Archive | May 17th, 2015

Kiev to Spend $200 Mln To Wall Off Russia


The Ukrainian government has approved an approximate price tag for the construction of a so-called “wall” along its border with Russia: the newly-released cost estimate of $500 mln as of the end of 2014 has been slashed to approximately $200 mln; and the works will run faster – it will now take three years rather than four, as was claimed earlier.

© AP PHOTO/ INNA VARENYTSIA A Ukrainian national flag is attached to the fence on the Ukrainian-Russian border near Hoptivka, Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine

Ukraine has reduced the estimated cost of the construction of a so-called “Wall” project along its border with much-feared Russia.

Construction work will now require 4 billion hryvnias (almost $200 million) and will run for three years. At the end of 2014, the government had claimed it would need four years and an estimated 8 billion hryvnias (at that time, the equivalent of $500 mln).

According to the project, more than 2,000 kilometers of the country’s actual border with Russia will be protected with anti-tank (anti-transport) trenches measuring four meters wide and two meters deep as well as 17-meter tall metal watchtowers, observation posts, alarms, retaliatory weaponry and special border check-points.

The construction work along the border as well as in territories adjacent to the zone of the so-called anti-terrorist operation and Russia’s Republic of Crimea will be supervised by the state border guard service.

Out of the 4 billion hryvnias needed for the project, 1 billion ($48mln)  is slated to be spent by the end of 2015.

Earlier in May, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed that the nation’s government still plans to build its so-called Great Wall of Ukraine but claimed that Ukraine will set aside 300 million hryvnias ($12.8 million) to begin engineering work on border defenses this year.

Ukrainian officials first proposed the Great Wall in Autumn, claiming it will prevent Russian tanks from crossing the border.

The project was called the “Wall”, but then-Prime Minister Yatsenyuk proposed to rename it the “European bulwark”.

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PANTHER (1995) Full Length Movie

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr


Image result for BLACK PANTHER LOGO

The Black Panther Party or BPP (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was a revolutionary black socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982, with its only international chapter operating in Algeria from 1969 until 1972.

Initially, the Black Panther Party’s core practice was its armed citizens’ patrols to monitor the behavior of police officers and challenge police brutality. In 1969, community social programs became a core activity of party members. The Black Panther Party instituted a variety of community social programs, most extensively the Free Breakfast for Children Programs, and community health clinics.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director racist J. Edgar Hoover called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country”, and he supervised an extensive program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate party members, discredit and criminalize the Party, and drain the organization of resources and manpower. The program was also accused of using assassination against Black Panther members.

Government oppression initially contributed to the growth of the party as killings and arrests of Panthers increased support for the party within the black community and on the broad political left, both of whom valued the Panthers as powerful force opposed to de facto segregation and the military draft. Black Panther Party membership reached a peak in 1970, with offices in 68 cities and thousands of members, then suffered a series of contractions. After being vilified by the mainstream press, public support for the party waned, and the group became more isolated.

In-fighting among Party leadership, caused largely by the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation, led to expulsions and defections that decimated the membership. Popular support for the Party declined further after reports appeared detailing the group’s involvement in illegal activities such as drug dealing and extortion schemes directed against Oakland merchants. By 1972 most Panther activity centered on the national headquarters and a school in Oakland, where the party continued to influence local politics. Party contractions continued throughout the 1970s. By 1980 the Black Panther Party had just 27 members.

The history of the Black Panther Party is controversial. Scholars have characterized the Black Panther Party as the most influential black movement organization of the late 1960s, and “the strongest link between the domestic Black Liberation Struggle and global opponents of American imperialism.” Other commentators have described the Party as more criminal than political, characterized by “defiant posturing over substance.”


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Analysis: Media Reaction To Seymour Hersh’s bin Laden Scoop ‘Disgraceful’

Barrels of ink have been spilled ripping apart Hersh’s character, while barely any follow-up reporting has been done to corroborate or refute his claims—even though there’s no doubt that the Obama administration has repeatedly misinformed and misled the public about the incident.

Leipziger Medienpreis 2010

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh (Photo: Ap/Eckehard Schulz)

Analysis by Columbia Journalism Review: 

SEYMOUR HERSH HAS DONE THE PUBLIC a great service by breathing life into questions surrounding the official narrative of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Yet instead of trying to build off the details of his story, or to disprove his assertions with additional reporting, journalists have largely attempted to tear down the messenger.

Barrels of ink have been spilled ripping apart Hersh’s character, while barely any follow-up reporting has been done to corroborate or refute his claims—even though there’s no doubt that the Obama administration has repeatedly misinformed and misled the public about the incident. Even less attention has been paid to the little follow-up reporting that we did get, which revealed that the CIA likely lied about its role in finding bin Laden, which it used to justify torture to the public.

Hersh has attempted to force the media to ask questions about its role in covering a world-shaping event—but it’s clear the media has trouble asking such questions if the answers are not the ones they want to hear.

Hersh’s many critics, almost word-for-word, gave the same perfunctory two-sentence nod to his best-known achievements—breaking the My Lai massacre in 1969 (for which he won the Pulitzer) and exposing the Abu Ghraib torture scandal 35 years later—before going on to call him every name in the book: “conspiracy theorist,” “off the rails,” “crank.” Yet most of this criticism, over the thousands of words written about Hersh’s piece in the last week, has amounted to “That doesn’t make sense to me,” or “That’s not what government officials told me before,” or “How are we to believe his anonymous sources?”

