. Many of those killed appeared to be children, with some of the pictures and video coming out of the country showing — according to witnesses — those who died from apparent suffocation; some foaming at the mouth, others having convulsions.

Amongst Syria’s few remaining allies, Iran, China, and Russia continue to oppose calls for military intervention. In an effort to provide a better-understanding of the reasoning behind their ongoing support, the following people were posed a range of questions.

Interviewees

  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Politics from the University of Sydney, Australia
  • Farideh Farhi, an Affiliate with the Graduate Faculty of Political Science, and lecturer, at the ̣̣University of Hawai’i, Honolulu
  • Mehran Kamrava, Professor and Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
  • William Martel, Professor of International Security Studies at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts
  • Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, England
  • Walter Posch, an Iran expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, Germany; and,
  • Sam Roggeveen, a fellow of the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia

Wikinews Q&A

Iran, China, and Russia have remained as allies to the al-Assad government despite the alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghouta on August 21, 2013. Wikinews queried the listed subject-matter experts regarding the diplomatic relations between these nations, and the reasoning behind such.

China

File photo of United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York.
Image: Patrick Gruban.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png There are suggestions China wants to maintain its financial ties with Syria as its third largest importer in 2010. Would you agree with this?

  • Brown: I don’t think that is China’s key priority. China has a massive economy, and Syria is a very minor player in this. It has some, but not much, energy from Syria. Its real concerns in the current conflict are for stability, and geopolitical.
  • Farhi: China’s conduct in Syria has been similar to its conduct elsewhere. It has given support to Russia in international forum such as the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] and has acted opportunistically wherever its economic interest could be pursued. But, Syria is really not an area of interest for China. Its actions and support for the Russian position is derived from its general concerns regarding American imperialism and unilateralism.
  • Mitter: China will want, in general, to maintain financial ties with Syria as it does with many countries. China’s general position is that internal politics of countries should not interfere with economic ties.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think China is talking from experience when it says that foreign countries shouldn’t get involved with Syria’s internal affairs?

File photo of interviewee Sam Roggeveen.
Image: Sam Roggeveen.

  • Roggeveen: That stance reflects China’s history as a weak, developing country with a host of territorial disputes with its neighbours. Beijing does not want to set international precedents that will allow third parties to interfere with, for example, the Taiwan issue, Tibet, the East China Sea or the South China Sea.
But increasingly, China’s stance will conflict with its growing strength and growing responsibilities on the world stage. China is already the world’s second biggest economy and a major strategic power in the Asia Pacific [region]; and, it will increasingly be expected to take up responsibilities that come with such power. Also, as we saw in the case of Libya — where China sent a fleet of ships and aircraft to evacuate its nationals — China has interests and citizens all over the world, both of which need to be protected.
  • Brown: It [China] has always stood by non interference of other counties in the internal affairs of sovereign states; though, this position has changed over time since it was formulated on the back of China’s experience of colonisation in the early part of the twentieth-century. Its main priority now is to not see the escalation of issues, as was seen in Iraq and Afghanistan; where it runs the risk of being sucked into lengthy conflicts with no real gameplan, and no clear outcome that is relevant to it. It does not see the Syria[n] conflict [as] one where there is a an easy, viable, alternative option waiting to govern the country. And, it is very sceptical about US and others’ claims that they can control this problem.
  • Farhi: Yes, rejection of interference in the internal affairs of other countries — particularly of a military kind — is a principled Chinese position in areas where China doesn’t have an over-riding interest.
  • Mitter: China has been a hardline advocate of strong territorial sovereignty for decades. This is, in part, a product of its own history of being invaded and occupied by other countries.

File photo of interviewee Rana Mitter.
Image: Rana Mitter.


Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png China abstained from a UN Security Council resolution on Libya — do you think they are trying to reprise what happened in Libya in terms of regime change?

  • Roggeveen: China and Russia suspect the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, which was used by Western powers to justify the Libya intervention, was a smokescreen for regime change. So, they are wary of seeing something similar happen in Syria. China also prefers not to be on its own in the Security Council; so, if the Russians come down against a Libya-like resolution, [the] chances are that China will join them.
  • Brown: They felt there was clear mission-creep with Libya. What, however, has most emboldened them in opposing action in Syria is the position of Russia; which they have been able to stand behind. Diplomatically they dislike isolation, so this has proved the issue they have taken cover from.
  • Farhi: Libya has set a bad precedent for many countries who supported, or did not object to, NATO action. So, yes, the Libya example is a precedent; but, in any case, the Syrian dynamics are much more complex than Libya and both Russia and China — as well as Iran — genuinely see the attempt to resolve the imbroglio in Syria through military means as truly dangerous. In other words, they see the conduct of Western powers in the past two years as spawning policies that are tactically geared to weaken the Assad regime without a clear sense or strategy regarding what the end game should be. Particularly since at least part of the opposition to Assad has also elicited support from Islamic radicals.
  • Mitter: In general China is reluctant to take decisive action in international society, and [at] the UN. It prefers its partners, such as Russia, to take on confrontational roles while it tries to remain more neutral and passive.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think a political solution is the only realistic means to resolve the Syrian issue?

