Archive | December 8th, 2016

Groups Demand Arrest of ‘War Mastermind’ Kissinger at Nobel Peace Prize Forum

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Nobel Peace Prize committee honors Kissinger a second time with speaking engagement at new forum on world peace

Image result for Henry Kissinger CARTOON
Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger was infamously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his role in the Vietnam War—a decision that comedian Tom Lehrer said “made political satire obsolete.” (Photo: Reuters)

The Nobel Peace Prize committee last month stunned many observers by choosing Henry Kissinger—the former secretary of state behind the secret American bombing of Cambodia and who supported Argentina’s “dirty wars,” among other things—to  speak at a forum on “The United States and World Peace after the Presidential Election.”

In response, on Tuesday the progressive groups RootsAction and Nobel Peace Prize Watch issued a petition demanding that Norwegian officials arrest Kissinger.

“The Nobel Committee has arranged for well-known war mastermind Henry Kissinger to speak as an honored guest at a forum that is part of the Nobel Peace Prize events,” the petition states. “Several of Kissinger’s crimes come under treaties that make it mandatory for Norway to prosecute. Kissinger is complicit or a main actor in many violations of the Genocide Convention and of the Geneva Conventions.”

Nobel Peace Prize Watch lays out Kissinger’s actions (pdf) in great detail, making the case that Norway is obligated under international law to arrest the former secretary of state.

Kissinger was infamously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his role in the Vietnam war—a decision that comedian Tom Lehrer said “made political satire obsolete.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter, is also scheduled to speak at the Oslo forum, which will take place on December 11. Jan Oberg of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research condemned the Nobel committee’s decision to honor the two former U.S. officials:

These two experts on warfare and interventionism will—Orwellian style—speak about “The United States and World Peace after the Presidential Election.”

This is the country that, since 1980, has intervened violently in Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosova/Serbia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, i.e. 14 Muslim countries. It has some 630 base facilities in 130+ countries. It has its U.S. Special Forces (SOF) in 133 countries.

It has used nuclear weapons without apology and owns the second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. stands for about 40 percent of the world’s military expenditures, is the world’s leading arms exporter and has killed more people than anybody else since 1945. It’s the master of (imprecise) drone strikes. It presently supports Saudi Arabia’s bestial war on Yemen and conducts a military build-up in Asia and the Pacific planning, as it seems, for what looks like a future confrontation with China. And not with terribly positive results in its Middle East policies since 1945.

So with all these credentials, please tell us about world peace!

And Nobel Peace Prize Watch further argues: “Millions of people, victims and survivors, will question or be seriously offended if Norway goes through with praise and honors to a person in the top ranks of the history of callous international state criminality. The suffering ordered or managed by Kissinger has led to increasing insecurity and violence for which all citizens of the world pay a high price.”

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Assad: ”’Israel’ alone is our enemy”

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As the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi civil war in Syria rages on, Syrian President makes clear that ‘Israel’ alone is Syria’s enemy.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad

In an interview with Syrian newspaper Al Watanthis morning, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed that ‘Israel’ alone is Syria’s enemy.

“He who conquers our land is an enemy country, not [merely] a country whose leaders employ hostile policies. Israel alone remains our enemy country.”

Assad’s statements come as his army is three weeks into an operation to recapture east Aleppo – in Saudi Zio-Wahhabi rat’s hands since 2012.

Assad now holds around 85 percent of the former opposition stronghold, and has advanced quickly.

At least 384 civilians, including 45 children, have been killed in Zio-Wahhabi fire on east Aleppo since the operation began.

 

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The Frontline of JewishNazi Settlement Regime

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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

The Frontline of Israel’s Settlement Regime

By Salah Ajarma,

the cofounder and director of Lajee Cultural Centre in Aida Refugee camp.

