Archive | September 22nd, 2017

America’s Military Footprint Lands in I$raHell

NOVANEWS
America’s Military Footprint Lands in Israel

Featured image: Israel Air Force Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the IDF’s air defense commander, left, with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Gronski at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new permanent U.S. Army base in Israel. (Israel Defense Forces)

 

America’s military footprint extends worldwide, a global empire of bases, countless numbers, well over a thousand, many not publicly revealed.

The late Chalmers Johnson earlier said

“(o)nce upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies.”

“America’s version of the colony is the military base; and by following the changing politics of global basing, one can learn much about our ever more all-encompassing imperial footprint and the militarism that grows with it, (far) more than in past empires.”

“A well-entrenched militarism (lies) at the heart of our imperial adventures. Each year, (Washington) spends more on our armed forces than all others nations on earth combined (to garrison troops” in more than two-thirds of countries worldwide – Israel the latest.

During WW II, Orwell said it’s “difficult to go anywhere in London without having the feeling that Britain is now occupied (US) territory.”

The same holds today for scores of countries. And with occupation comes unacceptable noise, pollution, environmental destruction, expropriation of valuable public and private land, along with drunken, disorderly, and abusive soldiers, committing rape, murder and crimes most often unaccountably because of US-imposed Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) – license for America to do what it pleases, ignoring laws of host nations.

Bases are positioned to wage wars anywhere with forces near targeted countries. Wherever they go, their presence is intrusive, hostile, and detrimental to local populations.

For the first time, the Pentagon established a permanent military base in Israel, located at the Mashabim air base in the Negev desert.

On Monday, Israeli General Tzvika Haimovitch announced it, saying it demonstrates “years-old alliance between the United States and the State of Israel.”

It’s a “base within a base,” run by the US military’s European Command (EUCOM) for small numbers of US forces, unrelated to defense, solely for regional offense if ordered.

The region’s main problem is US and Israeli imperial aims. Neither country is threatened by anyone. They threaten everyone regionally and worldwide.

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Brexiting Hard: Boris Johnson Goes to War

NOVANEWS
  

The Times was none too pleased, riled and concerned. Contributors to The Spectator were wondering whether an imminent implosion was about to take place.  Who would profit from this act of suicide, this ritual of Tory party cannibalism? The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, naturally. The Tories, Britain’s drivers of Brexit, have gone from trouble to potential disaster.

It all came down the antics of Buffoonish Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary who rendered himself a talismanic figure during the Brexit referendum campaign, the figure whom Prime Minister Theresa May felt best secure from in sending him to far-flung places. Over time, the talisman has become an un-improvised explosion device, poorly assembled but nonetheless devastating. At any moment, he might just blow up, leaving a crippling residue.    

Rumours had begun circulating this week that Johnson was set for the cabinet chop. In a lengthy note in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson was returning to soil long tilled over by the Leave debate. Even grounds now considered inaccurate if not plainly misleading by those who participated in the campaign to leave the EU, were revisited with unremitting enthusiasm.

It was this very meditation that had peeved establishment Tories.

“I don’t know where this is coming from, honestly. It feels to me like an attempt to keep the great snoreathon story about my article running.”[1]

Tory grandee Ken Clarke was in little doubt what the foreign secretary was up to: soiling the prime minister’s stable.

“Sounding off personally in this way is totally unhelpful and he shouldn’t exploit the fact that [Theresa May] hasn’t got a majority in parliament.”

Had May received a stonking majority in what turned out to be a withering election, he would have been surely sacked for such conduct.

Interest centred on Johnson’s cavalier approach to the claim, made before and most recently in the Daily Telegraph, that £350 million a week was being paid in dues to the European Union, and that it was an amount that would be duly clawed back once Britannia had made her brave, disentangling escape. 

“Once we have settled out accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m a week.” 

It was a figure he has defended with iconoclastic conviction and a degree of enthusiasm verging on mania. Never mind the inconsistencies and the balanced losses, the EU subsidies and services supplied in return for dues. Britain, bold, hamstrung Britain, had to out, to fight this imposition.

Once freed from these clutches, Britain would be able to relocate the funding to, for instance, the National Health Service (NHS), the very system Tories was sworn to eliminate at various stages since its inception. (The NHS already suffers at the hands of the privatisation ideologues.)

“It would be fine thing,” suggested Johnson, “as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS, provided we use that cash injection to modernise and make most of the new technology.”

The core of his argument was his own pitch for a Hard Brexit. Rather than fearing the behaviour of EU apparatchiks, it was important for Britain not to pay anything to the EU for access post-Brexit. To remain within, even if only financially, would constitute a betrayal. As would a transitional period after 2019 that would involve the government softening its exit with ongoing EU payments for market benefits. Prime Minister May had been warned.

Statistics Chief Sir David Norgrove deemed Johnson’s play with figures a “clear misuse of official statistics”.[2]  It was a classic statement of British understatement.

