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Posts tagged ‘Saddam Hussein’

Obama, Hollande Resurrect US-French Relations.


President Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to dismiss the notion that France has replaced Britain as the main U.S. partner in Europe, but it was clear during the state visit of President Francois Hollande that the two have the closest relationship between the nations’ leaders since Presidents Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand two decades ago.

Laure Mandeville, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the venerable French publication Le Figaro, best captured this situation when she pointed out to Obama at his joint news conference with Hollande, “You have actually praised France very warmly today and granted our president the first state visit of your second term …

“Does that mean that France has become the best European ally of the U.S. and has replaced Great Britain in that role?”

Obama replied that he has two daughters who are “both gorgeous and wonderful. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

However, as Obama and Hollande went through a welcoming ceremony at the White House, their news conference, and a state dinner, reporters from France and the United States recalled the sharp tensions between their countries after the U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003.

The strong opposition by then-President Jacques Chirac to the Iraq offensive resulted in a modern-day low point of relations between Paris and Washington. In the United States, this was symbolized by the congressional cafeterias offering “Freedom Fries” in lieu of French fries.

All that was in the dim past Tuesday during the first state visit of a French president to the United States since 1996.

Hollande said Obama’s election as president in 2008 “had been welcomed in France” because “America was able to make something possible, to make progress possible.”

He went on to recall his decision last summer to stand with Obama on a strike on Syria, saying, “We were prepared to resort to force, but we found another option — negotiation.”

From France and the United States being “extremely attentive” in helping Lebanon deal with its massive influx of refugees, to his commitment to the cause of climate change, Hollande repeatedly underscored his solidarity with the American president.

The French Socialist president was warm and positive, even regarding the spy controversy by National Security Agency renegade Edward Snowden.

“Following the revelations [of European eavesdropping by the NSA] that appeared due to Mr. Snowden,” Hollande told reporters, “President Obama and myself clarified things. This was in the past.”

Hollande said, “Mutual trust has been restored, and that mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data — the fact that any individual, in spite of technological progress, can be sure that he is not being spied on.”

Obama’s response to Le Figaro’s Mandeville notwithstanding, there is a strong case to be made that Obama works more closely with France’s Hollande than with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Where Hollande stood firm with Obama on Syria, Cameron was unable to join any military alliance against the Assad regime when the British House of Commons voted down his proposal.

In addition, it is obvious that France is now the key conduit in trying to help Obama craft a new U.S. relationship with Iran.

Hollande said as much when he told reporters: “Nothing prevented us from having bilateral contacts, and I had some bilateral contacts. In New York I received [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani during the General Assembly. So it is perfectly legitimate for discussions to take place.”

Ken Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, summarized the Obama-Hollande friendship to Newsmax.

“Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama has a tough time turning foreign leaders into confidants — and his judgment, as when he chose [Turkish Premier] Erdogan as a preferred interlocutor, has been wrong,” Weinstein said.

“It’s clear that Obama and Hollande have a real and deep rapport. Both need each other — Obama for guidance on Syria, where his policies have failed, and to show that he does have European allies after Snowden, and Hollande, these days, to prove that he isn’t a laughingstock but a world leader.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Brzezinski to Newsmax: Shutdown’s ‘Uncertainty’ Hurts US Foreign Policy.


The 10-day-old government shutdown is already beginning to hurt U.S. foreign policy by causing “increasing uncertainty” about America, former President Jimmy Carter‘s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said Thursday.

“It’s creating increasing uncertainty about the United States, and the loss of confidence in the United States is itself damaging to the [nation],” he told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.

Brzezinski, now a counselor and trustee of the Center for Strategic International Studies, said America’s influence, especially in the Middle East, has been in decline for a decade.

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“The fact of the matter is that our influence in the region has been declining and that very unfortunate war which President Bush launched under false pretenses is having dynamically destructive effects on our influence,” he said, referring to the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Iraq leader Saddam Hussein in March 2003.

President George W. Bush remarked in 2008 his decision to go to war in Iraq — based on flawed intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — was his “biggest regret of all the presidency.”

Brzezinski said now America has to fashion a new and less “dominant” role on the world stage, cautioning that President Vladimir Putin‘s recent brokering of a deal to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria should not be read as a sign America is ceding influence to Russia.

