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Entries in Victoria Nuland (23)


Syria Live Coverage: Who Bombed Aleppo University?

Claimed footage of shelling of Homs today

2110 GMT: What Happened in Haswiyeh? With Bill Neely's arrival in Haswiyeh (see previous update below) we have also received several new updates today. First, let's recap what has happened over the last week.

Two days ago rumors began circulating of a "massacre" in the villages of Hawiyeh,just north of Homs, as well as dozens killed in Houla to the west of Homs. These rumors came at the same time as confirmed reports of heavy shelling of Homs itself, as well as the cities to the north (Talbiseh, Al Rastan). See our initial coverage here, which includes many links to videos and claimed eyewitness claims.

A problem was immediately apparent. The claims made by some activists included beheadings, knife attacks, and summary executions. But the evidence didn't initially show any of this. Instead, it was obvious that the villages had been heavily bombed, likely by aircraft but also possibly by tanks and artillery, and the reports of knife-wielding shabiha and bodies hanging in trees were exaggerated. But with rumors such as these, it was still important to keep an open mind to the possibility that these reports had some merit.

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Syria Live Coverage: The Insurgents Capture a Major Airbase

An insurgent-controlled tank forces its way into the Taftanaz airbase

See also Syria Audio Analysis: Swapping 2130 Civilian Prisoners for 48 Iranian "Pilgrims" --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Turkey (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Three Kurdish Officials Killed in Paris Attack
Wednesday's Syria Live Coverage: A Mass Killing in Idlib Province?

1930 GMT: Taftanaz. Claimed footage of the insurgent attack on the last building held by regime forces on the Taftanaz airbase:

1910 GMT: Taftanaz. State news agency SANA dismisses reports of the insurgent takeover of Taftanaz airbase in a two-sentence report:

The guards of Taftanaz airport in Idleb countryside repelled a terrorist group that tried to storm into the airport on Thursday. The guards inflicted heavy losses upon the terrorists, killing and injuring a number of them, while the rest fled.

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Israel, Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: US Criticises Israeli "Pattern of Provocation" Over Settlements

See also Bahrain Analysis: Does Al Wefaq Still Lead the Opposition to the Regime?
Syria Live Coverage: The Insurgents Close on Hama
Tuesday's Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protests and Arrests for "Martyrs Day" in Manama

2125 GMT: UAE. Authorities have arrested at least four people after a tightening of the Internet law.

The four men, including former diplomat Naji al-Nuaimi, had sympathised with more than 60 Islamists detained since March, had called for reforms, or had criticised the security forces on-line, activists said.

2025 GMT: Yemen. President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi has abolished two major military units, including one commanded by the son of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.


"The army was restructured into four units, the land forces, the navy, the air force and the border forces," State television reported, as the Republican Guard and the First Armored Division were abolished.

Brigadier General Ahmed Saleh, the commander of the Republican Guard, had refused orders this to hand over long-range missiles to the Defense Ministry.

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Israel-Palestine Special: Why More Settlements Are Vital to West Jerusalem's Long-Term Strategy

On Monday, Israeli authorities authorised plans to expand the Ramat Shlomo settlement, located on Palestinian territory, with 1500 housing units. Reports followed that a total of an additional 6500 apartments across the 1967 Green Line will be approved this week.

The latest steps have received some international attention, with the US State Department criticising Israel's "pattern of provocation".

But here is the important question: does anyone recognise Israel's long-term agenda behind the "pattern"? These settlements are not just being established as a short-term extension of Israel --- they will be maintained as a "natural" and "inalienable" development, given the Palestinian "failure" to meet West Jerusalem's essential need for "security". These apartments are not being built to derail a would-be negotiation process; they are part of the attempt at Israel's perpetual superiority over the Palestinians.

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The Latest from Iran (10 November): Noticing the US-Iran Nuclear Talks 

See also Iran Feature: The Last Days of the Tehran American School
The Latest from Iran (9 November): So 2 Iranian Fighters Fired on a US Drone and Then....

1450 GMT: Human Rights Watch. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has called on the United Nations to suspend the US membership in the Human Rights Council: "It is obvious that the US administration with its negative record of human rights and its actions in violation of the criteria and standards of the UN human rights conventions and treaties is not qualified to be a member of the Human Rights Council which is the most important international human rights mechanism."

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: What Happened to the Syrian National Initiative for a New Opposition?

