Excerpts:Jordan Dead Sea development plan. Morsi's direction
threatening.Syrian opposition: 'Assad cannot be part of the deal'. Arab
League, Russia see 'bright prospects for Syria talks'. Islamist anti UK plot
foiled. Free Syrian Army threatens Hizbullah's Nasrallah. Central Damascus
blast. Mid-east nuclear arms race overplayed 21 February 2013
+++SOURCE: The Syria Report 19 Feb.â€™13:â€?SYrian Government Freezes Assets of
Investor and Byblos Bank Director on Terrorism Chargesâ€?
TEXT:The assets of Mourtada Dandashi, a Syrian investor in the financial and
real estate sectors, have been frozen by the Syrian government on claims
that he finances â€œarmed terrorist groups,â€? the expression the authority use
to describe opposition activists and rebel forces.
SOURCE: The Syria Report 19 Feb.â€™113:â€?Document: National Coalition Sets
Parameters for Political Settlementâ€?
TEXT:The National Coalition, Syriaâ€™s main opposition grouping, issued a
statement on February 15 in which it set the parameters for a political
settlement with the Syrian authorities.
+++The Syria Report 18 Feb.â€™13:â€?Rebel Successes in the East Risk Straining
Further Supplies in Large Urban Centres â€œ
TEXT:The recent string of successes by rebels in Syriaâ€™s northeast threatens
to strain further the supply of key commodities in the countryâ€™s urban
+++SOURCE: Gulf Today via Egypt Daily News 21 Feb.â€™13:â€?Jordan approves $250m
Porto Dead Sea projectâ€?by Musa Keilani
SUBJECT: Jordan Dead Sea development plan
FULL TEXT:AMMAN: Jordanâ€™s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has described an
Egyptian project on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea as a â€œqualitative
investmentâ€?during a meeting with Egyptian businessman Mansour Amer, chairman
of the Amer Group, one of the largest tourism corporations in Egypt and the
Ensour told Amer that the Jordanian cabinet approved the $250 million Porto
Dead Sea project, which will provide around 3,000 job opportunities.
Jordanâ€™s Petra news agency said the scheme, to be held by the group on the
eastern shore of the Dead Sea, will comprise a five-star hotel, villas and
apartments, making up more than 3,000 rooms. In addition, the Porto will
include a mall, pools, health resort, sports halls and a number of tourism
facilities, such as restaurants and cafes.
Ensour stressed the governmentâ€™s commitment to provide all necessary
facilities to render it successful, Petra said.
Amer said the group has weighed up all aspects available in the kingdom to
ensure the success of the project, noting that political stability, services
and the skilled manpower were among top reasons behind choosing to implement
the Porto project in Jordan.
Describing the project as a â€œreal thrustâ€? for the Dead Sea area, similar to
the Porto project in Egypt which he labelled as a bustling centre, Amer
indicated that the project will be the beginning for more investments by the
group in several regions of the kingdom.
Finance Minister Suleiman Hafez also valued the project and emphasised that
the government will provide all the needed support â€œto ensure that the
scheme will be a success story.â€?
+++SOURCE: Egyptian Gazette 21 Feb.â€™13:â€?Morsi is leading Egypt to a
SUBJECT: Morsiâ€™s direction threatening
QUOTE:â€?The list of signs (of coming disaster) is long but here (below) is a
There are too many signs that Morsi is leading Egypt to a disaster. Each one
of these signs on its own may not make you conclude that the disaster is
coming soon but these signs in total can convince anyone that the disaster
is coming sooner than later.
The list of signs is long but here is a sample.
One recent sign is Morsiâ€™s recent appointment of his spokesperson Dr. Yasser
Ali as the head of the IT and Information Centre of the Cabinet.
This is a technical centre and its mission is to serve the PM office and his
cabinet by providing statistics and information on any topic upon request.
During the centreâ€™s long history its head was always chosen from among Egyptâ€™s
top experts in IT, statistics or related topics. It is not a political
position. It never was.
