Archive | January 28th, 2016

Citing Terrorism Concerns, John Kerry Supports Saudi Bloodbath in Yemen

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Sputnik

US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed his support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, a conflict that has killed over 2,400 civilians. As justification, the secretary reiterated false claims that Riyadh is battling al-Qaeda.

Over the weekend, the White House stated its concern over the rising civilian death toll in the Yemen conflict.

“We are deeply concerned about recent reports of escalating violence in Yemen and resulting deaths of civilians…” White House National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said in statement on Saturday.

But while the Obama administration is ostensibly worried about the amount of violence, it also fully supports the Saudi campaign that is creating the chaos. One day after the release of Price’s statement, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated his full support for Riyadh’s actions.

“Let me assure everybody that the relationship between the United States and the GCC nations ([Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council) is one that is built on mutual interest, on mutual defense and I think there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the countries that make up the GCC that the United States will stand with them against any external threat,” Kerry told reporters.

Kerry claimed that the war was necessary since it is partially aimed at targeting “al-Qaeda operatives.” Those motivations are highly suspect, however, given that Riyadh failed to go after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) during the first nine months of fighting.

In April, the Saudi government also looked the other way as AQAP seized the port city of al Mukalla. By gaining control of the central bank, the terrorist group gained over $17 billion from the city’s capture.

In addition, Kerry cited the need to combat Iranian “interference.”

“The United States remains concerned about some of the activities that Iran is engaged in other countries,” he told reporters.

Riyadh has provided little evidence to suggest that Tehran is providing any assistance to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Riyadh’s intervention began last March, and the Saudi naval blockade of Yemen has left approximately 1 million people internally displaced, and as many as 20 million people in need of food, water, and medical supplies.

The United Nations estimates that as many as 2,400 Yemeni civilians have been killed by coalition bombing. Most airstrikes have utilized cluster munitions sold by the United States. Worth an estimated $1.2 billion, this could partially explain Kerry’s support, but it also implicates Washington in Yemen’s civilian deaths.

“We should be culpable for the crime of killing civilians as well, as we produce and sell the weapons when we know the use they will be put to,” retired US Army Major Todd Pierce told Sputnik.

“Our indivisibility with our ‘allies’ inculpates us in their crimes…”

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Nazi army shot 9-year old girl with live ammunition

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9-year old girl got shot with live ammunition during Friday demonstrations in Kafr Qaddum
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International Solidarity Movement 

Kafr Qaddum, Occupied Palestine – On the 22nd of January, when villagers of Kafr Qaddum carried out their weekly demonstration against the surrounding settlement of Kedumim, Israeli forces attacked them with the use of tear gas and live ammunition. Two men got shot in their legs and 9-year old Ayat Zahi Ali was shot in her arm, all of them with live bullets. Earlier that morning in the same village a farmer was ambushed and beaten when he was going out to work his land.

Since 2011 the people of Kafr Qaddum have protested the theft of their land and the Israeli closure of the village main road with weekly demonstrations. The villagers stated that they had a strange feeling on Thursday night, suspecting that Israeli forces may have entered the village in the cover of the dark to prepare for an ambush during the Friday demonstration. Their worries were verified in the morning when a farmer who was walking onto his land got ambushed and beaten by soldiers that were hiding in the bushes.

In fear of more soldiers hiding in the village the route for the demonstration was changed and people were extra cautious. One hour after the protest started Israeli soldiers showed up and immediately started shooting live ammunition towards the crowd. Two men, Hamza Abu Khaled, 21 and Abd Allah Anwar, 40, were shot in their legs. According to villagers one of the bullets shattered the bone.

Ayat Zahi Ali, 9 years old, was shot in her left upper arm with live ammunition while she was inside her father’s house. Her uncle and family members carried her to a red crescent ambulance. Israeli forces entered the village with a military bulldozer armed with snipers and continued to fire tear gas and live ammunition at the protesters and nearby the houses.

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Ayat Zahi Ali is being carried after being shot by Israeli forces. Photo credit: ISM

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Military bulldozer entering the village, with a sniper in the right window. Photo credit: ISM

Ayat is not the first young girl that has been injured by Israeli live bullets in Kafr Qaddum in recent times. In September 2015, Israeli soldiers shot the 3 year old Maram Abed al-Latif al-Qaddumiwaa in her head while she was standing on her balcony. When er father rushed to help her he also got shot in the head.

The main road that leads to Kafr Qaddum is cut off by a permanent roadblock, making the journey to the main road three times longer than necessary. This again is illegal according to an Israeli court decision from 2010, but the road is still kept closed.

