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Friday, August 23, 2013

Obama Says Syria Attack A ‘Grave Concern’, UK Believes Attack Was Real

US President Barack Obama said on Friday that the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria on Wednesday was a “big event of grave concern“, but did not align himself with other countries calling for more direct action on the matter, such as France. “Sometimes what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region”, said Obama. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British government believed the attack was real and not a fabrication by rebels fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime. “We do believe this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime on a large scale, but we would like the United Nations to be able to assess that”, said Hague.

Al-Qaeda Pledged Strike That Would ‘Change the Face of History’

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said on Friday that a phone call by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to al-Qaeda’s head, Ayman al-Zawahri, was what prompted the closure of many Western diplomatic missions across the Middle East earlier in the month. During the call, al-Wuhayshi pledged to carry out an attack that would “change the face of history”. He had been attending a meeting of local al-Qaeda leaders in central Yemen. “I told the Americans this would be in Yemen”, said Yemeni president Hadi, adding that “this made them scared and closed their embassies in the whole region”. Yemen had said earlier this month that it had foiled another al-Qaeda plot to seize oil and gas terminals within its borders.

NSA Paid Internet Companies Millions to Cover Costs of Complying with Prism

The US National Security Agency paid millions of dollars to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook to cover the costs of their involvement in the Prism surveillance programme even after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) ruled that some of Prism’s activities violated the fourth amendment. Since the existence of the programme was revealed in June, internet companies had denied knowledge of it and had insisted that they had only handed over user data after receiving specific legal requests from authorities. In reply to the Guardian’s revelation, Yahoo said such payments were consistent with US legislation. “Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government. We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law”, said a company spokesperson.

Twin Explosions Rip Through Northern Lebanon

Twin explosions outside mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli killed at least 29 people and injured more than 350 as Friday prayers ended. The attack was the deadliest in the city since the end of Lebanon’s civil war. There were no claims of responsibility for the coordinated attacks, but Taqua mosque, one of the targets, was where Sunni preacher Sheik Salem al-Rafei had frequently spoken against Hezbollah, the Islamist militant group that is supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the neighbouring country’s civil war. The bombings come a week after a car bomb exploded in a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital Beirut, known as a Hezbollah stronghold, killing at least 27 people and injuring more than 300 others.

Weekend Read: The Day After Assad Wins

“Assad will increasingly resort to brute force to demonstrate his authority to Syrians. His postwar reign of terror will likely target the majority Sunni population that has directed the uprising against him. The formerly “liberated” areas of Syria will probably have the most to fear.” In Foreign Affairs.

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