Archive | March 3rd, 2014

Palestinian woman killed by Zio-Nazi

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Times of Israel

A Gaza health official said a 50-year-old woman was shot and killed on the border with Israel, the morning after Israel said troops fired on Palestinians suspiciously approaching the boundary.

News reports Saturday claimed the woman, identified as Amna Qdaih, was shot for walking too close to the Israeli-Gaza security fence. She may have suffered mental illness, Gaza residents claimed.

The health official, Ashraf Al Kedra, said Qdaih’s body was retrieved Saturday morning and transferred to a hospital.

Gaza residents said there had been Israeli shooting in the area late Friday, but that the reason for it was unclear.

The Israeli military said soldiers spotted Palestinians approaching the border and called on them to stop. An IDF spokeswoman said when calls were ignored the troops fired warning shots in the air and later toward the Palestinians, at their legs, and that one was hit, Reuters reported.

Earlier the military said it carried out an airstrike in Gaza on a rocket launcher, ”to eliminate an imminent threat.”

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Anonymous Ukraine releases Klitschko e-mails showing treason

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Vitaly Klischko

Photo: EPA

Vitaly Klischko

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Anonymous Ukraine is battling the forces in Ukraine that are funded and directed from the West and attempting to overthrow the democratically elected government of the sovereign country of Ukraine.

Anonymous Ukraine is operating in what can only now be described as a war zone and the security measures they are forced to take are extreme. A member of Anonymous Ukraine who wishes to remain anonymous spoke to the Voice of Russia about the operations and the recent release of e-mails between Vitaly Klischko and the Lithuanian Presidential advisor. The e-mails show that Klitschko was intentionally planning to destabilize the country, is being instructed and funded from abroad and has his accounts in Germany.

Greetings citizens of the world. We are Anonymous Ukraine.

The Anonymous Hacktivist Collective worldwide is partially divided on the issue of Ukraine. This has to do with the western mass media propaganda and the conflicting reports that are coming out of the country. This is sad as some Anons are unknowingly supporting the dark forces at work in Ukraine. Members of Anonymous Ukraine are aware of the internal meddling by the United States, NATO and the European Union into the internal sovereign affairs of Ukraine. Anonymous Ukraine supports peace and the right of the people to self determination. The Bandera Nazis and fascist thugs that are beating and killing police and members of the security services of Ukraine do not represent the will or the wishes of the people of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine do not want European Union integration. The people of Ukraine do not want NATO on their territory. The people of Ukraine voted for President Yanukovich to lead them in fair and just democratic elections. The people of Ukraine plea to the President and to Russia for help in stopping the siege of Ukraine by Nazi thugs and murderous gangs. The people of Ukraine do not want to see their beloved capital Kiev occupied by Nazi killers and burned to the ground. The people of Ukraine want their independence to be recognized and be allowed to determine their own fate without pressure from US, NATO, European Union. The people of Ukraine want peace and want the Bandera Nazis to be stopped once and for all. Anonymous Ukraine does not like nor support what is happening in Ukraine now. The so-called opposition is trying to tear Ukraine apart. Anonymous Ukraine has released the e-mails of one of the leaders of the so called opposition and will continue to expose the moves by the west to subvert the sovereign country of Ukraine. The e mails released by Anonymous prove that Vitaly Klichko is a puppet of the West and is being financed through intermediaries in Lithuania. The e mails also prove that Klitchko has bank accounts in Germany and is receiving funding for his coup d’état from the West. We will continue fighting these puppets. The western puppet opposition leaders will hurl Ukraine into chaos. We appeal to the president of our country. The people of Ukraine urge you. President Yanukovich, to restore order and bring calm and stability and disperse the gangs of robbers and Nazis. Anonymous Ukraine will strike at all of the web resources of western hirelings and fascists. Anonymous Ukraine calls for Ukraine to be unified and independent. The government of Ukraine promoted the country’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions despite the reluctance of Ukrainian people. Ukrainian citizens realize that signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union will lead to the collapse of Ukrainian economy in the near future. We express our support to the people of our country. We want Ukrainian government and EU leadership to understand that people of Ukraine do not want their country to become a raw material donor to Europe. Ukraine must be free. We do not want to be dependent on other countries or organizations. Ukrainian people do not need a speculative Association Agreement with the European Union. Ukraine does not need to be a part of Russia-led Eurasian customs union. We do not need to be servants of NATO. Ukraine does not need European Union. Ukraine does not need NATO. Ukraine should not be anybody’s servant. We stand for independent Ukraine. We declare the continuation of Operation Independence. We will strike at the web resources of countries and organizations that pose a threat to freedom and independence of Ukraine!

Operation Independence continues… Expect us

We are Anonymous Ukraine.

We are Anonymous.

We are Legion.

We Do Not Forgive.

We Do Not Forget.

Expect Us.

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Can Washington overthrow three governments at the same time?

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by Thierry Meyssan

The power of a state is measured by its ability to defend itself and to attack on one or more fronts. In this context, Washington is trying for the first time to show it can overthrow three governments simultaneously: Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela. If it succeeds, no government would be henceforth able to resist it.

 

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Since when are revolutions supported by imperialism? (here: Maidan , Kiev).

Washington, which failed in 2011 to bomb Libya and Syria simultaneously, is now engaged in a new demonstration of its strength: organizing regime change in three states at the same time, in different regions of the world: Syria (CentCom), Ukraine (EuCom) and Venezuela (SouthCom).

To do this, President Obama has mobilized almost the entire National Security Council team.

First, Advisor Susan Rice and Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power. These two women are champions of “democratic” talk. They have for many years specialized in advocating interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of preventing genocide. But behind this generous rhetoric, they couldn’t care less about non-US lives as shown by Ms. Power during the chemical weapons crisis in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. The ambassador, who was aware of the innocence of the Syrian authorities, had gone to Europe with her husband to attend a film festival dedicated to Charlie Chaplin, while her government denounced a crime against humanity, the responsibility for which was placed upon President al Assad.