 

Aida refugee camp, in which I live and work, is on the edge of the famous town of Bethlehem. Our families established the camp in 1950 after being forcibly expelled from their homes by Zionist militias in 1948. Palestinians from our camp originate from villages in the Jerusalem and Hebron districts, just a few miles down the road. Those born since, still live in the refugee camp, and continue to struggle for the right to return to our homes.

In April 2000, me and a number of friends established the Lajee Centre, a community-based cultural centre for young refugees living in the camp. Through it we have sought to provide opportunities for the cultural, educational and social development of our young people, despite the violent military occupation under which we live. As an occupied refugee people, we are aware of the duty to educate our youth about their history and their rights. Only in this way will our struggle for freedom be carried to the next generation.

In 2002, Israel’s government began the construction of its illegal wall.[1] Its consequences are now perhaps well known – land confiscation, ghettoization, and an accelerated ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. In Aida the wall has been particularly obtrusive with its towering concrete blocks built directly opposite the Centre. The young people I work with have only ever known a life surrounded by this wall and under the constant surveillance of its ominous watchtowers. Before its construction, families and children would spend time in nature, in the olive groves that neighboured the camp. As one of the few green spaces available to us, I would often go there for picnics with my family when the weather was warm. This has now been shut off from us, creating a menacing, stifling atmosphere that we cannot escape. On the hill opposite, Israel’s illegal settlement of Gilo continues expanding onto land confiscated by the wall.

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In October 2015, Aida Camp buried one of its sons, Abd al-Rahman Ubeidallah, who was shot in the chest by an Israeli sniper. He was 13 years old and killed on his way home from school. His peers, almost without exception, have all been arrested, beaten or fired upon. The head of Lajee’s film unit, Mohammad, was shot in the eye with a rubber-coated steel bullet whilst filming Israeli violations in the camp in 2013. We are routinely broken into by Israeli soldiers and border police who invade the camp, firing teargas indiscriminately and threatening our families over loudspeakers.

These intolerable conditions are particularly difficult for our young people who, in the midst of such cruelty, maintain an extraordinary optimism. It is difficult to understand how children raised in such an awful situation can remain so full of gentleness and hope. Lajee is always alive with laughter, dancing and singing and our youth have transformed this dreadful situation into a boundless love for our people and an insistent demand for freedom. Their resilience never ceases to inspire me, and it is for their future, and the future of my two young daughters, that I continue my work. These young people deserve to live with dignity and peace.

Our work in Lajee has found support from around the world. From the UK there has been a steady stream of delegations – teachers, trade unionists, students, doctors, politicians and academics – who have visited our Centre. Early this year I came to the UK with our dabke troupe, performing traditional Palestinian dance to packed out venues up and down the country. When Celtic supporters raised funds for Palestine in anticipation of a UEFA fine, it was to our football club that they donated over £79,000. Our experience of the generosity of the British people has left us in little doubt as to their values and their willingness to stand in solidarity with our just case.

The same cannot be said of the UK Government. As Palestinians, we know all too well the dishonourable history of Britain in our region, a legacy that has yet to be resolved. The UK Government, like many others, continues to support the discredited ‘peace process’ whilst taking very little meaningful action. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Israel’s continued construction of colonial settlements. The UK regards settlements as illegal and a barrier to peace, whilst nevertheless continuing to trade with them.[2] The contraction between their stated aims, on the one hand, and the on-going financial relationship between UK-based companies and charities, on the other, has lead to the longstanding perception amongst Palestinians that the UK Government is not serious about its desire for peace. What other explanation could there be for this inconsistency?

For us, talk of peace is contradicted by our daily experience of an oppression that receives significant material and financial support from the ‘international community’. That the collective efforts of the EU, the US and the UN have failed to even freeze the construction of settlements, never mind begin to dismantle them, feels indicative to Palestinians of the regard with which our rights are held. Settlement construction has become a touchstone issue because it reflects the reluctance of the international community to take even the most minimal action to check the relentless march of Israeli colonisation.

