Archive | May 9th, 2013

Obama: U.S. has security interest and moral obligation on Syria



President Obama said Tuesday the United States has both a national security interest and a moral obligation to see the bloodshed end in Syria.

Speaking at a joint White House news conference with South Korea President Park Geun-hye, Obama said those dual concerns also come into play in “ensuring that we’ve got a stable Syria that is representative of all the Syrian people, and is not creating chaos for its neighbors.”

He said to that end his administration has exerted pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, provided humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians, helped the rebel opposition and mobilized the international community to isolate Syria.

“That’s why we are now providing non-lethal assistance to the opposition, and that’s why we’re going to continue to do the work that we need to do,” Obama said.

“And in terms of the costs and the benefits, I think there would be severe costs in doing nothing. That’s why we’re not doing nothing. That’s why we are actively invested in the process.”

He said his administration is re-evaluating what actions to take “in conjunction with other international partners” on a regular basis.

“I think that, understandably, there is a desire for easy answers. That’s not the situation there,” Obama said. “And my job is to constantly measure our very real and legitimate humanitarian and national security interests in Syria, but measuring those against my bottom line, which is what’s in the best interest of America’s security and making sure that I’m making decisions not based on a hope and a prayer, but on hard-headed analysis in terms of what will actually make us safer and stabilize the region.”

Obama addressed the issue of “perceived” violations of the “red line” by the Syrian government, which allegedly has used chemical weapons against its people.

“The operative word there, I guess … is ‘perceived.’ And what I’ve said is that we have evidence that there has been the use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, but I don’t make decisions based on ‘perceived,’” he said. “And I can’t organize international coalitions around ‘perceived.’ We’ve tried that in the past, by the way, and it didn’t work out well.”

That apparently was a veiled reference to the decision by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to wage war in Iraq on the presumption Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he intended to use.

“We want to make sure that we are acting deliberately. But I would just point out that there have been several instances during the course of my presidency where I said I was going to do something and it ended up getting done. And there were times when there were folks on the sidelines wondering why hasn’t it happened yet and what’s going on and why didn’t it go on tomorrow? But in the end, whether it’s [slain al-Qaida leader Osama] bin Laden or [deposed Libyan strongman Moammar] Gadhafi, if we say we’re taking a position, I would think at this point the international community has a pretty good sense that we typically follow through on our commitments.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday the administration doubted claims by Carla Del Ponte of a U.N. commission looking into human rights abuses in Syria rebel forces might have used the nerve agent sarin.

“We are highly skeptical of any suggestions or accusations that the opposition used chemical weapons,” Carney said. “We find it highly likely that chemical weapons, if they were, in fact, used in Syria — and there is certainly evidence that they were — that the Assad regime was responsible.”

Del Ponte, a former chief prosecutor for international criminal tribunals that investigated Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, told Swiss-Italian TV Sunday there were “strong, concrete suspicions” rebels had used the poison gas.

The rebels denied it and the commission pulled back from Del Ponte’s remarks Monday.

“The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict,” the commission said in a statement.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels chemical weapons appear to have been used in Syria, but he said the evidence was not clear who was responsible.

“We do not have confirmed, consolidated information as to who might have used” chemical weapons, he said.

Rasmussen echoed the Obama administration’s insistence on a careful approach to outside involvement in the Syrian conflict.

“It is of utmost importance to get consolidated information, to get clear evidence,” he said.

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Report: IsraHell asks (demands) Russia to block Syria arms sale


U.S. officials say Israeli information indicates Syria has been making payments to buy advanced S-300 air defense missile batteries, the Wall Street Journal reports.


Israel has asked Russia not to sell Syria an advanced air defense system which would help President Bashar Assad fend off foreign military intervention as he battles a more than two-year-old rebellion, Israeli officials said on Thursday.

Citing U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Israel had told Washington that Syria had already began payments for a 900 million Euro purchase of the S-300, and an initial delivery was due within three months.

The S-300 is designed to shoot down planes and missiles at 200 km ranges. It would enhance Syria’s current Russian-supplied defenses, which did not deter Israel from launching air strikes around Damascus last weekend.

“We have raised objections to this (sale) with the Russians, and the Americans have too,” an Israeli official told Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow or Damascus.

The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has been seeking to purchase the advanced S-300 missile batteries, which can intercept both manned aircraft and guided missiles, from Moscow for many years.

The paper said the package included six launchers and 144 operational missiles, each with a range of 200 kilometers, with an initial shipment expected in the next three months.

While the effectiveness of Syria’s aging air force is unclear, most experts believe that its air-defense missile system, which was upgraded after an alleged Israeli strike in 2007 on a suspected nuclear site, remains quite potent.

Western nations have repeatedly urged Russia to block the sale, which they argue could complicate any international intervention in Syria’s escalating civil war.

In 2010, Russia backed out of a tentative S-300 sale to Iran that had been in the works for years. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cited U.N. sanctions imposed that year over Iran’s defiance of international demands to curb its nuclear program.

Israel and the United States, which threaten military attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities if diplomatic alternatives fail, had lobbied Moscow to drop the deal with Tehran.

Robert Hewson, an IHS Jane’s air power analyst, said that were Syria to receive the S-300 it would probably take several months to deploy and operate the system. But he suggested it would not pose a big challenge for Israel’s hi-tech air force.

