HRW Letter Scolding Syrian National Council for Acts of Terrorism

Open Letter to the Leaders of the Syrian Opposition

Regarding Human Rights Abuses by Armed Opposition Members

Human Rights Watch

We are writing to express our concern about increasing evidence, as described below, of kidnappings, the use of torture, and executions by armed Syrian opposition members and strongly urge you to work to ensure that all opposition members refrain from engaging in these unlawful practices.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented and condemned widespread violations by Syrian government security forces and officials, including disappearances, use of torture and forced televised confessions, arbitrary detentions, indiscriminate shelling of neighborhoods, and deaths in custody under torture. Now, in the face of evidence of human rights abuses by armed opposition members, Human Rights Watch calls on the leadership of leading opposition groups including the Syrian National Council (SNC) and its Military Bureau to condemn such practices by the armed opposition and to work to prevent such unlawful practices.

While the protest movement in Syria was overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011, since then Human Rights Watch has documented apparent crimes and other abuses committed by armed opposition elements. These crimes and abuses include the kidnapping and detention of security force members, individuals identified as members of government-supported militias (referred to locally asshabeeha), and individuals identified as government allies or supporters. They also include the use of torture and the execution of security force members and civilians. Some of the attacks targeting Shias and Alawites appear to be motivated by sectarianism.

Abuses of this nature, including torture, taking of hostages, and executions by armed opposition members, have also been documented by the UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry in its February 2012 report. In addition to concluding that armed members of the opposition have committed gross human rights abuses, the Commission’s report also references and appends documentation received from the Syrian government indicating that armed opposition members have kidnapped, killed, and disappeared civilians and security force members and displaced civilians.

We recognize that the perpetrators of these abuses are not always easy to identify nor do they necessarily belong to an organized command structure that follows the orders of the SNC or other opposition groups. Some reports received by Human Rights Watch indicate that in addition to armed groups with political motivations, criminal gangs, sometimes operating in the name of the opposition, may be carrying out some of these crimes.

Following the creation of the SNC Military Bureau on March 1, 2012, to liaise with, unify, and supervise armed opposition groups including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Human Rights Watch calls on the Bureau to condemn and forbid these abuses in order to achieve its objective of ensuring members of the armed opposition comply with international humanitarian law and to meet its human rights obligations. Human Rights Watch also calls on members of the armed opposition that are not under the operational command of the SNC to desist from committing these rights abuses.

Kidnappings

A number of witnesses have told Human Rights Watch that non-state armed groups identifying themselves with the opposition have kidnapped both civilians and members of the security forces. “Marwan,” an Alawite resident of Karam el Zeitoun, Homs, told Human Rights Watch that on January 23 an armed gang entered his neighborhood and kidnapped his elderly parents from their home. He said,

When the armed gang went into the house, my father called me on the phone, but they grabbed the phone from him. I tried to call back and couldn’t reach him, so I called a neighbor, who told me they took my father and mother, put them in a car, and went south. The head of the gang, known as Abees,called me the next day. He told me they had my parents and asked for money and weapons as ransom. He told me my father was okay and was with them. I said I would give him what he wanted, but that he had to let me hear my father’s voice. I spoke with him, and he noticed I was crying. He said: “Don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. I am not afraid. This is what God has written.” My father had the Quran as his weapon. He said, “Don’t worry and don’t listen to them.” After that they cut the line. I tried calling back a number of times but the phone was closed. The next day I kept trying; Abees answered and was swearing. He said to stop calling, and that they had killed my parents. After that we saw a video on YouTube showing their dead bodies. We have not received the bodies back despite numerous pleas. They took them because they want money. Myself, I am a supporter of the government, but this is a sectarian crime, and it has to do with money. My father had nothing to do with the government.

“Mazen,” a Syrian activist, told Human Rights Watch that members of the Abu Issa group in Taftanaz, a village north of Saraqeb, Idlib, told him that they had kidnapped individuals who worked with the government and tortured three of them to death.

“Samih,” another Syrian activist who said he has worked closely with the FSA in Saraqeb, told Human Rights Watch that while he was there he saw residents of Sarqeb complain to the FSA on more than one occasion that the Al-Nur battalion, a Salafist group that is not part of the official FSA structure, was kidnapping civilians for ransom. He said, “The people in Saraqeb were fed up with the battalion for doing this and that they asked the FSA to intervene” and that “Sometimes people would come to me when this happened and I would talk to members of the FSA on their behalf or I would direct them to local FSA leaders.”

“Samih” also told Human Rights Watch that members of the FSA were kidnapping soldiers:

They would kidnap them and ask their parents to pay a ransom to let them go. One time, the FSA in Saraqeb kidnapped a colonel from the Presidential Guard. In return, the military kidnapped two children from Saraqeb. The children were 15 and 16 years old. I was working with the FSA members and local government officials to negotiate a trade. At one point, the family members of the two kids called me pleading that I speed up the negotiations as much as possible. They said that they got a call at home from the captors and that they could hear their kids being tortured. They told them their kids would be released when the FSA released the colonel. We were able to negotiate a trade for the colonel and the kids have now been released.

