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Exclusive: Saudi offers Russia deal to scale back Assad support – sources

Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria’s devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

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Indian Strike Force Would Allow ‘War on Two Fronts’

The Indian government this week reportedly paved the way for the creation of a new military corps of 50,000 troops near its border with China. If correct, analysts say this is a sign that New Delhi, which has been largely focused on its frontier with Pakistan, is now shifting its attention to the long, disputed Sino-Indian boundary. The creation of a strike corps would give India thousands of war-ready soldiers, trained and equipped to respond rapidly to a military threat, stationed close to the border between India and China, known as the Line of Actual Control.

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Saudi Arabia ‘targeting Iran and Israel with ballistic missiles’

Images analysed by experts at IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review has revealed a hitherto undisclosed surface-to-surface missile base deep in the Saudi desert, with capabilities for hitting both countries. Analysts who examined the photos spotted two launch pads with markings pointing north-west towards Tel Aviv and north-east towards Tehran. They are designed for Saudi Arabia’s arsenal of lorry-launched DF 3 missiles, which have a range of 1,500-2,500 miles and can carry a two-ton payload. The base, believed to have been built within the last five years, gives an insight into Saudi strategic thinking at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf.

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Euromed Survey places Egypt as a key power in the geopolitical redesign of the Mediterranean

Egypt’s evolution after the armed forces removed President Morsi from office will be a determinant in the geopolitical definition of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, according to the Euromed Survey presented by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) today.

The survey was released at an event in Brussels with representatives of research centres, the European Commission, the European External Action Service, the European Parliament and diplomatic delegations. The Survey, which has been conducted annually since 2009, is funded by the European Union.

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A look at East Asian diplomacy in the Arctic

China, Japan and Korea are all exercising increased diplomatic and political thrusts into the Arctic countries, but in different manners. While the visits of Chinese and Korean officials target the Nordic countries to talk Arctic and environmental cooperation, China’s diplomatic representation is actually strongest in Russia. China has five consulates in Russia, the same number as it has in the U.S., perhaps pointing to at least a traditional equivalence in the weight that the U.S. and Russia hold in Chinese foreign policy.

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Britain to step up aid to Lebanese Army

The British government is preparing a “substantial” new package of military assistance to the Lebanese Army to supplement its existing program, according to British diplomatic sources. The new package, which will triple in one year the British government’s total military assistance to the Lebanese Army since 2006, was the focus of discussions Friday between Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi and other top military officials and Gen. Sir David Richards, the British chief of the defense staff, who was on a visit to Beirut.

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Pakistan-China set sights on Arabian Sea link

China and Pakistan set their sights Friday on developing a transport link from northwestern China through rugged Pakistani mountains to the Arabian Sea, a route they hope will boost economic growth and slash shipping times. A broad agreement for the “economic corridor” was among eight pacts signed following a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The transport link was described as a “long-term plan” to connect the Chinese city of Kashgar to the port of Gwadar, more than 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) away across the towering Karakoram mountains and Pakistan’s lawless Baluchistan province.

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After Ladakh: Chinese Army intrudes into Bhutan’s territory

After intruding into the Indian territory of Ladakh, China has made a foray into Bhutan, India’s neighbor and one of its closest allies, according to an intelligence note in possession of the Indian news channel, Times Now.

The channel reported that China’s People Liberation Army (PLA) had intruded into Bhutan and set up three camps and was carrying out patrols. The report comes just months after New Delhi and Beijing had a diplomatic row over a border dispute.

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Philippines deploys marines to disputed shoal in strategic sea

The new contingent of Filipino marines replaced troops at the Second Thomas Shoal, where the arrival last month of Chinese ships sparked diplomatic protests from the Philippines.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the shoal lies within the Philippines’ internationally recognized 200-nautical mile (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zone. China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its own and last year took control of another shoal in the Philippines’ economic zone, prompting Manila to seek U.N. arbitration.

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Morsi cuts Egypt’s Syria ties, backs no-fly zone

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus on Saturday and called for a no-fly zone over Syria, pitching the most populous Arab state firmly against President Bashar al-Assad.

Addressing a rally called by Sunni Muslim clerics in Cairo, the Sunni Islamist head of state said: “We decided today to entirely break off relations with Syria and with the current Syrian regime.” He also warned Assad’s allies in the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah to pull back from fighting in Syria.

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US ‘helping spark political unrest’

So many devastating changes in the Middle East’s so-called ‘Arab Spring’ aftermath are being blamed on misguided US policies in many countries. This in-depth report reveals how Washington institutions allegedly groom destructive elements when attempting to destabilise nations. Their tentacles are now even touching Turkey’s fully-fledged democracy – one that has achieved economic transformation in only a decade, with tourism and foreign investment booming.

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Water Wars: Egyptian politicians want to sabotage Ethiopia’s new dam

Politicians meeting with Egypt’s president on Monday proposed hostile acts against Ethiopia, including backing rebels and carrying out sabotage, to stop it from building a massive dam on the Nile River upstream.

Some of the politicians appeared unaware the meeting with President Mohammed Morsi was being carried live on TV. Morsi did not directly react to the suggestions, but said in concluding remarks that Egypt respects Ethiopia and its people and will not engage in any aggressive acts against the East African nation.

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Syrian intelligence service thwarts assassination attempt against Syrian President – Lebanese newspaper

Militants planned to use the mobile anti-aircraft systems they had received from Qatar for hitting Assad’s plane with the help of a surface –to- air missile on its way to Latakia Airport, the Addiyar Newspaper says.

It turned out that 2 technical workers from the Mezza military airfield near Damascus from where the airliner of the Syrian President was due to take off were involved in the above-mentioned plot. According to the Lebanese newspaper, among the master minders of an attack on the airliner of the Syrian President were the militants of the radical Islamist group Jebhat al-Nusra

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Six Balkan countries agree on new routes for energy imports into Western Europe

On May 23, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Croatia signed a memorandum on cooperation in the implementation of projects concerning the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the Ionic-Adriatic Pipeline (IAP) in Tirana, the capital city of Albania. Montenegrin Foreign Minister Igor Luksic, Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zlatko Lagumdžija, Albanian Foreign Minister Aldo Bumçi and Croatian Deputy Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Joško Klisovic represented their respective countries at the meeting.

