Turkey sends fighter jets to Syrian border

25 new jets to the Syrian border – and aggressive war talk from Turkish President Abdullah Gul. Israel and Iran must be watching very closely.

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Turkey sends fighter jets to Syrian border:

Turkey has confirmed it is deploying more fighter jets to an airbase close to the border with Syria, amid artillery exchanges along its tense southeastern border with Syria.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, addressed parliament on the issue on Tuesday, saying that his country does not want war, but that Turkey needs to be prepared for anything.

At least 25 additional F-16 fighter jets were deployed at Turkey’s Diyarbakir air base late on Monday.

Meanwhile, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general, said that Ankara can rely on the alliance, which has “all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary”.

Rasmussen warned against the dangers of the conflict in Syria escalating, saying alliance member Turkey had shown commendable restraint in response to the shelling of its border area.

‘Restraint’

“I would like to commend the Turkish government for the restraint it has shown in its response to the completely unacceptable Syrian attacks,” Rasmussen said as he went into a two-day NATO defence ministers meeting.

“Obviously Turkey has a right to defend herself within international law,” he said, noting that the alliance has “all necessary plans in place to protect and to defend Turkey if necessary”. (…)

(Via Al Jazeera.. Mideast..)

Panic Rises In Iran As Currency Plunges To New Lows

Seems like the ground is shifting underneath the Iranian economy – with the currency losing 1/3 of its value vs. the dollar… and people are panicking…

Panic Rises In Iran As Currency Plunges To New Lows:

An Iranian man checks the rates of foreign currencies at a currency exchange bureau in central Tehran on Sept. 29. The Iranian currency lost nearly one-third of its value in a day over the weekend.

Maryam Rahmanian/UPI/Landov

An Iranian man checks the rates of foreign currencies at a currency exchange bureau in central Tehran on Sept. 29. The Iranian currency lost nearly one-third of its value in a day over the weekend.

Large crowds of anxious Iranians gathered in Tehran on Sunday and Monday at foreign exchange offices — some of which had shuttered their doors — as Iran’s currency continues its free fall.

From Sunday to Monday, the rial lost nearly one-third of its value against the dollar — and the decline appears to have continued Tuesday.

Most economists say it’s the very tough economic and banking sanctions against Iran, as well as an embargo on Iranian oil sales, that are responsible for the currency collapse. Iran’s government is blaming currency speculators and what it’s calling “defrauders.”

The currency exchanges closed because traders had run out of dollars, which caused more panic among ordinary Iranians, says Hossein Askari, an expert on the Iranian economy who teaches at George Washington University.

“Cab drivers in Tehran are turning in their rials for dollars, because they say to themselves, it’s better that we do it now than wait until tomorrow,” Askari says. “And if that mentality takes hold, it’s over.”

The panic and blame game are adding to the pressure that weakens the rial even more, says Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of economics at Virginia Tech.

“When a situation like this happens, people who need dollars now will have to buy at a very high rate, because others are basically hoarding their dollars,” Salehi-Isfahani says.

It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, as well: The more people hoard their dollars — a natural impulse — the weaker the rial becomes, and the more panicked the people become.

(..)

(Via NPR….)

Zakaria’s take on “A New Middle East”

Very good article in latest Time, wrapping up the past and present in the Middle East.

The crux of it:

Ever since the end of the cold War, the U.S. has been the dominant and unrivaled power in the Middle East. That situation is changing, not because another great power is entering the region but because the Arabs are becoming more independent, unlikely to ally themselves submissively to any outside patron. Egypt’s decision to establish relations with Iran and Hamas is one part of this trend. Washington cannot change it, nor should it try. This is the new, democratic Arab world.

[..] Zbigniew Brzezinski pointed out to me that if you go back to 1975, the U.S. was closely allied with all four major states in the region — Iran, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Today every one of those relationships is troubled. But that is a sign of the strange nature of the U.S.’s regional dominance. We were allied with regimes — like those of the Shah of Iran, Egypt’s dictators and the Turkish military — that could not last as the winds of modernity swept by.

Now Washington will have to make alliances with a more modern, democratic, populist Middle East but one where its ties will be more real and more stable. Just as it moved its support from South Korean and Taiwanese dictators to democrats, from Pinochet and Marcos to the democratic forces in Chile and the Philippines, it will now have to find a way to shift support from the princes of the Arab world to the people. It is a difficult journey but a vital one.

Full story..

Latecomer.. Syria.

More unrest and sparks of democratic revolutions in the Middle East, this time in Syria. And violent crack-downs quickly followed.

From left: Syria, Damascus and Daraa.

From Al-Jazeera:

Syrian security forces have opened fire on anti-government protesters in the city of Sanamin near Daraa, killing at least 20 people, according to one witness.

“There are more than 20 martyrs …. they [security forces] opened fire haphazardly,” the witness told Al Jazeera.

Rula Amin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Damascus, said Syrian forces apparently fired after protesters set fire to a statue of the late president, Hafer al-Assad.

More.

Cameron touring the Middle East.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has done an extensive trip through the Middle East this week, bonding with old and new regimes in the region..

Cameron and Sultan Qaboos..

From flickr:

On Monday 21 February 2011 Prime Minister David Cameron embarked on a tour of the Middle East with the aim of encouraging political reform, boosting trade and strengthening security ties.

More pics..

Iranian warships into the Mediterranean.

Conflicting reports – but two warships are said to have passed through the Suez canal ahead of schedule, with Egyptian approval – and heading for a syrian port in the Mediterranean.

Iranian warships set to sail by the coast of Israel.. (Ill.photo)

Israeli FM Lieberman calls the developments “yet another provocation”, while PM Netanyahu stated that “[..] Iran is trying to take advantage of the situation that has arisen and broaden its influence by transferring two warships via the Suez Canal”.

Full story..