Archive | November 5th, 2016

The Lethal Lie of Hillary Clinton

The Lethal Lie of Hillary Clinton: “Saving Lives” with “No-Fly Zone” in Syria. Playing “Russian Roulette with the Planet”

Why are they lying? Everything is being done to convince the public that Russia wants war; that it has annexed Ukraine; that it will attack Western Europe; that it will crush the Baltic states and Poland in its advance; that it’s committing war crimes in Syria; that Assad is a dictator and a butcher; that he has met peaceful demands for reform with brutal repression; that those fighting Assad are moderate rebels; that he is dropping barrel bombs on civilians. 

Why are they lying?

Because the people don’t want war: they want jobs and bread.

They will not agree to murder people who have done them no harm.  They will consent to war if told they are under attack or that the war will save other people from genocide, rape, or other gross violations of human rights. The people are not interested in world domination, but the elite are. The people are, therefore, the enemy within. They must be persuaded to support the elite’s plan by perverting their decency. They must be made to cringe in fear. They must be made to believe that war—any war—will be defensive.

This is the tactic of terrorists: terrorizing the population to obtain political ends.

Hillary Clinton is lying: a no-fly zone in Syria will not “save lives.” 

In her last presidential debate, Clinton said that she wants a no-fly zone in Syria because it will “save lives”:

“I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria, not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to, frankly, gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians.”

The “leverage” she is seeking is Russian roulette with the planet.The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford (image right), noted in response that a no-fly zone in Syria might trigger a war with Russia, a nuclear power. Neither does she believe that a no-fly zone will save lives.  In a closed-door speech to Goldman Sachs in 2013, Clinton said:

“To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians.”

She knows what is at stake with a no-fly zone in Syria, and yet she tells us the opposite of what she knows will happen. In other words, she’s lying.

What has changed Clinton’s mind since 2013?

In 2013, there was no need to risk nuclear war over Syria. The so-called Free Syrian Army and assorted rebel groups were doing just fine in their offensive. In 2013, Syria stood alone, apart from some Iranian assistance. Until 2015, the Assad government was on its last breath, in retreat from the provinces of Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, and Latakia. By September 2015, the generous financial, military, and operational support by the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to the  “anti-Syrian coalition”– Islamic State, the Jabbat al-Nusra, the “Free Syrian Army”–was paying great dividends in advancing the destabilization of the Assad government. Soon, it could be expected that the symbolic head of Assad would sit on a silver platter in the White House, along with other colonial trophies.

The humanitarian consequences for Syrians, however, were catastrophic. Fleeing the terror of a Syria in the clutches of cutthroat mercenary armies, refugees flooded Turkey, Jordan, Greece, and other countries, becoming human barter between Turkey and the European Union.  The EU paid Turkey two billion euro to keep within its borders this human avalanche of “collateral damage.”

That was the situation in September of 2015, when Russia, invited by the legitimate Syrian government, legitimately intervened in Syria with aircraft, support personnel, military advisors and equipment.  In a year of Russian efforts to establish a premise for a peaceful solution in Syria by eliminating the militant rabble the Western chorus of “Assad must go” has mutated into a furious hiss of impotent rage. No one expects Assad to go now, unless the US comes up with a strategy to reverse the losses the Russian intervention has inflicted.

Enter Hillary’s reversal on the no-fly zone, which now, contrary to her judgment in 2013, will “save lives.”

What is a no-fly zone?

A no-fly zone is a coercive appropriation of the partial airspace of a sovereign country. It is the arbitrary creation of a demilitarized zone in the sky to prevent belligerent powers from flying in that air space. In Syria, the “belligerent power,” ironically, would be the internationally recognized legitimate Syrian government and its legitimate ally, Russia.

According to former UN Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali (image left), in an interview with John Pilger, a no-fly zone is illegal under international law.  No-fly zones are post-Soviet inventions. The measure was never proposed, used, or authorized to this day by the UN Security Council until the Soviet Union virtually dissolved. This restraint was exercised by the US for the excellent reason that no such aggression on a sovereign state would have been tolerated without massive fuss at the UN Security Council and a bad rap for the US. There have been only three instances of a no-fly zone so far, all in the wake of the disappearance of the USSR: Iraq (1991-2003), Bosnia (1993-95), and Libya (2011), all initiated on the hypocritical pretense of “saving lives.”

What is Plan B?

In one word: escalation. Apart from partitioning the air space of Syria, Plan B would provide for supplying, through Qatar or Saudi Arabia, man-portable air defense systems to the “moderate opposition,” including if it is acknowledged that the “moderate opposition” has allied itself openly with the al-Nusra front. Plan B has not been approved, but the media has floated a series of reports throughout October as being under consideration.

On October 28, the New York Times published an astonishing conclusion about an aspect of the Obama administration’s strategy in Syria, though gently and benevolently worded. The Times indicated that it was being felt that Obama had insufficiently armed the “moderate opposition,” so that in Aleppo it had “no choice” but to partner with al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) to fight off Putin and Assad.  At the same time, Reuters noted that the Obama administration had formerly considered arming the “moderates” with anti-air missiles but was constrained by the fear that such weapons would fall in the hands of ”extremists.”

Such reports suggest, rather boldly, I think, that “former restraint” might have to give way to greater support for the “moderate” militants, including if they partner with “extremists.” Thus, we arrive at a point of utter bewilderment in which we verify the absurdity of launching a War on Terror to end up fighting a War with Terror.

Oppose US imperialism

It is good and proper that we should denounce Hillary Clinton for her vile record of regime change (in Honduras), crime of aggression (Libya), threats to Russia and China, corruption, illegality, and abuse of power. She’s clearly unfit to be president of any decent country that calls itself democratic.

However, fixating on her individual agency lets the policy off the hook. The US is not yet a banana republic, in which the patriarch of some rich landowning family becomes the patriarch-autocrat of a country. An intricate network of powerful interests, which determine the policy, rules the US, frantic to maintain global economic and military dominance. This ruling class selects the candidate who will best carry out the policy. Hillary Clinton will be the servant of the interests of the ruling class of which she is a member. She will be their president.

So it’s the policy that must be opposed, and this policy is imperialist.

We must develop a principled opposition to this policy, without prevarications. The task falls on the left, but it cannot be a left divided by relativist consideration of “evil” on all sides. However we may feel about the morality of governments in Russia, China, Syria, Iran, etc., one thing is clear: they did not launch a war on Iraq, opening the door to all the crimes that followed from that original crime. It is time to decide whether we want to live with things as they are or change them. And we must begin by changing them at home.

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Will the US Actually Be Tried in An International Court for Afghanistan War Crimes?

US soldiers in Afghanistan

After reports emerged alleging that the US may be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over war crimes in Afghanistan, Radio Sputnik host Brian Becker discussed the possibility of such a scenario with international criminal lawyer Christopher Black.

Black, who is on the list of counsel at the ICC, told Loud & Clear that the initial report by Foreign Policy, suggesting Washington’s actions in Afghanistan may be investigated, appeared at a tough time for the organization. Prior to the publication three African nations — South Africa, Gambia and Burundi — withdrew from ICC over its alleged bias toward the continent.

Listen to Christopher Black:  ”ICC Opens Afghanistan War Crimes Investigation: Could the U.S. Actually be Tried?” on Spreaker.

“It’s something to reestablish [ICC’s] prestige and credibility, because it’s in a state of collapse at the moment,” Black commented on the occasion, adding that there’s little evidence that the US will actually appear before court.

Citing the ICC report from the last year, Black stressed that potential inquiry into Afghanistan’s war crimes will be referred to every party involved in the conflict, including the Taliban, Afghan government and other forces. But it won’t concern the states that investigate the purported war crimes on their own, he added.

“[The report] says that the US has disciplinary procedures set up. People are being investigated [by US courts] and [ICC] may have to assess whether it is a serious investigation on that. Because the ICC won’t charge a country with war crimes if its own internal procedures are in place and they are pursuing people who commit crimes.”

In case of Afghanistan, Washington largely justifies its actions in the country, Black said.

“They said they made that attack, aggression against Afghanistan, in order to go after the Taliban government, which was ‘harboring Osama bin Laden’,” he said. “But remember the history, the Taliban said ‘we do have bin Laden here and will hand him over if you present evidence of his crimes.’ All they received was bombs.”