“It’s a fairly well-established, fairly well-understood system, so there is a corpus of knowledge, particularly among Israel’s friends, about how to deal with this system,” he said.

Once activated, the S-300 could easily be spotted thanks to its distinctive radar signal, Hewson said, “and from there it’s a fairly short step to taking it out. It’s not a wonder-weapon.”

Cyprus bought the S-300 and eventually positioned it on the Greek island of Crete. Israel, which has close ties with Nicosia and Athens, may have tested its jets against that S-300′s capabilities during Mediterranean overflights, Hewson said.

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B’Tselem: Most fatalities in Pillar of Defense were civilians



Rights group says 167 Palestinians,  including 87  civilians,  killed in Gaza during Pillar of Defense. During second half of op, 70 civilians died. B’Tselem: ‘Civilians not given sufficient warning, IDF acted contrary to laws of war.’ IDF: ‘Oversight committee established. No justification for criminal investigation’


Most of the Palestinians killed during Operation Pillar of Defense were civilians not involved in fighting. This according to a report released by B’Tselem on Thursday, some six months after the operation.

According to the report, during the eight days of the operation, 167 Palestinians were killed, of whom 69 were “combatants” (with seven being assassinated);11 of those killed could not be identified as combatant or civilian.

The Israeli Defense Forces said in response that the majority of cases in which Palestinian civilians were killed during the operation were examined and justification for criminal investigation has not been found.

According to the human rights organization, 87 of those killed were civilians not involved in the fighting and the vast majority were killed in final four days of the operation.

According to the group, during the first half of the operation, 48 Palestinians were killed (17 of them non-combatants); the other 149 were killed in the second half of the operation (of these, the group cites 70 as non-combatants).

The effect on the civilian population was significantly lower during Pillar of Defense than during Operation Cast Lead four years earlier, but B’Tselem claims that research data undermines the view that has taken root among the Israeli public, which believes that a surgical operation can be run almost without harming civilians.

The report raises the suspicion that the IDF violated the rules of war by not providing civilians with effective warning prior to attacks, and by broadening the definition of legitimate targets for attack.

The report also mentioned four Israeli civilians killed by rockets fired by terrorist organizations from within the Gaza Strip during the period of the operation. Three were killed by a Grad rocket in Kiryat Malachi and another civilian was killed when struck by a mortar shell. Two members of the security forces were killed by a mortar shell as well.

In addition, the report mentions that during operation, seven people were shot to death on the streets of Gaza by a Palestinian crowd. Six had been convicted by the Hamas government of collaborating with Israel and the seventh had been indicted on the same charge, but the trial had not reached completion.

The IDF said in response, “Immediately after the operation, an IDF committee was established to examine the events, headed by Major General Noam Tivon. At the same time, the Military Advocate General began to examine events for violations by IDF soldiers during the operation.

“The examination process is ongoing, and included collecting information on incidents in which civilians were injured, yet apparently not involved in the fighting, even in cases in which no complaints were filed. Investigation into a small number of events remains to be completed, but in regard to those incidents examined so far, the Advocate General has not found that there is justification for criminal investigation,” the IDF statement continued.

It was further stated, “It should be noted that in regard to the events examined so far in which non-combatants were injured, it was mostly as collateral damage to military targets, or when civilians were mistakenly identified as terrorist operatives.”

“It should be emphasized that these injuries themselves do not indicate any violation of the laws of war, but do, unfortunately, reflect upon the activities of terrorist organizations sponsored by the civilian population.

“In terms of factual findings, the indication is that IDF forces involved in…Operation Pillar of Defense were, in general, very professional… They also placed significant emphasis on reducing collateral damage to non-combatants and civilian property,” it continued.

“This was accomplished by the implementation of ordered work processes in relation the targets of attack, checking relevant intelligence information, and implementing different precautions to reduce collateral resulting from the attack (including the type of weapons used, providing concrete warnings ahead of time whenever possible, and timing of attacks),” the IDF stated.

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May 1945: “Operation Sunrise”, Nazi Germany Surrenders, But… on May 7, 8, or 9?

Global Research

After the Casablanca Conference of January 1943, the Americans, British, and Soviets had agreed that there would be no separate negotiations with Nazi Germany with respect to its capitulation, and that the Germander surrender would have to be unconditional. In the early spring of 1945, Germany was as good as defeated and the Allies were getting ready to receive its capitulation. The expected unconditional German capitulation vis-à-vis all three Allies would have to be concluded somewhere, but where – on the Eastern Front, or on the Western Front?

If only for reasons of prestige, the Western Allies preferred that this would happen on the Western Front. Secret talks with the Germans, which the British and Americans were holding at that time (i.e. in March 1945) in neutral Switzerland, code-named Operation Sunrise, were useful in that context, not only with an eye on a German surrender in Italy, which had actually led to the talks, but also in view of the coming general and supposedly unconditional German capitulation, of which intriguing details – such as the venue of the ceremony – might possibly be determined in advance and without input from the the Soviets. There were many possibilities in this respect, because the Germans themselves kept approaching the Americans and the British in the hope of concluding a separate armistice with the Western powers or, if that would prove impossible, of steering as many Wehrmacht units as possible into American or British captivity by means of “individual” or “local” surrenders, i.e. surrenders of larger or smaller units of the German army in restricted areas of the front.

