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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Chain Of 5 Links - Chuck Missler

If Damascus falls, Israel and its gas fields feared threatened

Syrian military forces were gathered in Tuesday, July 17, to save Damascus.
Tanks and armored vehicles were positioned in strength in the capital’s center and around government buildings. However, the noise and fury of battle in the Syrian capital Tuesday, July 17, were produced, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, by six battalions of Bashar Assad’s loyal Allawite militia in clashes with the rebels who captured the two southern suburbs of Meidan and Tadmon Monday. They are trying to pound the enemy into extinction before its forces reach central Damascus.
The two beleaguered districts are home to a quarter of the capital’s 1.8 million inhabitants.
The Syrian general staff has withdrawn its command headquarters to a well-fortified complex on Shuhada Street in the capital’s center.
If Damascus falls and Assad is cornered, the entire region stands in peril of wider repercussions, because neither he nor Tehran will take defeat lying down.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report their campaign will be paced and scaled according to the momentum of the Syrian rebels’ advance on Bashar Assad’s door-step, which could be drawn out and bloody.
On the Iranian-Hizballah list are Middle East oil installations as well as Israeli, US, Turkish, Saudi and Jordanian strategic targets.
Saturday, the Cypriot police captured a Hizballah terrorist before he could blow up an Israeli El Al flight and tourist buses in Limassol.
Tehran is feared to be focusing on the Mediterranean island as part of a plot to set Israel’s Mediterranean gas field Tamar on fire. The field is 80 kilometers west of Haifa
It would be a spectacular curtain-raiser for the closure of the Strait of Hormuz and for strikes against Gulf oil installations.
Navy Commander, Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg called last week for an extra five warships and submarines to safeguard Israel’s burgeoning gas fields at the cost of a billion dollars.
The Syrian ruler has stoked up the menace by moving out of storage missiles and shells armed with mustard gas, sarin nerve gas and cyanide stockpiled for years.
They are on operational readiness at Homs, Latakia and Aleppo and, according to Nawaf Fares,
Syrian ex-ambassador to Iraq who defected to the opposition, may already have been used against rebel concentrations.
The longer the battle for Damascus goes on, the greater the danger that the Syrian ruler will release his poison-tipped missiles against Israel, Turkey and Jordan.

Putin “We have supported and continue to support your efforts to restore peace.”

President Vladimir Putin gave little indication on Tuesday of a shift in Russia’s stance on the escalating Syria crisis, telling UN special envoy Kofi Annan only that the Kremlin continues to back his faltering peace plan.

“We will do everything in our power to support your efforts,” Putin told Annan ahead of Kremlin talks on the eve of a key United Nations vote on the violence-plagued Middle East state. “We have supported and continue to support your efforts to restore peace.”

"The Syria crisis is at a crossroads," Annan said before the start of the closed talks, which he later described as positive and an important step toward bringing peace to Syria.

Annan arrived in Moscow on Monday on a two-day visit to the Russian capital in an attempt to persuade the Kremlin to support harsher measures against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime at a UN vote on Wednesday.

Moscow is continuing to promote Annan’s six-point peace plan as the only way to bring an end to the spiral of violence in Syria, despite the failure of a ceasefire stipulated under the deal. Annan’s plan does not call for the departure of Assad - something Russia has said should be determined by “the Syrian people.”

Both Russia and China – veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council - have previously blocked UN resolutions that would have introduced tough sanctions against Syria over what Western powers say is the brutal suppression of a now 17-month revolt against Assad.

But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after Tuesday's Kremlin talks that he saw no reason why Russia and Western powers could not come to "an agreement."

"We found a tough compromise at the conference called by Annan in Geneva," Lavrov told journalists. "I see no reason why we cannot come to an agreement on a similar basis at the Security Council."

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – agreed on June 30 in Geneva that a transitional government should be set up in Syria. The text of the document said this could include members of the government and opposition, although Russia later objected to U.S. suggestions that the deal ruled out any role for Assad.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon flew to China on Tuesday as part of a twin diplomatic effort to convince Moscow and Beijing to agree to drop their objections to a resolution that could see foreign military intervention in Syria. Putin vowed earlier this year not to allow a repeat of the “Libya scenario,” which saw the ouster and murder of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO military campaign.

However, in a move interpreted as a possible change in the Kremlin’s position, a Russian arms trade official said last week Moscow would not sign new deals on weapons deliveries to Syria until peace was established. Russia has insisted its arms supplies to Syria have been of an exclusively “defensive” nature.

