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Entries in Leon Panetta (25)


Syria Live Coverage: Has the Insurgent Advance Stalled?

2136 GMT: A Massacre in Idlib? Some sources now suggest that between 50 and 71 people have been found dead in Mastoomeh, just south of Idlib city (see update 1920). These reports are completely unconfirmed, and news is very hard to come by from the town at this moment. So far, there have been no pictures or videos either, but the internet in the town may be cut off.

Here is what we know - Yesterday there were reports that the regime moved forces into the town and crushed the small amount of rebel fighters who had briefly occupied it. Black smoke was reportedly seen rising from the town, and some have suggested that homes were burned by the regime elements.

Since then, reports of executions have been spreading, but few details have been confirmed. Several different activists have told us that sources they trust can attest that bodies have been burned in the streets. Several sources suggest that the number of dead is 70 or more, though several sources have also expressed caution that there is little news actually coming from the town.

Ultimately, there is a worry that either there are wild rumors flying, or that there has been a terrible massacre that will not be covered by the media because of the lack of information.

2055 GMT: Al Nusra Front - The Quilliam Foundation, a group which Ed Hussain used to belong to, has released what they say is an extensive and well researched report on Jabhat al Nusra, the insurgent group placed on the Terror list by the State Department for alleged ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The report traces the groups foundation, organization strategy, membership, and its larger role, relying on anonymous sources described as "jihadists and Islamists, resistance fighters, government officials and experts in recent Iraqi affairs." The entire report can be read here.

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Syria Live Coverage: Protests, Bombs, and A Victory That "Cannot Be Ruled Out"

An insurgent in Aleppo tries to rescue a woman lying shot in the street

1715 GMT: According to the Local Coordination Committees, 66 people have been killed so far across Syria:

35 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs (including 4 martyrs due to shelling in Hajar Aswad and 4 martyrs due to gunfire at funeral of yesterday's convoy in Barza), 11 in Idlib, 7 in Daraa, 5 in Homs, 3 in Hama, 3 in Aleppo and 2 in Deir Ezzor.

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also populates a database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.

The LCC's casualty figures are a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.

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Syria (and Beyond): A Downed Jet Grabs the Headlines

1940 GMT: Turkey. Insurgents of the PKK have released Hüseyin Aygün, an MP of the opposition Republican People's Party, whom they abducted on Sunday.

1900 GMT: Syria. The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria has released a statement suggesting that the UN should facilitate another ceasefire in order to achieve peace and preserve what is left of the country:

The great sacrifices that the Syrian people has been able to balance out the power of the regime, but it is still far from achieving a victory because of the international balance of powers that refuses to see the victory of one side over the other. The stalemate makes the continuation of the violence merely a path to the destruction of the Syrian state, society and being.

In order to minimize the painful cost of the desired change, and to protect what can be protected from our country’s infrastructure and our national unity, we at the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, which is an active part of the Syrian popular movement against oppression and one of the main forces against violence and foreign intervention, propose the following:

First- That all armed parties, the regime at the forefront of them, have to agree to a temporary ceasefire to be implemented as soon as possible, hopefully before the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. All parties are to agree not to conduct any military operations and not to attempt any changes to the current situation on the ground.

Second- During the first week of the truce, both parties are to release their detainees, captives, prisoners, hostages and the kidnapped, and to cease all such actions from then on. All such actions from then be treated as a criminal offence, their perpetrators are to be punished by law.

Third- The two parties are to allow relief agencies to deliver food and medical aid, and they are also to facilitate the treatment of the wounded in public and private hospitals under the auspices of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Fourth- If the parties concerned implement the earlier points, then the atmosphere for a political solution will be present. Negotiations are then to take place between members of the opposition and a delegation from the regime, the delegation is to have full negotiating authority and has to consist of members that have not been responsible for any bloodshed. The negotiators are to agree on a state of political transition with a definite period -one year- that is to prepare the country for a democratic, pluralistic parliamentary system.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Is Aleppo "A Nail in Assad's Coffin"?