Then, the three regional co-ordinators: Philip Gordon ( Middle East and North Africa ), Karen Donfried (Europe and Eurasia ) and Ricardo Zuñiga ( Latin America).
• Phil Gordon (personal friend and translator of Nicolas Sarkozy) organized the sabotage of the Geneva 2 Peace Conference as long as the Palestinian issue is not settled to the U.S. liking. During the second session of the conference, while John Kerry spoke of peace, Gordon met with the heads of Jordanian, Qatari , Saudi and Turkish intelligence services in Washington to prepare for yet another attack. The plotters have gathered an army of 13,000 men, of whom only 1,000 were given brief military training, to drive tanks and take Damascus. The problem is that the column may be destroyed by the Syrian Army before arriving in the capital. But they fail to agree on how to defend it without distributing anti-aircraft weapons that could later be used against Israel.
• Karen Donfried is the former national intelligence officer for Europe. She has long led the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. Today, she manipulates the European Union to hide Washington interventionism in Ukraine. Despite the leak of a phone conversation involving Ambassador Victoria Nuland, she succeeded in convincing Europeans that the opposition in Kiev wanted to join them and was fighting for democracy. Nonetheless, more than half of the Maidan rioters are members of the Nazi party and brandish portraits of collaborator Stepan Bandera.
• Finally, Ricardo Zuñiga is the grandson of the namesake President of the National Party of Honduras who organized the coups of 1963 and 1972 in favor of General López Arellano. He directed the CIA station in Havana where he recruited and financed agents to form opposition to Fidel Castro. He mobilized the extreme Trotskyist Venezuelan left to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, accused of being a Stalinist.

The whole process is hyped under the leadership of one Dan Rhodes. This propaganda specialist has already written the official version of September 11, 2001, drafting the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. He managed to remove all traces of the military coup (power was removed from the hands of George W. Bush at about 10am and it was returned that evening; all the members of his cabinet and those of Congress were placed in secure bunkers “to ensure their safety”) so that we remember only the attacks.

In all three cases, the U.S. narrative is based on the same principles: accuse governments of killing their own citizens, qualify opponents as ’democratic’; impose sanctions against the “murderers” and ultimately operate coups.

Each time, the movement begins with a demonstration during which peaceful opponents are killed, and where both sides accuse each other of violence. In fact U.S. or NATO special forces placed on rooftops shoot at both the crowd and the police. This was the case in Daraa (Syria) in 2011, Kiev (Ukraine) and Caracas (Venezuela) this week. Alas for bad luck: autopsies in Venezuela show that two victims, one opponent and one pro-government, were killed by the same weapon.

Qualifying opponents as democratic activists is a simple game of rhetoric. In Syria, they are Takfirists supported by the worst dictatorship in the world, Saudi Arabia. In Ukraine, a few sincere pro-Europeans surrounded by many Nazis. In Venezuela, young Trotskyists from good families surrounded by goon squads. Everywhere the false U.S. opponent, John McCain, brings his support to true and false on site opponents.

Support for opponents rests with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This agency of the U.S. government falsely presents itself as an NGO funded by Congress. But it was created by President Ronald Reagan, in association with Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. It is headed by the neoconservative Carl Gershman and the daughter of General Alexander Haig (former Supreme Commander of NATO, then Secretary of State ), Barbara Haig. This is the NED (actually the State Department), which employs the “opposition” senator John McCain.

To this operating group, you must add the Albert Einstein Institute, an “NGO” funded by NATO. Created by Gene Sharp, it trained professional agitators from two bases: Serbia (Canvas) and Qatar (Academy of currency).

In all cases, Susan Rice and Samantha Power take on airs of outrage before imposing penalties, soon echoed by the European Union, while they are in fact the sponsors of the violence.

It remains to be seen whether the the coups will be successful. Which is far from being certain.

Washington is thus attempting to show the world it is still the master. To be more sure of itself, it launched the Ukrainian and Venezuelan operations during the Olympic Games in Sochi. It was certain that Russia would not move for fear of having its party upset by Islamist attacks. But Sochi ended this weekend. Now it’s Moscow’s turn to play.

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Crimean leader claims control, asks Putin for help

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Pro-Russian PM of Crimea puts all security forces under his order as tensions soar over Ukrainian republic’s resistance to new Kiev leadership

Times of Israel

The pro-Russian leader of Ukraine’s Crimea region claimed control of the military and police there Friday and appealed to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for help in keeping peace, sharpening the discord between the two Slavic neighbor countries.

It was the latest escalation following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president last week by a protest movement aimed at turning Ukraine toward the European Union and away from Russia.

Armed men described as Russian troops took control of key airports and a communications center in Crimea on Friday. Ukraine has accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation” — a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis, and raised fears that Moscow is moving to annex a strategic peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based.

Ukraine’s population is divided in loyalties between Russia and Europe, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support. Crimea is mainly Russian-speaking.

Crimean’s prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, declared that the armed forces, the police, the national security service and border guards in the region will answer only to his orders.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk opened a cabinet meeting in the capital, Kiev, by calling on Russia not to provoke discord in Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea.

“We call on the government and authorities of Russia to recall their forces, and to return them to their stations,” Yatsenyuk was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “Russian partners, stop provoking civil and military resistance in Ukraine.”

Crimea only became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality when both Ukraine and Russia were part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet breakup in 1991 meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Friday “there will be costs” if it intervenes militarily.

Russia has taken a confrontational stance toward its southern neighbor after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country. Yanukovych was voted out of office by parliament after weeks of protests ended in violence that left over 80 people dead.

Demonstrators sought his resignation after he backed out of signing an agreement to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union instead of Russia. Yanukovych took refuge in Russia and still says he’s president.

Aksyonov, the head of the main pro-Russia party on the peninsula, appealed to Putin “for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea.”

Aksyonov was voted in by the Crimean parliament on Thursday after pro-Russia gunmen seized the building and as tensions soared over Crimea’s resistance to the new authorities in Kiev, who took office this week.

Obama called on Russia to respect the independence and territory of Ukraine and not try to take advantage of its neighbor, which is undergoing political upheaval.

“Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing,” Obama said.

He said such action by Russia would represent a “profound interference” in matters he said must be decided by the Ukrainian people.

“The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,” he said. He did not say what those costs might be.

Poland called for an end to “provocative movements of troops on the Crimean Peninsula,”

“Any decisions that will be taken in the coming days, including of military nature, could have irreparable consequences for the international order,” the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter that it was “obvious that there is Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Likely immediate aim is to set up puppet pro-Russian semi-state in Crimea.”

At the United Nations, the Ukrainian ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, said Friday that Russian transport aircraft and 11 attack helicopters had arrived in Crimea illegally, and that Russian troops had taken control of two airports in Crimea.

