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ISIS’ army of 7-footers? Experts say video of Copt beheadings manipulated

Experts who examined the sickening footage of ISIS militants killing Christians in Libya say the tape was doctored with. In the above still, the killers appear to be more than 7 feet tall.

Video of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians being marched along a Libyan beach before being beheaded by black-clad members of ISIS is hard for any civilized person to watch, but experts who made it through the sickening, five-minute clip told FoxNews.com Friday they came to the same conclusion: The footage was faked.

No one holds out hope the victims, mostly poor fishermen who had gone to Libya to scratch out a living, are still alive. But several anomalies in the video, which was posted online Feb. 15, indicated to trained eyes that at least some of the production was done on “green screen” with background added later, perhaps to disguise the real location of the atrocity. A day after the clip went viral, Egyptian warplanes struck hard at an eastern port city near Tripoli, where the video appeared to have been shot.

“The Islamic State’s manipulation of their high-production videos has become commonplace,” said Veryan Khan, editorial director of the Florida-based Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium. The murders likely took place in a studio, and the background image shown was likely from another location, the Bay in Sirte, a part of the Mediterranean Sea on the northern coast of Libya, according to Khan. There are several technical mistakes in the video that show it was manipulated, she said.

The most obvious, Khan said, is the speaker, “Jihad Joseph” is much larger than the sea in both the close up and wide shots, and his head is bizarrely out of proportion, meaning he was filmed indoors and the sea added behind him, Khan said. In addition, the jihadists featured in the film look to be more than 7 feet tall, towering as much as two feet above their victims.

The perspective is something several Saudi Arabians noted in their tweets about the video, questioning whether the jihadists were a part of some sort of special forces unit since they were so large.

Hollywood horror film director Mary Lambert, who among her many film credits directed Pet Cemetery, analyzed the film for FoxNews.com and quickly concluded Khan was correct.

Turning the sea red is a grisly effect, but one which would actually take much more than the blood of 21 men, according to experts.

“The shot that seems really tampered with is the one with the really tall Jihadists and the dwarf Christians,” said Lambert, also a professor at New York University’s vaunted film school. “The close-ups of Jihadists on the beach are most likely green screen.”

Other technical giveaways: The sound of the ocean is likely a well-known audio track. Even more bizarre, the stream of blood in the ocean at the end of the video, and during the beheading of the final victim, is most likely not real. TRAC’s forensic analyst said turning the sea red is the “cheapest and easiest post-production tool” and “can even be achieved with a cell phone.” But doing it in the manner portrayed in the video is actually impossible, Khan said.

The sea turning red is obviously “FX”, Lambert agreed, with special computer effects used.

The man identified as “Jihad Joseph” may be an American, according to some analysts who have scrutinized his accent.

“I think that in the opening shot all the figures might be animated. They never had more than six men on the beach,” Lambert said.

The directors of the video used animation and “rotoscoping” to use the six figures like a rubber stamp in the marching sequence and also in the kneeling sequence, Lambert said.

Rotoscoping is a visual effect where the image is manually removed from a background in a live action video, and then composited on a different background, usually with green screens and chroma key.

“The weird jump-cut editing in the opening is a way to conceal this,” Lambert said.

There are shots that pan the prisoners on the beach and tilt down to the kneeling that look real to Lambert, although she added they “might have been enhanced in some way.”

The most amateur mistake, according to Khan’s forensic analyst, is getting the perspective along the shoreline all wrong.

“What is supposed to be the seashore is, in reality, a bay as determined by the tide, rocks, and wave action. Looking at the two big sets of footprints in the sand shown at a 90- degree angle, neither set of footprints can be the hostages or the hostage takers. Had this been a seaside shot, the sand would have been much softer and the victims’ footprints would have sunk much deeper into the sand,” the forensic analyst reports.

Another mistake was made during the beheading of the final victim, Khan said.

Experts who analyzed the footage believe the men were killed elsewhere, possibly in a studio.

