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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Iran will destroy Israeli cities if attacked: Khamenei

(Reuters) - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Thursday that the Islamic Republic would destroy the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa if its nuclear infrastructure came under attack from the Jewish state.

Israel puts little stock in big power negotiations aimed at curbing Iran's uranium enrichment - which Western nations suspect is a conduit to nuclear weapons capability - and has repeatedly hinted at pre-emptive war against its arch-enemy.

During a visit to Israel on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged its security concerns, saying, "America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear Iran." But he also said big powers believed there was still time for a diplomatic solution.

Russia said Iran and six global powers made headway in expert-level talks this week to ease the 10-year-long standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but the risk of backsliding towards confrontation remained.

Higher-level political talks between the powers and Iran are to resume in the Kazakh city of Almaty early next month, part of a concerted effort to avert another Middle East war that could balloon oil prices and wreak havoc on the global economy.

Khamenei, in a televised speech marking the Iranian new year, said: "At times the officials of the Zionist regime (Israel) threaten to launch a military invasion but they themselves know that if they make the slightest mistake the Islamic Republic will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground."

But the top Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Iran's most powerful figure, dismissed any threat from Israel, describing it as "not big enough to stand out among the Iranian nation's enemies".

The standoff now turns on Iran's enrichment of uranium to a fissile purity of 20 percent, which the West sees as a big step towards processing the material for use in nuclear bombs. Tehran says 20 percent enrichment will yield solely fuel for a medical research reactor, and that its nuclear quest is wholly peaceful.

"We have told you numerous times that we are not after nuclear weapons," Khamenei said, addressing Washington in front of thousands of adoring faithful who had come to the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad to hear him speak.


Kim Jong-un 'Watches Missile Defense Drill'

Photos of a North Korean military drill allegedly involving unmanned drones released on Wednesday by [North] Korean Central TV

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a military drill on Wednesday involving unmanned drones and interceptor missiles, the renegade country's state media claimed. Kim was quoted as confirming that the North Korean army is able to launch "precision strikes against any enemy target."

The report came a day after the North warned it will take military action against further deployment of American B-52 bombers over South Korea after the aircraft participated in joint Seoul-Washington military drills this week.

Kim watched an interceptor hit a mock Tomahawk cruise missile and expressed satisfaction saying the target was "accurately hit with a single shot," the official KCNA news agency claimed. He ordered troops to "destroy" all military and government targets in South Korea, as well as U.S. facilities should the "enemies even flinch."

Meanwhile, the conservative activist group Right Korea said Wednesday that it received a fax from a North Korean committee, ordering North Koreans to "rise up" against the joint South Korea-U.S. military drills.

The Chosun Ilbo

Answer On Obama's speech: No occupation in our own land

Addressing US president's call to 'end occupation, Economy and Trade minister says 'results of latest withdrawal were felt this morning in Sderot'

Naftali Bennett, the newly appointed economy and trade minister and a member of the Political-Security Cabinet, was the first senior politician to respond to US President Barack Obama's speech in Jerusalem.

"The results of our latest withdrawal were felt this morning in Sderot and through the thousands of victims born during the last few years," Bennett said Thursday in reference to the rocket attack from Gaza on the Israeli border town.

"The time has come for a shred of creativity and innovation in solving the conflict in the Middle East," Bennett said, challenging the wide acceptance of the two-state solution.

"Generally," the new minister added, "there is no occupation within one's own land."

However, he further added: "I am sure Obama's words were said out of sincere concern and true friendship."

Knesset Member Ayalet Shaked, also from Habayit Hayehudi, said "Obama is a true friend of Israel, on this no one can argue. But at the end of the day, we are the ones who have to deal with the tragic and devastating consequences that are part of the establishment of a Palestinian state. That is the reason that just this week, the people selected a government that has no place for a two-state solution within its foundation. And if we are talking about Iron Dome, then the West Bank is our Iron Dome."

During his speech Thursday, Obama called on Israeli citizens to urge their leaders to make peace.

"As a politician, I can promise you this: Political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks," the US president said. "Your voices must be louder than those who would drown them out. Your hopes must light the way forward.

"There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turn to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities," he added.

"But", the president said, "the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice must also be recognized.

"Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes," he urged a lively crowd of some 600 students in Jerusalem. "It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own."

Regarding the settlers and the occupation, Obama said: "It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank or displace Palestinian families from their homes.

"Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land," Obama said.

"I believe that peace is the only path to true security," the US president said, claiming that Israeli youths "have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream or you can face a growing challenge to its future.

"Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine."


Israel’s occupation of West Bank must end: Obama

US President Barack Obama has said that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank must end, adding that Palestinians deserve an independent and sovereign state.

Obama also said he is "deeply committed" to the creation of a state of Palestine and that it remains a priority for his administration.

"Palestinians deserve a state of their own. The United States is deeply committed to seeing... an independent, sovereign state of Palestine," Obama said at news conference after talks with acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday on his second day of a Mideast trip and after meeting Israeli officials.
He said Palestinians deserve to have hope and to have their rights respected.

The US president also described the two-state solution as the only way to end the decades-long Israel-Palestinian conflict. He also criticized the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian, describing it as obstacle to the so-called peace talks.

His remarks come a day after he vowed unwavering support for Israel and declared that the alliance between Washington and Tel Aviv "is eternal".


No Israeli strike on Iran without US assent

In his first conversation of three hours with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Day One, March 20, of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, the two leaders finally put to rest their long dispute over a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear sites.

In their news conference that night, both reiterated the principle that Israel has the right to independently defend itself against a perceived palpable threat from Iran - even if Washington does not share that perception.

The practical application of this principle was rather different: Obama and Netanyahu spoke highly and repeatedly of the close military and intelligence cooperation their governments had developed and which they would hate above all to jeopardize. 

Obama: “There’s not much daylight between us on where Iran is at. Israel is differently situated than us. I would not expect Israel to defer to anyone in its decisions on this.” Netanyahu: “We do have a common intelligence assessment on this. Although the US and Israel have different vulnerabilities and capabilities… there is no argument… I am absolutely convinced that Obama is committed to preventing Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb.”
He added: “Iran has not yet reached the red line I defined in my UN speech, but it is getting closer all the time.”

The impression they both conveyed was that Israel’s right to strike Iran would be respected but not pursued without prior consultation with Washington.
In return for this concession, the US president pledged to deepen US military assistance – hardware, funding and technology - for maintaining its qualitative military edge so as to be able to defend itself in the future as well as the present: He disclosed he had set up a team to work on extending the US military assistance program to Israel for a further 10-year period beyond the date of its expiry in 2017.

Following the reports of a chemical attack in Syria and a Syrian air strike inside Lebanon this week, neither Obama nor Netanyahu showed any inclination toward possible military intervention for containing the expansion of the civil conflict raging there, although the US president did use some strong words.

Having ordered a thorough inquiry into the reported chemical attack, he said: “If true, it would be a game changer and there will be consequences,” adding: “When you let that genie out of the bottle - a weapon that can cause mass devastation and death - you have to act on the information. I would be deeply skeptical of any claim that the Syrian opposition used chemical weapons.”
By the time the experts determine the nature of the chemical attack and who was responsible, the dust will have settled, say DEBKAfile's military sources.

Facing the two leaders from the press seats were also top US and Israeli officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. Kerry will be handling the Palestinian side of the Obama visit after the president’s side trip to Ramallah Thursday to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Referring to peace talks with the Palestinians, the president stressed that “Israel’s security is non-negotiable” and must be assured in any peace settlement that established a sovereign Palestinian state. Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution based on mutual recognition and called on the Palestinians to set aside their preconditions and sit down to discuss ending their conflict once and for all.

The Obama visit has evidently not generated any major moves on the Palestinian issue but will result in small Israeli-Palestinian steps for strengthening stable Palestinian Authority rule over the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas’s leadership. The PA’s institutions and security institutions will be strengthened and US funds directed to pulling the Palestinian economy out of its hole. Abbas is expected to reciprocate by suspending anti-Israeli actions at the UN and international institutions.


Francis I: The ‘End of the World’ Pope

After the white-smoke “fumatta” signaled Argentina’s Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Bergoglio now heads the Catholic Church, the attention turns to significant, if subtle, signs surrounding the naming of the new Pope.

As soon as Msgr. Bergoglio was chosen, in the privacy of the Vatican Cardinal Giovanni Battista’s first question to him was, “What name would you like to be known by?” to which he replied “I shall be called Francis I”.

Moments later, when presented to the world from the Basilica overlooking St. Peter’s Square Pope Francis announced to the world, “You know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him. But here we are.”

