Archive | February 4th, 2017

Syria and the Lies and Fabrications of the Corporate Media. Eva Bartlett at the United Nations ‘Video’

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The_flag_of_Syrian_Arab_Republic_Damascus,_Syria

Press Conference at the United Nations. Against propaganda and regime change, for peace and national sovereignty.

Canadian independent journalist Eva Bartlett reveals the lies and fabrications of the mainstream media.

Whereas the media upholds the “Global War on Terrorism” it fails to mention that US-NATO supports both the ISIS and Al Nusrah. 

UN Headquarters in New York.  9 December 2016

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Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Not Disruption, It’s Disgusting

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Pia Guerra's cartoon of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump has been retweeted 27,000 times as of Thursday.

I have always tried to be fair in these posts and somewhat unpredictable. At the very least, my aim is to cut through ideology (including my own) and interpret facts on the ground in a sensible way. But I am having a very difficult time with President Donald Trump’s executive orders placing a hold on Syrian refugees and travelers from seven targeted countries. When I have been corrected by radio talk show hosts for referring to these actions as “the Muslim ban” because of this or that technicality, I have reminded them that I am from the “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck school.” Forget the baloney. This is a Muslim ban.

I understand disruption. It is as much a part of the American tradition as our core values of freedom in the Bill of Rights. The colonies were settled and built by disrupters. The American Revolution and Constitution gave us our birth as a nation, a very different nation not based on divine right or family but on a set of shared values. Probably the greatest of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, breathed meaning into both the need for rebellion every so often and the equal need for a safety valve (the frontier) so that the rebellious could find an outlet for a new life. Disruption is who we are.

But the greatest and most disruptive force in our nation’s history has been immigration and the fact that we welcome newcomers from all places, kick and moan about it, then ultimately watch them work, live the dream, pass the dream on to their children, and regenerate the American spirit. In the mid-19th century there were those who tried to bar Irish Catholics.

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Video: US-NATO Supported Terrorism in Syria From Day One: Michel Chossudovsky

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Conference Event In Montreal hosting Eva Bartlett, Michel Chossudovsky and Yves Engler

chossudovsky

It was never “a civil war”. It was an undeclared  war of aggression using Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists as the foot-soldiers of US-NATO and their Middle East allies. 

From day one, terrorists were involved in the killing of civilians. 

It started in Daraa as an insurgency integrated by Salafist mercenaries. 

From Day One, the Islamist “freedom fighters” were supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey’s High Command. This initiative, which was also supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, involved a process of organized recruitment of thousands of jihadist “freedom fighters”, reminiscent of  the enlistment of  Mujahideen to wage the CIA’s jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war:

These mercenaries were subsequently integrated into US and allied sponsored terrorist organizations including Al Nusrah and ISIS. (Michel Chossudovsky)

Video (Presentation in English and French)

Eva Bartlett, Michel Chossudovsky and Yves Engler at the Montreal, January 28, 2017 Event

 

Professor Chossudovsky’s latest book The Globalization of War describes America’s hegemonic project in the post 9/11 era whereby the U.S.-NATO military machine —coupled with covert intelligence operations, economic sanctions and the thrust of “regime change”— is deployed in all major regions of the world. The threat of pre-emptive nuclear war is also used to black-mail countries into submission.

This “Long War against Humanity” is carried out at the height of the most serious economic crisis in modern history. It is intimately related to a process of global financial restructuring, which has resulted in the collapse of national economies and the impoverishment of large sectors of the World population.

The ultimate objective is World conquest under the cloak of “human rights” and “Western democracy”.

150115 Long War Cover hi-res finalv2 copy3.jpg

The Globalization of War: America’s “Long War” against Humanity

Michel Chossudovsky

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-6-0

Year: 2015

Pages: 240 Pages

List Price: $22.95

 

Special Price: $15.00

Click to order

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International Travel to Banned Muslim Countries: US Immigration Halts Former Prime Minister of Norway at Airport

Kjell Magne Bondevik

Former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, photographed here after attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in December, was stopped by US immigration officials when he landed in the US on Wednesday. They questioned him for an hour about a stamp in his diplomatic passport showing that he’d been in Iran. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Norway’s national commercial television channel TV2 reported Thursday night that Bondevik had traveled to the US to attend the annual prayer breakfast involving various religions that’s traditionally held after the inauguration of a new US president. Bondevik is an ordained minister and former leader of the Christian Democrats party, and has served both as Norway’s foreign minister and prime minister.

He told TV2 he was stopped at the airport’s border control and questioned for around an hour.

“They began to ask me why I had been in Iran and what I was going to do in the US,” Bondevik told TV2. “They shouldn’t have had any reason to fear a former prime minister who has been on official visits to the US several times.”

Bondevik wound up a target, however, of the new ban ordered by US President Donald Trump on entry into the US for all citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. All refugees have also been banned from entering the US for the next four months, while Syrian citizens and refugees have been banned indefinitely.