“The issue is whether we can find a formula with the Russians, the Chinese, the Europeans, that contributes to some sort of stability in the region in which our preeminent role will not be quite as evident, quite as dominant as it has been for the last few decades,” he said.

In the troubled Middle East, he said, he long ago warned the “Arab spring” would someday be followed by an “Arab winter” – and now doubts “democracy will be on the scene very quickly.”

“I don’t think that the preconditions for genuine, liberal-type democracy exists in the Middle East,” he said. “It’s the first phase for political awakening of large masses that are motivated by many conflicting emotions — some fanatical religious beliefs, some democratic aspirations, some social resentments, some ethnic hostilities, some historical grievances against colonial and other powers.”

He also noted a “rise of fundamentalism in Africa spreading from the Middle East.”

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“This problem has global dimensions — it has implications for the Europeans,” he said. “Look at what is happening in Libya, which affects the French, the Italians. Look at what has been happening in Mali, which affects particularly the French. Look at what has been happening in Somalia, which affects many other people in addition to those I’ve mentioned.

“This is a larger phenomenon and we’ll be living with it for a long time. We shouldn’t overdramatize it. We certainly shouldn’t succumb to the temptation of labeling all of it as Islamic jihadism … because that simply offends the Muslims and inclines them to view us as hostile to their religion.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke and Kathleen Walter

Lebanese Paper: Syria Has Moved Chemical Weapons Materials To Iraq.


Syria last week moved 20 trucks carrying material and equipment used to manufacture chemical weapons into neighboring Iraq, the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal reports.
The Al-Mustaqbal report, which was picked up by the Jerusalem Post, came just a day after Washington and Moscow struck a deal stipulating that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s regime should destroy its chemical arsenal to avert an American military assault.
Al-Mustaqbal reported the trucks crossed the Iraq-Syria border Thursday and Friday. Border guards did not inspect their contents, raising suspicions the trucks contained illicit cargo, according to the newspaper.
Al-Mustaqbal, a publication that has long been affiliated with anti-Syrian political elements in Lebanon, quoted a denial from Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan.
Maan said security forces were deployed along the border and were checking all vehicles coming into the country.
“Iraq today is not Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq,” he said. “These accusations are all rumors and . . . no one believes them.”
Last week, the head of the Free Syrian Army, which is fighting to topple the Assad regime, told CNN that opposition intelligence indicated Damascus was moving chemical arms out of the country.
“Today, we have information that the regime began to move chemical materials and chemical weapons to Lebanon and to Iraq,” Gen. Salim Idriss claimed.
Idriss said the rebels were not interested in the new U.S.-Russian deal over Assad’s chemical-weapons arsenal.
“Russia is a partner with the regime in killing the Syrian people,” he said. “A crime against humanity has been committed and there is not any mention of accountability.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Joel Himelfarb

The Syrian Crisis In Context: Before The Bombs Drop By Chidi Oguamanam.


By Chidi Oguamanam

Three years now, one hundred thousand people – children, women and men, and still counting – dead. Over two million refugees. Too much pressure on fragile and combustible neighbours: Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, etc. Billions of dollars, and counting, poured by the world through its undertaken-in-chief, the United Nations. And recently, more than two thousand people have been permanently cut down, with their lives snuffed out by chemical nerve agent suspected to be sarin. The pictures are horrific and the site gory, to say the least. Mothers, children, men, women, youth lay waste like chicken, not even fit for composting or for vultures. It is a stuff of whodunit. Chances are that they were murdered by their own government, whose primary obligation is to protect them. It could well be they were victimized by the opposition whose brutality is as worrisome as those of the Assad regime. And what would be reason for the opposition to do that –conceivably to draw the United States and the rest of the world out of their reluctance and into the Syrian crisis. Especially, the United States since the unleashing of chemical war fare would be crossing President Obama’s “red line”.