File photo of interviewee Kerry Brown.
Image: Kerry Brown.

  • Roggeveen: At the moment, both sides [in Syria] evidently feel they can still obtain their objectives through force. Perhaps one of them will be proved right; or, perhaps there will be a long-term stalemate with Syria split between regime and opposition forces.
One important change is the chemical weapons agreement; which now makes it much more difficult for the US or Israel to intervene militarily. The deal also gives the regime some degree of status as a legal authority with which outside powers must negotiate. That weakens the hand of the opposition; but, it could open a door for an international diplomatic intervention to achieve — firstly — a cease fire. and perhaps then something more substantive.
  • Brown: There is no appetite for the kinds of expensive and very hard interventions [undertaken] in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, in any case, the US and its allies don’t have the money to fund this, and their publics evidently feel no case has been made yet for getting involved. People are weary of the endless arguments in the Middle-East, and feel that they should now be left to deal with their own issues. China, in particular, has tried to maintain as strong a […] network of benign support in the region as possible, while avoiding getting sucked into problems. There is no viable opposition in Syria that would make it easier to justify intervention; and, no easy way of seeing how this tragic civil war is going to be easily ended.
  • Farhi: Syria has become the arena for a proxy war among regional and extra-regional players and yes its civil war will not end until all key players and their external supporters develop a political will to end the conflict. For the conflict to end, the bankers feeding the conflict should agree to stop funding it.
  • Mitter: Yes. But, it will depend on Russia, China, and the US, being able to come up with a compromise solution. That looks [to be] a long way off.

Iran

Free Syrian Army soldiers involved in the civil war.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png For many years, Syria has been considered Iran’s “closest ally”. What vested interest does the Iranian government have in keeping Bashar al-Assad in power?

  • Kamrava: These interests are primarily strategic, with both countries sharing common interests in relation to Lebanon — particularly the Hezbollah group — and [as] deterrence against Israel[i intervention].
  • Martel: Iran’s interests align very closely with that of Russia in supporting Syria and opposing the United States. Further, during this last week, President Putin offered to help Iran build a second nuclear reactor. The policies of Russia, Iran, and Syria align quite closely; thus leading some — such as myself — to argue that we are seeing the rise of an “authoritarian axis” of states, whose policies are coordinated.
  • Posch: First, Syria was Iran’s only ally against Saddam Hussein and [an] indispensable partner in Lebanon since the early 1980s.

Kurdish supporters of Syria’s Democratic Union Party in Afrin.
Image: Scott Bobb.

Even before the fall of Saddam in 2003, Iran reinterpreted the basically pragmatic cooperation in the field of intelligence and security. Ever since Syria was part of a so called “axis of resistance” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the sole common strategic denominator of these different actors is hostility against Israel, which is always depicted as an aggressor against whom the Muslims should resist — hence, the [designation as an] “axis of resistance”. Of course, forming an alliance ‘officially against Israel’ serves another purpose too: to take a stand against Saudi Arabia without naming it. Much of the current crisis in Syria has to do with this scheme.
  • Farhi: Syria supported Iran during the Iran–Iraq war; and, that dynamic forged a long-standing relationship between the two countries that includes economic, political, and military cooperation. In more recent years, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have self-identified as [an] axis of resistance against Israeli–American involvement in the region. Despite this, Iran initially mostly followed the Russian lead in the Syria. However as other regional players — such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as extra-regional players such as the United States — began to see, and articulate the weakening of, the Assad regime as a first step to the weakening of Iran, this enhanced Iran’s threat perception, and gave it [an] incentive for further involvement in support of Assad.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you think Iranian support for the Syrian government is a way of standing up against UN sanctions imposed on them, and opposing American imperialism?

  • Kamrava: No. Iranian–Syrian relations are rooted in common strategic interests rather than in assumptions about US imperialism, or the role of the UN sanctions.
  • Martel: Both Iran and Syria share a strategic interest in undermining the influence of the US and the West.
  • Posch: Definitely not. The sanctions track is a different one, checking American “imperialism” — as you call it — is, of course. one aim.
  • Farhi: As has become evident in the past few weeks, the primary interactive dynamic regarding the Syrian imbroglio is being played out mostly in terms of US–Russian rivalry; and, Iran is following the Russian lead.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png The UN has “overwhelmingly” confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria. Do you think both sides have used chemical weapons?

File photo of interviewee Mehran Kamrava.
Image: Mehran Kamrava.