He described the gunmen posted outside the two airports as Russian armed forces as well as “unspecified” units.

Russia has kept silent on claims of military intervention and has said any troop movements are within agreed rules, even as it maintained its hard-line stance on protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea.

Meanwhile, flights remained halted from Simferopol’s airport. Dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings patrolled the area. They didn’t stop or search people leaving or entering the airport, and refused to talk to journalists.

One man who identified himself only as Vladimir said the men were part of the Crimean People’s Brigade, which he described as a self-defense unit ensuring that no “radicals and fascists” arrive from other parts of Ukraine. There was no way to independently verify his account.

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Obama issues blunt warning to Russia over intervention ‘costs’

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US president calls on Moscow to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty rather than take advantage of political upheaval

Times of Israel

President Barack Obama expressed deep concern Friday over reported military activity inside Ukraine by Russia and bluntly warned “there will be costs” for any intervention.

He did not say what those costs might be.

Obama called on Russia to respect the independence and territory of Ukraine and not try to take advantage of its neighbor, which is undergoing political upheaval.

“Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing,” Obama said in a statement delivered from the White House. Such action by Russia would not serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, Russia or Europe, Obama said, and would represent a “profound interference” in matters he said must be decided by the Ukrainian people.

“Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, that would invite the condemnation of nations around the world,” Obama said. “The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

As Obama prepared to speak, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border service said eight Russian transport planes had landed with unknown cargo in Crimea, a pro-Russian region of southern Ukraine. Serhiy Astakhov told The Associated Press that the Il-76 planes arrived unexpectedly Friday and were given permission to land, one after the other, at Gvardeiskoye air base, north of the regional capital, Simferopol.

Astakhov said the people in the planes refused to identify themselves and waved off customs officials.

Obama noted that Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, including cultural and economic ties and a Russian military facility in Crimea.

In recent conversations between U.S. and Russian officials, including a lengthy telephone conversation between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin just last week, Obama said the U.S. has made clear to the Russians that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of Ukraine.

But, he said Friday, “we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine.”

Earlier Friday, as pro-Russia gunmen patrolled Crimean streets in armored vehicles and took over airports there, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow against military moves in Crimea that could further inflame tensions.

Kerry and White House spokesman Jay Carney both said any Russian military intervention would be a grave mistake and that the United States was watching closely. They did not spell out any consequences for an intervention.

Kerry said he called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the second time in two days to press the Kremlin to keep its promise to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Lavrov repeated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to do just that while also pointing out that Russia has broad interests in Ukraine, Kerry said.

The secretary of state said the US was watching to see if Russian activity in Crimea “might be crossing a line in any way.” He added that the administration would be “very careful” in making judgments about that. Carney echoed Kerry’s comments at the White House.

Kerry reiterated the U.S. view that Russian military intervention in Ukraine following the ouster of the country’s Russia-backed leader would run counter to Russia’s self-professed opposition to such operations in other countries, such as Libya and Syria.

And Kerry noted that during his call with Lavrov, fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was holding a news conference in southern Russia in which he said he was not asking Moscow for military assistance and called military action “unacceptable.” In his appearance before reporters, however, Yanukovych, who still regards himself the president, also vowed to “keep fighting for the future of Ukraine” and blamed the U.S. and the West for encouraging the rebellion that forced him to flee last weekend.

Any Russian military incursion in Crimea would dramatically raise the stakes in Ukraine, which is at the center of what many see as a tug of war between East and West.

One of the catalysts for massive demonstrations that led to Yanukovych’s ouster was his rejection of a partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of historical ties with Moscow. That EU agreement would have paved the way for Ukraine’s greater integration with the West, including potential affiliation with NATO, something to which Russia strongly objects for former Warsaw Pact members.

Underscoring US concerns are memories of the conflict in Georgia, where Russian troops remain in two disputed enclaves in violation of a 2008 cease-fire.

Amid the heightened tensions over Ukraine, the U.S. this week twice renewed its objections to the Russian military presence in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

Kerry and other senior US officials have tried without success to dispel widespread sentiment in Russia that the United States and Europe are trying to pry Ukraine out from under Russian influence. They have insisted repeatedly that Ukraine is not a “zero-sum game” in which one side — Russia or the West — wins and the other loses.

Their argument, though, seems to be falling on deaf ears in Moscow, where Russian officials have been accusing the US and its allies of meddling, fomenting anti-Russia sentiment and actively encouraging Kiev’s Western aspirations at the expense of its historical connections.

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Ethiopian persecution, threats and kidnappings

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Ogaden

The violence in the Ogaden rages on

By Graham Peebles

Hidden and isolated from the world, the armed conflict raging in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia goes unnoticed. The killing and raping of innocent civilians at the hands of the military and their paramilitary partners in crime, the Liyu police, the false arrests, torture and imprisonment remain largely unreported. The international media, human rights groups and most aid organizations (including the International Committee of the Red Cross) have been banned from the region by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) since 2007.

Testimonies of extreme abuse and mistreatment reported by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and diaspora agencies have come mainly from refugees who have found their way to the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, which is administered by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and where hundreds of men, women and children have sought safety.

Murder and rape

“I was arrested without charge in 2010 and imprisoned for two years in a military barracks; when in prison I was repeatedly beaten,” relayed Noor Sayat, a 40-year-old former local government worker.

Omar Abdi told me how his wife and son, together with his brother, had been murdered in cold blood by the military, and how he was imprisoned for one year and two months”. During that time he

was tortured every night… late at night we were taken to the river, a rope tied around our necks and held under the water. They pulled me out and then beat me with wooden sticks and their rifles. Sometimes they would vary the method and put a sack over my head, tie it around my throat with rope and then submerge me in the river, then beat me.

Women tell of being subjected to gang rapes in prison: “I was raped by groups of soldiers,” 27-year-old Raho told me, adding:

It used to happen around midnight. I can only remember the first three men who raped me. They would take me out and leave the baby in the room with the other women, and bring me back in the early morning… the soldiers would come every night about midnight to take some of the women out for raping.

Raho was imprisoned for two years, the first eight months of which she was pregnant. She was raped throughout, with the exception of the “40 days when I gave birth and had my new born baby”. She was released after complaining of abdominal pains caused, she believes, by the relentless sexual abuse.

