Budapest conference to focus on financing for Nabucco

Budapest conference to focus on financing for Nabucco

Friday 13:49, January 23rd, 2009
Arranging pre-financing for the Nabucco project will be one of the main aims of a conference on the gas pipeline to take place in Budapest next week, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány told MTI on Friday.

“For those of us who consider it more important to build the Nabucco pipeline, we must do more [to ensure its realization],” Mr Gyurcsány said.

Gyurcsány said that the project was not simply a business venture but about the whole of Europe’s energy security, and therefore funding by the European Union and its background institutions was needed. This also means financing from Europe’s big financial institutions, including the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, he said.

“These institutions will represent themselves at the Budapest Nabucco summit. We expect them to commit themselves to participating in the pre-financing in a more unequivocal way,” said Gyurcsány. There is a real chance this year of successfully securing the financing and starting construction next year if the EU considers the conditions sufficiently favorable, he added.

The estimated cost of the project to build 3,300 kilometers of pipeline has risen from €4.5-5 billion to almost €8 billion today.

The thorniest issue concerns who will supply the gas, the prime minister said. Azerbaijan has not yet given a definite yes, while Iran, which has the most significant reserves, is in a delicate position for regional and geopolitical reasons. Turkmenistan has reservations about the delivery route.

“Supplies of exclusively Azerbaijani gas for the future Nabucco pipeline does not appear to be a solution which offers a hundred-percent guarantee; there is a need for further partner countries from the region,” he said.

He said Europe and its member states should regard their relations in terms of gas supply in more complex terms than a simple client-supplier relationship.

“If we are just buyers then our position is one of reliance. If we deliver technology and know how to these countries, we will be more desirable partners,” he said. (MTI-Econews)

Hungary PM: EU must back gas pipeline avoiding Russia

Hungary PM: EU must back gas pipeline avoiding Russia

Source: bbj

Europe must give solid support for the ambitious Nabucco gas pipeline project, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said Friday following a crisis over Russian gas imports this month.

Europe must give solid support for the ambitious Nabucco gas pipeline project, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said Friday following a crisis over Russian gas imports this month.

Speaking ahead of a conference on Nabucco in the Hungarian capital next week, Gyurcsany told the MTI news agency that one of the meeting’s main goals was to secure financial and political backing from the European Union.

“We expect the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to make a clearer commitment to pre-financing the project,” the premier said.

“This project is not purely about business but also about Europe’s energy security. It is therefore vital to make sure we have resources that are backed and guaranteed by the EU,” he added.

The meeting on January 26 and 27 will be attended by energy ministers and government leaders from Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Iraq, Romania and Turkey.

Representing the EU will be Energy Commissioner Andris Pielbags and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek in his capacity as current EU president.

Nabucco currently has six shareholders — OMV of Austria, MOL of Hungary, Transgaz of Romania, Bulgargaz of Bulgaria, Botas of Turkey and RWE of Germany.

“The gas supplying countries won’t commit themselves until they’re certain that the pipeline will actually be built. But the countries building the pipeline won’t commit until the supplies of natural gas are guaranteed,” he said.

For the meeting, delegates will arrive for on Monday afternoon and sit down to a working dinner in the evening.

The politicians will then meet in the Hungarian parliament on Tuesday morning and representatives of the participating companies plus other interested oil and gas groups will hold a closed-door meeting in the afternoon.

Geopolitics of the western Balkans and a look back at 2009

Geopolitics of the western Balkans and a look back at 2009

Source: EMportal

Author: Nikos D.A. Arvanites, Mira Dimic

The western Balkans needs a new approach to integrations and challenges so the entire Balkan region can equally bear the burden of the crisis. If a regional solution in the western Balkans fails to the global crisis, every single country will go though a very hard time, facing risks to the countries’ stability and regional piece and the possibility to expand the crisis triggering »the domino effect«.

The world’s financial crisis has gained momentum in Europe and the EU, affecting the western Balkans as well. The past 20 years in the Balkans saw ethnic conflicts, wars, sanctions, transitions and accessions to EU programs and Euro-Atlantic integrations.

The western Balkans is a »bridge« between the EU and the Black Sea – Caspian region and the so called »Caspian Balkans« and the road to the Near and Middle East.The international financial crisis will not only trigger problems at state level but will also hinder communication with the EU and see a slowdown in EU investments in the western Balkans.

Most western Balkans countries are in the Euro-Atlantic integration zone. Romania and Bulgaria, both EU and NATO members, are the corridors of oil and gas coming from Russia. As an EU and a NATO member, Greece is the south gate of the western Balkans as is Hungary – the north gate of the western Balkans.

The western Balkans is facing both transition and the traumas of regional clashes primarily in the former Yugoslavia that made way to countries that are now about to join the EU and NATO.

At their own pace, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are inclined to Europe’s stronger influences through Germany, Austria and Hungary. Their historical and geopolitical concept shows they gravitate towards the program of former Austria-Hungary and »Mitel Europe«. Countries like Serbia, Montenegro and FYRMacedonia and newly-formed Kosovo and Metohija are in a high-risk zone where BiH was formed based on the Dayton Peace Agreement.

A larger part of the western Balkans is apparently turbulent in both financial and political terms. There’s also the international »mortgage« that only an open economy and the majority support of the EU and NATO can bring to an end.

The western Balkans can develop further only if its countries or entire regions join the EU, its programs and NATO. NATO could ensure piece in the region and prevent clashes from the last decade of the 20th century. Its politics in the western Balkans, NATO can see as »a preventive strategy« for deterring eventual clashes .

The EU’s mission in the western Balkans could be a »regional balance« between national interests and economies whose future lies in regional co-existence and exchange. Bulgaria and Romania see themselves as leaders of integrations in the western Balkans and are divided over the interests of the EU and Russia.

Albania’s way into the future is depicted in the EU, NATO primarily. It should be kept in mind that Albania will serve as a »bridgehead« in the international and economic rise of Kosovo and Metohija, a country in the interest zone of the EU and NATO, and confronted to Serbia.

Under resolution 1244SBUN Serbia claims international rights in Kosovo and Metohija. In real terms, there still are major differences between Serbia and »the country of Kosovo and Metohija that is now being developed« and relations between the two that are to be restored. Albania is trying to strengthen its relations with Kosovo and Montenegro in a »mini« regional alliance.

A down economy in the world will have an impact in the western Balkans chiefly on investments coming from EU countries. Overcoming this will require the national economies and diplomatic missions to open up and the regions to connect so as to face up to consequences and create an ambiance for the »balance« of interests.

Energy is a strategic branch for the entire region – via two future gas pipelines, »the South stream« and NABUCO . This should not be a new dimension of the diplomatic and economic conflict between Russia and the United States, with Europe falling »victim« to such politics. Regular supplies of energy, farm produce and cleaner potable water sources in the region will be global challenges lying ahead.

It is necessary that the Balkan countries take a joint economic initiative with full regional stability and join forces in order to deal with challenges that a wave of economic crisis will bring in 2009.