But Ali is a dermatologist and his only qualification for the post is that
he is a member of Morsiâ€™s Muslim Brotherhood. The appointment is like
filling the post of the pilot of a countryâ€™s Air Force One with a person who
is not a pilot.
Moreover, Morsiâ€™s office was proud of the appointment and issued â€œa
congratulatory noteâ€? to Ali.
Another sign is Dr. Abdul Meinâ€™m Abul Fotohâ€™s recent statement published by
Al Masry Alyoom, a respected independent daily, that Morsi is still â€œclosely
working with the Muslim Brotherhoodâ€? although when he was elected president
seven months ago Morsi declared he resigned his post as a president of the
MB's political arm; the Freedom and Justice Party and he was no longer
affiliated with the MB itself.
Before running in the presidential race Abul Fotoh had resigned his
leadership position in the MB a year ago, because at the time the MB was
against any of its members running for Egyptâ€™s top job.
Abul Fotoh was also one of the country top political opposition leaders who
were recently invited to have â€œa dialogueâ€? with the president to find a
common ground to resolve the country political impasse. But Abul Fotoh
stopped attending such meetings saying they were â€œuselessâ€?.
Another sign is the recent announcement by the Interior Minister, who was
newly appointed by Morsi, that he will arm the countryâ€™s police force with
100,000 automatic machine guns after Islamists asked Morsi to use â€œiron
fistâ€? to stop the opposition from protesting. This step followed the
killing of some 100 protesters and injuring 1000s during Morsiâ€™s first seven
month in office.
One more sign is Morsi governmentâ€™s promise to build 42 new cities in 4
years and 60 new universities in 10 years. Both promises are lies as they
are totally unrealistic. Morsi building one new city every 35 days and
building a new university every two months are both impossible.
Since the January 25 revolution Egypt had four governments over the last two
years. Using any yard stick to measure government performance, the current
Morsiâ€™s government is the worst.
But Morsiâ€™s office declared last week that the current governmentâ€™s
performance is â€œgoodâ€? and refused the oppositionâ€™s calls, including none-MB
Islamistsâ€™ for Morsi to form a national coalition government.
Another sign is the lack of a national plan for achieving economical
development and social justice, either for the short or the long term. This
in spite of the facts that the Egyptian pound is losing ground against the
American dollar and the resulting high inflation in addition to the total
collapse of the tourism winter November-February session resulting in some
10% occupancy rates in most hotels.
One more sign is Morsiâ€™s disappearance from addressing the public on any
issue since his disastrous TV address when he declared emergency law and
imposed curfew on the three cities of the Suez Canal zone and at the same
time threatening Egyptians that he will take â€œtougher measuresâ€? to end the
Morsi did not even notice that the citizens of the three cities have ignored
immediately his curfew and went to the streets every night during the curfew
hours. And he ignored the fact that both the police and the army have also
ignored his declaration of the emergency law in the three cities. In
addition, members of the police force and the army unites in all the three
cities went to the streets not to arrest but to cheer the protesters and to
play soccer with them.
Now the city of Port Said has declared civil disobedience ï¿½" but Morsi is
not to be found.
Another sign is related to media. Morsi is not happy with a hand full of
independent TV channels that carry the protestorsâ€™ message and their Talk
Shows criticize Morsi and his government.
These in contrast to the MB-owned newspaper and TV channel, all the Islamist
TV channels, all the state owned-newspapers and all the state-owned radio
and TV channels which all praise Morsi and criticize the opposition day and
Even the Arab television broadcaster Al-Jazeera which was widely respected
for providing an independent voice from the Middle East has recently become
a propaganda broadcaster for Egyptâ€™s MB.
Al-Jazeera old motto of presenting â€œboth views and opposing viewsâ€? has gone
out of the window and has stopped hosting any of Egyptâ€™s political
opposition leaders or covering the protests or voicing their views, as it
did during the first few weeks following January 25th, 2011.
The last but not least on my list of signs is the recent statement by the
Islamist party Noor which accuses Morsi of favoritism and corruption by
appointing MB members in administrative government leadership jobs in his
office, in the central government and in most of the countryâ€™s governesses.
