Archive | January 5th, 2016

Will the US fall for Saudi Zio-Wahhabi deliberate provocation?

Will the US fall for Saudi Arabia’s deliberate provocation?
Saudi King Salman
” Zio-Wahhabi King Shalom Bin Yahood”
By Trita Parsi*

There should be little doubt that Saudi Arabia wanted to escalate regional tensions into a crisis by executing Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. On the same day, Riyadh also unilaterally withdrew from the ceasefire agreement in Yemen. By allowing protesters to torch the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response, Iran seems to have walked right into the Saudi trap. If Saudi Arabia succeeds in forcing the United States into the conflict by siding with the kingdom, then its objectives will have been

It is difficult to see that Saudi Arabia did not know that its decision to execute Nimr would not cause uproar in the region and wouldn’t put additional strains on its already tense relations with Iran. The inexcusable torching of the Saudi embassy in Iran – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned it and called it totally unjustifiable”, though footage shows that Iranian security forces did little to prevent the attack — in turn provided Riyadh with the perfect pretext to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran. With that, Riyadh significantly undermined US-led regional diplomacy on both Syria and Yemen.

… by cutting their diplomatic relations with Iran, the Saudis have the perfect excuse to slow down, undermine and possibly completely scuttle these US-led negotiations [on Syria]…

Saudi Arabia has long opposed diplomatic initiatives that Iran participated in – be it in Syria or on the nuclear issue – and that risked normalising Tehran’s regional role and influence. Earlier, Riyadh had successfully ensured Iran’s exclusion from Syria talks in Geneva by threatening to boycott them if Iran was present, US officials have told me. In fact, according to White House sources, President Barack Obama had to personally call King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to force the Saudis to take part in the Vienna talks on Syria this past autumn.

Now, by cutting their diplomatic relations with Iran, the Saudis have the perfect excuse to slow down, undermine and possibly completely scuttle these US-led negotiations, if they should choose to do so.

From the Saudi perspective, geopolitical trends in the region have gone against their interests for more than a decade now. The rise of Iran – and Washington’s decision to negotiate and compromise with Tehran over its nuclear programme – has only added to the Saudi panic.

To follow through on this way of thinking, Riyadh’s calculation with the deliberate provocation of executing Nimr may have been to manufacture a crisis — perhaps even war — that it hopes can change the geopolitical trajectory of the region back to the Saudi’s advantage.

The prize would be to force the United States to side with Saudi Arabia and thwart its slow but critical warm-up in relations with Tehran. As a person close to the Saudi government told the Wall Street Journal: “At some point, the US may be forced to take sides [between Saudi Arabia and Iran]… This could potentially threaten the nuclear deal.”

Washington should not repeat Tehran’s mistake and walk into this Saudi trap. In fact, from the US perspective, Saudi Arabia’s destabilising activities are a vindication of the nuclear deal it struck with Iran in 2015. One critical benefit of that deal, left unstated by Obama administration officials, is that it helped reduce US dependency on Saudi Arabia.

By resolving the nuclear standoff and getting back on talking terms with Iran, Washington increased its options in the region.

…Riyadh’s calculation with the deliberate provocation of executing Nimr may have been to manufacture a crisis — perhaps even war — that it hopes can change the geopolitical trajectory of the region back to the Saudi’s advantage.

As Admiral Mike Mullen wrote in Politico last year in regards to the benefits of the nuclear deal: “It would also more fairly rebalance American influence. We need to re-examine all of the relationships we enjoy in the region, relationships primarily with Sunni-dominated nations. Detente with Iran might better balance our efforts across the sectarian divide.”

Mindful of the deliberate manner Saudi Arabia is driving matters towards a crisis in the region – partly motivated by a desire to trap the United States in Riyadh’s own enmity with Iran – Washington is clearly better off being able to play a balancing role between Saudi and Iran rather than being obliged to fully support Saudi Arabia’s regional escapades.

The question is, however, if Washington’s desire to stay out of this fight is tenable. Obama administration officials have already expressed concern over how this Saudi-initiated crisis is affecting the fight against Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS and ISIL, and diplomacy over Syria.

