The Envoy

  • France said Tuesday it would introduce a new U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Syria, and implored Russia and China not to block the measure this time. The two countries vetoed a similar measure earlier this month.

    The new resolution "could stipulate an immediate cease-fire and access for humanitarian aid as well as renewing our support to the Arab League," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told French lawmakers Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

    France's plan to return to Security Council measures came as diplomats from the United States, Turkey and the Arab League blasted the Assad regime for committing atrocities. The condemnation happened during a debate on Syria held at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.

    More than 7,500 Syrians have been killed in the Syrian regime's assault on citizens during the 11th month crackdown, UN political chief Lynn Pascoe said.

    "Assad and his criminal cohort are waging a brutal campaign of slaughter, bombardment, torture and arrest that has already murdered thousands of women, men and children," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Esther Brimmer told the 47-member Geneva-based Council on Tuesday.

    [Slideshow: Syrian security forces attack rebels].

    Read More »from France calls for new cease-fire resolution to stop Syrian violence
  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrved at UK Supreme Court Feb. 3, 2012 to appeal his extradition to Sweden to face sex crimes charges. (AP)On Monday, the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks began to publish some five million alleged emails and internal documents obtained from the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. Hackers supposedly seized the firm's internal emails  in December.

    But despite WikiLeaks' breathless announcement of its latest data dump, many analysts question why the private firm's internal emails were of much value or interest anyway, since the firm examined mostly open-source information widely available in newspaper reports, think tank discussions and university political science departments.

    The released Stratfor emails, dating from July 2004 through December 2011, "reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations..." WikiLeaks wrote on its website. It named the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in addition to some large Fortune 500 companies as places Stratfor serviced. "The emails show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods," wrote WikiLeaks.

    Stratfor said in a statement Monday that some of the leaked documents and emails "may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic," Reuters reported. (Among the phoney emails released was one alleging that Stratfor's founder and CEO George Friedman had resigned, the firm's statement said. He has not.)

    While difficult to evaluate, some of the contentions in other released emails appeared questionable.

    For instance, one WikiLeaks released email is from a Stratfor analyst named Fred Burton, who responded to a 2010 New York Observer article on the Cordoba Initiative, the group behind the proposed ground zero mosque. The article alleged that some members of the group's board had ties to the CIA.

    "The Imam is an operational asset of the FBI," Burton allegedly wrote in the email to other Stratfor counter-terrorism analysts on Sept. 13, 2010.

    But a spokeswoman for the Cordoba Initiative told Yahoo News on Monday the claim is "grossly inaccurate" and reiterated "there is no validity to the statement."

    Read More »from WikiLeaks publishes intelligence firm Stratfor’s hacked emails, but analysts question their value

  • Russia's security services say they've foiled a plot by Chechen separatists to assassinate Russian leader Vladimir Putin, according to Russian media reports on Monday. The alleged hit job revelation comes a week ahead of Russian presidential elections that Putin is expected to easily win.

    Two suspects, reportedly acting under the leadership of Chechen warlord Doku Umar, "were arrested in Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Odessa after an accidental explosion Jan. 4 while they were trying to manufacture explosives at a rented apartment," the Associated Press reported Monday, citing Russian state television channel One. They were reportedly "preparing to kill Putin in Moscow immediately after Sunday's election."

    Russia watchers in Washington said while the timing of the public revelations of the hit plot may be "managed" by the Kremlin, they did not believe it likely that the charges were entirely trumped up to benefit Putin's presidential elections prospects.

    "It may be as simple as what takes place in every country in the world: By and large, governments try to manage the timing of information getting out to the public to their advantage," Matthew Rojansky, deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Yahoo News in an interview Monday. "The very benign interpretation is maybe they were waiting for the pieces to fall into place."

    The alleged would-be assassins were originally arrested by Ukraine's security forces in the city of Odessa following an investigation into an explosion in an Odessa apartment last month. Russian security services then conducted their own investigation, reports said.

    Ukraine's security services are unlikely to have ginned up the alleged assassination case in order to boost Putin's presidential aspirations, Rojansky said. "The idea that [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovich would do an electoral favor for's a stretch, I think," he said, adding that Yanukovich's relationship with the Russian leader has cooled over the past year over Putin's perceived overstepping into Ukrainian affairs.

    Read More »from Putin assassination plot foiled, Russian spy service says, though timing of revelation questioned


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