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Strike when necessary in South China Sea: Chinese scholar

China should hit out when necessary to resolve rows over some shoals in the South China Sea that are unlawfully occupied by other countries, a Chinese scholar has urged.

“Diplomacy only leverages when backed by military might,” he said, questioning why China cannot make military moves now that the Renai Shoal and Scarborough Shoal are the sovereign territory of China? Since China’s marine power now is strong enough to protect national interests and rights, China should exercise its diplomatic and military clouts interactively to achieve its aim, he contended.

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The Shadow War Behind Syria’s Rebellion: Foreign Backers Jockey for Influence in Turkey

While the diplomatic grouping known as the Friends of Syria met in the Jordanian capital Amman on Wednesday to discuss a U.S.-Russian plan for peace talks, a low-key yet perhaps equally important gathering was being quietly held in Istanbul between Saudi officials and half of the 30 members of the Free Syrian Army’s Higher Military Command, which claims to represent most of the rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The informal talks, which were held at a seaside hotel, marked the first gathering of the rebel group’s Military Command and Saudi officials since, according to senior members of the Military Command, Saudi Arabia stepped up earlier this month to become the main source of arms to the rebels.

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Philippines boosts military to resist ‘bullies’

Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday announced a US$1.8-billion (S$2.26b) military upgrade to help defend his country’s maritime territory against “bullies”, amid an ever-worsening dispute with China.

The announcement came on the same day that the Philippines filed a protest with China over the “illegal and provocative” presence of a Chinese warship and two other vessels at a Filipino-claimed shoal in the disputed South China Sea. In thinly veiled comments referring to China, Aquino vowed during a speech to mark the navy’s 115th anniversary that the armed forces would be given the resources necessary to protect Philippine sovereignty.

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Entangling the dragon in Middle-Eastern quicksands

The quicksands of the Arabian Desert are notorious for swallowing up anyone trying to control the area. Historically, that’s what happened to Turkey, Britain, France, Russia and the US. Sooner or later, all discovered that instead of dominating the Middle East, they ended up being dominated by the region’s never-ending problems. And that may also be the fate of China, the latest power to be lured by the idea that it has to engage in Middle-Eastern diplomacy.

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China deploys Su-27 fighters in Tibet, can target key Indian air bases

China’s all-weather fighter base in Tibet is now widening its range of options in the event of a conflict with India. Intelligence intercepts and satellite monitoring has confirmed that China may have to some extent overcome Tibet’s extreme altitude and temperatures to operationalise an all-weather airfield near the Tibetan capital Lhasa. The airfield is Gonkar, where China has deployed Su-27 fighters. Sources told CNN-IBN that the Gonkar airfield will enable Chinese fighters to widen their selection of Indian targets from Ladakh to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh

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Qatar Spends Billions in Syria for Influence, Pays $50,000 per Dissident

“Qatar has spent about three billion dollars in the past two years to support the opposition in Syria, which far exceeds what provided by any other government. However, the Saudi Arabia competes now in leading the bodies providing Syrian opposition with weapons,” the paper said. “The cost of the Qatari intervention in Syria, which is the latest effort of the oil-rich emirate to support an “Arab revolution,” only represents a very small part of the international investment of Qatar,” it added. “Qatar’s support for Islamist groups in the Arab countries puts it in confrontation with the other Gulf States and provokes competition with the Saudi Arabia,”

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EU to step up security involvement in Somalia

The European Union is to move military training of Somali soldiers from Uganda to Mogadishu in a show of confidence in Somalia’s growing stability after two decades of turmoil, the EU special envoy to Somalia said on Wednesday.

The success of Amisom, made up mostly of Ugandan, Burundian and Kenyan soldiers, has encouraged Western countries to look beyond the scars left by the deaths of U.S. and U.N. soldiers during Somalia’s violent disintegration into civil war in the early 1990s, and increase their engagement. The EU’s training mission, separate from Amisom, has trained some 3,000 Somali soldiers and officers in Uganda since 2010.

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Turkish mediterranean energy hub plan faces hurdles

Israel’s rapprochement with onetime strategic ally Turkey is a vital element in Ankara’s drive to become the intercontinental east-west energy hub in the Mediterranean and many expect it to produce an energy alliance that will transform the region.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan has transformed his country’s economic prospects through a wide-ranging diplomatic drive aimed at restoring Turkish leadership in the region. He has long sought to transform Turkey, which has no energy resources of its own, into the unassailable central hub for transporting oil and gas from the eastern Mediterranean, the new hot zone, to Europe and maybe to Asia as well.

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Turkey Sees Future in Asia With Joining SCO

Frustrated in its attempt to join the European Union, NATO-member Turkey last week signed up as a partner with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the signing of the SCO cooperation agreement as an historic day for his country, saying Turkey is the first NATO state to establish such a relationship with the SCO. “If we look from a Cold War perspective,” he said, “these may seem like mutually exclusive institutions. However, the Cold War has ended. Turkey won’t be a slave of the Cold War logic.”

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India-China pullback: what happened behind the scenes

However, NDTV has learnt from sources that the stand-off was resolved partly due to the halting of construction of bunkers by Indian Army in the Chumar sector of southern Ladakh, which borders Himachal Pradesh.

The Indian Army was reportedly building seven bunkers in Chumar. The general area of Chumar is disputed and claimed by both sides. According to existing agreements, neither side is allowed to construct any permanent structure, more so if they are either offensive or defensive in nature. The assurance that has been reportedly given to China is that the constructions of the bunkers will be stopped for the time being.

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In America’s Backyard: China’s Rising Influence In Latin America

Over the past five years, Chinese businesses have been expanding their footprint in Latin America in a number of ways, beginning with enhanced trade to ensure a steady supply of bulk commodities such as oil, copper and soybeans. At this year’s Boao Forum for Asia, for the first time a Latin American sub-forum was created that included the participation of several heads of state from the region.

