Report: U.S. warned Sudan before attack on Gaza convoy

The U.S. warned the Sudanese government that weapons were being smuggled into the Gaza Strip through its territory ahead of a recent attack on a Gaza-bound arms convoy, which foreign media has attributed to the Israel Air Force, the pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Monday.

On Friday, the American network ABC reported that the IAF had targeted a convoy of trucks in Sudan carrying Iranian weapons to Gaza in January. According to the report, 39 people riding in 17 trucks were killed, and civilians in the area sustained injuries. The network later reported that the IAF had carried out three such strikes since the beginning of the year.

According to the report in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which quotes reliable sources, a senior American official transferred a message to a Sudanese government official and asked him to make sure that the message makes its way to Sudan’s leaders in Khartoum so that immediate steps can be taken to put a stop to the smuggling of weapons. The sources said that the Sudanese security establishment declared that the issue would be investigated, shortly before the first attack.

In light of the fact that the attacks occurred in such close proximity to the American warning, Sudanese officials initially assumed that it was the U.S. that was behind the bombings. However, when the U.S. denied involvement, the accusations were pointed at Israel, which has yet to confirm or deny the reports. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — When Condoleezza Rice and Tzipi Livni signed a Memorandum of Understanding on January 16 whose aim was to combat weapons smuggling into Gaza, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the agreement had been reached in consultation with the incoming administration. The implication was that the Bush administration and the Obama administration were on exactly the same page on this issue.

So now we learn that US officials warned the Sudanese just before the Israelis reportedly sent in drones to destroy an alleged weapons convoy. What’s going on here?

This could be a good cop/bad cop routine. Or it could have been a way of attempting to disassociate the US from the operation, or it could mean that the US didn’t know what the Israelis were about to do.

Since it’s hard to imagine that the Israelis would want to give the Sudanese or anyone else advance warning of a risky long-range operation of this nature, my guess is that the US was outside the loop. Intelligence was being shared by the US but the Israelis gave no prior notice on how they were going to use it — at least that’s my best guess in interpreting the latest wrinkle in a many-wrinkled story.

Assad: Israel not a true peace partner

Syrian President Bashar Assad spoke Monday at the opening of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, and said that peace between Arab nations and Israel could not be reached without willingness on the part of the Jewish state.

“Israel killed the initiative, not the Doha summit,” he said, referring to a 2002 Arab initiative that offered Israel normal ties in return for its withdrawal from Arab land seized in 1967.

Arab countries “have no real partner in the peace process. The arrival of a Rightist government makes no difference, because in Israel, the Right, the Left and the Center… all reflect a reality which is that Israeli society is not ready for peace,” said Assad. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Assad is really stating the obvious yet American discourse on the conflict continues to treat Israel as though it is the bride of peace that got jilted at the altar.

Israel can learn from ‘The Troubles’

Upon the arrival of Sinn Fein President and Northern Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams into the Middle East, Israeli officials will give him the cold shoulder – “We expect all dignitaries who come here to make it clear that they will not dignify Hamas with a meeting,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

On Adams’s previous 2006 trip, he met with Hamas officials, and during his stay he advocated dialogue between the group and Israel, even without the precondition of Hamas’s recognition of the Jewish state. Israel should not set as a prerequisite for official engagement a refusal to see Hamas officials.

As a foreign observer, and one bringing with him a breadth of knowledge from a lifetime of dealing with the complexities of Northern Ireland’s ethnic and religious conflict, Adams has every right, and indeed he should meet with Hamas; likewise, official Israel should not shun him for so doing. [continued…]

Turkey’s fallout with Israel deals blow to settlers

A legal battle being waged by Palestinian families to stop the takeover of their neighbourhood in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers has received a major fillip from the recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey.

After the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged.

On Monday, Palestinian lawyers presented the Ottoman documents to an Israeli court, which is expected to assess their validity over the next few weeks. The lawyers hope that proceedings to evict about 500 residents from Sheikh Jarrah will be halted.

The families’ unprecedented access to the Turkish archives may mark a watershed, paving the way for successful appeals by other Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank caught in legal disputes with settlers and the Israeli government over land ownership. [continued…]

The truth about Abu Zubaydah

This article was submitted to the CIA prior to publication. Passages redacted by the CIA are marked […].

Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, more commonly known as Abu Zubaydah, is my client. After being extensively tortured by the CIA and imprisoned in various black sites around the world, Zayn may finally be approaching his day in court. I and my co-counsel welcome that day. But what if we are successful and establish that Zayn is not an enemy combatant? Would any country agree to take our client? The Bush administration’s misrepresentations about Zayn make that virtually impossible unless I am allowed to tell his side of the story. This article is the first step in that reclamation process.

For many years, Abu Zubaydah’s name has been synonymous with the war on terror because of repeated false statements made by the Bush administration, the majority of which were known to be false when uttered. On 17 April 2002, […] President Bush publicly announced that Zayn had been captured: “We recently apprehended one of al-Qaida’s top leaders, a man named Abu Zubaydah. He was spending a lot of time as one of the top operating officials of al-Qaida, plotting and planning murder.”

Zayn’s capture and imprisonment were touted as a great achievement in the fight against terrorism and al-Qaida. There was just one minor problem: the man described by President Bush and others within his administration as a “top operative”, the “number three person” in al-Qaida, and al-Qaida’s “chief of operations” was never even a member of al-Qaida, much less an individual who was among its “inner circle”. The Bush administration had made another mistake. [continued…]

Obama will face a defiant world on foreign visit

President Obama is facing challenges to American power on multiple fronts as he prepares for his first trip overseas since taking office, with the nation’s economic woes emboldening allies and adversaries alike.

Despite his immense popularity around the world, Mr. Obama will confront resentment over American-style capitalism and resistance to his economic prescriptions when he lands in London on Tuesday for the Group of 20 summit meeting of industrial and emerging market nations plus the European Union.

The president will not even try to overcome NATO’s unwillingness to provide more troops in Afghanistan when he goes on later in the week to meet with the military alliance.

He seems unlikely to return home with any more to show for his attempts to open a dialogue with Iran’s leaders, who have, so far, responded with tough words, albeit not tough enough to persuade Russia to support the United States in tougher sanctions against Tehran. And he will be tested in face-to-face meetings by the leaders of China and Russia, who have been pondering the degree to which the power of the United States to dominate global affairs may be ebbing. [continued…]

Sons of Iraq movement suffers another blow

A moderate Sunni paramilitary leader allied with the Americans was detained by Iraqi forces, his deputies said Sunday, in an illustration of how the Shiite-led government has humbled a nationwide movement that emerged two years ago to help end the Iraqi insurgency.

Iraqi authorities also continued their drive against supporters of another paramilitary leader, arresting at least seven of his backers and taking away their weapons. Those fighters were loyal to Adel Mashadani, the fiery leader of the Sons of Iraq group in Baghdad’s Fadhil neighborhood, who was detained Saturday.

The arrest of Raad Ali, who helped the Americans stabilize the west Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya, came to light Sunday, five days after the Iraqi army picked him up in a midnight raid, his aides said. [continued…]

US opens route to Afghanistan through Russia’s backyard

The road passes a shimmering green mountain pasture, then dips steeply to a new US-built bridge. Across the languid Panj river is Afghanistan and the dusty northern town of Kunduz. On this side is Tajikistan, Afghanistan’s impoverished Central Asian neighbour.

It is here, at what used to be the far boundary of the Soviet empire, that the US and Nato are planning a new operation. Soon, Nato trucks loaded with non-military supplies will start rolling into Afghanistan along this northern route, avoiding Pakistan’s perilous tribal areas and the ambush-prone Khyber Pass.

This northern corridor is essential if Barack Obama’s Afghan-Pakistan strategy is to work. With convoys supplying US and Nato forces regularly attacked by the Taliban on the Pakistan route, the US is again courting the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. [continued…]

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