Monday, February 23, 2015

Music Video - Pekhawar kho Pekhawar de kana - Irfan khan

Pashto Music Video - NUN PA DI HUJRA KI

Pashto Music - Monga Da Khyber Zalmi

Pashto Music - Khudaya walay - Takkar

Pashto Music - Fazal Malik - Meena Meena Meena Bus

Turkish Music Video - Demet Akalın - Türkan

Questions persist over Süleyman Şah tomb abandonment in Syria

As more details emerge about Turkey's extraction of its troops guarding the Tomb of Süleyman Şah -- the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire -- in northern Syria, it's still not clear whether Turkey launched its military operation alone or with the help and/or permission of the US, Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Although Turkish government officials are trying to present the abandonment of the tomb as a military success, several reports and opposition politicians in Turkey have questioned the reasons behind the military operation dubbed “Operation Shah Euphrates.”

Turkey launched a military operation late on Saturday to bring back 38 troops guarding the tomb -- the only Turkish territory that is not attached to the rest of the country. While the operation signaled the apparent collapse of Turkey's Syria policy under the threat of the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), it was hailed as a success by the government.

İbrahim Kalın, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Monday that the military operation was launched to counter a possible attack on the Turkish troops there. Kalın's defence of the operation as a righteous move conflicts with remarks delivered last summer by officials, including President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu had said that any attack on Süleyman Şah would be considered an attack against Turkish territory and would warrant retaliation.

"With this operation, our government has removed the risk of a possible attack on the tomb and the military post, and of endangering the lives of our soldiers," Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

Kalın also denied the reports that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) helped Turkey's cross-border operation into Syria, calling the PYD a terrorist organization. He also denied that Turkey has an agreement with ISIL in regards to moving the tomb to a different location.
Syria's People's Protection Units (YPG) claimed over the weekend that Turkish officials sought the YPG's assistance to rescue troops. The YPG is a Kurdish militia group affiliated with the PYD that Turkey considers a terrorist group. PYD is also an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Murat Karayılan, a senior PKK leader, claimed on Monday that Turkey informed the PYD and YPG about its military operation in advance. Karayılan said there is no military success or victory for Turkey as the operation was done in cooperation with local Kurds. He added that if Turkey wants to develop “diplomatic ties” with Kurds, “this recent help” would be a good start.
Karayılan stated that the YPG opened a safe corridor for Turkish tanks going to rescue Turkish troops, while YPG vehicles escorted the tanks.
Fighters from the YPG reportedly created a five-kilometer long corridor while Turkish units entered the Rojava Canton of Kobani through the Mürşitpınar border gate on route to the Tomb of Süleyman Şah.

He also argued that the government must have had an agreement with ISIL about the operation given that ISIL let Turkish troops go to the tomb without any incident.

On Sunday, a Turkish security source quoted by Reuters said the operation was conducted via the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani with the support of local Kurdish authorities.

Hasip Kaplan, a lawmaker for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), also claimed that there was military cooperation between the Turkish military and the YPG who control Kobani.
"Turkish forces and the YPG, which have been at war for the past 30 years, were part of the same operation for the first time. This is a milestone," Kaplan was quoted as saying on the Hürriyet daily's website. Kaplan also said the tomb's new site is located in an area ruled by the "Kobani Canton."

Kalın reiterated statements made by Prime Minister Davutoğlu, saying Turkey informed its allies about the operation and sent a diplomatic note to the Syrian regime about the operation. However, he said the veracity of the claims from some circles suggesting that Turkey contacted, coordinated and cooperated with local Kurdish authorities was “out of the question.”

“This entire operation was the decision of the Turkish Republic and was conducted via its own facilities and abilities,” Kalın said.

Regarding claims that Turkey moved the tomb of Süleyman Şah in northern Syria to a place under Kurdish control, Kalın said it is hard to say who controls what area amidst the extremely fragile security situation in Syria.

Kalın said the location of the newly designated burial place is being referred to as Syrian Eşme, which is reportedly across the border from the Eşmeler village in Şanlıurfa's Birecik district, and is under the protection of the Turkish Republic.

“We don't see any problems or the possibility of clashes there,” Kalın said.

In a statement read out on state TV on Sunday, the Syrian government said the operation was an act of “flagrant aggression,” but Kalın dismissed the statement saying that Syrian authorities had lost all legitimacy. According to the Syrian government, the Turkish government informed the Syrian consulate in İstanbul about the operation but did not wait for Syria's agreement.

Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz on Monday informed Parliament of the operation, calling it a “success.” Yılmaz said Turkey has not lost territory as some critics suggested and added that the tomb's new location is within walking distance from Turkey.
Yılmaz dismissed the suggestion that Turkey has given up its sovereignty rights over the Turkish territory in Syria as a result of the move, saying that the operation was done to protect the Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb against the threat of ISIL.
“Today no one should question why we have taken measures to protect our troops against a threat. No one should test Turkey's determination to protect its territory and the lives of Turks,” said Yılmaz.

Prime Minister Davutoğlu slammed the opposition on Monday for criticizing the government for withdrawing from the Turkish territory in Syria, saying the night of the withdrawal operation was an honor for the Turkish government and that the opposition's remarks would go down in history as being utterly shameful.

In his remarks at a ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) gathering in Ankara, Davutoğlu said that he followed the reactions from the opposition with astonishment.

“There are some moments when nations are tested. The stances taken during these moments will be marks of honor or black marks that a government will carry forever. The night linking Saturday to Sunday was a night of honor for us. But the comments that the opposition made on Sunday were black marks that will go down in history,” Davutoğlu said.

The prime minister accused the opposition of using the same language as the Syrian regime and “foreign actors” -- a phrase he didn't elaborate on -- instead of praising this “page in history.”

During his address, Davutoğlu said the Turkish military had displayed its success to the world with the operation and that Ankara did not seek permission or assistance from any country or group.

“We don't [need to] ask permission for an operation conducted to protect our rights regarding international law, our nation and our historical heritage. We don't [need to] ask for help or support from anywhere,” Davutoğlu said.
However, the Taraf daily also reported on Monday that the military operation was launched in cooperation with the US. According to Taraf, the US has been working on creating an energy corridor to transport Iraqi and Syrian oil and has been asking Turkey for the last 11 months to move the tomb to another place in Syria. After Turkey accepted the US plan, the US and YPG assisted Turkey in the operation, the report claimed.

In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu talked with US Secretary of State John Kerry, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Sunday, informing them about Turkey's military operation, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
According to the Hürriyet daily, Kerry expressed his condolences over the death of a soldier in an accident during Turkey's military operation. Turkish soldier Halit Avcı died during the operation on Sunday due to a heavy tank lid hitting his head while he attempted to film the operation. “The US and Turkey are in close and ongoing coordination on developments in Syria, including intelligence and information sharing,” said a senior US State Department official on Sunday, the Hürriyet reported.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Yalova deputy Muharrem İnce mocked the government on Monday saying that for a change he will congratulate the government, this time for the military operation to “give up” Turkish territory. He said running away also requires bravery and the government was very brave to abandon the Süleyman Şah tomb. He also criticized the government for attempting to turn this abandonment into a public relations tactic.

HDP co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, also criticized the government, saying that the government's presentation of the military operation as a “victory” is not right.

“As we have seen once again on the Süleyman Şah issue, the government's Syrian policy has been built on faulty foreign policies,” said Demirtaş, speaking to journalists on Monday. He also criticized the government for not taking a clear position against ISIL as they are a threat to Turkey.
“It is clear now that ISIL is in a position to threaten Turkey. I believe it will be even a bigger threat to Turkey from now on. The Turkish government should take a healthy stand against ISIL,” said Demirtaş.

In the meantime, a source from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Today's Zaman on Monday that the Turkish General Staff had last year suggested that government officials evacuate the tomb due to the threat of ISIL and plant landmines around the tomb after withdrawing the Turkish troops.
According to the source, Turkish General Staff officials told the government that there was a risk of ISIL invading the tomb and that if it happened Turkey would have to get involved in a war inside Syria, which could become a protracted ordeal.

Turkish regime gathered terrorists from many regions to make Syria a base for their terrorism

Syria’s permanent envoy to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said on Monday the Turkish regime has gathered takfiri mercenaries and criminal terrorists who are thirsty for bloods from many regions in the world to arm, train and finance them to establish their alleged state and make Syria a base for their terrorism from where they set off to the neighboring countries and the whole world.
“Training foreign mercenaries in camps, supervised by the US Pentagon in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan and sending them through borders to fight the Syrian state is a flagrant violation of the simplest UN principles and an unjustifiable breach by the US to Security Council resolutions No. 2170, 2178 and 2199,” al-Jaafari added at a security Council session on protecting the international peace and security.