“This is a dangerous game [the Saudis] are playing,” an unnamed US official told the Washington Post. “There are larger repercussions than just the reaction to these executions,” including damage to “counter-ISIL initiatives as well as the Syrian peace process.

If Washington’s priority is the defeat of IS and other jihadist movements, then a balancing act between an Iran that ferociously opposes IS and a Saudi Arabia that has played an undeniable role in promoting jihadi extremism may not be the right answer.


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Why Did the Venezuelan Supreme Court Accept a Challenge to Election Results?

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On Dec. 30, 2015, the electoral chamber of the Venezuelan Supreme Court accepted a request to challenge the results of the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections in the states of Amazonas, Yaracuy, and Aragua, as well as one of the seats reserved for Indigenous peoples.

The Supreme Court also accepted a request for an emergency precautionary measure in the state of Amazonas, which temporarily suspended the swearing in of four candidates, three from the opposition and one from the ruling socialist party.

In the decisions posted online, the court did not specify the reasons for upholding the challenge, however the candidates who submitted the challenge cite a number of electoral irregularities, including possible fraud, a high number of blank votes, and, most importantly, vote buying.

The allegation that candidates and politicians were engaged in vote buying in the state of Amazonas emerged shortly after the elections and well before the court ruled to suspend the four candidates.

On Dec. 16, Jorge Rodriguez, a leading figure inside Venezuela’s socialist party and the head of that party’s campaign, released a recording that allegedly provides evidence of vote buying and implicates Victoria Franchi, an associate of the opposition governor of Amazonas.

In the recording Franchi can be heard speaking to an unidentified person, described as an undercover agent, concerning a plot to pay people to accompany seniors and people with low literacy on voting day in order to ensure that these people vote for candidates from the opposition coalition.

Franchi is also heard offering to pay for people to pose and vote on behalf of the deceased.

“We want to win by any means necessary,” says Franchi toward the end of the recording.

Should the allegations of vote buying be proven to be true, it would constitute a crime under Venezuela’s electoral law. Authorities would then need to determine if the crime was severe or significant enough to warrant new elections in the affected state.

Rodriguez called on authorities to investigate the allegations.

“We insist that results should be recognized, but attacks against the constitution … attacks against electoral laws, attacks against the electoral system, and finally attacks against a voter’s intention, should be investigated,” said Rodriguez.

Venezuela’s intelligence service, known as Sebin, subsequently detained Franchi, who was later released.

Past Incidents of Fraud in Amazonas State

The governor of Amazonas, Liborio Guarulla, denies Franchi is a person of significance inside his government, but nonetheless came to her defense, first by posting a message of support on his Twitter account and then offering to have her legal expenses covered by his government.

“This is how the national government acts: Sebin detains Victoria Franchi and they are torturing her with the aim of finding justification for their defeat in Amazonas.”

The involvement of Governor Guarulla brings up an intriguing and relevant piece of history.

He sits as governor of Amazonas thanks to the intervention of the Supreme Court and electoral authorities after regional elections were held in 2000.

In the 2000 election, Bernabe Gutierrez, of the opposition Democratic Action party, had initially been declared the winner, besting Guarulla by only 221 votes. Guarulla challenged the results, as he was entitled to do under electoral law.

The Supreme Court ultimately agreed there was basis to believe fraud had occurred and annulled the results from seven voting stations. The National Electoral Council held a re-vote in the affected voting areas.

Guarulla subsequently won the election and was sworn in as governor Feb. 13, 2001, due in thanks to the intervention of the Supreme Court and electoral authorities.

The MUD coalition, which Guarulla supports, says it will not recognize the court’s ruling and will attempt to have their suspended candidates forcibly take office.

Such has been the pattern of the Venezuelan opposition, only respecting electoral authorities when it suits them.

Ahead of the Dec. 6 election the opposition had refused to commit to recognizing the result, they warned that should they fail to win they would cry fraud. It was only when results emerged indicating their victory that they recognized the results.

In other electoral contests where the opposition has lost, they have leveled unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

That they now refuse to recognize the perfectly legal decision by the Supreme Court should surprise no one.