  • Kamrava: It is undeniable that chemical weapons were used in Syria. But, I have not yet seen conclusive evidence for the responsibility of the use of chemical gas by one side or another. Until valid evidence is made available — proving who used chemical weapons — affixing blame to either the government forces, or to one of the fractious rebel groups, is only a matter of speculation.
  • Martel: I remain skeptical that anyone other than the Syrian government used chemical weapons. It is widely accepted that the Syrian government was behind the use of chemical weapons.
  • Posch: I think the Report is quite clear on that.
  • Farhi: I —as an academic, with no access to on the ground information — am in no position to know whether both sides have used chemical weapons.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Would you agree that part of Iran’s vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad is bound to two factors: religion and strategy?

Former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who stepped down earlier this year.
Image: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office.

  • Kamrava: No, I do not agree. Iran’s “vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad” is [a] product only of Iran’s strategic calculations.
While foreign policies anywhere may be expressed — and justified — through slogans and ideological rhetoric, they are based on strategic considerations and calculations. Despite common, journalistic misconceptions, religion has not played a role in Iranian foreign policy; whether in relation to Syria or anywhere else.
  • Martel: Iran’s vested interest in Syria is entirely geo-strategic. Iran’s support [for] Syria is designed to undermine US power and influence. For Iran, no policy objective is more important than to possess nuclear weapons. When the U.S. declared a “redline” if Syria “used or moved” chemical weapons, and then backed away from that redline, it is likely that Iran’s leadership drew one principal conclusion:
the US redline on Iran’s nuclear program is in doubt, the US commitment to preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons is in doubt,
and that Iran likely will test US resolve.
In strategic terms, doubts about the credibility of the US redline on Iran dwarfs any concerns about Syria’s chemical weapons.
The belief in Iran — that the US may not be willing to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons — could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It is difficult to exaggerate just how dangerous a nuclear-armed Iran is for regional and global security.
  • Posch: No, it is strategy, and perhaps ideology. Religion doesn’t play too much [of] a role, even though the conflict has been thoroughly “sectarianised”. This happened a few years back when the Saudis baptised (if that term is appropriate) the “axis of resistance” to “shiite crescent”. The domination of the Syrian Baath Party by members of one sect plays no role in Iran’s security equation. Attempts to convert Syrian Alevites to Mainstream Shiites are initiatives of some individual Ayatollahs. I have already mentioned the strategic aspect, [an] axis of resistance against Israel and Saudi Arabia simultaneously; to this I would add Iranian concern over the Kurdish issue.
  • Farhi: The Assad government is a secular government, and Iran’s relationship with it has nothing to do with religion or religious affinities. The relationship is a complex one — and, as mentioned before — forged as a strategic bond during the Iran–Iraq War, when Saddam’s regime was deemed aggressively expansionist by both regimes.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Iran is home to the world’s most populous Shiite Muslim nation. The Syrian rebels are Sunni. Could this be a Sunni vs. Shiite alignment in the Middle East?

File photo of interviewee Farideh Farhi.
Image: Farideh Farhi.

  • Kamrava: No. While sectarianism may be the lens through which some of the Syrian rebels see their fight against the government, ultimately the contest is over state power and capitalizing on opportunities created by the Arab uprisings in general; and, the Syrian civil war in particular. Sunni–Shia ‘alignments’ have nothing to do with it.
  • Posch: Usually, the Sunni–Shia divide is something Iranians and Saudis play up in order to put pressure on one another; usually, they were also able to deescalate. Syria, however, is the game-changer — for the simple reason that nobody believes the Saudis would control the post Al-Qaeda Networks in Syria. What Iran fears is an increase of the most-radical Sunni anti-shiism, the so called takfiris, spilling over onto Iranian territory.
  • Farhi: The Sunni governments in the region are working hard to use sectarian tensions as an instrument to fan popular resentments, in the region, towards Shi’ite Iran. But, the rivalry is actually political; and, has to do with the fears rivals have of what they consider — I think wrongly — to be Iran’s hegemonic aspirations in the region.
Sectarianism is an instrument for shaping regional rivalries, and not the source of problems, in the region.

Russia

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, meeting Syrianan president Bashar al-Assad, on a visit to Syria in 2010.
Image: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Russia is one of Syria’s biggest arms suppliers. Do you think this means Russia’s interest lies in economic benefit, as opposed to the humanitarian crisis?

  • Blank: Although Russia sells Syria weapons, Russia’s main interest has nothing to do with humanitarianism or economics.
Rather, its main interests are to force the US to accept Russia as an equal — so that Moscow has an effective veto power over any further American actions of a strategic nature there and elsewhere — and second, to restore Russia’s standing as an indispensable great power in the Middle East without whom nothing strategic can be resolved.
It should be noted that in neither case is Russia actively interested in finding solutions to existing problems. Rather, it seeks to create a bloc of pro-Russian, anti-American states and maintain simmering conflicts at their present level while weakening US power.

File photo of interviewee William Martel.
Image: William Martel.