As a former prime minister, Bondevik remains entitled to a diplomatic passport. That didn’t stop the US border agents from placing him under suspicion. Bondevik said he had also traveled to the US with the same passport containing the same stamp from Iran last year without being stopped or questioned.

“It seems as though when the name of one of the banned countries comes up, they now put up the barbed wire,” Bondevik said. “It was entirely unnecessary suspicion. I became quite provoked.”

Bondevik, who has worked for years on peace and reconciliation efforts around the world, said he can understand the fear of terror, “but you shouldn’t treat entire groups of people in this manner. I have to admit I fear the future (with Trump as president). There’s been a lot of progress in the world the last few decades, but this gives great cause for concern, along with the authoritarian leaders we see steering other large countries.”

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The U.S. Attack “against Al Qaeda” In Yemen, “They Killed Anyone in Sight”

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The Fake Outrage About Trump piece included a part on a U.S. special force attack in Yemen that had happened just hours before:

The rural home of a tribal leader’s family, friendly with some Yemeni al-Qaeda members, was raided by a special operations commando. A U.S. tiltrotor military aircraft was shot down during the raid. One soldier was killed and several were wounded. The U.S. commandos responded with their usual panic. They killed anyone in sight and bombed the shit out of any nearby structure. According to Yemeni sources between 30 and 57 Yemenis were killed including eight women and eight children (graphic pics). The U.S. military claimed, as it always does, that no civilians were hurt in the raid.

One of the killed kids was the 8 year old daughter of al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.

That early description holds up well against recent reporting by NBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times. The incident happened as described.

But an open question is still why the raid happen. The military and the administration claim it was to get intelligence, laptops, hard-drives and the like. But that is not a good explanation for an elaborate raid that needed lots of resources and backup. We had noted that “Yemeni sources say that at least two men were abducted by the U.S. military.” The U.S. Central Command claims that no prisoners were taken only intelligence material. But a few days ago it also claimed that no civilians were hurt which it now admits indeed happened. My gut tells me that we will hear more on this issue.

There are also some weir conspiracy theories around the raid.

Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel headlined: Trump Fulfills Another Campaign Promise: Kills 8-Year Old American Girl and asked “Was that the point?”

That is crazy and impossible theory. Trump had been in office for less than ten days. The “raid” included SEAL Team 6 forces, UAE special forces, attack helicopters, U.S. Marine MV-22 tiltrotor planes, various drones and intelligence assets, a ship off the coast that launched Harrier jets and who knows what else. An organization like the U.S. military can not possibly vet, arrange and coordinated such a collection of different units and assets without several weeks of intense preparations. It is impossible that Trump ordered this raid up within very few days and just to kill some girl. Also – the military hierarchy would have very likely rejected such an order.

One can file Marcy’s piece next to the dissection about the Liberals On the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown. Note: A loudmouth ruling in the White House does not make the sky fall down.

Another crazy piece was published by Reuters today:

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

On wonders who these three “U.S. military officials” are who try to back-stab Trump and his advisors. The raiders surely had prior and current intelligence, they surely had enough forces on the ground and in the air. Lots of backup actually did come in when needed.

The “three military officials” are also lying about the “reinforced al-Qaeda base”. The pictures show a few normal houses in a small tribal village. All reports from Yemen speak of a few local families of which men were hired by the Saudis as anti-Houthi fighters. Such may at times align with local al-Qaeda groups who are also supported by the Saudis but that does not make them al-Qaeda terrorists.

The attack in Yemen must have been planned for months under the Obama administration for reason we likely do not yet know. It was then delayed and handed over “ready to go” to the Trump administration. That was my best guess days ago and it is also what the NYT now reports:

[O]ver dinner with his newly installed secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump was presented with the first of what will be many life-or-death decisions [… ] Vice President Mike Pence and Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, also attended the dinner.

Mr. Obama did not act because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night and the next one would come after his term had ended.

[M]onths of detailed planning that went into the operation during the Obama administration […] the Defense Department had conducted a legal review of the operation that Mr. Trump approved and that a Pentagon lawyer had signed off on it.

The “U.S. military officials” Reuters quotes must known this. Why do they try to plant their false story and thereby blame not only Trump but also Mattis, Dunford and Flynn – (former) generals who agreed on the mission? Is there some nonsense ongoing like an amateurish “military coup” attempt against Trump that Rosa Books fantasizes about?

The military attack in Yemen was a bad idea. Killing some local Yemenis who work the U.S. “ally” Saudi Arabia for what? To be hated by their families, clansmen and tribal allies for the next decades?

Then there is the operational failure. According to the NYT and others the SEALs were detected early on, recognized they had been detected and still proceeded. The surprise effect was gone and they ran into an ambush. The operation should have been stopped as soon as they noticed that it was not going as planned. They screwed up just as their command screwed up –  up to the strategic level of Obama and Trump.