“Mazen” said he spoke to a member of the Syrian security forces who was kidnapped and detained by opposition fighters in Saraqeb. He said,

The detainee told me he was a First Assistant in the National Hospital in Aleppo… I asked the revolutionaries to bring him to me so I could speak to him. He said that opposition fighters had beaten him with electrical cables and on the head… and he was blindfolded.  He said they let him speak to his parents…and that they asked them for money to release him.

The media coordinator for another FSA group operating in Homs, Al Farouq batallion, told Human Rights Watch that the battalion is not kidnapping soldiers but detaining them during military operations. He said,

We are not kidnapping soldiers. During an armed confrontation, soldiers surrounded by the FSA are surrendering themselves to the Al-Farouq battalion, so we are capturing and not kidnapping the soldiers. After capturing the soldiers, the FSA calls the government to negotiate the terms of their release but they refuse to negotiate simply because they don’t care about the captured soldiers. The captives are placed in a room not a prison. The room has one door with a lock, but no windows. The Al-Farouq battalion is treating them very well.

In addition, Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the FSA kidnappings of Iranian nationals, some of whom the FSA has confirmed are civilians. On January 26 the FSA Al Farouq battalion claimed responsibility for capturing seven Iranian nationals, five of whom they allege are members of the Iranian armed forces. In an interview on February 22, 2012, with Human Rights Watch, the Al-Farouq battalion media coordinator explained that the other two individuals detained are civilians but that they were detained at the point of capture because a Persian speaker was unavailable to confirm this until later. When asked why the detainees identified as civilians had not yet been released, he would not comment.

In tandem with its announcement of their capture, the battalion released video footage of the five detainees that they identified as members of the Iranian armed forces. In the video, one of the captives, Sajjad Amirian, explains that the five were following orders from Syrian security forces to shoot at civilians. On January 27 Syrian state media, SANA, reported that Iran’s MAPNA Group, an Iranian power company in Syria, said that the on camera statements were made under duress and untrue, and that the five individuals were in fact Iranian engineers. In an interview with Iranian state-owned Press TV, one of the detainee’s family members, Mehdi Sohrabi, spoke out against their detention, insisting that they are all engineers. The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that all seven men were released on February 10, but on February 15 indicated that the report was false and that the men remained in custody. The Al-Farouq battalion media coordinator told Human Rights Watch on March 16 that the seven detainees were still being held in Syria and that they were in good health.

According to media reports on February 1, members of the FSA also kidnapped 11 Iranian nationals traveling to Damascus on a pilgrimage tour, claiming that they had connections to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The FSA Abu el Fida battalion announced their release on February 6 following Turkish mediation efforts. An additional 11 Iranian pilgrims reportedly kidnapped on January 26 are still believed to be detained.

Torture

Human Rights Watch has reviewed at least 25 videos on YouTube in which Syrian security forces or their alleged supporters are filmed confessing to crimes under circumstances in which it appears that their statements were made under duress. At least 18 of these videos show footage of detained individuals who are bruised, bleeding, or show other signs of physical abuse.

In one video, three individuals described by the accompanying text as shabeeha are asked what their names are, where they are from, their religion, and what they are doing in Tal Kalakh. In the video they are shown on their knees during this interrogation, their hands bound. The face of one is clearly badly bruised. They all identify themselves as Shia, from el Rabwie, Homs, and “confess” that they were killing peaceful protesters.

In another video bearing the emblem of the FSA Khaled Bin Al Walid battalion, an unnamed individual described by the accompanying text as a shabeeha member is interrogated. He appears bound and his face is bruised. At the end of the video, he denies an allegation against him and the interrogator calls him a liar, tells the videographer to stop shooting, and directs someone off camera to bring him the “electricity machine”.

All individuals in the custody of the FSA and other opposition forces, including members of the Syrian security forces and shabeeha, should be treated humanely in accordance with international human rights standards.

Executions

Other video footage reviewed by Human Rights Watch and information received in interviews indicates that members of the FSA have executed individuals suspected of crimes against the opposition in their custody.

One video, released on YouTube on February 4, shows an individual hung from a tree by his neck in front of several armed fighters. Commentary indicates that he is a shabeeha fighter captured and executed by the FSA Kafr Takharim battalion on January 22, 2012. In a second video, which appears to have been released by the FSA Al Farouq battalion on YouTube, an individual identified as a member of Air Force Intelligence based in Homs is interrogated and confesses to shooting at protesters. The detainee’s face is very badly beaten, cut, and bruised, and he appears disoriented. Written statements accompanying the video state that it was filmed before his execution, and the interrogator in the video, amidst curses, asks him for his final request before dying.

In a separate incident, the Al Farouq battalion media coordinator told Human Rights Watch about the execution of an Air Force Intelligence member. He said, “The death of the member of the Air Force Intelligence was an act of revenge because the branch is responsible for horrific killings in Homs.”

In light of these reports, we strongly urge you to publicly condemn kidnappings, the use of torture, and executions by armed Syrian opposition members and to work to ensure that all opposition members do not engage in these unlawful practices.

Sincerely,

Sarah Leah Whitson

Executive Director

Middle East & North Africa division

Cc:

Colonel Riad al-Asaad

Commander

Free Syrian Army

Dr. Burhan Ghalioun

President

Syrian National Council

General Mustafa al-Sheikh

Military Council

UN Mute Over NATO’s Syrian Death Squads

UN Mute Over NATO’s Syrian Death Squads

UN’s silence over Syrian opposition terrorism lays bare the illegitimacy of  “international law.”