Moreover, Black highlighted, the US is not a member of ICC and has its federal protection act in place that prevents American personnel and officials from being charged by international courts, which means it’s unlikely the ICC will ever charge any American with war crimes.

“I don’t see them [US] accepting anything from the ICC, if it had an independent prosecutor,” Black said, adding that the ICC, under its two prosecutors, has done nothing to deal with war crimes committed by NATO forces in Libya or Yugoslavia.

The ICC ultimately is a tool for extension of American power worldwide Black explained, adding that Washington controls the prosecution staff in the ICC, “by placing its personnel in key positions or by persons that can control key positions.”

“The NATO tribunals have three purposes: to demonize governments that they want to crush, to cover-up their role in those wars and to make sure those people will never come back to governments. And the rest is propaganda.”

Since its establishment in 2003, it has opened 10 investigations and has found guilty 39 people, all from Africa.

“The US and its Western allies are using the ICC to go after who are standing their way, But they do not go for people [Uganda’s President Yoweri] Museveni who commit war crimes on the daily basis all over the Congo. Their client-leaders are left away and the rest are targeted,” he said.

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Aurora: Western “Culture” is Wrecking Entire Continents… “How the Empire Operates”

AURORA cover by George Burchett

You say “European cultural institutions”, and what should come immediately to mind are lavish concerts, avant-garde art exhibitions, high quality language courses and benevolent scholarships for talented cash-strapped local students.

It is all so noble, so civilized!

Or, is it really? Think twice!

I wrote my short novel, “Aurora”, after studying the activities of various Western ‘cultural institutions’, in virtually all the continents of the Planet. I encountered their heads; I interacted with the ‘beneficiaries’ of various funding schemes, and I managed to get ‘behind the scenes’.

What I discovered was shocking: these shiny ‘temples of culture’ in the middle of so many devastated and miserable cities worldwide (devastated by Western imperialism and by its closest allies – the shameless local elites), are actually extremely closely linked to Western intelligence organizations. They are directly involved in the neo-colonialist project, which is implemented virtually on all continents of the world, by North America, Europe and Japan.

‘Culture’ is used to re-educate and to indoctrinate mainly the children of the local elites. Funding and grants are put to work where threats and killing were applied before. How does it work? It is actually all quite simple: rebellious, socially-oriented and anti-imperialist local artists and thinkers are now shamelessly bought and corrupted. Their egos are played on with great skill. Trips abroad for ‘young and talented artists’ are arranged, funding dispersed, scholarships offered.

Carrots are too tasty, most would say, ‘irresistible’. Seals of approval from the Empire are ready to stamp those blank pages of the lives of still young, unrecognized but angry and sharp young artists and intellectuals from those poor, colonized countries. It is so easy to betray! It is so easy to bend.

Some, very few countries are almost incorruptible, like Cuba. But Cuba is a unique country. And it is intensively demonized by the Western propaganda. “Patria no se vende!” they say there, or in translation “One does not sell Fatherland!” But one, unfortunately, does, almost everywhere else in the world: from Indonesia to Turkey, from Kenya to India.


“Aurora” opens in a small cafe in an ancient city in Indonesia (which is not called Indonesia). Hans, the German head of an unnamed cultural institute is talking to his local ‘disciples’. He loves his life here: all the respect he gets, those countless women he is sexually possessing and humiliating, the lavish lifestyle he is allowed to lead.

A woman enters; a beautiful woman, a proud woman, an artist, a woman who was born here but who left, many years ago, for far away Venezuela. Her name is Aurora. Her husband is Orozco, a renowned revolutionary painter. Aurora’s sister was killed in this country, because she refused to give up her revolutionary art. She was kidnapped, tortured, raped, and then murdered. Hans, the head of a European cultural organization, was involved.

Aurora confronts Hans, and in reality, the entire European culture of plunder and colonialism.

And that night she is joined, she is supported, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or more precisely, by his merry ghost, who is thoroughly disgusted of being used as one of the symbols of the ‘culture’ which destroyed him personally, which destroyed the very essence of the arts, and which has been in fact destroying, for centuries, this entire Planet.


When I recently shared the plot of “Aurora with a local ‘independent’ filmmaker in Khartoum, Sudan, he first listened attentively, and then with horror, and in the end he made a hasty dash towards the door. He escaped, not even trying to hide his distress. Later I was told that he is fully funded by Western ‘cultural institutions’.

After reading it, my African comrades, several leading anti-imperialist fighters, immediately endorsed the book, claiming that it addressed some of the essential problems their continent is facing.

The cultural destruction the Empire is spreading is similar everywhere: in Africa, Asia and in Latin America.

I wrote “Aurora” as a work of art, as fiction. But I also wrote it as a J’accuse, as a detailed study of cultural imperialism.

My dream is that it would be read by millions of young thinkers and artists, on all continents, that it would help them to understand how the Empire operates, and how filthy and disgraceful betrayal is.

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Assad: America, Turkey, Saudi Arabia Support and Protect Al Qaeda-ISIS-Daesh Terrorists

United States and Its Western Allies Are to Blame for Failure of Latest Ceasefire

President Bashar al-Assad asserted that the United States and its Western allies are to blame for the failure of the latest ceasefire, because terrorism and terrorists are for them a card they want to play on the Syrian arena.

In an interview given to the Serbian newspaper Politika, President al-Assad said that Russia is very serious and very determined to continue fighting the terrorists, while the Americans base their politics on a different value as they use the terrorists as a card to play the political game to serve their own interests at the expense of the interests of other countries in the world.

President al-Assad pointed out that Western countries wanted to use the humanitarian mask in order to have an excuse to intervene more in Syria, either militarily or by supporting the terrorists.

Emphasis added by Global Research Editor (M.Ch)

Following is the full text of the interview:

Question 1: Mr. President, why has the latest Syria ceasefire failed? Who is to blame for that?

President Assad: Actually, the West, mainly the United States, has made that pressure regarding the ceasefire, and they always ask for ceasefire only when the terrorists are in a bad situation, not for the civilians. And they try to use those ceasefires in order to support the terrorists, bring them logistic support, armament, money, everything, in order to re-attack and to become stronger again. When it didn’t work, they ask the terrorists to make it fail or to start attacking again. So, who’s to blame? It’s the United States and its allies, the Western countries, because for them, terrorists and terrorism are a card they want to play on the Syrian arena, it’s not a value, they’re not against terrorists. For them, supporting the terrorists is a war of attrition against Syria, against Iran, against Russia, that’s how they look at it. That’s why not only this ceasefire; every attempt regarding ceasefire or political moving or political initiative, every failure of these things, the United States was to be blamed.

Question 2: But which country is supporting terrorism? Saudi Arabia? Qatar?

President Assad: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey…

Journalist: Turkey?

President Assad: Because they came through Turkey with the support of the government, direct support from the government.

Journalist: Directly?

President Assad: Direct support from the government, of course.

Journalist: With money or with armament?

President Assad: Let’s say, the endorsement, the greenlight, first. Second, the American coalition, which is called “international coalition,” which is an American. They could see ISIS using our oil fields and carrying the oil through the barrel trucks to Turkey under their drones…

Journalist: This is the Syrian oil?

President Assad: In Syria, from Syria to Turkey, under the supervision of their satellites and drones, without doing anything, till the Russians intervened and started attacking ISIS convoys and ISIS positions and strongholds. This is where ISIS started to shrink. So, the West gave the greenlight to those countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and actually those countries, those governments are puppets; puppets to the West, puppets to the United States, they work as puppets, and the terrorists in Syria are their proxy, the proxy of those countries and proxy of the West and the United States.

Question 3: But money for marketing this oil, who has the money? Turkey?

President Assad: In partnership between ISIS and Turkey. Part of the money goes to ISIS because this is how they can make recruitment and pay salaries to their fighters. That’s why ISIS was growing before the Russian intervention, it was expanding in Syria and in Iraq. And part of the money is going to the Turkish government officials, mainly Erdogan himself and his family.

Journalist: Erdogan himself?

President Assad: Of course, of course. They were directly involved in this trade with ISIS.

Question 4: Mr. President, do you believe the Russians and Americans can ever agree over Syria? Can Russia and the USA be partners in the war against terrorists in Syria?