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Peace talks between Damascus & opposition to start January 29 – UN Syria envoy

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Talks between Damascus and the Syrian opposition will begin on January 29, the UN’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has told journalists in Geneva. The negotiations will focus on a broad ceasefire, stopping Islamic State militants and increasing aid, he added.

De Mistura said the process of finalizing the list of participants “is still ongoing,” particularly regarding clarification of the opposition groups which will not be considered “terrorist.”

He added that the UN will start sending invitations on Tuesday. “I’m going to send the invitations given by the mandate of the UN Security Council,” he said.

The peace talks were originally due to start on Monday, but were postponed.

“We want to make sure that when and if we start, to start at least on the right foot. It will be uphill anyway,” de Mistura said.

He added that the “proximity talks” between the two sides are expected to last six months. According to the UN official, “this will not be Geneva-3.”

The Geneva II peace conference which took place in 2014 focused on bringing the two sides – the government and opposition – to the negotiation table to agree on forming a transitional government.

De Mistura told reporters that the sides will not talk directly to each other and will be mediated by negotiators.

The first part of the talks will last from two to three weeks, the envoy said, adding that the focus will be on negotiating a ceasefire, stopping Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and increasing humanitarian aid.

“The condition is it should be a real ceasefire and not just local,” de Mistura said. “Suspension of fighting regarding ISIL and al Nusra is not on the table. However (there are) plenty of other suspensions of fighting that can take place.”

Among the priorities will also be the issues of governance, a constitutional review and future UN-backed election.

“The participation will be as inclusive as possible, including women, civil society and other marginalized groups,” said Mistura, answering a question concerning the composition of the delegations.

The Syrian government has said that Damascus’s delegation will be headed by the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari.

The disagreement over which opposition groups will take part in the peace talks and who will represent them has been impeding the start of negotiations.

On Wednesday, a Syrian opposition coalition, the so-called ‘High Negotiations Committee,’ named an Islamist chief as their top negotiator. The decision to appoint Mohammed Alloush, the leader of Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), a powerful jihadist group operating in the suburbs of Damascus, as one of the negotiators drew criticism, even from among other members of the Syrian opposition.

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Turkey Drifts Towards I$raHell

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By Stanislav Ivanov 

As is well known, the current foreign policy of the Turkish leadership in the region widely known as “zero problems with neighbours” has failed completely and in fact become “zero relations with neighbours.” The sharp deterioration in the Russian–Turkish relations after the launch of the Turkish missiles on the Russian military aircraft has completed the process of Turkey’s political isolation across its borders. Today, almost all states bordering with Turkey are among its enemies or competitors (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia). The only exception are the good-neighbourly and mutually beneficial relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan as an entity of the Federation of Iraq. Yet, relations between Ankara and Baghdad have significantly deteriorated and even become aggravated after the Turkish authorities flagrantly violated the sovereignty of the country by bringing military units with artillery and armoured vehicles to Nineveh province without the permission of the central authorities. Ankara has made it clear that it is dissatisfied with the pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad, which, to make the matters worse, supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. […]

On the eve of the new year of 2016, Recep Erdogan visited Riyadh and tried to strengthen the existing partnership with the leadership of Saudi Arabia. The main points of contact between Ankara and Riyadh are a common hatred of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, their desire to limit the influence of Iran and Shiite communities in the region by all means, as well as their alliance with Washington. The same reasons can explain the expected renewal of relations between Turkey and Israel. It is no coincidence that during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Erdogan stressed, that “Israel needs an ally such as Turkey. And we must admit that we also need Israel.”

The restoration of diplomatic relations and the reopening of the Turkish-Israeli cooperation under the auspices of the United States in the current circumstances satisfy many parties. In December 2015, the Turkish authorities confirmed that they had reached a preliminary agreement with Israel during negotiations in Switzerland to normalize bilateral relations. According to the agreements reached, Israel is to create a fund worth 20 million dollars to pay compensation to the victims of Israeli commandos, while Turkey is waiving all the claims against Israel in this matter. In addition, Israel is obliged to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The latter is obviously mentioned to “save face” of Mr. Erdogan before his supporters; in fact, nothing is likely to change in the maritime border of Gaza. One should not forget that the other ally of Israel – Egypt – absolutely opposes the lifting of the blockade. Representatives of Turkey allegedly promised the Israelis that they would stop the activities of Hamas on its territory should the blockade be lifted in the Gaza Strip.