Lieberman: Netanyahu can't advise on Iran - he couldn't even defeat Hamas


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not do a good enough job defeating Hamas to be able to advise others on how to deal with Iran, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday.
He was referring to Netanyahu's controversial March 3 speech before both houses of Congress, which he is expected to devote to the specter of a nuclear Iran.
"It's impossible to speak about Iran when we don't know how to resolve the problem with Hamas," Lieberman said during a visit to Sderot, one of the main targets of Hamas rockets. "It's impossible to preach to the world about how to fight terrorism if we are unable to defeat [Hamas], to win and overthrow terrorism. Terrorists need to get the death penalty. … Give an order to the Israel Defense Forces that the next operation will be the final operation, and will end with destroying the Hamas regime."
The comments appear to be an attempt to outflank Netanyahu from the right and win votes for Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party in the March 17 national election. This marks a change from the last election, in 2013, when the two leaders presented a united front because they were running on a joint ticket.
Netanyahu has consistently been hawkish on Iran, and Lieberman's comments indicate the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman is aiming at the prime minister's point of pride by arguing that Netanyahu is not as strong a leader as he purports to be, even on the issue on which he is most outspoken.
In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Lieberman compared Netanyahu unfavorably to former prime ministers Menachem Begin and Ehud Olmert. Begin authorized Israel's attack on a nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981, and Olmert was premier when, according to foreign news reports, Israel destroyed aSyrian nuclear reactor in 2007.
"What I can say is that in the two previous instances, when Begin decided to destroy the Iraqi reactor, there were not speeches and there wasn't any public or political struggle or debate, or any leaks," Lieberman said in the television interview. "We woke up one morning and there was no reactor, without speeches and without stories. Also regarding what we read in the media about Syria."

Could Russia join the fight against ISIS by arming Libya?