The Great War of 1914-1918 had ended with a clear and unequivocal armistice, namely in the form of an unconditional German surrender, which everybody knows went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The Second World War, on the other hand, was to grind to a halt, in Europe at least, amidst intrigue and confusion, so that even today there are many misconceptions regarding the time and place of the German capitulation. The Second World War was to end in the European theatre not with one, but with an entire string of German capitulations, with a veritable orgy of surrenders.

It started in Italy on April 29, 1945, with the capitulation of the combined German armies in southwestern Europe to the Allied forces led by Alexander, the British field marshal. Signatories on the German side included SS General Karl Wolff, who had conducted the negotiations with American secret agents in Switzerland about sensitive issues such as the neutralization of the kind of Italian anti-fascists for whom there was no room in the American-British post-war plans for their country. Stalin had expressed misgivings about the arrangement that was being worked out between the Western Allies and the Germans in Italy, but in the end he gave his blessing to this capitulation after all.

Many people in Great Britain firmly believe even today that the war against Germany ended with a German surrender in the headquarters of another British field marshal, namely Montgomery, on the Luneburg Heath in northern Germany. Yet this ceremony took place on May 4, 1945, that is, at least five days before the guns finally fell silent in Europe, and this capitulation applied only to German troops that had hitherto been battling Montgomery’s British-Canadian 21st Army Group in the Netherlands and in Northwest Germany. Just to be on the safe side, the Canadians actually accepted the capitulation of all German troops in Holland the next day, May 5, during a ceremony in the town of Wageningen, a town in the eastern Dutch province of Gelderland.[1] In America and also in Western Europe the event on the Luneburg Heath is rightly viewed as a strictly local capitulation, even though it is recognized that it served as a kind of prelude to the definitive German capitulation and resulting ceasefire. As far as the Americans, French, Belgians, and others are concerned, this definitive German surrender took place in the headquarters of General Eisenhower, the supreme commander of all Allied forces on the Western Front, in a shabby school building in the city of Reims on May 7, 1945, in the early morning. But this armistice was to go into effect only on the next day, May 8, and only at 11:01 p.m. It is for this reason that even now, commemoration ceremonies in the United States and in Western Europe take place on May 8.


However, even the important event in Reims was not the final surrender ceremony. With the permission of Hitler’s successor, Admiral Dönitz, German spokesmen had come knocking on Eisenhower’s door in order to try once again to conclude an armistice only with the Western Allies or, failing that, to try to rescue more Wehrmacht units from the clutches of the Soviets by means of local surrenders on the Western Front. Eisenhower was personally no longer willing to consent to further local surrenders, let alone a general German capitulation to the Western Allies only. But he appreciated the potential advantages that would accrue to the Western side if somehow the bulk of the Wehrmacht would end up in British-American rather than Soviet captivity. And he also realized that this was a unique opportunity to induce the desperate Germans to sign in his headquarters the general and unconditional capitulation in the form of a document that would conform to inter-Allied agreements; this detail would obviously do much to enhance the prestige of the United States.

In Reims it thus came to a byzantine scenario. First, from Paris an obscure Soviet liaison officer, Major General Ivan Susloparov, was brought over in order to save the appearance of the required Allied collegiality. Second, while it was made clear to the Germans that there could be no question of a separate capitulation on the Western Front, a concession was made to them in the form of an agreement that the armistice would only go into effect after a delay of forty-five hours. This was done to accommodate the new German leaders’ desire to give as many Wehrmacht units as possible a last chance to surrender to the Americans or the British. This interval gave the Germans the opportunity to transfer troops from the East, where heavy fighting continued unabatedly, to the West, where after the signing rituals in Luneburg and then Reims hardly any shots were being fired anymore. The Germans, whose delegation was headed by General Jodl, signed the capitulation document at Eisenhower’s headquarters on May 7 at 2:41 a.m.; but as mentioned earlier, the guns were to fall silent only on May 8 at 11:01 p.m. Local American commanders would cease to allow fleeing Germans to escape behind their lines only after the German capitulation actually went into effect. It can be argued, then, that the deal concluded in the Champagne city did not constitute a totally unconditional capitulation.[2]

The document signed in Reims ( see image left) gave the Americans precisely what they wanted, namely, the prestige of a general German surrender on the Western Front in Eisenhower’s headquarters. The Germans also achieved the best they could hope for, since their dream of a capitulation to the Western Allies alone appeared to be out of the question: a “postponement of execution,” so to speak, of almost two days. During this time, the fighting continued virtually only on the Eastern Front, and countless German soldiers took advantage of this opportunity to disappear behind the British-American lines.[3]

However, the text of the surrender in Reims did not conform entirely to the wording of a general German capitulation agreed upon previously by the Americans and the British as well as the Soviets. It was also questionable whether the representative of the USSR, Susloparov, was really qualified to co-sign the document. Furthermore, it is understandable that the Soviets were far from pleased that the Germans were afforded the possibility to continue to battle the Red Army for almost two more days while on the Western Front the fighting had virtually come to an end. The impression was thus created that what had been signed in Reims was in fact a German surrender on the Western Front only, an arrangement that violated the inter-Allied agreements. In order to clear the air, it was decided to organize an ultimate capitulation ceremony, so that the German surrender in Reims retroactively revealed itself as a sort of prelude to the final surrender and/or as a purely military surrender, even though the Americans and the Western Europeans would continue to commemorate it as the true end to the war in Europe.[4]