President Assad: We hope, but in reality, no, for a simple reason: because the Russians based their politics on values, beside their interest. The values are that they adopt the international law, they fight terrorism, and the interest that if you have terrorists prevailing in our region, that will affect not only our region but Europe, Russia, and the rest of the world. So, the Russians are very serious and very determined to continue fighting the terrorists, while the Americans based their politics on a different value, completely different value, their value is that “we can use the terrorists.” I mean the Americans, they wanted to use the terrorists as a card to play the political game to serve their own interests at the expense of the interests of other countries in the world.

Question 5: The situation about bombing the Syrian Army near the airport in Deir Ezzor… How did the American air attack on the Syrian Army happen? Was it a coincidence or not?

President Assad: It was premeditated attack by the American forces, because ISIS was shrinking because of the Syrian and Russian and Iranian cooperation against ISIS, and because al-Nusra which is Al Qaeda-affiliated group had been defeated in many areas in Syria, so the Americans wanted to undermine the position of the Syrian Army; they attacked our army in Deir Ezzor. It wasn’t by coincidence because the raid continued more than one hour, and they came many times.

Journalist: One hour?

President Assad: More than one hour. There were many raids by the Americans and their allies against the Syrian position. At the same time, they attacked a very big area; they didn’t attack a building to say “we made a mistake.” They attacked three big hills, not other groups neighboring these hills, and only ISIS existed in Deir Ezzor. There is no… what they called it “moderate opposition.” So, it was a premeditated attack in order to allow ISIS to take that position, and ISIS attacked those hills, and took those hills right away in less than one hour after the attack.

Journalist: ISIS attacking Syrian position after American…?

President Assad: Less than one hour, in less than one hour, ISIS attacked those hills. It means that ISIS gathered their forces to attack those hills. How did ISIS know that the Americans would attack that Syrian position? It means they were ready, they were prepared. This is an explicit and stark proof that the Americans are supporting ISIS and using it as a card to change the balance according to their political agenda.

Journalist: And after that, America said sorry, huh?

President Assad: They said they regret, they didn’t say sorry. [laughs]


Question 6: Mr. President, who is responsible for the attack on the Red Cross convoy near Aleppo, and what weapons were used for the destruction of the Red Cross convoy?

President Assad: Definitely the terrorist groups in Aleppo, because those are the ones who had an interest. When we announced the truce in Aleppo, they refused it. They said “no, we don’t want a truce.” They refused to have any convoys coming to eastern Aleppo, and that was public, it’s not our propaganda, it’s not our announcement, they announced it. And there was a demonstration by those militants to refuse that convoy. So, they have interest in attacking that convoy, we don’t have. It wasn’t in an area where you have Syrian troops, and at the same time there were no Syrian or Russian airplanes flying in that area anyway. But it was used as part of the propaganda, as part of the narrative against Syria in the West; that we attacked this humanitarian convoy, because the whole war now in Syria, according to the Western propaganda, is taking the shape of humanitarian war. This is the Western mask now; they wanted to use the humanitarian mask in order to have an excuse to intervene more in Syria, and when I say intervene it means militarily or by supporting the terrorists.

Journalist: This is like the situation in former Yugoslavia, in the war in Yugoslavia, also in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the war in Kosovo, humanitarian problems.

President Assad: It’s a different era, maybe, a different shape, but the same core, what happened in your country, and what’s happening now in our country.

Question 7: And the Western propaganda spoke about the problem of using the chemical weapons and the barrel bombs.

President Assad: The same, to show that you have a black-and-white picture; very very bad guy against very very good guy. It’s like the narrative of George W. Bush during the war on Iraq and on Afghanistan. So, they wanted to use those headlines or those terms in their narrative in order to provoke the emotions of the public opinion in their countries. This is where the public opinion would support them if they wanted to interfere, either directly through military attacks, or through supporting their proxies that are the terrorists in our region.

Question 8: I see the news in the last days, the Amnesty International condemned a terrorist group for using the chlorine, the chemical weapons in Aleppo.

President Assad: In Aleppo, exactly, that happened a few days ago, and actually, regardless of these chemical attacks, we announced yesterday that the terrorists killed during the last three days more than 80 innocent civilians in Aleppo, and wounded more than 300. You don’t read anything about them in the Western mainstream media. You don’t see it, you don’t hear about it, there’s nothing about them. They only single out some pictures and some incidents in the area under the control of the terrorists just to use them for their political agenda in order to condemn and to blame the Syrian government, not because they are worried about the Syrians; they don’t care about our children, or about innocents, and about civilization, about infrastructure. They don’t care about it; they are destroying it. But actually, they only care about using everything that would serve their vested interests.

Question 9: And now, your army… you are the supreme commander of Syrian military forces. Your army now has not any chemical weapons?

President Assad: No, we don’t. Since 2013, we gave up our arsenals. Now, no we don’t have. But before that, we have never used it. I mean, when you talk about chemical weapons used by the government, it means you are talking about thousands of casualties in one place in a very short time. We never had this kind of incidents; just allegations in the Western media.

Question 10: Mr. President, when do you think the Syrian war will end?

President Assad: When? I always say less than one year is enough for you to solve your internal problem, because it is not very complicated internally. It’s becoming more complex only when you have more interfering by foreign powers. When those foreign powers leave Syria alone, we can solve it as Syrians in a few months, in less than one year. That’s very simple, we can, but providing that there’s no outside interference. Of course, that looks not realistic, because everybody knows that the United States wanted to undermine the position of Russia as a great power in the world, including in Syria. Saudi Arabia has been looking how to destroy Iran for years now, and Syria could be one of the places where they can achieve that, according to their way of thinking. But if we say that we could achieve that situation where all those foreign powers leave Syria alone, we don’t have a problem in solving our problem.

How? First of all, by stopping the support of the terrorists by external countries like the regional ones like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and by the West, of course, mainly the United States.When you stop supporting terrorists in Syria, it won’t be difficult at all to solve our problem.

Question 11: Mr. President, is it true that Syria is the last socialistic country in the Arab world?

President Assad: Today, yes. I don’t know about the future, how is it going to be. We are socialist, but of course not the closed type.

Journalist: Humane socialism, because your government is supporting the education with the subvention, like the Swedish-type socialism.

President Assad: I don’t know a lot about the Swedish-type, but let’s say that in Syria, we have an open economy, but at the same time we have a strong public sector, and that public sector played a very important role in the resilience of the Syrian society and the government during the war. Without that public sector, the situation would have been much more difficult. So, we’re still socialist, and I think the war proved that the socialism system is very important for any country, taking into consideration that I’m talking about the open socialism, that could allow the freedom of the public sector to play a vital role in building the country.


Question 12: And your big companies… this is the state companies or private companies?

President Assad: We have both. But usually in such a situation, the public sector always plays the most important part. As you know, the private sector could feel the danger more and could suffer more and in some areas could quit the whole arena, the economic arena, because of the insecurity. So, that’s why you have to depend in such a situation more on the public sector, but still the private sector in Syria plays a very important part beside the public.

Question 13: And you have very very tolerance atmosphere with other churches, Christians, Muslims, and…

President Assad: It’s not tolerance, actually; they are part of this society. Without all different colors of the society – Christians, Muslims, and the different sects and ethnicities – you won’t have Syria. So, every Syrian citizen should feel fully free in practicing his rituals, his traditions, his beliefs. He should be free in order to have a stable country. Otherwise you won’t have Syria as a stable country. But I wouldn’t call it tolerance. Tolerance means like we accept something against our will; no, Muslims and Christians lived together for centuries in Syria, and they integrate in their life on daily basis, they don’t live in ghettos.

Question 14: No separate schools for Muslims, for Christians, young people, no?

President Assad: No, no. You have some schools that belong to the church, but they are full of Muslims and vice versa. So, you don’t have, no. We don’t allow any segregation of religions and ethnicities in Syria, that would be very dangerous, but naturally, without the interference of the government, people would like to live with each other in every school, in every place, in every NGO, in the government, that is the natural… That’s why Syria is secular by nature, not by the government. The Syrian society has been secular throughout history.

Question 15: And, Mr. President, it’s been one year since Russian air forces took part in the Syrian war, how much has Russia helped you?