We need a different strategy, one in which the international community takes measures to pressure Israel into meeting its obligations under international law. Ending settlement trade is the place to start as there is already broad international agreement on their illegality. This international consensus needs to be actualised by halting the building of settlements and dismantling those already constructed. This would lay the foundation for a just peace in which the rights of the Palestinian people to national self-determination and to return to their homes can be realised.

For us in Aida, on the frontline of Israel’s settlement regime, the situation is urgent. Ending trade with settlements would deny Israel the means of maintaining their occupation and give us some relief from its immediate, choking effects. This would provide our children and us with the first glimmer of hope for a future of justice, dignity and peace.

[1] International Court of Justice: Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 
[2] Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps sustain illegal Israeli Settlements.

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Nazi Jets Strike Targets Near Damascus Airport

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israel jets air strike

Arab news outlet said today Wednesday morning that Nazi jets struck targets at a Damascus airport.

According to Al-Mayadeen television channel, the jets targeted the Mezzeh Military Airport in Damascus, which neighbors President Bashar Assad’s palace.

Loud explosions in the Mezzeh neighborhood were also reported on social media.

Al-Arabiya TV channel , meanwhile, reported that fires broke out at the airport and that emergency vehicle sirens were heard in the area.

There were no official reports on the matter by the Syrian administration or Syrian or Lebanese state media. A Facebook page identified with President Bashar Assad’s regime, “Damascus Today,” noted that the incident was the result of “internal malfunction.”

Last week, Syria said that Nazi jets attacked west of Damascus, with reports in Arab media saying an arms convoy intended for Hezbollah was the target. The news came amid tensions along Nazi regime northern border after clashes between the Nazi army and militants affiliated with the Islamic State group.

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Breaking: George W. Bush on Trial?

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Breaking: George W. Bush on Trial? Saleh v. Bush in California Court on Charges of “Crimes of Aggression” Against Iraq

Ninth Circuit Confirms Judges Who Will Hear Argument on Legality of Iraq War
VIDEO: Bush in B.C.: Canada Hosts a War Criminal

San Francisco, Calif. — Today the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit confirmed that Circuit Judges Susan Graber and Andrew Hurwitz, as well as District Court Judge Richard Boulware (sitting by designation) will hear oral argument on December 12, 2016, in Saleh v. Bush.

Saleh v. Bush involves claims by an Iraqi woman, Sundus Shaker Saleh,  that former President George W. Bush and other high ranking Bush-era officials broke the law when they planned and waged the Iraq War.

Saleh alleges that former Bush Administration leaders committed the crime of aggression when they planned and executed the Iraq War, a war crime that was called the “supreme international crime” at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.

Saleh is appealing the immunity provided to the Defendants by the district court in December 2014.

“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit will hear argument. To my knowledge, this is the first time a court will entertain arguments that the Iraq War was illegal under domestic and international law,” Saleh’s attorney D. Inder Comar, legal director at Comar LLP, said. “This is also the first time since World War II that a court is being asked to scrutinize whether the war itself was an illegal act of aggression — a special war crime that was defined at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.” Comar is handling Saleh’s case pro bono.

Assuming the oral argument takes place, the argument will be live streamed and recorded on the  Ninth Circuit’s YouTube channel, permitting members of the public to watch the argument. The Court’s calendar commences at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on December 12th; the case will likely be heard later in the morning, as it is last on the Court’s calendar.

In addition to former President Bush, Saleh has named former Administration officials Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz as defendants in the case.

In December 2014, the district court dismissed Saleh’s lawsuit, holding that the defendants were immune from further proceedings because of the federal Westfall Act of 1988 (28 U.S.C. § 2679). The Westfall Act immunizes  former federal officials in civil lawsuits if a court determines that the official was acting pursuant to the legitimate scope of his or her employment.

Saleh disputes the immunity, arguing that the planning and waging of a war of aggression against Iraq fell outside the legitimate scope of employment of former President Bush and the other defendants.