An interesting and significant phrase filled with foreboding in these troubling times, many perceive of apocalyptic worldwide turmoil. Particularly to those lending credence to the prophesies of Irish Saint Malachy, a 12th century Archbishop of Armagh who had a vision when visiting Rome of 112 future popes that the Church would supposedly have from his days onwards.

Malachy wrote down short emblematic and symbolic descriptions for each which have been fulfilled with uncanny precision to this very day.

According to that vision, the 111th pope was Benedict XVI, whom he described as “The Glory of the Olive” which makes him the next-to-last pope.

Malachy could have very well been way off the mark by whole centuries when you consider that some popes like Pius IX in the 19th century reigned for a full 34 years, whilst others like last century’s John Paul I only reigned for 33 short days. And yet, as we enter 2013 – just months after 2012 with its symbolic End-of-Time aura – we suddenly have a new (the last?) pope being chosen.

A lightning strikes St Peter's dome at the Vatican on February 11, 2013. Pope Benedict XVI announced today he will resign as leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics on February 28 (AFP Photo / Filippo Monteforte)

Many “firsts”

Even if Francis I is not the last pope, he certainly makes an interesting list of Catholic firsts: the first non-European pope in almost 1500 years; the first Jesuit; the first to choose Francis as his name; the first to succeed an abdicating pope in six centuries.

Why all the expectation? Because for the 112th pope on Malachy’s List he wrote these ominous words: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.”

If Malachy’s List continues to hold in its uncanny precision to the very end, then Pope Francis I is the last pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

On the very same day that Benedict XVI shocked the world with his unprecedented and unexpected resignation, a bolt of lightning struck St. Peter Cathedral’s Dome, an image that went around the world. “The hand of God” many thought, only this time not alluding to an Argentine football player but rather a sign of the times to come for the Vatican: the coming of an Argentinian pope.

The monsignors are said to take this and other prophecies – notably the Vision of Fatima – quite seriously, which might help to explain why other possible papal candidates who either carried the name Peter or came from Rome were discretely left aside so as not to tempt Destiny.

Either way, Francis I is as he himself unwittingly said, an “end of the world” pope coming as he does from far off Argentina.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (L) greets Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio at the Basilica of Lujan, December 22, 2008. (Reuters)

Opposition Cardinal in Argentina

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio championed the plight of the poor in a very hands-on manner, which set him at loggerheads with the now ten-year-old, increasingly left-wing Nestor and Cristina Kirchner Regime.

His criticism of their government got stronger as the years went by, specifically targeting the Kirchner government’s corruption, political mismanagement and hypocrisy.

Since Msgr. Bergoglio would persistently lash out at the Kirchners during the solemnities of the Te Deum marking the anniversary of Argentina’s 25th May 1810 Revolution in Buenos Aires Cathedral which is traditionally attended by the President, his family and cabinet. Starting in 2005 the Kirchners decided to celebrate this anniversary elsewhere in the country to avoid Msgr. Bergoglio… In fact, President Cristina Kirchner has not met with him in almost three years now.

Though a moderate in many aspects - especially in his drive for Ecumenical inter-faith relations (he was just invited to visit Israel), and in his embracing of Second Vatican Council reforms - he has, however, systematically opposed same-sex marriage which became legal in Argentina in 2011, and strongly opposes abortion laws that are being promoted by both the left and the “liberal” right.

Msgr. Bergoglio is an ardent devotee of the Virgin Mary whose protection he invoked in his very first message urbi et orbi. The first place he went to pray as pope was the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin at Santa Maria Maggiore.

Then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina offers a Holy Thursday mass in the Hogar de Cristo shelter for drug users, in the Parque Patricios neighborhood of Buenos Aires, March 20, 2008. (Reuters)

A House Cleaner in the Vatican?

As a sign of the times to come, Francis I is also the first pope in history to choose a name that honors one of Christendom’s most important saints: Saint Francis of Assisi, a 13th century reformer who preached by setting an example for all.

Although from a wealthy family, he chose to live in poverty and austerity telling his followers that a good Christian’s duty is to “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words”; meaning thereby that the best preachers are those setting the best examples, something the Church seems to have increasingly forgotten in modern times.

Saint Francis founded the Franciscan Order and its female counterpart founded by his spiritual sister St. Claire, both of which made vows of poverty. His preaching got him into trouble with local secular and Church authorities even landing him in jail.

As today, the Church of St. Francis’s time was very much in need of a major internal clean-up. Francis of Assisi reproached the pope in front of all his cardinals for their excessive attachment to luxury, and their banality and mundane ways. Later, Pope Innocent III would finally approve his predication and approved the founding of the Franciscan Order.

So, will Pope Francis I do as his spiritual predecessor and wage a veritable war for greater austerity inside the Church, requiring its highest authorities to set the example, both inside and outside the Church?

This May 24, 2011 file photo shows then cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, posing with the jersey of San Lorenzo's football team, which he supports, in Buenos Aires. (AFP Photo)

Will he really do something about prelates accused of improper sexual conduct, cutting them off fully and completely from the Church, and not just “transferring” them away to some quiet place hoping their immoralities and perversion will just go away, as if by magic?

Will Francis I also fully and thoroughly clean up the Vatican Bank (Institute of Religious Works) forcing it to cancel shady financial deals, reject usury-based financial income, and putting its monetary wealth to work for the poor?

Again, will he identify and weed out the truly guilty of such crimes and perversion, severing all Church ties with them?
In short, will Francis I do something none of his predecessors seems to have had the will to do over the past fifty years, which is not to sweep all this mess under the carpet, but rather cleaning the place up for real?

That all remains to be seen.

Hundreds of millions of honest Catholics the world over, including in his native Argentina, certainly hope that he will.
Others, much closer to him now, who reside inside the Vatican, however, tremble at the thought that he might actually do just that.

Clearly a grave danger for Pope Francis, when one remembers that another pope - John Paul I - had pledged when chosen that he would clean up the Vatican Bank after its Banco Ambrosiano/Freemasonry scandal. Alas! John Paul I appears as Pope No. 109 in Malachy’s List, carrying the phrase “De Medietate Lunae” (of the Half of the Moon”): when elected in late August 1978, there was a half-moon in the sky and he died at the next half-moon…

St. Francis of Assisi (Image from wikipedia.org)

Which Francis?

But we’re not really sure whether Msgr. Bergoglio chose his papal name only because of the Saint from Assisi. It may have been to honor other Francis’s like St. Francis Javier, or even 16th century St. Francis de Borja both of whom were, like himself, Jesuits.

The Jesuits – The Society of Jesus - are a 16th Century order founded by Spaniard St. Ignace of Loyola, as a militia to defend the Church against the forces of reformation and other dangers to the faith.

The Jesuit’s strong-willed militancy got them expelled several times from the American colonies and also from Europe. Even the Church itself suppressed them. They have an autonomous leadership under its Superior General whom many refer to as the “Black Pope” alluding to the Order’s great leverage inside then Church. Jesuits are known for being shrewd and sharp intellectuals with a keen sense for political and social strategy, and a very strong will to promote and drive their goals and objectives.

Maybe Msgr. Bergoglio is honoring all of these Francis’s. But the one that has caught the Catholic world’s imagination is clearly St Francis of Assisi, in which case much will be expected of Pope Francis. No pope – until now - has ever chosen that name which many perceive as emblematic of a key enemy of certain castes of mischief-makers inside the Vatican.

Pope Francis prays during his inauguration mass on March 19, 2013 on St Peter's square at the Vatican. (AFP Photo)

Comet To Soar Over Israel During Obama’s Visit

Comet To Soar Over Israel During Obama’s Visit: Is
This A Final Sign Of Prophecy?

As if there weren’t already enough signs in the Heavens, Comet Pan-Starrs will be passing over Israel with the arrival of Barack Obama in this Year of the Comet.

Throughout history, comets have been interpreted as harbingers of plague, impending disaster, or the ascension of a new king.
This is no coincidence , along with everything else we’re seeing happen daily, this harbinger appears.

Christians are rapidly awakening, it’s those who are ‘not in touch’ who have yet to have awoken to what’s clearly becoming seen to most as prophecy unfolding.
It is very rare to see two bright comets in one year according to NASA. Comet ISON could shine as brightly as a full moon in the middle of the day. The comet will reach its perihelion on Nov. 28. 

Count down to zero time

Nigel Farage: Get Your Money Out Now!


Gregory Mannarino-Get Into Real Assets Now

NATO planning for possible Syria missions

The top U.S. military commander in Europe said Tuesday that NATO is conducting contingency planning for possible military involvement in Syria and American forces would be prepared if called upon by the United Nations and member countries.