“Not only did it lack the correct blood pulsation for decapitation, but seems to have had the blood ‘faked’ with cornstarch,” Khan said.

As human blood oxygenates, it darkens, Khan said, adding because this blood did not, it exposes the possibility that the beheadings were not done at the same time, despite ISIS’s claims.

Why all the bizarre video manipulation?

“Islamic State has been revolutionary in using the green screen technique, most likely to limit exposure to drones [and] satellite [locating of] their operations,” Khan said. “The producer probably required that only the cameraman and his assistant be present for the outdoor frames. Later, in post production, the editors dropped in the executions.”

The Islamic State is notorious for its high-quality productions of horrific murders such as children learning to execute victims, suspected gays being thrown from buildings and the burning alive of Jordanian air force pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh, but this video was produced by a much less talented ISIS crew, Khan said.

FoxNews.com provided TRAC’s analysis to the CIA, where a spokesperson said the matter was under review. The agency is among the intelligence bureaus already pouring over the footage to determine the identity of “Jihad Joseph,” who leads the mass beheading depicted on the video and who some have speculated may be an American.

Egyptian government officials did not respond to requests for comment, but Edward Yeranian, an Egypt-based radio correspondent for Voice of America and other news agencies, said Egyptian analysts are also openly skeptical about the video’s authenticity.

“Even the number of people beheaded is still in dispute,” Yeranian said.

 Fox News.

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Israeli airstrikes hit near Damascus airport – Syrian state TV

Damascus international Airport

Israeli airstrikes have hit targets near Damascus International Airport and in the town of Dimas near the Lebanon border, Syrian state TV reports. “The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport,” the report said, adding that there were no casualties.

Israeli jets bomb near Damascus airport

The airstrikes targeted an arms depot, a source in Syrian army’s Joint Staff told Sputnik news agency on Sunday. “The Israeli Air Force have conducted airstrikes on an arms depot, which caused huge blasts near the [Damascus] International Airport,” the source said in a phone conversation. Residents in the Syrian capital said they heard loud explosions.

According toLebanon’s Al-Manar television, the Israeli jets bombed areas near the smaller airport at Dimas. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that 10 explosions were heard near Dimas, Reuters reported. The town of Dimas is located northwest of Damascus near the border with Lebanon. A spokesman for Israel Defense Forces told Reuters he would “not relate to the foreign reports.The Israeli Air Force has carried out several airstrikes in Syria since the beginning of the civil war there. The Israelis targeted what they claimed were sophisticated weapons systems destined for Damascus’ ally, the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon.

Who will replace Netanyahu as prime minister?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives for a Likud party meeting at the parliament in Jerusalem, Dec. 3, 2014.

For one brief moment during Yair Lapid’s news conference Dec. 3, the newly fired finance minister shifted tone slightly as he read the carefully crafted text from his teleprompter. It happened when one of the journalists asked him whether, given all the harsh criticism he hurled at Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu during his speech, he was also prepared to make a commitment not to join a Netanyahu government after the elections.

“Look at me,” Lapid said directly to a reporter. “Benjamin Netanyahu will not be prime minister after these elections. He made a mistake, and the cost of that mistake is that he will no longer be prime minister.” As he uttered this momentous prediction, he suddenly sounded passionate and excited.

Lapid has a reputation as a courteous politician. Even in the tensest moments, he always made a point of showing respect for Netanyahu. It seems, however, that the orchestrated humiliation that the prime minister put him through this week — culminating in Lapid suddenly being fired from the government — whetted his appetite for vengeance.

The question is how far Lapid is willing to go with an “Anyone but Bibi” tactic. Would he be willing to sit in a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, whom he disqualified as coalition partners after the last elections? At this news conference, Lapid avoided rejecting the ultra-Orthodox categorically, leaving the door open.

Among many of the parties competing for votes, including Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, the agenda leading this election will not revolve around security issues or the economy. Instead, it will focus on removing Netanyahu from the premier’s residence on Balfour Street, much like the atmosphere that dominated the 1999 election. What will make this campaign difficult is the absence of any single candidate considered a natural alternative to Netanyahu in the prime minister’s office.