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U.S. First Shields Its Torturers and War Criminals From Prosecution, Now Officially Honors Them

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As vice president, Dick Cheney was a prime architect of the worldwide torture regime implemented by the U.S. government (which extended far beyond waterboarding), as well as the invasion and destruction of Iraq, which caused the deaths of at least 500,000 people and more likely over a million. As such, he is one of the planet’s most notorious war criminals.

President Obama made the decision in early 2009 to block the Justice Department from criminally investigating and prosecuting Cheney and his fellow torturers, as well as to protect them from foreign investigations and even civil liability sought by torture victims. Obama did that notwithstanding a campaign decree that even top Bush officials are subject to the rule of law and, more importantly, notwithstanding a treaty signed in 1984 by Ronald Reagan requiring that all signatory states criminally prosecute their own torturers. Obama’s immunizing Bush-era torturers converted torture from a global taboo and decades-old crime into a reasonable, debatable policy question, which is why so many GOP candidates are now openly suggesting its use.

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 03: From left, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Vice President Joe Biden, attend a bust unveiling ceremony for Cheney in the Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall, December 3, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

From center, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, Vice President Joe Biden in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall, December 3, 2015.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP

But now, the Obama administration has moved from legally protecting Bush-era war criminals to honoring and gushing over them in public. Yesterday, the House of Representatives unveiled a marble bust of former Vice President Cheney, which — until a person of conscience vandalizes or destroys it — will reside in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol.

At the unveiling ceremony, Cheney was, in the playful words of NPR, “lightly roasted” — as though he’s some sort of grumpy though beloved avuncular stand-up comic. Along with George W. Bush, one of the speakers in attendance was Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke movingly of Cheney’s kind and generous soul:

As I look around this room and up on the platform, I want to say thank you for letting me crash your family reunion. I’m afraid I’ve blown his cover. I actually like Dick Cheney. … I can say without fear of contradiction, there’s never one single time been a harsh word, not one single time in our entire relationship.

Leading American news outlets got in on the fun, as they always do, using the joviality of the event to promote their news accounts and generate visits to their sites:

Watch former President Bush unleash the Dick Cheney jokes at Washington ceremony http://nbcnews.to/1NuVbEi 

As NPR put it, “This was not an event for Cheney critics — on the war or torture or related topics.” Totally: why let some unpleasant war criminality ruin a perfectly uplifting ceremony? It is a long-standing trope among self-flattering Westerners and their allies that a key difference between “us” and “them” (Muslim radicals) is that “they” honor and memorialize their terrorists and celebrate them as “martyrs” while we scorn and prosecute our own. Yesterday, the U.S. government unambiguously signaled to the world that not only does it regard itself as entirely exempt from the laws of wars, the principal Nuremberg prohibition against aggressive invasions, and global prohibitions on torture (something that has been self-evident for many years), but believes that the official perpetrators should be honored and memorialized provided they engage in these crimes on behalf of the U.S. government.

That’s a message that most of the U.S. media and thus large parts of the American population will not hear, but much of the world will hear it quite loudly and clearly. How could they not? In other news, U.S. officials this week conceded that a man kept in a cage for 13 years at Guantánamo, the now 37-year-old Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri, was there due to “mistaken identity.” As Joe Biden said yesterday, “I actually like Dick Cheney.”

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The TPP is Dead. What Happens Next?

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TPP

On Monday, the US president-elect Donald Trump announced that the US will pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact on his first day in office (January 20). In a video message outlining his policy plans for the first 100 days in the Oval Office, Trump stated: “I am going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from TPP, a potential disaster for our country. Instead, we will negotiate fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back on to American shores.”

The Obama administration was trying hard to seek US congressional ratification this year but it abandoned efforts after the victory of Trump. The TPP faced stiff political opposition cutting across party lines and ideologies. Both the major presidential candidates expressed their opposition to TPP and avowed to reject it once elected. Trump was very vocal in his opposition to TPP as well as NAFTA throughout his campaign. Whereas Hillary Clinton flip-flopped on the TPP pact. While serving as Secretary of State, she had praised TPP as setting the “gold standard in trade agreements” but reversed her position during the presidential campaign due to tough primary challenge from TPP critic Bernie Sanders.