President Assad: Let’s talk about the reality. Before the Russian interference, ISIS was expanding, as I said. When they started interfering, ISIS and al-Nusra and the other Al Qaeda affiliated groups started shrinking. So, this is the reality. Why? Of course, because it’s a great power and they have great army and they have great firepower that could support the Syrian Army in its war. The other side of the same story is that when a great country, a great power, like Russia, intervene against the terrorists, in coordination with the troops on the ground, and in our case, it’s the Syrian Army, of course you’re going to achieve concrete results, while if you talk about the American alliance, which is not serious anyway, but at the same time they don’t have allies on the ground, they cannot achieve anything. So, the Russian power was very important beside their political weight on the international arena, in both ways they could change the situation, and they were very important for Syria in defeating the terrorists in different areas on the Syrian arena or battlefield.

Question 16: Is the Syrian society divided by the war today?

President Assad: Actually, it’s more homogenous than before the war. That could be surprising for many observers because the war is a very deep and important lesson for every Syrian. Many Syrians before the war didn’t tell the difference between being fanatic and being extremist, between being extremist and being terrorist. Those borders weren’t clear for many, because of the war, because of the destruction, because of the heavy price that affected every Syrian, many Syrians learned the lesson and now they know that the only way to protect the country and to preserve the country is to be homogenous, to live with each other, to integrate, to accept, to love each other.That’s why I think the effect of the war, in spite of all the bad aspects of any war like this war, but this aspect was positive for the Syrian society. So, I’m not worried about the structure of the Syrian society after the war. I think it’s going to be healthier.

Question 17: And a question about the American presidential elections; who would you like to win in USA presidential elections, Trump or Hillary?

President Assad: I think in most of the world, the debate about this election is who’s better, Clinton is better or Trump. In Syria, the discussion is who’s worse, not who’s better. So, no one of them, I think, would be good for us, let’s say, this is first. Second, from our experience with the American officials and politicians in general, don’t take them at their word, they’re not honest. Whatever they say, don’t believe them. If they say good word or bad word, if they were very aggressive or very peaceful, don’t believe them. It depends on the lobbies, on the influence of different political movements in their country, after the election that’s what is going to define their policy at that time. So, we don’t have to waste our time listening to their rhetoric now. It’s just rubbish. Wait for their policies and see, but we don’t see any good signs that the United States is going to change dramatically its policy toward what’s happening in the world, let’s say, to be fair, or to obey the international law, or to care about the United Nation’s Charter. There’s no sign that we are going to see that in the near future. So, it’s not about who’s going to be President; the difference will be very minimal, each one of them is going to be allowed to leave his own fingerprint, just personal fingerprint, but doesn’t mean change of policies. That’s why we don’t pin our hopes, we don’t waste our time with it.

Question 18: Mr. President, the last question: The relation between Serbia and Syria, do you have any message for people in Serbia?

President Assad: I think we didn’t do what we have to do on both sides in order to make this relation in a better position, before the war. Of course, the war will leave its effects on the relation between every two countries, that would be understandable, but we have to plan for the next time because your country suffered from external aggression that led to the division of Yugoslavia and I think the people are still paying the price of that war. Second, the war in your country has been portrayed in the same way; as a humanitarian war where the West wanted to intervene in order to protect a certain community against the aggressors form the other community. So, many people in the world believe that story, the same in Syria; they use the same mask, the humanitarian mask.

Actually, the West doesn’t care about your people, they don’t care about our people, they don’t care about anyone in this world, they only care about their own vested interest. So, I think we have the same lessons, may be a different area, we are talking about two decades’ difference, maybe different headlines, but actually the content is the same. That’s why I think we need to build more relations in every aspect; cultural, economy, politics, in order to strengthen our position, each country in his region.

Question 19: But Syrian government, you and Syria’s state, supporting Serbia in the problem of the Kosovo?

President Assad: We did, we did, although the Turks wanted to use their influence for Kosovo, in Kosovo’s favor, but we refused. That was before the war, that was seven or eight years ago, and we refused, in spite of the good relations with Turkey at that time. We supported Serbia.

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you for the interview, thank you for your time.

President Assad: Not at all. Thank you for coming to Damascus.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Assad: America, Turkey, Saudi Arabia Support and Protect Al Qaeda-ISIS-Daesh Terrorists

Syrian War: Egyptian Officers Arrive in Syria, Retreat and Infighting of Al Qaeda Rebels

egyptian officers

Over 2,500 militants have been killed and wounded in western Aleppo since the start of Al-Nusra-led attempt to break the government forces’ defenses in the area on October 28, according to sources in the Syrian military. Considering that the total striking force deployed by Jaish al-Fatah coalition for the operation was about 5,000 fighters, it’s clear why the militant coalition failed to achieve its military goals.

An infighting allegedly started between Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki  and Fastaqim Kama Umirt militant groupsin Salaheddine and Al-Ansari Mashhad areas in Aleppo city on November 2.  Nour al-Din al-Zenki   stormed Fastaqim Kama Umirt checkpoints and arrested dozens of Fastaqim Kama fighters including their commander ‘Istakem kma Oumrt’. At least 1 militant was reported dead and 25 injured as result of the clashes.

The conflict among ‘moderate rebels’ reportedly appeared because Fastaqim Kama Umirt was considering a possibility to leave Aleppo through corridors set up by the Syrian and Russian military.

The Russian general staff has announced that President Vladimir Putin had ordered a humanitarian pause in Aleppo from 9am to 7pm on November 4.

“Considering that our American colleagues were unable to separate the opposition from terrorists, we are addressing all militant leaders directly, urging them to cease hostilities and leave Aleppo with their arms,” General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff said, adding that “Two corridors will be opened, from which Syrian troops and weapons would be pulled back.” Six additional corridors will be opened for civilians.

A group of Egyptian officers allegedly arrived in Syria on November 1 in order to learn from Russian military advisers that are embedded with government troops at the battle against terrorists across the country. The development took place amid the ongoing expansion of military cooperation between Russia and Egypt. In October 2016, Russian airborne troops arrived Egypt to participate in a joint military drill with the host country. The drill was codenamed “Defenders of Friendship 2016”.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syrian War: Egyptian Officers Arrive in Syria, Retreat and Infighting of Al Qaeda Rebels

Liberating Syria from Al Qaeda

Liberating Syria from Al Qaeda-ISIS: US-Supported Terrorists Admit Taking Heavy Casualties in Aleppo

Liberating Syria depends on winning the battle for Aleppo. It continues raging, government forces inflicting heavy losses on US-supported terrorists.

According to Fars News, citing RT International’s Arabic service, (s)ources close to the terrorist groups admitted” taking up to 2,500 casualties – dead or wounded fighters in the last six days alone.

“The Great Epic Operation was the largest offensive of terrorists” against government troops since Obama’s war began in March 2011.

Their fighters haven’t “advanced in the 3,000-Unit Housing Complex and Housing Project 1070.” Government and allied forces repelled their attacks.

Senior Syrian MP Mohammad Jalal Darvish praised the heroic efforts of Iranian military advisors and Hezbollah forces for helping Syria’s military prevent a catastrophic outcome in Aleppo.

At the same time, he called Russia’s humanitarian pause “unjustifiable because…delay could lead to (disaster) in” the city. So far, it’s been averted.

On Tuesday, Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said Russia won’t continue its moratorium if eastern Aleppo terrorists continue attacking residential areas, humanitarian corridors, while holding civilians hostage as human shields.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian aerial operations helped liberate over 4,600 square miles of Syrian territory since September 30, 2015, adding “(t)he residents of nearly 900 settlements joined the peace process.”

On the same day, Russian General Staff of the Armed Forces chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov explained all attempts by terrorists “to break through in the city of Aleppo” failed.

Their fighters “suffered heavy losses of manpower, weaponry and military equipment. They have no chance to escape from the city.”

Two corridors are available for them to leave safely if they cease fighting. One leads to the Syrian/Turkish border, the other to the Idlib countryside.

In a blunt statement, Gerasimov said “(t)aking into account that our American colleagues (sic) are incapable of separating the opposition from terrorists, we appeal to all the leaders of armed groups directly to stop combat actions and leave Aleppo with their arms.”

Terrorists have a choice. Leave Aleppo or face continued heavy attacks until their ranks are decimated. Moscow and Damascus intend liberating the city entirely.

A previous article discussed a possible Putin November surprise, citing Moscow State University Political Science Professor/co-chairman of the National Strategic Council of Russia Sergei Markov.

He believes a decisive battle to liberate Aleppo looms, maybe coinciding with US elections next week. He calls it Putin’s “blow to (Obama) before (his January) departure.”