Just think about the background fight between the local “allies” in the war on Yemen. From my comment at Mary’s site:

Take the bigger view. The Saudis want a united Yemen under their full control. The UAE (while said to be allied with Saudis) supports the southern separation movement in Yemen. Dubai Port (DPWorld) wants exclusive rights to Aden and the south Yemeni oil terminals. (These to avoid the strategic problems of the street of Hormuz passages.)After UAE forces took Aden they were attacked by Saudi supported al-Qaeda (and ISIS) groups. The U.S. military supports the UAE in this family strife because it dislikes the Saudi support for al-Qaeda.

The U.S./UAE hit against that “al-Qaeda aligned” Saudi mercenary gang was as much against the Saudis themselves as it was against al-Qaeda.

Unless there is a really big secret about it yet to unveil, the raid was planned and done for little effect and more out of (Obama typical) pettiness than out of sound strategic necessity. That Trump agree to it was a stupid mistake he by now probably regrets.

That all can and should be criticized. But that does not require unfounded conspiracy theories about some spontaneous raid Trump ordered out of malice or incompetence.

There are plenty of reasons to attack him for what he does. Inventing “bad Trump” stories will only help him along.

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War and Islamophobia: The Attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City

quebec canada-mosque-shooting

The tragic Jan. 30th attack on worshippers at a Quebec City mosque has gripped all of Canada. Thousands of decent Canadians, from all walks of life, have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate their outrage at this heinous crime, and to show solidarity with muslim Canadians. We congratulate the organizers of the well-attended and quickly-organized Hamilton demonstration, and hope that we can work together as a community to end the islamophobia that led to the criminal attack in Quebec.

We wish that we could say we are surprised at the Jan. 30 incident. However, like many other organizations, the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War has been warning, for the past fifteen years, about the dangers posed to our society by the permanent condition of the “War on Terror.”

The military interventions, waged by George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama in predominantly muslim countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria have all required the demonization of entire governments, and by extension, the peoples of those countries. Some U.S. and Canadian political figures and commentators who helped to destabilize entire regions (the Middle East and North Africa), have at the same time cynically capitalized on the resulting violence and refugee crises by raising fears about an entire religion, namely, Islam.

It’s time to recognize that successive Canadian governments and the corporate media apparatus have consistently promoted war and violence as an acceptable tool for remaking whole regions. It is in these conditions that ‘lone-wolf’ attacks occur. The powerful state and corporate media, through their blanket slander of whole countries and religions, help to put hostile islamophobic ideas inside vulnerable minds.

In a time where social stability and institutions are fraying apart, when the march of progress has seemingly ended, when people have nothing to look forward to other than war, cutbacks, and joblessness, misguided individuals will use the ideas that the powerful have handed them – that muslims are dangerous, that killing is acceptable, that violence will be rewarded – and try to turn them into practice. In doing so, they are following a template that has been created for them from above.

It is possible to build a better world. First, we need to throw off the idea that the U.S., through NATO and various other bodies, should be managing the affairs of Europe, Africa or the Middle East. Those governments have to give up their ambition of empire. They need to respect international law and sovereignty. They have to recognize the principle of national self-determination and respect people’s democratic rights to determine their own country’s destinies.

The abandonment of these concepts has led to a culture of lawlessness, violence, and impunity that we now see reflected in this tragic vigilante action in Quebec. If our governments act like gangsters, than our citizens will too. Canada can tag alongside the U.S. like the goons in a Mad Max movie, or it can follow an independent, peaceful, and humane foreign policy.

In order to build a foreign policy that reflects the vision among many Canadians for a more just and peaceful world, many of our elected representatives will have to reawaken the concept of a “political opposition” to this war agenda. When will the opposition political parties in Canada take a stand against the war agenda?

We call for the Canadian government to:

– re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria and Iran;

– end its punishing economic sanctions against Syria, Iran, and Russia;

– bring home all Canadian troops and military equipment from Syria and Iraq, Ukraine and all other frontier states bordering Russia;

– terminate the arms deal with Saudi Arabia;

– withdraw from the “Friends of Syria” Group of Countries (which organized the proxy war against Syria);

– quit NATO and join the Non-Aligned Movement instead;

– develop an independent, peaceful, and humane Canadian foreign policy.

For more info: Ken Stone at 905-383-7693 or at kenstone@cogeco.ca

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Trump fuels the fire by singling out Iran

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Trump fuels the fire in Middle East

By James M. Dorsey

The Trump administration risks fuelling sectarianism across the Muslim world and exacerbating multiple conflicts that are ripping the Middle East and North Africa apart by singling out Iran rather than tackling root causes.

Iran moved into President Donald J. Trump’s firing line when his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, an anti-Iran hawk, put the Islamic republic “on notice” for testing a ballistic missile. The test was likely a provocative probing of US policy towards Iran, one of seven countries whose nationals are temporarily banned from travel to the United States. Mr Trump has repeatedly denounced the nuclear agreement concluded by the United States and other world powers with Iran as a bad deal.