When asked at the news conference if he considered himself a candidate for prime minister, Lapid was quick to say “yes.” However, Lapid’s statement hardly corresponds with reality. The latest polls show that his party will lose almost half of its seats, and making matters even worse is that Lapid himself has earned very low marks in surveys gauging his suitability to serve as prime minister.

But Lapid isn’t the only candidate who is not considered an alternative as prime minister. Chairman of the Labor Party Isaac Herzog, Chairman of Yisrael Beitenu Avigdor Liberman, Chairman of HaBayit HaYehudi Naftali Bennett and former Minister Moshe Kahlon with his new party all trail far behind Netanyahu in polls examining who is most suited for the premiership. Even now that Netanyahu is worn down and losing strength, the distance between him and all the other candidates is vast and thus constitutes his main asset.

And yet, given the division trend of the political system, the predominant assessment is that after the next election, there will be only small and mid-sized parties in the Knesset, without a single large party. These elements, combined with the emerging anti-Netanyahu coalition, make the upcoming elections entirely unpredictable. Ostensibly, even the head of a mid-sized party could cobble together a coalition and be appointed prime minister if that person can put all the pieces together. For instance, even with just 10 seats, Liberman can bring together Lapid, Herzog from the Labor Party and the ultra-Orthodox, and become prime minister.

Another possible scenario is a rotation agreement over the premier’s seat between the heads of two mid-sized parties, who manage to put together enough seats to block Netanyahu from forming a coalition. Two potential party heads to do this are Herzog and Liberman, with the latter signaling of late that he is moving from the right to the political center. What is certain, however, is that both Liberman and Herzog believe that becoming prime minister lies within the realm of possibility for them — and they have good reason to believe that, too.

Netanyahu took an enormous gamble when he decided to advance the elections. He only did that after reaching the conclusion that time was not on his side. As opposed to the 2013 elections, his public stature has eroded considerably. His opponents are organizing, and they could well surprise him with an alternative government and remove him from office without elections. Netanyahu’s use of the element of surprise proved itself, at least in this very early stage, by catching the leaders of the center-left parties off guard.

Until recently, Tzipi Livni, the justice minister fired by Netanyahu, used the illusion of a diplomatic process to justify clinging to her seat at the Cabinet table. Very soon, she will be forced to decide which side she will join. Her party, Hatnua, has been getting no more than four seats in the polls, indicating that it has apparently reached the end of the road. This leaves her with two options. She can either join Herzog and the Labor Party or Lapid and Yesh Atid. Both men believe that she can bring them another two or three seats, and in negotiations with them she can demand — and apparently receive — the No. 2 spot on their Knesset list.

What is clear now is that the center-left bloc will not consolidate its forces before the elections. Yesh Atid, the Labor Party and Kahlon’s new party will each run separately and any possible merger will take place only later. Even if the desire to overthrow Netanyahu is the glue that holds them together, feelers and initial meetings held between the parties this week indicate that these parties will run as separate lists, and only join forces after the election. The problem with them running as independent lists is that the center-left parties will end up also investing efforts and resources on competing against each other for the same electorate, which could ultimately harm them in the larger battle against Likud and Netanyahu.

This is just the beginning of one of the strangest election campaigns that Israel has ever seen. Unlike the previous election, in which it was obvious that Netanyahu would continue to serve as prime minister, and unlike all the other, earlier elections — in which two outstanding candidates competed with each other over the post — this time around there is a real chance that after March 17, Netanyahu could find himself out of office. At this point, it remains unclear as to who will take his place. Such a situation has never been seen before.

Knesset to hold vote on dissolution, date for elections

Motion follows collapse of Netanyahu’s coalition; polls indicate likely win for Likud; Arab parties to unite

Israeli lawmakers will hold a vote Wednesday on the dissolution of Knesset and setting a date for the upcoming elections – less than two years after the previous polls – following a tumultuous week that saw the collapse of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Knesset party heads will meet with Speaker Yuli Edelstein to discuss the specifics of the general elections, which will likely occur in March 2015.