For many community leaders the persecution continues inside Dadaab, with life-threatening telephone calls and text messages made by members of Ethiopia’s secret service, military and Liyu police. Ogaden Online relays that “the names, family history and even the pictures of Ogaden leaders [now living in] the Kenyan refugee camps” have been collected by Ethiopian intelligence. The plan is “to hunt, kill, maim, or intimidate” members of the Ogaden diaspora, “especially in the Kenyan refugee camps and those present in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.” The men who make up such so-called security services in Ethiopia and elsewhere live in a dark and ugly world. Ethiopia is besieged by social and economic problems and yet the government, shrouded in paranoia and hatred, spends its time and scant resources persecuting those seeking sanctuary.

The many claims of rape, false arrest, torture and execution of civilians by military personnel and Liyu police officers were confirmed by the statement of a former Liyu commander I spoke to in Dadaab. He told shocking stories of mutilation, murder, burying people alive, rape and systematic destruction of property. The Ethiopian government, he said, “wants to colonize the people and get rid of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF); the main target is the oil.” The Ogaden is reported to be rich in oil and natural gas; the promise of buried treasures may explain the West’s acceptance of wide-ranging human rights abuses being committed by the Ethiopian government – not just in the Ogaden, but throughout the country.

The struggle for self-determination for the region has been waged by the ONLF since its formation in 1984. The freedom fighters – or “dangerous terrorists” if one accepts the government’s rhetoric – where voted into office in 1992 in regional elections. They “won 60 per cent of seats… and formed the new [regional] government”, Human Rights Watch reported. Two years later it called for a referendum on self-determination. The EPRDF government’s reaction was to kill 81 unarmed civilians in the town of Wardheer, disband the regional parliament, arrest and imprison the vice-president and several other members of the parliament, instigate mass arrests and carry out indiscriminate killings. These brutal acts ignited the current struggle and drove the ONLF underground.

Peace negotiators abducted

In January this year, peace talks planned to take place in Nairobi were sabotaged when two key ONLF negotiators were kidnapped. According to David Shinn, former US ambassador to Ethiopia,

Press reports from Kenya indicate that two members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) were abducted on 27 January 2014 outside a restaurant in Nairobi… ONLF officials stated the two persons were ONLF central committee members invited by Kenyan officials to participate in peace negotiations with Ethiopian government officials. ONLF officials further alleged that security agencies from Ethiopia and Kenya were involved in the abduction of the two ONLF negotiators.

The ONLF claim that “a source inside Ethiopia [has] informed the Ogaden National Liberation Front that the two abducted ONLF officers were seen in a military hospital undergoing treatment for extensive wounds caused by torture.” They go on to relay how Sulub Abdi Ahmed and Ali Ahmed Hussein – senior negotiators for the ONLF in the talks being brokered by the Kenyan government – resisted torture and the accompanying pressure to sign (under duress) a “fictitious peace agreement”. The men had participated in the second round of talks between the Ethiopian government and the ONLF last year and were in Nairobi for the planned third round of talks.

It’s hard to see how peace talks worthy of the name can be entered into while one of the parties is committing abductions and assassinations, and wide-ranging atrocities in the disputed region. A reasonable and essential condition of any talks is the cessation of violence by both the Ethiopian military/paramilitary and the armed wing of the ONLF.

The kidnapping is the latest in a long line of similar incidents. The ONLF reports that in 1998 the Ethiopian army “killed three members of an ONLF delegation team and abducted two members participating in bilateral negotiations with the Ethiopian government inside the Ogaden”. It adds that two years previously “Ethiopia government assassins killed another senior leader in Nairobi”. Talks “stalled” in September 2012 when the Ethiopian team (contrary to the unconditional basis agreed for the talks by both sides that “no preconditions shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations”) demanded that the ONLF representatives acknowledge the Ethiopian constitution, a broadly liberal document written by the EPRDF in 1992 and largely ignored by it ever since. In its articles the Somali (or Ogaden) region is classified as a constituent part of the state of Ethiopia, a contentious statement implying sovereignty over the area, which the ONLF was not prepared to endorse. In a statement, it made clear its position, stating that the constitution “must reflect the will of the people and that the Somali people never exercised a referendum on the constitution”.

Unsurprisingly the Ethiopian government has denied any abduction took place: “the two abductees came willingly, and are kept somewhere inside Ethiopia while negotiating with the Ethiopian government, and will soon speak on Ethiopian TV”.

This absurd statement was followed by another, this time from Shimelis Kemal, the minister of government communications, who claimed to have “no information about the alleged kidnapping of Ogaden officials in Nairobi”. This, in turn, was followed by another statement, by Dina Mufti of the Foreign Ministry, who told VOA Amharic “that his government was not aware of the whereabouts of those men or any abduction”. The two men remain detained in an undisclosed location inside Ethiopia.

Nationwide violations

The human rights violations, many of which constitute crimes against humanity, taking place inside the Ogaden region are but the most acute examples of widespread government violence, abuse and suppression being meted out throughout the country.Genocide Watch “considers Ethiopia to have already reached Stage 7 [of 8], genocidal massacres, against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes”. 

Ethiopia rarely attracts the attention of the international media, and its Western donors are content, it seems, to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the cries of the people, happy that their ally in what is one of the most volatile regions of the world is on the face of it stable. It is a stability, however, brought about through fear, security forces personnel instilling fear of imprisonment, torture and death among the people.

… when the people unite, governments fall. The people of Ethiopia, in the Ogaden, Oromo, Amhara, Gambella and elsewhere, need to stand together and peacefully demand their right to freedom, to justice and to peace.

Political dissent is not tolerated, freedom of assembly all but criminalized, and intimidation to garner support for the ruling party is government policy. Membership of the EPRDF brings with it work permits, a range of essential aid, from food to fertilisers, a home, university places, government jobs and business opportunities. Economic growth is said to be racing along at 8 per cent per annum; however, the beneficiaries of any aid-fuelled development dividend are those within the cosy government clique. Given that deceit and duplicity are government policy, there is considerable doubt as to the reliability of the growth claims. “It is not clear how factual Ethiopia’s economic data are. Life is intolerably expensive for Ethiopians in Addis Ababa, the capital, and its outlying towns. Some think Ethiopia’s inflation figures are fiddled”, says the the Economist.

I was repeatedly asked by refugees from the Ogaden, “why does Britain support the EPRDF regime”, why is the Department for International Development (DFID) funding the Liyu police, why do they not act for us – good question! The people of the Ogaden are suffering wide-ranging atrocities, and throughout the country human rights are violated, the people are suppressed and fearful, all of which donor nations such as Britain and America are well aware.