If elected US president, Trump said “we could find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS.”

“My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cut off their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyber warfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting.”

Hillary intends escalating war in Syria, using ISIS and other terrorist groups to oust Assad – risking direct confrontation with Russia.

She “advocate(s) a no-fly zone and safe zones.” Implementing them “require(s) us to go to war with Syria and Russia,” US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford told Senate Armed Services Committee members in September.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Liberating Syria from Al Qaeda

Arrests in BiH – Justice on Demand?

Adelina Marini

Today’s review of media from the former Yugoslavia is pretty bland, which could just be good news, but it could also be a lull before the storm. The subject of the arrests of ten members of the former Croatian Defence Council (HVO) in Orašje in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday is totally dominating in Croatian society, despite news still being quite scarce. Regional TV channel N1 reported that the ten veterans are charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the time when they were members of the HVO structures in Orašje, police structures, as well as guards in the camps and detention facilities. The front page of Vecernji list warns of a possible Croatian counter-attack. “The selective arrest of Croats in Orašje could be the pebble that would tip the cart of patience of Croatian state institutions”, reports the newspaper.

War crimes do not have an expiration date, which brings the question why Croatia, as opposed to BiH and Serbia, is acting like it purposefully sweeps war crimes – committed against Croats at that – under the carpet. Institutions could activate the indictments that the prosecution has been gathering for years. Some are complete, but have not been activated, reports journalist Davor Ivanković. In a commentary for the left-wing Rijeka daily newspaper Novi list, Boris Pavelić accuses Croatia of attempting to hide the truth in BiH. The author quotes witness testimonies about members of the HVO in Orašje committing rapes and other crimes, which are reported by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network BIRN.

“Now wait a minute, should all war crimes be punished? If not, say it out loud, so that we know what kind of government we have. If they should, where did this mistrust of the prosecution and court in Bosnia and Herzegovina come from all of a sudden? Those two institutions, statistically and meaningfully, punish war crimes much more efficiently and surely than the justice systems in Croatia and Serbia”, writes Pavelić. He believes that the sync between Croatian politics and the media hysterics is proof of Zagreb not wanting the truth and justice, but prefers to remain silent and hinder the investigations of crimes, which could discredit the country. “Politically encouraged by their EU membership, Croatian authorities are abusing European foundations and thus compromise them. Instead of helping a neighbouring state in the battle with the unbearable burden of war crimes, Croatia is making that battle even more difficult by calling on its European authority!”, concludes the columnist.

Index columnist Goran Vojković disagrees with this idea and claims that in Bosnia and Herzegovina nothing ever happens by chance, “especially the arrest of ten people for alleged war crimes twenty years after the war, right after the visit of the Croatian prime minister – and these are ten people, who live there and have constantly, for years, been at the disposal of investigative authorities. The question is whether this may be a clear political message – Croats, hands off!”. Vojković believes that the reason is that there is currently an ongoing political fight in the BiH Federation. “A political battle in which Bosniaks want to keep their dominance after it became perfectly clear that Serbs rule half the state”, is the columnist’s opinion.

tportal quotes the Bosniak and the Serbian members of the BiH Presidency Bakir Izetbegović and Mladen Ivanić. “The reactions, which followed are exerting pressure on the justice system. I understand the interest and support it, but going into detail is something which, in my opinion, oversteps the boundary of what is acceptable”, said Ivanić at a press conference in Sarajevo. “If anyone has grounds for remarks, it is the Serbian side”, he added. Izetbegović also appealed that the court and the state prosecution be left to do their job with no interference in their work. Croatian member of the Presidency Dragan Čović stated that the people arrested in Orašje should be released. He was outraged by the fact that they were arrested in the day of the Catholic All Saints holiday and immediately after the visit of Croatian PM Andrej Plenković.

Serbia is playing macho

One feels a strange lull in Serbian media – so far there are no new scandals, discoveries, or provocative statements. This opens up space for some more general comments. Such is the text by Snežana Čongradin for today’s Danas, titled “Acting brave”. “If Serbia is in the centre of a process of European integration, fully aware of what this means and what it encompasses, then, having in mind the hostile relations between the EU and Russia, it is indisputable that one must stand at the side of the one who is defined as the supreme goal of state policy”, writes the author. “Taking Russia’s side in certain segments of foreign and domestic policy goes directly against the self interest if you start from the foundations of the political road, namely the road to the EU.

Snežana Čongradin believes that recent developments in Montenegro and the hasty statements by the Serbian political summit raise the question why are such things reported at all before the truth is established and the investigation is complete. “Why was it necessary to have such drama, create a panic, reporting facts, which could influence their nature and change them?”, asks the author and concludes that the Serbian political elite is just acting brave, but in fact has no courage to do the statesman thing in a moment when it should really prove which path has been chosen.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in SerbiaComments Off on Arrests in BiH – Justice on Demand?

The Canada Agreement and the Democratic Legitimacy – a New European Riddle

Adelina Marini

Just as it seemed that the October European Council will be the first boring one for quite awhile, because there is no large crisis, which requires an urgent solution, and here comes the trade agreement with Canada, which turns into just such a crisis which (once more) the EU’s ability depends on to be something more than a bunch of ever more distanced states. The crisis ended with a happy end a little over a week after the two-day EU summit, but brought to the surface a very important question, which the leaders of member states did not raise even at the themed summit in Bratislava in September – is this the democratic legitimacy that we need – referenda, regional vetoes, national vetoes?

Just like the comprehensive trade agreement with Ukraine, which in the end brought the ignition of an armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia and marked the return of ideological division from the 20th century between the East and the West on Russia’s initiative, the comprehensive agreement with Canada turned out to be much more than a trade agreement. As the president of the European Council said on Sunday, October 30, when the agreement was officially signed, it “demonstrates that the disintegration of the Western community does not need to become a lasting trend. That we still possess enough strength and determination – at least some of us – to counter the fatalism of the decay of our political world”. What is more, according to Donald Tusk (Poland, EPP), “that post-factual reality and post-truth politics pose a great challenge on both sides of the Atlantic”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went even further, calling the agreement “historic” and a “trade entente”. Despite its strong geopolitical importance, however, it was threatened by failure. During the October EU summit, odds for signing the agreement were 50:50. There were two blocks hanging on it. One was the refusal of the regional parliament of Wallonia to back it, and the other turned out to be the first possibility for Bulgaria to impose a veto in the Council, in order to exert pressure for the achievement of a strategic goal – the fall of visas to Canada for Bulgarian nationals. If a solution was found to the Wallonian problem, the Bulgarian prime minister was adamant that he will impose a veto. The Bulgarian determination, however, almost got lost in between the day-and-night marathon negotiations between the European Commission, the European Council president, and the Wallonia prime minister.

Prior to the start of the October 20-21 summit in Brussels, the focus was entirely on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). “But truly speaking, the problem goes beyond CETA. If you’re not able to convince people that trade agreements are in their interest, if we’re not able to convince them that our representatives negotiate the free trade agreements to protect people’s interest we will have no chance to build public support for free trade. And I’m afraid this means that CETA could be our last free trade agreement”, dramatically announced President Tusk.

2 million vs 500 million or the EU is a democracy of unanimity

The problem with CETA appeared at the June summit when member states insisted that it be treated as a mixed agreement, meaning a document which includes both national and European competences. Despite the fact that leaders at the time were fully immersed into the results of the British referendum and the discussions on the future of the European Union, in fact, under the surface smoldered the fire of the Canadian agreement, after it became clear that there was a conflict between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP) and several member states, because Mr Juncker insisted that the agreement remained under European competence, meaning that it is to be adopted and ratified by the Council and the European Parliament. German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted, however, that national parliaments be also included in the approval of the document.

“With CETA, the EC has explained that they don’t see the necessity for a mixed agreement where I explained for the federal government we wish for such an agreement. A mixed agreement that is to say for national parliaments, too, will have to have a say”, she said during Germany’s national briefing after the summit on June 28. According to some, this had opened Pandora’s box right at the time when Great Britain opened the EU’s door with arguments against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of Brussels institutions. President Juncker defended himself by saying that he never insisted on the agreement not being a mixed one. “I don’t really care myself personally”, he said at a press conference on June 28 in Brussels. “But to say that I had a personal preference that national parliaments shouldn’t have a say, well, that’s absurd”, added the famous for his federalist views veteran at the European political scene.