Policy muddle

It remains unclear what Mr Flynn’s notification entails. A resolution circulated in the House of Representatives before Mr Trump’s inauguration would authorise US military action against Iran if the president believes it is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Most analysts, including supporters of Mr Trump, believe that Iran has largely honoured the international agreement curbing the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme, making an immediate military response to the missile test unlikely.

Gulf states alongside Israel have moreover urged Mr Trump to adopt a tough approach towards what they see as belligerent Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries and support for terrorism, but to stop short of annulling the agreement. Mr Trump is expected to move away from his campaign pledges to tear up the agreement, but with Mr Flynn’s warning appears to be adopting the advice of US allies.

A Saudi read out of a phone conversation last weekend between King Salman and Mr Trump said the two leaders agreed to counter “those who seek to undermine security and stability in the region and interfere in the affairs of other states”. The White House said the they also had a meeting of the minds on the “importance of rigorously enforcing” the nuclear deal.

The consensus notwithstanding, Mr Trump’s travel ban, despite including Iran, puts King Salman in a bind, as he balances the kingdom’s foreign policy objectives with its self-proclaimed leadership of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia has so far refrained from commenting on the ban despite pressure from some of its allies to do so.

Opportunities for the taking

Saudi Arabia’s predicament and it’s welcoming of the rise of Mr Trump in the expectation that he will fight some of the kingdom’s battles creates the opportunity for the new president to put disruption to constructive use.

It could allow Mr Trump to tackle not only Iran but also Saudi Arabia on a fundamental issue that drives volatility, sectarianism and political violence in the Muslim world in general and Iranian and Saudi policies specifically: the rise of supremacist, intolerant, anti-pluralistic ultra-conservatism.

Supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have already hinted at the opportunity. “Iran has every interest in reducing tension with Saudi Arabia at a time when the Trump presidency in the United States is creating new uncertainties,” said an editorial in the pro-Rouhani Entekhab daily.

The opportunity that arises is not limited to Iran and Saudi Arabia. Leaving aside the ethics of banning travel on the basis of religion or nationality, Mr Trump’s ban as well as his intention to focus US counter-terrorism exclusively on Islam rather than on all forms of political extremism, including far-right supremacism, would also allow him to put pressure on other countries where divisive ultra-conservatism has been allowed to fester.

That is evident in efforts by the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia to stay out of Mr Trump’s firing line by refraining from criticising the ban. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, have witnessed the rise of ultra-conservative intolerance towards non-Muslim and Muslim minorities such as Shi’is and Ahmadis, a sect widely viewed by conservative followers of the faith as heretics, that are informed by Saudi-backed puritan interpretations of Islam

“There are no nice guys in this fight”

There is little to suggest that Mr Trump recognises the opportunity. A failure to exploit the opportunity and exclusively target Iran is, however, likely to backfire, embolden Saudi policies that create problems rather than offer solutions, and fuel sectarian and other cycles of violence.

While Iran has refrained from promoting a supremacist world view of its own, there is little doubt that it implements its ultra-conservatism with the application of medieval, punitive measures of Islamic law, including amputation and stoning. It has also reshaped the politics as well as the very integrity of Arab countries like Lebanon where it supports the Shi’i militia Hezbollah, Syria which has been torn apart by a vicious civil war, the creation of Shi’i militias in Iraq, and Yemen where Iran has come to the aid of the Houthis… [I]n other words, there are no nice guys in this fight.

A four-decade-long, $100 billion global Saudi effort to box in, if not undermine, a post-1979 revolution Iranian system of government that it sees as an existential threat to the autocratic rule of the Al Saud family by funding ultra-conservative political and religious groups has contributed to the rise of supremacism, intolerance and anti-pluralism across the Muslim world and created potential breeding grounds of extremism.

The rise of ultra-conservatism has fuelled sectarianism and violence against Shi’is and Ahmadis; hardened attitudes towards women and alternative lifestyles; and curbed fundamental freedoms under the guise of blasphemy.

Iranian interference in the affairs of other countries stems as much from long-fading revolutionary zeal in the wake of the 1979 revolution as it constitutes a response to the Saudi-led Sunni campaign that involved not only support for non-violent, ultra-conservative groups, but also the funding of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s devastating eight-year-long war against Iran in the 1980s as well as virulently anti-Shi’i and anti-Ahmadi forces in Pakistan that are responsible for the deaths of thousands, and militant groups in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

At the bottom line, Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been locked into a struggle for dominance in the Muslim world that has fuelled violence, created breeding grounds for extremism, and brought the Middle East and North Africa to the edge of an abyss. Tackling symptoms or only specific players rather than root causes threatens to fuel the fire rather than extinguish it.