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American Casualties of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program

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By Lawrence Wittner

When Americans think about nuclear weapons, they comfort themselves with the thought that these weapons’ vast destruction of human life has not taken place since 1945—at least not yet. But, in reality, it has taken place, with shocking levels of U.S. casualties.

This point is borne out by a recently-published study by a team of investigative journalists at McClatchy News. Drawing upon millions of government records and large numbers of interviews, they concluded that employment in the nation’s nuclear weapons plants since 1945 led to 107,394 American workers contracting cancer and other serious diseases. Of these people, some 53,000 judged by government officials to have experienced excessive radiation on the job received $12 billion in compensation under the federal government’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. And 33,480 of these workers have died.

How could this happen? Let’s examine the case of Byron Vaigneur. In October 1975, he saw a brownish sludge containing plutonium break through the wall of his office and start pooling near his desk at the Savannah River, South Carolina nuclear weapons plant. Subsequently, he contracted breast cancer, as well as chronic beryllium disease, a debilitating respiratory condition. Vaigneur, who had a mastectomy to cut out the cancer, is today on oxygen, often unable to walk more than a hundred feet. Declaring he’s ready to die, he has promised to donate his body to science in the hope that it will help save the lives of other people exposed to deadly radiation.

Actually, workers in nuclear weapons plants constitute only a fraction of Americans whose lives have been ravaged by preparations for nuclear war. A 2002 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintained that, between 1951 and 1963 alone, the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons—more than half of it done by the United States—killed 11,000 Americans through cancer. As this estimate does not include internal radiation exposure caused by inhaling or swallowing radioactive particles, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research has maintained that the actual number of fatal cancers caused by nuclear testing could be 17,000. Of course, a larger number of people contracted cancer from nuclear testing than actually died of it. The government study estimated that those who contracted cancer numbered at least 80,000 Americans.

Who were these Americans? Many of them were “downwinders”—people whose towns and cities were located near U.S. nuclear testing sites and, thus, were contaminated by deadly clouds of nuclear fallout carried along by the wind. During the 1950s, the U.S. government conducted close to a hundred atmospheric nuclear explosions at its Nevada test site. Nearly 30 percent of the radioactive debris drifted over the towns to the east, which housed a population of roughly 100,000 people. The residents of St. George, Utah recalled that a “pink cloud” would hang over them while they worked amid the fallout, walked in it, breathed it, washed their clothes in it, and ate it. “Even the little children ate the snow,” recalled one resident. “They didn’t know it was going to kill them later on.”

During subsequent decades, leukemia and other cancer rates soared in the counties adjoining the Nevada test site, as they did among the 250,000 U.S. soldiers exposed to U.S. nuclear weapons tests. From the standpoint of U.S. military commanders, it was vital to place American soldiers close to U.S. nuclear explosions to get them ready to fight in a nuclear war. Subsequently, as many of these soldiers developed cancer, had children with birth defects, or died, they and their family members organized atomic veterans’ groups to demand that the federal government provide medical care and financial compensation for their suffering. Today, atomic veterans receive both from the federal government.

Uranium miners comprise yet another group of Americans who have suffered and died from the U.S. nuclear weapons program. To obtain the uranium ore necessary to build nuclear weapons, the U.S. government operated thousands of uranium mines, often on the lands of Native Americans, many of whom worked as miners and died premature deaths. The U.S. Public Health Service and the National Institute for Public Safety and Health conducted studies of uranium miners that discovered alarmingly high rates of deaths from lung cancer, other lung diseases, tuberculosis, emphysema, blood disease, and injuries. In addition, when the uranium mines were played out or abandoned for other reasons, they were often left as open pits, thereby polluting the air, land, and water of the surrounding communities with radiation and heavy metals.

This American nuclear catastrophe is not only a matter of the past, but seems likely to continue well into the future. The U.S. government is now beginning a $1 trillion program to “modernize” its nuclear weapons complex. This involves building new nuclear weapons factories and labs, as well as churning out new nuclear weapons and warheads for firing from the air, land, and sea. Of course, if these weapons and their overseas counterparts are used, they will destroy the world. But, as we have seen, even when they are not used in war, they exact a dreadful toll—in the United States and, it should be noted, in other nations around the world.

How long are people going to tolerate this nuclear tragedy?

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