Amid the strengthening of Iran’s positions in Syria and the region and the revitalization of the Lebanese political-military group Hezbollah, Israel is extremely interested in finding new allies and partners in the Arab and Muslim world. Recently, Jerusalem has managed to establish links and contacts with Saudi Arabia, and strengthen relations with the new Egyptian regime by way of secret diplomacy behind the scenes. Turkey may become yet another important link in the system of regional security of Israel. Today, Turkey and Israel have many more common interests and points of contact than grounds for confrontation. In addition, their mutual trade and economic benefit from this cooperation is evident. Turkey is considered the most important investor in the development programs of the Israeli military industrial sector, as well as of the long-term project on the development of Leviathan gas deposit and construction of the underwater pipeline, through which Israeli gas will be supplied to Turkey. According to Turkish media, Ankara intends to restore military cooperation with Israel and purchase its advanced observation and surveillance systems and modern unmanned devices.

Stanislav Ivanov, leading research fellow of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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UK’s leading pro-‘Palestine’ campaign group blocks call to expel I$raHell from the UN (again)

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”Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) New Logo” Shoah.org.uk

 

By Stuart Littlewood 

At its Annual General Meeting last weekend the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) threw out a proposal to seek Israel’s expulsion from the United Nations.

Chairman Hugh Lanning is reported to have kicked off proceedings on a positive note saying: “Let us recommit to Palestine to make sure that we make a difference in the coming year.”

But the mask slipped when a motion was put for the PSC’s Executive Committee to:

“request the Government of the United Kingdom, enforced by a petition and lobbying, to submit a motion to the Security Council recommending that the General Assembly expel Israel from the UN in compliance with the UN Charter, Article 6.”

The motion failed — 76 in favour, 116 against. A statement by its main sponsor, Blake Alcott, says that an identical motion to the AGM a year ago was likewise opposed by the PSC leadership who felt “the time is not yet right”. His reaction to this latest rejection was to say: “Pro-Palestinians must wonder how much worse Israel’s crimes must be before the international community takes disciplinary action.”

There is ample reason for calling for Israel’s expulsion from the UN. It chimes very well with the ‘Sanctions’ element of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). And it is a good fit with the sort of measures that, in the ‘Call to Action’ by the BDS Movement, should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Israel clearly isn’t the ‘peace-loving state’ required by UN Charter Article 4. Nor has it fulfilled the four conditions put on its acceptance as a member back in May 1949. As the record shows, Israel has wilfully breached conditions of membership for decades. Many have argued it automatically disqualifies itself by failing to fulfill membership requirements in the first place. Furthermore it continues to show contempt for numerous UN resolution despite frequent reminders.

When considering an appropriate response for civil society to make, suspension sounds ‘softer’ than expulsion as membership can be speedily restored if and when Israel satisfies the other member states that it now conforms. And in the circumstances suspension would surely be more difficult to veto.

But under the rules suspension isn’t an option, it seems. This is what the relevant part of the UN Charter says:

(Article 5) A Member of the United Nations against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the Security Council may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. The exercise of these rights and privileges may be restored by the Security Council.

(Article 6) A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

It might be argued that the passing of numerous UN Security Council resolutions amounts to ‘preventive action’ (although still awaiting ‘enforcement’). But Article 6, which stipulates expulsion, is more clear-cut. Israel has certainly violated every norm, every rule of decency, every principle of humanity in the book. And it continues to do so without showing a shred of remorse.

Too timid to put down a marker for upholding international law?

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Of course Mr Alcott’s motion, if passed, would have been brushed off by the British Government which is pledged by Cameron to protect and reward Israel right or wrong. But that is not the point. The aim of the motion was to put down a marker and provide a focus around which other campaign groups across the world could mobilise, bringing similar pressure to bear on their own governments and creating an irresistible swell of global opinion to ensure international law is eventually upheld.

Where does the PSC go from here, after failing a simple test? How will it now “make a difference” on behalf of the long-suffering Palestinians? The PSC’s media people have been asked twice for comment and further information but are “too busy”.

Right now some 71 UK doctors are pressuring the WMA to revoke the membership of the Israel Medical Association over claims that its doctors perform medical torture on Palestinian patients. According to Press TV/Al Ray, if the British physicians succeed, the Tel Aviv regime will be banned from taking part in international medical conferences and publishing in journals. Evidently our doctors have the balls for firm action, so why not the PSC?