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There Is a Serious Crisis of Democracy in the Western Balkans Region

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A long delayed discussion took place in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee about the tensions in the Western Balkans region, which have been growing for months now, but with the start of the new year the situation deteriorated dramatically. The discussion was initiated by the Slovenian MEP Ivo Vajgl (ALDE), who is the rapporteur for Macedonia, and was held on the day of the election of a new committee chairman. The former chairman, veteran of the European Parliament and Foreign Affairs Elmar Brok (EPP, Germany) conceded his post to another EPP MEP from Germany – David McAllister, who is the rapporteur for Serbia. A fact that was presented with a lot of hope by the Serbian media. During the hour-long debate the prevailing feeling was one of shared concern with the rising of tensions in the region, with just one differing opinion – that of the French nationalist Jean-Luc Schaffhauser of Marine Le Pen’s Europe of Nations and Freedom group.

The discussion was a very open and realistic analysis of events in the region. A thing that has long been missing at the European scene. According to David McAllister, the Western Balkans region needs to be a strategic priority for the EU, for the region is surrounded by EU member states and what goes on in it will have direct impact on the entire Union, especially in turbulent times. He read out a carefully prepared opening statement to the debate, in which he stated that the region is positioned in the heart of Europe. “In almost all countries are growing issues such as incomplete reconciliation, fragile inter-ethnic co-existence, threatening Islamic radicalisation, Russia’s growing influence, insufficient political dialogue, a lack of media freedom and socio-economic problems”.

This realistic interlude was followed by pointing out of the hot spots, breeding tension in the region: the quarrel between Serbia and Kosovo because of the train issue; the post-election situation in Macedonia, growing ethnic polarisation in Bosnia and Herzegovina; claims about a coup attempt in Montenegro on Election Day and a possible manipulation by Russia. The Bosnia and Herzegovina rapporteur Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, Romania), who has long been warning about the Russian influence in the region, was even more straight-forward and direct. “The interest that we are taking can be explained by 2 factors: we need to recognise the fact that there are serious crises of democracy in the countries across the region. The electorate continues to be attracted by what is called ethno-nationalist policies and the ethnic divides are still being fomented for electoral purposes, and campaigns would suggest that nationalist rhetoric dominates debate”, he started off.

At the same time, he went on, Russia’s influence is growing throughout the region, and in Russia itself the nationalist ethnic dimension of politics has active participation. The Romanian MEP even thinks it dominates. He warned that there is a clear and present danger that the region is quite volatile at the moment and admitted to the EU being partly to blame for that. The former Croatian foreign minister, now MEP of the Socialists and Democrats group Tonino Picula described two opposite processes, which are currently underway in the Western Balkans: their gradual progress towards European integration and the spreading of interests and values, which contradict European integration and values. He believes that the dividing lines are most of all within certain countries of the region.

“The region’s progress is visible and undeniable, but it is not such, that it is immune to being threatened by a bad development, as we have been witnessing lately. Relations between Priština and Belgrade, as well as the situation in Macedonia and BiH too are not safe enough, so that we could not witness a serious deterioration of interstate relations, which will reflect on their European integration path as well”, concluded Mr Picula.

The initiator of the discussion, Ivo Vajgl, reminded that on the Balkans a conflict could burst into flame from a single little spark. “All conflicts in this region started with verbal aggression. Hate speech and insults we hear a lot of these things currently – in the media, television, in the newspapers as well and unfortunately very prominent political figures in these countries have these comments”, he said. He believes the words of the Serbian president on the hapless train from Belgrade to Kosovska Mitrovica are capable of provoking war. Word is of the reinstatement of the Belgrade-Kosovska Mitrovica railway line for the first time in 18 years, which was however played out in a very provocative way. The train was painted on the outside in the colours of the Serbian flag and all over it, written in 21 languages, there were the words “Kosovo is Serbia”. On the inside the train was pasted with photographs of frescoes from the Eastern Orthodox monastery in Kosovo.

Due to the sharp escalation of tension the train was halted before it entered Kosovo, but let loose some militaristic rhetoric. The candidate for a second presidential term Tomislav Nikolić threatened that, if need be, he will send the military into Kosovo to protect the Serbian minority there.

The rapporteur for Kosovo Ulrike Lunacek (Greens, Austria) urged the countries of the region to concentrate on European values. “One of the essences of the enlargement process and what has made this EU strong is overcoming nationalist threats that brought to Europe in the last century the most ferocious wars we had”, she said and expressed her concern that the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States lends serious support to radical nationalists. She sees a solution to the problem in more television programmes and history textbooks, as well as in the ceasing of the politics of hate and violence.

French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, however, was outraged at this type of speaking and asked whether among European values one should also consider the recognition of Kosovo, which he named “a mafia state”. This caused some verbal discourse in the committee and forced Chairman McAllister’s warning that such attitude is inappropriate. “Please, let’s treat all European states with the same respect”, called David McAllister.