Instead of trying to stop Morsi from leading the country into a disaster,
the Muslim Brotherhood smears and blames the opposition and appeals to
Egyptians to â€œgive Morsi a chanceâ€? - - the irony here is this: To give Morsi
a chance to do what exactly?
Prof Mohamed Elmasry, FIEEE, FRSC, FCAE, FEIC
Prof Emeritus of Computer Engineering, Univ of Waterloo
Member, Editorial Board, The Canadian Charger
Among the 500 Most Influential Muslims in The World
+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 21 Feb,â€™13:â€?Syrian opposition says Assad cannot be
part of dealâ€?
SUBJECT: Syrian opposition: â€˜Assad cannot be part of the dealâ€™
QUOTE:â€?Syrian opposition: â€˜They have to be held accountable for the crimes
they have committedâ€™ â€œ
CAIRO â€” The opposition Syrian National Coalition is willing to negotiate a
peace deal to end the country's civil war but President Bashar Al-Assad
cannot be a party to any settlement, a communiquÃ© drafted for an opposition
The communique, seen by Reuters, omitted a direct demand for Assad's
removal, in a softening of tone from past positions that insisted the
president must go before there could be any talks.
The document, to be debated at a meeting of the opposition alliance's
leadership starting in Cairo on Thursday, said Assad and his cohorts must be
held accountable for bloodshed and that any peace deal must be under the
auspices of the United States and Russia.
"Bashar Al-Assad and the military and security apparatus commands are
responsible for the decisions that have led the country to what it is now
are outside the political process and are not part of any political solution
in Syria," the document said.
"They have to be held accountable for the crimes they have committed."
The initiative comes from coalition president Moaz Alkhatib, a cleric from
Damascus, who played a role in the peaceful protest movement against Assad
at the beginning of the uprising almost two years ago. â€” Reuters
+++Saudi Gazette 21 Feb.â€™13:â€?Arab League, Russia: prospects bright for Syria
Subject;Arab,Legue ,Russia see â€˜bright prospects for Syria talks
QUOTE:â€? the Syrian government and the opposition had voiced readiness for
FULL TEXT:MOSCOW â€” Russia and the Arab League see signs of hope that the
rival sides in the Syrian civil war are willing to start talks to end nearly
two years of conflict.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and visiting Arab League
Secretary-General Nabil Al-Araby said Wednesday[20 Feb.] they were
encouraged that both the Syrian government and the opposition had voiced
readiness for dialogue.
â€œThere have been signs of a positive tendency to start dialogue and both the
government representatives and the opposition have begun speaking about
this,â€? Lavrov told a joint news conference with Al-Araby.
â€œFor now both sides still come up with preconditions but, according to our
common view, once there is the key common readiness to start dialogue, then
agreeing parameters for this process is just a matter of diplomatic art,â€? he
Russia, a long-standing ally of President Bashar Al-Assad and Syriaâ€™s main
arms supplier, has vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions that would
put pressure on the Syrian government to cease violence in which some 70,000
people have been killed.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem is due in Moscow next Monday[25
Feb.] and Lavrov said the head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Moaz
Al-Khatib, would likely visit in March.
Al-Khatib has said he is willing to negotiate with a deputy of Assad but the
aim of such talks would be to find a way to allow the president safe passage
into exile and set up a transitional government.
â€œWe welcome the initiative by...Al-Khatib who proposed to start a dialogue
with the government and I think we will be able to reach this goal,â€?
Al-Araby said after talks that also included foreign ministers from Iraq,
Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt.
The Cairo-based Arab League in November welcomed the creation of the Syrian
National Coalition, but stopped short of giving it full recognition as the
representative of the Syrian people.
â€œRussia has very good relations with the government in Damascus and we hope
it will use that to convince them that this conflict can only be solved in a
peaceful way,â€? Al-Araby added.