Meanwhile ace propagandist and chief spokesman for the terror regime in Tel Aviv, Mark Regev, is due to take up his appointment as Israel’s ambassador to the UK later this year. His presence here will have special significance. If the PSC and the impotent Palestine Mission in London are the best he’ll come up against, we can expect a media communications massacre.

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Why the US anti-terror coalition is failing

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By Finian Cunningham 

There was an underwhelming sense when Pentagon boss Ashton Carter met this week in Paris with other members of the US-led military coalition supposedly fighting the ISIL terror group.

The US-led coalition was set up at the end of 2014 and in theory comprises 60 nations. The main military operation of the alliance is an aerial bombing campaign against terrorist units of IS (also known as ISIL, ISIS or Daesh).

At the Paris meeting this week, Secretary of Defense Carter was joined by counterparts from just six countries: France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Australia. Where were the other 54 nations of the coalition?

Carter and French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian patted themselves on the back about “momentum”in their campaign against the terrorist network. However, platitudes aside, there was a noticeable crestfallen atmosphere at the meeting of the shrunken US-led coalition.

One telling point was Carter exhorting Arab countries to contribute more. As a headline in the Financial Times put it: “US urges Arab nations to boost ISIS fight”.

Carter didn’t mention specific names but it was clear he was referring to Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Persian Gulf Arab states, including Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

When the US initiated the anti-IS coalition in 2014, fighter jets from the Sunni Arab states participated in the aerial campaign. They quickly fell away from the operation and instead directed their military forces to Yemen, where the Saudi-led Arab coalition has been bombing that country non-stop since March 2015 to thwart an uprising by Houthi revolutionaries.

But there is an even deeper, more disturbing reason for the lack of Arab support for the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. That is because Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni monarchies are implicated in funding and arming the very terrorists that Washington’s coalition is supposedly combating.

Several senior US officials have at various times admitted this. Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton labelled Saudi Arabia as the main sponsor of “Sunni extremist groups”in diplomatic cables when she was Secretary of State back in 2009, as disclosed by Wikileaks.

Vice President Joe Biden, while addressing a Harvard University forum in late 2014, also spilled the beans on the Persian Gulf states and Turkey being behind the rise of terror groups in the Middle East.

So there is substantial reason why the US-led anti-terror coalition in Iraq and Syria has not delivered decisive results. It is the same reason why Carter was joined by only six other countries in Paris this week and why there was a glaring absence of Saudi Arabia and other Arab members. These despotic regimes –whom Washington claims as “allies”–are part of the terrorist problem.

Not that the US or its Western allies are blameless. Far from it. It was Washington after all that master-minded the regime-change operations in Iraq and Syria, which spawned the terror groups.

In fact, we can go further and point to evidence, such as the testimony of Lt General Michael Flynn of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which shows that the US enlisted the terror brigades as proxies to do its dirty work in Syria for regime change.

The US and its Western allies conceal this collusion by claiming that they are supporting “moderate rebels”–not extremists. But the so-called moderates have ended up joining the terrorists and sharing their US-supplied weapons. The distinction between these groups is thus meaningless, leaving the baleful conclusion that Washington, London and Paris are simply colluding with terrorism.

US Republican presidential contenders and media pundits berate the Obama administration for not doing enough militarily to defeat IS. Or as Donald Trump’s backer Sarah Palin would say to “kick ass”.

The unsettling truth is that the US cannot do more to defeat terrorism in the Middle East because Washington and its allies are the source of terrorism in the region. Through their meddling and machinations, Washington and its cohorts have created a veritable Frankenstein monster.

The “coalition”that is actually inflicting serious damage to IS and its various terror franchises is that of Russia working in strategic cooperation with the Syrian Arab Army of President Bashar al-Assad. Since Russia began its aerial bombing campaign nearly four months ago, we have seen a near collapse of the terror network’s oil and weapons smuggling rackets and hundreds of their bases destroyed.

Yet Ashton Carter this week accused Russia of impeding the fight against terrorism in Syria because of its support for the Assad government. Talk about double think!

If we strip away the false rhetoric and mainstream media misinformation, Washington’s “anti-terror”coalition can be seen as not merely incompetently leading from behind.

The US, its Western allies and regional client regimes are in the front ranks of the terror problem.

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Turkish PM Tries to Frame Syrian Kurds for Istanbul Bombing

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By Joris Leverink 

On Tuesday, Jan. 12 a big explosion took place in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district of Sultanahmet. The explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who blew himself up next to a group of mainly German tourists, instantly killing ten and injuring 15 others. Soon, the bomber was identified as a Saudi born Syrian man who had recently entered Turkey and had registered himself as a refugee only days prior to his suicide mission.