Providing military aid to Libya to help fight ISIS extremists could mark the start of Moscow’s new strategy to prevent a spillover of radical Islam to the Caucasus. It might also be part of a broader plan to expand Moscow’s naval presence in the Mediterranean.
Almost four years after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, Libya is mired in another civil war. The internationally recognized government temporarily based in Tobruq in eastern Libya is fighting against the mostly Islamist New General National Congress based in the capital Tripoli and the affiliated groups of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS). The war has been largely ignored in the world media but the country grabbed headlines again when ISIS posted a gruesome video online in which they purportedly executed 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
Following Egypt’s recent airstrikes against Islamic State’s positions in Libya, the debate about international support to the Libyan government was taken to the UN. Several world powers, including Libya itself, rejected foreign military intervention in the county, and the option currently under discussion is lifting the arms embargo that was imposed against the Gaddafi regime in 2011. Jordan recently circulated a draft resolution at the Security Council proposing to lift the embargo, among other urgent measures.
Commenting on the events in Libya and the prospects of the UN resolution, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that Moscow would seriously consider such a document as well as the possibility of arming the Libyan government against the Islamic State.
"We are ready to discuss possible ways out of this situation, including through a simplified system of arms supplies to the Libyan government,” he was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.
Asked whether Russia would consider participating in the anti-ISIS campaign in Libya, Churkin said that “from the political point of view” he would not rule this out, but the decision would need to be made by the President. The statement by the Russian diplomat about a possible concerted effort against the Islamic State in Libya signals a major shift in Moscow’s strategy. Previously concerned about the spillover of ISIS extremism to the Caucasus but uninvolved in anti-ISIS campaigns in Iraq and Syria, now Russia finds itself in an unusual position where its participation may be crucial to solving the crisis.
How Russia could arm Libya
Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting on Feb. 18, the Libyan Foreign Minister said that his country is vulnerable to extremism and insisted that the authorities are seeking urgent support. If the UN Security Council votes to lift the arms embargo against Libya, it will pave the way for direct supply of military equipment to Libya in which Russia could play a key role.
Before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya and Russia had signed numerous arms contracts worth between $4 billion and $10 billion. After the 2011 revolution, the new government embarked on reviewing these deals but due to UN Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted on March 17, 2011, that imposed an arms embargo, none of the contracts were implemented.
Previously unreported details of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Egypt on Feb. 9-10 suggest that the Libyan Army’s Chief of Staff arrived in Cairo the same day and met with the Russian delegation and Egyptian authorities. According to some unconfirmed reports Russia and Libya then signed an arms transfer agreement, which may be enacted once the embargo is over.
Russia is likely to become Libya’s major military equipment provider because under a 2008 deal Moscow cancelled Tripoli’s $4.5 billion debt in exchange for contracts for Russian defense companies that the Libyan government is yet to deliver on.
Libya’s intention to purchase Russian-produced military equipment is quite obvious. The National Army is almost entirely trained on weapons that the Soviet Union supplied to Tripoli throughout the 1980s – thus it has necessary expertise to immediately begin using these arms. The special advisor of the Libyan parliament’s president who visited Moscow on Feb. 5 said that his government would like to purchase Russia’s newest military equipment and have Russian specialists train Libyan military personnel.
Between 2008 and 2010 Moscow and the Gaddafi government discussed several arms deals whose details were not fully disclosed. According to them, Libya would purchase a number of SU-35 and SU-30MK fighter jets, as well as KA-52, KA-28, MI-17 and MI-35M helicopters. Gaddafi also agreed to buy S-300PMU2 air defense systems, T-90 tanks, TOR-M1 missile systems as well as a big number of firearms. It remains unclear which of these weapon systems made it to the new contract, if any, but not all of them would be effective in the fight against extremists.
The lifting of the arms embargo may be considered a dangerous step at this point, because it may allow the unrecognized New General National Congress that rules in the western Libya to get access to military equipment as well. The UNSC resolution 2174 (2014) allows, however, the sale of armaments to internationally recognized authorities, which is the government in Tobruq, with the approval of the UNSC Sanctions Committee. Russia could request such an authorization at the Security Council without having the embargo lifted altogether.
How Libya fits into Russia’s naval strategy for the Mediterranean
Speaking to journalists at the UN, Russian Ambassador Churkin said that Moscow could take part in an operation off the coast of Libya to prevent the delivery of weapons to the radicals by sea. "If Russia could take part in the operation off Somalias coast, why cant it take part in an operation in the Mediterranean?” he argued.
In 2008 Russian warships joined international efforts to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. As per the UN resolution 1838 (2008) allowing states to deploy naval vessels in high seas near Somalia to fight piracy, Russia sent three of its warships to patrol the waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa and escort civilian vessels.        
The Russian navy has been particularly active in the Mediterranean in the past few years. Moscow claims that it is close to having permanent naval presence there looking to extend its influence in the Middle East. A task force made up of warships from the Northern, Baltic and Black Sea fleets conducts regular exercises in the Mediterranean attempting to reach the same potential the Soviet 5th Naval Squadron permanently based in the region once had.
The government in Tobruq is specifically concerned about the spread of terrorism to rebel-held port cities in western Libya and the illegal arms distribution all along the coast. The Russian warships’ mission would be to secure a naval blockade of Libyan territorial waters and prevent the spread of weapons to extremists.
In 2008 Moscow and Tripoli were to set up a Russian naval base in Benghazi, but the plans did not come to fruition. Now that Russia’s naval facility in Syria’s Tartus is unlikely to be upgraded to a fully operational naval base in the near future, Moscow is on the lookout for another location in the Mediterranean.
Restoring relations with Libya in that sense is a win-win for both sides: The Libyan government would get much-needed military equipment to fight off rebel and ISIS attacks while Russia would expand the client portfolio for its defense companies as well as possibly establish a long-term naval presence in Libyan port cities, giving its navy broader access to the Mediterranean.

Putin Surveys the Map as He Ponders Next Move on Ukraine

Sergei Ilnitsky / ReutersFor Putin, who denies sending troops and weapons to east Ukraine, the map of Russia and its "near abroad" is more comforting than a year ago.
In Russia, Vladimir Putin likes to portray himself as the savior of the nation. In Europe and the United States he has come to be seen as a threat to the new world order.
What the Russian president does next in Ukraine is key to the country's future, as well as that of Europe and his own.
Putin looks to have the upper hand at this stage despite Western economic sanctions that are hurting Russia's economy, as Ukraine is rapidly becoming all but ungovernable for its pro-Western leaders, undermining its drive to join mainstream Europe.
With Crimea in Russian hands for almost a year and eastern Ukraine controlled by separatists loyal to him, Putin could allow the rebels to try to seize more territory with what the West says is Russian military support.
Kiev fears a new rebel offensive is imminent on Ukraine's Sea of Azov coast, which could open a corridor to Crimea.
Putin's next steps will be determined by what he thinks is best for him, and not necessarily by what Western critics see as expansionist policies or what his admiring electorate sees as the defense of national interests.
"All options are open," said a senior Western diplomat in Moscow. "But ultimately it is all about Putin keeping power and he will do what he has to do to achieve this."
The diplomat, with close knowledge of the negotiations that led to the peace deal reached by the German, French, Ukrainian and Russian leaders in the Belarussian capital Minsk on Feb. 12, saw only a slim chance of a good outcome for Ukraine.
The best possible outcome, he said, was a return to the pre-conflict situation of 2013. Others included a long, intense war, or a "frozen" or low-level conflict in the east that makes Ukraine impossible to govern or tears it apart.
The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.
"Vladimir Putin wants Ukraine not to be part of Europe, and he is succeeding in doing so," Republican Senator John McCain said in a television interview on Sunday.