Tony Cartalucci, Contributor
Activist Post

Since 2011, reports of arsonists and gunmen amongst Syria’s opposition have been included in reports regarding the unrest in Syria, albeit buried under sensational headlines of the Syrian government’s “brutality.” More recently, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has conceded that indeed the Syrian opposition “Free Syrian Army” is conducting widespread, systematic abuses including the kidnapping, torture, and murder of both security forces and civilians.

The HRW report titled, “Syria: Armed Opposition Groups Committing Abuses,” is broken into three parts; kidnapping, torture, and executions. And while the report attempts to focus mainly on atrocities carried out against security forces and government supporters, the mention of civilian victims is made as well. The report states:

Abuses include kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabeeha. Human Rights Watch has also received reports of executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians.

Now, almost daily, the Syrian opposition is carrying out vicious attacks not only on security forces, but a terrorist bombing campaign across Syria that has already killed and maimed scores of civilians.

While the Syrian opposition claims it lacks the ability to carry out such attacks, the opposition is exposed as very well armed, their fighters sheltered in NATO member Turkey, its leadership sheltered in Washington and London, and their fighters wielding not only an endless supply of small arms, but rocket propelled grenades, mortars, missiles, and even tanks.



Video: Hardly unarmed civilians, or “lightly armed freedom fighters,” meet Syria’s tank-driving, rocket-firing, Kalashnikov-waving foreign-funded rebels, many of whom are not even Syrian

Additionally, listed terror organizations such as Al Qaeda’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), recently armed, supported, and literally handed control of Libya by NATO, has publicly met with leaders of the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) and pledged arms, cash, and fighters. Just last week, a ship originating from Libya carrying weapons was interdicted by the Lebanese, en route to deliver its cargo to Syria’s rebels.

Now in the midst of an alleged “peace deal” being brokered by the UN’s Kofi Annan – a deal that is admittedly designed to buy time for rebels to regroup, rearm, and redeploy according to US corporate-financier policy think-tank the Brookings Institution, the rebels have openly rejected the plan and demonstratively continue on with a campaign of terroristic violence.

Image: Brookings Institution’s Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change” makes no secret that the humanitarian “responsibility to protect” is but a pretext for long-planned regime change.

The Syrian government has claimed it has documented a long list of ceasefire violations by the rebels – a list that is confirmed daily in headlines from across the biased Western media, still attempting to depict the violence as one-sided. There are sea-raids carried out at night with the precision of Western special forces, terror bombings against civilian targets admittedly carried out by rebels, and now a daily campaign of bombs so overt and atrocious, even the Western corporate media must now acknowledge a “shift” in tactics.

A recent Reuters article titled “Outgunned Syria rebels make shift to bombs,” includes admissions from the rebels themselves that they are behind the spat of bombings ravaging Syria – bombs the Western press and opposition leaders had previously tried to blame on “false flag” attacks carried out by the Syrian government to undermine the rebels’ legitimacy.The Reuters article concedes that while the FSA officially is “upholding” the UN truce, its fighters have outright rejected it and are indeed openly in violation of the ceasefire.

The Reuters report also confirms Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s statement that his security forces were fighting armed militants – not protesters and civilians – in security operations across Syria before the UN ceasefire came into effect. The reports states:

Since the army routed them from their strongholds in cities, some rebels said they realized that even in guerrilla street battles they could not beat Assad’s tanks or artillery. The Syrian Liberation Army’s spokesman Qdemati said his group’s fighters were now focusing most of their attention on ‘manufacturing facilities’ for bombs. ‘You are going to start seeing an escalation as we improve our techniques of bomb-making and delivery.’

Not only does this confirm that the Syrian rebels have resorted to indiscriminate terrorist tactics, but reveals again that government claims that an explosion in the city of Hama that killed 70, devastating much of a city block, was in fact a mishap at a rebel bomb-making facility. BBC amazingly attempted to peddle the opposition’s explanation, claiming the Syrian government possibly fired a “SCUD missile” at the city.


Photo: From Hama, Syria, a city block lies in ruins after a rebel bomb factory mishap caused a massive explosion. At least 70 have been reported killed. In initial attempts to spin and cover up rebel involvement, BBC actually ran with an opposition explanation suggesting the Syrian government fired “SCUD missiles” at Hama. It is now revealed that the rebels are indeed operating bomb factories across Syria and indeed carrying out a terrorist bombing campaign.

Now, however, all pretenses have been dropped and it is admitted that the Syrian rebels are manufacturing and deploying indiscriminate bomb devices nationwide. The Syrian rebels have been noted as terrorists, both foreign and domestic since nearly the beginning of the fighting last year by the alternative media. The Western press has attempted to obfuscate this fact for as long as possible, already irreparably undermining their own legitimacy in the process.

The UN, NATO, and complicit media outlets across the West, by contradicting a growing awareness of the reality of both the terroristic nature of the Syrian rebels, and the depth of deceit directed against the global public in regards to the conflict in Syria since the beginning, undermines entirely the legitimacy they and the “international law” they claim to uphold, have. In regards to Libya, US think-tank the Brookings Institution openly stated that it was about asserting the “primacy of international law” over the nation-state.