  • Martel: Russia’s principal interests in Syria are twofold. First, Moscow’s support is geopolitical in design. It is designed precisely to undermine and weaken American influence in the Middle East and globally. The extent to which Russia can undermine American influence directly helps to bolster Russia’s influence. For now, Russia is such a vastly diminished power — both politically, economically, militarily, and technologically — that Russian policymakers are pursuing policies they believe will help to reverse Russia’s strategic decline.
Second, Syria is Russia’s strongest ally in the region, if not the world, while Syria is the home to Russia’s only foreign naval base.
  • Farhi: Syria is Russia’s only solid strategic ally in the Middle East. Syria, in effect, is a Russian client. Russia’s interests lie in maintaining that foothold, and perhaps extending it.
It also has a concern regarding the civil war in Syria spawning what it considers to be extremist Islamist activities, which it has had to contend with within its own borders.

File photo of interviewee Stephen Blank.
Image: Stephen Blank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you believe Russia distrusts US intentions in the region — in the sense of countering the West on regime change?

  • Blank: It is clear that Russia not only does not trust US interests and judgment in the Middle East, it regards Washington as too-ready to use force to unseat regimes it does not like and believes these could lead to wars; more importantly, to the attempt to overthrow the present Russian government. That is critical to understanding Moscow’s staunch support for Assad.
  • Martel: Russia’s policymakers understand that American and Russia interests directly diverge. Russia seeks to undermine US geopolitical influence, and increase its own. It is using its support of the Syrian regime to accomplish that objective. American interests, by contrast, are largely to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons.
Appallingly, Russia is supporting Syria despite the fact that all evidence points to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
One would think that American policymakers would be more critical of Russia; which is directly supporting a regime that used poison gas to slaughter its own men, women, and children.
  • Farhi: It is less about trust and more about protection of geopolitical interests and prevention of even more dire consequences if Assad goes. It is true that Russia feels that the United States and NATO went beyond the mandate afforded to them by the UN Security Council in going after regime change in Libya.
However, Russia’s geopolitical, and economic, interests in Syria are much more important; and, the relationship between the two countries [is] much deeper.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The Russian Government accepts that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. How does it come to claim that the rebels are behind the attacks even though it is widely accepted that the al-Assad government has stocks of weapons?

A BM-14 multiple rocket launcher, similar to the type likely to have launched the M-14 munitions found by UN Inspectors on August 26.
Image: Vlad.

  • Blank: It [Russia] simply intends to defend Assad to the hilt; and is hardly unwilling to lie — especially as its intelligence service is notorious for fabricating mendacious and biased threat assessments, and is not under any form of effective democratic control.
  • Martel: Russia’s claims that Syrian rebels were behind the chemical weapon attacks is, frankly, inexplicable. Worse, Russia’s basic credibility is undermined by such statements.
  • Farhi: Russia claims Syria has presented it [with] evidence that the rebels have used chemical weapons; and Russia, in turn, has given the evidence to the UNSC. It has also called the UN report one-sided and biased. The bottom line is — the claim that the opposition to the Assad regime is at least as culpable in the violence being committed in Syria, opens the path for Russia to continue calling for a political solution [which] brings to the table all parties to the conflict in Syria, including Assad and his supporters; something the multi-voiced opposition has so far refused.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would you agree that Russia’s vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad is bound to two factors: economics and ideology?

  • Blank: As I said above, Russia’s interest in Assad is bound to two geopolitical factors: maintaining the security of its regime; and, equally important, weakening America in the Middle-East — if not globally — and ensuring that Russia’s great power status is thereby ensured.
  • Martel: Russia’s vested interest in protecting Syria’s al-Assad is driven by geopolitics.
To support Assad, is to counter US policy and influence; which is precisely what Putin’s government seeks to accomplish. In many senses, Russia’s support for Syria is entirely secondary to Russia’s strategy of reversing its two-decade long decline in every measure of power. With its weak economy, dependence on petroleum for half of its national income, and increasingly authoritarian government, Russia has relatively little to offer the world — other than to oppose the United States as part of its strategy of reversing its decline.
While Russia’s geopolitical influence clearly increased as a result of its support for Syria, its long-term economic prospects remain quite dim.
  • Farhi: It is economic as well as political.
Syria is a customer of Russian arms and goods; hosting a naval supply base in Tartus. But, as mentioned above, Russia has serious concerns regarding what comes after Assad. For Russia, the current regime is better than chaos or control by Islamists.
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April 9, 2013

Wikinews interviews Amir Abbas Fakhravar about Iranian nuclear intentions

Wikinews interviews Amir Abbas Fakhravar about Iranian nuclear intentions

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

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A file photo of Amir Abbas Fakhravar.
Image: Amir Abbas Fakhravar.

Iran has been operating a nuclear program for years and announced opening a new uranium facility on Tuesday. Its claims over nuclear enrichment are for a nuclear power program, although this requires 5% enrichment as opposed to the 20% enrichment level they claim the right to pursue which is more commonly used in nuclear bombs.

Wikinews interviewed Amir Abbas Fakhravar, the President of the Iranian Freedom Institute which is based in Washington DC, United States, also a research fellow at the The Institute of World Politics, about the Iranian nuclear program in light of recent talks with this week with the P5+1 group of countries.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What is your role at the Iranian Freedom Institute?

