via Lobe Log

U.S., allies in Gulf naval exercise as Israel, Iran face off”: Reuters reports on the mineclearing exercise scheduled to take place in the coming days in the Strait of Hormuz:

Publicly announced in July, the operation, known as IMCMEX-12, focuses on clearing mines that Tehran, or guerrilla groups, might deploy to disrupt tanker traffic, notably in the Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula.

…. However, it was a clearly deliberate demonstration of the determination on the part of a broad coalition of states to counter any attempt Iran might make to disrupt Gulf shipping in response to an Israeli or U.S. strike on its nuclear facilities – a form of retaliation Iran has repeatedly threatened.

Israeli PM makes appeal to US voters: Elect president willing to draw ‘red line’ with Iran”: Though some commentators judged that Netanyahu’s Meet the Press appearance was meant to dissociate himself from Republican criticism of the Obama Administration, the Associated Press did not accept that Netanyahu’s appearance was aimed at smoothing over the animosity between him and the president:

His remarks were an impassioned election-season plea from a world leader who insists he doesn’t want to insert himself into U.S. politics and hasn’t endorsed either candidate. But visibly frustrated by U.S. policy under President Barack Obama, the hawkish Israeli leader took advantage of the week’s focus on unrest across the Muslim world and America’s time-honored tradition of the Sunday television talk shows to appeal to Americans headed to the polls in less than two months.

Ali Gharib writes at the Daily Beast that with this appearance, Netanyahu is still trying to force the US to accept his definition of a “red line”:

This flap has not been about imposing a red line, but about shifting it—from actual weapons production to the capability to produce weapons—something elucidated even in the pages of the neoconservative Weekly Standard. Meet the Press host David Gregory asked U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice about it. Why, in an otherwise tough interview, he didn’t ask Netanyahu to expound the distinction is beyond me.

Ambassador Susan Rice: U.S. Not ‘Impotent’ in Muslim World”: The US Ambassador to the UN told ABC’s Jake Tapper that the protests in Libya and other Muslims countries such as Egypt, Sudan and Yemen, were not evidence of a US decline in influence in these states:

I [Tapper] … asked Rice, “President Obama pledged to repair America’s relationships with the Muslim world. Why does the U.S. seem so impotent? And why is the U.S. even less popular today in some of these Muslim and Arab countries than it was four years ago?”

“We’re not impotent, we’re not even less popular, to challenge that assessment,” Rice said in response. “What happened this week in Cairo, in Benghazi and many other parts of the region was a result, a direct result, of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated, that the U.S. government had nothing to do with, which we have made clear is reprehensible and disgusting.”

Rice further denied that the embassy storming in Libya was pre-planned to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary, a point which the Washington Post says contradicts Libyan claims.

Revolutionary Guard Chief Holds Press Conference”: Al-Monitor runs a summary translation of remarks made by Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a widely-publicized Tehran speech. Jafari discussed the prescence of Iranian advisors in Syria but avoided making a firm commitment to the military defense of Assad’s government:

Regarding Syria, Jafari made a number of revealing comments. He said, “everyone knows the corps (sepah) had and has a unit by the name of the Islamic Movements, formed to help the oppressed and export the revolution, and which works in this direction. From the time the Qods force was formed, the goal of this force was the defence of innocent nations, particularly Muslims. A number of the Qods forces are present in Syria, but this isn’t the same as a military presence in this country.”

He continued, “if we compare the presence with Arab and non-Arab countries we will see that Iran doesn’t have such a presence. We are helping intellectually and advising Syria as a resistance group, as the Supreme Leader also indicated and Iran is proud of this issue and the help it is providing for it. The corps will partake in any kind of intellectual assistance or even economic support, but it does not have a military presence and this is at a point where some countries are not refraining from terror[ism] in this country. We of course forcefully condemn this matter, and don’t accept it.”

When Jafari was asked whether Iran would support Syria militarily in the event of a military attack, given the security agreement between the two countries he replied: “this issue depends of the circumstances. I can now say with assurance in the event of a military attack against Syria, whether Iran will also support militarily is unclear, and it completely depends on the circumstances.”

The Innocence Protests Expose Deeper Tensions in Yemen”: TIME provides some context for the storming of the US embassy in Yemen, a country where the US (alongside Saudi Arabia) is participating in a Yemeni government counterinsurgency campaign, which is highly reliant on drone strikes, against Yemeni Islamists and elements of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP):

It would be naive to think that Thursday’s infiltration and wholesale destruction of one of the most, if not the most, highly secured buildings in the country was the product of a few hundred angry protesters. A fuller explanation seems to lie in the capital’s tense environment, where rival elites are jockeying for power in an uncertain political landscape.

…. On the eve of the U.S. embassy attack, the President dismissed stalwart Saleh loyalist Major General Abdul Wahab al-Anesi from his powerful posts as director of the Presidential Office and chairman of the National Security Bureau, as well as sacked four pro-Saleh governors across the country.

The following morning, CSF (Central Security Force) forces under the command of Saleh’s nephew Yahya were pictured at a checkpoint outside the embassy signaling the mob of angry protesters to enter the premises. Video footage of the waning moments of the embassy attack showed exhilarated rioters embracing a CSF soldier before sprinting out of the compound.