The western Balkans needs a new approach to integrations and challenges so the entire Balkan region can equally bear the burden of the crisis. If a regional solution in the western Balkans fails to the global crisis, every single country will go though a very hard time, facing risks to the countries’ stability and regional piece and the possibility to expand the crisis triggering »the domino effect«.

This global crisis is the chance to set up a regional forum of the countries and governments and come up with a unique program to deal with a number of issues. This also requires national strategies in place that will protect the countries’ own interests. Regional investments will be essential in the western Balkans along with mutual solidarity.

The EU won’t have much strength, capital and goals for the western Balkans and the entire region will have to look for solutions and the EU’s support. The period ahead in the western Balkans is a huge temptation for the politics of the regional balance of interests, co-existence and mutual solidarity.

Zionist Psychosis: Reject International Law, Redefine Reality

So We’ll Skip a Trip to London; We’re Victims Not Palestinians

.Readers Number : 303

25/01/2009 Israel claimed Hamas was turning the victim into an attacker , signaling the Israeli community, following the Gaza war which killed more than 1,300 people and injured more than 5,000 others.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Hamas on Sunday of “attempting to turn the victim into the attacker and the attacker into the victim ‘through a spiral moral policy.’

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert addressed calls across the world to put Israel soldiers on trial over war crimes committed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

The government approves a motion aimed at backing the soldiers and commanders in case of a wave of lawsuits worldwide following the operation.

The prime minister warned the world of what he defined as “the international slalom aimed at turning the aggressors into victims”.
“This has been the policy of Hamas and the terror organizations for years, to fight until the last drop of blood of Gaza’s residents and hurt them.

“After the operation, the terror organizations are attempting to use different measures to harm us. This is the legal arena. The truth is that they have fired immorally at us, aiming at children and parents rather than at soldiers and military facilities,” Olmert said.

“I am not familiar with a more ethical and decent army than the IDF. I have personally witnessed, and the defense minister and chief of staff can testify to this, many cases in which IDF soldiers refrained from executing operations and moved bombs from their course so as not to hurt civilians – even when terrorists were hiding within a civilian population.”

Israel is accused of excessively using internationally banned weapons like white phosphorus in densely populated areas in Gaza.
Of the victims of the war, over 350 children were killed.

Richard Falk, an independent UN rights expert, said last week there was compelling evidence that Israel breached basic humanitarian rules and the laws of war by conducting a large-scale military operation “against an essentially defenseless population.”

Colonel Yigal Slovik, commander of the 401st Brigade of the Armor Corps, told Ynet on Thursday, “I have no qualms about the manner in which I operated. At worst I’ll be denied entry to a few European countries. My subordinates and I have chosen this profession out of faith in the righteousness of our path; we sacrifice much more than a trip to London.”

Israel’s propaganda mainstay, Sderot, is a lie (like everything else)

Israel’s propaganda mainstay, Sderot, is a lie (like everything else)

Sderot, the Israeli township on which Hamas rockets have been “raining down”, is the main plank of the Israelis’ attempt to justify the bloodshed they have inflicted on the people of Gaza.

They use it ad nauseam to brainwash the media and their own people. They have studiously counted and broadcast the number of erratic, home-made Qassam rockets coming into Israel, without ever admitting to the huge number of missiles, bombs and shells that Israel’s high-tech military fires into Gaza with much more deadly effect.

Those sympathetic to Israel – can there really be any who still wish to be associated with such appalling crimes? – will be mortified to know that Sderot has no business being where it is. It is built on the lands of a Palestinian village called Najd, which was ethnically cleansed by Jewish terrorists in May 1948, before Israel was declared a state and before any Arab armies entered Palestine. The 600-plus villagers were forced to flee for their lives. Britain was on watch as the mandated government, while this and many other atrocities were committed by terrorists.

Palestinian Arabs owned over 90 per cent of the land in Najd and, according to UN Resolution 194 and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they have a right to return home.

But as we have come to expect, Israel refuses to recognize the rights of others and will not allow them back. Anyway, what is there for them to return to?

The 82 homes there were bulldozed. Najd was one of 418 Palestinian villages and towns ethnically cleansed and wiped off the map by Zionist Jews. Its inhabitants, presumably, became refugees in Gaza and their families are probably still living in camps there. The sweet irony is that some of them were probably manning the rocket launchers – well, wouldn’t you?

Several months ago when Barack Obama visited Sderot (he didn’t have the gumption to call in on Gaza) he spouted the well-worn mantra backing Israel’s right to protect its citizens from rocket attacks. “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.” Well said, Obama. But presumably you wouldn’t be so stupid or arrogant as to live on land stolen from your neighbour at the point of a gun.

Find yourself some new advisers, Obama, ones that are savvy enough to brief you on the facts about Sderot and everything else about the Palestinians’ plight. Relying on Israeli propaganda lies will only make you look like another mindless Zionist tool.

As the slaughter goes off the dial, what pearls of wisdom are we getting from the European Union?

The Czech EU presidency spokesman defended Israel, saying: “We understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action.” Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, currently leading a EU delegation to the region, said Israel had the right to defend itself, clearly reading off Israeli notes and forgetting that the Palestinians have an equal right to self defence. “Let us realize one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on 19 December.”

This staunch ally of Washington understands nothing, as demonstrated when he went on to say that Hamas had excluded itself from serious political debate due to its rocket attacks on Israel. “Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel?… I am enjoying the luxury of telling the truth,” said Schwarzenberg. This would have been achingly funny if ignorance at such a senior level weren’t so dangerous! Those silly words earned him a cringe-making thank-you from none other than the American Jewish Committee:

30 December 2008
Dear Minister Schwarzenberg:

On behalf of the American Jewish Committee, we write to thank you for your unwavering public recognition of Israel’s right to self-defence against repeated rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Your recent comments once again demonstrated the courage and moral clarity of your support for a fellow democracy, Israel, in the face of an unrelenting terrorist threat.

We applaud your principled leadership and your commitment to, in your words, “telling the truth”. We will continue to rely upon both as the Czech Republic assumes the presidency of the European Union…

Richard J. Sideman
David A. Harris

This is what happens when a juggernaut like the EU finds itself “led” by a dumb-ass nobody in an hour of crisis. Back in the 1940s the Czechs supplied Jewish terrorists with weapons to be used against the British. How dare you, Schwarzenberg, make us Britons accomplices in Israel’s crimes? Taint yourself if you wish, but DON’T TAINT US!

President Sarkozy of France told the Lebanese press that Hamas ”bears major responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, because it decided to break the truce and begin launching rockets again into Israel.” Another one who doesn’t do his homework before opening his mouth.

And where is Tony Blair, our wonder peace envoy, in all this? Still trying to find the balls to go to see Hamas. He says: “We are doing everything we possibly can to bring about an end to a situation of immense suffering and deprivation. I know over next few days there are going to be intensive diplomatic efforts. We will increase our efforts to bring about a resolution to this situation.”