While there’s no way to prove or disprove every assertion Hersh makes without re-reporting the whole story, let’s look at the overarching criticisms one by one:

Conspiracy theory

No phrase has been bandied about more than “conspiracy theory” in describing Hersh’s reporting. Critics argue that he’s accusing “hundreds of people across three governments of staging a massive international hoaxthat has gone on for years.” How could that be possible?

Read the rest of the analysis at Columbia Journalism Review. 

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I$raHell Continues To Criminalise Marking Nakba Day

Although I$raHell Nakba Law has yet to be technically implemented, human rights groups and activists say it has a dangerous deterrent effect and is meant to intimidate Palestinians and others who view I$raHell establishment as a day of mourning for Palestinians who were forced out of their homes in 1948.

A boy marking Nakba Day in Ramallah with a symbolic “key” to his home. Photo by AP

A boy marking Nakba Day in Ramallah with a symbolic “key” to his home. Photo by AP

Haifa – Each year on May 15, Palestinians across the world commemorate the Nakba (catastrophe), or the 1948 establishment of Israel that led to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians being displaced from their homeland.

The estimated 1.7 million Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship and live in villages, towns and cities across the country are no exception. Each year, protests, marches, lectures and other events to mourn their ancestors’ dispossession are held in Palestinian communities across Israel.

Yet, since 2011, Israeli legislation has made mourning the Nakba publicly difficult for Palestinians and others in Israel. The “Nakba Law” authorises Israel’s finance minister to revoke funding from institutions that reject Israel’s character as a “Jewish state” or mark the country’s Independence Day as a day of mourning.

Although the Nakba Law has yet to be technically implemented, human rights groups and activists say it has a dangerous deterrent effect and is meant to intimidate Palestinians and others who view Israel’s establishment as a day of mourning for Palestinians.

Among those who could be potentially affected by the Nakba Law is Zochrot, an Israeli non-governmental organisation that aims to keep the memory of the 1948 events alive and promotes the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.

“Without actually implementing the Nakba Law, [the law] has been used as an excuse to limit freedom of expression. It has a chilling effect,” said Sawsan Zaher, lawyer at Adalah.

“The Nakba Law is part of an atmosphere to suppress the Nakba narrative and a discussion of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees,” Liat Rosenberg, director of Zochrot, told Al Jazeera. “These are right-wing, anti-democratic efforts [that] continue to create an atmosphere of fear and suppress this issue from the public discourse.”

Back in February, Yona Yahav, mayor of the central Israeli city of Haifa, withdrew municipal funding for a Zochrot film festival about the Nakba. The event was scheduled to be held at the local cinema the week before Israel’s Independence Day, marked this year on April 23, but it was cancelled in the end.

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British Voters Lie To Pollsters, Vote For Imperialism & Endless War



Protesters demonstrate against the Conservative government in Westminster, London, Saturday, May 9, 2015. David Cameron's Conservative Party swept to power Friday in Britain's Parliamentary General Elections, winning an unexpected majority. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Protesters demonstrate against the Conservative government in Westminster, London, Saturday, May 9, 2015. David Cameron’s Conservative Party swept to power Friday in Britain’s Parliamentary General Elections, winning an unexpected majority. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

One of the most boring British election campaigns on record produced a supposedly dramatic result. Before the polls closed at 10 pm on Thursday 7th May 2015, every polling organisation had the two main political parties, Conservative and Labour neck and neck. No one knew who was going to win.

But as soon as London’s iconic Big Ben struck ten an exit poll for the main television stations surprisingly showed an overwhelming victory for the Conservatives. By the time the last votes were counted on Friday 8th, the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, had ridden home with 331 seats while Ed Miliband’s Labour Party performed unexpectedly poorly with 232 seats.

The United Kingdom’s parliament seats 650 members so the Conservatives had theoretically crossed the halfway 325 seats needed to govern the nation alone without a need to enter a coalition with a smaller party as it had done in 2010 with the Liberal Democrats.

In the immediate aftermath of the Conservative victory many rightly asked why the polls for the preceding six weeks got it so wrong. Even taking into account the usual margin of errors no one had predicted this outcome. Tellingly, very few asked why a significant part of the British electorate was clearly lying to pollsters.

It’s certainly not the first time such a discrepancy had happened. In the 1992 elections, everyone was expecting a Labour victory until the last moment. Back then, the blame was placed on a presumptuous victory rally held by the Labour party which compelled many to rush out and swing it for the Conservatives. With today’s media diversification and social media, the British talking heads have no such phantom alibi. The fact that voters were, let us say, reticent with their true voting intentions needs to be acknowledged. And why not? Isn’t that what politicians do for a living anyway? Why shouldn’t Her Majesty’s subjects give politicians a taste of their own horse manure?

This is not say there were massive differences between the two major parties. Both were committed to austerity — that is, the prioritisation of reducing and squeezing of public finances as a response to the Banking crisis and also to reduce the national debt. However, the Conservatives are seen as more committed to the rich and privileged. Over the last several years much has been said about major corporations and hyper-rich who have (legally) avoided paying taxes, and yet it is those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale who’ve suffered from cuts in public spending and benefit reductions. More so, both parties to varying degrees campaigned on the need to curtail and reduce immigration with the left-wing Labour party even producing mugs perceived to pander to the anti-immigration constituency.