When such gross injustices, deceit, and hypocrisy exist under “international law” in both Libya and now Syria, it is clear that such “international law” is but a system of control exercised by a minority against others on a global scale. “International law” is revealed as merely the neo-imperial edicts of the global corporate-financier oligarchs, dressed up as “humanitarian concerns” even as they prop up terrorists from Libya to Syria, and beyond. Even as the UN begins to admit that indeed the Syrian rebels are in violation of the ceasefire, they only do so as the violence runs demonstratively rampant and out of control.

Photo: It must be remembered, that not only are Syria’s rebels committing horrific atrocities amidst an admittedly terroristic campaign against the Syrian people, they do so with arms, funding, equipment, training, and political support from the “Friends of Syria” cadre including the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. 

Surely the UN doesn’t expect the world to believe rebels are picking their bomb-making materials and Kalashnikovs from Syria’s cypress trees – and knows full well such weapons, training, and cash are flowing over the borders, admittedly from the US-led “Friends of Syria” cadre to support what is now clearly a terrorist campaign in direct violation of the UN’s own “peace deal.”

Unfortunately, the UN will not demand an end to, or even mention the West’s support of the Syrian rebels, and instead use the violence to continue with their original plan – the establishment of “humanitarian corridors” and “safe zones” by armed NATO troops. From these established zones, the rebels can continue their campaign of violence against the Syrian people in pursuit of dividing and destroying Syria as a sovereign nation-state, in line not with “international law,” but in the interests of Western imperial ambitions.

Tony Cartalucci’s articles have appeared on many alternative media websites, including his own atLand Destroyer Report.

Noted: Russians to train at Fort Carson–The Rest of the Story Was B.S.

[SEE:Russia, U.S. to Hold Anti-terror Drills in May ]

 Noted: Russians to train at Fort Carson

Colorado Springs Independent.

Bilateral agreement brings Russians here

Colorado Springs soon will be invaded by Russian soldiers — a whole 20 of them.

Lt. Col. Steve Osterholzer, public affairs officer with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, says he’s been receiving a lot of interesting phone calls since an online news service, EU Times, incorrectly reported that Russian troops would be taking part in alarming exercises on American soil, such as “taking and holding” Denver International Airport.

“Ninety-nine percent of it is inaccurate,” Osterholzer says of the article, which has inspired a glut of anti-globalist conspiracy-mongering. “The 1 percent that is accurate is that, yes, some Russian soldiers are coming to do some training with us as part of the bilateral agreement.”

That agreement, signed last year, will focus on counterterrorism efforts, he says: “Counter-terrorism isn’t an isolated fight. It is a worldwide fight in which we need to work together.”

At the end of May, 20 Russian soldiers will take part in basic training exercises for about two weeks at Fort Carson. They’ll spend a day at the shooting range, familiarizing themselves with common weapons. Being from an airborne recon platoon, they will go for a jump. They will train in communications and medical evacuation, and engage in some mountaineering exercises.

“It’s very basic training, and it’s done in the name of building relationships,” Osterholzer says. “And all of the stuff we are doing is unclassified.”

Like any foreign-exchange program, American soldiers also will visit Russia, but details have yet to be worked out on that. — CH

The Army and Special Forces: The Fantasy Continues

 

The Army and Special Forces: The Fantasy Continues

 

By GORDON ADAMS 

 

The Army, it would appear, and, perhaps the nation, has learned nothing from its unhappy experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This morning’s New York Times reports that Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno is setting off to restructure large pieces of his ground force to do in other regions, especially Africa, what they have done so well in those two unhappy countries.

What failed in Iraq and Afghanistan is doomed to even greater failure in other regions, to the detriment of our long-term security.   It was a strategic  error to invade Iraq, and a serious tactical error to let Iraq draw forces and attention away from Afghanistan, letting a culture of corruption and malfeasance brew.  In neither country, have America’s military (or for that matter, its civilians) distinguished themselves as nation-builders, security-shapers, or developers.

The fundamental truth: the U.S. lacks the capacity (as does any industrial country) to reshape the internal characteristics of another nation.  The history of colonialism is littered with failure, not success, in trying to do so.  Americans are no better, however inexhaustible our good will, at executing such a mission successfully.

For the Army to imagine it can take phantom success from Iraq and Afghanistan and, through close collaboration between the ground forces and the Special Operations command, transpose it to Africa with an equally ghostly outcome, is to enter a land of fantasy, and apply money and American lives to the effort.  It is doomed.

Moreover, to act out this fantasy has increasingly severe consequences for our security.  Each new venture, each new failure, each intrusion into the lives and livelihood of others, seeking to “reshape” them, blows back on our reputation, creates new adversaries, and threatens our own well-being.

Where are the policy officials, the stewards of our foreign policy, the voices of caution, that will step in front of this moving bureaucratic train and call a halt for a moment’s reflection?

 

‘Thugs’ attack Islamists outside Egypt’s Defense Ministry, killing 11

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt

Protesters clash with Egyptian military outside the Defense Ministry in Cairo on Wednesday.

Thugs’ attack Islamists outside Egypt’s Defense Ministry, killing 11

– KansasCity.com.

CAIRO — In the deadliest outbreak of violence in weeks, at least 11 protesters were killed and at least 150 wounded early Wednesday outside the Defense Ministry in Cairo in clashes with civilian attackers, putting Egypt’s presidential election and already-fragile democratic transition in further turmoil.