So why haven’t there been intensive efforts before now? How many must die or be maimed before you pull your finger out? Tell you what, Tony, if the Israelis won’t listen, say to them in a nice clear voice: “Ceasefire immediately or say goodbye to economic and technological cooperation.” If they still act deaf, you could add: “Say goodbye to your London embassy also. You loons are not taking us Britons down with you.”

In the meantime, Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni reiterated her country’s position, that it was Hamas and not the Palestinian people that were the targets: “This is a war against terror … we have nothing against the Palestinians.” Great. So why does your illegal occupation continue? Why are you still making their lives a misery? Why slaughter their kids? Why trash their infrastructure and public institutions?

Today, I think the last (and most chilling) word goes to Dr Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas. He warned: “They [the Israelis] have legitimized the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine. They have legitimized the destruction of their synagogues and their schools by hitting our mosques and our schools.”

Al-Zahar knows all about a father’s grief. He has been the target of assassination attempts. His two sons were killed and his daughter injured in Israeli raids.

By Stuart Littlewood 7 January 2009 Stuart Littlewood views Israel’s amoral friends, from ignoramus Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg to war criminal Tony Blair, whose hypocrisy and lies are helping to sustain the biggest lie of all, Israel.

NATO soldier, over dozen civilians killed in Afghanistan

Kabul – A NATO soldier was killed in southern Afghanistan while US-led forces and local officials and villagers disputed the death toll in an operation in eastern Afghanistan on Friday.

US-led forces claimed Saturday they killed 15 rebels, including a female fighter, in eastern Afghanistan. However, a provincial lawmaker and local villagers said that 21 Afghan civilians were killed in the operation.

The operation, in the eastern province of Laghman, targeted a Taliban commander believed to be involved in moving foreign fighters and weapons into the region, the US military said in a statement.

In the province’s Mehtar Lam district, the combined forces received small arms fire from a group of militants exiting from several compounds, the statement said.

Eleven militants were killed in the firefight, while four others were killed in an airstrike, it said, adding that a female fighter was killed ‘while maneuvering on coalition forces and was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade.’

However, Abdul Rahimzai, head of Laghman’s provincial council, said that Friday night’s attack killed 21 civilians and wounded several others.

‘Several tribal elders in the area contacted me today and said that they took out 21 dead bodies, including women, from the destroyed houses,’ Rahimzai told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Lutfullah Mashal, the provincial governor could not confirm the exact death toll, but said that the operation was not coordinated with the Afghan military or provincial leaders. He said a team had been dispatched to the area to investigate the local people’s assertion.

Angry protester took to streets in the provincial centre, chanting slogans against the US military forces in the country. The protesters asked the central government to punish those behind the ‘ruthless’ attack.

‘There were no Taliban fighters in the area when the US forces came and bombed the village,’ Wali Mohammad, a demonstrator told dpa by phone from the area.

‘I can show you all the bodies, they are all innocent women, children and men,’ he said.

Due to the remoteness of the area, it was difficult to verify the contradictory claims independently.

Meanwhile, NATO-led International forces military alliance in Afghanistan said in a statement that one of NATO soldier was killed by a roadside bomb blast in the nation’s south.

The statement did not disclose the nationality of the soldier, nor did it give an exact location for the incident. The majority of NATO forces deployed in the south are from the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and Canada.

Separately, NATO forces killed a local man suspected of placing a roadside bomb close to an alliance military base in the Gerishk district of southern Helmand province on Thursday, NATO said in a statement.

The man, who was digging close to base left the area after a NATO soldier fired two warning shots, the statement said, adding that the man was shot to death when he returned to the same area and resumed digging.

Separately, one civilian was killed and four others, including a woman and two children, were wounded in a crossfire between NATO forces and suspected Taliban militants in Helmand’s Sangin district, the NATO statement said.

NATO troops airlifted five wounded civilians to a military hospital, where one of them succumbed to his injuries. The rest were reported to be stable.

Civilian casualties at the hand of foreign troops have become a delicate issue in Afghanistan which has created tension between President Hamid Karzai and his international military backers. Karzai, who is facing reelection later this year, has been more critical recently.

In an address to lawmakers last week, Karzai said international forces had not paid attention to his repeated pleas and warned that the fight against terrorism would fail without the support of local people.

Of about 5,000 people killed in the Afghanistan conflict last year, around 2,000 were civilians.

Free Palestine, break ties with apartheid Israel

Free Palestine, break ties with apartheid Israel

Stu Harrison

“Perhaps one day we will understand how wrong our actions in this region have been from time immemorial.”

This is how journalist for Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, David Grossman, summed up Israel’s oppression of Palestine on January 20, two days into the unstable ceasefire that followed the 22-day war on Gaza.

Even the January 19 Time magazine ran a cover story entitled “Why Israel Can’t Win”.

People all over the world have been shocked by Israel’s cruelty in its war on a trapped and besieged people.

With a death toll still rising as more bodies are pulled from under rubble and with hospitals lacking supplies needed to treat the injured due to Israel’s blockade on the Palestinian territory, the numbers dead as a result of Israel’s 22-day straight bombardment exceeds 1300, including more than 400 children. Less than 100 of the dead are believed to be resistance fighters.

Homes, public buildings (including the parliament) and vital industries now lie as rubble.

Despite its unilateral January 18 ceasefire, Israeli troops continue to surround Gaza and a January 21 Al Jazeera report stated that Israeli ships remained in Gazan territorial waters.

Reporting from Gaza, Al Jazeera journalist Ayman Mohyeldin stated: “There is a 600-metre buffer zone which the Israeli army uses as a no-go, meaning that anyone who owns farmland in the area and tries to access it is often fired upon to try to deter them from approaching any closer.”

Hamas, which leads the Palestinian Authority government in Gaza after winning elections in 2006 and defeating a 2007 US-backed coup by forces loyal to West Bank-based Fatah PA president, responded by announcing a ceasefire of its own that gave Israel one week to withdraw all its troops from Gaza.

If Israeli troops remained, Hamas stated it would resume fighting to liberate the territory.

The January 23 Sydney Morning Herald reported: “The war is not over in Gaza. From 7am yesterday, the sounds of heavy shelling from Israeli gunboats stationed off the Gaza coast reverberated around the city.

“Gunfire and explosions could also be heard. By 9am ambulance sirens joined the chorus.”

After 22 days of slaughter, Israel failed to achieve its stated aims. Not only is Hamas still in power, the SMH article reported that the smugglers’ tunnels, that Israel claims are used to smuggle weapons but are also used to bring in food and other necessities in order to get around the blockade, appear to still be operating.

Also, the article reported that rockets have continued to be fired from Gaza into Israel.

For his part, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon described Israel’s assault on Gaza assault as “shocking and alarming”, according to a January 20 report in the British Guardian.

“This is heartbreaking, the scenes that I have seen. I am not able to describe how I am feeling seeing this site of the bombing of the United Nations compound.”

Standing in front of still-smoking humanitarian food aid in a UN warehouse hit by Israeli fire on January 16, he stated: “This was an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations.”

In the midst of this wanton destruction, calls for charges of war crimes to be brought against Israel’s leaders are growing louder.