Russia, accused by the West and some Arab states of shielding Assad in the
conflict, says calls for his departure should not be a precondition for
peace talks and that Syrians should decide their own fate without foreign
â€œIt is very important that opposition leadersâ€™ readiness for dialogue is met
with confirmation by the government that they are ready for dialogue too,â€?
â€œNow itâ€™s time for words to be confirmed by deeds.â€?
In the course of the conflict, which started as a clampdown on street
protests against the rule of Assad in March, 2011, before descending into
civil war, the Arab League has also called on Moscow to halt arms sales to
Damascus. â€” Agencies
+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 21 Feb.â€™13:â€?Three Islamists Guilty of Plotting
Biggest UK Attackâ€?, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Islamist anti UK plot foiled
QUOTE:â€?Three British Muslim men were found guilty on Thursday [21 Feb.] of
planning a string of bombings that prosectors said could have been deadlier
than the July 7, 2005 attacks on Londonâ€™s transport network.â€?
Three British Muslim men were found guilty on Thursday[21 Feb.] of planning
a string of bombings that prosecutors said could have been deadlier than the
July 7, 2005, attacks on London's transport network.
Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, were convicted of
being "central figures" in an Islamist extremist plot to set off eight
rucksack bombs and possibly other timed devices in crowded areas.
The three men, all from Birmingham, central England, had denied charges of
engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts during their trial at
Woolwich Crown Court in London.
Despite a series of bungles by the conspirators, police said it was the most
significant terror plan uncovered in Britain since the 2006 plot to blow up
transatlantic airliners using bombs in drinks bottles.
Two of the men -- Naseer and Khalid -- traveled to Pakistan for terror
training while Naseer also helped others to travel to the country for the
same purpose, the court heard.
The group were heavily influenced by the teachings of American-born al-Qaida
preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in
September 2011, police said.
Naseer was found guilty of five charges, Khalid four, and Ali three, all
between December 25, 2010 and September 19, 2011.
Six other Birmingham men aged between 21 and 26 pleaded guilty to terror
offenses at an earlier date.
Judge Richard Henriques said Naseer, Khalid and Ali will face life in prison
when they are sentenced in April or May.
He told Naseer: "You were seeking to recruit a team of somewhere between six
and eight suicide bombers to carry out a spectacular bombing campaign, one
which would create an anniversary along the lines of 7/7 or 9/11."
In Britain's deadliest ever suicide bombing, three Islamist attackers blew
themselves up on London's subway system and another on a bus on July 7,
2005, killing 52 people.
Al-Qaida's September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington left nearly
3,000 people dead.
Karen Jones, the prosecutor in the case of Naseer, Khalid and Ali, said that
while their "precise targets remained unclear" there could have been
"catastrophic" damage and loss of life from the plot.
"The evidence we put to the court showed the defendants discussing with awe
and admiration the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7. These terrorists wanted to do
something bigger, speaking of how 7/7 had 'gone a bit wrong'," Jones said
after the verdicts.
"Having traveled to Pakistan for expert training and preparation, Naseer and
Khalid returned to the UK where they discussed attacks involving up to eight
"Had they not been stopped, the consequences would have been catastrophic."
Led by Naseer, an unemployed pharmacy graduate nicknamed Chubbs because of
his weight, the group tried to fund the plot by posing as street collectors
for the charity Muslim Aid and managed to raise Â£12,000 ($18,400, 13,700
But the group then lost three quarters of that sum while playing the foreign
currency markets and had to take out loans, the trial heard.
British domestic intelligence agency MI5 recorded them discussing the plot
during the 18-month investigation before they were arrested while headed for
a takeaway meal in September 2011.
During the surveillance Naseer was heard talking about mixing poison into
creams such as Vaseline or Nivea and smearing them on car handles to kill
people, and about welding blades to a truck and driving it into people.
Naseer and Khalid were also recorded reminiscing about a time at the
training camp in Pakistan when a "Pakistani guy, AQ (al-Qaida) guy" told
them to hide under a tree for four hours to avoid a U.S. drone flying
"Underneath the tree, the drone can't detect you, innit," Naseer said.