Japan is the only member-country which voted to ratify the TPP deal early this month. As per the rules laid out in the TPP, the agreement allows a two-year ratification period in which at least six original member-countries, representing 85 percent of the combined GDP of the grouping, should approve the text for the agreement to be implemented. The US accounts for nearly 60 percent of the grouping’s GDP. With the US announcing its withdrawal, the TPP agreement simply cannot enter into force even if all the remaining 11 member-countries ratify it.

In simple terms, the TPP, in its present form, is effectively dead.

What is TPP?

Signed in February 2016, the TPP pact involves Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. The idea of a Trans-Pacific Partnership was initiated by four countries – New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Brunei – way back in 2002.

Initially, the US was not interested in joining the negotiations but President Obama in November 2009 decided to take part in negotiations. Later on, many other countries such as Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam also joined negotiations. China did not join the negotiations. Although China officially maintained that it has an “open-minded attitude” towards TPP but it was not ready to meet the higher standards (particularly on the operations of state-owned enterprises) envisaged in the TPP.

The TPP agreement is a 4,500-page document which was prepared after seven years of negotiations. It is the world’s most ambitious free trade pact ever signed. It is much more than a typical free trade agreement which aims for reducing import tariffs in agricultural and manufactured goods. The reason being that the average applied tariff rates amongst most TPP member-countries are very low so there is little scope for further reduction.

The TPP represents a new generation of 21st century trade agreements creating new mechanisms to govern cross-border economic activities with much higher standards than any existing bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements. As analysts have pointed out that the TPP is a kind of “economic constitution” governing cross-border trade and investment with greater emphasis on the removal of regulatory barriers.

The TPP is touted as the “gold standard” of trade and investment agreements because it contains stringent rules on a wide range of issues such as cross-border investments, intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises, government procurement, e-commerce, services liberalization, regulatory coherence, labor and the environment.

One of the most contentious issues is the incorporation of Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism which would allow foreign investors from TPP member-states to bypass domestic courts of host states and sue a host state through international arbitration proceedings.

With the US and Japan in driving seat, the negotiating agenda of TPP was drastically reshaped to suit their core interests while other negotiating countries (particularly the developing ones) did the heavy lifting to meet the onerous demands put forward by these two countries.

Concerned over the potential negative effects of TPP on jobs, economy and regulatory space, civil society groups and labor unions from both sides of the Pacific launched popular campaigns focused on the secret nature of the negotiations and sought greater public participation during the negotiation process.

TPP: Obama’s Pivot to Asia-Pacific

For the Obama administration, the TPP was not purely a trade and investment agreement. It foresaw huge strategic value in joining this pact. The TPP was a key component of Obama’s policy of “rebalance” toward Asia which rested on three pillars: economic, political and security. By 2011, the TPP had become the linchpin of the administration’s “pivot to Asia” strategy to contain the China’s economic and geopolitical influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

President Obama repeatedly emphasized the importance of maintaining US leadership in crafting global trade rules and how TPP would strengthen US’s power to set rules of global trade. In an opinion piece on TPP in The Washington Post, Obama stated: “America should write the rules. America should call the shots. Other countries should play by the rules that America and our partners set, and not the other way around. That’s what the TPP gives us the power to do…The world has changed. The rules are changing with it. The United States, not countries like China, should write them. Let’s seize this opportunity, pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership and make sure America isn’t holding the bag, but holding the pen.”

TPP (minus one) Pact?

Some trade experts argue that it may be too soon to bury the TPP. Of course, the TPP agreement could possibly survive provided the remaining 11 signatory countries drastically modify the rules governing its entry of force. The so-called TPP (minus one) pact is theoretically possible. It is also conceivable that countries like Indonesia and Thailand may join TPP in future thereby expanding its membership.