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Myanmar morphs to US-China proxy battlefield

A new reality is emerging amid all the hype about Myanmar’s democratization process and moves to liberalize its political landscape. Myanmar’s drift away from a tight relationship with China towards closer links with the West is signaling the emergence of a new focal point of confrontation in Asia, one where the interests of Washington and Beijing are beginning to collide.

Rather than being on a path to democracy, Myanmar may find itself instead in the middle of a dangerous and potentially volatile superpower rivalry. That means the traditionally powerful military may not be in the mood to give up its dominant role in politics and society any time soon.

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Himalayan tensions serve US’ rebalancing strategy

The current tensions on the disputed India-China border – known delightfully for its vagueness as the ‘Line of Actual Control’ – in the western sector of the Ladakh region bordering China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region hark back to the scenario five decades ago when little skirmishes snowballed into a major outbreak of hostility. Fortunately, however, this time around there is a fundamental difference, too, which obviates the danger of a catastrophic slide to armed conflict. On a systemic plane, there are disquieting signs that the Indian establishment has not been pulling together on the country’s China policy and this disconnect, which has been suspected through the recent past, threatens to introduce its own disharmony.

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North Africa Is Becoming The New Afghanistan

The cost of ignoring Africa is immense—and may be ultimately measured in American lives lost. Left unchecked, Al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa will soon be able to strike at Americans overseas and at home. Ignoring North Africa today is like ignoring Afghanistan in 1998, as Bin Laden’s minions began to plan the September 11 attacks. North Africa is becoming the “new Afghanistan”—a string of toterring and largely ungoverned nations running from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

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U.S. Marine rapid response force deploying to Spain base

The first of 500 Marines have begun deploying to Spain as part of a new rapid reaction force to respond to threats against U.S. citizens, government personnel or installations in Africa. The new task force is based at Moron Air Base in southern Spain, which provides quick access especially to northern Africa, where security concerns have grown since the September 2012 attack on a U.S. government facility in Benghazi, Libya, a Pentagon official told CNN. When fully operational, the unit will be required to be airborne within six hours of receiving orders, providing the type of rapid response that the Pentagon says was not possible during the Benghazi attack. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died during the assault at the U.S. mission and CIA annex.

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Taiwan stages live-fire drill in contested Spratlys

Taiwan’s coastguards said Monday that Taipei had staged a live-fire drill within a hotly-contested island chain in the South China Sea, in a move that risks stoking regional tensions.

More than 2,000 rounds of ammunition were fired by garrison forces on Taiwan-administered Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands, Wang Chin-wang, chief of the Coast Guard Administration, told parliament. It was Taipei’s first live-fire drill in the Spratlys — claimed in whole or part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei — since long-range mortars and artillery were shifted to Taiping Island in August last year.

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Turkey Floats Gas Pipeline Plan With Israel

The Turkish energy minister, Taner Yildiz, says his country would be open to the construction of a pipeline to distribute Israel’s newly discovered gas.

“The issue may become an important topic that the two can cooperate on,” said Ozel. “The Israelis have already made a suggestion to send some of their gas by pipelines to Turkey. And this fits well with Turkey’s grand desire to be the grill full of pipelines from north to south, from east to west, and therefore become on energy matters, if not a hub, certainly an indispensable transition place.”

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The Estonia-Russia Border Treaty: Which Scenario Will Prevail?

After years of animosity between Tallinn and Moscow about such delicate issues as the position of the Russian-speaking minority, Estonia’s NATO ambitions and the dramatic course of 20th century history, some sunshine is coming through in Estonian-Russian relations – the countries’ prime ministers met in St. Petersburg late last week and border treaty negotiations are now taking place this week. Historian Jeroen Bult has been following the weather patterns.

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Iran Considers “Annexing” Azerbaijan

A group of Iranian lawmakers has begun drafting a bill on reattaching Azerbaijan to Iran by updating the terms and conditions of a 19th century treaty that ceded part of modern-day Azerbaijan and most of Armenia to Russian control.

The 1828 Turkmenchay Treaty ended the last war between Russia and Persia and paved the way for St. Petersburg to establish suzerainty over the South Caucasus. (Tehran already had given up its claims on Georgia in the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan.) But the Iranians now argue that there was a critical detail in the fine print.

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Vladimir Putin’s hunt targets NGO and election watchdog

THE leading independent election monitoring group in Russia yesterday became the first non-governmental organisation to be prosecuted in President Putin’s nationwide hunt for “foreign agents”.

Golos (Voice) has reported widespread irregularities in recent Russian polls and said in March last year that the presidential election, in which Mr Putin was re-elected for a third term, was not “fair, just and open according to the Russian constitution and international standards”. The Justice Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Golos “receives foreign funding and carries out political activities in Russia, thus it fulfils the functions of a foreign agent”. It will present its case in court today.

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Georgia says it will further monitor Russian naval exercises

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has announced that Tbilisi expresses deep concern about the unplanned and sudden exercises of the Russian military which go beyond the territory defined by the Vienna Agreement.

Speaking at a briefing on Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said that Georgia will continue to inform the international community on Russian military exercises being held near the maritime borders of the country. The Georgian side is distressed with the fact that near its borders large-scale exercises are conducted, with the date of completion and objectives not reported.

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North Korea To Restart Nuclear Reactor, China On High Alert

North Korea’s latest provocative declaration has led China to place its military forces at “Level One” readiness – its highest threat level — and increased its military presence on the border with North Korea in response to the country’s declaration of a “state of war” and threats to conduct missile attacks against the U.S. and South Korea. Tensions have risen on the peninsula since North Korea conducted its third nuclear test last month, sparking a new round of UN-led sanctions.

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Central African Republic Rebels in Capital, France Sends Troops

Central African Republic rebels clashed with government forces inside the capital on Saturday as they sought to topple President Francois Bozize, prompting France to send in more troops to secure the international airport.

The Seleka rebel coalition resumed hostilities this week in the mineral-rich former French colony, vowing to oust Bozize whom it accuses of breaking a January peace agreement to integrate its fighters into the army. A Reuters reporter in the northern suburbs of the riverside capital said the rebels had taken control of the neighborhood around Bozize’s private residence, known as PK12. Rebels in civilian clothes had infiltrated other areas, residents said.