All pressure should be applied to the EPRDF regime to observe human rights, dismantle draconian laws like the internationally condemned Anti-Terrorist Proclamation and Charities and Societies Proclamation; desist from military action and withdraw troops from the Ogaden, open up the region to the international media and human rights groups, and enter into substantive peace talks with the ONLF.

As witnessed in many parts of the world when the people unite, governments fall. The people of Ethiopia, in the Ogaden, Oromo, Amhara, Gambella and elsewhere, need to stand together and peacefully demand their right to freedom, to justice and to peace.

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FBI had human source in contact with bin Laden as far back as 1993

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911

washingtontimes.com

In a revelation missing from the official investigations of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI placed a human source in direct contact with Osama bin Laden in 1993 and ascertained that the al Qaeda leader was looking to finance terrorist attacks in the United States, according to court testimony in a little-noticed employment dispute case.

The information the FBI gleaned back then was so specific that it helped thwart a terrorist plot against a Masonic lodge in Los Angeles, the courtrecords reviewed by The Washington Times show.

“It was the only source I know in the bureau where we had a source right in al Qaeda, directly involved,” Edward J. Curran, a former top official in the FBI’s Los Angeles office, told the court in support of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the bureau by his former agent Bassem Youssef.

Mr. Curran gave the testimony in 2010 to an essentially empty courtroom, and thus it escaped notice from the media or terrorism specialists. The Times was recently alerted to the existence of the testimony while working on a broader report about al Qaeda’s origins.

Members of the Sept. 11 commission, congressional intelligence committees and terrorism analysts told The Times they are floored that the information is just now emerging publicly and that it raises questions about what else Americans might not have been told about the origins ofal Qaeda and its early interest in attacking the United States.

“I think it raises a lot of questions about why that information didn’t become public and why the 9/11 Commission or the congressional intelligence committees weren’t told about it,” said former Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, who chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2004 through 2007 when lawmakers dealt with the fallout from the 9/11 Commission’s official report.

“This is just one more of these examples that will go into the conspiracy theorists’ notebooks, who say the authorities are not telling us everything,” Mr. Hoekstra told The Times in an interview last week. “That’s bad for the intelligence community. It’s bad for law enforcement and it’s bad for government.”

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission with former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, said that as far as he can remember, the FBI never told the commission that it had been working a source so close to bin Laden that many years before 9/11.

“I do not recall the FBI advising us of a direct contact with Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Hamilton told The Times in a recent interview.

Exactly how the information was omitted from the various congressional reviews and the 9/11 Commission report is a mystery. FBI officials and staff involved in the review said they couldn’t determine definitely so many years later whether the information was kept from the various investigations or whether it was simply overlooked by staff in the thousands of pages of documents and electronic records made available during the exhaustive reviews of al Qaeda’s history.

“Both the commission and the U.S. government compiled a fair amount of evidence about the activities of the set of groups later best known asal Qaeda during [the early-1990s], when the group was settling intoSudan. We did not delve as deeply in this period because it was so distant from the plotting that led directly to the 9/11 attack,” said Philip Zelikow, who served as the 9/11 Commission’s executive director and now teaches history at the University of Virginia.

Like Mr. HamiltonMr. Zelikow said he does not recall ever being told by the FBI about the 1993 source and that Mr. Curran’s disclosure appeared to involve “valuable intelligence gathered in 1993 and 1994.”

But Mr. Zelikow cautioned against reading too deeply into the revelation, asserting that bin Laden’s activities that long ago would be viewed as “pretty attenuated in relation to 9/11.”

FBI officials told The Times that the bureau could not say for certain that its agents specifically briefed the 9/11 Commission about the 1993 asset or plot but was proud that it gave unfettered access to its records to the various investigators.

“The FBI made all relevant information available to the 9/11 Commission and the joint intelligence community inquiry. Throughout both of these reviews, the FBI shared pertinent documents and knowledgeable personnel in order to present all known information to commission and inquiry personnel,” Assistant Director Michael P. Kortan said.

The lawyer who represented Mr. Youssef and called Mr. Curran to testify in the 2010 court case, however, said the FBI kept the information from his litigation for years.

Attorney Stephen Kohn said that even his own client declined to tell him about the sensational revelation until it surfaced during the court hearing because the information had been kept classified.

“I was shocked when it came out, and I was frustrated because the FBI had censored that information clearly to hide it from the public,” said Mr. Kohn, who has represented some of the FBI’s most famous whistleblowers over the years.

“There was absolutely no reason for that to be kept secret,” he told The Times in an interview. “In some respects, it was kind of demeaning for the FBI because they had kept secret one of the most significant triumphs in the war on terror all so they wouldn’t have to give credit to Bassem for the work he had done. As a result, none of the bureau got the credit it was due for what was a spectacular counterterrorism triumph.”

Mr. Youssef remains with the bureau, overseeing its telephone intercept analysis unit, and he won an appeals court ruling a few years ago to pursue a discrimination lawsuit against the bureau. That ruling was handed down after FBI supervisors were forced to admit he was blocked from his job as one of the bureau’s top terrorism fighters because he was mistaken for an Arab Muslim whose loyalties should be questioned after Sept. 11. In fact, Mr. Youssef was a highly decorated agent and a Coptic Christian.

As the case played out in federal court in 2010, Mr. Curran testified in Mr. Youssef’s favor, methodically telling the court about the agent’s many successes during the early 1990s when the U.S. government’s unofficial war on terrorism was just beginning. Those successes included thwarting specific terrorist attacks, including one on a British cruise liner and another that targeted the Los Angeles area, Mr. Curran testified.

The former supervisor testified that Mr. Youssef developed a confidential source connected to the infamous “Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Centerbombing, and that he managed to get that source to go overseas and meet personally with bin Laden.

The source was “very in tight, close,” to the leadership of al Qaeda, which was then known as the Islamic Group, Mr. Curran testified.

“The one source came back, had direct contact with bin Laden,” Mr. Curran testified, adding that upon returning to the U.S., the source indicated to the Blind Sheik that bin Laden “had a target picked out for an explosion in the Los Angeles area. I believe it was a Masonic lodge.”

Mr. Curran said the source also provided information about terrorist cells operating in California. During the testimony, he related in detail how Mr. Youssef flipped the asset so “he was working with us,” describing how the FBI collaborated with the source’s wife from an arranged marriage to get him deported from the United States to put pressure on him.