Amir Abbas Fakhravar: I am the President and Founder of the Iranian Freedom Institute.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Iran seems unwilling to give up its nuclear programme, do you think they will eventually given the UN United Nations sanctions?

AAF: The only way Islamic Regime in Iran will give up its nuclear program is either full operation and military attack by the West or total oil sanctions. 85–90% of the the Islamic Republic’s money comes from crude oil sales. This money does not go to the Iranian people, but instead funds the nuclear program, the Revolutionary Guards, basijis, Hezbollah, and other terror operations worldwide. The Islamic Republic will be forced into abandoning its nuclear program when oil sanctions dry up the money supply.

The Arak heavy water reactor nuclear facility in Arak, Iran.
Image: Nanking2012..

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you feel the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to provoke a response from the Western nations (USA, UK, France, Germany)?

AAF: A limited military response from the West which will not be for a regime change would be a gift to the Islamic Republic, and would feed the narrative of “overreaching, imperialistic Western governments” perpetuated by the regime. The IR is well aware of the rapid decline in support from the Iranian people and is looking for a way to gain back some of that support, even superficially. An attack from the west would buoy the regime and damage the work being done by the opposition.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What is the need for Iran to have a nuclear programme, are they doing it for energy or for weapons?

AAF: Iran makes clear its intentions for the nuclear program through its actions. The regime expresses desire to annihilate Israel almost daily, and has repeatedly refused negotiation and inspection of its nuclear sites. Also you can find several type of energies in Iran and at all they don’t need to have this expensive and dangerous nuclear energy. For sure Islamic republic of Iran wants to have Nuclear bomb.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png If Iran does not listen and change course with regards to its nuclear program, do you think that the United Nations will apply more sanctions?

AAF: It took a very long time to sanction the Islamic Republic to the extent it is now, and since the UN continues to send negotiators to the table to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, tighter sanctions at this point in time are unlikely. It is our responsibility at Iranian opposition to inform United Nations about this regime’s threat to international community. We should move much more organize[d] and faster to cut Islamic Republic’s diplomatic relationship with the world. Our campaign on oil sanctions showed us it is possible.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think that the United States is particularly unhappy and international relations are poor considering that Iran recently captured a drone and refused to return it?

AAF: While a failure militarily and with regard to foreign policy, the captured drone incident is a relatively small event in the context of ongoing tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic.



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December 31, 2012

Iranian Navy conducts drills in Strait of Hormuz

Iranian Navy conducts drills in Strait of Hormuz

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Monday, December 31, 2012

Strait of Hormuz

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The Islamic Republic of Iran says it is conducting naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz. According to the Iranian navy’s Habibollah Sayyari, the “Velayat 91” drills — to be held for a six day period ending on Wednesday — are intended to showcase “the armed forces’ military capabilities.”

Iran’s state-run media reports that the Iranian government warns all ships to stay away until the end of the exercises. According to this report the drills — which began on Friday — are to be conducted over roughly half a million square miles (a million square kilometers) of waters stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the northern part of the Indian Ocean which includes the Gulf of Oman.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Scout maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz during joint training in November 2010

The Strait of Hormuz is a major shipping route of great strategic importance. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 17 million barrels of oil passes through this part of the Persian Gulf per day. That is nearly 20% of the worldwide oil trade and about 35% of oil transported by sea.

This is only one in a series of major naval drills held by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. Ten days of drills, “Velayat 90”, was conducted last December and “Velayat 89” a year and a half before that in May 2010. Four months ago, the United States with some of its allies also conducted a series of exercises and naval drills, concerned with keeping the strait open. Iran has said it might close the strait if its nuclear program were attacked.



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December 28, 2012

Iranian Navy conducts drill in Strait of Hormuz

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Strait of Hormuz

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The Islamic Republic of Iran says it is conducting naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz. According to the Iranian navy’s Habibollah Sayyari, the “Velayat 91” drills — to be held for a six day period ending on Wednesday — are intended to showcase “the armed forces’ military capabilities.”

Iran’s state-run media reports that the Iranian government warns all ships to stay away until the end of the exercises. According to this report the drills — which began on Friday — are to be conducted over roughly half a million square miles (a million square kilometers) of waters stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the northern part of the Indian Ocean which includes the Gulf of Oman.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Scout maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz during joint training in November 2010

The Strait of Hormuz is a major shipping route of great strategic importance. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 17 million barrels of oil passes through this part of the Persian Gulf per day. That is nearly 20% of the worldwide oil trade and about 35% of oil transported by sea.

This is only one in a series of major naval drills held by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. Ten days of drills, “Velayat 90”, was conducted last December and “Velayat 89” a year and a half before that in May 2010. Four months ago, the United States with some of its allies also conducted a series of exercises and naval drills, concerned with keeping the straight open. Iran has said it might close the straight if its nuclear program were attacked.