The Arab Commission for Human Rights is among 300 human rights groups submitting a 37-page dossier to the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court (ICC) to request action against Israeli war crimes. The ICC is able to adjudicate on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed after 2002.

While Israel is not a member of the ICC, the court is still able to prosecute individuals. The governments of Venezuela and Bolivia have offered to take the case to the ICC. States can take the case one step further by issuing charges against offending nations.

Bolivian government official Sacha Llorenti told AFP on January 17 that it was seeking to gain support for regional governments to present a joint bid to bring those responsible for Israel’s carnage to justice.

Aid organisations have also joined the call, while Amnesty International is demanding action against Israel’s use of white phosphorous against civilian populations.

“Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighborhoods is inherently indiscriminate”, Donatella Rovera, a Middle East researcher with Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime.”

Israeli anti-war activists have established a Hebrew language website, , that details the human rights violations committed by Israeli officials and calls on the ICC to pursue criminal charges.

The bloodshed and destruction associated with Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and denial of their national rights is increasingly being seen as indefensible.

As Yonotan Shapira, a former Israeli air force captain, told BBC News on January 6 when asked about his opinion on the latest Israeli offensive: “I can sum that up in two words, war crime. My government is now engaging in a massive war crime killing hundreds of innocents …”

Shapira noted that thousands of Israelis “are demonstrating right now in the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem”. People “from all kind of background and parts of society”, he said, are “completely ashamed and against this crazy assault”.

Two female reservists refused to deployed to Gaza during the campaign of slaughter on conscientious grounds and were sentenced to 14 days in prison on January 19.

The Guardian reported on January 17 that a group of Israeli academics had called on foreign governments to impose sanctions on Israel over its crimes, pointing out that more than 500 Israeli citizens had signed on to a statement demanding sanctions.

While majority opinion within Israel has remained with the government, a January 20 IPS article reported that ‘the Israeli government is stepping up efforts to suppress dissent and crush resistance in the streets. Police have been videotaping the demonstrations and subsequently arresting protesters in large numbers.

“According to Israeli police reports, at least 763 Israeli citizens, the majority of them Palestinian and 244 under 18 years old, have been arrested, imprisoned or detained for participating in such demonstrations. Most have been held and then released, but at least 30 of those arrested over the past three weeks are still being held in prison.”

Millions of people from around the world took to the streets in opposition to Israel’s war in the largest display of global solidarity with Palestine yet. Hundreds of thousands right across the Arab world took action.

Even the sporting fields have not been immune, as revealed during a Euro Cup basketball game in Turkey between Turk Telekom and Israeli team Bnei Hasharon.

Thousands rallied outside the stadium, according to a January 6 Associated Press report.

Despite only 500 fans being admitted into the stadium under harsh police interrogation, once inside, the crowd quickly unfurled smuggled-in Palestinian flags and chanted “Israeli murderers, get out of Palestine!”.

As players took to the court, shoes were thrown onto the arena before fans clashed with security guards in an attempt to invade the court.

After 90 minutes, with the teams in their changing rooms, all fans were either arrested or dragged from the arena. The Israeli team accepted a forfeit.

There have also been significant protests inside the US, including from many Jewish people determined that Israel’s crimes do not occur in their name. However, in the lead-up to President Barack Obama’s inauguration, only five Congresspeople (out of 535) refused to support a resolution in favour of Israel’s war.

Democratic Congressperson Dennis Kucinich, who opposed the motion, argued that the supplying of arms by the US to Israel constitutes a breech of the Arms Export Control Act 1976, a little-applied law that restricts US arms from being used in wars of aggression.

The gap between popular opinion opposing Israel’s crimes globally and that of Western governments and pro-West Arab regimes stands more exposed than ever.

The West is still attempting to promote the collaborationist regime in the West Bank headed by Abbas as an alternative to the Hamas-led Gaza government, despite the fact that Abbas is increasingly rejected by Palestinians regardless of factional alignment, with support for a strategy of resisting Israel growing stronger.

Abbas has also authorised the repression of rallies in solidarity with Gaza that have occurred in the West Bank.

At an Arab Economic Summit on January 19, Abbas proposed a “national unity” government that would hold “simultaneous presidential and legislative elections”.

Such a proposal merely reflects Abbas’s own weak position and is aimed at buying Israel time by placing demands first and foremost on the Gazan government at a time when Israel’s near-total siege, backed by Western governments, is causing a humanitarian crisis and urgently needs to be lifted if more civilians are not to die.

Israel has near-total control over the lives of Palestinians. Any Palestinian decision can be overruled by Israel.

When Hamas won 2006 PA elections, Israel and its Western allies refused to recognise the result, placing sanctions on the Hamas-led PA government and backing Fatah’s 2007 coup that took control of the West Bank but was repelled in Gaza.

What is really at stake is not the threat of homemade rockets, but the threat to the maintenance of Israel as an apartheid state, run by and for one section of the population over all others.

The real threat, as revealed by Israeli officials in moments of frankness, is the “demographic threat” represented by a growing Palestinian population in both Israel and occupied West Bank and Gaza, which potentially threatens the maintenance of an exclusively Jewish state — which was established through the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Like apartheid in South Africa, a state based on superiority for one ethnic group or religion is inherently unstable and forced to resort to the most brutal violence to survive.

Lasting peace requires democracy and equality — a state for all who live in the area, regardless of their religion or race.

The campaign to isolate Israel diplomatically and economically over their war crimes, as well as to have Israeli leaders brought to justice for their actions, is an essential part of the campaign for justice for the Palestinians, more than a million of whom cannot return to their homeland claimed by Israel.

Morning in America

Morning in America

  • Guy Rundle

WITH the broad expanse of a clean desk before him, the new President, flanked by an American flag and the presidential standard, makes calls to world leaders. He’s coatless, in a white sleeve shirt, the sun shining through the crook of his arm, illuminating him. In the window behind, the branches of the bare trees appear to recede endlessly in the cold January light. The shot is the first by new official White House photographer Pete Souza, and it’s a classic — a genuinely great image, a wordlessly eloquent statement of winter yielding to spring.

Goddang Obama presidency — even the pictures are better.

Five days into the new presidency, it is already clear that things are changing. On Wednesday, with Washington DC still recovering from 24 hours of celebration, President Obama announced his first new orders — restrictions on lobbyists working for the government, and on former government officers lobbying an administration they’ve worked for, a reversal of a last-minute attempt by Dubya to give former presidents the right to veto FOI access to records from past presidencies. He also froze the pay of senior White House staff.

On Thursday, he began the process of closing Guantanamo Bay and overseas secret prisons run by the CIA, and banning the use of torture. On Friday, he ended the ban on federal funds going to international NGOs that offer, or even give information on, abortion options for women using aid-based health-care services.

Much of this is piecemeal for the simple reason that there is only so much a President can do through executive orders — legally, that is — with more substantial change requiring the passage of bills through Congress. But the moves are as important for what they put in motion, the direction they set, as for the concrete changes they make. For, in passing from the Bush administration to the Obama era, the US is not simply changing governments, it is changing types of government, and reaffirming some of the liberal principles encoded in its founding documents.