Several Islamist presidential candidates announced Wednesday that they were suspending their campaigns – some for 48 hours and some indefinitely – in response to the violence and the military-run government’s apparent unwillingness to stop it. Officials also canceled the first presidential debate, which had been scheduled for Thursday. Egypt’s presidential election is May 23-24.

Gen. Sami Anan, the chief of staff for the army, attempted to reassure protesters, appearing in the late afternoon and pledging that the military, which has ruled by decree since the ouster last year of former President Hosni Mubarak, would give up power immediately after the election.

Witnesses said that many of the protesters had been stabbed and shot in the head and neck. Dr. Tarek Saed, the head of the area field hospital, who was there throughout the night, said five cases of fatal injuries had arrived in 10 minutes.

“No one cared about the blood being shed,” a frustrated Saed said.

The clashes were likely to further erode the reputation of the military, which many Egyptians think is stirring up violence to delay the election and prolong its rule, which began after Mubarak resigned in February 2011.

The protesters, many of them supporters of disqualified presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, an ultraconservative Islamist, had been holding a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry in the middle-class Cairo neighborhood of Abbasiyah, calling for an end to military rule.

Around midnight, “thugs” began attacking them, killing at least five immediately. Hours later, the military staged four tanks outside the perimeter of the fighting, but the security forces made no effort to stop the attacks.

Protesters said the attack reminded them of the infamous assault on anti-Mubarak demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last year by thugs riding camels, which the security forces also had failed to stop.

Who the “thugs” were remained unclear. Some protesters said they thought the security forces had paid the attackers or that they had the tacit backing of the military. Others suspected they were frustrated residents trying to get rid of protesters.

“We have been beaten up for over three days. They (the military) came now only to defend the thugs,” said Tarek Galal, a 30-year-old merchant. “If they believed the thugs could break up the sit-in, the military would let them do it.”

Medical student Sayed Faithy, 20, who’d joined the protest three days ago, was among those who thought the military had sanctioned the attack in an effort to delay the elections.

“Why before every election do massacres happen?” he asked. Then he answered his own question: “They don’t want to transfer power.”

At a news conference hours after the violence, Mohammed Morsi, the presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful political group, said he’d suspend his campaign for 48 hours. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood member who’s running his own candidacy for the presidency, said he’d suspend his campaign indefinitely.

Hossam Khairallah of the Democratic Peace Party and Abul Ezz el-Hariry of the People’s Social Alliance Party also announced that they were pausing their presidential campaigns.

“This could lead to attacks on the Defense Ministry, which will force the army to announce a military coup in defense of themselves and their position,” el-Hariry said.

El-Hariry called on all political powers to return to a full strike in Tahrir Square.

By evening, 13 political parties officially had joined the protest and thousands of demonstrators had regrouped and were moving back toward the Defense Ministry, saying they were prepared to confront the thugs again.

(Ismail is a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent. Special correspondent Mohannad Sabry contributed to this report.)

Oakland police Try To De-Militarize Their Response To Occupy Protest

Oakland police tone down response to Occupy protest.

San Francisco police officers keep watch on protesters af... Erik Verduzco / The Chronicle  
   
   

San Francisco police officers keep watch on protesters after police moved in to evict dozens of people that took over a building at the corner of Gough and Turk Streets on April, 2, 2012.

 

Erik Verduzco / The Chronicle

 

Facing criticism from a federal court monitor for using “military-type” tactics against Occupy activists, Oakland police changed their strategy during Tuesday’s May Day protests – swooping in on individual suspects instead of making mass arrests, keeping their beanbag guns holstered and using tear gas sparingly.

“This was our attempt to handle things on a smaller scale, in hopes of facilitating the majority’s freedom to assemble,” said Sgt. Christopher Bolton, chief of staff to Police Chief Howard Jordan.

On some levels, the effort appeared to succeed – 39 people were arrested, compared with more than 400 during a January protest, and vandalism was not as widespread as in other large Occupy actions.

Some critics, though, said that the effort fell short and that police had provoked protesters.

In one major shift, police repeatedly sent squads of fewer than a dozen officers into crowds to snatch people suspected of crimes, arrest them and swiftly haul them behind police lines. In earlier protests, officers penned in large crowds and left protesters no escape.

“What we’re seeing is a maturation of their tactics,” said Laleh Behbehanian, a member of Occupy Oakland’s antirepression committee.

“The first lesson that they’ve learned is mass tear gassing is really bad PR,” she said. “Now they’re no longer using indiscriminate force on protesters – that’s how they’re representing it.”

Picking out targeted suspects, however, “can incite a crowd,” Behbehanian said. “People get upset … and (it) creates the opportunity to arrest people on charges of obstruction or lynching,” the legal term for trying to free arrestees.

Obstruction, vandalism

Of the 39 arrests Tuesday, 27 were for allegedly obstructing police. Seven people were booked on suspicion of failing to disperse from an unlawful assembly. Two people were arrested on suspicion of vandalism, two for allegedly resisting arrest, and one for allegedly violating a restraining order.

Behbehanian said many of those arrested were deeply involved in Occupy, suggesting that police were trying to break up the group’s organizational structure.