Former MP Jawad Fairouz, one of 31 people whose citizenship was revoked by the Bahraini regime (see 0635 and 1125 GMT), speaks with the BBC

See also Syria Feature: Latest on Fighting Among Free Syrian Army, Kurdish Militias, and Regime Forces
Yemen Feature: How A Country Was Lost in Obama's "War Laboratory"
Syria Audio Special: Regime's Leadership Defiant as Opposition's Disintegrates --- James Miller and Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Opposition Still Seeking Leadership

1530 GMT: Turkey. Six leading Kurdish politicians have joined hundreds of jailed militants and activists in a hunger strike, now in its 60th day.

About 700 Kurdish prisoners in dozens of facilities are calling for the leader of the PKK insurgency, Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned on an island south of Istanbul, to have access to lawyers after 15 months of no contact.

Osman Baydemir, mayor of Diyarbakir in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, said in a statement on Saturday that he had stopped eating. Five Kurdish members of the Turkish Parliament --- Sirri Sureyya Onder, co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Gultan Kisanak, Aysel Tugluk, Adil Kurt, Sabahat Tuncer --- were also on hunger strike, he said.

The hunger strikers are consuming sugared water and vitamins that will prolong their lives and the protest.

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Bahrain Special: 9 Reasons Why The Regime Gave Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab a 3-Year Sentence

Nabeel Rajab leading a march in April 2012

Whilst much of the Bahrain regime's ongoing repression is relatively free from international scrutiny, Thursday's sentencing of leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to three years --- on three separate charges of instigating and participating in "illegal gatherings" --- will not go unnoticed. In recent weeks, many international NGOs and even 19 members of the US Congress have called for the immediate release from detention of Rajab, who is also serving a three-month sentence for his messages on Twitter.

So why would the Bahraini regime, which has been desperately seeking to convince the international community that it is committed to reform, hand down the lengthy sentence, an act bound to create questions about its commitment?

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Syria and Iran Opinion: Organization of "Islamic Cooperation"? You Must Be Kidding Me

The only use Islam has for most OIC members is as a justification for oppression. Oppression against women. Oppression against religious minorities. And oppression against dissent. To hope that the OIC would join hands to help the victims of Iran's earthquakes is just as fruitless as it is to hope that Iran would stop supporting the slaughter of innocent Syrians by President Assad and his political allies.

It seems Islam's more peaceful values only be promoted when Muslims feel threatened by non-Muslims, not when they are the ones threatening each other.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Aleppo --- Expecting the Regime Assault

1810 GMT: Syria. Russia has made a direct threat that any attack on its naval base in Tartous will be met with extreme prejudice:

"If the armed Syrian opposition ventures to implement their threat and to attack the Russian naval supplies and maintenance facility, Russia has ample capabilities in the region now to provide an adequate response. We won't recommend hotheads in the Syrian opposition doing that," a source in the Russian General Staff told the Interfax news agency.

What's fascinating is the source also added a line about the Syrian government having stepped up their support of the base as well.

Also interesting, the word "now," indicating that the Russians have significantly stepped up their ability to strike targets inside Syria.

Still, it's an unverified threat from a low-level anonymous staff member. One would expect any attack on Russian property to be met with force. What's interesting isn't the content of the report - it's the fact that a threat was made in the first place. Whether this was a direct response to a threat from insurgents, or a provocation, is not known.

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The Latest from Iran (10 July): "I Have No Hope, None at All"

Cartoon of the Day: Nikahang Kowsar's President Ahmadinejad cries out, "We sell smuggled oil"

See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- From Repression 1999 to Repression 2012
The Latest from Iran (9 July): Desperately Seeking All-Is-Well Oil News

2045 GMT: Irony Watch. From Press TV:

Iran has strongly denounced the detention of a prominent Shia cleric and the brutal crackdown of anti-regime protesters in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which has been a major scene of protests over the past months.

1954 GMT: Oil Watch. Minister of Oil Rostam Qassemi has said that $5 billion of the National Development Fund has been allocated to the South Pars gas field development projects, accelerating Phases 20-24 of the project.

On 2 July, the NDF and the Ministry of Oil signed a deal for the Fund to earmark $14 billion of its assets to oil industry projects.

More than 70% will be spent on the development of oil and gas fields as well as expanding the upstream sector of the oil industry, Qassemi said, with the rest channeled into refining infrastructure.

President Ahmadinejad has claimed the NDF's assets will reach $55 billion by the end of this year. Iran transfers 20% of its oil revenues to the Fund.

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