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Iranian Navy conduct drill in Strait of Hormuz

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Strait of Hormuz

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The Islamic Republic of Iran says it is conducting naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz. According to Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, the “Velayat 91” or “Guardianship 91” drills—which will be held for a six day period ending on Wednesday—are intended to showcase “the armed forces’ military capabilities.”

Iran’s state-run media reports that the Iranian government warns all ships to stay away until the end of the exercises. According to this report the drills—which began on Friday—will be conducted over roughly half a million square miles of waters stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the northern part of the Indian Ocean which includes the Gulf of Oman.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Scout maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz during joint training in November 2010

The Strait of Hormuz is a major shipping route of great strategic importance. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 17 million barrels of oil passes through this part of the Persian Gulf. That is nearly 35% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments and 20% of oil traded worldwide.

This is only one in a series of major naval drills held by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. Ten-days of drills, “Velayat 90” was conducted last December and “Velayat 89” a year and a half before that in May 2010. Four months ago, the United States and it’s allies also conducted a series of exercises and naval drills. They continue to prepare for a worse case scenario of an attempt by Iran to block the major shipping route with the use of mines. This scenario is a distinct possibility as Iran has said many times that it would be a possible strategy if it ever came under attack from the west over its nuclear program.



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December 2, 2012

Leaked Syrian government emails indicate weapons supplied to Hamas

Leaked Syrian government emails indicate weapons supplied to Hamas

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

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Emails allegedly hacked from Syrian government accounts, leaked onto the Internet, indicate Iran and Syria are supplying weapons made in Ukraine and Belarus to Hamas in Palestine.

One of the leaked letters from the Syrian Embassy in Tehran, requesting Iranian tourist visas for the Syrian Ambassador’s brother and son, who have Romanian citizenship.
Image: Syrian Embassy.

The online activist group known as Anonymous takes responsibility for the leak, which comprises over 2,000 emails and other files totaling around 1 gigabyte. The leak is part of Anonymous’ ongoing campaign known as ‘#OpSyria’ or ‘Operation Syria’ on the social networking website Twitter.

On Monday at 2030 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), ‘Par:AnoIA,’ one of many Twitter accounts connected to Anonymous, stated that the group would “release a stash of Syrian Government emails in the next 24h, featuring Kofi Annan correspondence, cash & weapon deliveries.” Three hours later the same user announced a leak of “1 Gigabyte [of] internal emails from [the] Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” onto the internet.

The first email leaked was called a “teaser”, from the Syrian embassy in Tehran on November 20, to the British embassy in Belarus. In the communique, the embassy confirms the Iranians are supplying helicopters and Ukrainian made weapons to Hamas, which operates mostly from the Gaza Strip in Palestine. “1.2D projectiles of Ukraine origin found in Egypt and Syria” are some of the weapons being sent to Palestine along with “EC725 Helicopters“.

“Since 2008 Iran is the main transit point for Palestine armament”, says the email. It also goes on to say the weapons are made in Ukraine as part of “2008 arms trade operations sanctioned by The [Ukrainian] Minister of Defense Anatoly Gritsenko.

Although evidence could suggest Iran’s willingness to supply arms to Hamas, in a report compiled on November 2, by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Iran is trying to stop weapons from being sent into Syria for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The report quotes Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who called for the FSA “to lay down their arms to be able to deliver their demands to the Syrian government.”((ar)) In regards to the civil war in Syria, Khamenei went on to say that if outside entities “were to provide the opponents in every country of weapons from outside the country, it is natural that the regime responds to opponents”((ar)).

This is not the first time Anonymous has hacked into Syrian government email accounts. In February, the group hacked into 78 Syrian government email accounts and leaked the usernames and passwords associated with them. The accounts accessed reportedly belonged to aides of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. One of the leaked emails, allegedly written by a press aide at Syria’s mission at the UN in New York named Sheherazad Jaafari, talks about Assad’s preparation for a December 2011 television interview with ABC NewsBarbara Walters. In it, Jaafari wrote about ways the Syrian president might be able to manipulate the television audience.

“The American audience doesn’t really care about reforms. They won’t understand it and they are not interested to do so…. American Psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ … Its[sic] worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street [Occupy Wall Street] and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings,” wrote Jaafari.



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November 27, 2012

Leaked Syrian government emails indicate weapons supplied to Hamas, massive cash transfers

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Syria
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Location of Syria

A map showing the location of Syria

To write, edit, start or view other articles on Syria, see the Syria Portal
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Emails allegedly hacked from Syrian government accounts, leaked onto the Internet, indicate Iran and Syria are supplying Ukrainian made weapons to the Palestinian group Hamas.

One of the leaked letters from the Syrian Embassy in Tehran, requesting Iranian tourist visas for the Syrian Ambassador’s brother and son, who have Romanian citizenship.
Image: Syrian Embassy.