However, one is not sure whether all remaining member-countries of TPP would agree to modify rules governing its entry of force since only Japan has voted to ratify it. With the lead country pulling out of the pact before ratification process, the remaining member-countries (particularly the traditional allies of US) may lack motivation in ratifying and implementing the pact. For instance, Vietnam has already decided to shelve the ratification of TPP. In a statement issued on November 17, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, “Vietnam has prepared adequate conditions to join the 12-nation TPP. However, as the United States has announced to stop the deal, so Vietnam has not had enough basis to submit TPP participation to the National Assembly.”

Moreover, many member-countries would not be keen to pursue a TPP (minus one) pact due to lack of exclusive access to US markets for which they accepted onerous conditions to join it.

RCEP: The Next Best Hope

In this fast emerging scenario, many TPP members (in particular Japan, Australia and New Zealand) who are also members of the proposed Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP) will now shift their attention to this pact. These countries may further push for TPP-like provisions at RCEP to maximize the best possible outcome following the imminent demise of TPP trade deal.

It is hard to deny that for many countries in Asia-Pacific region with a small domestic market, the export economy remains very important. Such countries would prefer a deal than no deal when it comes to joining a regional economic bloc. Of late, TPP member-countries like Peru and Chile have also shown interest in joining the RCEP.

RCEP is a proposed mega regional free trade agreement between sixteen countries (10 ASEAN countries and their six FTA partners, namely, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. If accomplished, RCEP would pave the way to the creation of the largest free trade bloc in the world, covering 45 percent of the world’s population with a combined GDP of US$22 trillion and accounting for 40 percent of global trade.

The legally binding RCEP covers a wide range of issues including trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy, dispute settlement and economic and technical cooperation. The negotiations were officially launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia and the 16th round of negotiations will be held in Indonesia during December 6-10, 2016.

RCEP: China-led or ASEAN-centric?

Many commentators have described RCEP as a China-led trade pact. There is no denying that China is an export powerhouse in manufactured goods and has enormous economic clout in this region but it would be erroneous to view RCEP as a China-led trade pact for three important reasons. Firstly, RCEP is ASEAN-centered FTA as it seeks to harmonize and build on existing FTAs between ASEAN and its six trading partners.

Secondly, having signed an FTA with ASEAN is the precondition for joining the RCEP negotiations. In other words, the US or any other country can also join RCEP negotiations provided they first conclude an FTA with ASEAN.

Thirdly, Japan has successfully pushed strong rules in the areas of investment and intellectual property rights into the RCEP negotiations despite opposition from India and other members. The leaked draft texts of RCEP reveal that TPP disciplines in areas such as investment, IPRs, services, e-commerce and telecommunications are currently under discussion at RCEP at the insistence of Japan and South Korea.

Reshaping India’s FTA Strategy

In many important ways, the imminent demise of TPP has eased pressure on India which is not supportive of an ambitious agenda on IPRs, investment and zero tariffs under the RCEP framework due to potential negative impacts on local producers and businesses.

For India and many other developing countries, the pressure to sign bilateral and regional FTAs in order to counter other mega regional trade pacts (such as TPP) has subsided for the time being. Also the demise of TPP deal has weakened the negotiating position of countries like Japan and Australia at RCEP.

At the forthcoming round of negotiations next month, India should forcefully argue that the “gold standard” TPP framework has lost its appeal and popular support and therefore a modest agenda based on diverse circumstances of the negotiating countries should only be pursued at RCEP negotiations.

In the present context, when the world trade is slowing and protectionist tendencies are rising across the developed world, India should rethink its FTA strategy in the short- and medium-term.

At the same time, it is equally important for lead countries like Japan, South Korea, China and Australia to understand that only a modest agenda would be politically feasible under RCEP as the public opinion worldwide is turning against FTAs. Any attempts to pursue an ambitious agenda at RCEP may provoke a strong political backlash thereby putting the future of entire agreement in jeopardy.