The debate was dominated by Croatian and Slovenian MEPs. Dubravka Šuica (EPP, Croatia), who got elected Vice-Chairperson of the committee, believes that the problem of the region is the conformism of leaders in those countries. “It is a fact that authoritarian tendencies and looking up at Russia present a great danger in these territories. There are authoritarian tendencies in existence, if we speak about the freedom of media in some states. Moreover, until we, as the EU, do not show willpower that we are ready to monitor political processes, the region will witness a further regress of democracy. The EU must be present much more actively in the region”, was her appeal. She believes that recent events are simply provocations, meant for domestic use and it is not likely that it will get to anything more serious, but only under the condition that the EU is more actively present in the region.

Tanja Fajon (S&D, Slovenia) warned that the region suffers from growing nationalism and brain drain. Jozo Radoš (ALDE, Croatia) reminded that, according to Serbia, the halting of the train was the provocation, not sending it. The president of Serbia stated that he was ready to go to war with Kosovo, just as he did in Croatia, reminded the MEP. “Also, the EU has not been able to resolve problems in Macedonia for a whole decade. We have representatives of Kosovo going to Albania for consultations. So, we don’t seem to be able to resolve the issues we are faced with. It seems that the political will is insufficient. Are we about to phase a new division of spheres of interest in the Western Balkans as we had in Yalta, just that we do not have the wisdom of Winston Churchill anymore”, further said Jozo Radoš.

Alojz Peterle (EPP, Slovenia), who used to be Slovenia’s prime minister just at the time of its separation from former Yugoslavia, stated that the European context has changed significantly since the time of the declarations of Zagreb in the year 2000 and Thessalonнki of 2003. “The question is whether we are satisfied with what is happening from one year to another”, he asked and requested a strong debate with the participation of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Italy, S&D) and the Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP). Romanian MEP Victor Boştinaru (S&D) explained the situation with the enlargement fatigue.

“The Western Balkans have been and will probably always be, if Europe is not wise to act, a place of confrontation among major international actors”, he said and called for EU member states of the region to have more active participation in the integration of their neighbours. “If we continue with less effective steps than other countries, I’m referring to Russia, to China and Turkey they will be there”, warned the Romanian MEP. Another Croatian MEP – Marijana Petir (EPP) – criticised the EU’s approach towards the Western Balkans. She believes it is not pro-active and, besides, double standards are being used. She gave Macedonia as an example, which had fulfilled all prerequisites for membership, but was left in the waiting room over the last 10 years. Petir called all member states to begin EU membership negotiations with Macedonia.

“At the same time, we seem to have a rather favourable approach when it comes to Serbia, irrespectively of Serbia’s continuous proofs that it is not respecting the EU values”, added the Croatian MEP.

On the same day as this debate was happening in the Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament, another round of the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo took place at the highest level, in which on the Serbian side participated the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and President Tomislav Nikolić, and on the Kosovo side – President Hashim Thaçi and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa. Nikolić’s rhetoric remained unchanged even after that meeting, however. The next meeting of such rank is scheduled for Wednesday (February 1st). Meanwhile, the Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list published an interview [in Croatian language] with former Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, in which he warns that the Balkans may be described as a potential source of tension, due to the extremely tense relations between the East and the West. “This could have catastrophic consequences for the region, especially keeping in mind that more and more countries are ethnically unstable and their once clear European perspective has become quite obscure in recent years”.

Đukanović also said that the agreement in the region, brought about by the Dayton peace accord no longer exists. “Some remnants of the pre-Dayton crises, which were supposed to be eliminated, have remained intact; several new ones have appeared, like the blocking of Macedonia’s road to integration. And now the perspective of the entire region looks quite worse and there are alternative ideas appearing already – generally already seen and proved false”, continues the former prime minister of Montenegro. He does, however, believe that the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the Western Balkans does not belong only to the international community, but also to the people living in the region. “In life, I do not like situations where I have no alternatives, but this is how it is with the Balkans. The Balkans, sadly, have no instruments of their own for self-stabilisation. If we are to reach stability – and instability with us throughout history has always meant war – we need to create these instruments by entering a community of democratic, socially and economically more advanced countries than us”, is Milo Đukanović’s recipe.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, LithuaniaComments Off on There Is a Serious Crisis of Democracy in the Western Balkans Region

Pakistani crackdown on extremists: One hand works to neutralise the other

NOVANEWS
Pakistani militant leader Hafez Saeed

By James M. Dorsey

Pakistan has put one of the world’s most wanted men under house arrest in a half-hearted crackdown on a militant group with close ties to the military and intelligence, in a bid to persuade President Donald Trump from adding the country to those whose citizens were last week banned from travelling to the United States.

Pakistani media reports and analysts said the move against Hafez Muhammad Saeed (pictured above), a leader of the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its alleged front, Jamaat-ud-Din (JuD), came after US officials days before the inauguration of Mr Trump gave Pakistan until 31 January to respond to complaints by the Bangkok-based Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) about various JuD financial transactions.

Mr Saeed is believed to be among others responsible for the 2008 attacks on 12 targets in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal Hotel, a train station, a café and a Jewish centre. Some 164 people were killed and more than 300 wounded. The US government has a bounty of $10 million on Mr Saeed for information leading to his capture.