Lavrov also reiterated on Monday the Kremlin’s insistence that it has no special interest in seeing Assad remaining in power and dubbed calls for Moscow to persuade him to stand down “unrealistic.”

And a number of Russia-based analysts have suggested the Kremlin is attempting to distance itself from the Assad regime.

“Putin has already begun to change his position on Syria, but very carefully,” said Alexander Shumilin, head of Moscow's Center for the Greater Middle East Conflicts think-tank. “On a public level, the stance remains the same. But on a diplomatic level…there is a clear attempt to move closer to the West.”

“But Putin has fallen into a trap over Syria. He tried to use the Syria card in Russia’s disagreement over the NATO anti-missile shield in Europe and on Western support for the anti-Putin opposition,” Shumilin added. “But nothing worked out for him and he is now trying to distance himself from Assad, but still keep face. Russia has become too closely linked to Assad and is now bearing responsibility for his crimes.”

Government forces and pro-Assad militia have been accused by the United Nations and rights groups both in Syria and abroad of executing and torturing civilians. The International Red Cross said at the weekend that the conflict in Syria was now a “civil war,” officially obliging both sides to observe Geneva Conventions regulations on the non-targeting of civilians.

Russia has warned repeatedly that a full-scale war in Syria would be a “catastrophe” for the region and other Moscow-based analysts believe the West had no real appetite for an attack on Damascus.

“In the past, if the West has wanted to bomb countries, it has done, without waiting for permission from the United Nations,” said analyst Sergei Demidenko of the Moscow-based Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis think-tank. “Look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan.”

“But the West realizes the problems that would arise after an attack on Syria. So Russia’s stance is very convenient for it, in this respect,” he added.

And Demidenko also said Western powers were taking Israel’s Syria policy of “the better the devil you know” into account.

“Israel says, “yes, Assad is bad. But what will replace him will be even worse,” he said.

As Putin and Annan met in Moscow, fighting continued to rage for a third straight day in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The hostilities are the heaviest in the capital since the start of the revolt.

The United Nations, quoting Syrian rights activists, says some 16,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the revolt

RIA Novosti

‘Fiscal Cliff’ Could Trigger US Recession: IMF Economist

Going over the fiscal cliff could cause a U.S. recession next year, Olivier Blanchard, the International Monetary Fund's chief economist, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“If the fiscal were to happen, it would be a major macroeconomic event,” Blanchard said. The fiscal cliff is when a host of tax cuts expire and automatic spending cuts kick in at the end of the year.

Blanchard said the IMF’s 2 percent U.S. economic growth forecast is based on fiscal consolidation of about 1.5 percent of gross domestic product next year, but the fiscal cliff would represent a 4 percent consolidation. “It would probably kill growth in the U.S. next year and probably kill growth in advanced economies,” Blanchard said.

He added, “I think that if the U.S. fell off the fiscal cliff, I’m quite sure we’d see negative growth in the U.S. next year.”


Israel will be destroyed if the West attacks Syria

A former Iranian intelligence officer in the Revolutionary Guard Corps is warning the West that any attack on Syria will spark a coordinated counterattack on Israel that will obliterate the Jewish state.

“The West is quite familiar with the doctrine of ‘The Sword of Damocles.’ This is the sword that constantly is kept on the neck of the enemy, and at any time the enemy makes a mistake, then its precious one is killed,” said Hassan Abbasi during a conference held Thursday in Iran titled “Syria, the First Line of Resistance.”

“The Islamic resistance has its sword on the neck of the Zionist regime,” Abbasi said, “and with such a hostage, if NATO, which has plans to attack Syria, commits to its plan, we will then reveal our strategy.”

Abbasi heads the Center for Doctrinal Strategic Studies, one of the most radical elements in the Islamic regime. He helped develop the strategy of engaging American forces both in Iraq and Afghanistan, believing such action on this proxy level would not only force the U.S. out of those countries but also keep it too busy to even think about an attack on Iran, giving Iran free time to pursue its illicit nuclear program.

Abbasi rattled Iran’s sabers at Europe in 2005, saying that his country had “a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo Saxon civilization. We must make use of everything we have at hand to strike at this front by means of our suicide operations or by means of missiles.”

Abbasi and other officers also plotted the expansion of terror networks around the world, including on U.S. soil. Iran has stated on the record that it has identified more than 800 sensitive sites in the U.S. for attacks, believing that the threat is an incentive for the West to steer clear of any confrontation with Iran.

According to Mashregh news, an outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards, Abbasi said that since the beginning of the Arab Spring — which Iran calls the “Islamic Awakening” — four American-backed governments have already collapsed.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/16/iranian-insider-israel-will-be-destroyed-if-the-west-attacks-syria/#ixzz20t9DQWn1

Residents flee Damascus as Syrian capital sees heaviest fighting so far in country's 'civil war'

Plumes of smoke were visible across the Syrian capital as fierce clashes raged for a second day within four miles of both Mr Assad's official residence and the buildings housing his pliant parliament.

With opposition forces claiming to have embarked on a new strategy "to bring the fighting into the centre of the capital", the Syrian conflict – described for the first time as a "civil war" by the Red Cross on Sunday – entered a dangerous new phase.

But even this most dramatic of escalations failed to break the deadlock in the United Nations Security Council.

Russia declared it would not succumb to Western "blackmail" by supporting a British proposal to try to end the crisis by threatening Mr Assad with sanctions. Kofi Annan, the international envoy to Syria, flew to Moscow in a desperate effort to end an impasse that now threatens the future of the 300-strong observer mission, whose mandate expires on Friday.

As the international acrimony ground on, the man Moscow has propped up for the past 16 months of turmoil struggled to confront one of the biggest challenges ever posed to his 12-year presidential career.

The Telegraph

Mystery Unknown Creatures Washing Ashore in Hawaii

Moody's downgrades 13 Italian banks

The ratings fell by one to two notches, with Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo both falling to Baa2 from A3.

"Today's actions follow the weakening of the Italian government's credit profile," Moody's said in a statement.

"Along with the increase in the risk of sovereign bond defaults, the downgrade of Italy's long-term ratings to Baa2 also indicates a similarly increased risk that the government might be unable to provide financial support to its banks in financial distress."

Moody's said that banks are normally rated no higher than a government "due to multiple channels of shared exposure and contagion."

Italian banks, it said, have substantial exposure to the domestic economy and "high direct exposure" to sovereign debt.

The Telegraph

JIM ROGERS: The World's Agricultural Problems Are Much Bigger Than The Drought In The US

The Midwest is facing a severe drought that is causing corn and soybean crops to wilt under severe weather conditions.

The current temperature has exceeded records from the Dust Bowl era, and the drought is now spanning the widest area since 1956.

Commodities guru Jim Rogers, however, says while this drought is severe for those suffering from it, there are much larger problems in agriculture as a whole.

In a telephone interview he said, "the drought is a big deal if it's not raining on your farm. But it is good for farmers in other parts of the world. You can't have perfect weather conditions everywhere, every year. And with all the other problems, we're hitting trigger points."

What are these other problems?

Rogers rattled off a list. The highest rate of suicide in the UK is among farmers. The average age of farmers in Japan is 66 and the average of farmers in the U.S. is 58. In India, hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide in recent years. He even noted that more people study public relations than agriculture.

Rogers said the media may be focused on the drought, but these longer-term problems that are much bigger.

"The world faces serious problems in agriculture. We are facing shortages of everything. The inventories are near historic lows so any problem will have an immediate, profound effect. We are facing a shortage of farmers so any problems will turn into even bigger.

...But any weather problems will have big effects because of the dire situation in farming. Agriculture will be one of the best sectors of the world economy for years as I have told you often."

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/jim-rogers-midwest-drought-agricutural-problems-2012-7#ixzz20t7bHaj1

Drought now grips more than half of the nation

The nation's widest drought in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of drought and most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions.

Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a drought covered more land, according to federal figures released Monday. So far, there's little risk of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn't come soon.

In its monthly drought report, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., announced that 55 percent of the country was in a moderate to extreme drought at the end of June. The parched conditions expanded last month in the West, the Great Plains and the Midwest, fueled by the 14th warmest and 10th driest June on record, the report said.

Topsoil has turned dry while "crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years," the report said.

The percentage of affected land is the largest since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by drought, and it rivals even some years in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, though experts point out that this year's weather has been milder than that period, and farming practices have been vastly improved since then.

In southern Illinois, Kenny Brummer has lost 800 acres of corn that he grows to feed his 400 head of cattle and 30,000 hogs. Now he's scrambling to find hundreds of thousands of bushels of replacement feed.