“I am surprised and disappointed that you have chosen to repeat the £350m per week, in connection with the amount that might be available for extra public spending when we leave the European Union.” 

It conveyed a fundamental confusion, refusing to admit to the difference between gross contributions and net.  Johnson’s response was to accuse Norgrove, in turn, of a “willful distortion of the text of my article”.

This has been an ongoing problem of Johnson and his Leave comrades, a certain injudicious use of statistics. In April 2016, Norgrove’s predecessor as chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot, noted that the figure cited by those in the Leave campaign appeared “to relate to the UK’s gross contributions to the EU, before the applications of the UK’s rebate.”[3] As he concluded in a letter to Norman Lamb, MP,

“Without further explanation I consider these statements to be potentially misleading.”

As, indeed, it proved to be.

That was not all – Johnson was keen to insist that the aggrieved young, those who felt that Britain had profited from being involved in the union, were suffering a case of split loyalties. The zealous Europeanist Guy Verhofstadt could be counted on picking up on this criticism.

“Some British politicians – not to name Boris Johnson – criticise their countrymen and women for wanting to keep their European identity.” This sort of approach smacked of the archaic, claimed Verhofstadt, a case of “binary, old-fashioned and reductionist understanding”.[4]

For Johnson, these points hardly matter.  After being kept on the cooler, and isolated as a dangerous, rebarbative maverick, he has signaled his wish to be counted again, to make the case that will resonate with those who voted to leave in 2016. Time, it seems, to either turn or spurn the prime minister.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMITUniversity, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Notes

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Syria – Russia Accusing U.S. of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play with Al-Qaeda

NOVANEWS

The situation in Syria is reaching another critical point. There is an increased possibility of a large scale clash between U.S. and Russian forces. We had warned of such a clash over control of the rich fields east of Deir Ezzor. At least three incidents over the last days point to more significant escalations.

  • On the 17th the U.S. accused Russia of a light air attack on its proxy forces north of Deir Ezzor. Russia denied that it had attacked those forces.
  • On the 18th and 19th large contingents of Russian and Syrian troops crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. The U.S. Kurdish/Arab proxy force in the area actively tried to hinder that movement.
  • In parallel a large al-Qaeda attack was launched in west-Syria. The Russian forces accuse U.S. intelligence services of having initiated that campaign. (The Syrian-Russian forces defeated the attack.)
  • Today the Russian military accused the U.S. Kurdish proxies near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery on its forces. It threatened massive retaliation.

The most dramatic incident was the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb.

Al-Qaeda in Syria, renamed to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, currently controls Idleb governate and Idleb city in north-west Syria. On September 19 it launched a large scale attack on Syrian government positions in north Hama, south of Idleb provinces. The al-Qaeda forces gained significant grounds before being stopped and forced to retreat. Nearly all the heavy weapons, tanks and artillery, that al-Qaeda had in the area were used and in the attack.

The spokesperson of the Russian military said (vid with English subtitles) that, according to Russian intelligence reports, al-Qaeda’s attack was made on behalf of the U.S. to slow down the Syrian-Russian campaign in the eastern province Deir Ezzor. A subtask for the terrorists was to capture a platoon of Russian soldiers. This is, to my knowledge, the first time that Russia made such a direct and extremely grave accusation against the U.S. forces and intelligence services in Syria.

From the Russian military statement:

For 24 hours, insurgents managed to dent the government troops’ defence line for up to 12 kilometers in depth and up to 20 kilometers in front.According to the received data, this offensive was initiated by the US special agencies in order to stop successful advance of the Syrian Arab Army to the east from Deir ez-Zor.

Seizing of a unit of the Russian Military Police was one of the main aims of insurgents. The Russian MP unit was operating in an observation post deployed as de-escalation observation forces.

As a result, the MP platoon (29 persons) was blocked by insurgents.

The encirclement has been breached. Units of the Russian Armed Forces have reached locations of SAA without losses.

After the al-Qaeda attack was launched the Russian air force in Syria initiated a massive counter campaign over Idleb province.

For the last 24 hours, aviation and artillery units have eliminated 187 objects, 850 terrorists, 11 tanks, 4 IFVs, 46 pickups, 5 mortars, 20 trucks, and 38 ammunition storages.Units of the 5th Airborne Assault Corpse launched a counter-attack and almost took [all] lost positions.

Pictures from the area showed several destroyed tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. This was a very costly campaign for al-Qaeda with no significant gain. It seems that Syrian and Russian intelligence were aware that an attack was coming but not of the details. For a while the situation was extremely critical. Then the large aerial counter campaign caught al-Qaeda by surprise and destroyed the attacking forces.

At the same time as the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb started U.S. proxy forces in east-Syria (yellow) took measures to hinder the fight of Syrian forces (red) against the Islamic State (black).

Source: Weekend Warrior

The Syrian government forces are cleared nearly all of Deir Ezzor city of ISIS forces. At stake now is the control of the oil fields east of Deir Ezzor and north of the Euphrates river.