Putin's Map

For Putin, who denies sending troops and weapons to east Ukraine, the map of Russia and its "near abroad" is more comforting than a year ago.
Crimea has been reclaimed, and Ukraine's drive to join Europe's mainstream and possibly NATO seems more problematic now that Moscow has shown how far it will go to prevent this. Russian-speaking east Ukraine has not become part of Russia, but is now more in Moscow's sphere of influence than Kiev's.
Russia also dominates South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway regions of Georgia. Moscow recognized their independence after a five-day war with Tbilisi, which Russia won in 2008, and has held sway there ever since.
Moscow signed a border agreement with South Ossetia last week, a move that Tbilisi said moved Russia closer to annexing the territory, and forged a "strategic partnership" agreement with Abkhazia last November.
Further afield, Russian forces have been deployed as "peacekeepers" in the Transnistria region of Moldova since intervening to back separatists more than 20 years ago.
These may or may not be patterns for Putin to follow although the same Kremlin adviser, Vladislav Surkov, has a role in policy-making for the Georgian regions as well as for Ukraine. The destabilization of Ukraine, making it impossible to govern and take into NATO, may be preferable to conquering it.
Some Western officials see Putin's ambitions in other parts of the former Soviet Union.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said last week Putin posed a "real and present danger" to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Valdis Dombrovskis, vice president of the European Union's executive European Commission, said Russia was redrawing the map of Europe by force.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Russia was "undermining international diplomacy and multilateral institutions — the foundations of our modern global order."

U.S. Hegemony

Putin is challenging what he sees as U.S. hegemony and a world order shaped around Washington's interests, where he believes the United States sets certain standards for others but does not adhere to them itself.
But more is at stake for Putin and Russia in Ukraine than in any other former Soviet republic: he says he sees it as one nation with Russia and the cradle of Russian civilization.
A report released by the EU Committee of Britain's House of Lords signaled the European Union had not grasped this in the buildup to the crisis, identifying a "catastrophic misreading" of the mood in the Kremlin.
Sergei Karaganov, head of Russia's independent Council for Foreign and Defense Policy think tank, also believes the West got it wrong after the Cold War ended by failing to understand Russia's concerns over Ukraine, and particularly that it might join NATO.
The consequences, he says, include a turn toward a strong leader in Russia and disenchantment with Western-style democracy and values.
But, like Putin, he says policy changes must come from Europe — not from Russia — to reduce the chances of conflict.
His comments underline that, a year since the overthrow of a Moscow-leaning president in Ukraine that culminated in the separatist rebellions in the east, the gulf between Moscow and the West is as dangerously wide as ever.
"After winning the Cold War, the whole of Europe is losing it now," Karaganov wrote in Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper last week. "And it is entering the next phase of international relations disunited, again on the verge of confrontation or even a major war."