According to the Turkish authorities the man was linked to the Islamic State group (IS, or ISIS/ISIL), making this the terrorist group’s fourth deadly suicide bombing in Turkey in one year. Previous attacks that have been ascribed to – but haven’t been claimed by – IS occurred in Diyarbakir in June, Suruc in July and Ankara in October, with a total death toll of around 140.

What set this latest attack apart from the others, however, is the explicit targeting of foreign nationals holidaying in Turkey. Previous attacks were all directed against Kurdish groups and their supporters, indicating a spillover from the wars in Syria and Iraq where Kurdish forces are seen as some of the most effective and reliable opponents of IS.

The Kurdish groups and organizations targeted by the Islamic State group were at the same time actively opposing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). This sparked rumors of the terror group being in cahoots with the Turkish government. Accusations ranged from the two parties actively cooperating with each other to the government’s willful neglect of the safety of its Kurdish citizens.

That the Turkish government considers the Kurds at home and abroad as a bigger threat to the national security than IS has never been a secret. Moreover, the fact that IS is fighting against two of Turkey’s key enemies in Syria – the Assad government and local Kurdish forces – means that Turkey has always been hesitant about seriously and directly confronting the jihadists.

Questions and irregularities

It is in this context that the attack in Istanbul seems out of place. Why would the Islamic State group risk antagonizing one of the few parties in the region with which it has at least some shared goals? What is there to be gained from dealing a blow to Turkey’s already hampered tourist industry and forcing the country’s hand in taking a firm stance against the terrorist group?

There are a number of questions and irregularities that come up when looking at the facts that have thus far come out.

The first matter is the timing of the attack. If the aim of the attack is to hit Turkey by targeting its US$30 billion tourist industry, the bomber couldn’t possibly have chosen a worse time than a cold Tuesday morning in mid-January. The site of the attack is the exact location where during the holiday season thousands of tourists line up every day to visit the Blue Mosque. The number of victims would undoubtedly have been many times higher if the attack would have taken place a few months later, with an absolutely devastating effect on Turkey’s tourist industry.

Then there is the matter of the bomber’s identity. Mere hours after the attack the identity of the man who blew himself to pieces was already known and released. Nabil Fadli was a 28-year-old, Saudi-born Syrian man who had joined IS’ ranks after the terror group had occupied his hometown of Manbij, north of Aleppo.

According to unnamed Turkish officials Fadli had been part of a plot to attack the New Year’s celebrations in Ankara, but this mission had to be aborted after two of his collaborators were exposed and arrested. Fadli moved to Istanbul where he registered himself as a refugee, in the process giving away his fingerprints that would eventually lead to his identification as the bomber one week later.

The curious thing is, why would a member of the Islamic State group who has come to Turkey with the intention of committing a suicide bomb attack make himself known to the authorities – especially after two of his companions have just been arrested? Why have your picture and fingerprints taken and give away the address where you’re staying – which he did, according to the official reports – instead of laying low for a few days before executing the plan for the attack?

Finally, there is the curious issue of IS never actually having claimed responsibility for the attack. Nor for any of the other attacks mentioned above, which all have been attributed to the terrorist group by the Turkish government. The past year has seen a sting of terror attacks committed by the Islamic State group outside of the territories that are under its control – from Jakarta to Paris, Tunis to Beirut – and each and everyone of them has been claimed by the terror group. Oddly enough, not a single attack in Turkey that has been ascribed to IS has actually been claimed by them.

Raising these questions and irregularities is not done for the purpose of pointing fingers at one party or another. They simply serve as a mental exercise to remind one that, especially when entering the realm of terror and counterterrorism, the reality is rarely how it is presented to the public.

Shifting the blame

The day after the attack, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that “certain powers could be using Daesh,” while referring to the Islamic State group by its Arab acronym. Which“certain powers” he had in mind became clear when anonymous government sources told Reuters that Fadli might have been “coerced by the PYD or by Syrian intelligence into the Istanbul bombing.”

These baseless allegations serve no other purpose but to frame the party of the Syrian Kurds, the Democratic Unions Party, or PYD, as the terrorist organization Turkish authorities claim it to be. Immediately after the Ankara bombings in October, similar attempts at spreading false propaganda were made. Prime minister Davutoglu coined the term “cocktail terrorism” and claimed on national television that the attack was the work of a coalition between the PYD, the Islamic State group, Syrian secret services and the PKK.