The online activist group known as Anonymous takes responsibility for the leak, which comprises over 2,000 emails and other files totaling around 1 gigabyte. The leak is part of Anonymous’ ongoing campaign known as ‘#OpSyria’ or ‘Operation Syria’ on the social networking website Twitter.

On Monday at 2030 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), ‘Par:AnoIA,’ one of many Twitter accounts connected to Anonymous, stated that the group would “release a stash of Syrian Government emails in the next 24h, featuring Kofi Annan correspondence, cash & weapon deliveries.” Three hours later the same user announced a leak of “1 Gigabyte [of] internal emails from [the] Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” onto the internet.

The first email leaked was called a “teaser”, from the Syrian embassy in Tehran on November 20, to the British embassy in Belarus. In the communique, the embassy confirms the Iranians are supplying Ukrainian made weapons and other materials to Hamas, which operates mostly from the Gaza Strip in Palestine.

“Since 2008 Iran is the main transit point for Palestine armament”, says the email. It also goes on to say the weapons are made in Ukraine as part of “2008 arms trade operations sanctioned by The [Ukrainian] Minister of Defense Anatoly Gritsenko”.

The email also alleges that the Iranian government requested use of Belarus airspace to transport arms and other material to Hamas from Ukraine. The Iranian government made the request because they fear outside involvement. They believe that some within the Ukrainian military, “people … outside Syria” and “abroad” are attempting to interfere and help fund the manufacturing and shipment of weapons through “offshore companies controlled by the former high rank military command of Ukraine”.

Although evidence could suggest Iran’s willingness to supply arms to Hamas, in a report compiled on November 2, by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Iran is trying to stop weapons from being sent into Syria for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The report quotes Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who called for the FSA “to lay down their arms to be able to deliver their demands to the Syrian government.”((ar)) In regards to the civil war in Syria, Khamenei went on to say that if outside entities “were to provide the opponents in every country of weapons from outside the country, it is natural that the regime responds to opponents”((ar)).

This is not the first time Anonymous has hacked into Syrian government email accounts. In February, the group hacked into 78 Syrian government email accounts and leaked the usernames and passwords associated with them. One of those accounts accessed belonged to an aide of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. One of the leaked emails, allegedly written by a press aide at Syria’s mission at the UN in New York named Sheherazad Jaafari, talks about Assad’s preparation for a December 2011 television interview with ABC NewsBarbra Walters. In it, Jaafari wrote about ways the Syrian president might be able to manipulate the television audience.

“The American audience doesn’t really care about reforms. They won’t understand it and they are not interested to do so. American Psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ Its [sic] worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street [Occupy Wall Street] and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings,” wrote Jaafari.



Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

External links

This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

October 25, 2012

Obama, Romney battle over foreign policy in final U.S. presidential debate

Obama, Romney battle over foreign policy in final U.S. presidential debate

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Jump to: navigation, search

Thursday, October 25, 2012

2012 US presidential election candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took part Monday in their third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Florida. The topic of the debate was foreign policy and the candidates discussed the Arab Spring, Iran, and Mali, among other issues.

Barack Obama
Image: US Senate.

Mitt Romney
Image: Gage skidmore.

Mr. Obama criticised Mr. Romney’s foreign policy positions as “all over the map”. “Every time you have offered an opinion you have been wrong.” “You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite the fact there were no weapons of mass destruction. You said we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You said we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia.” Mr. Romney countered saying Mr. Obama had failed to take proper advantage of the Arab Spring: “I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership of al-Qaeda, but we can’t kill our way out of this mess”.

Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama was proposing military budget cuts. He said “the highest responsibility of the President of the United states … is to maintain the safety of the American people, and I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars… That in my view is making our future less certain and less secure”. Mr. Obama accused Mr. Romney of not properly understanding modern defense priorities. “You mention the navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Because the nature of the military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines“.

Cquote1.svg Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Because the nature of the military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines”. Cquote2.svg

—Barack Obama

Mr. Romney criticized his opponent for visiting the Middle East on an “apology tour”, and said he would be tougher with Iran. “I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we’ve had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be. We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran and we should not have wasted these four years.” Mr. Obama said he would stand with Israel against Iranian threats but added that the main national security concern was terrorist networks. He said his administration had focused on “those who actually killed us on 9/11” and said that under his leadership, “al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated”. Mr. Romney said northern Mali had been taken over by “al-Qaeda-type individuals” .

Mr. Romney criticized China for “holding down artificially the value of their currency”. He added “on day one, I will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs.” Mr. Obama countered saying under Mr. Romney’s policy America would be “buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China”.

A poll, taken by CBS straight after the debate, indicated 53% of voters thought Mr. Obama had done better, while only 23% thought Mr. Romney had done better.

Both candidates now have plans for continued campaigning ahead of the election on November 6. Mr. Obama is to travel through Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada as well as appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in a two-day “America Forward Tour”. Mr. Romney is to hold two joint rallies with his vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Nevada and Colorado before going on to campaign in Iowa and Ohio. Mr. Romney’s advisers said he would also consider making a speech on government spending and debt in the next few days.



