ATTACK ON U.S. IN PAKISTAN
A brazen attack on Americans in Pakistan today. A car filled with explosives rammed into a U.S. government vehicle in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Five people were killed; two Americans and two Pakistanis working at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar were among the wounded, according to a U.S. Embassy official. Habibullah KHAN reports that the vehicle was attacked after it left the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar and was traveling through an area of the city that hosts various international organizations, including the United Nations. A U.S. passport was found in the wreckage of the vehicle that was attacked, he said. Local TV footage showed an SUV at the site that was completely destroyed and burned. Peshawar is located near Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal region, the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country. The city has been hit by scores of bombings in recent years, but attacks against American targets are relatively rare because of the extensive security measures taken by the U.S. government.
“BAD BLOOD” DROVE NAVY SEAL TO TELL ALL?
The New York Times reports the author of a new book about the raid to find and kill Osama bin Laden was willing to break “the code of silence” honored by these tough as nails commandoes because of “bad blood” with other members of SEAL Team Six. The Times is attributing that to a new e-book written by other SEALS in response to the tell-all by “Mark Owens.”
U.S., IRAN + ISRAEL
-U.S. TO IRAN: DON’T DRAG US INTO WAR…Alex MARQUARDT flags this story – not confirmed by us – from Yedioth Ahronoth: “The message conveyed by the US to Iran through highly sensitive and secret channels was unequivocal: If Israel should attack, we will not stand behind it, and will not be dragged into war. In the past few days, high-ranking US administration officials approached their counterparts in Iran by means of two European states that serve as a channel of communication in crisis situations. They made it clear to the Iranians that the US did not intend to be drawn into the battle if Israel should decide to attack unilaterally and without coordination with the United States, and said that they expected Iran not to attack strategic American targets in the Persian Gulf. This refers, among others, to military bases and the fleet of ships and aircraft carriers cruising the region. These messages are in addition to statements made publicly by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey… Dempsey said that the IDF would not succeed in destroying the Iranian nuclear program on its own, and clarified: “I don’t want to be complicit [in a war on Iran] if they [Israel] choose to do it.” Israeli officials note an unprecedented nadir in relations between the security establishments of the US and Israel. Yesterday Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “the international community is not setting Iran a clear red line and Iran does not see international determination to stop its nuclear project. Until Iran sees a clear red line and such determination, it will not stop the progress of its nuclear project…”
-MEANWHILE, WORKING TO AVOID AN ISRAELI STRIKE…And this – from the New York Times: With Israel openly debating whether to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming months, the Obama administration is moving ahead with a range of steps short of war that it hopes will forestall an Israeli attack, while forcing the Iranians to take more seriously negotiations that are all but stalemated. Already planned are naval exercises and new antimissile systems in the Persian Gulf, and a more forceful clamping down on Iranian oil revenue. The administration is also considering new declarations by President Obama about what might bring about American military action, as well as covert activities that have been previously considered and rejected.
-MISSION IMPOSSIBLE?…The new U.N. envoy to Syria, veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, tells the BBC his task is “nearly impossible.” “I’m coming into this job with my eyes open, and no illusions,” he said. As Alex MARQUARDT notes, Brahimi has pointedly not called on Assad to hand over power.
-DAMASCUS BLASTS…State TV said four were wounded in yesterday’s dual bombing in the highly-guarded General Staff compound in Damascus. A rebel group claimed it had planted the bombs with the help of current officers. And airstrikes have reportedly killed 18 in northern Syria today.
-IF THERE WAS A CHEMICAL ATTACK…From the AP: Western powers are preparing a tough response in case Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime deploys chemical or biological weapons in its civil war, France’s foreign minister said Monday. Syria’s leadership has said the country, which is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas and Scud missiles capable of delivering them, could use chemical or biological weapons if it were attacked from outside. President Obama has called it a “red line” for the U.S. if Assad’s regime were to use such lethal weapons, and France has been ratcheting up its language on the issue. If Syria uses such weapons, “our response … would be massive and blistering,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on RMC radio Monday. He said Western countries are monitoring the movement of the weapons in Syria to be ready to “step in” immediately.
EGYPT’S VEILED ANCHORWOMAN
From Al Ahram: A veiled woman, Fatma Nabil, anchored a news program on Egyptian state television for the first time Saturday. Hosni Mubarak’s former information minister banned veiled anchors from appearing on state TV – this rule change was made under the auspices of new Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “At last the revolution has reached state television,” she told the BBC.