What seemed to have sealed the Conservative victory was the fear factor. The Scots have clearly replaced the generic “immigrant” as England’s leading bogeyman in parliamentary elections, because the one prediction the pollsters did get right was that the Scottish National Party (SNP) led by Ms Nicola Sturgeon was going to win an overwhelming majority in Scotland, a constituent part of the United Kingdom for the last 300 years. With this in mind Conservative propagandist let it be known to England’s voters that a vote for other smaller parties such as the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), led by Nigel Farage, would only make a Labour-SNP governing alliance more likely.

This seems to have done the trick and propelled a majority of the people of England to vote accordingly. It also explains why disaffected Liberal Democrat voters opted to choose the Conservative Party rather than vote Labour. As the London Times’s Chief Political Correspondent wrote of the Conservative victory, a “disciplined, relentless and ruthless campaign that saw them obliterate the Lib Dems and stoke fear about the SNP helped the Conservatives to secure one of their notable victories … In the English marginals, warning about the SNP propping up a Miliband government clearly had an effect.”

So the people of England rather than choosing a perceived progressive-lite Labour-SNP coalition government fearfully opted instead for a right wing Conservative government. As a leading right wing commentator Charles Moore argued, the rise of the SNP “woke the English people” up from their slumber as the majority of England’s voting populace “don’t like ‘progressive change’ at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. The idea that Ms Sturgeon should help impose it – and we should pay for it – was just too much.”

Obviously Mr. Moore has no such issues with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE financially propping up the British economy, especially the essential British industrial-military complex. Or even that the British Empire’s demarcated oil-well with a flag, that is known as “Qatar” has consequentially and fantastically enriched the British economy is not at all bothersome to Mr. Moore.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talks to staff during a visit to a tea factory in Stockton-on-Tees, England, Tuesday May 12, 2015, his first engagement outside London since winning the general election. (Scott Heppell/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron talks to staff during a visit to a tea factory in Stockton-on-Tees, England, Tuesday May 12, 2015, his first engagement outside London since winning the general election. (Scott Heppell/Pool Photo via AP)

However this does not fully explain why the English have opted for right-wing governments over the last several centuries. Unlike the United States, Israel and Australia, England is not a modern settler-colonial society rooted in the theft, displacement, ethnic cleansing and genocide of its original inhabitants. But what many tend to overlook is that the United Kingdom, especially England has an imperialistically pruned population.

Rather than actively bringing into question the Establishment’s order, the masses in England have chosen over the centuries to migrate to other parts of the world, including to the British Empire’s conquered territories. Between 1814 and 1914 at least 15 million people left the British Isles. Furthermore, thousands and hundreds of thousands have died over the centuries in the Empire’s wars.

Naturally what remains after this inadvertent culling of the population through migration and war is inevitably that part of the population who do not find the Establishment disagreeable. As late as the mid 1940’s, Winston Churchill was advocating and envisioning the culling (“would ‘have to disappear one or another’”) of the British population by a quarter, 12 million people at that time, as a solution to the post-war economic crisis, with many dying of poverty and malnutrition rather than emigrating. [1]

In the aftermath of World War One, hundreds of thousands of British people lost their lives in an imperialist slaughter over world domination. Within months of the war’s end in November 1918, race riots in the UK erupted because the British white working class scapegoated the small number of migrant labour from the Empire’s colonies as the reason for their socio-economic predicaments. Scapegoating migrant labour rather than focusing on the bankrupt Establishment was clearly a vote in winner in 2015 as well, as the anti-immigrant UKIP scored emerged as third main party with 12.6% of the vote.

With respect to foreign policy, Cameron’s victory is a complement to Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in Israel. Cameron had led the calls for the NATO intervention in 2011 in Libya and he also led calls for a Syrian intervention up until the Damascus gas attacks in 2013. The problem for Cameron is that the current American administration is not as militaristic as the British establishment requires.

British imperialism does not possess the military capability to solely conduct global impacting operations. The only way this can be remedied is by always joining the United States as a supposed “junior partner” in its military adventures. But if the “senior partner” is not keen on massive military interventions, Britain’s role in the world is seen as greatly diminished.

As an editorial in the London Times argued in February 2015, “Greater resolution in foreign policy requires a lead from Britain’s most important ally, the United States. Under President Obama, that is not forthcoming.” British imperialism has as much contempt for Barack Obama as Israel’s Netanyahu. Both are longing for the end of his presidency to come sooner rather than later.

Needless to say, the United States is mainly important to the British establishment because it has the greatest military muscle in the western world. In the nineteenth century, the British establishment had nothing but contempt for the United States as there was no need for its military and more so it was seen as competitor and not an ally. British imperial decline powered the alliance with the United States.

But, now that Cameron and Netanyahu are both re-elected for at least four more years and Obama currently seeing out the final 18 months, a new American President, either Republican or Democrat, would be seen as completing the tripartite as long as he or she is more receptive to British and Israeli warmongering. The new President would be the final piece of a tripartite in another war on the indigenous population of the Middle East.

And the British can’t wait or, as Charles Moore expressed this bloodlust urge in the aftermath of the Cameron victory, “Over the past five years, in Britain as a whole, we have learnt how a country that forgets to defend itself properly starts to lose a sense of its identity. In the next five years, that sense must be restored.”

The morning after the news of the election victory, the London Times also editorialised a demand for more war on Arabs because it is “time for Mr Cameron to find his inner Churchill. During his first five years in Downing Street Britain’s standing in the world was weakened by indecision in the Middle East …” Obviously the Libyan intervention which eventually laid waste to that country counts for nothing.

It would be very difficult to imagine Cameron not demanding another military intervention during the next several years. Most likely, beginning with louder calls for a “no fly zone” over Syria.