Writing in The News, Pakistani investigative reporter Azaz Syed said US officials had told Pakistan’s ambassador in a meeting on 11 January that “if the objections raised in the report were not addressed, the US may put Pakistan in the blacklist of the countries in the International Cooperative Review Group (ICRG)”.

Symbolic detention

Apparently pre-warned that action may be taken against him, Mr Saeed suggested during a press conference in Islamabad three days later that JuD may start operating under a new name, a practice frequently adopted by militant groups with government acquiescence. Mr Saeed hinted that the new name would be Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (Kashmir Freedom Movement).

Mr Syed, in a telephone interview alongside other analysts, said the move against Mr Saeed, several other JuD leaders and the group itself, were cosmetic. The symbolism was evident in the fact that Mr Saeed was confined to his home in Lahore that was declared a sub-jail rather than carted off to prison.

The symbolism was also reflected in public displays such as the removal of JuD flags from streets and the hoisting of Pakistani flags at the group’s 81-hectare headquarters in Muridke, a city of two and three-storey pillboxes famous for its fruits and vegetables, 22 kilometres north of Lahore. The International Crisis Group has reported that the complex, which contains an ultra-conservative religious school and housing for 3,000 students and staff, was built in 1998 with Saudi funding.

Links with Saudi Arabia

Mr Saeed has had longstanding links to Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom-backed Ahle-Hadith movement, a group whose ultra-conservative religious views are most closely aligned with Saudi-supported forms of Wahhabism and Salafis. A graduate of an Ahle-Hadith madrassa and King Saud University in Riyadh, Mr Saeed, backed by Saudi money founded Islamic schools in which potential jihadis not only studied Islam but also acquired computer and communication skills.

Mr Saeed was appointed in the 1980s by General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq as a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, an advisory body of clerics and scholars established to assist the Pakistani government in bringing laws in line with the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad. He has long left that post.

While studying in Saudi Arabia, Mr Saeed reportedly met with Saudi scholars involved in the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was those scholars who launched him in his career as a militant. Abdullah Azzam, the Palestinian scholar who taught in Saudi Arabia, before founding the precursor to Al-Qaeda, is believed to have been one of LeT’s original inspirations.

“Nothing has changed”

Analysts and journalists compared the moves against Mr Saeed and JuD to an announcement in October by the State Bank of Pakistan that it had frozen the accounts of more than 2,000 people associated with political violence. Major groups like JuD, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), which focus mainly on Kashmir, were not included in the list.

“Nothing has changed,” one analyst said.

The degree of official protection Mr Saeed and his group have enjoyed over the years has long been an issue of concern to the United States.

US Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer noted in a cable in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, published by Wikileaks, that JuD “is still operating in multiple locations in Pakistan, and that the group continues to openly raise funds. It is unclear what, if any, steps the GOP [Government of Pakistan] has taken to freeze JUD’s assets or otherwise implement UN [Resolution] 1267 sanctions, which include an asset freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo”.

An earlier cable warned that charities connected to LeT and JeM that had been funded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had increased the local population’s dependence on extremist groups and undermined the influence of moderate Sufi religious leaders.

Mr Saeed was in recent years a familiar figure in the news and in the public eye. In December he attended, alongside other prominent militants such as HuM founder Fazlur Khalil Rehman, a solidarity rally in the Pakistani Kashmir capital of Muzaffarabad.

Mr Rehman is a specially designated terrorist on the US Treasury Department’s list who counts a Saudi among his wives. He operates a madrassah [religious school] guarded by AK-47-toting guards on the outskirts of Islamabad. Mr Rehman, a signatory of Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa declaring the International Front Against Jews and Crusaders, has leveraged his close ties to the Pakistani world of militancy, his advocacy of armed struggle in Kashmir and his well-established connections to the Pakistani military and intelligence to position himself as a go-between.

Mr Saeed was accorded VIP treatment two weeks after the Muzaffarabad rally on board a state-owned Pakistan International Airways flight to the Baloch capital of Quetta where he gave a news conference together with Shahzain Bugti, the government-backed grandson of killed Baloch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Months earlier, Mr Saeed headed a pro-Kashmir Azadi or Freedom caravan of buses, trucks, and cars from Lahore to Islamabad that stretched for kilometres along the Grand Trunk road that connects the two cities. The caravan swelled as it travelled the 270-kilometre-long road under the slogan: “The cure to India is nothing but jihad,” participants shouted.

In another twist of irony, Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority has tasked an institute run by a former JuD official who left the group because of a labour dispute rather than ideological differences with research on reform of madrassas, the religious schools many of which are suspected of being breeding grounds for political violence. The issue may be one of only appearance, given that the institute’s researchers make a serious impression in interviews. It nonetheless raises questions.