The plain fact about the Bush/Cheney — more exactly, Cheney/Bush — era was that it represented the most substantial counter-revolution against the principles that America understands itself as living by that has occurred since the Republic was founded.

Torture, detention, illegal wars, lies were simply the surface effect of the Cheney/Bush era’s deep and abiding aim — to realign the separation of US powers sufficient to give the executive arm of government, the presidency, an overwhelming authority that effectively destroyed the checks and balances of the three branches of government.

This was conducted principally through the use of “presidential signing statements” and restrictions on information flow.

“Signing statements” are statements of intent by the presidency as to the manner in which they intend to implement a law that Congress has just passed. They were barely used before the 1980s, but the George W. Bush regime used them as a mechanism for simply disregarding parts of laws it didn’t like.

Overwhelmingly, these were laws enacted to limit executive action in the “war on terror”, allowing the administration to “work in the shadows”, as Dick Cheney put it, and build a de facto secret government “on the dark side” (Cheney again).

The stated rationale for this was that the 9/11 attacks had put the US on the defensive and that exceptional measures were required. But, in fact, 9/11 was a politically fortuitous event that made a deeper agenda possible: the reconstruction of American politics in a way suitable for the defence of superpower status in the face of a rising East.

For the Cheney/Bush administration, the liberal political framework created by a union of revolutionary coastal agrarian states in the late 18th century was hopelessly unworkable for a nuclear-era behemoth — what was required was exactly the sort of imperial power that the first Americans had risen up against.

The doctrine allowed such “dark side” conservatives to make common cause with Christian conservatives who saw the liberal spirit of the constitution as a repudiation of Judeo-Christian culture.

The neoconservative notion — derived via the philosopher Leo Strauss from the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt — that an elite should impose a “state of exception” on the US, whereby visible areas of liberal democracy were surrounded by a “dark energy” of secret autocracy, connected with the Christian conservative notion of a revealed truth to be imposed on the world. It was that philosophy that was swept aside last November, and that this week’s executive orders have started to take apart.

Does that mean that under the Obama Administration, the United States will become a post-imperial republic withdrawing to its own borders? Of course not.

Obama has made no secret of his intent to preserve America’s “exceptional” power to reach into other countries’ sovereignty as it sees fit — as with the suspected US missile strike on the Pakistan border late on Friday.

But for those wanting to contest such a policy, it changes the nature of what is to be contested to a realpolitik, more open in its aims and motives, more open to criticism, challenge and dissent, and less bound up with grand schemes of dominance and global transformation, less need to make Mosul into Missouri.

Modest in itself, it is the sort of change made by a Gorbachev or a de Klerk that makes many other things possible — if people grasp and use the opportunity it represents, rather than dismissing it as cynical PR. If not, then like the groundhog, we see our shadows, and the winter outside the windows closes in once more.

Guy Rundle’s Down to the Crossroads — On the Trail of the 2008 Election is published by Penguin.

Stars & Stripes or the Star of David?

Stars & Stripes or the Star of David?

By Kareem M. Kamel, Researcher



“By opting for unprovoked aggression against Israel’s enemies, the US is embarking on a project beyond imperialism, and moving toward world war and Armageddon.”1

– Ronald Bleier, Demographic, Environmental
and Security Issues Project

“The Americans promised freedom and prosperity; what’s this? Go up to one of their headquarters, at one of those checkpoints were they point their guns at you, and tell them that you hate them as much as Saddam, and see what they do to you. The only difference is that Saddam would kill you in private, where the Americans will kill you in public.”2

– Mohammad Saleh, an
Iraqi Building Contractor

US troops in Baghdad

In many ways, 2003 could be considered one of the most catastrophic years in the history of the Muslim world. The US occupation of Iraq that began that year and that followed a decade-long process involving the destruction and deconstruction of Iraq – a major Arab state with immense strategic weight – represented the ultimate culmination of Arab humiliation. Moreover, Israeli brutality in the Occupied Territories reached its peak in 2003, as Israeli tanks, bulldozers, and soldiers routinely terrorized Palestinians, and cities and towns in Gaza and the West Bank were transformed into adjacent mega-prisons.

Both Syria and Iran became targets for US regime change, manifesting in congressional and presidential approval for the Syria Accountability Act, which threatened punitive measures against Syria should it continue to support resistance groups in Palestine and Lebanon, develop weapons of mass destruction, or permit Arab fighters to cross its border into Iraq. In addition, both Iran and Libya agreed to allow international inspection of their suspected nuclear weapons’ sites while Israel was allowed to maintain its nuclear arsenal. In fact, any Arab attempt to include Israel in nonproliferation arrangements was rejected by the US. The message was clear: Israel is above the law, and only Muslim states should be inspected and demilitarized.

More seriously, for the first time in the history of the Muslim World, US leaders and decision-makers not only openly discussed redrawing the map of the region, but also the deconstruction and recreation of the Muslim psyche. Catchwords such as the “modernization of Islam” and the “war of ideas” have become routine in the political lexicon of American decision-makers.3 This was concomitant with US pressure on Muslim states to change school curricula to stamp out any reference to certain Islamic concepts, such as martyrdom and jihad, which are essential to Islamic doctrine.

All of this was met by a surprising degree of complacency on the part of Arab and Muslim regimes, and a willingness to go along with all US demands as long as their position in power was guaranteed. Even the religious establishment in the Muslim world, once a bastion of resistance to foreign invasion, has become a state-owned enterprise, tailored to propagate a culture of defeatism, passivism, and apathy to Arab and Muslim citizens.

As we enter 2004, the Muslim world is under siege, not only through the presence of US troops on Muslim soil, Israeli carnage in the Occupied Territories, and the practices of pro-US dictatorships, but through the systematic destruction of the social, political and historical fabric of Arab and Muslim societies.



US leaders openly discussed the deconstruction and recreation of the Muslim psyche.

What is striking to note is that after the capture of Saddam Hussein, many Western commentators and Arab apologetics seemed to have lost sight of the real aims and objectives behind the US campaign in Iraq . Many have hailed Saddam’s capture as the beginning of a new era of freedom for Iraq, and the embodiment of America’s unshakable commitment to the liberation of the Arab people. It is important to remember that the US war on Iraq is part and parcel of Israel’s grand design for the region. The neoconservatives in the US and their Israeli counterparts not only have a common agenda, but in recent months have also adopted common practices in the occupied Arab lands of Palestine and Iraq.