On July 5, the EC announced the agreement to be a mixed one. “From a strict legal standpoint, the Commission considers this agreement to fall under exclusive EU competence. However, the political situation in the Council is clear, and we understand the need for proposing it as a ‘mixed’ agreement, in order to allow for a speedy signature”, said following the announcement of the decision Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström (Sweden, ALDE). With this decision, practically the European Commission returned a solid chunk of sovereignty to member states. Instead of achieving a speedy signature, however, the agreement was stopped in its tracks by the regional parliament of Wallonia (a region in Belgium), which stood two million people from the region against all the rest in the EU, who had no objections to CETA or, at least, did not manifest them in the form of a veto.

How democratic is that?

Usually decisions in the EU are made by unanimity. This is the highest form of democracy in existence and is in a drastic contrast to the national level of democracy, where decisions in national parliaments are made with regular majority, often very thin, and elections are often won at a very low level of participation. And the case of the Dutch referendum is truly shocking. At this vote earlier this year, the Dutch discarded the ratification of the comprehensive trade agreement with Ukraine (which also has a very strong geopolitical importance), already ratified by all other EU member states, at voter turnout of 32.28%. In the Council of Ministers at the European level, however, there are written and unwritten rules for making decisions. Unanimity is preferred, because it gives the opportunity to every member state to preserve its “sovereignty” over the decision being made.

The freshest deviation from this unwritten norm was with the proposal for a quota redistribution of refugees, which was ultimately approved by a qualified majority, due to resistance by Hungary and a few other member states. A case, which began digging a new hole under the foundations of the EU and its unity. In the peak of the euro area crisis, there was a lot of talk on the lack of democratic legitimacy in the making of decisions which are important to the Union. The term got ingrained so deeply into Brussels lingo, that it was part of every speech, statement, or debate both in Brussels or Strasbourg and the capitals of the 28. The search for democratic legitimacy was almost like a gold rush in the midst of growing Euroscepticism, which forced euinside to dedicate several texts to the subject, like this one for example.

Democratic legitimacy turned into a part of the EU strategic goals, written in the programme of the Union until the year 2020, as we reported two years ago. The programme envisioned that a greater role is given to national parliaments, “including by strengthening their means of participating in the debate and making their voice heard in the decision-making process”. Well, their voice was heard. Not only the national voice, but also the regional one, for Belgium is a country of almost as complicated a state structure as post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. And while the leaders of member states and negotiators on CETA pondered on the way to walk out of the trap they set themselves, euinside asked the president of the European Parliament (the only institution with direct election by European citizens) Martin Schulz (Socialists  and Democrats, Germany) the question whether the Wallonia veto represents the democratic legitimacy that all talked about and dozens of pages of documents were written about.



After a long pause (you can see a recording of Mr Schulz’s reply in the attached file), the EP boss began thinking out loud. With mixed agreements, he said, the part, which affects Europe, is decided on in the EP, and questions of national competence are handled by national parliaments within the boundaries of their constitutions. “The question is what is the definition of mixed agreements and how far reaching are the European only parts and the national parts”, he said and pointed at the Ukraine agreement, in which the national portion is tiny but despite that it led to a huge problem for the entire EU (which, by the way, still stands unresolved). “Therefore, we must for sure discuss about the very precise definition who is responsible for what and in that frame we have to decide who is giving the legitimacy. This is a difficult problem and shows that the EU needs debates about that, also after Brexit”, added the president.

If it wasn’t for Wallonia, it would have been Boyko Borissov

Even if the Wallonians had not pointed their raised middle … democratic legitimacy to all the rest, CETA would still be blocked, perhaps. Prior to the start of the summit Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was initially quite adamant, but started to lose his grip with the advance of questions. The subject was the only one that he was willing to discuss in all the occasions when he met with Bulgarian journalists in Brussels during the two-day October European Council. Regardless of receiving other questions as well, first of all he wanted to speak his mind on the CETA.

“Why do we and Romania have the so called reserve? And I expect us today [October 20] to reach an agreement, for everyone in Europe wishes that such an agreement, but Bulgaria and Romania have the following reserve. It is linked to the visas and it is not due to us wishing to nag, but because a trade agreement has value for any country, so that both sides can trade. And if we have visas or our businessmen need to stand in line for hours, for years, waiting, as it is now, then how do we explain it to the people that we should accept this agreement?”, he began, stressing that Sofia insists on written guarantees. When asked (by euinside) should a solution be found for the Wallonia problem, will Bulgaria continue to block the agreement, Mr Borissov replied with another question: “Do you find my position eligible for blame on whatever grounds?”.

However, it is not euinside sitting at the negotiations table, so I insisted that the PM answers the question. His reply was quite worrying. “I am replying clearly. Signing an agreement, in which there are no guarantees that Bulgarian businessmen, or tourists, or whatever, will go freely to Canada, as theirs do here. I am ready to make a commitment that if they start to settle, which worries them most – Roma people, or migrants, those we do not want coming in Bulgaria and the like – then we will make some agreement in the future, regulate it, like with the rest of the European states, but we need to have a written document which guarantees us that by December of 2017 this will happen”, were the words of the prime minister.

At the subsequent new question by euinside of whether if Bulgaria stands on its own (without Romania) in its veto, he will continue to insist on guarantees, Borissov caved in: “I want to state once more – I am making tremendous efforts, because I believe my position to be completely fair and correct, and if this concerned France or Germany will they have accepted it? And thus I will attempt to fight it through.” He managed to receive his guarantees and after the happy ending of this drama the visa regime will be dropped for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, starting December 1 of next year. For the Bulgarian PM, however, for whom it would be the first attempt to stand in opposition to the rest of his colleagues, it is a dangerous precedent. (The full speech of the prime minister from the first day of the summit is available to view in Bulgarian here)

This is democracyyyyyyyyy

“Because this is what happened for Schengen – one country stopped Bulgaria and Romania, others stop whatever, this becomes a fad and is very dangerous to the EU. With all due respect to any authority, with all the constitutional perks in any state, but it sounds kind of wrong. You witnessed it – in The Netherlands they stopped Ukraine for the visa-free regime, we all did everything for the Ukraine, got in an argument with Russia, introduced sanctions. All of a sudden, when they need their European way opened for them, they have no visas”, said the PM after the end of the summit.

Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė was opposed to throwing all the blame on EU regions. “I think the process, both sides, are a little bit guilty of what’s happening. We’re partly hostages of internal politics of one country and another thing is the process – how open and transparent the process of negotiations was”, she added. Following the signing of CETA, which yet needs to be ratified by the parliaments of member states and Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ascribed it all to democracy. “I believe in democracy. Our democratic institutions and principles demand when a leader or government puts over a proposal they’d be questioned by opposition who disagree and think they need to challenge whether it’s been done the right way, whether it’s in the interest of everyone, whether we’d thought about the impact on the most vulnerable, whether various regions or constituencies will be affected positively or negatively by any given proposition. That’s at the centre of a healthy functioning democracy”, he said.

The subject divided members of the European Parliament last week during the debate on the outcome of the October European Council. Liberal MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld stated that the CETA episode had uncovered a far bigger problem and it is the weakness of the Council. “The EU cannot continue like this. If we look at the list of topics on the table, we have: sanctions against Russia – blocked; the Ukraine Agreement – jeopardised; CETA – blocked; refugee relocation – blown out of the water; the decision on Article 50 with the EU – kept dangling for nine months, and now one of the countries is threatening to veto the budget. We cannot continue like this”, exclaimed the MEP.

Her colleague from the group of the Greens Ska Keller (Germany) hailed the Wallonians’ blockade, stating that their worries are shared by millions of citizens, who protested and signed petitions. “The problem is that those concerns were not addressed, or not sufficiently addressed, and together we need to learn the lessons from that”, she said, but got a reply from Sophia in ‘t Veld: “You are all welcoming the veto by the Wallonian Parliament and, in doing so, you actually disregard democratic decisions that have been taken in other countries. What kind of a democrat are you if you say that the Wallonian Parliament – which is indeed democratically elected, as Mrs Le Pen said – but so are the other parliaments? All the 28 Member States have democratic institutional arrangements that you seem to completely deny”.