“He wanted to come back, and that was the carrot we used to get his cooperation,” Mr. Curran said.

Eventually, the plot to blow up the Los Angeles target was diffused based on information the source provided the FBI, according to the court testimony and other FBI documents.

Mr. Currans testimony is further supported by two documents, his own FBI personnel performance review report as an assistant special agent in charge in Los Angeles at the time, and a 1995 inspection report of the Los Angeles FBI office, both of which reference the asset and the thwarting of the plot.

“During the past six months, through ASAC CU’s personal efforts, the FBI identified and supported an investigative effort which uncovered a large terrorist group operating out of the Los Angeles and San Diego areas,” stated Mr. Curran’s 1994 performance evaluation, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.

The evaluation stated that Mr. Curran “personally participated in the overseas interview of a potential asset who is in a position to provide valuable intelligence information to the nation’s entire intelligence community.”

While the document made no specific reference to the asset’s proximity to bin Laden, it stated outright that “the development of this asset, as well as the initiation of other investigative techniques, has resulted in the Los Angeles office obtaining significant intelligence information which is not being provided by any other sources and agencies.”

The 1995 inspection report of the Los Angeles office, meanwhile, praised agents for conducting “analysis of asset information received immediately preceding the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which indicated the presence of an active terrorist infrastructure.”

Similarly, Mr. Youssef provided a written set of answers in his own court case that played out years later, during which he confirmed that he had personally groomed an asset who led to the uncovering of two active terrorist cells in California.

Mr. Youssef wrote that he began investigating information in January 1993 — about a month before the first World Trade Center bombing — that an Egyptian man was involved in terrorism activities in the California area and “this effort led me to a source that was initially contacted by another government agency.”

“I quickly developed a scenario to gain the source’s trust, and in a short period of time, I gained the source’s trust,” Mr. Youssef wrote. “During the relatively short recruitment period, it became evident this source was in a unique position to know and provide highly valuable information not just about the main subject but regarding two very active, thriving IG terror cells.”

Missing from the testimony and the record is any mention of what eventually happened to the human asset and whether he was still available to the United States in later years. U.S. officials declined to discuss the source’s whereabouts after 1994.

The more than 500-page official 9/11 Commission report, as well as equally exhaustive reports produced by the House and Senate intelligence committees, and the CIA’s office of inspector general, made no mention of the source or his contributions to thwarting a Los Angeles area terrorist plot.

The 9/11 Commission report broadly outlines how, during the early 1990s, bin Laden was seeking to expand al Qaeda globally — an effort that included “building alliances extended into the United States,” and that “the Blind Sheikh, whom Bin Laden admired, was also in the network.”

But the report downplays the notion that bin Laden was actively plotting or seeking to finance any specific attacks inside the United States as far back as 1993 — two pieces of information that, according to Mr. Currans testimony and contemporaneous documents, the FBI’s Los Angeles field office corroborated at the time.

Alternatively, the report outlines how all of the attacks pursued by bin Laden during that period were against U.S. assets outside the United States.

With regard to the one attack inside the U.S. — the first World Trade Center bombing — the report says “bin Laden involvement is at best cloudy.”

Mr. Zelikow said he regards Mr. Youssef as a “valuable FBI agent” and does not doubt the credibility of Mr. Youssef or Mr. Curran.

But he concluded that if the source referred to by Mr. Curran “had remained close to al Qaeda Leadership into the Afghan period, I am pretty sure we would have known about that.”

Mr. Hoekstra, however, is not so sure.

“I believe that if one of the agencies wants to hide something from you, it’s pretty hard for someone else to find it,” he said. “My bias would be that if the FBI knew about this and wanted to hide it, they could, absolutely.

Posted in USAComments Off on FBI had human source in contact with bin Laden as far back as 1993

Ukraine: Russian forces invade Crimea

NOVANEWS

litmatch1

Ukrainian forces foil attempt to seize two airports, security chief says. Ousted Ukraine president: I was forced to flee due to threats on my life.

Haaretz

Ukraine accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation” on Friday, saying Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports on its strategic Crimea peninsula. Russia kept silent on the accusations, as the crisis deepened between two of Europe’s largest countries.

Any Russian military incursion in Crimea would dramatically raise the stakes in Ukraine’s conflict, which saw pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych flee last weekend after three months of anti-government protests. Yanukovych vowed Friday at a news conference in Russia to “keep fighting for the future of Ukraine,” though he called any military action “unacceptable.”

Moscow has vowed to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Crimea, where it has a major naval base, and Ukraine and the West have warned Russia to stay away. Russia did not confirm its troops were involved in Friday’s action in Crimea, which would be a major escalation.

In Kiev, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a resolution demanding that Russia halt steps it says are aimed against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the crisis.

“I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation,” Ukraine’s newly named interior minister, Arsen Avakov, wrote in a Facebook post.

The chief of Ukraine’s security council, Andriy Parubiy, seemed to strike a less strident tone later in the day, saying gunmen had tried to “seize” the airports in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Sevastopol but insisting in comments to the Interfax news agency that “de-facto the airports are controlled by the law enforcement bodies of Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service also said about 30 Russian marines from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — which is based in Sevastopol — had taken up position outside the Ukrainian Coast Guard base in the area. It said the marines said they were there to prevent any weapons at the base from being seized by extremists.

Russia’s defense ministry had no comment.

Yanukovych made his first public appearance since fleeing Ukraine in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border. It was the first confirmation that he had left the country, and he said he was “forced” to do so only after his family received threats.

“I intend to keep fighting for the future of Ukraine,” he said.

Yanukovych said he supports Crimea’s residents who are worried about “nationalists” in Kiev and added that Russia cannot stand by while events in Ukraine unfold. He denied, however, that this amounts to a call for military intervention.

“Any military action in this situation is unacceptable,” he said.

The prosecutor-general’s office in Kiev said it would seek Yanukovych’s extradition to Ukraine, where he is wanted on suspicion of mass murder in last week’s violent clashes between protesters and police, during which over 80 people were killed.

Associated Press journalists approaching the Sevastopol airport found the road leading up to it blocked by two military trucks and a handful of gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying assault rifles.

A car with Russian military plates was stopped at the roadblock. A man wearing a military uniform with a Russian flag on his sleeve got out of the car and was allowed to enter on foot after a brief discussion with the gunmen.