US-Israeli Strategic Links – Setting the Record Straight

The strategic links between the US and Israel and their role in the war on Iraq are not simply the product of bankrupt conspiracy theorists or passive apologetics wishing to put the blame on a fictitious “Western-Zionist crusade.” In fact, America’s commitment to Israel’s self-defined security needs is on par with Washington’s commitment to the security of its NATO allies, with the significant difference that Israel reserves the right to make its own decisions regarding war and peace.4 America’s guarantee for Israeli security is firm, open-ended and qualitatively different from its commitment to any other state. Prominent Israeli strategist Nadav Safran contends that: “The relationship between the United States and Israel has been… a most unusual one in the annals of international relations altogether… It has permeated the societies as well as the governments of the two countries as no other relationship of theirs has, with the possible exception of American-British relations.”5

All of this lends weight to the theory that Bush’s war is part of a larger plan to reshape the Middle East to serve Israel ’s interests. The neoconservative hawks began pressing the case for overthrowing Saddam in 1998, with a letter to the Clinton administration drafted by Richard Perle and signed by 40 prominent neoconservative figures. Many of the signatories became advisers to then-Governor George W. Bush. Some won top jobs in the new administration. Hawks include, at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Luti, and Harold Rhode; at the Office of the Vice President, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and John Hannah; at the State Department, David Wurmser; and at the National Security Council, former Gen. Wayne Downing.6

After September 11, it became clear that US decision-making circles had been hijacked by fanatic neoconservatives pushing for a war against the entire Muslim world in furtherance of Israeli interests. Kathleen and Bill Christison wrote in the leftist e-journal Counterpunch: “The suggestion that the war with Iraq is being planned at Israel’s behest, or at the instigation of policymakers whose main motivation is trying to create a secure environment for Israel, is strong.”7 In addition, the Israeli commentator Akiva Eldar recently observed frankly in a Ha’aretz column that Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists “are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.”8 Harvard Professor, Stanley Hoffman contends:

And, finally, there is a loose collection of friends of Israel, who believe in the identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States… These analysts look on foreign policy through the lens of one dominant concern: Is it good or bad for Israel? Since that nation’s founding in 1948, these thinkers have never been in very good odor at the State Department, but now they are well ensconced in the Pentagon, around such strategists as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.9

Israelis detain a Palestinian

Israel has always viewed Iraq, with its highly educated population and enormous natural wealth, as a potential rival in the Middle East. Moreover, a US war with Iraq would further alienate the Arabs from America and polarize relations between the West and the Muslim World – a positive development for Israel.

Israel has always hoped to tap into Iraq’s massive oil reserves. One has to note that even before the occupation of Iraq there were multiple US efforts to bring Iraqi oil to Israel. Under a 1975 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the US guaranteed all Israel’s oil needs in the event of a crisis. The MoU, which has been quietly renewed every five years, also committed the US to construct and stock a supplementary strategic reserve for Israel, worth some $3 billion in 2002. Special legislation was enacted to exempt Israel from restrictions on oil exports from the US. Moreover, the US agreed to divert oil from its home market, even if it entailed domestic shortages, and guaranteed delivery of the promised oil in its own tankers if commercial shippers were unwilling or not available to carry crude oil to Israel. Israeli Minister for National Infrastructures Joseph Paritzky, openly talked about the possibility of reopening the long-defunct oil pipeline from Mosul to the Mediterranean port of Haifa. With Israel lacking energy resources of its own and dependent on very expensive Russian oil, reopening the pipeline would significantly boost its ailing economy.10 In addition, the proposed pipeline would lessen US dependence on Gulf oil supplies and provide the US with access to the world’s second-largest oil reserves.

The Ugly Face of US Occupation – Learning from Israel

For residents of the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, who have spent years watching television images of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza living under siege, surrounded by checkpoints and suffering routine airstrikes and military sweeps, American practices in Iraq have touched a sensitive chord. In fact, US forces in Iraq have been receiving lessons in occupation and counterinsurgency tactics from the Israeli military. The Israelis have supplied the US army with aerial surveillance equipment, decoy drones and D-9 armored bulldozers. A senior official in the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently met with Israel’s Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron and toured several high-tech Israeli defense firms. Moreover, Israeli security sources say mass assaults by covert squads of soldiers and swoops by troops posing as Arabs are among the tactics US forces are studying for use in Iraq.11



The religious establishments of the Muslim world became state-owned enterprises, propagating defeatism and apathy.

Over the past six months, whole villages in Iraq have been surrounded by razor wire, their residents forced to pass through checkpoints manned by US soldiers. Moreover, US aircraft and artillery have blasted buildings suspected of being used by insurgents, and there have been instances of family members of suspected insurgents being taken hostage to pressure the insurgents into surrendering.12 United States’ military officials have also reviewed the common Israeli tactic of conducting house-to-house searches for armed fighters by knocking down interior walls with a portable battering ram.13 Other reports suggest that US Special Forces are already behind the lines inside Syria, attempting to kill foreign Islamists before they cross the border, with a group focused on the “neutralization” of guerilla leaders being set up.14

One of the key planners of the Special Forces offensive is Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who has repeatedly equated the Muslim World with Satan. According to Boykin, “Satan wants to destroy this nation [USA]… and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” Boykin suggested that the Muslim world hates America because “we are a nation of believers.” Pentagon advisors described Donald Rumsfeld and William Boykin getting along “like two old warriors” after their meeting last summer.15 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed aside widespread demands for Boykin’s dismissal when reports of the inflammatory remarks were published in October. It is now clear that Rumsfeld insisted the general remain at his post because of his key involvement in planning the escalation of repression in Iraq.16

United States’-Israeli cooperation is not a new phenomenon, and has long been tied into the strategic and military planning for the war on Iraq. In fact, before the war, Israeli security sources said American officers had visited a mock-up of an Arab town used for Israeli training, and that US and Israeli troops held joint exercises in the Negev Desert. United States’ officers also reportedly reviewed Israeli tactics used in the brutal assault on the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin over a year ago, in which 23 Israeli soldiers and presumably hundreds of Palestinians were killed. Earlier reports suggested that Israeli squads were present in Western Iraq before the war to neutralize any potential Iraqi missile threat to Israel. In addition, Israeli commandos and intelligence units were working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.17


The impasse in which the Middle East finds itself is quite unique in the modern history of the region. Not only do the people of the Middle East have to grapple with the evils of occupation and dictatorship, but they must also struggle to maintain their own Islamic and Arab identities. More importantly, the US-Israeli strategic alliance in the post-September 11 world has exhibited very unique features in alliance patterns. Under normal circumstances it is common for great powers to fight wars by proxy, getting smaller powers to fight wars for their interests. However, the preponderance of pro-Israeli decision-makers in the current Bush administration has made the US, in fact, a proxy for its smaller ally, Israel. For decades, support for Israel has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy in the Middle East. In recent years, however, American foreign policy has become almost identical to that of Israel. Hence, as observers of international politics, we are witnessing the superimposition of Israel’s agenda on that of the US, and more seriously, the mimicking of Israel’s tried-and-tested occupation techniques by the US military in Iraq.



The preponderance of pro-Israeli decision-makers in the Bush administration has made the US a proxy for Israel .