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New Cold War: China-USA Economic Espionage War Escalates

Less than six months ago, U.S. Under Secretary of State Robert D. Hormats gave an exclusive interview to Caixin, in which he said that one of the most important tasks in US-China relations was to define differences on intellectual property rights protection and find common solutions within the next six months.

On Feb. 20, the White House released a strategy paper outlining an approach for protecting the trade secrets of U.S. companies. “Emerging trends indicate that the pace of economic espionage and trade secret theft against U.S. corporations is accelerating,”

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China’s satellite deals with neighbours jolt Indian security agencies into action

China has sparked off a fresh scare in India’s national security establishment, this time with its little-known collaboration with neighbouring countries’ space-related programmes, adding a new dimension to fears among intelligence agencies the eastern neighbour was encircling India strategically with large communication networks. A string of satellite deals China has struck with Sri Lanka, potential space-related partnerships in Maldives and Bangladesh and their security implications have raised concern in New Delhi.

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North Korea threatens to attack South island

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has threatened to “wipe out” a South Korean island as Pyongyang came under new economic and diplomatic fire from US sanctions and UN charges of gross rights abuses.

On a visit to frontline military units on Monday, Kim briefed officers on their mission “to strike” Baengnyeong and turn the island into a “sea of fire”. “Once an order is issued, you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like,” Kim was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency.

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Strategic dynamics of gwadar and shifting geopolitical alignments

The US and its allies must be viewing this convergence of Chinese, Pakistani and Iranian strategic and economic interests in Gwadar and Balochistan with extreme trepidation. In one fell swoop, the Straits of Hormuz and the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) to and from the Persian Gulf have come under Chinese oversight.

Furthermore, regional economies are getting integrated “independent” of Western influence and domination. The prospects of a network of oil and gas pipelines (IP, even TAPI) flowing from the Middle East (ME) and CARs to Pakistan and China are that much brighter now.

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Why the invasion of Iraq was the single worst foreign policy decision in American history

Inside Iraq, the forces of Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict had been unleashed by the U.S. invasion. That, in turn, was creating the conditions for a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran, similar to the growing proxy war between Israel and Iran inside Lebanon (where another destabilizing event, the U.S.-sanctioned Israeli invasion of 2006, followed in hand). None of this has ever ended. Today, in fact, that proxy war has simply found a fresh host, Syria, with multiple powers using “humanitarian aid” to push and shove their Sunni and Shia avatars around.

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Taiwan’s Regional Security Profile Grows

Taipei was slowly realizing — too slowly, perhaps — that President Ma’s “goodwill” notwithstanding, Beijing has continued to threaten the island with more than 1,600 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, and refuses to take the military option off the table as a means of bringing about “reunification.” Despite the diplomatic truce, Beijing has relentlessly prevented Taiwan from playing the role that a modern, democratic country of 23 million people should be entitled to play within the international community.

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Global Information Grid: DARPA’s new TERN program aims for ISR from the sea

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Effective 21st-century warfare requires the ability to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike mobile targets anywhere, around the clock. Current technologies, however, have their limitations. Helicopters are relatively limited in the distance and flight time. Fixed-wing manned and unmanned aircraft can fly farther and longer but require either aircraft carriers or large, fixed land bases with runways often longer than a mile. Moreover, establishing these bases or deploying carriers requires substantial financial, diplomatic and security commitments that are incompatible with rapid response.

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Israel playing dirty game in troubled Africa

israel-in-africa

Israel has long been keen to establish a foothold in parts of Africa, for strategic as well as economic reasons. The vast continent offers relatively accessible (and increasingly fought-over) sources of energy and water, as well as emerging markets. While Israel has been able to establish diplomatic relationships with most non-Muslim African countries, nations such as Mali and Niger have so far refused to formally recognise it. Clearly, Israel would like to convert these nations of the Sahel into friends and a potential rear guard against hostile Arab nations in the north.

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Qatar seeks a bigger role in Middle East

qatar

In Egypt, Libya and Syria, where Qatar tried to play a role post-Arab Spring, it finds itself blamed for much that has gone wrong on a local level. Close ties to Egypt’s new leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood, have alarmed countries like the United Arab Emirates, where the group is banned and which in January said it had foiled a Brotherhood-linked coup plot. Senior officials in the UAE have long believed Qatar has long-term strategy to use the Brotherhood to redraw the region. “There is both greater apprehension and appreciation for Qatar two years after the Arab awakening in the region,”

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PLA Colonel Shuns US Attempts To Build Mini-NATO in Asia-Pacific

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A Chinese military officer has warned Australia not to side with the United States and Japan if war breaks out in the East China Sea. America is the global tiger and Japan is Asia’s wolf, and both are now madly biting China.

Colonel Liu’s warning raises the nightmare possibility of Australia having to choose between its dominant economic and security partners as a territorial contest between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, also known as the Diaoyu Islands, continues to escalate. China, Japan and Japan’s defence ally, the United States, have trading military and diplomatic warnings over the disputed islands, while China has placed the People’s Liberation Army on combat alert.

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Diplomatic Offensive?!: Abe advocates ‘security diamond’ against China

Abe advocates 'security diamond' against China

Since assuming office at the end of 2012, Japan’s new prime minister has started conducting a diplomatic offensive to counteract China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific Region. This diplomatic offensive is an indication of the new Japanese administration’s growing economic and strategic interests in Southeast Asia. Abe wants to curb China’s growing military and commercial clout in the region. He wants to expand Japan’s maritime competence and combine it with the country’s economic strengths. Japan’s new administration wants to strengthen ties with ASEAN

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Google’s Eric Schmidt ‘to visit North Korea’?!

Google's Eric Schmidt 'to visit North Korea'

Mr Schmidt will be travelling to North Korea on a private trip led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that could take place as early as this month, sources told The Associated Press news agency. The sources, two people familiar with the group’s plans, asked not to be named because the visit had not been made public.

The trip would be the first by a top executive from US-based Google, the world’s largest internet search provider, to a country considered to have the most restrictive internet policies on the planet.

