The author Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times Weekly, has extensively reported on North Africa and the Gulf States.
Move comes after state of emergency declared at two nuclear facilities
- U.S. Air Force delivers coolant to stricken nuclear plant
- Cooling system failed at Fukushima No. 1 plant after quake
- Fire reported at Onagawa nuclear facility
The United States has transported coolant to a Japanese nuclear plant hit by the massive Friday earthquake, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
“We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear plants,” Clinton said at a meeting of the President’s Export Council.
- Live Blog: Latest updates on aftermath of Japan quake
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- The 10 deadliest earthquakes in history
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- Tourists urged to avoid travel to Japan after quake
- US airlifts coolant to stricken Japan nuke plant
- World Blog: Latest posts on Japan’s quake disaster
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- Massive earthquake hits Japan
“Japan is very reliant on nuclear power and they have very high engineering standards but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake and didn’t have enough coolant,” Clinton said.
The move came after Japanese authorities evacuated thousands of residents from an area around the Fukushima reactor after damage caused by the powerful 8.9 quake that hit the Pacific Rim nation raised fears of a radiation leak. Officials, however, said there was no sign of leakage at present.
Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the order applied to about 3,000 people and followed a government emergency declaration at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant northeast of Tokyo after its cooling system failed after the quake.
Work has begun on restoring the reactor’s cooling function, the Jiji news agency quoted the Trade Ministry as saying, while the Kyodo news agency quoted a Fukushima prefecture official as saying that water levels at the reactor were not at critical levels.
The plant, which is owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and is located in Onahama city, about 170 miles northeast of Tokyo, experienced a mechanical failure in the backup power generation system to supply water needed to cool the reactor. Nuclear reactor cores normally remain hot even after a shutdown.
Tomoko Murakami, leader of the nuclear energy group at Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics, said there did not appear to be an imminent danger of a radiation leak.
“Even if fuel rods are exposed, it does not mean they would start melting right away,” she said.
“Even if fuel rods melt and the pressure inside the reactor builds up, radiation would not leak as long as the reactor container functions well.”
But Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned that the situation could turn grave.
Strongest quakes since 1900
These figures do not include the March 11, 2011, quake off eastern Japan, which at magnitude 8.9 makes it the fifth strongest in 110 years of records.
1: Chile, May 22, 1960, magnitude 9.5
2: Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 28, 1964, magnitude 9.2
3: Offshore Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 26, 2004, magnitude 9.1
4: Kamchatka, Russia, Nov. 4, 1952, magnitude 9.0
5: Offshore Chile, Feb. 27, 2010, magnitude 8.8
6: Offshore Ecuador, Jan. 31, 1906, magnitude 8.8
7: Rat Islands, Alaska, Feb. 4, 1965, magnitude 8.7
8: Sumatra, Indonesia, March 28, 2005, magnitude 8.7
9: Tibet, Aug. 15, 1950, magnitude 8.6
10: Andreanof Islands, Alaska, March 9, 1957, magnitude 8.6
Source: United States Geological Survey
“This is no laughing matter,” he said, referring to unconfirmed reports that one or more of the emergency diesel generators for the cooling system were not working.
He said there was serious concern in Japan whether the cooling of the core and removal of residual heat could be assured.
“If that does not happen, if heat is not removed, there is a definite danger of a core melt … fuel will overheat, become damaged and melt down.”
TEPCO confirmed that water levels inside the reactors at the Fukushima plant were falling but it was working to maintain water levels to avert the exposure of nuclear fuel rods.
The company has been trying to restore power to its emergency power system so that it could add water inside the reactors, a TEPCO spokesman said.
“There is a falling trend (in water levels) but we have not confirmed an exposure of nuclear fuel rods,” a TEPCO spokesman said.
The four Japanese nuclear power plants closest to the epicenter of the quake were safely shut down, the United Nations atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Friday. Eleven nuclear reactors were automatically shut down in the quake-affected area, the government said.
In a statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: “Parts of nuclear plants were automatically shut down but we haven’t confirmed any effects induced by radioactive materials outside the facilities.”
The quake struck just under 250 miles northeast of Tokyo, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks, one as strong as 7.1.
Reactors shut down due to the earthquake account for 18 percent of Japan’s nuclear power generating capacity.
Japan’s nuclear power sector produces about 30 percent of the country’s electricity and has been rocked periodically over the past decade by safety concerns. Many reactors are located in earthquake-prone zones such as northeastern Fukushima prefecture and Fukui prefecture on the Japanese coast.
Zaporizhzhya is one of Ukraine’s main industrial cities: It is built on the East bank of the majestic Dnieper river – where the mainly-Ukrainian speaking, more agricultural West gives way to the mainly-Russian speaking, more industrial East.
At first sight it is just another sprawling former Soviet city. Its huge chimneys silhouetted against the winter sky, belching out white smoke.
But it has a special place in Ukraine’s history and also in the annals of the Soviet Union.
Hundreds of years ago this was a strategic site. Cossack raiders based on Khortytsa Island took advantage of the impassable rapids to plunder goods passing through.
The raiders are seen by many as the founders of the Ukrainian nation.
In Soviet times a huge hydroelectric dam was built here, and vast steelworks grew up to take advantage of the nearby iron ore deposits.
A car plant followed and the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle – the “humpback” Zaporozhets – was built here.
For many Soviet citizens the Zaporozhets was their first car.
As a consequence the people here feel close ties to Russia, as well as a certain independence of spirit.
Their market – as much as there was a market in the Soviet Union – was largely in what is now Russia. They speak Russian, and many have relatives on the other side of the border.
The people of Zaporizhzhya were wary of the Orange Revolution of 2004 that peacefully brought Ukrainian nationalists to power.
In the years that followed, the government – trying to build a new nation – put great emphasis on the Ukrainian language, and there were numerous rows with Russia.