Soon after crossing the Euphrates Syrian troops came under fire from U.S. proxy positions:

“According to the reports that the Syrian commanders have been sending from the frontline, most serious counter-attacks and mass shelling on the Syrian troops come from the north,” he said. “It is the area where units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as the US special operations units, are deployed, who, according to CNN, are providing medical aid to these militants instead of participating in the operation to liberate Raqqa,” [Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor] Konashenkov said.

The U.S. proxies also use their control of the Tabqa dam to hinder the river crossing:

Water discharges from the Euphrates dams controlled by the US-backed opposition hamper the advance of Syrian government troops near Deir ez-Zor, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday.”Thus, the water situation on the Euphrates has deteriorated dramatically in the past 24 hours. As soon as the Syrian government troops began to cross the river, water level in the Euphrates rose within hours and the current velocity nearly doubled to two meters per second,” he said.

Today the Russian Defense Ministry accused the U.S. proxy forces of directly shelling its Syrian allies and the Russian forces accompanying them:

Russia warned a representative of the US command in Al Udeid, Qatar, that “any attempts of shelling from the areas where the militants of the Syrian Democratic Forces are based will be immediately curbed.””Firing points in these areas will be immediately suppressed by all means of destruction,” the general said.

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces approaching Deir ez-Zor from the north are easily joining IS terrorists, and Russian drones and reconnaissance recorded no clash between the IS with a “third force,” namely the SDF over the past week, he explained.

However, massive fire from mortars and rocket artillery was opened twice on the Syrian troops from the areas on the eastern shore of Euphrates where the SDF fighters and servicemen of US special forces are based, Konashenkov said.

The U.S. paid “Syrian Democratic Forces” that pushed into northern Deir Ezzor without meeting any resistance are mostly local tribes who were aligned with the Islamic State until the U.S. diplomat Brett McGurk hired them to fight on the U.S. side. They are led by Kurdish commanders and “advised” by U.S. special forces.

The U.S. wants to keep Syrian government forces away from the oil fields north of the Euphrates. It has plans to build and control a Kurdish proto-state in north-east Syria and control over the eastern Deir Ezzor oil would give such a state the necessary economic base.

But the U.S. has too few proxy forces available to actually take the oil area away from the Islamic State. Only the Syrian army has enough resources in the area. The U.S. is now cheating, attacking Syrian-Russian forces, and rushing to get an advantage. According to the Russians the U.S. Kurdish proxies have even stopped the fight against ISIS in Raqqa and moved forces from that area to take the oil in the east. I doubt that Syria and Russia will allow that to happen without taking measures to counter it.

With the al-Qaeda diversion attack in north-west Syria defeated and more reserves available the Syrian alliance should think about a fast air-assault on the oil fields. As soon as the oil wells are under Syrian government control and the ISIS presence eliminated the U.S. has no more excuse to continue the current deadly game.

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US-backed Forces Push for Syrian Oil ‘Video’

NOVANEWS

Early on Friday, the Israeli Air Force struck a target in the Damascus International Airport, according to pro-opposition sources and the Israeli media. There are no details about the damage caused by airstrikes. Pro-Israeli sources claim that the Israeli Air Force targeted a part of the airport used for providing supplies to Hezbollah.

At the same time, reports appeared that the Syrian Air Defense Forces downed “hostile aircraft”, most likely an Israeli reconnaissance drone, over the Damascus countryside.

Late on Thursday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the US-led coalition’s airpower and military advisers, seized Tabiyeh and al-Isba oil and gas fields northeast of Deir Ezzor city, according to pro-Kurdish sources.

With this advance, the SDF at least partly blocked an advance of Syrian government forces on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. This and future possible SDF successes in seizing oil and gas infrastructure will directly affect the negotiations between the sides after the defeat of ISIS.

In the city of Raqqah, the SDF, supported by coalition aircraft and artillery, killed 63 ISIS fighters and destroyed 3 VBIEDs as well as further advanced inside the ISIS-held area. Pro-SDF sources claim that the ISIS is on the run and the city will be freed soon.

ISIS fighters in the eastern Hama pocket and the Syrian government have reportedly reached a withdrawal agreement. The agreement will allow ISIS members to withdraw to Idlib or Deir Ezzor provinces, according to different sources. The agreement will allow the Syrian military to free additional forces for operations across Syria. On Wednesday, the Syrian government allowed 1,500 civilians and ISIS family members to withdraw to an area controlled by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib.

Turkey will deploy troops in Syria’s Idlib province under as part of a “de-escalation” agreement reached by Ankara, Tehran and Moscow within the Astana format of talks on the Syrian conflict, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters in an interview.

Meanwhile, reports appeared that Turkey deployed more forces additionally to on the border with Syria’s Idlib province. The reinforcements strengthened a grouping of 80 armoured vehicles and 18 MRAPs that had been deployed earlier.