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China’s Take: Japan, US may lock horns in quest for influence in Myanmar

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A series of changes that took place after the current government replaced the military government through the January 2011 elections has brought hope for stability and development in the country, as well as expanded its diplomatic room. This provides Myanmar with opportunities to improve relations with the US and Japan. Against the backdrop of the US “pivot to Asia,” the Obama administration has emphasized Southeast Asia as a strategic focus, and seeks to forge comprehensive strengthened US-ASEAN cooperation.

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CIA’s Global Response Staff emerging from shadows

global response staff cia

The rapid collapse of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya exposed the vulnerabilities of State Department facilities overseas. Two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were members of the CIA’s Global Response Staff, an innocuously named organization that has recruited hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency’s spies.

The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

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The Rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East

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The Middle East is a region where any political movement appears as rivalry, a place where no one is without a rival, and where there are those who cannot be without a rival. There are two forms of competition: competition against one or more people, like chess, or competition with one or more people over something, like the 100 meters hurdle race. Competition in the Middle East is generally of the second form, and the two states which the struggle for influence in the Middle East has had them confront each other are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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The inside story of the CIA-ISI immunity deal

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The US State Department’s decision to extend immunity to two former ISI chiefs in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case is in accordance with a clandestine understanding reached between Admiral Mike Mullen and General Ashfaq Kayani during a day-long meeting held at a secluded resort in Oman on February 22, 2011.

The State Department informed a New York federal court on December 19 that the ISI and two of its former director generals enjoyed immunity and cannot be tried in the Mumbai terror attacks case.

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Resource Rapture: Malawi, Tanzania In The Midst of a Border Dispute

oil-gas-lake-malawi

Tanzania and Malawi plan to seek mediation from former heads of state in Southern Africa to help resolve a long-running border dispute over Lake Malawi. The lake is believed to have rich oil and gas reserves.

Foreign ministers of the two countries are scheduled to meet former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, chairman of the forum, on Friday as part of a regional effort to resolve the border impasse.

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US to open military ties soon with Myanmar

US to open military ties soon with Myanmar

The United States is poised to take “nascent steps” to open up military ties with Myanmar as a way of bolstering political reforms undertaken by the former state, a senior US defence official said on Wednesday.

The Pentagon said the cooperation likely would take the form of “non-lethal” training for Myanmar officers focusing on humanitarian assistance, military medicine and defence “reform,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.

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Surveillance State: Ecuador Implements “World’s First” Countrywide Facial- and Voice-Recognition System

surveillance-state-ecuador

Ecuador has installed a nationwide system that lets government officials ID “several million” people by their voices and faces, Slate reported. If an Ecuadorian agency taps a phone line, for example, it is now able to match the voices in a call with a database of “voiceprints” of known criminals, suspects and persons of interest. The voice system is 97 percent accurate, says the system’s maker, SpeechPro

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Israel maintains military assets in Eritrea to spy on Iran: report

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Israel has set up military bases in Eritrea to monitor Iran and other hostile activities in the Red Sea, Stratfor Global Intelligence reported Wednesday.

The U.S.-based strategy consultancy firm quoted “diplomatic sources” as saying that the Israeli military presence is comprised of docks and small naval units in the Dahlak Archipelago and Massawa, and a listening post on Mt. Amba Sawara.

“Israel’s presence in Eritrea is very focused and precise, involving intelligence gathering in the Red Sea and monitoring Iran’s activities,” Stratfor said.

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Russia Is Building Diplomatic and Military Tools to Prevent Western Resistance to its Eurasian Union

eurasian-union

With so much economic and political influence, Russia will then be able to promote its preferred candidates in national elections along its periphery—and will basically own the national governments. Such an outcome would also trigger a diffusion into neighboring countries of Russia’s political system, which is a form of “smart authoritarianism” mimicking democratic institutions and processes. This type of governance forces its citizens to trade between some minimal level of social welfare assured by the government in exchange for giving up many individual freedoms.

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Russia Prepared to Evacuate Nationals from Syria

Russia warns Britain over expulsions

According to the Kremlin’s Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian emergency services have reserved several planes to evacuate Russian nationals from Syria. These people are officials, engineers and Russian wives. Mr Bogdanov advised Russians to postpone travel to Syria.

According to the Kremlin’s Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov, in the period to the New Year Moscow will host several rounds of talks between Russian officials and foreign representatives of the internal Syria opposition.

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Pentagon builds military intelligence network to rival the CIA

Pentagon builds military network to rival the CIA

The Pentagon is planning a major expansion of America’s international spy network, creating a new generation of undercover agents to get a better handle on critical issues such as China’s growing military might and the rising influence of fundamentalist militants in Africa.

The enlarged military spy ring will rival the civilian Central Intelligence Agency in size, marking a major expansion in America’s espionage network – something that reflects the Obama administration’s preference for undercover operations over conventional force.

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The Sri Lankan Silk Road

the-sri-lankan-silk-road

Sri Lanka, the “pearl” of the Indian Ocean, is strategically located within the east-west international shipping passageway. Like the old Silk Road that stretched from the ancient Chinese capital of Xian all the way to ancient Rome, modern China’s strategic and commercial supply line extends over the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea to include the focal transit port of Sri Lanka at the southern tip of India. Today, over 85 percent of China’s energy imports from the Middle East and mineral resources from Africa transit through Sri Lanka and other so-called “string of pearls” ports.

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Tiny Oil Fiefdom Qatar Pushes For Hegemony On Global Stage

Qatar

For years, the tiny oil sheikdom of Qatar has been a reliable US partner in the Middle East — as a host to the largest American military base in the region and as a diplomatic bulwark against Iran. It has backed the fall of autocratic rulers in Libya and Syria.

Two years after the start of the Arab Spring, however, Qatar’s carefully cultivated reputation as a U.S. partner — and as a neutral broker in the region — is increasingly muddled. With billions of dollars in natural gas and oil revenue, it is bankrolling a new generation of Islamists across the Middle East, raising questions about its vision for the region and whether some of its policies are in direct conflict with U.S. interests.