This heightened suspicions among the people of Zaporizhzhya and increasing corruption led to a sense of disillusion.
“The most serious disappointment in the Orange Revolution was because they never delivered on their principle promise – to defeat corruption,” says Zaporizhzhya’s mayor, Olexander Sin.
“People also got fed up with the constant in-fighting in the leadership.”
The city’s steelworks are still operating.
One of the plants, DeneproSpetzStal, was once a secret manufacturer for the Soviet defence industry but now exports its specialist alloys around the world to oil and aerospace companies.
It is a thriving, forward-looking business taking advantage of Ukraine’s new place in the world.
But workers there explained that the previous government’s moves to make the Ukrainian language compulsory, and to join the European Union were unpopular in the city.
“The language doesn’t matter”, one metallurgist said, “as long as we understand each other.”
Ukrainian and Russian are very similar languages.
“We don’t have to join the European Union”, his colleague added, “I think Ukraine can develop on its own.”
Space for fringe politics
They are not much happier with the new government of Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine has slipped into the bottom third of the world’s most corrupt countries.
The danger is that as people get disillusioned with the mainstream they could drift to the fringes.
The local Communist Party built a statue to Stalin last year, which was promptly blown up by far right activists.
Of course Zaporizhzhya cannot be seen to represent all of Ukraine, but the views of people here mirror those of a sizeable proportion of the population.
They are disillusioned with politicians who have spent the last few years trying to build a Ukrainian identity which ignores the close ties that much of the country feels with Russia.
It is not that they want to become part of Russia. It is just that they do not want to rush into alliances with the European Union and NATO either.
Source: BBC News
Dirar Abu Sisi’s sister claims that Mossad abducted him without reason.
“This kidnapping violates international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty. It is further proof of the contempt of the (Israeli) occupation for the international community,” spokesman Sami Abu Zohi told AFP.
Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, demanded the immediate release of Dirar Abu Sisi, 42, and called on the Ukraine to “take responsibility for a crime committed in its territory”.
The Israeli justice system has imposed a gag order on information connected to the disappearance of Abu Sisi, an alleged Hamas member and director of a power station in Gaza.
A court in Petah Tikva upheld a ban on publishing any information from Israel about the mysterious disappearance of Abu Sisi on February 19.
The tribunal rejected an appeal to remove the gag order by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, but permitted publication of information already circulated abroad.
On Thursday, the Ukranian interior ministry said it had received a request from Abu Sisi’s wife “to establish the whereabouts of her husband who disappeared in unknown circumstances,” spokesman Sergiy Burlakov said.
He told AFP that Abu Sisi was reported to have disappeared on a train between Kiev and the northern city of Kharkiv and that his wife said he could be in Israel.
The engineer’s sister, Sozan, told AFP her brother had “traveled to Ukraine to obtain Ukranian nationality” and accused Mossad of abducting him without reason.
He is being held at Shikma prison in Ashkelon, according to a Ukranian delegate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees cited by Israeli media.
The Israeli press has said Ukranian security services may have collaborated in the kidnapping.
PTI | 03:03 PM,Mar 11,2011
Rezaul H Laskar Islamabad, Mar 11 (PTI) A trust with close links to the Pakistan Army is recruiting hundreds of former soldiers to serve in the Bahrain National Guard at a time when the Arab nation is experiencing widespread protests against its ruling family, a media report said.Advertisements in an Urdu daily and on the website of the Overseas Employment Services of Fauji Foundation stated that the Bahrain National Guard immediately requires people with experience and qualifications as anti-riot instructors and security guards.An official of Fauji Foundation said there were 800 vacancies and 6,000 to 7,000 applications had been received while another official at the OES said there were 200 to 300 vacancies and a number of people had been selected, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.Media reports have quoted Bahraini opposition activists as saying that up to half of Bahrain’s approximately 20,000-strong national security apparatus is made up of Sunnis from Pakistan, Jordan and Yemen.Pakistanis serving in Bahrain’s security forces were reportedly involved in a crackdown on protestors in Manama in February in which seven people were killed and hundreds injured. Some injured protestors told the media that the police who beat them up spoke Urdu.The Fauji Foundation, set up in 1954, serves as a trust for ex-servicemen and their families. It is believed to be among the largest industrial conglomerates in Pakistan.The advertisement stated that a Bahrain National Guard is visiting Pakistan during March 7-14 to recruit people from the following categories: officers (majors), Pakistan Military Academy drill instructors, anti-riot instructors, security guards, military police, cooks and mess waiters.Civilians are required as security guards while the other categories require experience in the military or security forces.The requirement for anti-riot instructors was for non- commissioned officers from the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers or officers of an equivalent rank from the Elite Police Force.The OES official said Bahrain’s army had recently recruited former Pakistani soldiers. In December, the OES advertised positions for retired Pakistan Army doctors to serve in the King�s Guard.Maryam al-Khawaja, head of the foreign relations office at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said most of the Pakistanis serving in Bahrain’s anti-riot police are Baloch.Recruiting security personnel from countries like Pakistan and moves to naturalise them is viewed by the opposition in Bahrain as a way to increase the Sunni demographic. Bahrain’s 70 per cent population is Shia.Thousands protested in Manama earlier this week against any move to give citizenship to Sunnis serving in Bahrain’s military.
[Why does the US or NATO have a "right" to bomb Libya? It is obvious that this question will never be answered, or even noticed by the people who should be made to answer questions, but it still must be asked by someone other than just me or my friends. Do Russia and China also possess this "right" to do violence upon other nations? What would happen if either Russia or China, or both of them, should exercise their own right to intervene and put a damper on the moronic Euro/American call for a "no-fly zone"? At some point, someone will get between the leaders of the American bully nation and their next intended victim and stop them from shoving anyone else around.
Can this really be called part of the "war on terror"?]
The United States wants a well co-ordinated international effort on Libya, but reserves its right to take unilateral steps, a top Obama aide has said.