Putin: France, Germany genuinely want to find compromise over E. Ukraine

The leaders of France and Germany genuinely want to find a compromise that would help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his latest interview.
Speaking to Rossiya 1 TV channel on the conflict and the breakthrough of the Minsk agreement, Putin said that “it seemed to me [the leaders of France and Germany], have a genuine desire to find such compromise solutions that would lead to the final settlement [of the conflict]...”
He cited the Minsk protocol which includes the decentralization of power in Ukraine and a “reference explaining what it implies.” The authors of the reference are "our German and French partners,” he said, adding that this speaks of their sincerity in finding a compromise.
“I had the impression that our partners have more trust in us than distrust, and in any case believe in our sincerity,” Putin said on Monday.
Putin once again underlined the importance of implementing the Minsk agreement reached on February 12 by the Normandy Four – Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany. “If the Minsk agreement will be implemented, I’m sure the situation will gradually normalize,” he said.
While answering a question about the possibility of Russia waging war with Ukraine, Putin said that “such an apocalyptic scenario is hardly possible, and I hope this will never happen.”
Putin also dismissed as “complete nonsense”claims made by Poroshenko and the head of the Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), Valentin Nalyvaychenko, that Russia’s presidential aide Vladislav Surkov was involved in tragic events during last year’s protests in Kiev.
Speaking on Crimea, the president urged the international community to respect the region’s choice to rejoin Russia.
“With regard to nationality, the residents of Crimea have made their choice [when they voted to join Russia] and it should be respected. Russia cannot treat it otherwise,” he said.
Commenting on Poroshenko’s statement that Kiev intends to regain Crimea, Putin said that such actions have a “revenge nature.” He stressed that as a large European country, Ukraine should focus on“strengthening the economy and social sector, and mend relations with the southeastern part of the country.”

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Emboldened Obama embraces presidential power


Barack Obama is expected to issue the third and most significant veto of his presidency Tuesday, embracing raw executive power in the twilight of his administration.
"This is even better than the veto pen," said a steely Obama, gripping a silvery hockey stick gifted to him in the midst of another fight with Republicans.
Combative and confident, it is just the sort of defiant tone that Obama has adopted since Republicans seized control of both houses of Congress.
Since last November, Obama has threatened to veto more than a dozen Republican-backed bills -- from tougher sanctions on Iran to rules undercutting his hallmark healthcare reforms.
On Tuesday he is likely to make good on another veto promise, rejecting a bill pushing for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada to the United States.
While flexing his veto power Obama has also embraced the use of controversial executive orders, which bypass hostile legislators to make law by decree.
In one of over 200 orders so far, Obama protected five million illegal immigrants from deportation, leading to a fierce legal challenge from Republicans.
There is a "clear political imperative" for Obama's more muscular use of presidential power, said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University professor.
"The opposition is strong, time is limited and you can't do much pro-actively.
"It's important for Democrats not to end the last two years (of Obama's term) with Republicans not only controlling Congress, but doing a lot."
- No Franklin Roosevelt -
Yet despite the tough talk, Obama is a relative neophyte when it comes to the ultimate expressions of presidential political power.
Before Keystone, the 44th commander-in-chief used his veto power only twice in six years, to reject rules on notarizations and a defense funding resolution that had become obsolete.
That is fewer vetoes than any president since James Garfield, who was in office in 1881 for 200 days -- close to half of them spent (unsuccessfully) trying to recover from an assassin's bullet.
According to Senate records, you have to go back two centuries -- to the age of the Seminole wars, the first Mississippi steam boats and the presidency of founding father James Monroe -- to find a two-term president who has issued fewer vetoes.
At the same time, Obama has averaged around 33 executive orders a year, the lowest rate since Grover Cleveland's first term ended in 1889, according to the American Presidency Project.
"I think there is genuine hesitance about overreaching," said Zelizer, pointing to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, when he repeatedly voiced concerns about George W. Bush's use of executive power.
"He also ultimately believed that he would be able to get the legislative process moving. It took him a long time to realize that is not the case."
Obama's low veto tally could also be a sign of his political success.
For most of Obama's time in the Oval Office, Democrats had a strangle hold on Congress.
"In Obama's first two years in office, his party had big majorities in the House and Senate," said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"Given how ideologically similar Obama and congressional Democrats are, Congress generally wasn't going to pass something through both houses that was not also supported by the president."
Even until last November Obama had the buffer of a Democrat-controlled Senate, which prevented Republican-backed bills from landing on the Resolute desk.
Minority lawmakers' willingness to use procedural rules to stall legislation may also have helped Obama avoid executive action, according to Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution.
"I suspect that the minority's increased willingness to filibuster majority party priorities in the Senate also limits the frequency of veto bait sent up to the White House," she said.
With Republicans now in control of both houses, Obama could yet emulate Bush, who vetoed 11 bills in his last two years following the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006.
But even if Obama embarks on a spree of orders and vetoes, he cannot come close to Franklin Roosevelt, a fellow Democrat, who used his veto 635 times and issued over 3,700 executive orders.