“I think a big problem is that indeed many parliaments, including us, are only asked when the whole deal is done. They should have been asked before, and then they could raise it”, replied Ska Keller. The Belgian MEP, also from the Greens group, Philippe Lamberts, in turn stated that obviously the Wallonians did read CETA thoroughly, unlike all others. Opposed to this claim was Pavel Telička (ALDE, Czech Republic), who believes there was a mandate for negotiations but neither Wallonia, nor Belgium raised these concerns when the mandate was being approved. Esteban González Pons (EPP, Spain) was adamant that at the moment the Brexit is turning into a model “There’s no point in a region with just two million inhabitants being allowed to block the interests of a continent of 500 million inhabitants. Democracy is a two-way street. The majority should always prevail over the interests of a minority“, he said and underlined that globalisation is a fact, not an ideology.

Another EPP MEP Paulo Rangel (Portugal) reminded that no one was worried by the agreement with Vietnam, where there are true problems, like women and child labour for example. Why is it exactly with Canada that worries arose, he asked. The debate in Strasbourg also revealed the division between the European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans (The Netherlands, Socialists and Democrats) and European Council President Donald Tusk. At the end of the debate Mr Timmermans sent out sharp criticism against anti-globalists: “If you believe, at the beginning of what I call the 4th industrial revolution, you can protect yourself from not going into agreements with parts of the world where they share our values you are delusional”, he said.

Donald Tusk, however, differed in his opinion: “The debate in Belgium and Wallonia’s resistance do not result from the belief that the competences of EU institutions regarding trade policy are too limited. Today, people would prefer the states and national parliaments to have a bigger influence on the course of things, not smaller. If it is even easier to govern Europe, thanks to this. Of course it is not. But no-one will change the fact that EU is still the Union of States and not institutions”, he said.

Sovereignty given, sovereignty accepted!

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in CanadaComments Off on The Canada Agreement and the Democratic Legitimacy – a New European Riddle

Bosnia Slapped Croatia in the Face

Adelina Marini

The policy of the new Croatian government regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina got a resounding slap in the face from Sarajevo just two days after the first official visit of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković abroad (to BiH), commented Croatian media. On Monday, two days after the return of the Croatian delegation from BiH, a dozen veterans from the Croatian army (BiH) got arrested in Orašje on charges in war crimes. Minister of Foreign Affairs Davor Ivo Stier and Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević expressed their concern regarding the incident. Jutarnji list and many other media today quote the Facebook status of former Minister of Defence Ante Kotromanović, who asks what were Andrej Plenković and Davor Ivo Stier doing in BiH during the two days of their visit.

According to the weekly political magazine Globus, which comes out every Wednesday, the apprehension of the dozen veterans is a message to Andrej Plenković. The magazine quotes Željko Šiljeg, colonel general from the Croatian Defence Council. The purpose of the arrests was showing that Herceg-Bosna is a criminal creation. Globuscomments that the arrests could develop into an extremely awkward and even explosive subject between Croatia and BiH, similar to the subject of the Serbian law for universal jurisdiction, because of which many Croatian veterans are trembling when they cross the border. Vecernji list reports from Orašje, that veterans there are afraid of the possibility that all of them might get arrested. “Any initiative for changes in BiH will be met with serious resistance due to the existence of different interests – from global to private, like keeping certain functions”, reports the newspaper.

Vecernji comments that the arrests come just two days after the visit of Andrej Plenković, where he advocated for a change in the election code that would allow Croats to elect their representatives. Arrests also come a day after the interview of President Bakir Izetbegović, in which he states that the threat to Croats in BiH is a mantra. In a commentary for the Bosnian edition of Vecernji list, Davor Ivanković writes that the arrests are Sarajevo’s reply to the previous Croatian policy of keeping arms crossed regarding BiH and the status of Croats there. The new Croatian policy aims for significant corrections and a return to Dayton in order to secure equal rights for Croats.

The operation against Croatian veterans is a warning that Sarajevo does not acknowledge Croatian arguments for the fact that the Croatian people there are under threat, further writes Davor Ivanković. In his opinion, the choosing of Orašje, which is regarded as the place with the mildest war crimes, could only be a signal for what else will follow – new campaigns for the apprehension of Croats. It is high time that Zagreb initialises a bilateral solution to the problem with charges against veterans, which has been frozen for 20 years. These (sometimes not raised on purpose) charges serve as political pressure, claims the author. The subject is almost nonexistent in the Bosnian media environment.

Not a single day without drama in Serbia

The “Jajinci” case continues to develop in a familiar direction. Minister of Labour Aleksandar Vulin, who is regarded as Prime Minister Vučić’s mouthpiece on sensitive subjects, directly accused the US embassy in Belgrade in standing behind the assassination attempt. State television channel RTS quotes Mr Vulin, who claims to be speaking in private capacity and not having harmonised his opinion with the PM. “The ‘Jajinci’ case began in the night of the elections, when things got to the forceful entry of all parties in the Republic Electoral Commission in an attempt at changing the election results and their later visit to the American ambassador Kyle Scott”, said Vulin in an interview for the TV channel. The diplomat refused to comment Vulin’s appearances. “I saw Vulin’s statement and I am simply at loss for words in which to express myself. I think this statement is excessive and it would be better to concentrate on the fact that our relations are good and correct”, said Ambassador Scott, quoted by Tanjug.

Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović in turn reported that the prime minister is worried that the target of the weapons discovered close to his family home was his brother Andrej. Blic reports that the PM did not show for work today. All his meetings were cancelled. Sources of the newspaper admitted that this is surprising. It is not clear whether his absence is somehow connected to the current security crisis, but it is unprecedented.

In a commentary for Politika, the editor-in-chief of the “New Serbian Political Thought” magazine and Member of Parliament Đorđe Vukadinović writes that the situation in Serbia is like in the lying shepherd story. “The only thing that remains unclear is whether recent developments in Serbia is already the true showing of the wolf, or it is one more play of the irresponsible and frivolous shepherd boys?”, asks the author. He places several other questions: was this really an attempt at the prime minister’s life; could this be a warning from some powerful external and internal factors; or is this again just a smoke screen, directed by the government itself because of ongoing cleansing operations in the security agency and military agencies? Whatever the answer, the situation is extremely serious, he believes.

“Optimists, and those, who persist in closing their eyes for the authoritarian nature of the current political regime, will interpret this as an encouragement signal, meaning a proof that here, see, Vučić turns out to be much better, much more careful and reasonable than his aides. This, however, is dubious consolation. In the end of the day, is there anyone, who seriously believes that Vulin, Stefanović, Dačić, Mihajlović, Palma, and the rest have all of a sudden started playing solo on such an important issue?”, continues his questions Đorđe Vukadinović. He goes on with the question what are regular people thinking or the myriad of foreign investors, whom Vučić is inviting to invest in Serbia, about a state, where someone is constantly preparing a state coup and/or the assassination of the prime minister.

Time for analyses in Montenegro

While the formation of the new government in Montenegro is expected, media continue their analyses of the elections. Pobjeda prints at its title page an analysis by Nenad Zečević, who believes that the experiment of a government of electoral trust is over. This government (with participation by the opposition) was established with the goal of regaining trust in the electoral process and finding proof for misappropriation of state funds. He sends sharp criticism towards the opposition for not making any of that happen. The government of electoral trust was hailed by MEPs during the hearing of Montenegro PM Milo Đukanović prior to the elections.

First of all the opposition, led by the Democratic front, not only refused to recognise the elections, but also signed a document, with which it committed not to accept the results. Opposition members in the government failed to find a single case of misappropriation of state funds, continues the author, refuting claims from the opposition that the apprehension of Serbian nationals on charges of preparing terrorist attacks has influenced electoral activity and the election results. According to Nenad Zečević, the explanation is absurd for electoral activity was record-breaking high – 73%.

Political agony in Macedonia

With elections in Macedonia approaching on December 11, frustration in society with the ongoing and endless scandals there keeps growing. In a commentary for Utrinski vesnik, Tatiana Popovska writes that the prolonged political crisis has brought to surface the greediness, inhumanity, and impertinence of certain politicians. Political shuffles, subversive accusations, and scheming from the last few days are the biggest political agony, which is developing before the elections, and most probably after them as well, writes Popovska. “At the Macedonian scene it is no longer known who is backing what, who is against whom in the electoral race, and who works for whom”, she continues. At the moment the cleanest positions are held by VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM, for the former is trying to stay in power, and the latter is trying to take it.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Taking on militants: A fight for the soul of Pakistan

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

By James M. Dorsey

Two high-level meetings in recent months involving senior military commanders and intelligence officials and/or top-level government representatives spotlight Pakistan’s difficulty in coming to grips with domestic and regional political violence resulting from decades of support of militant Islamist and jihadist groups for foreign policy and ideological reasons. Overcoming those difficulties could determine Pakistan’s future, the nature of its society and its place in the world.