In conclusion, the British elections were only dramatic because a decisive number of people were lying to the polls. These liars clearly won Cameron the election, so another war on an African or Asian country based on false and deceptive pretexts would most likely be politely welcomed by the electoral constituency which delivered him his victory.


[1] Clive Ponting, Churchill, (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995), pg. 748

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Ivy Ziedrich, College Student, Warms to Role as Jeb Bush Critic on ISIS

Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Nevada.Credit Nikita Lee

On Wednesday afternoon, just as she sat down to watch TV and eat a corn dog, Ivy Ziedrich’s phone rang. It was her sister in Montana.

“I am so proud of you,” her sister said, “for yelling at a politician.”

It was the first inkling that Ms. Ziedrich, a 19-year-old college student with a passion for the debate team and the finer points of Middle Eastern policy, had gone viral.

Her confrontation with Jeb Bush, in which she told the former Florida governor a few hours earlier, “Your brother created ISIS,” was suddenly everywhere online, casting an unwelcome hue on President George W. Bush’s legacy from the war in Iraq.

“My sister started freaking out,” Ms. Ziedrich recalled.

In an interview, Ms. Ziedrich described a dizzying 24 hours of social media frenzy, her upbringing in a conservative Republican family, and the circumstances that prompted her to approach Jeb Bush, who was in Reno for a town hall-style meeting on Wednesday.

She had shown up with a few college friends uncertain of whether she wanted to ask anything at all. But as Mr. Bush spoke about the rise of the Islamic State, and put blame on President Obama for removing troops from Iraq, Ms. Ziedrich found herself becoming furious. ISIS, she believed, was the product of George W. Bush’s bungled war in Iraq.

“A Bush was trying to blame ISIS on Obama’s foreign policy — it was hilarious,” said Ms. Ziedrich, who attends the University of Nevada. “It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger.”

She acknowledged she was deeply nervous about walking up to him after the meeting and asking her question. “I get nervous any time I talk to an authority figure — he wants to be president of the United States,” she said.

Her question and his reply seemed to distill deep, lingering anger of the war in Iraq and encapsulate Mr. Bush’s political challenges as the brother of George W. Bush. Much online commentary has focused on her somewhat aggressive tone, a fact that Ms. Ziedrich finds a bit baffling.

“I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful,” she said. In fact, she said she is grateful that Mr. Bush responded, even if it did not exactly satisfy her.

Ms. Ziedrich, a high school debater who specialized in the parliamentary style and still helps coach her former team, said that all the attention she is garnering from those on the right (who thought she was rude) and those on the left (who want to canonize her) is confounding given her own political journey. Growing up in Northern California, she considered herself a conservative like her mother and father, who is a loyal Fox News viewer.

Then she identified as a libertarian and, ultimately, as Democratic, influenced by her time spent debating and by books like Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

Speaking from her apartment, Ms. Ziedrich says she is busy juggling calls from old friends and media outlets.

“I am still trying to process all of this,” she said.

So far, her mother has expressed approval of the confrontation. But she hasn’t yet spoken with her father. “I am hoping he will be proud of me,” she said.

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VIDEO: Jeb Bush Confronted By College Student: ‘Your Brother Created ISIS’


Jeb Bush at a town-hall-style meeting in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday.

19-year old Ivy Ziedrich, a student at the University of Nevada, approached the former Florida governor to question him about comments he made during the event. Bush had argued that the Obama administration’s bad foreign policy was responsible for the rise of the terrorist group ISIS, or Islamic State.
The heated confrontation took place at a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, according to The New York Times. 19-year old Ivy Ziedrich, a student at the University of Nevada, approached the former Florida governor to question him about comments he made during the event. Bush had argued that the Obama administration’s bad foreign policy was responsible for the rise of the terrorist group ISIS, or Islamic State.


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What’s behind Zio-Wahhabi new muscularity


The desert Kingdom takes an assertive new stance. What it means for the Middle East and the world.

By Taylor Luck

  • It happened every night at 7. Life came to a sudden halt in the bustling Saudi capital of Riyadh, and a silence fell across the country. Saudi businessmen, government workers, and families huddled around TVs for an event that had become more gripping than a prime-time soap opera – the nightly military briefing on the Saudi-led bombings in Yemen.

Decked out in military fatigues, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri calmly detailed the airstrikes delivered by the Saudis’ American-sold warplanes, while a fascinated public peered at high-definition maps of Yemen, carefully tracing every hit against the Houthis – the latest perceived proxy of Iran to have come into Saudi Arabia’s cross hairs.

Elsewhere around the country, billboards and banners offered “blessings” for the airstrikes, which marked Saudi Arabia’s first foray into war in nearly a quarter century. Media outlets likened the bombing campaign to the battle of Khozaz – an uprising by Arab tribes against Persian invaders of Yemen more than 1,500 years ago.

The public not only supports Saudi Arabia’s new war, but also its new role as Middle East “policeman,” filling the void left by American reluctance to intervene in the region. “The Arab states that do not stand with us today will regret it tomorrow,” said Mohammed Hamdan, an electrical engineer, as he watched war updates from a cushioned smoking den outside Riyadh. “You are either with us or against us.”

The nationalist pride recently on display is indicative of a bolder, more assertive Saudi Arabia as the desert kingdom tries to expand its geopolitical footprint in the Middle East and around the world. Less than five months after it went through a transition of power from King Abdullah to his brother King Salman, Saudi Arabia is looking beyond its borders to play a more active role as a political and economic power – one that could dramatically affect the strategic balance in a region undergoing the biggest changes in a century.