Despite overwhelming odds, the people of Palestine and Iraq have demonstrated extreme resilience. It is enough to note that within the past few months four former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, and the current chief of staff of the Israeli military have all warned that the iron-fisted repression employed in the Occupied Territories will lead to a social and military catastrophe.18 In fact, recent events indicate that assassinations, arrests, the mass destruction of homes, the use of roadblocks and daily curfews has only fueled hatred of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and led to mass support for acts of resistance. By deploying similar tactics in Iraq – a much larger country than Palestine, with porous borders and almost unlimited access to arms – US troops may find themselves leaving Iraq the same way they did Saigon – “hanging on the strings of helicopters.”19

Kareem M. Kamel is an Egyptian freelance writer based in Cairo, Egypt. He has an MA in International Relations and is specialized in security studies, decision- making, nuclear politics, Middle East politics and the politics of Islam. He is currently assistant to the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo.

[1] Ronald Bleier, “Converging US and Israeli Interests,” Demographic, Environmental and Security Issues Project April 2003

[2] “Iraqis’ Joy At Saddam Arrest Quickly Fades,” MSNBC December 15th, 2003

[3] The neoconservative godfather, Norman Podhoretz, openly talks about a scheme involving “the long overdue internal reform and modernization of Islam” and the need to impose a “a new political culture on the defeated parties.” Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, repeatedly talked of a “war of ideas.” For a detailed analysis, see Stephen J. Sniegoski, “War on Iraq – Conceived in Israel,” Current Concerns

[4] Mohammed Ayoob, “Unravelling the Concept: ‘National Security’ in the Third World ,” in Bahgat Korany, et al. The Many Faces of National Security in the Arab World (New York: St. Martin’s, 1993): 31-55

[5] Nadav Safran, Israel: The Embattled Ally (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1981): 332

[6] Joshua Micah Marshall, “Bomb Saddam?” Washington Monthly June 2002

[7] Kathleen Christison and Bill Christison, “A Rose by Another Other Name: The Bush Administration’s Dual Loyalties” Counterpunch December 13, 2002

[8] Quoted from Stephen J. Sniegoski, “War on Iraq – Conceived in Israel,” Current Concerns

[9] Patrick J. Buchanan, “Whose War?” The American Conservative March 24, 2003

[10] “Oil from Iraq: An Israeli Pipedream?” Jane’s April 16, 2003

[11] “Israel Quietly Helps US in Iraq, Aides Say,” Khilafah December 12th, 2003

[12] Tony Karon, “Learning the Art of Occupation from Israel,” December 9th, 2003

[13] Esther Schrader, et al, “US Seeks Advice from Israel on Iraq,” LA Times November 22nd, 2003

[14] Julian Borger, “ Israel Trains US Assassination Squads in Iraq,” The Guardian December 9th, 2003

[15] Seymour M. Hersh, “Moving Targets,” The New Yorker December 8th, 2003

[16] Bill Vann, “US, Israel Prepare Mass Killings in Iraq,” World Socialist Web Site December 10th, 2003

[17] Seymour M. Hersh, “Moving Targets,” The New Yorker December 8th, 2003

[18] Bill Vann, “US, Israel Prepare Mass Killings in Iraq,” World Socialist Web Site December 10th, 2003

[19] “US Employs Israeli Tactics in Iraq,” MSNBC December 13th, 2003


Questions remain over US renditions

Questions remain over US renditions

Obama ordered Guantanamo closed, but are US renditions still taking place? [GALLO/GETTY]

Barack Obama’s decision to call a halt to elements of the Bush’s administration’s so-called war on terror was welcomed as a positive move by critics and rights groups.

The Guantanamo Bay prison camp was ordered closed by the US president, in addition a review of the detainees’ trials was ordered, along with the closure of CIA secret prisons and an end to harsh interrogations.

But the orders appear to leave loopholes that could allow some controversial US practices to continue.

In depth

Extraordinary renditions, where “terror” suspects are apprehended and transferred from countries by US intelligence services or their allies, without going through any legal process, could still be carried out.A senior Obama administration official has said the policy of extraordinary rendition would continue while a task force headed by the US attorney general investigates the issue.

The task force will report back to Obama in six months.

The official also said the US would not render anyone to a country that tortures and will gain assurances from the countries that they do send people to that the suspects won’t be tortured.

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent who was head of the organisation’s Bin Laden Unit in the 1990’s, told Al Jazeera it was not clear what would now happen to suspects detained as part of the rendition process after the secret prisons had been closed and other countries off-limits due to torture claims.

“I don’t know where they would be taken … but they wouldn’t be brought here [to the US],” says Scheuer.

“Most of those detained have been arrested by foreign intelligence agencies so a US court could not be sure they hadn’t been roughed up at all and that documents had not been tampered with.”

‘Black sites’

Extraordinary renditions became best known as part of the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror begun following the September 11 attacks on New York.

But the practice had originally been authorised by Bill Clinton, the former US president, in the mid-1990s, to target al-Qaeda units without using the legal process.

It is not known how many people have been subjected to rendition by US intelligence agencies or their allies, but the number is believed to have increased substantially following the beginning of the “war on terror”.

Many of the detainees are said to have been held at facilities in Egypt and Jordan, key US allies in the Middle East, or at secret prisons, (so-called “black sites”) in Europe or elsewhere.

A Council of Europe investigation into the use of rendition in 2006 found that more than 100 people had been detained as part of the US rendition program.

Abuse claims

Khaled al-Masri says he was abused in an
Afghan prison [AFP]

Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was abducted in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border and then flown to a detention centre in Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and abused.Al-Masri says he was released in Albania in May 2004, and that his captors told him he was seized in a case of mistaken identity.

Twenty-six Americans, nearly all of them believed to be CIA agents, are being tried in absentia in Italy on charges of kidnapping an Egyptian-born imam in 2003.

Prosecutors there say a CIA-led team kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr from the streets of Milan and secretly flew him to Egypt.

Nasr says he was tortured under questioning there and held without charge before being released in 2007.

Guantanamo concerns

Concerns have been raised about other elements of the executive orders on security Obama signed on Thursday.

Obama has ordered Guantanamo prisoners be treated in line with international law [EPA]

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a US rights group, issued a statement on Thursday warning Obama against allowing the CIA a new way to use torture, following any reviews of interrogation practices.But others believe that the Obama administration is genuinely committed to ending many controversial practices relating to the “war on terror.”

Devon Chaffee, an advocacy counsel at Human Rights First which has called for a moratorium on renditions, told Al Jazeera that she believed the “spirit” in which the orders were enacted meant that it was unlikely that abuses would continue.

But Scheuer has also expressed concerns about Obama’s executive orders and described the decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp as the act of an “immature president”.

He argues that the decision to close Guantanamo and possibly free detainees could endanger US national security by allowing freed al-Qaeda members to plan more attacks.

A report in the New York Times newspaper published on Friday alleged that a former Guantanamo inmate transferred to Saudi Arabia in 2007 is now the head of the group’s Yemeni cell and that he was involved in an attack on the US embassy there in September.

“We have two options,” says Sheuer.

“We can shoot them on the battlefield … or we can treat them as soldiers without uniforms and treat them as prisoners of war and release them when the war is over … so maybe never,” he said.