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BRICS: The World’s New Banker?

brics-the-worlds-new-bankers

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc has begun planning its own development bank and a new bailout fund which would be created by pooling together an estimated $240 billion in foreign exchange reserves, according to diplomatic sources. To get a sense of how significant the proposed fund would be, the fund would be larger than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about 150 countries, according to Russia and India Report.

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Contra Style Death Squads Set Groundwork For Future Syrian Colonized Govt

syrian-death-squad-black-flag

11 November representatives of disparate Syrian groups were combined to form the national coalition of revolutionary and oppositional forces “(NKROS), all the seats and positions in which the head of the American delegation had distributed at the Conference in Doha, United States Ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford.

In 2004-2006/07 he worked as Assistant to John Negroponte, the head of a diplomatic mission in Iraq and the United States engaged in war, the methods used there in Honduras: using” death squads “and” Nicaraguan Contras. “the same model that Ford used for destabilization of the situation in Syria.

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Iran warships returning to Sudan: military

iran-warships-returning-to-sudan

Iranian warships will return to Sudan on Friday, the armed forces said, one month after a similar port call followed Khartoum’s accusation that Israel bombed a military factory.

Sudan’s links to Iran have come under scrutiny after Khartoum accused Israel of the October 23 strike against the Yarmouk compound, which led to speculation that Iranian weapons were stored or manufactured at the factory in Khartoum.

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The World through the Eyes of the Dragon

the-world-through-the-eyes-of-the-dragon

In today’s world order, economic interests, political motives and security agendas of major powers are usually intertwined, although zero-sum rivalries are still valid on many occasions of political friction. In addition, China’s administrative tradition has brought its own fears, dreams and specific definitions of interest from centuries back to this date and synthesized these elements into what we refer to as its contemporary foreign policy perspective.

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Caspian Sea’s Part in the ‘Great Game’

caspian-sea-gas-reserves

The Caspian Sea region is an often-overlooked one, compared to the Middle East, when assessing the antagonisms of world powers. However, this hinterland of Eurasia is of great importance for a whole range of issues.

The Caspian Sea dominates on a geo-economic level Central Asia, Caucasus, Southern Russia and the upper part of the Middle East. More than 10 billion tons of oil reserves are to be found there along with trillions of cubic meters of natural gas, most of them still unexplored or underdeveloped.

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Iran fired at unarmed US drone, Pentagon says

iran-shot-at-us-armed-drone

Iran fired on an unarmed U.S. drone last week as it was hovering in international airspace, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Spokesman George Little said the incident occurred Nov. 1 at 4:50 a.m. ET. He said the unarmed, unmanned drone was conducting “routine surveillance” over the Persian Gulf when it was “intercepted” by Iran. He said the MQ1 Predator drone, which was not hit, was not in Iranian airspace.

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Turkey to request Patriot deployment from NATO

patriotmissile

Ankara plans to request NATO deploy a Patriot missile defense system in its territories in case of escalation of the scale of attacks against Turkey by the al-Assad regime. A senior Turkish diplomat says Turkey and NATO have been working on contingency plans

Patriot missiles were deployed twice in the past in Turkey, both in the context of the Iraqi war in the early 1990s and 2000s. Turkey plans to officially request NATO deploy a Patriot missile defense system in its territories as a security precaution against a potential large-scale military offensive from Syria as Syrian shelling on the border raises tensions.

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Commander Eyes Army Troop Rotations in Asia-Pacific

501617-us-military-expansion

Speaking during a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable yesterday, Wiercinski underscored the importance of expanded Army engagement as the United States implements new strategic guidance focused on the Asia-Pacific region. But acknowledging that neither the United States nor its allies and partners in the region have an interest in establishing new U.S. bases there, he said he favors troop rotations to support more exercises and other military-to-military engagements.

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South Korea eschews enrichment of uranium, but chafes at U.S. effort to restrict its options

south-korea-no-to-nukes

South Korean officials have recently realized that the United States is likely to try to forbid them from enriching uranium and expanding their country’s missile range, rather than leave these issues on the diplomatic back burner.

Indeed, recent discreet talks, in which the U.S. has disregarded South Korean efforts to supplement the controversial U.S.-South Korea Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which expires in March 2014, suggest that there are reasons to be deeply worried about the alliance’s future.

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U.S. “preparing to change Bosnian constitution, repartition nation”

change-bosnia-constitution

The U.S. launched “a serious and wide-reaching diplomatic initiative for a constitutional reconstruction of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina”, said reports.

According to the newspaper, the initiative covers all options: decreasing the number of cantons, changing cantonal borders, transferring certain competencies, abolishing offices and other changes aimed at making the structure of the Federation more efficient

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How realistic is Arab military intervention in Syria

qatar-syria-military-intervention

Qatar’s call for Arab military intervention in Syria would be difficult to achieve practically and politically, and would risk dragging the region into an all-out conflict, analysts say.

Qatar’s emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on Tuesday urged Arab action over war-torn Syria because of the failure of the UN Security Council and other international efforts to end the conflict.

Because of this failure, “it is better for Arab countries to intervene themselves out of their humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed,” Sheikh Hamad told the General Assembly.

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US is trying to make Armenia its ally in the region: Truman National Security Project

us-trying-to-make-armenia-its-ally-in-the-region

Few countries are in better position to shape US foreign policy than Armenia.Armenia borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran. As a part of the former Soviet Union, it relies on nearby Russia extensively for trade and military backing. The US has a significant stake in all five countries, and Armenia is now coming into view as a potentially potent lever to advance American aims.That is, if the Armenians can be won over.As the US tries to woo Armenia to become a stronger ally in the region, the term “geostrategic” has never been more apt.

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Intervention in Mali: France launches ‘Opération Sabre’ in West Africa

france-special-ops

France has announced the deployment of a military mission dubbed Opération Sabre to rescue its nationals held hostage and flush out Islamist terror groups in the West Africa region.

French officials said 80 military vehicles, helicopter pilot trainers as well as commandos from contingents in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa were expected to join Operation Sabre or sword.

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Deadly Attack in Libya Was Major Blow to C.I.A. Efforts

Libya-Embassy-Attack

The attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans has dealt the Central Intelligence Agency a major setback in its intelligence-gathering efforts at a time of increasing instability in the North African nation.

Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.

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Benghazi, Cairo, and the “New” Force Protection Reality

force-protection

This is the new reality: in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, the United States must expect that its diplomats will not enjoy protection in societies wracked by political instability and the birth pangs of transition into new forms of government. This problem is by no means exclusive to these areas of conflict. Even Mexican drug cartels have no fear of shooting at diplomatic cars. As Trombly pointed out, the ability of the State Department to advocate for US interests will be compromised if effective measures are not taken.

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Benghazi attack: US Marines deployed to Libya

benghazi-attack-us-troops-deployed

The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens,along with three other embassy staff, were killed Tuesday night following an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, US President Barack Obama confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

At least five Americans and 10 members of the Libyan security forces were wounded as mobs, allegedly protesting against an anti-Islam film, stormed the US mission armed with rocket propelled-grenades.

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Secret British Envoy Warns Israel Against Iran Strike

secret-british-envoy-israel

A special envoy from the British government came to Israel about two weeks ago on a secret visit for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

According to an Israeli source who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, the high-ranking visitor delivered a stern message from British Prime Minister David Cameron against an uncoordinated Israeli strike on Iran at this time.

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Iran in talks to sell oil to Egypt – agency

iran-plans-to-sell-oil-to-egypt

Iran is in talks to sell crude oil to Egypt, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) on Monday.

Iran has been looking for new buyers for its oil as western sanctions over its disputed nuclear program squeeze sales to long-time customers, Reuters reported.

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Chinese army capable of safeguarding maritime rights: military spokesperson

chinese-army

China’s armed forces are capable of safeguarding the country’s maritime rights and interests, a spokesman with the Ministry of Defense said Thursday, referring to the Diaoyu Islands.

“It is undisputed that the Diaoyu Islands are an indispensable part of China’s territory,” spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a regular press conference, adding that any unilateral action taken by Japan cannot change this fact.

“In the meantime, China’s armed forces are capable of safeguarding the country’s territory as well as its maritime rights and interests,” said Geng.

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Iran, Saudi Arabia fight proxy conflict in Syria

iran-saudi-proxy-war

Saudi Arabia doesn’t see Ahmadinejad as the one in charge –
The old rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia as to who is leading the Islamic world is also fought on Syrian soil. The Saudi king described himself as “the servant of the holy shrines in Mecca and Medina” while Khamenei claims to be “the leader of the Islamic revolution.”

The two countries also stand for the schism of the Islamic world: Saudi Arabia sees itself at the helm of the Sunnis, while Iran is leading the Shias. The conflict in Syria is increasingly fought along that sectarian divide with the Assad clan being Alawi, a denomination close to the Shias and therefore a natural ally to Tehran.

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Sri Lanka Plays Geopolitical Games with China, India, and the United States

Professor Patrick Mendis

“Sri Lanka has never been an island,” the American diplomat told the audience of over 300 military cadets; “it has always had trade and diplomatic relations that went back to ancient kingdoms in Asia and ruling empires in Europe.” Its strategic location in the passageway through the Indian Ocean has become increasing interest to China, India, and the United States throughout navigational and trade history, Mendis added.

By quoting U.S. strategist Admiral Alfred Mahan, Professor Mendis said, “Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia.” The Sri Lankan born American strategist also pointed out that Chinese (Muslim) Admiral Zheng He visited Sri Lanka several times since 1405. It was almost 100 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America, Mendis explained.

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China Sea Cold War: Japan ‘could deploy troops on islands’

Japanese soldiers take part in a military parade at the Ground Self Defence Force’s training ground in Asaka. Japan’s defence minister has warned Tokyo could send troops to a chain of East China Sea islands at the centre of a territorial row with China if the simmering dispute escalated.

Satoshi Morimoto said Tokyo’s position had not changed, but confirmed that it would use force to defend the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

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Israel: IDF Trains for ‘Arab Spring’ in Judea and Samaria

A large-scale IDF exercise in Judea and Samaria, the first in three years, is preparing soldiers in the Menashe Brigade for a possible “Arab Spring” rebellion. The brigade is based near Jenin, located in central Samaria between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan River.

“The drill tested main scenarios of a potential violent escalation in the region, including terrorist attacks on a local road, terrorists infiltrating a community and killing civilians, abduction of soldiers, numerous explosives set on a fence and more,” military spokesmen reported on the IDF Website.

Forces from the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), Israeli Police, Israeli emergency medical services Magen David Adom, regular and reserve units, and community security bodies participated in the drill.

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Hichem Karoui: Spies, murders and secret wars

Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on the Burgas bombing, admitted that a secret war was going on between Israel and Iran. He particularly mentioned “a number of attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli targets, in Thailand, Georgia, India, Greece, Cyprus, and other countries.” The Israeli newspapers that reported the PM’s comment also reported a US anonymous official cited by The New York Times saying: “This was tit for tat.”

That was equal to saying: “We were expecting it, since we know what we’ve done to them!” The French dictum says: C’est de bonne guerre! (It is just fair war).

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Abkhazia leaves open the possibility of border strife with Georgia

In the last few weeks, the issue of Georgian-Abkhazian relations has shifted from a purely diplomatic field to some other one once again. The subject of security on the border of Abkhazia with Georgia in the Gali district became the first priority. On 22 June, Stanislav Lakoba, the head of the Security Council of Abkhazia, made a statement which was pompous enough. We are talking about a new round of tensions that could lead to new instability on the Georgian-Abkhaz border, i. e. about destabilization, from which the people of Abkhazia became estranged in recent years.

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Taiwan tests new weapons in China war simulation

Taiwan for the first time tested how a fleet of advanced submarine hunting aircraft and attack helicopters would be utilized in the event of an attack by rival China, officials and media said today.

The weapons were included at the beginning of the five-day “Han Kuang No 28″ computer-aided wargame – the biggest of the military’s series of annual drills.

The defense ministry confirmed the drill started today but refused to provide further details.

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IDF intelligence units growing to cope with Mideast upheaval

On Thursday, Military Intelligence marked the graduation of another course of new intelligence officers. A senior officer said that the course was the largest in the directorate’s history and saw a 25 percent increase in the number of participants.