Why is the United States now inevitably drawn into the Syrian crisis in a do-and-be-damned and do-not-and-be-damned situation? It started with Mr. Obama’s uttering of the ominous phrase “crossing the red line”, a reference to potential use of chemical weapon by Syria’s Assad, which development Obama promised would attract some consequences. I advance further a number of reasons for America’s dilemma on Syria. First, the current American President, Mr. Obama, unlike his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush is not a known war monger. Second, he is inclined to work within the United Nations framework. Third, America is war-fatigued and lethargic and its allies and members of the coalition of the wiling such as Britain and most of Europe have recently demonstrated the same mood. America has yet to finish its military exposure to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Its economy is still vulnerable. The American public has a very strong reason to be skeptical when its government advances reasons for going to war. The faulty intelligence over Saddam Hussein’s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction is still fresh in the memories of most Americans and their politicians. Even if Obama and his cabinet were right , as they claim, that Assad used chemical weapon against innocent Syrians, the credibility gap between the American public and their government has yet to close in regard to going to war.

Perhaps more importantly, the Syrian crisis has the trappings of a sectarian conflict that is both local and regional as evident in the alignments that reflect the evident sectarian cracks in the Arab region in regard to Syria. So, Syria does not reflect the essentials that propelled a number of countries of the ‘Arab Spring’, including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, etc. Such scenario leaves the Syrian situation with potential for regional combustion and unpredictable outcome. Fourth, Syria is seriously aligned with America’s official and unofficial enemies and rivals, notably Iran, China and Russia. The return of Vladimir Putin to the centre stage of Russian politics has not helped a bit as he continues to nurse his delusion of cold war revival and anti-American sentiments. Russia and China have continued to court America’s enemies and propping up dictatorships not on the basis of any competing ideology save to shore up their regional sphere of influence and to nurse old sentiments.

As Syria becomes the chessboard of a fragmenting world order, one cannot but wonder on what basis America is planning to launch a military strike and what objectives any such strikes could serve, not to mention its consequences. America cites the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. The official administrator of the Convention is the little known Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from whom nothing has been heard. The Convention outlaws the use of chemical weapons and commits parties to destroy their chemical arsenals and to cease developing new ones. But it does not authorise a unilateral action by any country to enforce its provisions. That would be a matter that can be taken up by the United Nations Security Council. Both Russia and China have used their veto power consistently to make it impossible to hold the Assad regime accountable.

Obama and his Democratic Party colleagues were quite critical of George Bush and the Republican Party’s inclination for unilateral action and lack of patience in forging global consensus on matters of war and external aggression. Now, they are courting Republican war hawks, like Senator John McCain, and are in a position to appreciate America’s frustration with the United Nations. The problem is that the United Nations and its Security Council is not structured to serve the cause of global justice, peace, and security. It is a fraud, essentially designed to advance the fluctuating regional interests of the permanent members of the Security Council at the expense of the rest of the world. That is the reason the Council is permanently deadlocked and has since reduced the United Nations to a global undertake-in-chief.

America’s frustration with the United Nations also feeds United Nations frustration with America. The same America that is eager to engage Syria’s Assad was not willing to sanction Saddam Hussein when he used chemical weapons against the Kurds and other elements in Iraq because then Saddam was America’s friend. The same America that is willing to punish Assad did not subscribe to the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) and have lobbied willing countries not to come on board to ensure justice for potential American war criminals. America is happy to have Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Kenya’s President Kenyatta, Sudan’s Omar Bashir, even Bashar al-Assad handed over and tried at the ICC but it is not willing to even give up a deranged element from its combat missions who has committed a war crime, let alone its President or high political leadership whose conduct may make them candidates fit for arraignment before the ICC. One can go on and on to tease out the historically rootedness of America’s selective justice and contradictions that has long been justified under the doctrine of American exceptionalism. The truth is that when justice is selective, when conducts are dictated by parochial and shifting national interests, it is very hard to continuously dress them up in the guise of pursuit of liberty and freedom as America often does.

In the present case of Syria, why is America not willing to commit to a regime change? Does death by chemical weapons and death by other weapons of war fare not all result in the end of life for the victims? If America was to start the proposed “limited”, “surgical”, “targeted” bombing of Syria and then withdraw – just to teach Assad that he cannot use chemical weapons against his people, what would be the essence of such a “message”? I think that it would just mean this: “Assad please chose a more acceptable way of killing your people and it would be fine by us and the rest of our allies”. Such an absurdity has been the reason, perhaps, why America has yet to act on Syria and have long been waiting for a red line to be crossed, and hoping that it never gets crossed. It could also be that as evident in the public debates in that country, lately, that America’s ego and that of its President is on the line since Obama had promised consequences if Assad crossed the red line by using chemical weapon against his people. Consequently, America’s potential campaign against Syria may well be a face-saving adventure designed to redeem its ego. Yet another, perhaps more credible, theory of America’s proposed limited intervention is that it is not sure of the consequences of such a campaign or what would result from a regime change in Syria for the entire region. Head or tail, American is not in an enviable position in regard to Syria. If it does anything, it is damned; if it does nothing it is still damned. Obama must have really regretted uttering “red line”, a phrase that has since become his albatross.