The city reported vandalism to several banks and other businesses, and broken windows on a police van. A television news van had its front window smashed and its tires slashed.

Rachel Lederman, a National Lawyers Guild attorney, said at least two protesters had been hurt, including a woman who suffered a serious head injury from a police baton.

Several officers were splattered with paint and targeted by thrown objects, but the department reported no injuries.

In a report released Monday, a monitor overseeing court-ordered police reforms said he was concerned about the use of force and nonlethal weapons on crowds in earlier Occupy protests.

Crowd control policy

The department’s crowd control policy seeks to minimize force used on innocent people in a crowd. It bars the use of beanbags to disperse people and allows tear gas under extremely limited circumstances.

But on Oct. 25, Oakland police repeatedly deployed tear gas and fired beanbags in an effort to clear a crowd that was angry over the sweep of an Occupy encampment outside City Hall. One protester, 24-year-old Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, was struck in the head by a beanbag as he demonstrated peacefully, a near-fatal blow.

On Tuesday, police used no beanbags and only small amounts of tear gas in three skirmishes with protesters. In contrast to past demonstrations in which downtown was enveloped by clouds of the gas, it was possible Tuesday to see and breathe within minutes after the gas was released.

Police used the gas to fend off people trying to stop the targeted arrests, Jordan said. He said that even though the use of small amounts of gas had long been part of the department’s policies, “I don’t recall using that before.”

Seeing progress

Some of the decisions made by police Tuesday showed progress, said John Burris, one of two attorneys who brought a civil suit a decade ago that prompted federal court oversight of the department.

“I have no objection to strategic deployment of weapons,” Burris said. “Our big issue has been the general deployment of weapons into a crowd. If a police officer has reason to believe a person has engaged in assaultive conduct, they can employ whatever means they have available to them” to stop the person.

After each targeted arrest Tuesday, including when police ordered protesters to disperse, officers allowed crowds to reassemble at Frank Ogawa Plaza, the protest’s main gathering point.

“They were able to do everything they wanted to do after those arrests were made and after those dispersal orders were made,” said Bolton, Chief Jordan’s chief of staff.

Jordan said another key difference in Tuesday’s police response involved increasing the visibility of uniformed officers. That was driven in part, he said, by the crowd’s early, aggressive tenor.

“We wanted to send a message that we’re not going to tolerate acts of vandalism, violence or any kind of disruption to businesses,” Jordan said.

Matthai Kuruvila and Demian Bulwa are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Twitter: @matthai, @demianbulwa. mkuruvila@sfchronicle.com, dbulwa@sfchronicle.com

Russian military raise the ante on missile defense

Sergey Ponomarev / AP

Chief of General Staff Nikolay Makarov speaks at Russian Ministry of Defense’s Conference on Missile Defense in Moscow on Thursday, May 3, 2012. President Medvedev last year threatened that Russia will retaliate if it does not reach agreement with the United States and NATO. Makarov on Thursday confirmed that stance, saying that that Russia will take “a decision on a pre-emptive use of destructive force” if “the situation aggravates.”

Russian military raise the ante on missile defense.

sfgate

MOSCOW, Russia (AP) —

Russia’s top military officer has threatened to deal a pre-emptive strike on U.S.-led NATO missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe if Washington goes ahead with its controversial missile defense plan.

President Dmitry Medvedev said last year that Russia will retaliate militarily if it does not reach an agreement with the United States and NATO on the controversial missile defense system. Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov went even further Thursday.

“A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens,” Makarov said.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov also warned Thursday that talks between Moscow and Washington on the topic are “close to a dead end.”

U.S. missile defense plans in Europe have been one of the touchiest subjects in U.S.-Russian relations for years.

Moscow rejects Washington’s claim that the missile defense plan is solely to deal with any Iranian missile threat and has voiced fears it will eventually become powerful enough to undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Moscow has proposed running the missile shield jointly with NATO, but the alliance has rejected that proposal.

Makarov’s statement on Thursday doesn’t seem to imply an immediate threat, but aims to put extra pressure on Washington to agree to Russia’s demands.

The Obama administration tried to ease tensions with Russia in 2009 by saying it would revamp an earlier Bush-era plan to emphasize shorter-range interceptors. Russia initially welcomed that move, but has more recently suggested the new interceptors could threaten its missiles as the U.S. interceptors are upgraded.

The U.S.-NATO missile defense plans use Aegis radars and interceptors on ships and a more powerful radar based in Turkey in the first phase, followed by radar and interceptor facilities in Romania and Poland.

Russia would not plan any retaliation unless the United States goes through with its plans and take the third and final step and deploy defense elements in Poland, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Wednesday. That is estimated to happen no earlier than in 2018.

Russia has just commissioned a radar in Kaliningrad, its western outpost near the Polish border, capable of monitoring missile launches from Europe and the North Atlantic.

On Thursday, at the start of a two-day conference with representatives from about 50 countries, a top Russian defense official reiterated Moscow’s offer to run the missile shield together with NATO.

Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said such a jointly run European missile defense system “could strengthen security of every single country of the continent” and “would be adequate to possible threats and will not deter strategic security.”

NATO’s deputy secretary general, Alexander Vershbow, told the conference Thursday that the U.S.-led missile shield is “not and will not be directed against Russia” and that Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles are “too fast and too sophisticated” for the planned system to intercept.