Pakistan has advantage over India

Pakistan has advantage over India

M. J. Akbar | Arab News

Foreign policy is not made in a day, much less on inauguration day. The smiles that broke out in Delhi when President Barack Obama cautioned Pakistan that nonmilitary aid would be cut if it did not curb domestic terrorism were premature. In any case, it is military aid rather than civilian aid to Islamabad which should be of more concern to Delhi, but the government in Delhi has become so dependent on the United States that it gets pleased with very little. An inaugural speech can only be peppered with markers that will slowly be fleshed into policy. But amateurs in Delhi have rushed to judgment where professionals fear to tread.

There was an air of simulation in the bluster with which Pakistan reacted. The boys of Islamabad know a charade when they see it; they are experts in the game themselves, after all. They don’t need spectacles to read between the lines of Obama’s South Asia policy.

Obama, still brimming with the audacity of hope, has promised peace all over the world and war in one corner: Afghanistan. Pakistan is not very competent in the disbursement of peace. Its expertise lies in the dissemination of war, by declaration or proxy, on enemy territory or the land of friends. And now of course it is fighting more than one war on its own soil. Pakistan knows that America cannot fight in Afghanistan without force, intelligence and logistical support provided by Pakistan. As long as this material situation does not change, America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America. Pakistan has decided to not merely extract a financial price for this support, but also a political price.

London and Washington already know what the price is, and are getting ready to pay it in some abbreviated form. Pakistan has begun with a tremendous advantage over India in the Washington diplomatic game. It engaged with the Obama campaign and the transition team, while Indian diplomats, taking their cue from Dr. Manmohan Singh’s near-obsessive love for George W. Bush, concentrated totally on Bush and the Republicans. This has been a great failure of foreign policy for which we have already begun to suffer. Pakistan has persuaded key advisers of Obama that it cannot fight the Taleban with its full resources as long as it has to simultaneously defend its border with India. The Indian threat can only be lowered with a resolution of the Kashmir issue. Therefore, it is time America and Britain persuaded India to discuss and settle Kashmir.

In an extraordinary maneuver, Pakistan turned around the Mumbai terror attack, organized on its soil. From predator, it refashioned itself into a victim. It used the war rhetoric from the Indian government to warn the West that it would pull out of the war against the Taleban. Delhi’s hot air proved doubly insipid. It did not frighten Pakistan one bit, but it scared the wits out of Washington and London, who rushed to Delhi and leaned on it. Delhi succumbed. India has lost twice over through Mumbai. It has become a laughing stock at security conferences. And it has allowed what could have been a diplomatic coup against Pakistan to become a diplomatic coup against India. This is incompetent governance, not just abysmal security.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was audacious enough to contradict India’s prime minister on Indian soil, by saying that the terrorist attack was not sponsored by the Pakistan government, and that India had better do something about the core cause, Kashmir. Instead of snubbing him, Rahul Gandhi, Congress’ proxy prime minister, took Miliband for some private tourism of poverty. British correspondents in Delhi have applauded Miliband for telling it like it is, throwing in a sentence that this is going to be Obama’s line as well.

Hillary Clinton, the incoming secretary of state, has already enunciated the Obama doctrine at her confirmation hearings in the Senate. The “hard power” of Bush will be replaced by “smart power.” This has been defined as the application of a “full range of tools … diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural” in the pursuit of American interests. Pentagon awe will be accompanied by nudge and arm-twist. By the time the twisting is over, Delhi might need a heavy bandage on the elbow.

Obama’s policy toward South Asia will be controlled by the compulsions of a war he wants to win in a hurry, before fatigue and a rising death toll turn it into another Iraq, or, worse, Vietnam. The battlefield will not be Afghanistan alone. American forces might soon have to fight in the western half of Pakistan, from Karachi to Swat, which is already being christened Talibanestan (the eastern half still remains Pakistan). Americans have reached that curious state of mind in which they want to win wars without losing soldiers. Their military research is concentrating on the robotization of the armed forces where even the infantry could become mechanical instead of human. But that is a long way ahead. The war for Afghanistan will be won or lost long before that.

Muslims across the world are taking comfort in the semantics of Obama’s initial remarks. After being misbespoken to for eight years, it must be a relief to hear correct grammar. Some of them have taken partial ownership of his presidency because he used his middle name, Hussein, while taking the oath. But the issue is not what Obama says. It is what he does.

Will he be able to get a resolution to Palestine except on harsh Israeli terms? Even if we ignore his campaign rhetoric — he could hardly afford to alienate the most powerful lobby in the United States — there are powerful interests protecting the expansionist reach of Israel. At all events, it will not be easy. Neither will be a victory in Afghanistan. As pressure mounts on him, he will be tempted to mount pressure on India through Kashmir.

It is going to be a complicated game, which might drift endlessly to a point where every side looks like a loser. Hope needs to be handled very carefully if it wants to remain audacious.

President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area

President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area

Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for his first military action yesterday, missile strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan which killed at least 18 people.

Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks. Although Obama has abandoned many of the “war on terror” policies of George Bush while he was president, he is not retreating from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.

The US believes they are hiding in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, and made 30 strikes last year in which more than 200 people were killed. In the election, Obama hinted at increased operations in Pakistan, saying he thought Bush had made a mistake in switching to Iraq before completing the job against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US marine corp commander said yesterday that his 22,000 troops should be redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan. Gen James Conway said “the time is right” to leave Iraq now the war had become largely nation-building rather than the pitched fighting in which the corps excelled; he wanted the marines in Afghanistan, especially in the south where insurgents, and the Taliban and al-Qaida, benefit from both a nearby safe haven in Pakistan and a booming trade in narcotics.

Obama has warned that he is prepared to bomb inside Pakistan if he gets relevant intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. He had also said he would act against militants along the border if the Pakistan government failed to.

The US missiles were fired by unmanned Predator drones, which hang in the sky gathering intelligence through surveillance and, when commanded and directed by remote control, to launch attacks.

The strikes will help Obama portray himself as a leader who, though ready to shift the balance of American power towards diplomacy, is not afraid of military action.

The first attack yesterday was on the village of Zharki, in Waziristan; three missiles destroyed two houses and killed 10 people. One villager told Reuters of phonethat of nine bodies pulled from the rubble of one house, six were its owner and his relatives; Reuters added that intelligence officials said some foreign militants were also killed. A second attack hours later also in Warizistan killed eight people.

The Pakistan government publicly expressed hope that the arrival of Obama would see a halt to such strikes, which stir up hostility from Pakistanis towards the government; in private, the government may be more relaxed about such attacks.

There is a lot of nervousness in the new administration about the fragility of Pakistan, particularly as it has nuclear weapons, but it also sees Afghanistan and Pakistan as being linked. In the face of a Taliban resurgence, there is despair in Washington over the leadership of the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, and there will not be much disappointment if he is replaced in elections later this year.

But Washington insists on seeing as one of its biggest problems the ability of the Taliban and al-Qaida to maintain havens in Pakistan. Obama on Thursday announced he was making veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke a special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, spoke by phone to the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari.