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If Congress approves it this will bring the publicly announced amount provided to the 'moderate' Syrian opposition by the US to almost $400,000,000.

But on the other hand that's only about $40 per displaced Syrian civilian. Some might think it's good value for money.

New Non-Lethal Assistance for the Syrian Opposition

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 13, 2015

As Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced today at an event marking the fourth anniversary of the Syrian revolution, the U.S. Department of State is working with Congress to provide nearly $70 million in new non-lethal assistance. Deputy Secretary Blinken told Syrian opposition and Syrian-American participants in the event that with this additional funding, the United States will have committed nearly $400 million in assistance that supports the Syrian opposition since the start of the revolution.

This new non-lethal assistance includes:

- Nearly $30 million to continue and enable the opposition and local governance structures inside Syria to provide basic services and governance to their communities, as well as ongoing support for civil defense workers who play a critical role in emergency first response in Syria.

- $25 million in non-lethal support to vetted units of the armed opposition to help enhance their operational capabilities as they seek to protect their communities from the duel threat posed by the Asad regime and extremist groups.

- Digital security training and tools to keep activists, civil society members, journalists, and other opposition actors safe as they seek to network with each other and share information, including about regime and other atrocities.

Support for the documentation of war crimes, human rights violations, and abuses by the Syrian regime, as well as armed and extremist groups in Syria, in order to facilitate accountability. Looking ahead, these efforts will help inform future reconciliation initiatives and engender a lasting peace.

http://www.state.gov/...

Just a few notes of my own:

About this paragraph:

- Nearly $30 million to continue and enable the opposition and local governance structures inside Syria to provide basic services and governance to their communities, as well as ongoing support for civil defense workers who play a critical role in emergency first response in Syria.
I'm sure that they hope that no one finds out that the areas which are under 'moderate' opposition control in Syria are tiny and not very populated, much of this tiny area is uninhabited or very sparsely populated.

But that $30 million will pay for quite a few nice hotel rooms in Istanbul and other places, and for quite a few airplane tickets, too.

About this paragraph:

- $25 million in non-lethal support to vetted units of the armed opposition to help enhance their operational capabilities as they seek to protect their communities from the duel threat posed by the Asad regime and extremist groups.
Are there even any 'vetted units of the armed opposition'? There aren't any in Turkey, the program designed to create them has been postponed again and again.

According to this article, it seems that there aren't any of them anywhere else yet either.

"It is clearly part of our plan, that not only we will train them, and we will equip them with the latest weapons systems, but we will also protect them when the time comes," Allen told AFP.

...

According to sources in the US military, training for the volunteers, which number about 1,500, is scheduled to begin in four-to-six weeks and will take place in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Though only 100 have been vetted so far, the goal remains to train about 5,000 battle ready fighters in 2015 and approximately 15,000 combatants over the course of the next three years.

http://www.jpost.com/...

Note: The Hazim Movement mentioned in the article announced that it was dissolving about two weeks ago.

http://www.cbsnews.com/...

About this paragraph:
- Digital security training and tools to keep activists, civil society members, journalists, and other opposition actors safe as they seek to network with each other and share information, including about regime and other atrocities.
'Keep [them] safe' ... yea, in hotels in Turkey, but someone has to keep trying to feed the bullshit ('share information') to a lazy media.

And 'regime and other atrocities' ... 'other'?!? Just who is this 'other'? Could it include these 'vetted' 'moderate' opposition groups you want to give $70 million more to?

Discuss

I've been pretty much away from DK for the past seven or so months, but I did try to at least read as many posts and comments as I could during that time.

But I have noticed that:

- It seems to have become much more generally accepted that the 'moderate' rebels in Syria really aren't.

- The 'ISIS is going to overrun Syria and Iraq' nonsense seems to have passed, along with the 'Only the US can save the region from ISIS' nonsense.

- The 'Iraq will fall apart' nonsense also seems to be waning.

- The belief that Iraqi Kurdistan would declare its independence and would be able to become a viable independent state seems to have been replaced with more understanding that this is just not possible - at least for some time. Note: There are several reasons for this and I have listed them in the past.

- A lot more rational discussion about Iran seems to have developed.

Anyway, so what is happening in the region now and what's likely to happen this year ....

There are several posters and commenters here who try to keep readers informed about the region (though sometimes we disagree with each other on certain points), and I hope to rejoin them soon.

Discuss

The past seven or so months have been interesting, and when I say interesting I mean difficult, and when I say difficult I mean extremely emotionally, psychologically, physically, and financially taxing.

Someone we know offered to take my son to Antalya one day and while in Antalya the car was stopped by the police at a standard traffic inspection.

It turned out that the third person in the car was apparently involved in some serious illegal activity and the police arrested all three of the people in the car.

The prosecutor decided to prosecute all three of them and the 'interesting' days began.

At first we were stressed but optimistic that things would work out.

My son tried very hard to keep up a brave face - being newly married and having a baby on the way - and devoted himself to the farm, but there was always that hint of desperation in his eyes.

Then about two months ago when the hearings began our lawyer warned us that things might go badly, there was always that possibility.

No matter how hard he tried to hide it I could see that my son was really shaken, and the farm began to suffer as a consequence.

Finally we have heard those two crucial words - 'NOT GUILTY'.

I am just too exhausted and too relieved to write much more right now but I just wanted to let those here know just why I haven't been around much for some time.

I just couldn't.

But I really hope that I will be able to participate more again soon, after I feel better.

This is a post that I have dreamed about being able to write for a long, long time. And just writing it has helped me to deal with things a bit.

Thanks and peace to you all,

InAntalya

Discuss

Through a series of completely unexpected events I've eneded up in Casablanca, and probably Marrakesh, for a few days.