The Istanbul attack, regardless of who did it, will be used as propaganda by all the parties involved. For Turkey, which had come under increasing international pressure for failing to step up against IS, the attack firmly places them once again at the heart of the anti-terror coalition dominated by the US and Europe. Reports about retaliation attacks against IS in which supposedly 200 terrorists were killed in cross border artillery fire – an incredible (literally) high number – are meant to erase all doubts that Turkey is now seriously confronting IS.

The attack has also provided Turkey with the necessary pretext to launch attacks further into Syria, at the town of Manbij – the bomber’s hometown – to be precise. This is a highly strategic target because it’s location in the heart of the proposed “security zone” Turkey has wanted to establish for a long time. Coincidentally, Manbij is also the next stop for a coalition of Kurdish forces and their allies who have been gaining significant ground at the cost of the Islamic State group after a recent string of important victories.

Judging from the news, the Istanbul attack has certainly led to renewed efforts by the Turkish government to confront and attack IS. Targets in Syria have been hit, and dozens of alleged IS members have been arrested in the country. However, the fact that part of the blame has been tried to be placed on the Syrian Kurds shows that, besides a deeply tragic event, the suicide attack is at the same time a good opportunity to frame the public perception and pursue a very specific political agenda.

 

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WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin: More Regime Change, Please!

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By Daniel McAdams 

Most normal people look at the smoldering cemetery that is post-“liberation” Libya, the gruesome graveyard of an almost-“liberated” Syria, the 14 year slow-motion failed regime change in Afghanistan, blood-drenched Iraq, and they are horrified. Washington Post’sneocon nag Jennifer Rubin looks across that bloody landscape and sees a beautiful work in progress.

She writes today in the online edition of the Post that despite what we might be hearing from some “libertarian/populist pols masquerading as conservatives,” the interventionist enterprise is chugging along just fine. Democracy promotion at the barrel of a gun is every American’s “white man’s burden” whether he likes it or not.

Never mind that Syria has been nearly leveled by almost five years of an Islamist insurgency that was but a few weeks from success when Russia stopped it in its tracks. The real villain is the secular Bashar al-Assad, writes Rubin. After all, he “is partnered with Iran and spurs support for Islamist rebels…”

Assad “spur[s] support for Islamist rebels” by waging war on them for six years? Or does she somehow deny that Assad is fighting the insurgents who seek to drive him from power? Both cannot be true.

And on Planet Rubin, funding, training, and arming Islamist rebels, as the US and its allies have done, can in no way be seen as spurring them on.

“It has become fashionable in some circles to pooh-pooh support for democracy,” Rubin moans. Not so fast, she says. This is not a failed project. Her evidence? From all the countries destabilized by US democracy promotion schemes there is “one encouraging success story” — Tunisia!

Yes, after the destruction and killing in places like Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and the rest, it is the great success in little Tunisia that makes it all worthwhile!

Unfortunately for Rubin, even her little Tunisian success story looks to have an unhappy ending. As reported by BBC News, unrest is spreading throughout Tunisia as demonstrators are clashing with police. Tunisians are in far worse economic shape now than before the US-backed “Arab Spring” brought them their “liberation.” One-third of young people are unemployed in post-liberation Tunisia and 62 percent of recent college graduates cannot find work.

“We have been waiting for things to get better for five years and nothing has happened,” Yassine Kahlaoui, a 30-year-old jobseeker, told the AP as reported by the BBC.

Here is the ugly truth that regime change enthusiasts like Rubin will never admit: it is very easy to destabilize and destroy a country from abroad in the name of “promoting democracy,” but those recipients of America’s largesse in this area soon find that it is all but impossible to return a country to even pre-“liberation” economic levels. They are left missing their “dictator.”

What does Rubin care: she doesn’t have to live in these hellholes she helps create.

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Yemen’s Plight and Britain’s “Creative Clout”

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Arms Sales and Advice on Killing

By Felicity Arbuthnot

Today, I want to speak about the once-in-a-generation chance we have, together, to improve the way we enhance the cause of human rights, freedom and dignity.

— David Cameron. Speech on the European Court of Human Rights, January 25. 2012

In June of 2014, speaking in his official residence,10 Downing Street, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech on business:

“Britain has huge creative clout around the world … From Asia to America, they’re dancing to our music, watching our films and wearing our designers’ latest creations”, he trilled.

He omitted to say “and dying under our bombs.”