What about NAFTA, TTIP and FTAAP?

What will be the fate of America’s other regional FTAs? It remains to be seen whether Trump will renegotiate or altogether withdraw from NAFTA once he takes office.

Since 2013, the US is negotiating Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – another ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union. The future of TTIP has become highly uncertain in the wake of Brexit vote and Trump’s election victory.

To a large extent, the prospects of Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) would depend on how the negotiations proceed on the RCEP and other FTAs in the region. The idea of FTAAP was proposed in 2006 by APEC as a long-term, comprehensive FTA covering the entire Asia-Pacific region but no concrete steps were taken up by APEC members to turn it into a reality.

At the APEC summit held in Beijing in 2014, China revived the idea of FTAAP by proposing a feasibility study but the US and other members did not support it. Given Trump’s stated preference to negotiate bilateral trade deals, attempts to launch negotiations on giant regional FTAs like FTAAP are unlikely to gather support during his presidency.

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US Attempts to Rescue Spies from Eastern Aleppo City

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The Arabic-language al-Hadas news website quoted unnamed informed sources as saying on Tuesday that the negotiations are meant to help US spies, including an intelligence officer involved in battle arrangement for the terrorists and an informant named Balal Abdel Karim, leave the Aleppo city.

Earlier on Tuesday, media sources disclosed that a large number of militants have been negotiating secretly with government officials in Aleppo to surrender themselves and leave the city.

The Arabic language al-Watan newspaper reported that continued defeats of Jeish al-Fatah and devastating advances of the Syrian army troops in the Eastern districts of Aleppo city have widen rifts amongst militant groups.

The paper added that a large number of militants have had secret negotiations with government officials to pave the ground for their amnesty and their evacuation to the Western districts of Aleppo that are under army’s control.

Meanwhile, Israel Shamir, an expert in Middle Eastern affairs, told Radio Sputnik that reports from newspapers loyal to militants occupying Eastern Aleppo indicate they are preparing to surrender to government forces

“Right now in Aleppo there is a kind of situation in which is very hard to try and predict anything. But there is a feeling that those fighting in East Aleppo have begun to understand that they won’t succeed. Over the last two days reports have begun to appear in media outlets which support the rebels, saying ‘this is not the end, we are losing Aleppo but it’s not that bad, we will fight in other places.’ They are kind of consoling messages. This is, in principle, a sign that they are ready to surrender Aleppo,” Shamir said

The analyst warned that although the liberation of Aleppo would represent a major breakthrough, militants who have left Aleppo might reappear in other areas of conflict.

On Monday, Syrian military helicopters dropped thousands of leaflets over the terrorist-held districts of Aleppo city, urging militants to give up fight and surrender themselves to the authorities.

Helicopters of the Syrian Army dropped thousands of leaflets over the Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city, calling on militants to lay down their arms, ask for amnesty and allow the civilians to leave the war-hit neighborhoods.

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Failure of Al Qaeda Counter-Attack in Aleppo ”Video”

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terrorists-Aleppo

Two Russian medical specialists were killed and another injured as result of militant shelling of a Russian mobile military hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo on December 5. The hospital was shelled during between 12:21 and 12:30pm [local time] during the reception time. An unknown number of local residents attending medical appointments were also injured.

“It is beyond doubt that the shelling was conducted by the ‘opposition’ militants. Moscow understands who gave the Syrian militants the coordinates of the Russian hospital right at the moment when it started working,” Spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the defense ministry attributes the blame for the incident to “terrorists and their patrons in the US, the UK and France.”

At the same day, the so-called ‘moderate opposition’ launched a counter-attack, targeting Syrian government forces in the neighborhoods of Al-Mayssar, Al-Qartarji and Tahan. By December 6, both sides have claimed that their enemies had suffered major loses and fled. Indeed, clashes are ongoing in the area west of the Jazmati Roundabout. The Syrian army and its allies keep the recently gained positions, but the situation is tense. On December 6, government forces liberated al-Sha’ar neighborhood.