General Keitel signs Germany’s unconditional surrender in Berlin (right)

It was in Berlin, in the headquarters of Marshal Zhukov, that the final and general, political as well as military, German capitulation was signed on May 8, 1945 or, put differently, that the German capitulation of the day before in Reims was properly ratified by all the Allies. The signatories for Germany, acting on the instructions of Admiral Dönitz, were the generals Keitel, von Friedeburg (who had also been present in Reims) and Stumpf. Since Zhukov had a lower military rank than Eisenhower, the latter had a perfect excuse for not attending the ceremony in the rubble of the German capital. He sent his rather low-profile British deputy, Marshal Tedder, to sign, and this of course took some luster away from the ceremony in Berlin in favour of the one in Reims.[5]

As far as the Soviets and the majority of Eastern Europeans were concerned, the Second World War in Europe ended with the ceremony in Berlin on May 8, 1945, which resulted in the arms being laid down the next day, on May 9. For the Americans, and for most Western Europeans, “the real thing” was and remains the surrender in Reims, signed on May 7 and effective on May 8. While the former always commemorate the end of the war on May 9, the latter invariably do so on May 8. (But the Dutch celebrate on May 5.) That one of the greatest dramas of world history could have such a confusing and unworthy end in Europe was a consequence, as Gabriel Kolko writes, of the way in which the Americans and the British sought to achieve all sorts of big and small advantages for themselves – to the disadvantage of the Soviets – from the inevitable German capitulation.[6]

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Obama Makes Black Liberation Speech an Act of Terrorism


Black Panther activist and aunt of 2pac Shakur, Assata Shakur on most wanted terrorists list


by Margaret Kimberley

Global Research

The announcement that the FBI added Assata Shakur to the list of most wanted terrorists was initially mystifying, a real life example of the shock doctrine. Shakur has been a fugitive ever since 1979 and was granted asylum by Cuba in 1984. It seemed inexplicable that the government would reinitiate searching for a 65-year old woman who had already been at large for more than thirty years. Yet the FBI made a grand show of the announcement, complete with a black agent at the podium and a phalanx of New Jersey state troopers. Not only was Shaukur added to the most wanted terrorist list but the government added $1 million to the $1 million bounty already in place.

Because of Barack Obama, Assata Shakur now faces the possibility of being kidnapped or murdered by the United States government. She may be held indefinitely without being charged or tried. Not only is she in danger, but because of Obama anyone who does as little as publicly defend her may potentially face the same fate.

It is the terrorist label which puts her and her supporters at greatest risk. The Patriot Act made giving “material support to terror” a federal offense which not only is punished very harshly, but is so amorphous as to mean anything the government chooses it to mean. In the Supreme Court decision which began the material support onslaught, a group attempting to teach peaceful activism was found nonetheless guilty because they had contact with the group designated as terrorist. The justices ruled that their intentions were of no consequence.

The only people safe in speaking of or contacting Shakur are those who mean her harm, and a bounty of $2 million will increase the number of persons who fall into that category. Not only is it important to resist the government and defend Shakur but also to name the villain in this story and that person is none other than Barack Obama.

One cannot be separated from the other. It is sad to see the continued effort to excuse Obama’s crimes and let him off the hook on so many occasions, but in the case of Assata Shakur the disingenuousness is particularly dangerous. Barack Obama has made manifest his predecessor’s desire to create a truly fascist machinery in this country. He resurrected the all but dead espionage act to prosecute whistle blowers and at a rate unknown under previous administrations. George W. Bush claimed the right to imprison anyone he wanted but Obama claims the right to kill anyone he wants.

On a recent broadcast of Democracy Now Angela Davis and attorney Lennox Hinds spoke quite eloquently about Shakur’s plight yet neither of them managed to mention the words Barack or Obama. The omission made the rest of their words meaningless. The justice department is Obama’s justice department. The FBI is his FBI and any and all of its decisions must get the green light straight from the president. If Assata Shakur or anyone else is labeled a terrorist by the United States government it is with Barack Obama’s express permission.

Assata Shakur could well end up dead at Obama’s hands like Anwar al-Awlakki and his sixteen year old son. Cuba may be attacked on the pretext of capturing Shakur. No president since John F. Kennedy has attempted an actual military assault on Cuban soil. Obama is known for his ability to go where other presidents have dared not. He killed Gaddafi and overthrew the Libyan government. Why wouldn’t he try the same with Cuba?

The significance of the renewed attack on Assata Shakur is not just of international significance. Obama is making a point about black America and those few who still dare to speak out against their nation’s domestic and international policy. Immediately after announcing the increased bounty and terrorist designation the FBI posted billboard sized wanted posters in Newark, New Jersey.

It seems a strange thing to do when Shakur is living thousands of miles away in Cuba. Of course the billboards are not meant to capture Shakur but to send a not so subtle message about the state of black liberation. Simply put, there won’t be any talk of black liberation. The Shakurs of the world who weren’t imprisoned, killed off by Cointelpro or bought off, have to be destroyed once and for all and any memory of them must be disappeared as well.

Assata Shakur will be used as a lesson to everyone else who didn’t get the memo. Obama’s election meant that any and all discussion of a black agenda will not only be ignored but will be consciously destroyed.