The Syrian civil war marked an ignominious two-year milestone this week with no sign that President Bashar Assad is close to giving up power. Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command, told a Senate panel that the United States is "looking at a variety of operations."

"We are prepared if called upon to be engaged," Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Stavridis, who is retiring soon, also said the option of assisting the opposition forces in Syria in ways that would break the deadlock are being actively explored by NATO members. A resolution from the U.N. Security Council and agreement among the alliance's 28 members would be required before NATO assumes a military role in Syria, he said.

"The Syrian situation continues to become worse and worse and worse - 70,000 killed, a million refugees pushed out of the country, probably 2.5 million internally displaced (people)," Stavridis said. "No end in sight to a vicious civil war."

The commander said discussions within the NATO member countries have focused on imposing a no-fly zone, providing lethal support to the Syrian opposition forces and imposing arms embargoes.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked whether there is any consideration of targeting Syria's air defenses. Stavridis simply said yes.

NATO has installed Patriot missile defense batteries in southern Turkey along the border with Syria that are also capable of shooting down aircraft. During an exchange with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Stavridis said the Patriots could be positioned in such a way as to shoot down Syrian aircraft and he indicated that doing so would be a powerful disincentive for pilots to fly in that area.

At another Capitol Hill hearing on Syria, senior State Department officials said even if the Assad regime falls, humanitarian aid to the Syrian people will have to continue.

Anne Richard, the assistant secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, also made clear that the Obama administration does not foresee a negotiated settlement to the crisis despite diplomatic efforts.

"It's hard to imagine a peaceful outcome with Assad in power," Richard said.

Cyprus seeks Russian rescue, EU threatens cutoff

(Reuters) - Cyprus extended a bank lockdown to next week and considered nationalizing pension funds on Wednesday, scrambling to avert a financial meltdown after rejecting the terms of a bailout from the European Union and turning to Russia for a lifeline.

With crisis talks dragging into the night, the ruling party, Democratic Rally, warned time was running out:

"We don't have days or weeks, we have only hours to save our country," deputy leader Averos Neophytou told reporters.

Banks, shut since the weekend, are to stay closed for the rest of the week and so not reopen till Tuesday after a holiday weekend, a government official told Reuters, extending the misery of Cypriot businesses already feeling the pinch.

With Finance Minister Michael Sarris in Moscow, Russia's finance ministry said Cyprus had sought a further 5 billion euros, on top of a five-year extension and lower interest on an existing 2.5-billion euro loan from Moscow. Russia has a special interest, since many of its citizens keep savings in Cyprus.

In a vote on Tuesday, the island's tiny legislature threw out a proposed tax on bank deposits in exchange for a 10-billion euro bailout from the EU, a stunning rejection of the kind of strict austerity accepted over the past three years by crisis-hit Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

The EU demand has exposed tensions with Moscow over how to keep Cyprus afloat. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the bloc had behaved "like a bull in a china shop" and compared its proposals, which would force Russian customers to contribute to the rescue of Cypriot banks, to Soviet-era confiscations.

But the European Central Bank kept the pressure on, warning that it would have to pull the plug on Cyprus unless the country took a bailout quickly.

"We can provide emergency liquidity only to solvent banks and ... the solvency of Cypriot banks cannot be assumed if an aid program is not agreed on soon, which would allow for a quick recapitalization of the banking sector," Joerg Asmussen, the bank's chief negotiator on Cyprus, told German weekly Die Zeit in an interview late on Tuesday.

Despite the looming threat of default and a banking collapse, Cypriots on Tuesday balked at EU demands for a levy on bank deposits to raise 5.8 billion euros, an unprecedented measure that opponents said would have violated the principle behind an EU-wide guarantee on deposits of up to 100,000 euros.


The government said a "Plan B" was in the works, with conservative President Nicos Anastasiades - elected last month on a mandate to secure a bailout - locked in meetings with party leaders, ministers and officials from the troika of EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund lenders.

Lawmaker Marios Mavrides told Reuters one option under discussion was to nationalize pension funds of semi-government corporations, which hold between 2 billion and 3 billion euros.

An opposition politician present at the talks said: "The idea is we can get the pension funds of organizations like the Cyprus Telecoms Organisation and the Electricity Authority, maybe some others as well, and raise two to three billion euros.

"If we raise half of the money then maybe we could top up to the 5.8 billion euro amount by passing the Cypriot banks into Russian hands."