Riyadh is increasingly flexing its military might, using funded and armed Sunni proxies and now its own fleet of warplanes to contain the growing influence of regional rival Iran. It has recalibrated its oil policies to give it more leverage in foreign capitals, is pushing ahead with a retooling of its workforce to boost its economic clout, and is exerting more control over what’s said from the pulpit to reinforce its new assertiveness.

The shift in Riyadh was also evident this week in King Salman’s conspicuous absence at the touted Washington-Arab Gulf summit, a move that was both symbolic and strategic. By deputizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, King Salman placed the spotlight on the first of the third generation of the Saud family to be in line for the throne, a diplomatic passing of the torch. The Saudi monarch also sent a message: the house of Saud will not always be at Washington’s beck and call.

Yet all this change comes amid a host of problems for the new regime. Riyadh’s mounting cold war with Iran – coupled with the endless conflict in Syria, Islamic State’s presence in Iraq, and the escalating violence in Yemen – has enmeshed the country in several simultaneous theaters of war for the first time in history. It faces enduring problems of religious extremism internally and enduring criticism from the West for its repressive human rights practices.

Underneath it all, the question persists: How far will Saudi Arabia go with its new boldness and what does it mean for the region?

“For decades, Saudi Arabia relied too much on its allies, waiting for consensus and green lights rather than proactively protecting its own interests in the region and the world,” says Hani Wafa, analyst and political editor at the Saudi daily Al Riyadh. “We have the political and military capital, and we are ready to use it.”

•     •     •     •

Riyadh Yassin hurries through the black marble hotel lobby and into aconference room. He is flanked by his trusted Yemeni advisers, who are in turn flanked by blue-uniformed Saudi security guards. For two weeks, Mr. Yassin has been using the five-star hotel in the heart of Riyadh as a makeshift Foreign Ministry, holding endless meetings and working the phones late into the night to rally international support as violence continued to spiral in Yemen.

On this day, the Yemeni foreign minister in exile is holding a cabinet meeting and a briefing with Saudi officials to discuss the latest airstrikes in his country.

“Saudi Arabia is committing its military and its resources to protect the Yemeni people and the legitimate government,” Yassin says in between talks with Yemeni tribal leaders in a bid to win their support. “In Yemen, we were prisoners. From Saudi, we can govern.”

In recent years, Saudi Arabia’s capital city has grown into a haven for Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies, a Casablanca of deposed dictators and exiled ministers where Arab leaders fleeing revolutions go to wait in hopes of a return to power, however improbable that might be.

Ahmad Jarba, former head of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, calls Riyadh home, as do many of the Free Syrian Army generals who took funds, arms, and directives from Riyadh to turn against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has been quietly living in the Saudi capital since being ousted by Arab Spring uprisings in January 2011. The rogues’ gallery of exiled leaders is a symbol of Saudi Arabia’s failed policy to check and contain Iran over the past decade through a concerted war by proxy.

Under the reign of King Abdullah, the Saudis counted on their Sunni surrogates across the Arab world to thwart Iran’s Shiite patrons, contesting every town and village from northern Lebanon to southern Bahrain. Since 2005, Riyadh has channeled an estimated $30 billion to tribes and militias in Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain, creating a wide network of Sunni movements linked and directed by Saudi intelligence services.

Yet as of 2014, Riyadh was realizing the painful limits of proxy warfare. Offensives stalled. Uprisings were quashed. Wars were lost. A Sunni-led political movement in Lebanon failed to rein in Shiite militant movement Hezbollah in Lebanon, Sunni tribal resistance movements wilted in the face of Iran’s dominance in Iraq, and after four years of revolution in Syria, Mr. Assad appears more entrenched than ever.

The worst came in January 2015, when Shiite Houthi militias, now in control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, drove out the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. In Riyadh’s eyes, Iran and its agents for the first time were approaching Saudi soil.

“For over a decade, Saudi Arabia stayed silent as Iran interfered in Arab affairs,” says a Saudi palace insider, characterizing the Saudi royal family as “enraged” over the Houthi takeover. “Iran’s presence in Yemen was the red line.”

On March 25, when Houthi militias drove the Hadi government from Aden and out of Yemen entirely, King Salman turned that frustration into action. Just two months into power, he dispatched Saudi warplanes to Yemen, launching a monthlong aerial campaign and plunging Saudi Arabia into its first state of war since the 1991 Gulf War.

On paper, the exact goals of Operation Decisive Storm were unclear, while the whole air campaign reportedly left US diplomats “baffled.” The Saudi military said the bombings aimed to “restore the legitimate government of Yemen” and to “protect Yemeni citizens from Houthi militias and militias of Ali Abdullah Saleh,” the country’s former dictator. Yet after a month of airstrikes, and around 1,000 people killed, the Hadi government remains in Riyadh.

The humanitarian costs of the bombings have been astronomical. Despite a pledge by Saudi Arabia to cover in full a $273.7 million United Nations aid appeal, aid agencies continue to struggle to reach more than 300,000 internally displaced people within Yemen and an estimated 2 million civilians in need of urgent food and medicine. Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia of using US-sold cluster munitions in its Yemen airstrikes, munitions banned by a 2008 convention signed by 116 nations but not Saudi Arabia or the United States. Despite the announcement of an end to Decisive Storm, daily bombing runs have continued.