Time will tell if Cuba can withstand fifty years of attack from the United States and defend Assata Shakur and its right under international law to grant her asylum. The nearly forgotten Shakur has brought to our attention the imperial designs of America towards the rest of the world and why the people who have that power chose Barack Obama as their president.

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Britain lays out plan for arming Syrian rebels amid fears of ‘likely’ chemical weapons attack


Exclusive: Britain has proposed “fully exempting” Syria’s National Coalition from a European Union arms embargo allowing rebels to be armed in order to protect Syrian civilians from a “likely” chemical weapons attack.

A confidential paper, seen by The Daily Telegraph, sets out the case for two “options” allowing Britain and France to start supplying arms to the official Syrian opposition as early as June.

“The situation in Syria is deteriorating sharply. With the likely use of chemical weapons and the growth of extremism, the conflict has entered an even more dangerous phase,” the paper argues.

“We must consider all the options, [including] the ability to give further assistance to the moderate Syrian opposition. It will also protect civilians, and save lives. Crucially, it will ensure we can respond flexibly to a major escalation in the conflict, such as chemical weapons attacks.”

The proposal will be discussed by foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on 27 May where it will run into opposition led by Germany which also has the backing of Baroness Ashton and her EU diplomatic service.

UK diplomats have stressed that while Britain supports lifting the embargo, no decision has yet been taken to arm the rebels in London.



On Wednesday, David Cameron said he would discuss the Syria situation with Vladimir Putin in Russia on Friday.

“There’s an urgent need to start a proper negotiation to force a political transition and to bring this conflict to an end, and I will be flying to Sochi on Friday to meet with President Putin to discuss this issue further,” Mr Cameron told the House of Commons.

The first option in the British policy paper, clearly the preferred choice of the Government, is to “fully exempt the National Coalition from the arms embargo”.

“The embargo on Syria was created in order to prevent the Assad regime from brutalising its own people,” the paper said.

“There is a strong argument that the embargo should not apply to the National Coalition, which has not been responsible for the systematic and oppressive violence against civilians perpetrated by the regime. This approach is consistent with the approach member states have adopted thus far with regards to financial and trade sanctions.”

The second option tabled by Britain is for the EU to “remove ‘non-lethal’ language to allow lethal equipment to be supplied to the Coalition”.

“This would allow lethal equipment also to be provided, but no other changes would be made. Specifically, lethal equipment would still have to be ‘intended for the protection of civilians’,” the paper said.

“This would allow the EU to send a clear message to Assad that all options are on the table, thereby increasing the pressure on him to come to the negotiating table.”

In order to overcome German and wider EU fears that arms meant for the moderate Syrian opposition would end up in the hands of extremists, the British proposal suggests “safeguards” to ensure the National Coalition keeps control of military aid.

“Clearly we must ensure the National Coalition makes good on its commitments. If the EU were to amend the arms embargo, we would need to rigorously assess, monitor and review how any equipment was used in consultation with the National Coalition,” the paper said.

“We are clear that we want to ensure any equipment provided is used only by those for whom it is intended, and is used for the right reason: protecting civilians. We are also clear that international law must be rigorously applied.”

Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Italy seeking to build on fresh momentum to halt the carnage in Syria, holding whirlwind talks with top Italian, Israeli and Jordanian officials.

During marathon meetings in Moscow lasting into the early hours of Wednesday, Mr Kerry agreed with Russian leaders to convene a new international conference to try to find a way to end the 26-month Syrian conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mr Kerry said they hoped they could convene an international conference by the end of May to build on the Geneva accord agreed by world powers last June for a peaceful solution in Syria.

In Rome, as well as meeting with members of the new Italian government led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, Kerry will have talks with Israel’s chief negotiator on Middle East peace, Tzipi Livni, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

The Geneva agreement, which bogged down almost as soon as it was signed, set out a path toward a transitional government without ever spelling out the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Labour plots ‘Bridget Jones tax’: Party accused of demanding an end to council tax discounts for singletons

  • Local Government Association calls for power to end 25% discount
  • More than seven million singletons are thought to benefit from it
  • It costs local authorities around the country £2.7billion a year


Labour has been accused of plotting a ‘Bridget Jones tax’ on singletons as its local authorities demand an end to council tax discounts for those living alone.

In a formal submission to ministers, the Local Government Association is calling for the power to end the 25 per cent discount offered in recognition of the fact single people place fewer demands on local services.

More than seven million are thought to benefit from the discount, at a cost of around £2.7billion a year.

Singleton: Renee Zellwegger as Bridget Jones in the 2001 film Bridget Jones DiarySingleton targeted for tax: Renee Zellwegger as Bridget Jones in the 2001 film Bridget Jones Diary

But if town halls get their way a single person living in a typical Band D property would see their council tax bill rise from £1,083 to £1,444 – an increase of £361 a year, or £30 a month.

Councils are also demanding the removal of a rule that forces them to hold a referendum if they want to increase council tax. They said town halls should be free to raise council tax by as much as they like.

The LGA is an umbrella group representing hundreds of councils of different political persuasions.

But sources claim the campaign to end the discount is being driven by Labour authorities including Liverpool, Sheffield, Islington and Exeter.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: ‘There is clearly a well-orchestrated campaign being pushed forward by Labour councillors to target the most vulnerable.

‘This is a Bridget Jones tax and shows how out of touch Labour are.’