“It is our strong preference, in this situation and many others, which we act together with our international partners, because, collectively, we are stronger than we are individually in cases like this,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
“But it is obviously the case that we always reserve
the right to act,
NATO does, rather, as the US does, to act on its own,” he said in response to a question.
Top national security officials met President Barack Obama at the White House during the day to review the current situation in Libya and discuss on the future course of action.
“They are evaluating the various options in the situation in Libya and the broader region, and the various options that we have taken and are implementing, and others that remain on the table,” Mr. Carney said, adding no decision was anticipated out of this meeting.
The official said the U.S. was working with the United Nations, NATO and all its partners on variety of options.
“The option of declaring no-fly zone is being actively considered,” he added.
Mr. Carney said the statements and the actions that have been taken by this President in the three weeks since this circumstance began in Libya demonstrate the moral outrage that they feel at the actions taken by the Libyan regime against its people.
“So, clearly there is a moral component to not just the actions of the U.S. and its President but the actions of the entire international community, and its swift and coordinated reaction to and response to the despicable behaviour of the Libyan regime,” he noted.
The White House spokesman reiterated that Muammar Qaddafi needs to leave, needs to step down.
“He has lost the legitimacy to rule in the eyes of his people and in the eyes of the world. I don’t think you can be any clearer than that,” he asserted.
Responding to a question, Mr. Carney said the U.S. believes that the arms embargo by the UN Security Council contains within it the flexibility to allow for a decision to arm the opposition, if that decision were made.
Mr. Carney argued the Obama Administration has been working with a sense of urgency and speed with regard to Libya.
“What has been done in remarkable time. We have imposed very strong sanctions, including freezing over USD 30 billion of the Qaddafi regime’s assets. We have coordinated also with the UN for additional sanctions with our European partners and through the UN,” Mr. Carney said.
“We have led the way in initiating steps through the UN to make sure that those members of the Qaddafi regime who are responsible for gross violations of human rights and the use of violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable. That includes a UN Security Council referral of the Qaddafi regime to the International Criminal Court,” he said.
“We are engaged in a highly swift and coordinated effort to provide humanitarian assistance and we have also, through a variety of channels, reached out to the opposition to discuss what their goals are and what their situation is,” he said.
“We have also done military contingency planning. We have talked about positioning resources in the region for contingencies that might occur of all sorts,” he added.
The US, he said was in the process of reviewing a variety of options, but there is no timetable for decisions on them.
The actions we have taken have been dramatic, and we are implementing them in a way that we hope they will have an effect, he said.
“We are also using the full spectrum of our intelligence resources to ensure that we are monitoring what’s happening in Libya and in a way that will enable the international community to hold responsible those members of the regime who are perpetrating violations of human rights,” Mr. Carney said.
“So this is an ongoing process. The review continues, the options are refined and reviewed and considered, and obviously, we want to work with our international partners. We feel it’s very important so that any action we take be done in a coordinated way with our international partners, because that is a powerful message to the people of Libya, to the Libyan regime, and to the people around the region.
“This is not about the United States; it is not about Western powers, European powers. It’s about the people of the region, and in this case the people of Libya,” Mr. Carney said.
Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi
By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent
Saudi Arabia has not yet responded to a request from the US to supply weapons to rebels in Libya
Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a “day of rage” from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington’s highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.
Washington’s request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America’s chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban.
But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain – even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.
The Saudis have been told that opponents of Gaddafi need anti-tank rockets and mortars as a first priority to hold off attacks by Gaddafi’s armour, and ground-to-air missiles to shoot down his fighter-bombers.
Supplies could reach Benghazi within 48 hours but they would need to be delivered to air bases in Libya or to Benghazi airport. If the guerrillas can then go on to the offensive and assault Gaddafi’s strongholds in western Libya, the political pressure on America and Nato – not least from Republican members of Congress – to establish a no-fly zone would be reduced.
US military planners have already made it clear that a zone of this kind would necessitate US air attacks on Libya’s functioning, if seriously depleted, anti-aircraft missile bases, thus bringing Washington directly into the war on the side of Gaddafi’s opponents.
For several days now, US Awacs surveillance aircraft have been flying around Libya, making constant contact with Malta air traffic control and requesting details of Libyan flight patterns, including journeys made in the past 48 hours by Gaddafi’s private jet which flew to Jordan and back to Libya just before the weekend.
Officially, Nato will only describe the presence of American Awacs planes as part of its post-9/11 Operation Active Endeavour, which has broad reach to undertake aerial counter-terrorism measures in the Middle East region.
The data from the Awacs is streamed to all Nato countries under the mission’s existing mandate. Now that Gaddafi has been reinstated as a super-terrorist in the West’s lexicon, however, the Nato mission can easily be used to search for targets of opportunity in Libya if active military operations are undertaken.
Al Jazeera English television channel last night broadcast recordings made by American aircraft to Maltese air traffic control, requesting information about Libyan flights, especially that of Gaddafi’s jet.
An American Awacs aircraft, tail number LX-N90442 could be heard contacting the Malta control tower on Saturday for information about a Libyan Dassault-Falcon 900 jet 5A-DCN on its way from Amman to Mitiga, Gaddafi’s own VIP airport.
Nato Awacs 07 is heard to say: “Do you have information on an aircraft with the Squawk 2017 position about 85 miles east of our [sic]?”
Malta air traffic control replies: “Seven, that sounds to be Falcon 900- at flight level 340, with a destination Mitiga, according to flight plan.”
But Saudi Arabia is already facing dangers from a co-ordinated day of protest by its own Shia Muslim citizens who, emboldened by the Shia uprising in the neighbouring island of Bahrain, have called for street protests against the ruling family of al-Saud on Friday.
After pouring troops and security police into the province of Qatif last week, the Saudis announced a nationwide ban on all public demonstrations.