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Incoherent President Reassures UN that US Policy Is Insane

“If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.” – Minority President Donald Trump, September 19, 2017, addressing the United Nations

With stunningly unintended precision, about a third of the way into his UN speech, President Trump encapsulated the current brutal reality of the United States in late 2017, where the righteous many do not confront the wicked few and evil oozes its slow and merciless triumph through the body politic. Or perhaps the “righteous many” is another myth and the “wicked few” are the true majority. Wherever one looks, the news is not reassuring, whether it’s climate change, civil rights, police state treatment of minorities, rewarding the rich for their wealth, punishing the poor for their poverty, attacking voter rights, or bloating a military that specializes in killing civilians. Trump’s next sentence drove home the crucifying irony of the American moment:

“When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.”

Yes, they do. Yes, we do. We live now in a time of literal perpetual war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and many of the other 100-plus sovereign states that have US boots on the ground. Before 9/11, the US was at war only most of the time, more spectacularly, but with no better results since 1945. This is not good; surely most UN members appreciate that, without having the nerve to say so. They did not applaud when Trump boasted:

We will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense.

$700,000,000,000 is a lot of money, and it doesn’t even include a big chunk for our nuclear arsenal that comes from the Energy Department. $700 billion is more money than anyone else spends on its military. $700 billion is roughly five times what China spends, nine times what Saudi Arabia spends, ten times what Russia spends, eleven times what India, France, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom spend. $700 billion is more than what these countries altogether spend. For Americans, military spending is an addiction that no longer produces a high, only a craving. Like any addiction, it is deeply destructive. And we knew that once, but now we’re junkies deeply in denial of our self-destruction. Endless war and out of control military spending have done much to destroy what we once believed was best about the US. Eisenhower belatedly warned us, but he was far from the first. Back in 1795, when the United States was three years old, James Madison wrote:

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debt and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

That’s pretty much the way it’s turning out, except there’s a possibility that the many are actually in favor of being dominated by the few. Or they’re intimidated. Or they’re mystified. Whatever is happening with the American people, Donald Trump represented them at the UN with a 41-minute pastiche of clichés, political pablum, incomprehensible nonsense, and meaningless feel-good rhetoric. (All the quotes that follow are from the official White House posting of the speech, reportedly written by 32-year-old hardliner Stephen Miller, a senior advisor for policy.) The speech begins in a curious campaign mode as Trump assures the representatives of 192 other countries that, much to their presumed relief:

The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before.

This referred to the US suffering from hurricanes. Trump said nothing of the suffering of Caribbean islands from hurricanes, or Bangladesh from flooding, or Mexico from earthquakes, or any other pain and anguish in the world. America first.

Then came a sloppy, unpersuasive best-of-times/worst-of-times passage in which Trump threat-mongered “terrorists and extremists” and then, with presumed unawareness, described the United States of recent decades:

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

The next sentence was perhaps the best of several instances of impenetrable nonsense:

Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.

The record includes dozens of wars since 1945, wars that the US promoted or participated in, with millions of casualties. The US has been at war 93% of the time since 1792. The US has been in covert or overt war, or both, or several, pretty much continuously since 1945. Soon after that, Trump launched into hyperbolic fantasy:

We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.

These are fine sentiments, to be sure, but not what most members of the UN are committed to achieving, and surely not what the Trump administration is about. But the passage was preamble to what struggled to be the thematic thread of the speech, the purported pillars of the Marshall Plan, “three beautiful pillars … peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity.” Trump offered no plan to achieve these “pillars,” nor did he make a coherent argument beyond the platitudinous:

Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.

Trump ran through several descriptions of what sovereign nations do without addressing the apparent contradiction inherent in the US defining how other nations should be sovereign. In this context, God made a first of several odd appearances before this most multicultural of assemblies:

And strong, sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God.

In concluding his litany of fuzzballs, Trump arrived at his first applause line (there were four), although why this line drew applause is somewhat mysterious:

As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first. (Applause.)

The sentiment must surely appeal to Saudi Arabia, Burma (Myanmar), Israel, or Egypt as much as to Cuba, Yemen, Venezuela, or North Korea, but Trump has at least a double standard for which leaders he will allow to “put your countries first.” Trump took a cheap shot at both Russia and China, but did it in a single sentence without any indication if he actually meant anything by it:

We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.

As widely reported, Trump gave major attention to North Korea “for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more.” That sounds like a familiar sovereign pattern, especially if you substitute “Native Americans” for “North Koreans.” Trump did not go there, of course, preferring instead to threaten genocide, unless the UN could find some alternative:

That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.

“Let’s see how they do?” The US is no longer in the UN? Trump’s Freudian slip is showing. Trump’s next big thing was Iran, about which he pretty much lied shamelessly, even blaming Iran for “Yemen’s civil war,” which doesn’t really exist. Yemen is a humanitarian catastrophe made obscenely worse by constant Saudi bombing with US collusion and support since it began in 2015. In this, Trump is as much a war criminal as Obama.