Cracking down on JuD may solve Pakistan’s most immediate potential issue with the United States. However, it does little to tackle the fundamental problem represented by JuD: a belief in key branches of the state that militant groups can serve a geopolitical purpose without endangering the fabric of society, a fabric that has already been infused by ultra-conservative strands of Islam, many of which are akin to Saudi Arabia’s puritan interpretation of the religion.

Posted in Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Pakistani crackdown on extremists: One hand works to neutralise the other

January 2017 in Numbers

NOVANEWS

Image result for world news cartoons

3 new rounds of illegal settlement construction were announced by Israel in January. On Jan. 22, the government announced plans for 566 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. On Jan. 24, plans for 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank were announced. On Jan. 31, approval was given for 3,000 additional housing units in the West Bank. The Trump administration declined to condemn the announcements. David Friedman, Trump’s pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, formerly served as president of a group that raises funds for settlements.

137 Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were demolished by Israeli forces in January, according to figures from the United Nations, displacing 237 people, including 134 children. These demolitions build upon the 1,093 Palestinian structures that Israel destroyed last year—the highest number since the U.N. began keeping records in 2009.

2 people—an Israeli Bedouin and an Israeli police officer—were killed in clashes on Jan. 18 after Israeli officials entered the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran with demolition orders. Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Ayman Odeh was injured and hospitalized after being hit by a foam-tipped bullet during the clashes. Israel regularly demolishes Bedouin villages it does not recognize in order to build new towns for Jewish Israelis only.

20-year-old Israeli Sgt. Elor Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by an Israeli court in early January. In March 2016, Azaria was filmed fatally shooting a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Azaria’s conviction was a rare moment of justice for Palestinians, as IDF soldiers rarely face severe consequences for crimes committed against Palestinians.

6 months: the amount of time Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Basel Ghattas has been suspended from the Knesset after he was caught allegedly smuggling cell phones, SIM cards and documents to prisoners convicted of terrorism. Ghattas will still be permitted to vote during his suspension.

56 percent of Americans oppose moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to a January poll conducted by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. President Donald Trump seemed poised to announce the move within his first week in office, but has since put any such announcement on hold.

31 percent of Democrats polled by the Pew Research Center in January said they sympathize more with Palestine than with Israel. 33 percent of respondents said they sympathize more with Israel. These findings mark the first time in Pew Research history that Democrats are as likely to sympathize with Palestinians as they are with Israelis. The poll found that Republican support for Israel remains strong.

342 members of the House of Representatives—233 Republicans and 109 Democrats—voted in favor of a resolution objecting to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns Israel’s ongoing settlement enterprise. President Barack Obama refused to veto the resolution in December, thereby allowing the resolution to pass and leading to criticism from pro-Israel groups in the U.S.

41 men remain at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, after former President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison. Obama transferred 18 men from the facility in January—10 to Oman, 5 to Saudi Arabia and 3 to the UAE. During his eight years in office he transferred 197 detainees from the facility.

26,172 bombs were dropped in seven countries by the United States in 2016, according to an estimate conducted by Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. The vast majority of bombs were dropped in Syria (12,192) and Iraq (12,095). The remainder were dropped in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. “This estimate is undoubtedly low,” Zenko points out, “considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, and a single ‘strike,’ according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions.”

3 U.S. drone strikes were carried out in Yemen in January, reportedly killing between 6 and 13 militants, according to data complied by New America. Two of the strikes were authorized by President Donald Trump. According to the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. conducted 526 counter-terror strikes (most of them drone strikes) during President Obama’s tenure in office. The U.S. government estimates 64 to 117 civilians were killed in the strikes, though independent estimates put this number much higher. This official data do not include strikes in areas of “active hostilities,” including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where it is believed U.S. drone strikes have been particularly devastating to civilians.

30 Yemenis, most of them civilians, were killed on Jan. 29 when U.S. commandos carried out a raid targeting al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen. Among those killed in the first military raid authorized by President Trump was 8-year-old American citizen Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was extrajudicially killed by a drone strike in October 2011 and whose 16-year-old son Abdulrahman was killed in a drone strike two weeks later. An American service member was also killed in the January raid, which the president described as “successful.”

1,000 Yemeni children die every week from preventable diseases, according to UNICEF. An estimated 2.2 million children in the poor, war-torn nation suffer from malnutrition, according to the agency.

7 years after being jailed for leaking American military and diplomatic documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Chelsea Manning had her sentence commuted by President Obama on Jan. 17. Manning’s leaks led to a greater public critique of U.S. military action in the Middle East. Manning is set to be released on May 17, after originally being scheduled for release in 2045.

1,363 civilians were killed in violence in Iraq in January, according to Iraq Body Count.

64 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran, according to a poll conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation in late December.

82-year-old Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Jan. 8 in Tajrish, Iran. The two-time president and former chairman of the Assembly of Experts was one of the most influential politicians in Iran. A leader of the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani was a mentor to current President Hassan Rouhani and used his power to give greater legitimacy to more “moderate” forces within Iran.

Posted in WorldComments Off on January 2017 in Numbers


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