"So I'm lying underneath the tree innit, and the drones are right about me
bro, and it's going (makes a sound like a drone) and I'm thinking any minute
it's going to fire a missile," Naseer said.
+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 21 Feb.â€™13:â€?(Free Syrian Army) FSA Chief Warns
(Hizbullahâ€™s) Nasrallah: We Know How to Get to Youâ€?
SUBJECT: Free Syrian Army threatens Hizbullahâ€™s Nasrallah
QUOTE:â€?Idriss: â€˜We know how to get to you and your era has practically endedâ€™
FULL TEXT:General Selim Idriss, chief of staff of the rebel Free Syrian
Army, on Thursday [21 Feb.\ launched a scathing attack on Hizbullah leader
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, describing him as a â€œcriminalâ€? and â€œleader of
"The killer does not belong to a religion, sect or nationality, and any
killer will be killed eventually," Idriss said, according to a statement
issued by the Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army.
"We know how to get to you and your era has practically ended," Idriss
added, addressing Nasrallah.
He vowed that "anyone who dares to attack our people and our land will pay a
Addressing â€œour brothers, the great Lebanese people,â€? Idriss called on them
to â€œregain their state that has been taken over by the terrorist Hizbullah
â€œIt is time for Lebanon's spring to begin and for Lebanon to regain its
normal position, sovereignty and prosperity,â€? Idriss added.
Three Lebanese Shiites have been killed in fighting in Syria, a Hizbullah
official said Sunday[17 Feb.], as the Syrian opposition accused the Lebanese
group of intervening on the side of the regime.
He said they were acting in "self-defense,â€? without specifying if they were
Just hours earlier, the main bloc of the Syrian opposition accused the
Damascus ally of having intervened "militarily" on the side of the regime,
and warned this posed a threat to ties between neighbors Syria and Lebanon.
Hizbullah has systematically denied sending fighters into Syria, though its
leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged in October 2012 that party
members had fought Syrian rebels but said they were acting as individuals
and not under the group's direction.
Nasrallah clarified that the Hizbullah fighters were killed while defending
Lebanese-inhabited border towns inside Syria. He explained that there are 23
Syrian border towns and 12 farms that are inhabited by Lebanese residents of
various religious beliefs, adding that around 30,000 Lebanese residents live
in these towns.
â€œThe residents of these towns took the decision to stay and defend
themselves against the armed groups and did not engage in the battle between
the regime and the opposition,â€? Hizbullah's leader added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the three slain Lebanese were
members of pro-regime militias who had been trained by Hizbullah.
Louay al-Meqdad, spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Free Syrian Army,
has accused Hizbullah of shelling Syrian territory with artillery and rocket
launchers from bases inside Lebanon.
On Wednesday, General Idriss threatened to shell positions of Hizbullah in
Lebanon after accusing it of firing across the border into territory it
"In the past week... Hizbullah has been shelling into villages around Qusayr
from Lebanese territory, and that we cannot accept," Idriss told Agence
France Presse on the phone, adding that the rebels had given Hizbullah a
48-hour deadline to stop the attacks.
Conflicting reports emerged on Thursday[21 Feb.] that the Free Syrian Army
had shelled Hizbullah positions in Lebanon and Syria.
The FSA said that the attacks targeted a Hizbullah artillery position in
Lebanon's Hermel region in the Bekaa, reported al-Arabiya.
Head of the FSA's Farouq brigades Taleb al-Dayekh announced that it launched
â€œmortar attacks against a number of Hizbullah locations in Lebanon's Hosh
al-Sayyed Ali region,â€? reported Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5).
The rebel FSA later said that it shelled a Hizbullah position in the western
Reef Qusayr area near the Lebanese-Syrian border.
FSA sources later denied to Sky News that it had targeted Hizbullah
positions in and outside of Syria.
+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 21 Feb.â€™13:â€?31 dead as car bomb rocks central
Damascusâ€?, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Central Damascus blast
QUOTE:â€?Assadâ€™s regime has said it is ready to negotiate with the opposition
but without pre-conditions.â€?