After the meeting, a motion to dissolve the current Knesset will undergo a preliminary reading, where it will likely be approved before being finalized on Monday.

Netanyahu on Tuesday announced early elections after having dismissed senior coalition partners and centrist leaders Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

“In the current situation and with the current government, it is impossible to lead,” Netanyahu said at a press conference.

“I will not tolerate an opposition in my government,” he said of the sackings, adding that he would call for the parliament to be dissolved “as soon as possible.”

“I won’t accept ministers attacking the policy and head of the government from within,” he said in a statement. “In a word — it’s called a putsch.”

“Frequent elections are not a good thing, but a government with no governance and ministers acting against it from within is much worse,” he said in televised remarks.

The Yesh Atid party, which is headed by Lapid, condemned Netanyahu’s decision, saying the PM “failed in his management of the country and in dealing with the needs of the Israeli public.”

“The firing of ministers is an act of cowardice and loss of control,” a party statement read. “We are sad to see that the prime minister has chosen to act without consideration for the national interests and to drag Israel into unnecessary elections – which will harm the economy and Israeli society – all for narrow political interests and a surrender to the ultra-orthodox parties, the powerful central committee of the Likud and outside lobby groups. ”

The remaining Yesh Atid ministers also tendered their resignations following the dismissal of Lapid.

In a phone conversation between the PM and Lapid, the latter said, “I expect you to act responsibly and to stop dragging the IDF and our soldiers into an election for your political needs.”

Polls indicate likely victory for Likud

Polls conducted by two major Israeli TV stations indicate that Netanyahu’s Likud party would make significant gains at the expense of Lapid and Livni’s parties if elections were held today, with 22 seats. The Jewish Home party would win 17 seats, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party 12 seats, Labor 13 seats, Yesh Atid nine, Arab parties 13, Meretz seven and Livni’s Hatnua four.

Following the announcement Arab party leaders met to discuss the possibility of joining forces.

United Arab List-Ta’al, Balad and Hadash are looking to work together especially since the threshold for participating in the Knesset was raised from 2 to 3.25 percent in March 2014.

“Now, more than any elections in the past, we must act with the utmost responsibility and create a united Arab list that will keep the unique political platforms for each party, while raising the level of Arab representation from 11 seats to 16,” Balad MK Hanin Zoabi was quoted by Israeli news site Ynet as saying. “There is no way to deal with the rising racism without uniting the Arab parties.”

Sources told Ynet that the parties agreed in theory to unite, but that issues remain over who will lead a unified party.

The US State Department issued a statement regarding the announcement of early elections in Israel, saying that it hoped the new Israeli government would be open to resuming peace negotiations.

Secretary of State John Kerry refrained from making any specific comments about the coalition collapse, but did say that: “We will continue to be supportive of our friend and our ally, the state of Israel.”

 i24news

4 killed, 8 injured in knife, ax & gun attack at Jerusalem synagogue

Israeli security personnel search a religious Jewish Yeshiva next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem, November 18, 2014.

Four people have been killed and at least 8 wounded when two assailants attacked worshipers with knives, axes and a pistol in a synagogue in North Jerusalem in the morning. Three of the victims were dual nationality US citizens and one was from the UK.

Israeli police say both attackers were shot dead on the spot by officers. Spokeswoman Luba Samri described the incident as a “terrorist attack,” according to AP.

Israel’s Public Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, has said that gun controls for self-defense will be eased in wake of the attack.

“In the coming hours, I will ease controls on carrying weapons,” he said in comments broadcast on public radio.

He added that the new rules will apply to anyone who owns a gun license, such as private security guards and off duty army officers.

Israeli police have confirmed four people have died in the incident and eight have been wounded, four seriously, two moderately and two lightly.

All four of the victims were rabbis and one of them, Moshe Twersky,was the head of the English speaking Yeshiva Toras Moshe, an institution for religious studies, in Jerusalem. His funeral procession will be held at 2:00 pm local time.

Another of the victims was a British-Israeli national, according to the UK’s Foreign Office.

“We are aware of the death of a dual British-Israeli national in Israel on 18 November 2014,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The other three were US citizens, according to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld

The FBI has said it will open an investigation into the attack as three of the victims were US citizens.

The suspects have been named as Uday Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal, from East Jerusalem, and were both members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has praised the attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility, Hamas also honored the attack.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri confirmed the suspect’s identity, AP reports.

The attacked synagogue is situated on Agasi Street, in the ultra-Orthodox Had Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem.

“We were praying in synagogue in the morning, we heard gunshots from downstairs… one shot, two shots and then a flurry of shots,” a witness who was inside the building told AP.

The first call to the emergency services was at 7:01 and two traffic policemen were the first on the scene who were joined by a third officer. They started shooting at the terrorists and killed them, although one of the policemen was critically wounded in the firefight and another moderately.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel is going to ‘respond harshly’ to this latest terror attack.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

“The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshipers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians, no matter who is doing it,” Reuters cited Abbas’s office as saying in a statement.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been running particularly high over the last two weeks and world leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations. On Monday the EU’s newly-appointed foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state in the next few years.

Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem, November 18, 2014.

There have also been a number of symbolic votes in favor of recognition of the Palestinian state in parliaments of several European states, such as Sweden, France and UK.

Spanish MPs are expected to vote in support of a Palestinian state on November 18.

Last weekend Israeli Haaretz revealed a secret EU document that Israel could soon face sanctions from Brussels if Tel Aviv makes any further attempts to pose obstacles to a two-state solution with occupied Palestine.

Israeli police crime scene investigators stand near bodies of suspected attackers outside a Jerusalem synagogue November 18, 2014.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s reply to that was that Israel will never stop its settlement constructions in occupied East Jerusalem.

On Monday the conflict escalated even further as a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged inside his vehicle at a depot in Jerusalem, with the Israeli police saying the man committed suicide, while the driver’s family claim he was lynched by Israelis.

 

Egypt Tells Hamas it Will Hold Terror Group Accountable for Border Incidents

hamas-fighters

hamas-fighters

JNS.org – Egypt’s military told the Hamas that it would hold the Palestinian terror group responsible for any incidents along the Gaza border.

According to Israel Radio, Egyptian security officials have also told Hamas that they will not tolerate smuggling of weapons and goods.

On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians protested in front of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, demanding that the border reopen.

“We demand the Egyptian authorities open the Gaza crossing permanently in both directions and we affirm that we won’t stop our peaceful escalation on Palestinian land until the [Israeli] siege is lifted,” said Hamad El-Rakeb, a leading member of Hamas, Al-Ahram reported.

Since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egypt’s military-backed government has severely cracked down on smuggling through the Gaza border. The military has waged a campaign against terror groups in the Sinai and has accused Hamas of supporting the Sinai jihadists.

Hamas had heavily relied on the smuggling tunnels not only for weapons, but also for goods and materials, which it taxed for revenue. According to Hamas, the closure of the tunnels by Egypt has cost the terror group around $230 million a month.

 

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Hamas Tests Missiles Against Israel | Washington Free Beacon

BY:
February 20, 2014 10:06 am

Hamas has tested anti-aircraft missiles against Israel, Al-Monitor reports.

Israel said in 2012 that 10 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles had targeted its warplanes, marking an enhancement of Hamas’ military capabilities.

Al-Monitor found that Palestinian fighters conducted a field test of anti-aircraft missile in January 2014. The missile missed its target, but the test went unreported in Israeli papers.

Al-Monitor says Gaza anti-aircraft weapons number in the tens and are dispersed among different factions.

Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have announced on more than one occasion that their anti-aircraft guns and missiles had achieved a breakthrough that would affect the ability of attack aircraft to maneuver during combat. They claim to have damaged an Israeli helicopter, which was forced to land, and downed an armed surveillance drone. They did not provide dates for these incidents, but circulated YouTube videos of remains of Israeli drones it claims were downed by Hamas anti-aircraft missiles.

In mid-September 2013, the al-Qassam Brigades revealed that their troops in Gaza possessed SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles, which were publicly presented at a military parade attended by this Al-Monitor contributor. Also on display were light machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG anti-tank rockets, as well as heavy weapons mounted on four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Israeli military sources in 2012 attributed the availability of these weapons to the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya, which led to the flow of massive amounts of sophisticated weapons into Gaza. According to a 2012 Al-Monitor report, approximately 1,000 such missiles went missing from Libya’s military stockpiles. Despite American efforts to locate them, only a few hundred were ever found.

Hamas Tests Missiles Against Israel | Washington Free Beacon.

Burns previews Obama pitch to Saudis

WASHINGTON — For those eager to know what President Barack Obama will be telling King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia next month, comments Wednesday [Feb. 19] by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns provided a likely preview.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Burns put forward a case for reducing US friction with the Saudis and other Sunni Arab powers, arguing that the US takes their concerns about Iran and Syria seriously and that “our Gulf partners know that no country or collection of countries can do for the Gulf states what the United States has done and continues to do.”

Since August, when the Obama administration threatened but ultimately chose not to use force against Syria for its apparent use of chemical weapons, Saudi officials have been outspoken in criticizing the US for what they perceive as a lack of leadership. Recent progress in nuclear talks with Iran appears to have poured salt on Saudi wounds as concerns rise that an improvement in US relations with Iran will come at the expense of long-time Arab allies across the Persian Gulf.

Asked by Al-Monitor how Obama could calm Saudi fears, Burns said, “part of the answer lies in the quality of the agreement” being negotiated by the US, the other five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and Iran. If a comprehensive agreement can “demonstrate the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program,” Burns said, that “will go a long way” toward convincing US Gulf allies that a nuclear deal is in their interests, too.

Burns also suggested that Obama would stress to the Saudis on his second visit to the kingdom as president — and the first in five years — that the United States understands their concerns about a “range of dangerous Iranian behavior that threatens our interests and those of our friends in the region” beyond the nuclear issue.

Burns acknowledged that Syria is at the heart of those concerns and hinted, without being specific, that the Obama administration is looking for new ways to end the stalemate between the opposition and Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Two rounds of talks in Geneva have not been successful, Burns said, and there is “zero evidence of seriousness” on the part of Syrian government representatives in negotiating a political transition that results in Assad’s removal.

The veteran US diplomat, who served as ambassador to Russia from 2005-2008 and is scheduled to represent the US at the closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics later this week, urged Russia to “use all the influence it can bring” on the Syrian government to agree to a political transition. Otherwise, Burns warned, Sunni Muslim extremism will grow throughout the region and menace Russia, which is not far away from the Middle East and faces terrorism threats from Sunni militants in the Caucasus.

Burns was at pains to outline the extensive and growing nature of US security cooperation with the Saudis and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). “Security cooperation is at the heart of our agenda” with the GCC, he said, noting that the US keeps about 35,000 members of the US military at 12 bases in and around the Gulf.

Washington is also providing advanced weaponry to council members, including 72 F-15s to Saudi Arabia, 30 F-16 fighters to the United Arab Emirates and a variety of advanced missile systems to these and other GCC states. The White House in December designated the GCC as an international entity eligible to buy US weapons and defense services — the same designation NATO possesses — and has been urging Gulf countries to cooperate more on defense and increase the interoperability of their weapons systems. However, GCC members differ in their threat perceptions of Iran and willingness to follow the Saudi lead.

The US also faces tensions with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf states over the slow pace of their internal reforms and attitudes toward rocky political transitions in Egypt and other Arab countries that have undergone upheaval since late 2010. Burns suggested gently that countries that fail to “ease the sense of popular grievance on which extremists feed” would face continuing threats to their stability. He also warned that the billions of dollars Gulf countries have given to Egypt to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood and prop up the military-run government there “will produce little sustainable effect without a more comprehensive and carefully conceived strategy” that includes meaningful reforms and acceptance of political pluralism.

“The reality is that in our conversations with our Gulf partners, we don’t always see eye to eye on what has caused the revolutions and transitions spurred by the second Arab Awakening,” Burns said. “We don’t always see eye-to-eye on the direction these transitions should take. And we don’t always see eye to eye on how best to respond to them.”

Burns acknowledged that the United States and the Gulf countries are bound to have “tactical differences” over these issues given their divergent histories, but asserted that the “US-Saudi partnership is as important today as it ever was” in resolving regional crises.

Burns previews Obama pitch to Saudis – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

المخابرات الأمريكية : 7500 مقاتل أجنبي بسوريا والقاعدة لن تهزم

SYRIA-CONFLICT-NUSRA

واشنطن، الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية — قال رئيس جهاز الاستخبارات القومية بأمريكا، جايمس كلابر، إن هناك 7500 مقاتل أجنبي يتواجدون داخل الأراضي السورية قادمين من 50 دولة

من جهته قال رئيس وكالة الاستخبارات الدفاعية بأمريكا، مايكل فلين في الجلسة ذاتها: “هناك احتمال كبير بقيام عناصر من المتشددين بصفوف المعارضة السورية بمداهمة واستغلال الأسلحة الكيماوية والبيولوجية في المخازن قبل التمكن من إزالتها من قبل المجتمع الدولي”

وحول اللامركزية في قيادة تنظيم القاعدة، وإن كان التنظيم في طريقة للهزيمة قدم المسؤولان الأمريكيان تقيمهما للوضع، حيث قال كلابر: “لا، التنظيم يتحول ويقدم امتيازاته لجماعات أخرى، وليس فقط في شمال أفريقيا، بل وفي مناطق أخرى من العالم.. لا لن يهزموا”

واضاف كلابر: “إن من بين هؤلاء المقاتلين الـ7500، مجموعة من تنظيم القاعدة قدموا من أفغانستان وباكستان وأن لهم طموح بتنفيذ هجمات في أوروبا إن لم يكن في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية ذاتها

 

Egypt army chief Sisi to run for president – Kuwait newspaper

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Egypt’s army chief Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has said he will run for president, a Kuwaiti newspaper says.

Asked by the al-Seyassah newspaper if he would be standing, the army chief said he had to meet the wishes of the Egyptian people and run for election.

He had been widely expected to declare his candidacy but there has been no official confirmation from the army.

The army leadership backed him to stand in the election last month, promoting him to the rank of field marshal.

Presidential elections in Egypt are due within six months.

Correspondents say Field Marshal Sisi is expected to win by a landslide if he does indeed become a candidate.

He is hugely popular in Egypt since the army removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last July, following mass protests.

“I will not reject the demand [of the people],” Field Marshal Sisi told al-Seyassah.

“I will present this to the Egyptian people to renew confidence through free voting.”

The interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and arrested thousands of its members.

Morsi, is currently in detention and facing four separate trials.

Last month, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) gave its approval for Field Marshal Sisi to run for the presidency, saying: “The people’s trust in Sisi is a call that must be heeded as the free choice of the people.”

 A bridge where huge posters of Egypt's army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are hanged in center Cairo

A bridge where huge posters of Egypt’s army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are hanged in center Cairo

The state-run al-Ahram newspaper said his chief-of-staff, Gen Sedky Sobhy, had been chosen to replace him as head of the armed forces.

Field Marshal Sisi’s supporters say he is a strong leader who can restore stability after years of unrest.Field Marshall Sisi has become deeply popular in Egypt. There are posters, T-shirts and even chocolate bars bearing his image. He is portrayed as a saviour on state and private television channels.

Chocolates decorated with pictures of Egyptian Defence Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Chocolates decorated with pictures of Egyptian Defence Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

“We will not play with people’s dreams or tell them we have a magic wand,” said Field Marshal Sisi in the interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper. “I will tell them let’s join hands and work together to build this country of 90 million.”