Once again casting the US as saintly, Trump disingenuously talked about all the US had done to help refugees, especially refugees from Syria and Iraq. You know, the ones he tried to ban. In this context he offered a priceless rationalization for American inhumanity:

For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region. Out of the goodness of our hearts, we offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region, and we support recent agreements of the G20 nations that will seek to host refugees as close to their home countries as possible. This is the safe, responsible, and humanitarian approach.

That’s a fairly clever, if transparent way of saying: keep those raghead terrorists in their own countries, or at least the ones next door. In the context of trashing Cuba and Venezuela, Trump uttered a bald-faced lie:

America stands with every person living under a brutal regime.

That’s never been true, as Palestinians in Gaza know, as Yemenis know, as Rohingya in Burma know, and black Americans in Missouri know, as native Americans know, as any sentient human should know. In this context, the ruthless hypocrisy of Trump’s closing stands in bold relief:

So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world: We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.

Really? Is that why Trump was whining earlier in this speech about how much the US paid to keep the UN going?

Trump’s appearance at the UN was just another confirmation of just how awful he and his administration are, and probably no one has a clear understanding of the full extent of the Trump awfulness. And it just keeps coming. Turkish President Erdogan says Trump apologized to him for US indictments of Turkish security guards attacking peaceful protestors. The White House says Trump didn’t apologize for that. Does it matter either way? Trump’s America does not stand with Turks living under Erdogan’s brutal regime.

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The World’s Only Undeclared Nuclear Weapons State

NOVANEWS

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that developments in North Korea’s nuclear program “contributed to international political instability with potentially serious knock-on effects.”

SIPRI says that as of January 2017 the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea together had an estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Out of the above nine nuclear weapons states, only one is undeclared – that is the state of Israel, which is estimated to have built-up a secret arsenal of up to 400 warheads – all unidentified by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Should that figure be substantiated that would place the Israeli state as either the 3rd or 4th most powerful nuclear state in the world, after the US and Russia and the highest nuclear weapons state, per capita, anywhere on the planet.

However, the vital fact is that Israel is not a party to the IAEA and therefore not subject to inspection or report by the UN’s international Agency and is also not a party to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and that makes the global situation fraught with danger for future peace.

It is seriously complicated by the fact that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is determined to shift the global spotlight away from Israel’s massive, covert, nuclear weapons program to that of Iran which, of course, has no nuclear weapons whatsoever but which is a party to the NPT and, furthermore, subject to inspection by the IAEA.

These facts would appear to indicate the most dangerous military confidence trick ever perpetrated on a naive international community.

Report on nuclear weapon programs and inspection of nuclear weapon stocks should be a mandatory requirement for participation in international trade, failing which there should be economic sanctions against any recalcitrant state that poses a nuclear threat to world peace.

North Korea today reminds us that the world is no longer a safe place for anyone, anymore.

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How US journalists are bribed ‘VIDEO’

NOVANEWS

HOW IT WORKS

“SHE’S DOING IT 100%”

Do US journalists get paid extra to lie?

They sure do. Case study here.

It’s not unlike the way drug cartels work in Mexico: “What do you want “plata” (silver) or “plomo” (lead)?

In the US among TV “journalists” it’s a little gentler as befitting our First World status.

You either get to keep your job with a much bigger payday or you’re fired.

By the way, it looks like Joy Ann Reid has a right-wing comedian writing her lines for her. I’m surprised Jimmy didn’t pick up on this. Not only is she a sell-out, she’s an untalented sell-out to boot.

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CIA: The biggest computer leak in history ‘video’

NOVANEWS

PLUS THE DANGERS OF WI-FI

STRAIGHT FROM THE PENTAGON

Here’s the story:

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server.

The data leak contains a wealth of personal information on roughly 61 percent of the US population. Along with home addresses, birthdates, and phone numbers, the records include advanced sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity. The data was amassed from a variety of sources—from the banned subreddit r/fatpeoplehate to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by former White House strategist Karl Rove.

Deep Root Analytics, a conservative data firm that identifies audiences for political ads, confirmed ownership of the data to Gizmodo on Friday.

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Afghanistan’s Opium Trade: A Free Market of Racketeers

NOVANEWS

A visit to Afghan opium fields challenges the notion that the Taliban controls the lucrative trade.

Featured image: A man in an opium-yielding poppy field, Dara-i Mazor, Nurgal district, Kunar province, Afghanistan (May 2017) (Source: Franz J. Marty)

DARA-I MAZOR, NURGAL, KUNAR, AFGHANISTAN — It is only a short drive into a side valley just off the busy main road between Jalalabad and Asadabad, the capitals of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. The narrow dusty road passes fields of golden blades of wheat that slightly sway in the light breeze. Beyond the fields and the scattered verdant trees, barren craggy hills frame the valley called Dara-i Mazor in Kunar’s district of Nurgal. Across the small river, some of the traditional mud houses resemble tiny bulky castles, hinting at the fact that Afghanistan’s violent past dates much further back than the U.S. or Soviet-led invasions.

