Argentina: Fernández flips on prosecutor's 'suicide'

Argentine federal prosecutor Natalio Alberto Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment late on Jan. 18 with a gunshot wound to his head. Nisman had filed a 289-page criminal complaint on Jan. 14 charging that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and eight others, including two Iranians, had acted to cover up the alleged role of the Iranian government in the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires. The bombing, which left 85 dead and some 300 injured, is considered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack carried out anywhere since World War II. Nisman's death came the day before he was to testify to the National Congress about the charges.

Argentina: president charged in terror cover-up

An Argentine federal prosecutor on Jan. 14 accused the country's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, of complicity in covering up Iran's involvement in a 1994 terrorist attack. The bombing of the Argentinine Jewish Mutual Association is said to have been one of the country's worst attacks, resulting in 85 deaths. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, requested that Judge Ariel Lijo interrogate the president and the foreign minister for "being authors and accomplices of an aggravated cover-up and obstruction of justice regarding the Iranians accused of the Amia terrorist attack," and seizing 200 million pesos worth of assets. The prosecutor cited phone tap recordings that show how the current administration negotiated with the Iranian government to cover up Iranian officials involvement in return for the establishment of a trade of grain for oil that would ameliorate Argentina's energy deficit.

Bahrain: protests against British base deal

Protests held in the Bahraini island city of Sitra Dec. 6 against an agreement signed between the kingdom and Great Britain to establish a new military base in the Persian Gulf state. Bahraini opposition figures, including members of the main Shi'ite party, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, also expressed outrage over the deal. (Tasnim, Iran, Dec. 7) The base, at Mina Salman Port in Bahrain, will host Royal Navy vessels including destroyers and aircraft carriers. It is to be Britain's first permanent base in the Middle East in over 40 years. UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the new base shows Britain's commitment to a "sustained presence east of Suez"—referring to the wording of a 1968 decision to close bases east of Suez by 1971. (BBC News, Dec. 6)

Hezbollah operative busted in Peru: police

Peru's special anti-terrorist force DIRCOTE on Oct. 29 announced the arrest in the Lima district of Surquillo of an operative of the militant group Hezbollah. The Interior Ministry said Lebanese national Muhamad Amadar was planning to carry out attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in Peru, including the Israeli embassy, Chabad houses and Jewish community centers, and locations popular with Israeli backpackers. Explosives and weapons were reportedly turned up in a search of Amadar's apartment. Media reports suggest he was attempting to establish a cell in Peru linked to the supposed Hezbollah network in the Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil Triple Border area. Under interrogation, Amadar denied any ties to Hezbollah and claimed he was on his way to the US, to meet with his Peruvian-American wife. (i24, Israel, YNet, Oct. 30; RPP, Oct. 29)

US warns Lebanon over Iranian military aid

Lebanon's Hezbollah movement on Oct. 7 claimed a bomb attack against Israeli troops on the ceasefire line between the two countries that wounded two soldiers. Hezbollah fighters "detonated an explosive device on the Shebaa hills against a motorized Israeli patrol causing a number of injuries among the occupation's soldiers," the group said. The statement said the attack was carried out by the "martyr Hassan Ali Haidar unit," named for a Hezbollah militant killed Sept. 5 when an Israeli listening device in Lebanon was detonated remotely as he tried to dismantle it. Israel confirmed two soldiers were wounded in the blast, and an army spokesperson said the attack took place "on the Israeli side of the border." (AFP, Oct. 7) Days later, local media reported that the US had threatened to cut off military aid to Lebanon if it accepts a recent offer of arms from Iran. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, announced last week that Iran will donate arms to the Lebanese army, prompting US diplomats to send a stern warning to Lebanese officials. (Al Akhbar, Oct. 10)

ISIS: will US intervention fuel sectarian war?

Iraq's new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi issued a statement welcoming Barack Obama's announcement of a new campaign against ISIS. On the same day Obama gave his speech, Abadi met in Baghdad with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss international support for Iraqi forces in the drive against ISIS. (BasNews, Sept. 12; Aswat al-Iraq, Sept. 10) While Abadi's government continues to be Shi'ite-dominated, there are signs of success in his efforts to forge a pact with Sunnis to resist ISIS. Sunni tribes in Salaheddin governorate have formed a council to mobilize tribesmen to retake the provincial capital of Tikrit from ISIS in coordination with Iraq's army. Significantly, the new command center established for the effort is in Auja, a district recently retaken from ISIS by Iraqi troops—and the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, who was buried there following his execution in 2006. (Azzaman, Sept. 12)

New massacres in Iraq; Hezbollah joins the fray

A survivor who managed to escape by feigning death described a general massacre at the ISIS-occupied Yazidi village of Kojo 20 kilometers south of Sinjar. The village was surrounded by ISIS fighters 12 days ago, with residents ordered to convert on pain of death. On Aug. 15, the fighters moved in, and rounded up the villagers, separating the men from the women and children. The men were lined up and machine-gunned. Up to 80 are believed to have been killed. (BasNewsAP, Reuters) ISIS forces have reportedly brought Sunni Arabs into the cleansed Yazidi town of Sinjar in response to US air-strikes on nearby Arab villages. Yazidi homes are being given to the Arab families. (BasNews) The Kurdistan Regional Government's Peshmerga forces have joined with PKK-aligned Kurdish militias to form the Sinjar Defense Units, to take back the town. (Rojava Report) The KRG's Peshmerga Ministry issued a statement naming several villages where "IS militants" suffered "heavy losses" under US bombardment. Peshmerga forces backed by US air-strikes have also opened an operation aimed at recovering the ISIS-held Mosul Dam. (BasNewsRudaw)

Lebanon, Golan Heights at stake in Syria conflict

Syrian government troops backed by Hezbollah fighters on March 16 took the town of Yabroud near the Lebanese border, which was held by rebels inlcuding the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Hours later, in apparent retaliation, the Shi'ite town of Nabi Othman in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley was struck by a suicide bombing that left four dead. (LAT, Reuters, March 17) Meanwhile, in comments sure to warm the heart of Bashar Assad, opposition leader Kamal al-Labwani of the Syrian National Council told Iran's Arabic-language al Alam new service that the Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for Israeli military aid. "Why shouldn’t we be able to sell the Golan Heights because it is better than losing Syria and Golan at once," he said. (Haaretz, March 16)

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