Sources

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

October 23, 2012

Obama and Romney battle over foreign policy in final U.S presidential debate

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 United States Presidential Election
Wikinews Election 2012.svg
2012 U.S. Presidential Election stories

2012 US presidential election candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took part Monday in the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Florida. The topic of the debate was foreign policy and the candidates discussed the Arab Spring, Iran, and Mali, among other issues.

Barack Obama
Image: US Senate.

Mitt Romney
Image: Gage skidmore.

Mr Obama criticised Mr Romney’s foreign policy positions as “all over the map”: “Every time you have offered an opinion you have been wrong.” “You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite the fact there were no weapons of mass destruction. You said we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You said we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia.” Mr Romney countered saying Mr Obama had failed to take proper advantage of the Arab Spring: “I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership of al-Qaeda, but we can’t kill our way out of this mess”.

Mr Romney said Mr Obama was proposing military budget cuts. He said “the highest responsibility of the President of the United states … is to maintain the safety of the American people, and I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars… That in my view is making our future less certain and less secure”. Mr Obama accused Mr Romney of not properly understanding modern defense priorities. “You mention the navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Because the nature of the military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines“.

Cquote1.svg Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Because the nature of the military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines”. Cquote2.svg

—Baracl Obama

Mr Romney criticized his opponent for visiting the Middle East on an “apology tour”, and said he would be tougher with Iran. “I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we’ve had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be. We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran and we should not have wasted these four years.” Mr Obama said he would stand with Israel against Iranian threats but added that the main national security concern was terrorist networks. He said his administration had focused on “those who actually killed us on 9/11” and said that under his leadership, “al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated”. Mr Romney said northern Mali had been taken over by “al-Qaeda-type individuals” .

Mr Romney criticized China for “holding down artificially the value of their currency”. He added “on day one, I will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs.” Mr Obama countered saying under Mr Romney’s policy America would be “buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China”.

A poll, taken by CBS straight after the debate, indicated 53% of voters thought Mr Obama had done better, while only 23% thought Mr Romney had done better.

Both candidates now have plans for continued campaigning ahead of the election on November 6. Mr Obama is to travel through Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada as well as appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in a two-day “America Forward Tour”. Mr Romney is to hold two joint rallies with his vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Nevada and Colorado before going on to campaign in Iowa and Ohio. Mr Romney’s advisers said he would also consider making a speech on government spending and debt in the next few days.



Sources

This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

Obama and Romney battle over foreign policy in final U.S. presidential debate

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to: navigation, search

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 United States Presidential Election
Wikinews Election 2012.svg
2012 U.S. Presidential Election stories

2012 US presidential election candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took part Monday in the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Florida. The topic of the debate was foreign policy and the candidates discussed the Arab Spring, Iran, and Mali, among other issues.

Barack Obama
Image: US Senate.

Mitt Romney
Image: Gage skidmore.

Mr Obama criticised Mr Romney’s foreign policy positions as “all over the map”. “Every time you have offered an opinion you have been wrong.” “You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite the fact there were no weapons of mass destruction. You said we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You said we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia.” Mr Romney countered saying Mr Obama had failed to take proper advantage of the Arab Spring: “I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership of al-Qaeda, but we can’t kill our way out of this mess”.

Mr Romney said Mr Obama was proposing military budget cuts. He said “the highest responsibility of the President of the United states … is to maintain the safety of the American people, and I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars… That in my view is making our future less certain and less secure”. Mr Obama accused Mr Romney of not properly understanding modern defense priorities. “You mention the navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Because the nature of the military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines“.

Cquote1.svg Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Because the nature of the military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines”. Cquote2.svg

—Baracl Obama

Mr Romney criticized his opponent for visiting the Middle East on an “apology tour”, and said he would be tougher with Iran. “I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we’ve had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be. We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran and we should not have wasted these four years.” Mr Obama said he would stand with Israel against Iranian threats but added that the main national security concern was terrorist networks. He said his administration had focused on “those who actually killed us on 9/11” and said that under his leadership, “al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated”. Mr Romney said northern Mali had been taken over by “al-Qaeda-type individuals” .

Mr Romney criticized China for “holding down artificially the value of their currency”. He added “on day one, I will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs.” Mr Obama countered saying under Mr Romney’s policy America would be “buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China”.

A poll, taken by CBS straight after the debate, indicated 53% of voters thought Mr Obama had done better, while only 23% thought Mr Romney had done better.

Both candidates now have plans for continued campaigning ahead of the election on November 6. Mr Obama is to travel through Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada as well as appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in a two-day “America Forward Tour”. Mr Romney is to hold two joint rallies with his vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Nevada and Colorado before going on to campaign in Iowa and Ohio. Mr Romney’s advisers said he would also consider making a speech on government spending and debt in the next few days.



Sources

This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.
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