EUROPE: PREPARING FOR A “GREXIT”
It’s a big – and potentially dangerous – week for the Eurzone. And as it begins, The New York Times looks at American companies preparing for worst-case scenarios: “Even as Greece desperately tries to avoid defaulting on its debt, American companies are preparing for what was once unthinkable: that Greece could soon be forced to leave the euro zone. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has looked into filling trucks with cash and sending them over the Greek border so clients can continue to pay local employees and suppliers in the event money is unavailable. Ford has configured its computer systems so they will be able to immediately handle a new Greek currency. No one knows just how broad the shock waves from a Greek exit would be, but big American banks and consulting firms have also been doing a brisk business advising their corporate clients on how to prepare for a splintering of the eurozone. That is a striking contrast to the assurances from European politicians that the crisis is manageable and that the currency union can be held together. On Thursday, the European Central Bank will consider measures that would ease pressure on Europe’s cash-starved countries…”
ISLAND WAR – THIS WON’T HELP
From Akiko FUJITA in Tokyo: The Japanese government says they’ve reached a tentative agreement to purchase the disputed Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) for 26 million dollars. The island’s owner, a private citizen, has previously expressed interest in only selling to the government or the city of Tokyo – and the government says they’re speeding up the paperwork, so the ownership can be transferred over to them by the end of September, according to NHK. While Japan has made no secret of its interest to purchase the islands in recent months, the news is sure to inflame the Chinese, and escalate tensions between the 2 countries. Over the weekend, about 2 dozen officials from Tokyo conducted surveys around the island, with the media in tow, to assess the land for themselves (the biggest discovery – a dozen goats living there). None of them actually stepped foot on the island -since they didn’t have approval to do so – but Beijing still called their actions “illegal.” The China Daily called it a “new provocation by Tokyo.”
SOUTH AFRICA TO RELEASE UNREST MINERS
South African courts are to begin releasing 270 striking miners charged with murder after 34 of their colleagues were shot dead by police. Earlier, the charges, levelled under an apartheid-era law, were suspended following a national outcry. The first 100 miners will be freed on Monday, and the rest on Thursday. Also on Monday, talks are set to resume on ending the strike that led to killing of the 34 workers at the Marikana platinum mine. Police says they opened fire on the strikers in self-defence after being threatened by a crowd of protesters who advanced towards them, armed with machetes. The strike, called in support of demands for a substantial pay rise and recognition of a new union, continues and the mine remains closed three weeks on.
AT THE PARALYMPICS…
-BLINDED NAVY MAN TAKES GOLD…From the Washington Post: Bradley Snyder is midway through a seven-event schedule at the Paralympic Games, which end Sept. 9. He won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle Friday and a silver in the 50-meter freestyle Saturday. A former captain of the U.S. Naval Academy’s swim team, Snyder never imagined he would be in this meet. Nevertheless, it marks his return to a sport that once helped define who he was, before bad luck changed everything. In Afghanistan a year ago, a booby-trap bomb blew up in front of Snyder, a Navy lieutenant in an explosive-ordnance disposal unit. His face took the brunt of the blast. He now has two glass eyes. As part of his rehabilitation, he got back into the swimming pool, where he had spent much of his high school and college years. Five months after the accident, he swam in a meet at the Olympic training center in Colorado. To his surprise, his times made him eligible for monthly stipends and travel expenses to national trials…
-”BLADE RUNNER” FUMES…Last night Oscar Pistorius lost in one of his main events – the 200m. After the race, he claimed the Brazilian Oliveira cheated by using blades that were too long. “I’ve never seen a guy come back from eight meters [behind] on the 100m mark to overtake me on the finish line… I’ve brought it up with the IPC but nothing’s been done about it. I believe in the fairness of sport, I believe in running on the right length.” Well, quite a few people called him a sore loser, and this morning he apologized – but said the blade length was still as issue. “I would never want to detract from another athletes’ moment of triumph and I want to apologize for the timing of my comments after yesterday’s race,” he said. “I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the IPC but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong. That was Alan’s moment and I would like to put on record the respect I have for him.”
-THE PRINCE “ABSEILS” DOWN A SKYSCRAPER…Britain’s Prince Andrew abseiled down the Shard skyscraper (Europe’s tallest) in London for charity on Monday. Andrew began his descent from the 87th floor – just below the top of the 1016-foot (310-metre) tower. The 52-year-old royal was one of 40 people who completed the descent to raise money for educational charity the Outward Bound Trust and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund. “This is just a demonstration to people what Outward Bound stands for, what it can actually do to people,” Prince Andrew said when he had completed the abseil. “It can give people the confidence to make this sort of abseil and, I have to say, that now I’m going to look back up it, it’s a hell of a long way.” The Outward Bound Trust is an international survival-training organization founded in England during World War II, which finances community-based training courses for mostly unemployed and disabled teenagers.