Shia organisers claim that up to 20,000 protesters plan to demonstrate with women in the front rows to prevent the Saudi army from opening fire.
If the Saudi government accedes to America’s request to send guns and missiles to Libyan rebels, however, it would be almost impossible for President Barack Obama to condemn the kingdom for any violence against the Shias of the north-east provinces.
Thus has the Arab awakening, the demand for democracy in North Africa, the Shia revolt and the rising against Gaddafi become entangled in the space of just a few hours with US military priorities in the region.
Like Robert Fisk on The Independent on Facebook for updates
[Is this the Big One?]
NBR for March 10, 2011 – (Full Episode HERE)
Thursday, March 10, 2011
TOM HUDSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Investors have not seen a sell-off in stocks like today`s since last summer Susie. Several worries were pressuring the markets today, violence in Saudi Arabia and also renewed concerns about Europe among them.
SUSIE GHARIB, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: And Tom, adding to the jitters — worries about China`s economic growth and also some disappointing news about the U.S. job market. The selling was broad-based. Let`s run down the numbers for you. The Dow fell 228 points. It closed below the 12,000 level; the NASDAQ lost 50 and the S&P 500 down almost 25 points.
The Gulf Cooperation Council believes that any threat to the security of any member state harms the security of all states and will be dealt with decisively and immediately, without hesitation. The GCC states and peoples totally reject any attempts for foreign interference in its affairs and declare they will firmly curb those trying to foment sectarian rift.
The meeting comes amid continued calls for protest in Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Facebook pages calling for “revolution marches” throughout this month have tens of thousands of followers.Although wealthy in world terms, Oman and Bahrain are the two poorest GCC members.Oman has experienced its largest protests in Sohar and Salalah with limited unrest in the capital Muscat. Despite three cabinet reshuffles during the last month and promises of increased public sector pay and job creation, dissent has continued. Protesters are calling for former ministers to be investigated for corruption. There is no provision for financial disclosure of public bodies and officials in the country and it is illegal to criticise the absolute ruler, Sultan Qaboos. Consequently, it is difficult to gauge public opinion. A handful of reports of protester casualties have emerged from Sohar in recent weeks.In Bahrain, seven protesters died in unrest that also resulted in concessions and a cabinet reshuffle. The country is of particular concern in the region. Bahrain has a Sunni royal family ruling over a 70 percent Shia majority and lies off the coast of the Shia populated Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which has witnessed small protests during the last few weeks.Reports are currently emerging from Qatif, Eastern Province, of Saudi police opening fire on protesters demanding the release of prisoners held for 14 years without trial.Today’s GCC statement also called for a foreign-enforced no-fly zone over Libya and the immediate resignation of Muammar Gaddafi, who has “lost legitimacy.”
[The Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the EU demand a "no-fly zone" over Libya, even though the combined "might" of the two European paper tigers (using both ends of the same aircraft carrier) could not create a Libyan no-fly zone, let alone enforce one after the fact. Isn't it time for England and France to experience their own "awakening"? If you guys had a Zionist house-cleaning in your govts, then maybe it would inspire Americans to clean our own house. As far as I can tell from here, the UK and France are the only ones calling for airstrikes on Libya.]
“The logistics required to man a no-fly zone 24 hours a day are astronomical.”
By TIM SHIPMAN
David Cameron last night gave British backing to calls for air strikes against Colonel Gaddafi.
He joined forces with Nicolas Sarkozy after the French president demanded immediate action to tackle the dictator, amid signs the international community is fiddling while Libya burns.
In a joint letter, Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy called on Nato to draw up plans for ‘a no-fly zone or other options against air attacks’ by Gaddafi.
Downing Street sources confirmed the other options would include bombing Gaddafi’s runways to prevent his aircraft taking off to bomb the rebels.
They said the time had come to crank up the pressure on the tyrant.
Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy spoke out ahead of an EU summit in Brussels today to discuss the crisis. In their letter to EU President Herman Van Rompuy, they accused the Gaddafi regime of ‘crimes against humanity’ and demanded action from the EU and Arab governments.
They called for ‘Gaddafi and his clique to leave’, endorsed the rebels’ Libyan Transitional National Council as ‘an important voice for the Libyan people’ and said they supported military planning.
They said: ‘We condemn, and call for an immediate halt to, the use of force against civilians by the Gaddafi regime. We support continued planning to be ready to provide support for all possible contingencies.’
Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy also called for action to prevent Gaddafi flying in new mercenaries to crush the rebels.
‘We call on all countries to implement fully an arms embargo, including banning the provision of armed mercenary personnel, and to take measures to discourage departure of planes or convoys,’ they said.
Mr Cameron also pledged to use ‘military assets’ to help ‘displaced persons… should the situation deteriorate’.
Mr Sarkozy earlier took the extraordinary step of recognising the council of opposition leaders as the legitimate government of Libya – a move Downing Street said was premature.
Last night the UN said a no-fly zone would not be possible without an explicit UN Security Council resolution authorising force.
Earlier, former prime minister Sir John Major was sent out to bolster the British position that intervention would be legal on humanitarian grounds without a resolution if Gaddafi launches a systematic assault on his enemies.
At today’s summit, Mr Cameron will also call for the EU to use its economic might to encourage democracy in the Middle East – opening European markets to countries that improve human rights and cutting off cash to those who don’t.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: ‘For years the EU has shelled out vast sums of money – nearly £1billion a year – but got precious little progress in making these countries freer and more democratic. The EU has to do better, much better – and quickly.’
Yesterday Gaddafi’s forces fired rockets from oil tankers at rebels on land as he stepped up the onslaught on his people. He also unleashed warplanes, tanks and troops as his son Saif reiterated a threat to fight to the bitter end.
Gaddafi’s forces drove hundreds of rebels from the strategic oil port of Ras Lanuf with a volley of rockets and tank shells, sources said. Others said naval gunboats were roaming the bay and shelling the coast.