At the airport serving Simferopol, commercial flights were landing and taking off despite dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings patrolling with assault rifles. They didn’t stop or search people leaving or entering the airport, and refused to talk to journalists.

One man who identified himself only as Vladimir said the men were part of the Crimean People’s Brigade, which he described as a self-defense unit ensuring that no “radicals and fascists” arrive from other parts of Ukraine. There was no way to verify his account.

The airport deployments came a day after masked gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles seized the parliament and government offices in Simferopol and raised the Russian flag. Ukrainian police cordoned off the area but didn’t confront the gunmen. They remained in control of the buildings Friday.

The Russian foreign and defense ministries had no comment. Russia’s state RIA Novosti and Interfax cited an unnamed official from the Russian Black Sea Fleet denying involvement, saying Russian servicemen stationed in Crimea have not moved into the airports and denying that the Russian military was in control there.

Tensions between the two countries were high, however. Russia continued with massive combat readiness exercises involving most of its troops in western and southern Russia that it said were unrelated to the Ukraine conflict. The moves were reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.

The Kremlin, in a statement published late Thursday, said President Vladimir Putin had instructed the government to “maintain contacts with the counterparts in Kiev in what concerns trade and economic ties between Russia and Ukraine.”

Moscow has been sending mixed signals about Ukraine but pledged to respect its territorial integrity. Putin has long dreamed of pulling Ukraine, a country of 46 million people considered the cradle of Russian civilization, closer into Moscow’s orbit.

Meanwhile, Swiss prosecutors announced they had launched a criminal investigation against Yanukovych and his son Aleksander over “aggravated money laundering.” They said police and Geneva’s chief prosecutor conducted a search and seized documents Thursday at the premises of a company owned by Aleksander Yanukovych.

Switzerland and Austria both said they would freeze any assets Yanukovych and his entourage might have in those countries.

Ukraine’s population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support.

Crimea, a southeastern peninsula of Ukraine that has semi-autonomous status, was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, and was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires.

It became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet collapse meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

In a bid to shore up Ukraine’s fledgling administration, the International Monetary Fund has said it is “ready to respond” to Ukraine’s bid for financial assistance; Ukraine’s finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default.

The European Union is also considering emergency loans for a country that is the chief conduit of Russian natural gas to western Europe.

And Putin, in his statement, asked his government to “hold consultations with foreign partners including the IMF and the G8 nations to provide financial aid to Ukraine.”

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Battle lines drawn in DC over Iran sanctions push

NOVANEWS

BEAST2a

Days before AIPAC goes lobbying, major Democrat donors urge Congress to back the administration; Reid decries amendment

Times of Israel

When AIPAC brings some 10,000 activists to the halls of Congress next week on their Tuesday legislative action day, they are expected to push senators to join on as co-signers to the flagging Menendez-Kirk bill.

Although Iran will be a hot topic during AIPAC’s national conference Sunday to Tuesday, lobbyists face a tough road in convincing remaining Senate Democrats to risk the ire of the administration in supporting the bill that would increase sanctions against Iran should current talks on its nuclear program fail.

It will come as little surprise to Washingtonians when AIPAC doubles down on its pressure to recruit new co-sponsors for the legislation. But in advance of the push, over four dozen major Democratic donors – mostly Jewish – sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to hold off on any additional sanctions legislation.

Although the letter did not mention the legislation, the donors warned that “Congress should allow these fragile negotiations [with Iran] to proceed without making threats that could derail them or tying the hands of the negotiators by imposing unrealistic terms for a final agreement.”

The donors, who were responsible for over $7 million worth of funds for Obama’s campaigns alone, ruled out any possibility for compromise on the status of the bill, admonishing that “even if Congressional action took the form of a non-binding resolution, or if the President vetoed such legislation, its initial passage would strengthen the hand of Iranian hardliners arguing against negotiations on the ground that Congress will not accept any deal reached at the negotiating table.”

“We urge you to oppose risky Congressional action that, if taken, may lead you to wake up the next morning knowing the result has been to take the diplomatic option off the table,” they added.

Earlier Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoked the pro-Israel lobby to argue for a delay on the bill, claiming that AIPAC agreed that the time was wrong to bring the bill to the floor.

Reid blasted Senate Republicans for tying a vote on additional sanctions against Iran to a vote on a bill that would increase health benefits and job training for US military veterans. Democrats needed 60 votes in order to pass the veterans’ bill, but hopes for the legislation dissipated when Reid refused to allow a Republican amendment to be voted upon, because it also included the additional sanctions. The veterans’ bill was ultimately defeated in a 56-41 vote

“It was disappointing – if not surprising – when Republicans almost immediately injected partisan politics into a debate over a bill that should be bipartisan – insisting on an unrelated amendment on Iran that they knew could derail the veterans’ bill,” Reid complained.

He also accused Republicans of trying to make partisan gains as a result of Iran policy. “The idea of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is so unthinkable that Democrats and Republicans have always worked together on this policy,” Reid wrote in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, it seems Republicans are trying to erase that history and politicize an issue that has historically been above partisanship.”

Reid noted that 10 committee chairmen “as well as Israel’s strongest supporter, AIPAC, also agree that now is not the right time to bring a sanctions package to the floor.” He quoted the pro-Israel group as saying that “stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and… there should not be a vote at this time on the measure.”

There are currently 59 senators signed on the bill as co-sponsors, and AIPAC and the bill’s other supporters would like to see more than the 13 Democrats who have currently signed on to the bill get on board. Instead, the bill seems to have lost momentum over recent weeks in the face of personal campaigning against it by President Barack Obama.

On Saturday, AIPAC President Michael Kassen and Board of Directors Chairman Lee Rosenberg wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Don’t let up on Iran”. In it, the two wrote that AIPAC supports “a policy that complements the current negotiations with a range of congressional actions that threaten greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the Iranian government.”

The AIPAC officials continued that they “strongly believe that the assertion by Congress of its historic role in foreign policy can, in fact, complement and enhance the administration’s efforts by forcing Iran to recognize the stark implications of intransigence.”

The influential organization included four asks for congress: to “outline for Iran the acceptable terms of a final accord”; to “exercise oversight to ensure that Tehran understands that our existing core sanctions architecture will remain in place for the full duration of the negotiations”; to “oversee continual implementation of the interim agreement”; and finally ending with a statement of support for the Menendez-Kirk bill, formally titled the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act.