Behind a low farm house that lies quietly in the shadows of surrounding trees, there is yet another wheat field. But next to it several patches of land are covered in other plants whose single green stems topped by golf-ball sized pods rise above the bushy leaves at their roots. It is opium-yielding poppy.

Opium has an analgesic effect and is the base for morphine, heroin, and other opioids that are used for medical purposes, but also for illegal drug consumption. Afghanistan accounts for some 70 percent of the global opium production, according to the World Drug Report 2016 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Although poppy cultivation is concentrated in southern Afghanistan, it can be found throughout the country. And while opium production is more prevalent in ungoverned areas like Dara-i Mazor, it also exists in government-controlled zones, as security forces, often struggling to keep insurgents at bay, are hardly able to prevent poppy cultivation.

In Kunar, early May was the end of the short harvest season, which takes places right after the white or dark pink poppy flowers have withered and only the green capsules remain. This can be earlier or later in other regions of the country, depending on the local conditions.

The harvest itself is a labor-intensive task. Every single poppy pod has to be lanced with a tool with several tiny blades at its end. Once lanced, the opium latex immediately leaks out of the razor-thin scratches (in Dara-i Mazor the sap is a light pink, but experts say that it is usually white at first before it oxidates in the air, quickly turning to a pink and later dark brown color). The valuable latex is just liquid enough to drip out, but still gooey enough to stick to the pod and to not drop to the ground. Normally, the capsules are then left until the next day. However, given my short visit, the locals showed me right away how they skim the leaked-out opium from the pod with another tool that looks like a broad sickle.

Skimmed opium latex in a field in Dara-i Mazor (May 2017)

One farmer, a young man with a neatly trimmed beard and pitch black, greasy hair, stated that about 60 percent of his fields are poppy. And this is not an exception. Asked for his reason to plant poppy, he said that he is forced to do it because other crops would yield little profit. This was also asserted by other farmers in Nurgal and Shigal, another district of Kunar. However, they don’t claim that other crops would yield no profit, raising the question of whether they are only engaging in poppy cultivation for the higher profits that no licit crop can possibly generate.

But according to Dr. David Mansfield, a senior researcher for the London School of Economics and the Afghan Research & Evaluation Unit who has worked on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for almost two decades, profit-maximization is not the driving force behind the decision. Afghan farmers would rather try to balance their livelihoods, secure a certain degree of food self-sufficiency, use their soil sustainably (which also means changing or rotating different crops), and mitigate risks of crop failures. Thus, the monetary profit is only one of many factors in the farmers’ decisions.

In any event, Mansfield asserted that – in his years of experience across Afghanistan and despite allegations to the contrary – he has never met a single farmer that was physically coerced into cultivating opium. Reports also often suggest that farmers are de facto forced to sow poppy as they are dependent on advance payments that they can obtain for the future opium harvest or have no other choice than to produce opium to repay loans. However, sources explained that the system of advance payments on future harvests has dramatically decreased in past years and also exists for other crops. And although economic pressure plays a role, according to UNODC, “having outstanding loans did not emerge as a differentiating factor for cultivating opium since the percentage of farmers under debt or with outstanding loans were similar [whether they grew poppy or not].”

Hence, the often-portrayed image that insurgents or mafia-like groups exploit the farmers’ weaknesses, forcing them to cultivate opium, does not match the reality. The decision to sow poppy is rather  – sometimes more, sometimes less – freely taken by the farmers themselves.

Man skimming opium latex from a poppy capsule, Dara-i Mazor (May 2017)

In the subsequent sale of raw opium the farmers are far from being at the mercy of a cartel. Farmers in Nurgal and Shigal stated that numerous merchants come separately to the farms to buy opium and that they would usually only buy a very few kilograms – which is, even for a small farmer, only a fraction of his whole yield (according to the UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey, in 2016 “the average opium yield amounted to 23.8 kilograms per hectare”). This makes opium even more attractive for farmers, as – contrary to other crops – they don’t have to transport their harvest over often underdeveloped and sometimes dangerous roads to a market.

Asked about the merchants, farmers described them as independent actors that try to make a profit by reselling the narcotic for a higher price, but assert that they do not belong to any specific group or cartel. This was confirmed by an opium trafficker who asked to not be identified. It was also confirmed by two experts, who added that – while there are certain regional differences – the sale of small portions of the opium yield to several independent merchants is the norm across Afghanistan.

This does not exclude the involvement of some larger, more powerful dealers or even criminal networks. But they don’t control the market and are just some among many actors. In this regard, the opium trafficker even asserted that bigger networks would usually only play a larger role once the raw opium is processed to heroin. This is, however, further down the chain and does not affect the farmers directly.

Given the above, the fluctuating price of opium at the farm-gate is not unfairly dictated by the buyers, but set according to various conditions of a rather free market. And even though it is a fraction of heroin prices on the end markets, it is still a small fortune by Afghan standards. UNODC put the average price of one kilogram of dry opium at the farm-gate in eastern Afghanistan in 2016 at $239. Farmers in Nurgal and Shigal as well as the opium trafficker claimed to sell dry opium even for 25,000 to 35,000 Pakistani rupees (about $240 to $335) per kilogram (the indication of Pakistani rupee is not out of the ordinary, as in parts of eastern Afghanistan, Pakistani rather than Afghan currency is the norm).