The Syrian crisis continues to expose the fragility of a fragmenting world order and the reality of America’s dwindling influence as a lone super power. Unlike most American technocrats would admit, America’s interests would be better served if it commits to a radical reorganization of the United Nations and its Security Council. In a fairly reorganized United Nations system, America would still have strong moral credit than Russia and China and most other pretenders in the global stage. For Mr. Obama and his Democratic folks, the lesson here is that American foreign policy is dynamic and there is hardly a predictable Democratic or Republic response, everything else in contingent. What is the use bombing Syria without committing to a regime change? America’s dilemma over Syria might yet get messier.

You may follow me on twitter: @oguamanam_Chidi

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

De Borchgrave: Americans Favor Pivot Back Home Over Syria.


Image: De Borchgrave: Americans Favor Pivot Back Home Over Syria

U.S. Sens. John McCain, left, and Lindsey Graham, speak to reporters in Cairo. (AP)

By Arnaud De Borchgrave

Eighty percent of Americans asked say they favor a pivot — but it isn’t to Syria.

Following the $2 trillion geopolitical disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, the message is a one-word pivot — home!

Even the head of the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations, Robert Haass, says it’s time to prioritize the home front where everything from roads to railroads and from bridges to balustrades has long been neglected.

Two conservative U.S. senators flew to Cairo to plead the case of the Muslim Brotherhood and to denounce what they called a military coup. This congressional sortie had zero impact and demonstrated how little two supposedly well-informed senators understand about a dictatorial theocracy that had torched Cairo Jan. 26, 1952 — 61 years ago.

No responsible official seemed to have a clue about the history of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt’s Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi not only knows the history of the Muslim Brotherhood but acted decisively, as an unknown colonel had done six decades ago. But not before the extremist brothers had torched some 300 buildings in Cairo (Jan. 26, 1952).

For the prestigious weekly The Economist there was no doubt about the chemical weapons attack by Syria against its own citizens that killed 1,420, including 400 children. Across the forehead of a panicky looking Syrian President Bashar Assad on the Economist’s cover were three words — HIT HIM HARD.

Hours after the Economist went to press, the British House of Commons, ignoring the impassionate plea of Prime Minister David Cameron, narrowly rejected the motion to punish Assad with bombs and missiles.

After much waffling, U.S. President Barack Obama decided not to decide and to leave the decision up to Congress.

France, the third nation in the triumvirate whose leaders had agreed to retaliate against Syria’s chemical attack on its own citizens, also agreed to get parliamentary approval.

Sober rethinking had taken place in all three countries. Some 110,000 Syrians had already been killed in 2 1/2 years of civil war without Western interference. The Pentagon’s military chiefs and the secretary of defense weren’t anxious to open yet another front.

Budget constraints had forced cutbacks across the board.

The Iraq and Afghan war — each costing $1 trillion — were gigantic miscalculations. A September 2002 government dossier from British Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was so advanced with his chemical and biological weapons that he could fire them with 45 minutes notice.

It was all erected on the lies of an Iraqi defector — codenamed Curveball — who made it to Germany and declined to go to the United States. Curveball admitted he made it all up so he could be reunited with his German girlfriend.

Failure to detect the lies of Curveball — even though German intelligence officials warned they were skeptical — cost the United States 4,500 killed in action and 32,000 wounded in Iraq.

The Afghan war was decided by President George W. Bush as retaliation for 9/11. The objective was to topple the country’s medieval theocracy that had given shelter and training facilities to Osama bin Laden‘s al-Qaida terrorists.

Bin Laden and his terrorists escaped into Pakistan In early December 2001.