In the op-ed, the two AIPAC leaders said that they agreed with Senator Menendez’s decision to delay a vote in the Senate, but not for the reasons cited by Reid – that it was the wrong point in negotiations to vote on it and that it would undermine talks. In fact, the entire first half of the op-ed was devoted to why AIPAC believes that the legislation would be beneficial to the United States’ negotiating stance.

The bill needs the additional support of eight more Democratic senators to render it veto-proof.

Posted in IranComments Off on Battle lines drawn in DC over Iran sanctions push

AIPAC seeks to regain political footing ahead of Netanyahu visit

NOVANEWS

givingorders

After failing to secure new Iran sanctions, pro-Israel lobby faces US political fallout. ‘We have an open line of communication with the administration,’ source claims

ynet

For years, Israeli leaders visiting Washington have been boosted by America’s main pro-Israel lobby, its influence on US Middle East policy long accepted as a matter of conventional wisdom.

But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses an annual convention of Israel’s US supporters next week, he will find the group trying to show it has not lost its touch after the White House blocked its push for Congress to impose new Iran sanctions.

While no one doubts the American Israel Public Affairs Committee remains a potent political force, AIPAC – and the Israeli government it seeks to bolster in Washington – can ill afford any perceptions of weakness in advancing its agenda at such a critical juncture in US-Israeli relations.

The largest pro-Israel lobbying group will gather at a time when its conservative leadership – not unlike the right-wing Israeli premier – are at odds with President Barack Obama over his diplomatic strategy for resolving the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran.

During last year’s AIPAC meet, sensing a possible thaw in US relations with Iran, Netanyahu said: “Iran says that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but I say – if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck. But this is a nuclear duck!.”

AIPAC also faces questions about how it can move past its biggest legislative setback in years. The stakes are especially high on the Iran issue, the top security priority for both Netanyahu’s government and America’s pro-Israel community.

Scoffing at the notion that the group is on the ropes, an AIPAC source insisted its critics have “lost all perspective” and that differences with the administration are being managed.

AIPAC, which amassed about 100,000 members in its 60-year history, is widely credited with helping to ensure Israel remains a top recipient of US foreign aid, this year exceeding $3 billion, mostly military-related.

Mocked

After AIPAC lobbyists helped enlist 59 US senators from both major parties to co-sponsor legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran if negotiations failed, the bill – which had Netanyahu’s blessing – stalled earlier this month.

“They came up against realities on Capitol Hill,” a former administration official said, suggesting that going toe-to-toe on Iran with a Democratic president in a Democratic-led Senate was always a losing proposition. “The question now is whether this will affect AIPAC’s ability to get things done that relate specifically to Israel.”

AIPAC typically works behind the scenes and picks its battles well. Most measures it favors pass Congress with little opposition. But this time it found itself mocked on cable television by popular talk-show comedian Jon Stewart, who accused US lawmakers of behaving like senators “from the great state of Israel.”

The White House cast the sanctions effort as a “march toward war” and Obama threatened a veto, spurring some fellow Democrats behind the bill to peel off. AIPAC still believes if it bides its time, it will have a chance to revive the sanctions drive, a senior AIPAC official said.

It was the second blow to AIPAC in recent months. In September, when Obama sought congressional authorization to strike Syria over chemical weapons use, the group lobbied lawmakers at the White House’s behest. But then Obama backtracked from military action.

While AIPAC’s legislative stumbles have been rare, it has tripped up before. It failed to block President Ronald Reagan’s sale of planes with advanced radar to Saudi Arabia in 1981, and, a decade later, President George H.W. Bush delayed $10 billion in loan guarantees to Israel in a dispute over settlement-building in occupied territories.

AIPAC is predicting a record turnout of 14,000 members and attendance by “more than two-thirds of Congress” at its three-day annual bash.

Even at a time of friction with AIPAC, the White House is dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in the midst of trying to craft a framework deal to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace talks going, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to address the group.

“We have an open line of communication with the administration,” the AIPAC source said.

The Obama administration has made clear it hopes Netanyahu as well as his AIPAC allies will tone down their opposition while negotiations proceed with Tehran.

But the administration is resigned to taking some flak from Netanyahu. “We don’t dictate his talking points,” said a senior US official, who also insisted that differences with Netanyahu are about tactics, not the shared goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Wendy Sherman, a senior State Department official who heads the US negotiating team in talks between Iran and world powers, left little doubt that the administration is keeping AIPAC on its radar screen.

“I’ve spoken quite directly to AIPAC. I’ve met with AIPAC,” Sherman told a round-table of Israeli journalists in Jerusalem last weekend when asked about the group’s role.

“We need to create the space for this diplomacy. And I would urge AIPAC to create this space.”

Despite such appeals, AIPAC appears intent on keeping the heat on the administration over Iran.

AIPAC leaders, in a New York Times op-ed last weekend, denied suggestions that those pushing for further sanctions were “warmongers” and urged Congress to take back the initiative on Iran.

The group believes that while now is not the time for a Senate vote, Iranian intransigence will soften Obama’s resistance and generate broader bipartisan support for legislation that could be introduced before the end-of-July deadline for the talks, the AIPAC source said.

Sanctions could then be triggered if diplomacy fails, the source said.

The White House has made clear that it would oppose any vote on new sanctions during the negotiating process but would be open to such measures if diplomacy breaks down.

It’s complicated

While Netanyahu will certainly try to rally the AIPAC faithful when he addresses the group on Tuesday, heated rhetoric on Iran could add to tensions with the administration.

In talks with Obama on Monday, an Israeli official said, Netanyahu intends to stand firm on his demand that any final nuclear deal must eliminate Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, in contrast to the president’s view that Tehran could be allowed to do so on a small scale for civilian purposes.

Though billing itself as strictly bipartisan, AIPAC faces complaints on the left that it has not worked harder to accommodate a Democratic administration. J Street, a smaller, liberal alternative to AIPAC in the American Jewish community, has made modest inroads in its six years of existence.

Still, in a US mid-term election year, there is little interest in picking a fight with AIPAC. Opinion polls show Americans’ overwhelmingly supportive of the Jewish state.

AIPAC officials also readily acknowledge a deepening of US-Israeli security ties during Obama’s tenure, including funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket shield.

Posted in USA, CampaignsComments Off on AIPAC seeks to regain political footing ahead of Netanyahu visit

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