Daily Archives: September 9, 2013

NSA spying on Petrobras, if proven, is industrial espionage -Rousseff

By Anthony Boadle

(Reuters) – Reports that the United States spied on Brazilian oil company Petrobras, if proven, would be tantamount to industrial espionage and have no security justification, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said on Monday.

Brazil’s Globo television network reported on Sunday that the U.S. National Security Agency hacked into the computer networks of Petrobras and other companies, including Google Inc. , citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The report came as Brazil is preparing to auction rights to tap some of the largest oil finds in the world in recent decades, deposits trapped under a salt layer off its Atlantic coast. State-run Petrobras, Brazil’s largest company and a source of national pride, made the discoveries in recent years and will be a mandatory partner in developing all of the new deep-sea fields.

The Globo report added tension to relations between Washington and Brasilia already strained by previous disclosures of NSA spying on internet communications in Brazil, including email messages and phone calls of Rousseff herself.

An angry Rousseff has repeatedly demanded an explanation. At stake is a state visit by Rousseff to the White House on Oct. 23 to meet President Barack Obama and discuss a possible $4 billion jet fighter deal, cooperation on oil and biofuels technology, as well as other commercial agreements.

“If the facts reported by the press are confirmed, it will be evident that the motive for the spying attempts is not security or the war on terrorism but strategic economic interests,” Rousseff said in a statement.

The U.S. government has said the secret internet surveillance programs disclosed by Snowden in June are aimed at monitoring suspected terrorist activity and do look at the content of private messages or phone calls.

PETROBAS NOT A SECURITY THREAT

“Clearly, Petrobras is not a threat to the security of any country,” Rousseff said, adding that the company is one of the world’s largest oil assets and belongs to the Brazilian people.

Brazil will take steps to protect itself, its government and its companies, Rousseff said, without elaborating. She said such espionage and interception of data were illegal and had no place in the relations between two democratic nations.

On Friday, Obama met with Rousseff during a summit of leaders of the world’s largest economies in St. Petersburg, Russia, and pledged to look into the reports that the NSA had snooped on her personal communications and those of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto when he was still a candidate.

She said Obama had promised her a reply by Wednesday.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo is scheduled to meet in Washington on the same day with Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, Brazilian officials said.

Globo did not say when the alleged spying took place, what data might have been gathered or what exactly the NSA may have been seeking. The television report showed slides from an NSA presentation, dated May 2012, that it said was used to show new agents how to spy on private computer networks.

In addition to Google and Petrobras the presentation suggested the NSA had tapped into systems operated by France’s foreign ministry and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, an international bank cooperative known as Swift through which many cross-border financial transactions take place.

Brazilian officials said the spying report would not affect the upcoming auction of rights to extract oil from the giant Libra oil field, which will go ahead as scheduled on Oct. 21.

Some Brazilian politicians have suggested that U.S. companies should be excluded from the bidding, but experts said that is legally impossible according to the terms of the auction.

Libra has estimated reserves of between 8 and 12 billion barrels of oil, according to Brazilian oil regulator ANP.

Brazil is counting on the new oil production to consolidate its emergence as a world economic power and take the country’s development to a new level. Rousseff signed a law on Monday that designates the royalties from the new oil production contracts for health and education programs.

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Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure

The president may look incompetent on Syria. But his behavior fits his strategy to weaken America abroad.

by Norman Podhoretz

It is entirely understandable that Barack Obama’s way of dealing with Syria in recent weeks should have elicited responses ranging from puzzlement to disgust. Even members of his own party are despairingly echoing in private the public denunciations of him as “incompetent,” “bungling,” “feckless,” “amateurish” and “in over his head” coming from his political opponents on the right.

For how else to characterize a president who declares war against what he calls a great evil demanding immediate extirpation and in the next breath announces that he will postpone taking action for at least 10 days—and then goes off to play golf before embarking on a trip to another part of the world? As if this were not enough, he also assures the perpetrator of that great evil that the military action he will eventually take will last a very short time and will do hardly any damage. Unless, that is, he fails to get the unnecessary permission he has sought from Congress, in which case (according to an indiscreet member of his own staff) he might not take any military action after all.

Summing up the net effect of all this, as astute a foreign observer as Conrad Black can flatly say that, “Not since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and before that the fall of France in 1940, has there been so swift an erosion of the world influence of a Great Power as we are witnessing with the United States.”