In December, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein warned, regarding the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen:

I have observed with extreme concern the continuation of heavy shelling from the ground and the air in areas with high a concentration of civilians as well as the perpetuation of the destruction of civilian infrastructure – in particular hospitals and schools …

Yemen’s Ministry of Education’s data shows more than 1,000 schools inoperable, 254 completely destroyed, 608 partially damaged and 421 being used as shelter by those displaced by the Saudi-led, UK-assisted onslaught. Some destroyed schools were attacked repeatedly. Thus they were not errors, or that obscene US dreamt up whitewash for atrocities: “collateral damage.” The US also supplies “intelligence” for air strikes.

Three Medecines Sans Frontier medical facilities have also been destroyed and this month the Noor Center for the Blind was hit – twice. Abdullah Ahmed Banyan, a patient, said:

People with disabilities are being struck in their residence. Around 1.30 am, two missiles hit the live-in quarters of a home for the blind. Can you imagine they are striking the blind? What is this criminality? Why? Is it the blind that are fighting the war?

As in Afghanistan and Iraq, those other favourite targets of the US, UK and their allies, wedding parties, have again become victims. One gathering in two large tents bombed last September, killed thirty eight people. Another wedding celebration attack reportedly killed one hundred and thirty. In the country’s capitol, Sanaa a wedding party hall was also destroyed – what is this criminal obsession about weddings? The Chamber of Commerce was also destroyed.

Definition of war crimes include “intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected …” and “attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives.”

None of which deters the UK from joining in. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed to Parliament that UK troops are helping the Saudi military identify targets. He said there had been “no evidence of deliberate breach of international humanitarian law.” He clearly has not bothered to do the research.

There is worse. Apart from aiding and abetting potential war crimes, the British government is profiting in eye watering sums from the human misery, deaths and destruction with arms sales to Saudi Arabia increasing by 11,000 percent in one three month period alone.

In spite of the United Nations stating that civilians are being disproportionately killed in Yemen, in just one three month period last year arms sales rose to over one Billion £s, up from a mere nine million £s from the previous three months.

The exact figure for British arms export licences from July to September 2015 was £1,066,216,510 in so-called “ML4” export licences, which relate to bombs, missiles, rockets, and components of those items.

Angus Robertson, Leader of the Scottish National Party in Parliament, is outraged, accusing during Prime Minister’s Questions this week, that:

Thousands of civilians have been killed in Yemen, including a large number by the Saudi air force and they’ve done that using British-built planes, with pilots who are trained by British instructors, dropping British-made bombs, who are coordinated by the Saudis in the presence of British military advisors.

Isn’t it time for the Prime Minister to admit that Britain is effectively taking part in a war in Yemen that is costing thousands of civilians lives and he has not sought parliamentary approval to do this? (Independent, January 20th, 2016. Emphasis added.)

Allan Hogarth for Amnesty International again confirmed that British advisors are “… actually located in the Saudi control room.”

David Cameron waffled inadequately with dismissive arrogance and supreme economy with the truth, that Britain was insuring that “… the norms of humanitarian law” were obeyed. Comments redundant.

Two days ago at Yemen’s Ras Isa port on the Red Sea, an oil storage facility was hit killing five people. The attack destroyed the part of the compound used to load tanker trucks with refined products for domestic distribution. So now a people, many of whom the UN has warned are facing near starvation, will face further shortages to cook what little they have and to heat

So much for Cameron’s vow to “improve the way we enhance the cause of human rights, freedom and dignity.”

MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi double-tap airstrike in Yemen

Almost two dozen people, including civilian rescuers and an ambulance driver from an MSF-affiliated hospital, have reportedly been killed after Saudi-led coalition planes carried out repeated airstrikes on the same target in Sa’ada province, Yemen.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed the fatal air raids in Sa’ada, saying the “planes went back to bomb areas already hit.”

“An ambulance driver from an MSF hospital [was] killed,” the NGO wrote, explaining that the first responders at the scene had been trying to help those wounded in the first round of strikes.

The ambulance had just picked up the victims when a direct strike killed everyone inside it, said the director of the Jumhuriya Hospital in Sa’ada province, according to the New York Times.

Yemen’s Health Ministry has strongly condemned the coalition’s actions as a “heinous massacre” that first targeted a residential building in Sa’ada, Saba news agency reports, citing ministry spokesperson Dr. Nashwan Attab.

According to reports, at least 20 people were killed and another 35 wounded, in what the medics claim was a deliberate attack. Following the initial air raid in the Dhahyan district of Sa’ada, first responders rushed to the scene to care for the wounded. But the planes soon returned to strike again in an attempt to “completely eliminate the few remaining medical staff in the province,” Dr. Attab said.