No matter the results, analysts and officials say, the greater goal of the bombings was to send a message to both allies and enemies – namely the US and Iran. The message was simple: Saudi Arabia was ready to act and act alone. It would no longer be content to sit and watch from the sidelines.

“We as a country are ready to act against aggression when even our allies turn a blind eye,” says a military commander close to the operation.

To Riyadh, the bombings marked a changing of the guard in the Middle East, a new regional order in the Arab world where Saudi Arabia now stands as the leading power.

“If you look around, all the great historic Arab powers – Iraq, Syria, and Egypt – are all in chaos,” says Jasser al Jasser, managing editor of the pro-government Saudi daily Al Jazirah. “There is a need for a great Arab power in the region, and Saudi Arabia under King Salman is now stepping up to become that power.”

Saudi military officials brag in private that the country acted so swiftly in Yemen, “the Americans didn’t know until four hours before the first strikes.” While Riyadh did not move as quickly as it would like others to believe – the late King Abdullah reportedly warned Western officials of military action as early as October 2014 – Western diplomats were taken aback by how fast the Saudis built a “coalition of the willing” in Yemen.

“We knew Saudi was willing to act if the conflict touched their borders,” says a Western diplomat based in Riyadh. “What we didn’t know was that they were going to turn this into a Sunni coalition.”

The Saudis quickly convinced their stalwart Sunni Arab allies – Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt – to participate in the bombings. Saudi military insiders say it is a coalition Riyadh wants to use again and again throughout the region, waging war after war to stamp out Iranian influence.

In a motion passed through the Arab League in March, Saudi Arabia and Egypt moved to make the coalition a permanent “Arab joint military force” to be used in operations to combat extremism and lend aid to beleaguered Arab governments. Under the guise of a permanent force, the Saudis intend to use their superior US-sold weaponry and Egyptian and Jordanian manpower to protect their interests, combat extremist groups, and engage in a full-on war against Shiite movements. The Saudis have a fleet of 84 advanced F-15s at their disposal and soon will have more than 200 advanced Patriot missiles. For them, Yemen was only a training exercise.

“We are building a coalition to endure Iran’s campaign of destabilization in the region,” says the military commander. “Today we are in Yemen, tomorrow Iraq, and then maybe Syria. We will strike wherever Iran and its agents are.”

While it is difficult to separate the saber rattling from Riyadh’s true appetite for war, the zeal is telling about how Saudi Arabia sees its future role in the region. With an unmistakable swagger, Saudi officials are preaching a “proactive” military doctrine, echoing the brash style of President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.

“This isn’t war,” the military commander says of the Yemen operation. “This is a preemptive strike.”

Riyadh’s new assertiveness can also be seen in the way it’s using one of its other most potent weapons – oil. As crude oil prices have dropped dramatically in the past year, Saudi Arabia has had every opportunity to reduce production and boost energy prices once again. That’s what it would have done in the past. Not this time.

It has continued to pump, and pump at record levels, despite recently posting a record budget deficit of $38.6 billion.

The reason: By maintaining production and keeping oil prices low, the Saudis succeed in hurting Iran, which, unlike Riyadh, does not have billions of dollars in currency reserves to soften the blow. The oil-price plunge also harms economically ailing Russia, whose ties with Iran and unflagging support of Assad have heightened tensions between Riyadh and Moscow.

While the Saudis have clearly kept the oil spigot open to undercut the upstart oil shale industry in the US as well, geopolitical interests remain a top focus.

“The maintenance of oil production is Saudi Arabia’s new instrument in foreign policy,” says Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief of Saudi Arabia’s state-run Al Arabiya news network.

•     •     •     •

In 2011, Lateefa Alwaalan was one of some 80,000 Saudis studying at universities in the US. At the time, many Saudis saw an American degree as merely a badge of honor: Their time at a university was simply a four-year wait for a cushy government job back in Saudi Arabia.

Yet Ms. Alwaalan wanted something more. While studying for her MBA at the University of Washington, she immersed herself in the culture of one of the coffee capitals of the US – Seattle.

She found herself wondering why global coffees, from frothy lattes to silky macchiatos, could be made by machines at the flick of a switch, but Arabic coffee, the bittersweet blend that is the centerpiece of Saudi social gatherings, remained a half-hour chore to brew. “Our coffee-making techniques were stuck in the Stone Age,” says Alwaalan.

So she developed an automatic electric kettle designed specifically to bring Arabic coffee to the perfect temperature within minutes, modeled after espresso machines in the Pacific Northwest. She also produced a line of instant Arabic coffee blends.

Bearing the name Yatooq, or “longing,” Alwaalan’s coffee and kettle dominate the shelves of supermarkets across Saudi Arabia and have entered the Kuwaiti market. Her company now employs more than 70 people. In her university days, Alwaalan was seen as a dreamer. Now she’s the future.

Saudi Arabia’s strength and its ability to play a more prominent role in the region will hinge in part on its attempts to reform its one-dimensional economy, currently the Arab world’s largest. For decades, Saudi oil revenues have acted as an employment fund for citizens, with Riyadh providing government jobs and benefits to at times as much as 90 percent of the population.

The security of a government job and a minimum salary of $2,000 a month – twice the average wages in the private sector – has led over the years to a ballooning public sector and a moribund private sector. As of January, 75 percent of Saudis worked in government agencies. Public-sector salaries accounted for 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, some $80 billion, representing the largest drain on the Saudi budget.

Private companies looked to foreigners to staff their factories, hotels, and restaurants. From Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, hundreds of thousands have come to fill positions ranging from taxi drivers to heart surgeons.