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has criticised the LGA's proposal as a 'Bridget Jones' taxEric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has criticised the LGA’s proposal as a ‘Bridget Jones’ tax

In its submission, the LGA calls for councils to be given the ‘full and unconstrained ability to vary locally all council tax discounts, including the single person’s discount’.

Councils argue the power is needed to help them deal with a 10 per cent cut in funding for discounts this year.

Local authorities are also angry at legislation forcing them to hold a local referendum if they want to increase council tax by more than 2 per cent a year. The rule was introduced following a free-for-all during Labour’s years in power when council tax bills doubled.

No council has yet dared to stage a referendum, although a number raised council tax by 1.99 per cent this year.

Ministers have provided funding for a council tax freeze for three years running, equivalent to a 9.7 per cent cut in real terms for bill payers.

But more than 30 per cent of councils chose to increase their bills this year, arguing the Government could not guarantee long-term funding.

The LGA said town halls should be given ‘flexibility around income generation, including council tax’.

A Government source said there is no prospect of the referendum rule being lifted.

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Controversy over Pak-Indian Prisoners

By Sajjad Shaukat

Recently, controversy arose between Pakistan and India over a Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Haq who received head injuries, as he was badly beaten by a fellow inmate in an Indian jail in the Indian occupied Kashmir in an apparent revenge for an assault on Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh who was in a Pakistani jail in Lahore, and was attacked by his fellow prisoner. Sarabjit expired due to serious injuries.

However, Pakistan’s Foreign Office summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner and launched a strong protest against assault on Sanaullah Haq.

Pakistani government not only provided best medical treatment to Srabajit, but also suspended the superintendent of the jail, while ordering an investigation into the incident.

As the attack on Sanaullah Haq came a day after the death of Sarabjit Singh, which shows that it was conducted deliberately by an ex-Indian army man who was supported by the Indian concerned officials.

While, Pakistan’s top officials and members of the civil society strongly condemned attack on Indian prisoner, Sarabjit and expressed sorrow on his death. But, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned Sarabjit incident, calling it ‘barbaric and murderous attack, but remained silence over Sanaullah. It is another display of New Delhi’s selective morality which Indian rulers employ, while dealing with Islamabad.

Sarabjit Singh was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for spying and deadly bombings which killed 14 innocent people in Pakistan’s cities of Faisalabad, Multan and Lahore in 1990. But Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari commuted his death sentence into life imprisonment on June 26, 2012.

Last year, Pakistani government released Indian spy, Surjeet Singh who was handed over to the Indian authorities. He was given death sentence in 1991. But President Asif Ali Zardari commuted his death sentence into life imprisonment.

Surjeet openly admitted that he was in Pakistan to spy when he was arrested in 1982. In this regard, he disclosed before Indian reporters that he was sent to Pakistan by Indian secret agency RAW for espionage purposes.

Quite opposite to the admission of Surjeet, on June 29, 2012, Indian Home Secretary RK Singh told a news conference in New Delhi, saying, “We do not accept this that Singh was Indian spy…it is completely wrong.” However, it shows Indian illogical approach as New Delhi denies facts in order to conceal the presence of other Indian spies in Pakistan.

Surjeet Singh also revealed, “Sarabjit Singh is a terrorist and terrorists are not released.” On the other side, Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna stated on June 25, 2012 that it was now “time for Sarabjit Singh to be freed.” Like Indian home secretary, even external affairs minister defended the Indian agent. It indicates that Indian high officials are deliberately and officially supporting RAW agents to destabilise Pakistan.

Besides, Indian spy also pointed out, “All Indian prisoners are treated well in Pakistani jails. Sarabjit Singh is also doing well there…I was treated well by prison officials and I am thankful to them.”

While India has arrested hundreds of Pakistan’s citizens, often accusing them of being spies after they have strayed across the land or maritime border due to unconscious mistake. It also includes some tourists who went to India. Quite contrary to the well-treatment of Indian spies in Pakistani jails, RAW and other security agencies employ various techniques of torture on the so-called Pakistan’s suspected persons. Most of the Pakistani nationals have also been killed in Indian jails, while a majority of them have been killed by Indian security agencies in fake encounters.

Nevertheless, both Surjeet Singh and Sarabjit Singh were responsible for the string of blasts in various cities of Pakistan in which several innocent persons were killed. They were also behind other terror-activities in Pakistan.

On June 28, 2012, BBC reported, “in recent years, several Indians returning from Pakistani jails have admitted to spying for Indian intelligence agency RAW” and some have criticised India’s government for abandoning them.”

It is mentionable that in April 2011, Gopal Das, one of Pakistan’s longest-serving Indian prisoners, was released after President Asif Ali Zardari intervened in his case.

Upon his release, Das also acknowledged that he was an Indian spy. Similarly, Kashmir Singh, sentenced to death in Pakistan in 1973 for spying, was released in March 2008. Afterwards, he also confessed that he was spying for RAW.

The fact of the matter is that admission of the Indian spies indicates that with the tactical assistance of American CIA and Israeli Mossad, RAW has set up its espionage network in Afghanistan, which is in contact with its spy-network in Pakistan.

In this context, India’s several secret training camps are present in Afghanistan from where highly-trained militants, equipped with sophisticated weapons are being sent to Pakistan’s various places to conduct suicide attacks, target killings, bomb blasts, assaults on civil and military installations, forced abductions and sectarian violence regularly.