Meanwhile in the west, the dictator’s army laid siege to Zawiyah, trying to starve out insurgents clinging to parts of the shattered town.
It was disgusting to see Maj. Gen. Ghayur Mehmood espouse the position that is anathema to Pakistani interests, contrary to Islamabad’s policy, belies the facts, and goes against the grain of the wishes of thepeople of Pakistan. Major-General Ghayur Mehmood, General Officer Commanding of the 7 Division, was addressing the media at Miranshah, a major town of the North Waziristan tribal region. The General misstated the facts and said:
“Most of the targets are hardcore militants,” said Maj. Gen. Ghayur Mehmood.
His statement is wrong, dead wrong.
General Mehmood doesn’t know the facts if he says that that most of those killed in the aerial attacks by CIA-operated pilot-less planes in north-west Pakistan were “hardcore al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists.” Gneral Mehmood needs some education and training–and not the one he got in Langley.
The General’s strange statement that “The number of innocent people being killed is relatively low.” should be condemned at the highest levels and he should be taken to task. Just labeling it as a “personal assessment’ is not good enough. Foreign Minister Qureshi had to give up his job for confronting allies and friends. Major General Mehmood should be stripped of his stars and put in jail for “approving” the attack on civilians in Pakistan, for tolerating the violation of Pakistani sovereignty–and justifying illegal murders.
Pakistanis have never supported the drone attacks. The PPP government has been, saying that the unilateral drone strikes on Pakistani territory has led to civilian deaths, which cause public anger and actually help the militants to find new recruits among the families of the victims.
Lack of action by General Kayani against General Mahmood will give credence to the Sethi point of view that the Army and the ISI is allowing the drone bombings in connivance with the Americans. If is absolutely true that the drones used to take off from American bases. There are satellite pictures available to the most casual researcher. The Pakistani Army has to come clean on that.
Americans Senators and General have publicly stated that the PPP government at the highest levels has approved the Drone Bombings. WikiLeaks has divulged the absolute arrogance of President Zardari when he said that didn’t care for “Collateral Damage”. During his visit of Pakistan in January, U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden did not agree with the impression that the US was violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by conducting drone attacks. Most Pakistanis dispute the US reasoning. The New York Times said the controversial drone strikes are seen as a major reason for the rise of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.
‘Till March 8th te Army, the ISI and the PPP government had kept the facade alive. Before General Mehmood’s statement Pakistani officials had only acknowledged U.S. drone strikes in private while publicly condemning them and calling for them to stop. Now it is out in the open.
According to the incorrect information of the General, he thinks that since 2007, there have been 164 drone strikes. According to CNN there have been been 205 U.S. drone strikes since 2008. The New America Foundation (NAE) contradicts the “Facts” present by this General. The NAE tallies 226 drone strikes since 2004. According to the CIA position parroted by General Mehmood 964 people have been killed. Other estimates go to five times that number on the number killed. Then there are tens of thousands of the injured. What about the suffering of the families, the widows, the orphans, and those left without shelter. The New America Foundation, a U.S.-based think tank, reports that most of the militants killed by the unmanned aerial strikes were low-level fighters. Human rights groups, and NGOs inside and outside Pakistan have condemned the drone strikes, saying they’ve killed hundreds of civilians.
“Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many,” Mehmood said, according to Dawn, “but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizable number of them foreigners.”
General Mehmood is wrong.
General Mehmood’s cavalier attitude about the drones displays a corrupted mindset that does not belong in the armed forces. In the understatement of the year he said.”Definitely, they have social and political repercussions and our law enforcement agencies have to face the fallout”. Who does the General think he is? Obviously intellect is not one of his strong points. If he is in the pocket of the CIA, then perhaps he should take a job in a US Think Tanks and join his other freind in Washington Ambassador Haqqani. Surely General Mahmood does not deserve the uniform of the army of Pakistan which has sworn to the protect and defend the borders of Pakistan against foreign and domestic enemies.
Local Pakistani media has published copious reports where it is shown that the drone have caused damage to the civilians.
It goes beyond that.
An Army General should know how to spell the word “sovereignty”. If General Mehmood doesn’t know the meaning of the word, he does not belong in the army.
There is a deeper issue. The drones are one part of this three dimensional problem. The Army and the ISI has to own up to its failures and take deep rooted correctve actions.
General Mehmood’s statement has already created a schism between the top brass of the Army Gneral Mehmood. Sensitive to the wishes of the people of Pakistan, the Army has back-tracked, but hasn’t done enough. Most Pakistanis don’t like the wink-wink-nod-nod policy employed by the ISI and the Army and Mr. Zardari’s regime, where it publicly condemns the bombings and privately approves it. If the wink-win-nod-non policy exists, it has to be buried in the dust bin of history. The ISI has to own up to its incompetence in not following folks who were hurriedly handed out Pakistanis visas by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Why were the 500 or so “spies” not followed properly. How could they romp around Pakistan without the ISIs eagle eye on them? What stopped the ISI from doing a follow-up and in depth background check on these individuals. Why did the ISI have a epiphany moment when “Raymond Davis” actually committed murder. Why was he not targeted for intense surveillance for months. Does the ISI not know about the safe houses in Lahore. Ordinary citizens know where these thugs live. Why did the ISI allow them to run amok. There has been a shake-up at the ISI, where inefficiency has been sidelined. The knife neds to go deeper and eliminate incompetence.
Why has the ISI not submitted deep and profound background checks on all the Xe types that are present in Pakistan?
If General Pasha and General Kayani cannot answer these questions, the Senate and National Assembly should hold closed door and pubic hearings on these issues. If General Pasha is still allowing the drones to commit murder on Pakistani soil, then General Pasha should not get an extension.
Already the first signs of a tidal wave of criticism of General Mehmood are beginning to affect the Pakistani Army. The New York Times is reporting that Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, in an interview, has repudiated the General’s remarks as a “personal assessment” that had been given without proper context. General Abbas said the army supported the government’s policy that the drone strikes “do more harm than good.”