“MI is growing due to the changes in Israel’s strategic and operational positions, the need for more technology and the increase in the areas of interest that we follow,” the officer said. According to the officer, among the new areas of interest that Military Intelligence has added to its list are Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan.

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Asia Pivot Point: Philippine president orders to keep government plans secret

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III ordered the government’s plans and decisions involving the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China to be kept secret before they are implemented.

Toward that end, Aquino, according to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, gave instructions that the four hourlong Cabinet meeting on Thursday—the second in a week—be held behind closed doors.

The staff of the 35 Cabinet members present were asked to leave before the meeting began, Lacierda said.

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Uniting Feral Dictatorships: Uzbekistan turns into U.S major ally in Central Asia

Iran’s issues, the operation in Afghanistan, the establishment of military bases in Uzbekistan will be discussed at the upcoming meeting with U.S military and diplomatic leadership in Tashkent.

The U.S. has sought military cooperation for a long time with Uzbekistan because of the strategic and geopolitical positions of the country. Uzbekistan’s obligations as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) were one of the main factors that can prevent it and the creation of U.S bases in the Republic.

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Why Gulf States Want Regime Change in Syria

Ever since the protests started against Bashar al Assad’s regime, the Gulf countries have adopted a tough posture by criticizing and condemning the reactions of the Syrian government and squarely putting the blame upon it for the unfolding situation.

The Gulf monarchies, which suppressed protests in their own countries and were against any kind of regime change in their own region, have accused the Assad regime of killings and violating human rights and have been questioning the regime’s legitimacy to continue its rule. With the protests against the Assad regime turning increasingly violent and the Syrian regime’s strong military response, the political dynamics in the region have become more intricate.

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Saudi officials preparing to finance Free Syria Army

Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from the military and increasing pressure on the Assad regime, according The Guardian.

Officials in the Saudi capital embraced the idea when it was put to them by Arab officials in May, according to sources in three Arab states, around the same time that weapons started to flow across the southern Turkish border into the hands of Free Syria Army leaders.

Turkey has also allowed the establishment of a command centre in Istanbul which is co-ordinating supply lines in consultation with FSA leaders inside Syria.

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AP sources: US mulls new covert raids in Pakistan

U.S. military and intelligence officials are so frustrated with Pakistan’s failure to stop local militant groups that attack U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan that they’ve considered launching secret joint U.S.-Afghan commando raids into Pakistan to hunt them down.

U.S. officials tell The Associated Press the idea comes up every time the deadly Taliban faction known as the Haqqani (hah-KAH’-nee) network launches a spectacular attack in Afghanistan. Its fighters arm, plan and train in neighboring Pakistan.

The officials say the White House has consistently rejected the idea, believing the raids would not be worth the diplomatic blowback from Pakistan.

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Intelligence experts: Nato has options on Assad

A former Israeli intelligence chief has said EU and Nato countries can do more on Syria than complaining about Russia or imposing sanctions.

Assad’s generals, secret police chiefs and his diplomatic corps are still loyal and important minorities – such as Alawite Muslims, Druze Muslims and Christians, as well as businessmen in Damascus and Aleppo – do not want Sunni rule.

Outside the country, Russia, Iran, Shia Muslims in Iraq and Shittes and Christians in Lebanon, also want him to stay.

“When you see a real general, preferably an Alawite general, defect, then you will know he is on his way out … Unless the Druze clearly change position, he is quite stable,” the contact noted.

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Azerbaijan troops killed in Armenia border clash during Clinton visit

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said Tuesday that five of its soldiers were killed in clashes with Armenian troops alongside the border separating the two countries, deepening tensions between the two former Soviet nations.

The ministry said in a statement that exchanges of gunfire have been reported over the last two days at numerous points along Azerbaijan’s western border. Armenia had said earlier that three of its soldiers died in the clashes.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have for two decades been at odds over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which lies within Azerbaijan, but was taken over by Armenia during a six-year war that killed about 30,000 people and displaced 1 million.

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Syria: West may be forced to seize WMD, report

The West may be forced to seize Bashar al-Assad’s weapons of mass destruction including toxic gas stockpiles, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper Thursday.
International troops could be forced to intervene in Syria if the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to leave the stockpiles of his chemical weapons vulnerable to terrorists, western diplomatic sources have told the paper.

Like Israel, Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997, nor is it a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which verifies stockpiles of these weapons.

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New School of the Americas For Dictators

A year ago this month, Bolivian President Evo Morales inaugurated the College for Defense of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) with a speech in which he called for the expulsion of U.S. intelligence agencies, a new military doctrine based on “asymmetrical war” against “imperialism” and the “abolition” of the U.N. Security Council. He also attacked the press, calling CNN a “tool of capitalism”,

ALBA is a Venezuelan-led association of anti-U.S. governments which also includes Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and some Caribbean island states dependent on Venezuelan oil subsidies. The fledgling alliance has been given little importance by U.S. intelligence analysts, who tend to dismiss it as a purely ideological entity.

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Winds of war between Beijing and Manila blowing across the South China Sea

In their public statements, Manila and Beijing are seemingly stoking the winds of war blowing across the South China Sea over disputed islands in which other Asia-Pacific nations, including the United States, have a stake.

Beijing warned yesterday that it was ready to respond to any escalation of a tense, month-long standoff with the Philippines at Scarborough Shoal, a reef between Luzon Island and Zhongsha Islands.

“The Chinese side has … made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side,” Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying said after summoning Alex Chua, chargé d’affaires at the Philippines Embassy in Beijing on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Fu made a “serious representation” about the standoff.

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Petrodollar Warfare: Iran Accepts Renminbi for Crude Oil

Iran is accepting renminbi for some of the crude oil it supplies to China, industry executives in Beijing and Kuwait and Dubai-based bankers said, partly as a consequence of U.S. sanctions aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear program.

Tehran is spending the currency, which is not freely convertible, on goods and services imported from China.

Most of the oil that goes from Iran to China is handled by the Unipec trading arm of Sinopec, China’s second-largest oil company, and through another trading company called Zhuhai Zhenrong, the oil industry executives said.

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