WARNING! DISTURBING VIDEO, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

“There are still people under the rubble and it is difficult to get them as a result of targeting by Saudi aggression of paramedics and medical personnel in the region,” he added.

Earlier this week, MSF said that the Saudi coalition continues to engage civilian targets on the ground, in particular medical treatment facilities, noting that over 100 hospitals have witnessed attacks since the Saudi-led intervention began last March.

The constant bombing of health clinics in Yemen has created conditions in which locals fear for their lives and try to avoid hospitals at all costs, MSF said. The United Nations has criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen for the disproportionate number of civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure.

The UN estimates that the violence has resulted in a dramatic increase in civilian casualties, with more than 5,800 people killed in Yemen since March.

READ MORE:

Yemeni hospitals seen as targets, people ‘avoid them as much as possible’ – MSF

Posted in UK, YemenComments Off on Yemen’s Plight and Britain’s “Creative Clout”

What Would You Do If Your Wealth Were $28 Billion?

NOVANEWS
By Adnan Al-Daini 

The latest Oxfam report on poverty and inequality in our dysfunctional world makes a depressing read. It shows that the chasm between the richest 1% and the rest of humanity has considerably widened in the last few years. One statistic that is truly shocking is the number of people whose wealth is equal to that of the poorest half of the world’s population (3.6 billion people); this number has gone down from 388 in 2010 to 62 in 2015.

These 62 people have a combined wealth of a staggering $1,760 billion, averaging $28.387 billion per individual. What is the point of owning so much wealth? If these individuals were to use 95% of their wealth to lift billions of people from grinding, oppressive poverty they would still be billionaires.

Their material life style need hardly change, but will be enhanced by having the inner contentment and happiness that comes from knowing that you have made such a positive difference to the lives of so many. I would like to think this is what I would do if I were in their position. But, wait; is there something in our psyche that makes us behave differently once we start accumulating wealth? Does our love of wealth dull our compassion and empathy with our fellow human beings? The answer to these questions is likely to be yes, and in that case do we need psychiatric help once we acquire such wealth?

These people have become members of the super-rich club, competing with one another on who has gone up and who has gone down in the table of the ultra-wealthy. This causes many of them anxiety and neuroses. This self-obsession renders them blind to the needs and suffering of fellow human beings in their own countries and beyond.

Imagine the contentment and happiness you feel when greeted by the smiles of adults and children as you visit places, knowing that your money has brought them such happiness and joy: children going to school instead of working to support a family simply to have enough to eat, health clinics to treat simple conditions to relieve pain and suffering, clean water to drink thus preventing disease and death that result from drinking contaminated water , shelter to protect families from heat, flooding and cold. The need is great, and the remedies are in our grasp if only the resources are made available.

Another issue highlighted by Oxfam is the use of tax havens. It states:

As a priority, it is calling [Oxfam] for an end to the era of tax havens which has seen increasing use of offshore centres by rich individuals and companies to avoid paying their fair share to society. This has denied governments valuable resources needed to tackle poverty and inequality. It is three years since David Cameron told Davos that he would lead a global effort against aggressive avoidance in the UK and in poor countries, yet promised measures to increase transparency in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, such as the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, have not yet been implemented.

I really find it difficult to understand how democratic governments can tolerate the existence of tax havens. They serve no purpose other than to help the powerful, be it individuals or corporations, to hide their wealth, thus avoiding making contributions to their societies whose resources they used to create their wealth. Tax havens also help assorted despots, royals and the corrupted elite in the developing world to hide the wealth they pillage from their own countries. Oxfam reports that: “30 percent of all African financial wealth is estimated to be held offshore, costing an estimated $14billion in lost tax revenues every year.” Let us shut down these relics from a bygone age that steal wealth from the impoverished to the benefit of the already bloated few.

We are having a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union; here is a suggestion for another one: Should Britain continue to allow the existence of tax havens in its overseas territories and crown dependencies? Let the people decide.

What sort of system have we created that relentlessly siphons wealth from the poor to the richest 1%, and in the process deprives humanity of the resources that could bring happiness, contentment and joy to billions of people? When, oh when, will world leaders take concrete steps to remedy this injustice and unfairness?

Adnan Al-Daini (PhD, Birmingham University, UK) is a retired University Engineering lecturer. He is a British citizen born in Iraq. He writes regularly on issues of social justice and the Middle East.

Posted in WorldComments Off on What Would You Do If Your Wealth Were $28 Billion?

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