"Where am I going to get that from? You have concerns about it every morning when you wake up," said Brummer, who farms near Waltonville. "The drought is bad, but that's just half of the problem on this farm."

Around a third of the nation's corn crop has been hurt, with some of it so badly damaged that farmers have already cut down their withered plants to feed to cattle. As of Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, 38 percent of the corn crop was in poor or very poor condition, compared with 30 percent a week earlier.

"This is definitely the epicenter — right in the heart of the Midwest," said climatologist Mark Svoboda with the Nebraska-based National Drought Mitigation Center.

It's all a huge comedown for farmers who had expected a record year when they sowed 96.4 million acres in corn, the most since 1937. The Department of Agriculture initially predicted national average corn yields of 166 bushels per acre this year.

The agency has revised that projection down to 146, and more reductions are possible if conditions don't improve.

The lower projection is still an improvement over the average yields of around 129 bushels a decade ago. But already tight supplies and fears that the drought will get worse before it gets better have been pushing up grain prices, which are likely to translate into higher food prices for consumers, particularly for meat and poultry.

Monday's report was based on data going back to 1895 called the Palmer Drought Index. It feeds into the widely watched and more detailed U.S. Drought Monitor, which reported last week that 61 percent of the continental U.S. was in a moderate to exceptional drought. However, the weekly Drought Monitor goes back only 12 years, so climatologists use the Palmer Drought Index for comparing droughts before 2000.

Climatologists have labeled this year's dry spell a "flash drought" because it developed in a matter of months, not over multiple seasons or years.

The current drought is similar to the droughts of the 1950s, which weren't as intense as those of the 1930s, said Jake Crouch, a climatologist with the National Climatic Data Center. And farming has changed a lot since the Dust Bowl era. Better soil conservation has reduced erosion, and modern hybrids are much more resistant to drought.

But Crouch said it's important to understand that this drought is still unfolding.

"We can't say with certainty how long this might last now. Now that we're going up against the two largest droughts in history, that's something to be wary of," Crouch said. "The coming months are really going to be the determining factor of how big a drought it ends up being."

In northwest Kansas, Brian Baalman's cattle pastures have dried up, along with probably half of his corn crop. He desperately needs some rain to save the rest of it, and he's worried what will happen if the drought lingers into next year.

"I have never seen this type of weather before like this. A lot of old timers haven't either," Baalman said. "I just think we are seeing history in the making."

The federal government is already moving to help farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced plans for streamlining the aid process. A major goal is to cut the time it takes to declare an agricultural disaster area. He also reduced interest rates for emergency loans and made it cheaper for farmers to graze livestock or cut hay on lands otherwise locked up in a conservation program.

Some state governments are stepping in, too. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in 42 counties last week to speed up the issuance of permits for temporarily using stream or lake water for irrigation.

During a visit Monday to a southern Illinois corn and soybean farm, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that drought-affected farmers would be eligible for state debt restructuring and loan programs in addition to the aid the USDA announced last week.

Quinn ventured into a corn field where he spent some time looking for an actual ear of corn. When he found one and peeled off the husk, there were no kernels.

Two-thirds of Illinois is in what's classified as a severe drought or worse. Neighboring Indiana is even worse, with 70 percent in at least a severe drought.

Brummer could normally count on corn yields of 170 bushels per acre. He expects to get just 10 bushels this year, if he gets anything at all.

The top of the cornstalks are an unhealthy pale green, he said. Many of them have no ears, and "if there are there are a few kernels, they don't seem to know if they should die or make a grain."

Crop insurance will cover up to 150 bushels per acre. But no coverage is available for Brummer's livestock, so he figures he'll lose $350,000 to $400,000 on that side of the operation.

Not long ago, Brummer rejoiced along with countless other Midwest growers about getting their crops in the ground early.

"It looked really good until about a month ago," he said. "Then the concerns started, and it's been downhill ever since."

US will 'use all elements of its power' to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes

The US will "use all elements of American power" to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters in Jerusalem Monday night.
The veiled threat was delivered at the end of a day of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The comments come at a time when the US and Israel debate how best to deal with Iran's nuclear program. The US is seeking more time for negotiations and sanctions, while Israel has repeatedly hinted at military action.

Both suspect Iran may be aiming toward producing nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.

After her declaration about possible use of US power, Clinton said everyone prefers a diplomatic resolution, and "Iran's leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. The choice is ultimately Iran's."