This is a step in the right direction. The General Mehmood thinking should be publicly repudiated and sidelined.
The Information Minister of Pakistan Ms. Wahab had to lose her job over her “personal” assessment which went contrary to Pakistani policy. The General should also be relieved of his command and asked to go home. There should be no double standards. As of March 9th, General Mehmood has lost the respect of the 7th Division, and he has lost the trust of the Pakistanis people. He should not be wearing the Pakistan Army Uniform.
General Kayani enjoys popular support in Pakistan and the Army. Lack of strict action by General Kayani against General Mehmood will reduce his stature among the people of Pakistan. General Kayani should look within his ranks and eliminate support for drone bombings.
Resumption of Pakistan-India dialogue positive development, Pakistan determined, capable to defeat terrorism, Inclusive political solution of Afghan crisis must
Islamabad—Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General (Retd) Ehsan ul Haq has emphatically rejected the perception of categorizing Pakistan with autocratic regimes in the Middle East and fear about any radical elements taking power in the country.
He was expressing his views on critical issues of peace and security in relation to the region and beyond.
During an exclusive interview with Pakistan Observer, he analyzed situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the back-drop of international stakes.
Ehsan ul Haq who as a four star general of Pakistan and earlier as head of ISI and MI, was witness to defining moments in terms of regional security still carries lot of clout with governments and international think tanks.
He said: “It is unfortunate that either due to lack of information, or with malafide intent, exaggerated dooms-day scenarios are projected about Pakistan. “Despite a highly adverse regional environment that has created a complex domestic security situation over the last several decades, Pakistan has displayed strong resilience and the capability to face challenges,” he observed and elaborated: “With a working democracy, having participation of all spectra of the society, an increasingly assertive media, a vocal civil society, a strong and independent media, it would not be realistic to categorise Pakistan with the autocratic regimes in the Middle East. When asked about chances of peace between Pakistan and India, he said: “The resumption of Indo – Pakistan dialogue, covering all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, after a break of two years, is a positive development. Given the chequerred history of such processes in the past, one can only be cautiously optimistic. It is important that the process moves forward and is made ‘irreversible’, as was proclaimed by the two countries in 2004.”
Stressing need for just resolution of the Kashmir issue he said: “The core issue between the two countries continues to be the dispute over Kashmir. Over a period of time, Indian society and the international community were been told that whatever awfulness occurred in Kashmir had a Pakistani hand and aimed at destabilizing India. However with the ascendance of the peace movement in the Kashmir valley, which has sidelined the extremist forces of violence, India has the opportunity to shun the denial mode and seek a solution to this long outstanding dispute, a solution that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people.”
General Ehsan ul Haq was asked to share with this newspaper his assessment of nuclear weapons safety in Pakistan. He said: “Pakistan is acutely conscious of its responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state. The issue of nuclear safety and security is accorded the highest priority and we have made heavy investment to achieve multi – dimensional and robust mechanisms that cover all aspects of security in respect of nuclear weapons.” He pointed out that President Obama and the United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, besides many other dignitaries, have expressed their satisfaction on the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
When asked about West’s allegations that Pakistan was on a double-play in dealing with the Afghan Taliban, General (Retd) Ehsan ul Haq said: “This is a disinformation aimed at belittling Pakistan’s contribution in the struggle against terrorism and supporting the coalition operations in Afghanistan, even at the risk of internal destabilization. It is an exercise in scapegoating as the follies of military – centric approach and a flawed political strategy are causing increasing international uneasiness about continued West’s involvement in Afghanistan.”
He reminded the West that over the last 10 years, Pakistan had employed more forces, achieved more successes and offered more sacrifices in the struggle against terrorism than any other country. “This included operations against Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. A large number of suspected and prominent Afghan Taliban commanders were apprehended in Pakistan and many of them handed over to the Afghan government. Pakistan has also made concerted efforts to effectively regulate and even seal its Afghan border. However, these efforts have been thwarted by non-cooperation and even resistance by the Afghan authorities.”
Regarding West’s critricism that Pakistan was shirking military action in North Waziristan, he said: “Almost three- brigades size forces are deployed in North Waziristan to tackle the situation. It should be appreciated that the terrorist elements in Waziristan have caused more damage in Pakistan than Afghanistan. The people and armed forces have demonstrated a strong resolve against terrorism and all challenges to the writ of the state have been defeated. The same will happen in North Waziristan in accordance with Pakistan’s counter insurgency strategy and priorities.”
General (Retd) Ehsan ul Haq was asked about West’s strategy in Afghanistan. He asserted that there would be no solution coming out of mere military actions.
He explained: “There have been repeated US assertions that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that the US/NATO forces are not there permanently. These unequivocal pronouncements and President Obama’s strategy, highlighting a shift to the political track, evoked optimism of a political solution. However the operationalization of the strategy only witnessed a military surge, while the progress of the political track has yet to show any progress. There is a strengthening perception that the political track has been relegated to the conditioning of the operational environment by the progress of the surge.”
To a question about prospects of normalcy in Afganistan, he said, it would result from a political solution. He believed that efforts to seek a political solution must be undertaken simultaneously and reinforced to achieve meaningful progress. “To facilitate early commencement of negotiations, it is essential to structure a framework that could guide this process. The framework should recognize the principal stake-holders and the prime adversaries, list their demands and propose a road map for the dialogue process.”
He proposed that dialogue process in Afghanistan would have to be initiated through credible intermediaries “who have the trust of the principal adversaries.” While initially indirect, the effort should rapidly progress to direct contacts between the principal adversaries.