The first of those meeting was a gathering in August of Pakistani military commanders in the wake of a massive bombing in Quetta that killed some 70 people and wiped out a generation of lawyers in the province of Baluchistan. The commanders concluded that the attack constituted a sinister foreign-inspired plot that aimed to thwart their effort to root out political violence. Their analysis stroked with their selective military campaign aimed at confronting specific groups like the Pakistani Taliban and the Sunni-Muslim Lashkar-e-Jhangvi rather than any organisation that engages in political violence and/or targets minorities.

Enemy within

The commanders’ approach failed to acknowledge the real lesson of Quetta: decades of Pakistani military and intelligence support underwritten by funding from Saudi Arabia for sectarian and ultra-conservative groups and religious schools in Pakistan that has divided the country almost irreversibly. Generations of religious students have their critical faculties stymied by rote learning and curricula dominated by memorising exclusionary beliefs and prejudice resulting in bigotry and misogyny woven into the fabric of Pakistani society.

This is what Pakistani columnist Ejaz Haider said in a recent commentary:

The enemy within is not a fringe… Large sections of society sympathise with these groups. They fund them, directly and indirectly. They provide them recruits. They reject the constitution and the system. They don’t just live in the “bad lands” but could be our neighbours. The forces have not only to operate in areas in the periphery, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but have also to operate in the cities where hundreds, perhaps thousands form sleeper cells, awaiting orders or planning to strike.

Top Pakistani political leaders echoed Mr Haider’s sentiment in a second meeting in October that gathered the country’s civilian and military leadership around the table. Reporting in Dawn, Pakistan’s top English-language newspaper, on differences between the civilian and military components of the state, united politicians and officers in their denials of differences and prompted a government investigation into what it alleged was a false and inaccurate story.

Dawn, standing by the accuracy of its story, reported that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other government ministers had warned their military and intelligence counterparts that key elements of the country’s two-year old national action plan to eradicate political violence and sectarianism, including enforcing bans on designated groups, reforming madrasas (Islamic schools), and empowering the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA), had not been implemented. The 20-point plan was adopted after militants had attacked a military school in Peshawar in December 2014, killing 141 people, including 132 students.

In a blunt statement during the meeting, Foreign Minister Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry charged, according to Dawn, that Pakistan risked international isolation if it failed to crack down on militant groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network – all designated as terrorist groups by the United Nations. Mr Chaudhry noted that Pakistan’s closest ally, China, with its massive USD 46 billion investment in Pakistani infrastructure, continued to block UN sanctions on Jaish-i-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar, but was increasingly questioning the wisdom of doing so.

The State Bank of Pakistan announced barely two weeks after the meeting that it was freezing the accounts of more than 2,000 people associated with political violence, including the leaders of anti-Shi’i and anti-Ahmadi groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agency. Not mentioned in the bank’s list of targeted people were those associated with groups such as Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), whose main focus is Kashmir.

Supporting Wahhabi-inspired terrorists

The absence of those groups signalled the military and intelligence’s ability to safeguard the fundamentals of their strategic support of militant groups and the inability of the civilian government to impose its will. The government, moreover, is divided with some ministers being more supportive of links to militants. And even if there were a unified will to crack down on militants, the bank’s measure would at best be a drop in a bucket. Most of the funds available to militant groups are either not in bank deposits or, if they are, not in accounts belonging to the groups’ leaders.

In many ways, Mr Sharif’s effort to force the military and intelligence’s hand has a sense of déjà vu. A similar attempt by Mr Sharif when he was prime minister in the late 1990s ended with his overthrow in a coup, initial imprisonment and ultimate exile for a decade. Mr Sharif in cohorts with his loyal intelligence chief, Lieutenant-General Khawaja Ziauddin, tried to convince Taliban leader Mullah Omar to handover Osama Bin Laden and stop Saudi-backed anti-Shi’i militants of Sipah-e-Sabaha from attacking the minority in Pakistan from Afghan territory without consulting the military.

In response, Chief of Staff General Mohammed Aziz Khan and Islamist politician Fazl ur Rahman held separate talks with Omar in which they made clear to the Taliban leader who controlled the Pakistani levers of power and persuaded him to ignore Mr Sharif’s request. Mr Sharif’s effort was one reason for the 1999 military coup that led to his initial imprisonment and subsequent decade-long exile.

Proud sectarians

Leaders of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, the latest guise of Sipah after it was nominally banned, in a rare set of lengthy interviews prior to the bank’s announcement, had little compunction about detailing their close ties to Pakistani state institutions and Saudi Arabia. They were also happy to discuss the fact that both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were pushing them to repackage their sectarian policies in a public relations effort rather than a fundamental shift that would steer Pakistan towards a more tolerant, inclusive society.

According to a co-founder of Sipah,

The Saudis sent huge amounts often through Pakistani tycoons who had a long-standing presence in Saudi Arabia as well as operations in the UK and Canada and maintained close relations with the Al Saud family and the Saudi business community. One of them gave 100 million rupees a year. We had so much money, it didn’t matter what things cost.

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Ahmad Ludhyvani, a meticulously dressed Muslim scholar whose accounts are among those blocked, speaking in his headquarters and protected by Pakistani security forces in the city of Jhang, noted that Sipah as the group is still commonly referred to and Saudi Arabia both opposed Shi’i Muslim proselytisation even if Sipah served Pakistani rather than Saudi national interests.

Speaking over over a lunch of chicken, vegetables and rice, Ludhyvani said:

Some things are natural. It’s like when two Pakistanis meet abroad or someone from Jhang meets another person from Jhang in Karachi. It’s natural to be closest to the people with whom we have similarities… We are the biggest anti-Shia movement in Pakistan. We don’t see Saudi Arabia interfering in Pakistan.

The soft-spoken politician defended his group’s efforts in parliament to get a law passed that would uphold the dignity of the Prophet Mohammed and his companions. The law would effectively serve as a stepping stone for institutionalisation of anti-Shi’i sentiment much like a Saudi-inspired Pakistani constitutional amendment in 1974 that declared Ahmadis non-Muslim. As a result, all applicants for a Pakistani passport are forced to sign an anti-Ahmadi oath.

Flaunting Saudi support

Sipah officials said a Pakistani cleric resident in Mecca who heads the international arm of Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat (AMTKN), a militant anti-Ahmadi Pakistan-based group, closely affiliated with Sipah, acts as a major fundraiser for the group.

Sipah put Pakistani and Saudi support on public display when last year it hosted a dinner in Islamabad’s prestigious Marriot Hotel for Abdallah Ben Abdel Mohsen al-Turki, a former Saudi religious affairs minister and general secretary of the Muslim World League, a major Saudi vehicle for the funding of ultra-conservative and militant groups. Hundreds of guests, including Pakistani ministers and religious leaders designated as terrorists by the United States, attended the event at the expense of the Saudi embassy in the Pakistani capital.

The corrosive impact of such support for groups preaching intolerance and sectarian hatred is reflected in a recent controversy over the Council of Islamic Ideology, whose offices are ironically located on Islamabad’s Ataturk Avenue, that was created to ensure that Pakistani legislation complies with Islamic law. The council has condemned co-education in a country whose non-religious public education system fails to impose mandatory school attendance and produces uncritical minds similar to those emerging from thousands of madrasas run by ultra-conservatives and those advocating jihadist thinking.

The council declared in 2014 that a man did not need his wife’s consent to marry a second, third or fourth wife and that DNA of a rape victim did not constitute conclusive evidence. This year, it defended the right of a husband to “lightly beat” his wife. It also forced the withdrawal of a proposal to ban child marriages, declaring the draft bill un-Islamic and blasphemous.

Continued official acquiescence and open support for intolerance, misogyny and sectarianism calls into question the sincerity of government and military efforts to curb without exception intolerance and political violence. The result is a country whose social fabric and tradition of tolerance is being fundamentally altered in ways that could take a generation to reverse.

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