The conference in Moscow is the last major Russia-U.S. meeting about military issues before a NATO summit in Chicago later this month. Russia hasn’t said whether it will send top officials there.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator John McCain on a visit to Lithuania lashed out at Russia’s plans in Kaliningrad.

McCain said using missile defense as “excuse to have a military buildup in this part of the world, which is at peace, is really an egregious example of what might be even viewed as paranoia on the part of Vladimir Putin.”

___

Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, contributed to this report.

Deputy Chairman of the IRP: Groups such as “Jamaat Ansarullah,” created in order to discredit Muslims

Deputy Chairman of the IRP: Groups such as “Jamaat Ansarullah,” created in order to discredit Muslims

Avaz Yuldashev

I do not have any information about the existence of the so-called group of Tajikistan “Jamaat Ansarullah” (the “Company Companions of Allah”), but if in our country there were supporters or followers of this movement, they can not have some strong support among the population of the republic, convinced first deputy chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, the deputy of the lower house of parliament Saidumar Husaini.

In this case the MP noted that such groups may exist in Tajikistan in deep underground. “In recent decades, the world got a lot of terrorist and extremist organizations and groups who have chosen a name in Arabic, but experts are required to understand the essence of Islam per se, and to distinguish them from the followers of traditional Islam,” – said the deputy.

He also did not rule out that organizations such as the “Jamaat Ansarullah,” can be created with the help and support of interested parties in order to discredit Muslims in the eyes of the world.

Defense Ministers of the CSTO Countries Signed Training Agreements On Rapid Reaction Force

The defense ministers of the CSTO countries signed several agreements on the RRF

Asia-Plus
 
The defense ministers of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty at a meeting in Astana on Thursday signed a series of agreements relating to activities of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces of CSTO, reports Novosti-Kazakhstan news agency .

“Today was a regular meeting of defense ministers of the CSTO member states that have passed the threshold of twenty years of the organization. They discussed a number of important issues, which confirms that it is the military component is the focus of the members of this organization and our cooperation is developing with each passing year, has good potential. We have summed up and signed a number of important documents that will help further strengthen our organization, and ultimately – to ensure the security of our peoples and countries “, – told reporters after talks Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan Adilbek Dzhaksybekov. He did not specify what documents were signed.

CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha recalled that the meeting of defense ministers was held in anticipation of the Collective Security Council meeting to be held May 15 in Moscow.

“Everything that is discussed, the proposals that were made by the defense ministers, the heads of delegations will be included in the report of the President regarding the status of the system of collective security organization, the measures that we must take to strengthen our collective response to the joint the challenges faced by the state “, – stressed the Secretary General of the CSTO.

RIA Novosti with reference to the organization of the Press Secretary Vladimir Zaynetdinova writes that the heads of delegations discussed the “mechanisms of military-technical assistance to Member States Collective Security Treaty Organization in the event of a threat” to the sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In addition, he said at a meeting in Astana were discussed in the field of organizational development, training and employment of forces and assets of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a group of troops of collective security in Central Asia, as well as increasing the combat potential of the collective rapid reaction forces of the CSTO and equipment them with modern weapons, military and special equipment.

“At a meeting of the QS considered the development and improvement of regional air defense systems, as well as increasing opportunities CSTO peacekeeping forces and their training. In 2012 in Kazakhstan scheduled for first teaching CSTO peacekeeping force, preparation for which has already begun, “- said Zaynetdinov.

In addition, the Defence Ministers discussed and approved the draft agenda of the jubilee session of the Collective Security Council, which will be dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty and the 10th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

At the meeting discussed and approved by the decision of the Council of Ministers of Defence plan of consultations of representatives of member states on foreign policy, security and defense in the second half of 2012 – the first half of 2013.

Meanwhile, the CSTO member states will hold joint exercise “Cooperation-2012” in September 2012 in Armenia.

“Defense Minister Ohanyan informed CFR CSTO to hold a joint exercise,” Cooperation-2012 “on the territory of Armenia, with 3 to 8 September at the site” Baghramian “on theme:” The application of forces and means of collective security in the Caucasus with the participation of the collective forces of operative Response Collective Security Treaty Organization, “- said V. Zaynetdinov.

According to the spokesman, the study is a comprehensive and meaningful measure of operational training and “based on a collective form of training troops and special forces units nazanacheniya allocated to member states of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force.”

Prior to the meeting in Astana, the QS OBKB on Thursday was driven training plan teaching the basics of pre-conception and the general order of the exercises, as well as the composition of the teaching and guidance staff secondment RRF.

“Formation of Special Forces during the exercise,” Interactions-2012, “the problem will be worked out special operations to free hostages held by terrorists, and eliminate the uprising of prisoners in the colony, as well as the suppression of terrorist groups in the settlements and the elimination of the consequences of bombing buildings, dams, accidents chemical facilities and railway stations “- listed spokesman.

However, according to him, in the doctrine of “Vzaimodestvie-2012” is assumed for the first time the participation of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who plan to work out the problems associated with the delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations affected by the conflict. Also during the exercise organized by the Armenian side display of weapons and military equipment.

Russia to make hi-tech case against Nato missile shield

Russia to make hi-tech case against Nato missile shield

DAWN.COM.