Raw opium from Dara-i Mazor (May 2017)

Such prices are hard to verify though and might be flawed. Moreover, setting this into perspective is difficult. Compared to the monthly salary of an average Afghan worker in the capital Kabul, which amounts to around $200, opium sales prices appear very high. However, it has to be taken into account that those prices are qualified by significant production costs and that the farmers live in a different socioeconomic setting.

Be that as it may, farmers sometimes even hold back raw opium, which does not spoil, in order to wait for better sales prices — yet another sign of a free market.

In view of all this and contrary to common perception, the opium sale at the Afghan farm-gate is not in the iron grip of the Taliban or powerful cartels, but rather a loose open market in which numerous independent farmers and racketeers try to get their share of this profitable illicit trade.

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Government of Myanmar’s Behaviour: Crime Against Humanity

NOVANEWS
 

On Monday 11 September 2017, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, one of the UN high-ranked officials, ranted at United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR), Geneva, condemning the behaviour of the government of Myanmar as “brutal security operation” against the people of Rohingya which was disproportionate to the operation of Rohingya insurgents took place in August 2017.

Hussein demanded from the government of Myanmar to bring its cruel military operation to a halt against the defenceless people of Rohingya.[i] The military operation in Rohingya hitherto has been condemned, on several occasions, by the UN and Amnesty International. On 5 September 2017, António Guterres, the secretary-General of the UN, demanded from the government of Myanmar to desist from its violence against Rohingya people.

According to the report of the UN, more than 313,000 people have been forced to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh to date. António Guterres announced that this violence can destabilise the region.[ii] About 400,000 of Muslim ethnic minority in western Myanmar are exposed to the hazard of ethnic cleansing. The government of Myanmar has blocked the route of food, water, medicine, and first aid to Rohingya. Amnesty International declared those behaviours, against Rohingya Muslim minority, against the freedom of religion and the freedom of belief. According to the report of Amnesty International, rape, forced labour, arbitrary arrests, torture, and recruitment of child soldiers took place in the process of ethnic cleansing, and the government of Myanmar deliberately has refused from the help and assistance of Muslims in Rohingya.[iii] All the actions took place against the Muslims of Rohingya, by the government of Myanmar, are against the fundamental principles of international law.

Although the problem of discrimination against the minority of Muslim population in Rohingya is not a new problem, the situation of the region, especially after the attack of Rohingya insurgents on the police of Burma in October 2016 has deteriorated. In that attack 9 policemen were killed. The security forces of Burma responded those attacks with clearance operation and have impeded the interference of all humanitarian organisations in the region. Again, on 25 August 2017, when insurgents of Rohingya attacked 24 security sites and killed 12 policemen, the police of Myanmar arranged wider attacks against all the defenceless civilians of Rohingya, rather than separating between ordinary people and Rohingya insurgents.

No report of execution hitherto has been rendered. But it has been reported that the courts of Burma are issuing repeatedly the order of execution. Although the issuance of the orders is contrary to the order of the parliament of Burma in October 2016 according to which 1950 Emergency Provisions Act has been repealed, the courts, drawing upon other rules yet in force, are trying to issue more execution orders. Apart from executions by the orders of the courts, according to unofficial statistics, 3000 people have been killed to date.[iv] Soldiers and security forces of Burma shoot randomly at civilian people, rape women, set fire to villages, arrest the people arbitrarily and torture them.

Although the government of Burma has not been signed and ratified hitherto many crucial documents of human rights including Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), Burma was one of 48 states that voted in favour of Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In addition to these, according to the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2006, in Case Concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo, genocide is the infringement of peremptory norms (jus cogens).[v] Next year the ICJ suggested in the same case that the phrase “… Genocide … is a crime under international law …” in article 1 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) means that the rule of the prevention of genocide is a customary rule of international law. It is worth noting that CPPCG in 1948 has been adopted by the general assembly of the UN and became in force on 12 January 1951. CPPCG embraces an international recognised definition of genocide expressed in article 2 thereof. According to article 2 of CPPCG:

“…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily harm, or harm to mental health, to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Some jurists maintain that the actions of the government of Myanmar constitutes the infringement of the sections a, b, c of CPPCG, article 2. They suggest that the “intent to destroy” in states, i.e.mental element (mens rea), means the policy of destruction which is seen in the acts of the government of Burma against its Muslim minorities in Rohingya.

Whereas the verification of the “intent to destroy” is pretty difficult, and none of the Burmese officials has expressed explicitly their intention to destroy the Muslims of Rohingya, it can be asserted that the act of the government of Burma is “crime against humanity”.