Furthermore, even a tactical success in the area will not be able to change the general no-win situation for Aleppo militants and government forces will be able to exploit the fact that Jaish al-Fatah had redeployed manpower from other parts of the city for this counter-attack.

The Syrian army has made a series of raids against ISIS in the area of ancient city of Palmyra. Government sources report that at least 4 technical vehicles belonging to the terrorist group were destroyed.

Meanwhile, over 50 militants were reported dead in recent government forces operations in the provinces of Idlib and Hama. Most of them were killed in airstrikes by the Syrian Arab Air Force.

A Su-33 Flanker carrier-based multirole fighter crashed during flight operations from Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on December 5. The incident took place on December 3. The Su-33 skidded off the dock because of the cable of arresting device broke. The pilot successfully ejected and was picked up by a search and rescue helicopter. This was the second warplane lost by Russia’s naval task force. On November 13, Russian MiG-29K multirole fighter jet crashed in the Mediterranean as a result of a technical fault during the approach landing a few kilometers from Admiral Kuznetsov.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Failure of Al Qaeda Counter-Attack in Aleppo ”Video”

Trump’s Promised ‘New Foreign Policy’ Must Abandon Regime Change for Iran

Trump Cincinnati

President-elect Donald Trump told a Cincinnati audience this week that he intends to make some big changes in US foreign policy. During his “thank you” tour in the midwest, Trump had this to say:

We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. …In our dealings with other countries we will seek shared interests wherever possible…”

If this is really to be President Trump’s foreign policy, it would be a welcome change from the destructive path pursued by the two previous administrations. Such a foreign policy would go a long way toward making us safer and more prosperous, as we would greatly reduce the possibility of a “blowback” attack from abroad, and we would save untold billions with a foreign policy of restraint.

However as we know with politicians, there is often a huge gap between pronouncements before entering office and actions once in office. Who can forget President George W. Bush’s foreign policy promises as a candidate 16 years ago? As a candidate he said:

I am not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world saying ‘this is the way it’s got to be.’ … If we’re an arrogant nation they will resent us, if we’re a humble nation but strong they’ll welcome us.

Unfortunately as soon as he took office, George W. Bush pursued a completely different foreign policy, attacking countries like Iraq at the urging of the neocons he placed in positions of power in his White House and State Department.

Some people say that “personnel is policy,” and that much can be predicted about Trump’s foreign policy by the people he has appointed to serve his Administration. That is where we might have reason to be worried. Take Iran, for example. While Trump says he wants the US to stop overthrowing governments, on the issue of Iran both the candidate and his recent appointees have taken a very different view.

Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has said the following about Iran: “I believe that Iran represents a clear and present danger to the region, and eventually to the world…” and, “…regime change in Tehran is the best way to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

Trump’s CIA choice, Mike Pompeo, has said of President Obama’s Iran deal, “The Iranian regime is intent on the destruction of our country. Why the President does not understand is unfathomable.”

And Trump’s selection for Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, was even more aggressive, saying, “The Iranian regime in my mind is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East. …Iran is not an enemy of ISIS. They have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that ISIS creates.”

Donald Trump’s words in Cincinnati don’t seem to match up with the views of the people that he’s assigning to high places. At least when it comes to Iran.

While I hope we can take President Trump at his word when it comes to foreign policy, I also we think we should hold him to his word – especially his encouraging words last week. Will the incoming president have the ability to rein in his more bellicose cabinet members and their underlings? We can be sure about one thing: if Trump allows the neocons to capture the State Department, keeping his foreign policy promises is going to be a lot more difficult.

Posted in Middle East, USAComments Off on Trump’s Promised ‘New Foreign Policy’ Must Abandon Regime Change for Iran

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