 

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a media conference after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels.   — File Photo by Ap

MOSCOW:  The United States said on Wednesday it was fully committed to completing an anti-missile shield in Europe even as Moscow promised to use computer modelling to show an international conference how the Nato system threatens its security.    

A dispute over the system has slowed improvements in Russian-US ties and is likely to remain an irritant after Vladimir Putin returns to the Kremlin next week for a six-year presidential term.

Washington says the shield, due to be completed in four phases by roughly 2020, is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran.

Moscow says the system will undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent because it could also give the West the ability to shoot down Russian missiles.

The shield’s first phase is to be declared up and running at a Nato summit this month in Chicago.

At a Moscow conference starting on Thursday, Russia will use results of computer modelling to show “how Nato missile defence facilities … may affect Russia’s forces of nuclear deterrence,” Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

“We would like to explain, in language that is clear to military and technical experts, what consequences implementation of the US and Nato missile defence plans will lead to,” Antonov said.

Madelyn Creedon, US assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, said in a telephone news conference that US negotiators hadn’t seen the simulation but were looking forward to it.

“The United States has been very clear that the systems are not designed nor intended to engage in any way Russia’s strategic defense,” she said. “It is, in fact, very important to us that we maintain strategic stability between the US and Russia.”

The Moscow missile-defense conference will be attended by senior US and Nato officials, non-Nato European nations and countries such China and India, Antonov said. More than 50 nations planned to attend, he said.

Ellen Tauscher, the US special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense, told the teleconference that the United States was fully committed to building its system and that it posed no threat to Moscow.

“We cannot agree to preconditions outlined by the Russian government. We cannot agree to any limitations on our missile defense deployment,” Tauscher said. “We are able to agree, however, to a political statement that our missile defenses are not directed at Russia.”
Her remarks came several weeks after US President Barack Obama was caught on an open microphone telling outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” to deal with contentious issues like missile defense after the November 6 US presidential elections. He urged Moscow to give him “space.”

Asked about the comment, Tauscher said Obama and Medvedev had agreed at the global nuclear security summit in South Korea to have their technical experts continue meeting to get a better understanding of each other’s concerns. For that reason, US officials are attending the 50-nation conference in Moscow.

“Given the longstanding difference between the US and Russia on this issue, it will take time and technical work before we can reach an agreement,” Tauscher said. “And because 2012 is an election year in both countries, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough.”

Tauscher insisted there was no deadlock despite the apparently unyielding US and Russian stances. If deadlocked, she said, Obama and Medvedev would not have directed their technical experts to continue meeting.

Russia and Nato agreed in 2010 to seek ways to cooperate on missile defence but have failed to reach a deal. The Kremlin wants a legally binding guarantee the system will not be used against Russia. The United States says it cannot agree to any formal limits on missile defence.

Moscow has said that it could deploy weapons to overcome the shield and perhaps target missile installations if its security concerns were not addressed by Nato.

Obama pleased the Kremlin after he entered the White House in 2009 by scrapping his predecessor’s plan for long-range interceptor missiles based in Poland, part of a reset of strained ties with Russia.

But Russia remains opposed to his revised plan, saying the system, which involves shorter-range interceptors to be based in Poland, Romania and on warships in the Mediterranean, would still be able to target Russian missiles.

Russia mobile company to return to Turkmenistan

[SEE:  This Explains the Loss of My Turkmen Readership]

[My traffic numbers reflect the significant loss of what was once nearly 60% of my readership.  The following quote comes from an article I posted last year:

“The “No Sunglasses” website is the 24th most popular website in Turkmenistan.–Sep 4, 2010“] 

Russia mobile company to return to Turkmenistan

– CBS News.

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Russian mobile phone provider MTS says it is returning to the isolated Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan almost 1½ years after its operations in the country were suspended.

Vladimir Yevtushenkov, billionaire chairman of the holding company that owns MTS, said in a statement broadcast on Turkmen state television Thursday that services would be resumed within three to six months.

A deal agreed Wednesday between Yevtushenkov and Turkmenistan’s authoritarian President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov ends an acrimonious dispute that had tarnished the former Soviet nation’s image among international investors.

The mobile phone sector in Turkmenistan was dealt a devastating blow in late 2010, when authorities pulled MTS’ license, leaving around 2.4 million subscribers without service.

That left government-owned Altyn Asyr as the only provider available to the population of 5-million.

“A year and a half ago, MTS stopped working in Turkmenistan due to the expiration of its license. Both MTS and, I think, the quality of communications suffered in Turkmenistan because of that,” Yevtushenkov said.

MTS had initially fought back against the suspension of its operating license and launched a public relations offensive urging the international business community not to invest in Turkmenistan. The campaign proved deeply embarrassing to the publicity-shy government.

Authorities promised to improve the quality of service offered by Altyn Asyr, but progress has been negligible.

Last April, Turkmenistan signed deals with China’s Huawei Technologies and Finish-German venture Nokia Siemens Networks to help increase capacity at Altyn Asyr.

Berdymukhamedov had earlier criticized Altyn Asyr, which currently serves around 1 million users, saying that “bungling” at the company was harming its efficiency.

Because of the poor quality of landlines, most people in Turkmenistan rely on mobile connections to surf the Internet, but speeds are dismally slow.

MTS had proven popular for its marginally better service.

© 2012 The Associated Press.