Now, a startling 9 million foreigners participate in the Saudi labor force, holding more than 80 percent of its private-sector jobs. Meanwhile, around 60 percent of Saudis are under the age of 30, and Riyadh is struggling to absorb the 100,000 Saudis entering the workforce each year.

Starting in 2011, the country promoted a campaign to “Saudi-ize” the labor force, providing incentives to factories and companies to hire Saudi nationals. The results have been mixed. The Ministry of Labor reported a 30 percent increase in Saudi private-sector hiring between 2011 and 2014, with the percentage of Saudis in the labor force rising from 10.9 percent to 15.2 percent. Despite the measures, Saudi unemployment stands at 10.5 percent – nearly twice the government’s target – with the jobless rate among Saudis under age 30 hovering around 30 percent.

Even though the country has yet to forge a vibrant private sector, a new generation of young Saudi entrepreneurs is returning from the US and Europe ready to create at home. Osama Natto has seen this economic revolution up close. An angel investor, Mr. Natto and his Innovative Business Solutions firm have launched eight Saudi companies since 2010. He says a deep-rooted “culture change” over the past few years has led to increased confidence in the Saudi private sector.

“The capital investment was always there, the skilled human resources were always there, but investors always wanted to go with international companies – the sure thing,” Natto says. “Now, after a few successes, people have the confidence to ‘go Saudi.’ ”

Thanks to a series of tax breaks and entrepreneur-friendly government regulations, Riyadh is starting to see a nascent business and investment class emerge. The Saudi economy grew 5 percent in 2014, despite the sharp drop in oil prices, with Riyadh leaning more on its young private sector.

•     •     •     •

More than 100,000 pilgrims from Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and as far away as China enter the cavernous marble archways of the Prophet’s Mosque in Mecca – the second holiest site in Islam and the final resting place of the prophet Muhammad. Enrobed in simple white ihram cloth, they file into the mosque to pay their respects at the tomb, embarking on the 1,200-year-old rites of umrah, or little pilgrimage.

As noon approaches, pilgrims gather in the mosque’s canvas-covered courtyard. United by a bond that transcends language, nationality, ethnicity, and politics, they kneel in unison for Friday prayers.

They gather for a sermon that is decisively political.

“May God bless Operation Decisive Storm and the campaign of the custodian of the two holy mosques to protect this Islamic world,” Imam Abdulmohsen al-Qasim thunders through the overhead PA system. “This is a war not only on the Yemeni people, but on its Islamic identity. This is war to defend the Islamic world.”

Despite its billions in oil wealth and newfound military might, Saudi Arabia still relies on the pulpit as the main platform for its policies. The title “custodian of the two holy mosques” accompanies every mention of King Salman, and Saudi Arabia trumpets its position as both birthplace and guardian of Islam.

Riyadh continues to use its state-employed clerics and scholars to issuefatwas to justify and enforce royal policies, ranging from upholding a ban on women drivers to observing daylight saving time. Yet in 2015, the House of Saud has fine-tuned its message even further. It is exerting its influence over Islamic universities and highly visible clerics to protect its interests abroad, give a religious legitimacy to its allies in the region, and denounce its enemies as deviants of Islam.

In one of its more public crackdowns, the state arrested renowned cleric Mohamad al-Arefe, whose televised sermons and speeches reached more than 20 million homes across the region, for speaking out against the Egyptian military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. Riyadh had opposed Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement ever since it came to power and let it be known that its clerics must not speak out against the military coup. After a second jailing in October 2014, Mr. Arefe said nothing more on Egypt and later came out as an ardent advocate of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

The country’s tight controls, of course, extend way beyond the pulpit. Women are still banned from driving, while the Saudis resentenced blogger and activist Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes in 2014 for “insulting Islam” with his criticisms of the Saudi royal family.

The heavy-handedness at times draws the ire of Saudi Arabia’s democracy-minded Western allies. In the most recent spat, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström ignited a diplomatic crisis in February when she described the House of Saud as presiding over a “dictatorship” and denounced Mr. Badawi’s flogging as “medieval.”

After Riyadh recalled its ambassador and refused to renew the business visas of Swedish nationals, threatening some $1.3 billion in annual Swedish exports to Saudi Arabia, Swedish King Carl Gustaf sent a personal letter to King Salman to defuse the crisis.

Despite the criticisms, Saudi Arabia has made strides in the area of women’s rights. Some 30 women were included in the Majlis al-Shura, the royal handpicked parliament in early 2013, while women continue to make advances in the private sector.

•     •     •     •

Mohammed Abu Baker represents a different threat to the Saudi regime – and one far more ominous. The 22-year-old former engineering student says he was moved by a “religious calling” to promote and defend Islam. He joined the ranks of Islamic State.

“We must defend our lands from the Alawite and Shiite aggressors,” Mr. Abu Baker says in a Skype conversation from northern Syria.

When asked why he joined the jihadist militant movement, which has threatened the royal family itself, Abu Baker echoes Riyadh’s narrative of a greater Sunni-Shiite struggle for the Middle East. “If the Sunni world does not stand up, the Persians and the distorters of Islam will destroy us,” he says.

An estimated 2,000 Saudis have followed Abu Baker’s footsteps and joined Islamic State. They are only the latest generation of young Saudis to be seduced by jihadist groups – a peril never far from the minds of Saudi authorities.

“Day and night, our top concern is terrorism,” says Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry.