Indian RAW, CIA and Mossad have also been supporting the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and another separatist group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) which have been committing various subversive acts in the province of Balochistan. The main aim behind to fulfill secret strategic designs of US, India and Israel.

Some Indian Muslims and foreign insurgents who are particularly backed by RAW have joined the ranks and files of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Sipah-e-Sahaba, BLA and other religious sects. They have also got the membership of MQM, ANP and PPP. Besides killing the leaders and persons of the rival religious parties, and attacking the offices of the political parties so as to sabotage the forthcoming elections, these miscreants also target the Pushtuns, Urdu-speaking people and even the people, belonging to the interior Sindh with the main aim to weaken Pakistan.

Nonetheless, by showing lethargy approach towards Sanaullah Haq, Indian government is making Sarabjit episode as another excuse to put the Pak-Indian peace process on the back-burner. New Delhi has always used some pretext to delay the solution of various issues, especially the Kashmir dispute.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir, Sri LankaComments Off on Controversy over Pak-Indian Prisoners

Obama, IsraHell and the new phase of the war on Syria


US-Israeli military escalation points toward wider intervention

Israeli air strikes on May 5 near Damascus

Liberation Radio interview
with Richard Becker

Speaking shortly before Israeli airstrikes on Syria and revelations by a UN commission that the Syrian opposition may have used sarin gas, Richard Becker spoke to Liberation Radio on U.S. strategy in Syria and the political motives behind unsubstantiated allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the conflict.

Listen now

The massive Israeli air strikes on May 5 near Damascus mark a new phase in the imperialist-led campaign to overthrow the Syrian government. Huge bombs lit the early morning sky and shook the ground in the country’s capital. Secondary explosions continued for four hours afterwards. It was the third Israeli bombing attack this year, the second in two days, and by far the largest thus far.

Later the same day, a U.N. commission revealed “strong, concrete suspicions” that the opposition military forces—and not the government—were responsible for the use of sarin nerve gas in Syria. The commission directly contradicted U.S. and British allegations, which the Syrian government has always denied.

Israel’s attack was in “closest coordination” with the Obama administration, according to a White House spokesperson. It is the latest act in a long history of Israel acting as an extension of U.S. military power, carrying out missions that Washington finds “inconvenient” to perform itself at a given time.

The latest raids and the fact that no Israeli planes were reported shot down could be a factor leading to a major air war.

Senator John McCain, an especially rabid supporter of a new U.S. war in Syria, responded by saying that “the Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it [Syrian air defenses] fairly easily.” He called for the U.S. to destroy Syrian air defenses “with cruise missiles; cratering their runways, where all of these supplies, by the way, from Iran and Russia are coming in by air.”

McCain is also a leading advocate of a “no-fly zone” (“no-fly” for Syrian aircraft only, that is) over large parts of the country, which could only be accomplished by first destroying Syria’s air forces and defenses. This initiative is clearly advancing in Washington.

Syrian government and opposition responses to Israeli raids

The Syrian government called the Israeli attacks, “acts of war” and “flagrant violations of international law,” and stated that they confirmed the complicity of the U.S. and Israel governments with the armed opposition.

On the other side, the New York Times (May 5, 2013) reported: “The rebels’ Damascus Military Council quickly sought to capitalize on the blasts. The council issued a statement calling on all fighters in the area to work together, put aside rivalries and mount focused attacks on government forces that have so far kept a solid hold on the capital.”

The National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, considered the main umbrella group, blamed the Syrian government itself for the attacks in a convoluted statement, which read:

“Israel’s actions, including the pre-emptive attacks to weaken Syrian defenses, demonstrate a fear of losing the years of peace that the Assad regime provided for Israel.”

According to this matchless “reasoning,” Israel carried out the bombing to weaken Syria and the Assad government out of fear of losing the Assad government.

The illogic of the National Coalition’s statement stems from its fundamental dishonesty. Due to the deep hostility among the Syrian population toward the racist and militarist Israeli state, the National Coalition leaders must conceal their real attitude toward the attacks.

How Israel factors into US considerations

While the corporate media portrayed the latest strikes as being aimed at preventing Iranian missiles from reaching the Lebanese resistance organization Hezbollah, the fact that there were multiple explosions at numerous locations, points toward wider strategic objectives.

If Syria retaliates for this latest in series of Israeli air raids, Israel could then act to destroy the Syria air force, a goal openly discussed in Washington in recent days. Thanks in large part to hundreds of billions in U.S. assistance Israel is the leading military power in the region—apart from the U.S. government itself—and has air superiority over other countries in the region.

If, on the other hand, Syria does not respond to the attacks, the government could be made to appear weak, unable to defend the country.

Escalation as opposition suffers setbacks

The upheaval in Syria has been fueled by a wide range of grievances, some legitimate, some reactionary. But the armed rebellion today is inextricably bound to imperialism and the most reactionary regimes in the Arab world.

The escalation of imperialist intervention in the Syrian war is being accelerated now due to losses suffered by the splintered opposition forces in recent weeks. And it’s not as if the “Free Syrian Army,” the “Supreme Military Command,” the “National Coalition of Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces,” the “Jabhat al-Nusra,” and other opposition groups have not already been receiving massive support from the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and more.

The U.S. and its allies have been funneling vast quantities of arms, money and supplies to the opposition, and training thousands of anti-government fighters in Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere. Harsh economic sanctions have been imposed Syria.

Outside support has sustained the opposition, but not brought it closer to victory. Thus the repeated and urgent appeals by opposition leaders for an imperialist air war against their own country.

Just as in case of Libya, some on the left here, even some who call themselves “socialist,” have taken the absurdly contradictory position of supporting the “revolution” in Syria, while opposing the “foreign intervention” that the leaders of the “revolution” are demanding, and without which they cannot hope to win.

The upheaval in Syria that began more than two years ago was fueled by a wide range of grievances, some legitimate, some reactionary. But the armed rebellion inside the country today is inextricably bound to imperialism and the most reactionary regimes in the Arab world.

The Israeli air strikes follow a week of escalating war rhetoric from the White House and Congress. Now is the time for the anti-war movement, the people’s movement and all those who stand for justice to reject the war propaganda emanating from Washington, and stand together to say: “No New War Against Syria—U.S. Out of the Middle East!”


Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Obama, IsraHell and the new phase of the war on Syria

International peace conference in Turkey says ‘No!’ to war against Syria


Rally in border town Antakya attended by tens of thousands

Anti-war rally in Antakya, bordering on Syria. The TKP banner reads: ‘The communists salute the people’s struggle for peace.’

An international peace conference on the Syrian crisis, organized by the Peace Association of Turkey and the World Peace Council, with participants from 23 countries, took place in Istanbul and Antakya April 25-28.

Speakers attributed the ongoing crisis in Syria to U.S.-led imperialism and its regional allies in Europe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The conference rejected NATO or other foreign military intervention against Syria.

Attended by tens of thousands, the event showed that the people of Turkey have deep solidarity with the Syrian people and oppose the interventionist policies of Turkey’s ruling AKP [Justice and Development Party].

Tammam Azzam, representing the Syrian National Peace Council, said, “The reason for this international terrorism against my country is because Syria did not kneel down, and we will not kneel down.”

Explaining why the Peace Association of Turkey is now focusing on Syria, spokesperson Aydemir Güler said: “At the moment, Syria is a junction point for world politics. … Nobody can claim that a so-called minority would have managed to stay in power for two years simply oppressing the masses struggling against it. On the contrary, if the majority of the Syrian people had not resisted the foreign intervention and the terrorist acts of the reactionary armed gangs, Damascus would have shared the fate of other regimes and collapsed.”

Güler continued: “It is difficult to define what is happening in Syria as civil war. On one side, there is the U.S., NATO, Qatar, Turkey, Israel and the like. What kind of a civil war is it when the opposition conducts terrorist attacks on rallies, on market places, university campuses and public buildings? We do not observe that the assailants are acting with a part of the public. Syria is under an international siege. The right to self-determination of the Syrian people is being hijacked. And our AKP government is responsible for a large part of this crime.”

One of the conference attendants was Ukrainian reporter Anhar Kochneva, who had been kidnapped by the armed opposition gangs in Syria. Kochneva managed to escape after being held hostage for 25 days.

The conference concluded with a rally and concert on April 28 in Antakya, a town bordering with Syria. Quickly filling the rallying area, local residents waved Syrian flags to display their solidarity.

Speaking to the large crowd, Aydemir Güler said: “The most beautiful thing in the world is peace. Unfortunately, today the people who rule this country cannot utter these words. Today, the rulers are telling the children of this country, ‘Go to war.’ We will not let this happen.”

Speaking on behalf of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), Central Committe member Erkan Baş said: “Thanks to the struggle of the people of Antakya who are on the side of peace, Turkey will not simply be remembered as a country that has collaborated with the imperialists to destroy its neighbors. We have a comprador [imperialist-aligned] government taking its dictates from the U.S. In total contrast to that, the peoples of Turkey are extremely dignified with a solid anti-imperialist stance that wants peace. We are cognizant of our power. We know we can change everything if we stand together.”

Referring to the AKP government, Baş added: “We know they have money, we know they are backed by the U.S. government, the bosses and the reactionary gangs, but we have our organized power. … Today, it is them who should be trembling with fear. One way or the other, we will topple their rule. I salute the heroic people of Syria!”

Speaking for the Socialist Nusayris Group, Ali Alvanoğlu said: “Starting with the people of Syria, I am saluting all the peoples of the Middle East and the world who have resisted the occupation and oppression, who have for more than two years stood up against the imperialist and Zionist blockade, plunder, destruction and slaughter, and who have thrown a wrench into the dirty and bloody plans of imperialism.”

Nusayri is another term for Arab Alevi, a Shiite sect. Including other sects such as Turkish and Kurdish Alevis that are distinct from other Shiite sects in the regions, Alevis make up 25 percent of Turkey’s population.

Alvanoğlu continued: “We have disrupted their plans in Cuba and in Vietnam before, and today we will do it again in Syria, in Turkey.”

The crowd responded by shouting, “AKP, get your hands off Syria!” and “Long live the brotherhood of the people!”

The conference and rally vowed to turn the mass anti-war and anti-imperialist sentiment into a powerful movement to oppose the AKP’s efforts to overthrow the sovereign Syrian government. It is widely understood that these belligerent policies could have profound and dangerous implications for the peoples of Turkey, Syria and the entire region.


Posted in SyriaComments Off on International peace conference in Turkey says ‘No!’ to war against Syria

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