Defecting Syrian Diplomat Tells AllJuly 17, 2012 16:35 by Pesach Benson
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Today’s Top Stories:
1. Today’s Zaman: Turkey’s credibility with NATO is taking a hit as the army backtracks on what caused the downing of a Phantom jet a few weeks ago:
“If it turns out that the Turks, who were among the first members of the North Atlantic Alliance, were less than honest with their NATO partners, it is going to put a major strain on the relations,” wrote Steven A. Cook, a Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, although he said this cannot be the case because Turkey “would never risk its status within the alliance.”
But even in the event that there was no deliberate attempt to hide facts from NATO allies, the way the government has handled the process still raises questions of trustworthiness.
3. Nawaf Fares — the Syrian ambassador to Iraq who defected — is telling reporters quite a bit about the Assad regime. He told the BBC that Assad may have already used chemical weapons. And he confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that Assad allowed Al-Qaida to enter Iraq in order to disrupt US forces.
As a governor at the time, I was given verbal commandments that any civil servant that wanted to go would have his trip facilitated, and that his absence would not be noted. I believe the Syrian regime has blood on its hands, it should bare responsibility for many of the deaths in Iraq.”
He himself, he added, knew personally of several Syrian government “liaison officers” who still dealt with al-Qaeda. “Al-Qaeda would not carry out activities without knowledge of the regime,” he said. “The Syrian government would like to use al-Qaeda as a bargaining chip with the West – to say: ‘it is either them or us’.”
In response, Asharq al-Awsat notes that “dissident Ambassador Nawaf al-Fares’ comments not only pose a problem for al-Assad, but also for the current Baghdad government blinded by sectarianism and Iranian influence.”
Israel and the Palestinians
• Israel HaYom: Hamas test fired an improved rocket modeled after dismantled Libyan missiles smuggled into Gaza. Where did they test this rocket? In Sinai.
• Israeli security asked a group of Palestinian journalists to drop their pants before covering Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Salam Fayyad. YNet says the four reporters — all from Al-Quds, refused. Unless there’s a specific threat, strip searching reporters is plain wrong.
• CTV gave airtime to “Three Little Birds,” a band singing a song slurring Israel as an apartheid state. Program host Jeff Hooper even plugged the group’s album. When HonestReporting Canada complained, the network dug in its heels. You can watch the performance.
• Salam Fayyad rattles his tin cup on CNN, telling Christiane Amanpour:
“We have been facing serious financial difficulties for more than two years now and the crisis has become very acute to the point of us being unable to meet such basic obligations as wages.”
• Maan News: The Arab League is forming a committee to investigate Yasser Arafat’s death. (Memo to the Arab League: Yasser Arafat is still dead.)