For more than three decades, the battlefields of the various conflicts that have struck the Arab world have attracted thousands of Saudis to embark on jihad, or holy war – from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s to the US occupation of Iraq in the 2000s. Osama bin Laden was the most famous of the militants.

Now with Syria on the brink of becoming a failed state, Islamic State entrenched in Iraq, and spiraling violence in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is facing multiple conflicts that are attracting and radicalizing hundreds of Saudi youths.

“Wherever there is conflict, there is an opportunity for extremism to take hold. And that is why we are concerned,” Turki says.

Saudi Arabia’s fears are real. Eleven deadly terrorist attacks have been carried out on Saudi soil over the past two years, leaving eight citizens and 11 security personnel dead. The country faced its most recent attack in April when alleged Islamic State supporters killed a police officer in East Riyadh.

Despite all the challenges, Saudis argue that the country has never been stronger. From the Yemeni battlefield to the Riyadh stock exchange to the entrepreneurial suites of Riyadh, officials see the country as poised for a larger and more forceful role in the region.

“For decades, we have been the West’s partner and ally,” says Mr. Jasser. “Now it is time for Saudi Arabia to stand on its own, and stand tall.”

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on What’s behind Zio-Wahhabi new muscularity

Ed Milliband? Don’t you believe it.


This is British Labour party leader Ed Milliband who has said he wants to be the first Jewish prime minister of Great Britain. He’s pictured here at the Holocaust shrine at Yad Vashem which will surprise no-one since such a visit, photographed and disseminated, is de rigeur for any political wannabee in the the Western world.

In October 2013 I reported on an article from the Daily Mail which drew a nefarious connection between the then new Labour party leader, Ed and his late father Ralph Milliband. The article’s sub-text was that Ralph, as a self-proclaimed cosmopolitan (read Jewish) Marxist who had devoted his life to world revolution, was unlikely to bring up a son to be exactly loyal to Great Britain as she is.

At the time the British public was outraged. It seemed simply wrong that a man could be judged simply by the ideology and even the deeds of his father.

Yesterday, as the British election hotted up, Michael Fallon, a senior government minister claimed that Ed Milliband as Prime Minister would, just as he had stabbed his brother in the back, so stab the British people in the back. (For non-Brit readers, Milliband secured the Labour leadership by waging a somewhat clandestine campaign against his previously shoe-in brother David. David went off to sulk while Ed took up the crown of party leadership and very-likely future prime minister)

Again, outrage. I mean, how low can you get? Surely a man should be judged on his policies not on how he treated his brother. But the politician who made the accusation stood by his words. Ed Milliband had demonstrated that he would do anything, simply anything, to get what he wants. Is this the kind of man we want to lead our country?

Ed Milliband looks a bit odd (Richard III?) and he has a slight speech defect and you get the feeling that nobody really knows what he’s thinking. All-in-all he comes across as a bit of a nerd.

Don’t you believe it.

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Posted in ZIO-NAZI, UKComments Off on Ed Milliband? Don’t you believe it.

‘Desperate situation’: UN confirms typhoid at Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus


Image result for Yarmouk camp photo

Residents wait in line to receive food aid in Yarmouk camp © Moayad Zaghmout
Residents wait in line to receive food aid in Yarmouk camp © Moayad Zaghmout / Reuters
Typhoid has broken out at a Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital, with at least 6 cases confirmed, according to the UN. The body is concerned that these cases are just “the tip of the iceberg,” warning of “massive” risks of other diseases.

The cases confirmed by the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) come from blockaded Yarmouk refugee camp in the south of Damascus, which houses displaced Palestinian refugees and Syrian civilians. Over 200 medical consultations have been carried out.

“Our concern is that these typhoid cases only represent the tip of the iceberg, because the erosion of health services and appalling public health standards create a massive, massive risk of diseases breaking out,” UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness told Reuters, adding that the “situation is desperate.”

Caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi, typhoid is contracted by eating or drinking contaminated substances. Symptoms of the disease include nausea, fever, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, typhoid can lead to complications in the gut and head, which can kill up to one in five patients.

Gunness said agency staff had gained access to Yalda, an area east of the camp, for the first time since June 8, and established a mobile health point there, AP reported. The UNRWA was unable to operate in the camp itself, and has been prevented from doing so since government forces instituted a blockade in 2013.

Fighting in an around the camp has left some 18,000 refugees – including 3,500 children – without food, water, and medical supplies. The situation has prompted aid agencies to urge the warring parties to allow access for aid and evacuations.

The camp has come under siege by the Syrian government since 2013. Conditions worsened when Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants attacked the camp in April. They later withdrew, leaving the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front as the biggest force in the camp.

According to Gunness, more than 95 percent of Palestinian refugees in the camp rely on the UNRWA to provide them with daily supplies of food, water, and healthcare.

“Women are dying in childbirth due to a lack of medicine, children are reduced to eating grass because there is no food, and the main water supply hasn’t been functional since last September,” Gunness said.

“Never has the imperative for sustained humanitarian access been greater,” he added.

Originally built for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the camp was home to around 160,000 Palestinians before the Syrian conflict began in 2011. There were 18,000 refugees in the camp when IS militants attacked in April, though several thousand have fled since then, according to Gunness.

The refugee agency also noted “credible reports” of a typhoid outbreak in additional areas of the region, including others in Yarmouk, Yalda, Babila, and Beit Sahem.

Around 21 million people are infected with the disease every year, in WHO’s estimates, while 216,000 to 600,000 die.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Health, Human RightsComments Off on ‘Desperate situation’: UN confirms typhoid at Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus

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