Historic US-Iran nuclear deal could be taking shape

Edging toward a historic compromise, the U.S. and Iran reported progress Monday on a deal that would clamp down on Tehran's nuclear activities for at least 10 years but then slowly ease restrictions on programs that could be used to make atomic arms.
Officials said there were still obstacles to overcome before a March 31 deadline, and any deal will face harsh opposition in both countries. It also would be sure to further strain already-tense U.S. relations with Israel, whose leaders oppose any agreement that doesn't end Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to strongly criticize the deal in an address before Congress next week.
Still, a comprehensive pact could ease 35 years of U.S-Iranian enmity — and seems within reach for the first time in more than a decade of negotiations.
"We made progress," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said as he bade farewell to members of the American delegation at the table with Iran. More discussions between Iran and the six nations engaging it were set for next Monday, a senior U.S. official said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the sides found "a better understanding" at the negotiating table.
Western officials familiar with the talks cited movement but also described the discussions as a moving target, meaning changes in any one area would have repercussions for other parts of the negotiation.
The core idea would be to reward Iran for good behavior over the last years of any agreement, gradually lifting constraints on its uranium enrichment and slowly easing economic sanctions.
Iran says it does not want nuclear arms and needs enrichment only for energy, medical and scientific purposes, but the U.S. fears Tehran could re-engineer the program to produce the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.
The U.S. initially sought restrictions lasting up to 20 years; Iran has pushed for less than a decade. The prospective deal appears to be somewhere in the middle.
One variation being discussed would place at least a 10-year regime of strict controls on Iran's uranium enrichment. If Iran complied, the restrictions would be gradually lifted over the final five years.
One issue critics are certain to focus on: Once the deal expired, Iran could theoretically ramp up enrichment to whatever level it wanted.
Experts say Iran already could produce the equivalent of one weapon's worth of enriched uranium with its present operating 10,000 centrifuges. Several officials spoke of 6,500 centrifuges as a potential point of compromise, with the U.S. trying to restrict them to Iran's mainstay IR-1 model instead of more advanced machines.
However, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last year that his country needed to increase its output equivalent to at least 190,000 of its present-day centrifuges.
Under a possible agreement, Iran also would be forced to ship out most of the enriched uranium it produced or change it to a form that would be difficult to convert for weapons use. It takes about one ton of low-enriched uranium to process into a nuclear weapon, and officials said that Tehran could be restricted to an enriched stockpile of no more than about 700 pounds.
The officials represent different countries among the six world powers negotiating with Iran — the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the negotiations.
Formal relations between the U.S. and Iran, severed during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis in 1979, have progressively improved since moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013. Further reconciliation would help the West in a region where Iran holds considerable sway and the U.S. is increasingly involved in the struggle against Islamic extremists.
But even if the two sides agree to a preliminary deal in March and a follow-up pact in June, such a two-phase arrangement will face fierce criticism from Congress and Israel, both of which will argue it fails to significantly curb Tehran's nuclear weapons potential.
Israel was already weighing in.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that such a deal would represent "a great danger" to the Western world and said it "will allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state."
In Washington, President Barack Obama has been trying to keep Congress from passing new sanctions against Iran that he says could scuttle further diplomacy and rekindle the threat of a new Mideast war.
Iranian hardliners fearing a sellout of their country's nuclear program may also pressure Rouhani, although he appears secure as long as a deal is supported by Khamenei.
The U.N's International Atomic Energy Agency would have responsibility for monitoring, and any deal would depend on technical safeguards rather than Iranian guarantees.
The IAEA already is monitoring Iranian compliance with an interim agreement that came into force a year ago and has given Tehran good marks. Separately, it also oversees Tehran's nuclear programs to ensure they remain peaceful.
Its attempts to follow up on suspicions that Iran once worked on nuclear arms are deadlocked however, with Iran saying such allegations are based on phony evidence from the U.S. and Israel.
That stalled probe and other issues that the U.S. says must be part of any final deal could remain unresolved by June, opening any agreement to further criticism.
For the United States, the goal is to extend to at least a year the period that Iran would need to surreptitiously "break out" toward nuclear weapons development. Daryl Kimball of the Washington-based Arms Control Association said that with the IAEA's additional monitoring, the deal taking shape leaves "more than enough time to detect and disrupt any effort to pursue nuclear weapons in the future."
In exchange, Iran wants relief from sanctions crippling its economy and the U.S. is talking about phasing in such measures.