Of post 2014 scenario in Afghanistan, Generla Ehsan ul Haq said: “2014 as a milestone is related to security-centric objectives. This is the time at which the Afghan security forces are planned to be raised, trained and enabled to shoulder the responsibilities for internal security throughout the country. It is also the time line for complete withdrawal of US and other foreign forces from Afghanistan. The timeframe, at present, doesn’t indicate the projected political situation or capability of effective governance. In the absence of significant progress towards a political solution, I do not foresee the security objectives being achieved. It seems unrealistic to project that they would be able to handle the security challenges without significant international support.”
He was asked to express his hopes and fears in the backdrop of journey to 2014. His reply: “With the withdrawal of US/NATO forces, and in the absence of an inclusive political solution, Afghanistan is likely to relapse into a civil war as witnessed in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal and the consequent collapse of the Najibullah regime.
What should be the role of Pakistan in reconciliation talks and after 2014? He was asked
He replied: “No country has suffered more on account of the strife in Afghanistan than Pakistan. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in its best interest because Pakistan cannot hope to achieve internal peace without it. Pakistan has legitimate and vital stakes in the future of Afghanistan. However, in the current environment of pessimism about the success of the military strategy and slow progress of the peace track, there is a distinct attempt to malign Pakistan.”
He went on to say: “Pakistan must do its utmost to support the initiation and success of a peace process that could lead to termination of violence, a stable and inclusive political dispensation and a safe early exit for all foreign forces. However, Pakistan needs to be careful in assessing and projecting its real influence with the warring parties and guard against being embroiled in the internal situation of Afghanistan.”
In a country where speaking about sectarian divisions was once taboo, bloggers and politicians are openly warning that political differences are in danger of escalating into civil strife.
“As the Great War began with a single bullet, Bahrain is also exposed to a slide into real chaos because of one stupid and meaningless incident, since the ground has never been as ready for a slide into hell as it is today,” Bahraini blogger Mahmood al-Youssif wrote.
No stranger to sporadic protests and rioting, Bahrain has been gripped by the worst unrest since the 1990s after a youth movement took to the streets last month, emboldened by revolts that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
Unlike those overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim countries, however, Bahrain is home to a majority Shi’ite population ruled by the U.S. backed al-Khalifa family, who are Sunnis.
The protesters, mostly Shi’ites who have long complained of discrimination in jobs and services, are urging democratic reforms. Despite the best efforts of protesters, who insist in their chants and placards on unity between Sunnis and Shi’ites, the unrest has been tainted by sectarian overtones.
In Egypt, 13 people have been killed in clashes between the Sunni majority and Coptic Christians who make up some 10 percent of the population. Fears are growing that a protracted political standoff in Bahrain could turn out less like Tunisia and more like Lebanon or Iraq, countries where politics has descended into an unstable cycle of religious bloodletting.
“I am very afraid, afraid of these divisions even inside our own sect and afraid that we end up like Iraq or like Lebanon,” said Khadija Hassan, a Shi’ite in a black chador, who joined a protest against the naturalisation of foreigners this week.
“The government wants to cause friction between Sunnis and Shi’ites when we have no problem. We marry each other.”
At the protest camp on Pearl roundabout, Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the largest Shi’ite opposition party Wefaq, said on Wednesday that a planned march on the royal palace on Friday could push Bahrain into sectarian chaos.
Wefaq is calling for a new government and a constitutional monarchy that vests the judicial, executive and legislative authority with the people. It is organising a less provocative march calling for constitutional reform.
The coalition of much smaller Shi’ite parties who have organised the march on the royal court demand the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic.
These ideas terrify Sunnis who fear they would play into the hands of the oil-producing Gulf’s main Shi’ite power and only republic, non-Arab Iran.
The march on the royal court will pass Sunni areas and the youth movement who started the protests said they would not take part. They called on Wefaq to convince hardline parties to cancel the march for fear that it would “cause strife and the fall of innocent victims in the people’s ranks”.
“Democracy in Bahrain is shaped by the sectarian divide. In a real democracy, Bahrain would be ruled by Shi’ites as democracy is fundamentally majoritarian,” said Shadi Hamid, analyst at the Brookings Centre in Doha.
“How do you get round that sectarian issue and how do you persuade Sunnis to accept a Shi’ite prime minister? … We are looking at a protracted stalemate that will mean greater sectarian splits in Bahrain.”
The unrest in Bahrain is being closely watched in U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, where Shi’ites make up about 15 percent of the population and which has been the scene of small protests.
Saudi protests have mostly taken place in the Eastern Province, where the oil industry is based and which is home to most of the Shi’ites in the puritanical Sunni kingdom.
As Saudi Arabia prepares for its own Day of Rage on Friday, the risks of contagion are lost on no one.
“The U.S. government is not putting serious pressure on the government to reform. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council are telling al-Khalifa to hold on because this is a slippery slope,” said Hamid.
“Bahrain is unlike Tunisia or Egypt; it is strategically vital and involves Iran. The U.S. is concerned about growing Iranian influence after losing a close ally like Egypt.”
BUBBLING TO THE SURFACE
With direct talks between the royals and the opposition yet to begin, daily outbreaks of violence are alarming Bahrainis.
On Thursday, a fight between Shi’ite and naturalised Sunni schoolgirls in Sar turned into a sectarian standoff that drew in parents and turned into a scuffle involving knives and sticks.
The incident follows sectarian clashes last week in Hamad Town, an area where both Sunnis and Shi’ites live. Residents said it was not clear what sparked that row, but it appeared to involve naturalised Syrians, who were Sunnis, and Shi’ites.
The clashes go to the heart of Shi’ite complaints that the government has been naturalising Sunnis from other Arab countries, Pakistan and India to swing the sectarian balance. They say Shi’ites are locked out of jobs in the security forces, which are given instead to Sunnis and to naturalised Sunnis.
Over half of Bahrain’s 1.2 million population are foreigners. Bahrainis disagree on the exact figures but analysts say over 60 percent of citizens are Shi’ite.
The government denies there is discrimination against Shi’ites in Bahrain and says there is no plan to change the country’s sectarian balance. It says all naturalisation is done with full transparency and according to immigration policies.