See also Egypt and Syria Feature: Comic Artists Get Serious
Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Inside and Outside Aleppo

1921 GMT: Syria. The Guardian has a pair of stories on the growing role of jihadists in the conflict. Martin Chulov, drawing from residents and a Turkish smuggler, reports on the growing number of foreigners crossing into Syria from Turkey in the past two weeks, some saying that they are planning to travel to Aleppo to join the battle.

Many of the men reportedly come from the Caucasus, while others have arrived from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Gulf Arab states.

Insurgent leaders say about 15-20 foreign fighters have been crossing each day since mid-July, trying to join up with an estimated 200-300 foreigners already in the country.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad speaks to Syrian fighters who claim connections with Al Qa'eda and car bombings.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Nothing Certain but Death & Protests

2210 GMT: Syria. By the end of the day, more than 75 people have been killed today in Syria. Large protests, and reports of violence, continue well into the night.

One look at out interactive map (created with help from EA intern Josh Moss), and we can see that the reports of both large protests and violence were not isolated to a few locations, but were very widespread. This provides more evidence that the violence, as well as the opposition to Assad, are intensifying and spreading in every corner of the country:

View Syria - 2012 June 22 - EA Worldview in a larger map

2200 GMT: Bahrain. Was the head of AlWefaq specically targeted by police? Activists claim that this is the case, and they provide this photo as evidence:

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Turkey Live Coverage (13 June): Concern over Syrian Refugees

2200 GMT: The first reaction to Israel's recently declared report on the Mavi Marmara flotilla tragedy came from Turkey. According to Haaretz, one official from the Foreign Ministry underlined the importance of an official apology and added:

The State Comptroller [Micha Lindenstrauss]'s report regarding the decision making process is not in Turkey's interest. If the reports we received are correct, it shows that the attack on the Mavi Marmara and the killing of the Turkish nationals could have been prevented.

1930 GMT: The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu writes about the Kurdish problem on his Twitter account:

CHP aims at solving every problem in a legitimate platform. The legitimate platform of this problem is the Parliament. Politicians shall discuss problems with every dimensions. There are terror, psychologic, economic and social dimensions of this problem. 

If we do not solve this problem, external actors come into play. Without solution, emotional breaks emerge. If this problem can be discussed everywhere, why not under the roof of the Parliament? 

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Iran Feature: Obama Ordered Cyber-Attacks on Tehran (Sanger)

From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.

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Syria Snap Analysis: Is the US Preparing for Intervention?

James Miller in EA's Live Coverage, 19 April:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to the House Armed Services Committee today, which is where Dempsey said that the US was militarily capable of intervening in Syria (see last update). Panetta also said that "the situation is of grave consequence to the Syrian people."

Josh Rogin, "The Cable", Foreign Policy, 26 April:

Two top Obama administration officials said today that the diplomatic initiative to end the violence in Syria, led by U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan "is failing."

Under intense questioning during Thursday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, both Kathleen Hicks, the current deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Derek Chollet, National Security Council senior director for strategy, said that the Annan plan was headed toward collapse and that new options for confronting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were being prepared.

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Iran Prescription: Oh My God, Tehran Almost Has The Bomb! (Repeat as Necessary)

Iran is about a year away from developing a nuclear bomb! That is not me getting  hysterical --- it's US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in an interview on American television:

"The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon."

Panetta is not the only Cassandra. His statement echoes that made by Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak last November about the 'when' of Iran's supposed nuclear weapons program.

All very worrying. Just as it has been worrying on every occasion over the last 7 1/2 years when Iran was on the verge of The Bomb.

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US Opinion: Are We Suffering from "Drone Hysteria"? (Osboune)

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta justifies the killing by drone in Yemen of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen

See also: US Opinion: Do Drones Undermine Democracy? (Singer)

Anyone who decries a “new surge” of military interest in drones is just admitting they never paid attention before, that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and that they are riding on the word “drone” because it’s trendy and scary. Such opinions should carry exactly as much weight as a paper airplane, because they aren’t really about drones at all but war in general. There is nothing a drone can do that could not be done up close and personal, though at greater risk. A drone merely removes risk from the attacker — which is what warriors have been doing since the invention of the bow and arrow.

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