You know the Casablanca of Rick, Ilsa, and Victor Laszlo, and "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world ...".

I'll try to post some pictures and my impressions of the city and country.

If there's anything you might be curious about here write it in the comments and I'll try to answer.

I'll only be online night time here so be patient.

So Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'.

Discuss

While the US administration and congress are discussing a domestic self-authorization to use military force against IS(whatever), Italy, which is under a more immediate possible threat from IS(whatever), seems to be approaching the matter differently.

(ANSA) - Rome, February 13 - Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni warned Friday that "Italy is under threat from the situation in Libya, 200 nautical miles away".

In a television interview, he said it was a grave concern that Islamic State (ISIS) militants may be as closed as Sirte in Libya.

...

Gentiloni said that if dialogue fails, Italy will fight - so long as any military action is conducted under a legal framework established by the United Nations.

http://www.ansa.it/...

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... turn on your sprinklers while my house was burning down. Putting out those embers that blew your way really made all the difference.

And by the way, maybe you could ask your gardeners to stop lending Sparky Firestarter, you know that guy who hangs around the neighborhood, gas cans and lighters, and it'd be really nice if you asked them to stop buying gas for him, too.

p.s. This is a kind of a response to this exchange of comments and a few other comments I saw yesterday.

Discuss

Some pastor in Florida is reportedly concerned about artificial intelligences becoming Christians. He seems to be all for it.

Florida pastor plans to convert robots to Christianity

...

Reverend Christopher Benek, associate pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in Florida, believes advanced forms of artificial intelligence should be welcomed into the Christian faith.

"I don't see Christ's redemption limited to human beings," Benek said in an interview with the futurist Zoltan Istvan. "It's redemption to all of creation, even AI.

"If AI is autonomous, then we should encourage it to participate in Christ's redemptive purposes in the world."

...

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/...

But wouldn't baptism kind of really mess with their circuit boards?

And would AIs who don't become Christians be condemned to eternal melting in hell?

And what about ordaining AIs? Maybe it would just be a 'calling upgrade' ...

And what about inter-intelligence (human with AI) or homo-intelligence (AI with AI) marriage?

Discuss

There is news that a major ground offensive against IS(whatever) will begin in Iraq soon.

The point I have heard being asked/discussed quite a bit in the region today is whether or not US troops will be involved on the ground as part of the 'major firepower' support which will be provided by the 'coalition'.

The general impression/reaction I have seen is that the region doesn't need anymore US military involvement, especially boots on the ground in combat - the past experiences of this sort having been so destructive.

A top US official said a ground mission to counter Islamic State in Iraq could begin "within weeks."

In an interview on Sunday with Petra News, as reported by AFP, Gen. John Allen, the US special envoy to counter IS, said that "there will be a major counter offensive on the ground in Iraq."

He emphasized that Iraqi soldiers would take the lead. "In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that," Allen said.  "The United States is doing all it can to deliver its support as quickly as possible."

http://www.jpost.com/...

08:46

Iraq prepares ground offensive against ISIS

“A major counter offensive” on the ground in Iraq against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) is being prepared, top US envoy John Allen told Jordan’s Petra news agency. “In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that,” AFP quoted the US coordinator for the international coalition against the jihadists as saying. The Iraqis are expected to lead the offensive. Allen also dismissed accusations that there has been a delay in the supply of US weapons and training to Iraqi troops.

http://rt.com/...

And as a side note: IS(whatever) has now been pushed out of/abandoned much of the area around Kobane and even some areas on the west shore of the Euphrates.
Discuss
Happy New Year!

No ifs, ands, or butts.

May your pastures be green,

and the world more peaceful in 2015.

Discuss

Flavien Moreau, a Frenchman who traveled to Syria and joined an Islamist militant group there, apparently had no qualms about killing and bombing in the name of religion but just couldn't give up his cigarettes as his jihadi masters demanded he do.

So after 12 days of cigarette-free jihad in Syria he decidied that the cigarette-free part of the jihad was just too much and he decided to go back to France.

Back in France he was arrested and became the first returning jihadist to be tried in France. Note: Turkish media report that he was arrested in Turkey and then deported to France.

Yesterday he was given a seven-year sentence.

How do you say 'fuckwit' in French?

BBC article:

http://www.bbc.com/...

Discuss

In the reporting about the landing of the Rosetta mission's Philae lander on the 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet, this was mentioned:

A French Space Agency (CNES) official has just said that he thinks of the Philae landing as being like a baby goat bouncing up and down! That might be a loose translation – he was speaking in French.

http://www.theguardian.com/...

So now one of our baby goats - definitely a bouncy one - will just have to be named 'Philae'.

I've got a few bouncy ones in mind and next week I want to post photographs of them so that you all can vote for which one will get the honor.

And then there is the other matter of which one will be named 'Comet' ...

p.s. thanks greenbird.

Discuss

The new 1,000 room palace built by Turkish President Erdoğan has been attracting a lot of attention in Turkey these days and John Oliver has done a segment on it too.

I can't work out how to embed the video but it can be seen here:

http://www.youtube.com/...

The palace, which was designed by Erdoğan, cost more than $615,000,000 and is much, much bigger than the White House in Washington and is even bigger than the Kremlin in Moscow and the Palace of Versailles near Paris.

Many people in Turkey are enraged that so much was spent on a palace of this size when there were already adequate official residences for the prime minister and president. It's having been built on one of the few green spaces in Ankara has also caused a great deal of controversy.

More can be read about it at these links:

http://www.bbc.com/...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/...

http://www.bloomberg.com/...

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/...

Erdoğan has also been getting heat for the new $185,000,000 Airbus A330 that was recently delivered for the use of the Turkish president.

http://www.todayszaman.com/...

Discuss
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