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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Syria Warns Israel of “Surprise” Retaliation

Syria told Israel it may retaliate for the airstrike yesterday that the government said destroyed a military research facility near Damascus and killed two workers. The warning comes as Iran, an ally of Syria, said there would be consequences for Israel’s attack. Russia, who has vetoed any sanctions against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), also criticized the Israeli strike. “If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it,” said the Russian foreign ministry. Conflicting reports from unofficial sources said the target was not a research facility, but a convoy transporting arms to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an organization considered a terrorist by the U.S. and Israel. Israel hasn’t confirmed the attack, but U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had “grave concern” over the incident. Israel is also in the U.N. line of fire as an investigation by the Human Rights Council determined Israeli settlements in the West Bank are unlawful and must be withdrawn “immediately.”

Iran to Accelerate Uranium Enrichment, Sources Say

Iran warned the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog that it is seeking to bring more sophisticated equipment to its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, which could potentially accelerate the pace of the program by two or three times. According to a top diplomat, Iran sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) advising it of its plans. The news comes at a tense time in the region, a day after Israel carried an airstrike in Syria that sparked threats of retaliation against Israel. Iran is an ally both of Syria and Hezbollah. The U.S. and Israel have repeatedly accused Iran of enriching uranium for weapons, while Iran has always said it was doing so for energy generation and medical research.

Senate Testy with Hagel at Defense Secretary Confirmation Hearing

Chuck Hagel, U.S. President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Leon Panetta at the head of the Department of Defense, was grilled today by the Senators of the Armed Services Committee, who attacked him about his judgement on war. A former Republican Senator himself, Hagel faced criticism from the day Obama announced his intention to appoint him, both from conservatives, who say he has been too soft on Iran and North Korea, and liberals, who haven’t forgotten his 1998 “aggressively gay” comment. Hagel had a difficult exchange with his friend, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, on his objection to a military surge in Iraq in 2007 that has been widely credited for appeasing violence in the war-torn nation. Hagel refused to give McCain an answer on the topic, deferring “judgement to history.” Pressed by Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Hagel apologized for using the phrase “intimidated by the Jewish lobby” in referring to Congress, adding he should have said “influenced by the pro-Israel lobby” instead. Freshman Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas tea partier, said Hagel’s record shows “greater antagonism” towards Israel than any other member of the Senate.

New York Times Hacked After Story on China Premier

The New York Times’ systems have been repeatedly infiltrated by Chinese hackers during the last four months, the newspaper and computer security experts said today. Following a story on the wealth of China Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, hackers broke into the emails of David Barboza, author of the story and the publication’s Shanghai bureau chief, and Jim Yardley, South Asia bureau chief in India, using methods similar to those that have been previously associated with China’s military. The attackers also obtained the passwords for all New York Times employees. The newspaper says the hacking appears to be part of a larger campaign directed at American media, but also corporations, government agencies, and activist groups.

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