Yet if this is indeed the pass to which Mr. Obama has led us—and I think it is—let me suggest that it signifies not how incompetent and amateurish the president is, but how skillful. His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish. The accomplishment would not have been possible if the intention had been too obvious. The skill lies in how effectively he has used rhetorical tricks to disguise it.

The key to understanding what Mr. Obama has pulled off is the astonishing statement he made in the week before being elected president: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” To those of us who took this declaration seriously, it meant that Mr. Obama really was the left-wing radical he seemed to be, given his associations with the likes of the anti-American preacher Jeremiah Wright and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, not to mention the intellectual influence over him of Saul Alinsky, the original “community organizer.”

So far as domestic affairs were concerned, it soon became clear—even to some of those who had persuaded themselves that Mr. Obama was a moderate and a pragmatist—that the fundamental transformation he had in mind was to turn this country into as close a replica of the social-democratic countries of Europe as the constraints of our political system allowed.

Since he had enough support for the policies that this objective entailed, those constraints were fairly loose, and so he only needed a minimum of rhetorical deception in pursuing it. All it took was to deny he was doing what he was doing by frequently singing the praises of the free-enterprise system he was assiduously working to undermine, by avoiding the word “socialism,” by invoking “fairness” as an overriding ideal and by playing on resentment of the “rich.”

But foreign policy was another matter. As a left-wing radical, Mr. Obama believed that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs. Accordingly, the fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce the country’s power and influence. And just as he had to fend off the still-toxic socialist label at home, so he had to take care not to be stuck with the equally toxic “isolationist” label abroad.

This he did by camouflaging his retreats from the responsibilities bred by foreign entanglements as a new form of “engagement.” At the same time, he relied on the war-weariness of the American people and the rise of isolationist sentiment (which, to be sure, dared not speak its name) on the left and right to get away with drastic cuts in the defense budget, with exiting entirely from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with “leading from behind” or using drones instead of troops whenever he was politically forced into military action.

The consequent erosion of American power was going very nicely when the unfortunately named Arab Spring presented the president with several juicy opportunities to speed up the process. First in Egypt, his incoherent moves resulted in a complete loss of American influence, and now, thanks to his handling of the Syrian crisis, he is bringing about a greater diminution of American power than he probably envisaged even in his wildest radical dreams.

For this fulfillment of his dearest political wishes, Mr. Obama is evidently willing to pay the price of a sullied reputation. In that sense, he is by his own lights sacrificing himself for what he imagines is the good of the nation of which he is the president, and also to the benefit of the world, of which he loves proclaiming himself a citizen.

The problem for Mr. Obama is that at least since the end of World War II, Americans have taken pride in being No. 1. Unless the American people have been as fundamentally transformed as their country is quickly becoming, America’s decline will not sit well. With more than three years in office to go, will Mr. Obama be willing and able to endure the continuing erosion of his popularity that will almost certainly come with the erosion of the country’s power and influence?

No doubt he will either deny that anything has gone wrong, or failing that, he will resort to his favorite tactic of blaming others—Congress or the Republicans or Rush Limbaugh. But what is also almost certain is that he will refuse to change course and do the things that will be necessary to restore U.S. power and influence.

And so we can only pray that the hole he will go on digging will not be too deep for his successor to pull us out, as Ronald Reagan managed to do when he followed a president into the White House whom Mr. Obama so uncannily resembles.

Mr. Podhoretz was the editor of Commentary from 1960-95. His most recent book is “Why Are Jews Liberals?” (Doubleday, 2009).

A version of this article appeared September 9, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure.

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Syrian Al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front produces Chemical Weapons

by: M. Klostermayr September 9, 2013

Jabhat al-Nusra produces chemical weapons in Syria, says a new report.

While the former White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Karl Rove, has criticized the U.S. President and Nobel Prize laureate Barack Obama for asking the Congress in the United States for the permission to attack Syria and then heading to Russia, a new report underlines that the Syrian Al-Qaeda offshoot, the Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) is producing chemical weapons on Syrian soil and thus, the assumptions recently made by e.g. the German intelligence chief that the Syrian government and Syria’s army would be the only power in Syria which has access to chemical weapons, is refuted.

These assumptions and conclusions by the German intelligence chief (BND) and other intelligence officers from the United States, France and Britain, which have served as support for the accusations against the Syrian government in Damascus that it has used chemical weapons (e.g. Sarin nerve agent) in attacks on Syrian civilians in suburbs of the capital on August 21 were already suspicious due to the situation that nobody can base such accusations on assumptions.