According to the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda:

“Genocide requires proof of an intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group; this is not required by extermination as a crime against humanity. Extermination as a crime against humanity requires proof that the crime was committed as a part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, which proof is not required in the case of genocide.”[vi]

Crime against humanity is also, according to reliable international documents, an infringement of international peremptory norms [vii] and, it goes without saying that, its exercise hurts the conscience of international community. Crime against humanity is a part of general customary international law and the language of international documents shows that this crime has a particular situation in international law. In its report of the situation of Myanmar in 2016/2017, Amnesty International, has used two times the term “crime against humanity” and attributed it, probably, to the government of Myanmar. According to the report:

“The response collectively punished the entire Rohingya community in northern Rakhine State and the conduct of the security forces may have amounted to crimes against humanity.”[viii]

Of course the date of the issuance of the report was the time in which the number of the dead had not yet been increased. With every passing day, by increasing actions of the government of Myanmar against international law, the opinion which adheres the thought that the government of Burma is committing crime against humanity is more amplified. An impartial bystander cannot disavow that “ethnic cleansing” in Burma is in process at the moment.

Grisly news attained from Rohingya discovers the depth of the crimes against Muslim minority population of Myanmar. The orchestrated irregular attacks by some radical elements backed by security forces against the people of Rohingya has culminated in losing lives of a considerable number of Muslims and has exacerbated the record of Myanmar in discrimination, injustice, and hopelessness. This exacerbation arouses the feelings of the people of the world, against the government of Myanmar, irrespective of their religion or nationality. In case of not paying attention to the organised widespread infringement of fundamental rights of Muslims of Rohingya, extremism increases and violation spreads even beyond the borders of Myanmar and destabilises the whole region.Expelling people from their own homeland and forcing them to emigrate from their own country cannot solve such a deep-rooted crisis. The government of Myanmar has to take the prolonged anxieties of its Muslim minorities and their plight into consideration and observe their rights effectively and recognise them like other Burmese civilians, protecting them against violation and discrimination.

International community, especially Muslim countries, expect from the government of Myanmar to bring current violations against the Muslim minorities of Rohingya to a halt, and provide their access to humanitarian aids with no limitation. It is also necessary for the government of Myanmar to bring the suspects to trial and take all necessary steps to prevent recurring such events. Unfortunately, no logical response, to this minimum demand of international community, has been received. It is also expected that the UN act as soon as possible and perform all necessary actions to obviate the anxieties of international community about the exacerbating situation of Burma. The protection of the UN from decreasing violence, and gaining assurance from rendering humanitarian aids and assistance to the people in need and finding a sustainable solution for such a crisis seems necessary and the UN must act as soon as possible.

Amir Abbas Amirshekari is PhD in International Law (University of Tehran, Iran), Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Johannesburg, South Africa (2014-2016), Advocate (Iran Bar Association). He can be reached at a_amir_shekari@hotmail.com.

Notes

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/11/un-myanmars-treatment-of-rohingya-textbook-example-of-ethnic-cleansing

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/05/more-than-120000-rohingya-flee-myanmar-violence-un-says

[iii] https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/myanmar/report-myanmar/

[iv] https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjYuaaP-J3WAhVhG5oKHWVeAsEQqUMILTAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fworld%2F2017%2Fsep%2F11%2Fun-myanmars-treatment-of-rohingya-textbook-example-of-ethnic-cleansing&usg=AFQjCNH1aeVUf3yUqoUHcBAuj8FJHRouCw

[v] Case Concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (New Application: 2002) (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Rwanda), Jurisdiction of the Court and Admissibility of the Application, 3 February 2006, para. 64.

[vi] Prosecutor v. Musema (Case No. ICTR-96-13-A), Judgment, 16 November 2001, para. 363. Also: Prosecutor v. Kajelijeli (Case No. ICTR-98-44A-T), Judgment and Sentence, 1 December 2003, para. 751.

[vii] The 1993 International Tribunal For the Former Yugoslavia and the 1994 International Tribunal for Rwanda statutes include the Statute of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, U.N. SCOR, 48th Sess., 3217th mtg., at 1, U.N. Doc. S/RES/827 (1993) and the Statute for the International Tribunal for Rwanda, U.N. SCOR, 49th Sess., 3453rd mtg., at 1, U.N. Doc. S/RES/955 (1994), and address Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and War Crimes. The 1996 Code of Crimes includes these three crimes plus Aggression. See Draft Code of Crimes Against Peace and Security of Mankind: Titles and Articles on the Draft Code of Crimes Against Peace and Security of Mankind adopted by the International Law Commission on its Forty-Eighth Session, U.N. GAOR, 51st Sess., U.N. Doc. A/CN.4L.532 (1996), revised by U.N. Doc. A/CN.4L.532/Corr.1 and U.N. Doc. A/CN.4l.532/Corr.3; Crimes Against U.N. Personnel, in M. CHERIF BASSIOUNI, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW CONVENTIONS (1997 in print) [hereinafter BASSIOUNI, ICL CONVENTIONS].

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