The 48 nations contributing under a U.N. mandate expected to be home within a year or at most 24 months.

To embark on a democracy-building policy was to demonstrate ignorance of Afghanistan’s history and the tragic fate that befell its British invaders — and many others over the centuries.

In 1842, Afghan guerrillas killed 16,500 British soldiers as they tried to fight their way back into India. One was allowed to escape so the outside world would get word about fierce Afghan fighters.

In Syria today, there is much doubt the order to gas 1,400 civilians came from Assad. More likely is the speculation it was done by his enemies, gambling he wouldn’t survive such a display of sheer horror.

Even with a scorecard, it is hard to figure out the players on either side. The al-Qaida terrorist component, based in Iraq, a country liberated from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship by the United States and Britain, is aligned with the heterodyne anti-Assad front.

But Assad still has Russia, China and Iran in his camp.

For the heterodyne coalition of the United States and France (sans Britain) to get involved in Syria’s civil war militarily — even if only for the 48 hours envisaged by the let’s-punish-Assad coalition — can only widen the conflict.

K.N. Al-Sabah, presumably a member of Kuwait’s reigning family, in a letter to the Financial Times, explained the Syrian civil war in terms that would discourage even a Delta Team.

Sir, Iran is backing Assad (of Syria).

“Gulf states are against Assad.

“Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood.

“Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against Gen. Sisi.

“But Gulf states are pro-Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood!

“Iran is pro-Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood!

“Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the U.S.

“Gulf states are pro-U.S.

“But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad;

“Yet Turkey is pro-Muslim Brotherhood against Gen. Sisi.

“And Gen. Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states!

“Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.

KN Al-Sabah, London EC4, UK”

Noted editor and journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave is an editor at large for United Press International. He is a founding board member of Newsmax.com who now serves on Newsmax’s Advisory Board. Read more reports from Arnaud de Borchgrave — Click Here Now.
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Before Troubles, Kerry Had Intimate Dinner with Assad in 2009.


Though Secretary of State John Kerry likened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein at the weekend, the two shared an intimate dinner together with their wives in Damascus in 2009, according to a newly released photograph of the meeting.

Then a Massachusetts senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry met with Assad several times in February 2009 to discuss peace efforts in the Middle East, according to the Daily Mail.

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President Barack Obama’s administration considers Syria a key player in Washington’s efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process,” Kerry said in a press conference at the time of the visit. “Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”

Kerry echoed that same optimism in a March 2011 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceLondon’s Daily Telegraph reports.

“I have been a believer for some period of time that we could make progress in [the Syrian-U.S.] relationship,” he said. “And I’m going to continue to work for it and push it.”

The picture shows Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz dining with Assad and his British-born wife Asma. Tha Mail says the picture was taken in the Damascus restaurant Naranj.

Fast-forward two years and Kerry’s stance has drastically changed. As lab tests confirmed over the weekend that Assad used sarin nerve gas to kill more than 1,400 of his own people, the Secretary of State urged the world to intervene, warning that “history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator.”

“Bashar al-Assad now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein who have used these weapons in time of war,” Kerry told NBC’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Alexandra Ward

Ron Paul Slams Rumsfeld Over Syria Comments.


Former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, appearing on Fox Business Network‘s “Cavuto” on Wednesday, criticized former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about his thoughts on Syria‘s use of poison gas on civilians.

“Hardly should he be considered an expert on the region,” Paul told host Neil Cavuto.

Earlier on “Cavuto,” Rumsfeld, who last served under President George W. Bush, had criticized the Obama administration for telegraphing American intentions to strike Syria with missiles. 

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Rumsfeld also said the White House has not yet made clear what America’s national interest is in the ongoing civil war.

Paul, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate, has always opposed American intervention abroad, so it isn’t surprising to hear him criticize U.S. military action against Syria.

Paul accused Rumsfeld of being “buddies” with Saddam Hussein when he was president of Iraq, and said “Saddam Hussein was actually using poison gases, and look at where Iraq is today.” 

Iraq is a “disaster,” Paul said, with the country more aligned with Iran and the death toll growing. “We hear about the death — so hardly would he be able to give us advice on what to do in Afghanistan.”

The interview with Ron Paul airs on Fox Business Network’s “Cavuto” at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Greg Richter

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