Every court would have rejected the claims based on such assumptions by e.g. the German intelligence chief. However, these persons tried to sell it as evidence for the accusations against the Syrian army and the government of President al-Assad in Damascus. Assumptions are worth nothing and they know it, of course. But the headlines following such statements including these assumptions which underlined the baseless accusations against Syria were useful for propaganda purposes and they probably hoped that it might convince some more people to support the Saudi-Israeli-American war plans against Syria.

The new report about the dangerous machinations of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) in Syria says that the foreign-backed jihadists and terrorists operating in Syria have already produced chemical weapons (e.g. Sarin nerve gas / poison gas) in suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus. According to the report, it is even known who was responsible for producing chemical weapons in the ranks of the al-Nusra Front near Damascus.

The chemical weapons were allegedly produced by an individual person in the ranks of the Syrian Al-Qaeda offshoot – Hani Nour Eldin Aqeel. The poison gas / chemical weapons was produced in a workshop of the al-Nusra Front in the Syrian city of Yabroud. Afterwards, the poison gas (e.g. Sarin nerve gas) was transported to the city of Douma in domestic gas capsules, which are not uncommon in Syria.

The report says further that women have transported the domestic gas capsules, filled with deadly poison gas, from the Syrian city of Yabroud to the city of Douma, and in terms of these women, it is referred to as “Harayer al-Soura”. The report itself was published by the Arab news website Asianewslb on Sunday.

It is further mentioned that Syrian residents in the region have already stated that the Islamist fighters of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) have been running bomb-making workshops in Yabroud for a longer time. The Syrian locals also said that the al-Nusra Front have transported the produced bombs and the explosive devices to different regions of the Arab country, including the capital Damascus and Syria’s neighbouring country Lebanon.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama has been criticized by another known person in the United States. The former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has criticized Barack Obama for asking the US Congress for its authorization for the attack on Syria and then heading to Russia.

Karl Rove said in a new interview that President Obama had a forty-five minute walks on Friday and then went to Sweden and the G-20 Summit in Russia after “he got right up to the edge” in terms of his intention to launch a war on Syria and his request for an approval for the war by a positive vote in the US Congress. Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove said this in his interview with the often biased Fox News in the United States:

“He (Barack Obama) got right up to the edge, and then on Friday has the forty-five minute walks, pulls back and heads off to Sweden and the G20. The energy behind it dissipated.”

But the Republican politician Karl Rove had more to say in terms of Obama, of course. For example, Karl Rove also stated in his interview with Fox News on Sunday that the war plans of the Obama administration on Syria are an “unmitigated disaster” and further said that “it’s amateur hour at the White House.” Rove made these remarks in his typical manner.

For example, the former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove also made the following remarks in this new interview in direction to the Obama administration and their plans to attack Syria and to get the approval for such a war of aggression on the Arab country:

“We also have the problem of the political advisors around the president signalling that they’re trying to jam Congress. (…) We now have the Syrians with god knows how many days or weeks, if the United States does take action, to disperse all of these units, to protect themselves as much as possible, build human shields.”

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Report: Al-Nusra Front making chemical weapons in Syria

A report says the foreign-backed militants operating inside Syria have been making chemical weapons in the suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The weapons, which are made by an individual named Hani Nour Eldin Aqeel in a workshop in the city of Yabroud, are smuggled to the city of Douma in domestic gas capsules by women who have come to be referred to as Harayer al-Soura, the Arabic-language news website Asianewslb reported on Sunday.

Meanwhile, local reports also said that the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front has been running bomb-making workshops in Yabroud and transfer the explosives to the different areas of Syria, including the capital, as well as neighboring Lebanon.

The al-Nusra Front has been behind many of the deadly bombings targeting both civilians and government institutions across Syria.
The development comes as the United States is struggling to secure support for military action against Syria over the accusation that the Syrian government has used chemical weapon against its people.

The US Congress will officially start debating a US administration plan for war when lawmakers end their recess on September 9.

The recent war rhetoric against Syria first gained momentum on August 21, when the militants operating inside the Middle Eastern country and its foreign-backed opposition claimed that over a thousand people had been killed in a government chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

The Syrian government categorically rejected the accusation.

The UN, Iran, Russia, and China have warned against war.

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