Abdel Wahhab Hussein, leader of Wafa party that co-founded a coalition aimed at toppling the monarchy, said it was the state that was to blame for sectarian friction.
“The regime has a long history of inciting this sectarian division and practises sectarian discrimination,” he said at a recent news conference.
“This confidence crisis is between the people and the government, not between the government and the Shi’ites and that is why the government depends on naturalisation and mercenaries.”
(Bahrain newsroom; editing by Robert Woodward)
© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
POLICE IN SAUDI ARABIA have opened fire on protesters at rally in the eastern city of Qatif in an effort to quell escalating unrest in the kingdom
One witness who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity said that guns and stun grenades were fired at several hundred protesters in Qatif as they marched through the city today.
Government officials warned that they would take strong action if activists took to the streets following increasing calls for protests. Last weekend, the Saudi government banned protests and demonstrations,Al Jazeera reported.
Demonstrators pushing for democratic reform have called for a ‘day of rage’ tomorrow.
Ahman Al Omran reports in the Guardian today that reforms introduced by the government in response to criticism in recent years has been merely cosmetic. He says the Saudi people are “tired of the status quo” and want change, including a constitutional monarchy, elections and the protection of human rights.
A witness to the unrest in Qatif today said at least one person was injured.
- Includes reporting by the AP
KOLKATA, India —Two Indian ships are steaming towards troubled waters in Libya. That sounds like a reasonable response. Thousands of Indian nationals are still trapped in Libya. Except these are no ordinary ships.
INS Jalashwa is the third largest warship of the Indian Navy. An amphibious vessel, it was the USS Trenton in an earlier avatar. The INS Mysore is a destroyer.
The response has raised some eyebrows.
There are already daily Air India evacuation flights from Libya to Mumbai and Delhi ferrying stranded Indians. India has also chartered a 600-capacity passenger ship, the Scotia Prince for its stranded nationals. The warships will not actually ferry Indians back to India, but just drop them off in Malta.
Some 18,000 Indians were trapped in Libya when the turmoil began. About 12,000 remain. That’s a big number but not that big in the scheme of things: There are 350,000 Indians in Bahrain, which has also been rocked by protests.
The INS Jalashwa was pulled out of high-profile war games and dispatched to Libya. Accompanying the ships are marine commandos.
Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma tried to dissuade the Indian media from reading too much into that. “This is now our standard routine,” Verma told media, according to The Economic Times. “Whenever we send ships in these areas, we have marine commandos on it for the protection of the ships or for the safety of the passengers.”
The Indian Navy was involved in evacuating Indians from Lebanon during the 2006 war in that country. It is also true that the INS Jalashwa is not just a warship. The Indian Express reports that it’s also a full-fledged medical ship with four operating theaters, doctors, paramedics, even a dental center.
But India’s Marine commando-enhanced “humanitarian mission” seems symbolic of its own position on Libya—sending out mixed signals as it hedges its bets. “India’s position is enigmatic,” writes political columnist Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph.
India joined the United States, after some arm-twisting, in the UN Security Council vote imposing sanctions on Qadhafi. But Datta-Ray writes that in 2007, Qadhafi was proclaiming that the sky was the limit when it came to cooperation between the two. Not to be outdone, India’s finance minister was waxing eloquent about India’s “unlimited interest” in broadening ties between the two countries.
During World War II, thousands of Indians died in Libya and Egypt for the cause of democracy. But modern India held its fire on Qadhafi, saying it didn’t want to jeopardize the 18,000 Indians working in Libya.
The unspoken message was Qadhafi was good for business. The Business Standard quoted an anonymous Indian official as saying “that Indians could only work in such large numbers in the region because of the largely secular nature of the dictatorships involved.” In fact, the first group of Indians returning from Libya was probably among the few speaking up for Qadhafi in public. Santosh Chauhan, a laborer, told The Telegraph that under Qadhafi, he got good food and wages. “Then these protesters came… They spread arson and looting,” he said. Other returnees agreed. They talked not about democracy but looted money, mobiles and automobiles.”
Now New Delhi is nervous about its standing in a post-Qadhafi Libya. Datta-Ray writes that “no one should be surprised if Western arms and funds are channelled to the “Free Libya” insurgents, as they were to Osama bin Laden and the Afghan Mujahideen.”
India’s warships, at the very least, are sending a message. And the target of the message could very well be, not Libya or even the United States, but India’s prickly neighbor to the north, China.
A Chinese warship, the Xuzhou, was diverted from anti-piracy operations to protect passenger vessels evacuating its nationals. Xinhua called it China’s “biggest civilian evacuation operation.”
Indian media have been carping that China has already evacuated some 32,000 people, and India was lagging far behind. “We are not in competition with China here,” retorted Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao. “We’re focused on the task of bringing back our people safe and sound. Please let’s not devalue this.”
But the fact remains that as Libya burns, Indian and Chinese warships are circling its waters protecting both their nationals and their business interests. It marks, writes Jyoti Malhotra in theBusiness Standard, “a new phase in the indirect rivalry that was sparked off some years earlier for the exploitation of the continent’s fabulous natural resources.
CAIRO (AP) – Saudi security forces have deployed around the capital Riyadh on the eve of planned protests calling for democratic reforms.
Witnesses around the Saudi capital reported Thursday seeing riot police and special forces with batons and tear gas, particularly around shopping malls and main roads.
Unrest in Saudi Arabia, a key oil exporter, could rock world markets.
Protests are rare in the ultra-conservative kingdom. Saudi religious leaders have declared popular protests a violation of Islamic laws.
There have been a few gatherings in recent weeks, patterned after similar protests in the region but on a smaller scale.
The protests are driven by social media. Facebook pages have sprung up, calling for the Saudi ruling family to introduce reforms. One such page has garnered more than 30,000 supporters.