DAMASCUS â€“â€“ A powerful car bomb exploded near the offices of Syria's ruling
Baath party in central Damascus on Thursday, killing at least 31 people,
wounding dozens and shattering buildings, media and a watchdog said.
The mid-morning blast, which rocked the city centre and sent thick smoke
scudding across the skyline, came as Syria's opposition was meeting in Cairo
to discuss proposals by its leader to hold conditional talks with Syria's
Shortly after the blast, a nearby military headquarters came under mortar
attack, state television said, without giving details.
. . .
The explosion added urgency to the Cairo meeting of the main opposition
National Coalition, where discussions according to a delegate were centered
on an offer by the group's chief to hold direct talks with the Syrian
"The agenda is long and among the issues to be discussed is the initiative
of Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib," Khaled Nasser told AFP.
Coalition chief Khatib has offered to negotiate with officials of President
Bashar Assad's regime who have no "blood on their hands" -- naming Vice
President Farouq Sharaa as a possible pointman.
Assad's regime has said it is ready to negotiate with the opposition but
+++SOURCE: Jordan Times21 Feb.â€™13:â€?Irab nuke unlikely to start Mideast arms
race â€“US reportâ€?, Reuters
SUBJECT: Mid-east nuclear arms race overplayed
QUOTE:â€? Center for a New American Security (CNAS) (says) Saudi Arabia would
more likely rely on its ally the United States to protect itâ€?
FULL TEXT: RIYADH â€” Fears that an Iranian nuclear weapon might trigger an
atomic arms race across the Middle East are overplayed, a US security think
tank said on Tuesday, arguing that countries like Saudi Arabia face big
disincentives against getting the bomb.
Western powers believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon under
cover of a civilian atomic electricity programme, a charge Tehran denies.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, the worldâ€™s biggest oil exporter, is engaged in a
fierce rivalry with Shiite power Iran and is seen in Western countries as
the most likely Middle Eastern state to seek an atomic weapon if Iran did
Analysts have also said an Iranian nuclear weapons capability might persuade
Egypt and Turkey to seek a bomb too.
Israel, which has never declared its atomic weapons capability, is thought
to be the Middle Eastâ€™s only nuclear-armed power now although Iranâ€™s eastern
neighbour Pakistan has atomic weapons.
In December 2011, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal
said that if Tehran did gain nuclear weapons capability, Saudi Arabia should
consider matching it.
Riyadh has also announced plans to build 17 gigawatts of atomic energy by
2032 as it moves to reduce domestic oil consumption, freeing up more crude
However, a report by the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS) says that
although there is some risk that Saudi Arabia would seek an atomic bomb, it
would more likely rely on its ally, the United States, to protect it.
â€œThe conventional wisdom is probably wrong,â€? the report said.
Even if Saudi Arabia wished to acquire a bomb, â€œsignificant disincentives
would weigh against a mad rush by Riyadh to develop nuclear weaponsâ€?.
Buy a bomb
CNAS, based in Washington, was set up in 2007 as a non-partisan think tank
aiming to develop US security policy.
The reportâ€™s authors include Colin Kahl, a former deputy assistant US
Secretary of Defence for the Middle East, and Melissa Dalton, a foreign
affairs specialist with the secretary.
The difficulty and expense of embarking on a nuclear arms programme in
defiance of international law and the wishes of the kingdomâ€™s most important
ally, Washington, would be a powerful argument against such an undertaking,
Riyadh is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Some analysts
have argued that instead of attempting to build its own atomic weapon,
Riyadh might try to buy a fully developed nuclear bomb from ally Pakistan.
However, the report said this was also unlikely.
â€œInstead, Saudi Arabia would likely pursue a more aggressive version of its
current conventional defence and civilian nuclear hedging strategy while
seeking out an external nuclear security guarantee,â€? they said.
The report said Egypt did not see Iranâ€™s nuclear ambitions as an existential
threat and that Turkey already has a nuclear deterrent in the form of its
NATO security guarantees.
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA