China Sends 30 Ship Fishing Fleet To Disputed Spratlys

China sends big fishing fleet to disputed Spratlys

AFP
Beijing

China has sent a big fishing fleet to the sensitive Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, state media reported on Friday, as tensions rise with its neighbours over rival claims to the area.

The 30-vessel fleet set out from the southern Chinese province of Hainan on Thursday, the

Xinhua news agency said.

Chinese fishing boats regularly travel to the Spratlys, a potentially oil-rich archipelago which China claims as part of its territory on historical grounds.

But the fleet deployed on Thursday is one of the largest ever launched from the province, according to the report.

China says it has sovereign rights to all the South China Sea, believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, including areas close to the coastlines of other countries and hundreds of kilometres (miles) from its own landmass. But Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines also claim parts of the South China Sea.

The Spratlys are one of the biggest island chains in the area. The rival claims have long made the South China Sea one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints, and tensions have escalated over the past year.

The Philippines and Vietnam have complained that China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its actions in the area such as harassing fishermen and also through bullying diplomatic tactics.

The Philippines said the latest example of this was at annual Southeast Asian talks in Cambodia that ended on Friday in failure because of the South China Sea issue.

The Philippines had wanted its fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations to refer in a communique to a recent standoff with China over a shoal in the South China Sea. But Cambodia, the summit’s host and China’s ally, blocked the move.

West’s battle for Russian ‘hearts and minds’: NGOs on steroids

[SEE: Committing Treason for a Piece of the Pie]

West’s battle for Russian ‘hearts and minds’: NGOs on steroids 

The Russian Duma has just passed amendments to the Russian NGO law.

Russian NGOs receiving foreign funding will now have to register at the Ministry of Justice as an “NGO carrying out functions as a foreign agent”, make public their sources of funding by marking it on the materials they distribute, and report semi-annually to the Ministry of Justice on their activities.

This law, a great majority of Russians believe, is long overdue. In the past 25 years, billions of dollars have been pouring into Russia from the US State Department and its subsidiary agencies like the US Agency for International Development (USAID – nearly $3 billion alone), as well as from so-called “private foundations” like the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. All of these institutions, judging by their activities and leadership’s biographies, have important ties to the US State Department, the intelligence community, Cold War and the “color revolutions”.

The goal of all this money was not to express Washington’s generous love of Russia, its culture or its people. In addition to building a loyal infrastructure, it aimed at “winning hearts and minds” – and along the way oil, gas, and military capacity. It has all been about “opening” – “open society”, “open economy”, “open Russia”, “open government”– open for brainwashing, economic plunder, for hijacking Russia’s domestic and foreign policies.

Conquest by war is always an option for the US, as we have seen in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria. But “victory without war” is cheaper and more effective, as the collapse of Soviet Union has tragically shown.

What did Western funding do to the Russian civil society while pursuing military objectives by “peaceful means”? Might it have accidentally contributed to building democracy in Russia? The word “democracy” here is understood in its original sense, as government of the people for the people, not in Washington’s interpretation as a loyal regime subservient to US interest.

In fact, the multibillions of Western funding have profoundly distorted Russian civil society. A marginal pro-American group of NGOs that was pumped up with US dollars like a bodybuilder with steroids -it has gained much muscle and shine. Those few Russians willing to serve foreign interests were provided nice offices, comfortable salaries, printing presses, training, publicity, and political and organizing technology which gave them far more capacity, visibility, and influence that they could possibly have had on their own. Money and spin are the only means to promote unpopular ideas, alien to national interests.

On the other side is the silent majority of people who is squeezed out of the public space. In Western, and also in Russian media, civil society turns out to be represented by Ludmila Alekseyeva (The Helsinki Group), Boris Nemtsov and Gary Kasparov, rather than by a worker from the Urals, teacher from Novosibirsk or a farmer from Krasnodar Region.

Moreover, Russian NGOs not addicted to Western funding are put under serious pressure from Western funders and their local outlets to join the club. Once the Russian organization shows its effectiveness, its leadership receives a call from US Embassy, and an invitation to visit. Money offers follow shortly. If the Russian NGO dares to refuse the bait, one or several mirror organizations are created that, with massive funding and publicity, hijack the subject, fill it out with its agenda and occupy the field.

For projects in education, for example, suddenly it will be all Anglo-Saxon models and values. For projects fighting abuse by the police, this fight will be selective and serving to compile incriminatory evidence on loyal officials designed to create hostility to the government in general, rather than truly fighting these intolerable practices. In the field of business associations, one Russian NGO was denounced by a major US-allied corporation for “excessively defending the rights of domestic producers”.

No, Western funding does not contribute to strengthening Russian democracy. It only extends the battle field for pro-American forces against patriotic forces. Like steroids, Western funding is injected in the weaker spots of the targeted civil society. Like steroids, it is addictive. Like steroids, it corrupts the mind and body of the political organism. It transforms the target nation into a sick and dependent collaborating entity deprived of independent will, mind, and heart.

Russia and other countries subject to Western funding infusions must take charge of their domestic problems. Building a patriotic civil society cannot be outsourced. Democratic processes and national security cannot be outsourced – all the more so to openly hostile governments.

These NGO amendments, by correcting an evident gap in our laws, take a major step in leveling the playing field. But this step needs to be followed by further measures that strengthen our national civil societies.

Veronika Krasheninnikova, Director General of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research and Initiatives in Moscow, for RT

Russia, Ukraine Agree on Maritime Border Delimitation

[Such an agreement may set a precedent for settling the Caspian delimitation issues.  Perhaps that is what the Kremlin intended.]

Russia, Ukraine Agree on Maritime Border Delimitation

Russia, Ukraine Sign Agreement on Maritime Border Delimitation

Russia, Ukraine Sign Agreement on Maritime Border Delimitation

© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klimentiev

YALTA, July 13 (RIA Novosti)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych have signed a preliminary agreement on the delimitation of the maritime border between the two countries in the Kerch Strait.

“We have agreed to speed up negotiations in order to finalize the delimitation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as well as in the Kerch Straight, as soon as possible,” Yanukovych told journalists after a meeting of a Russian-Ukrainian intergovernmental commission near the Black Sea city of Yalta on Thursday.

The Russian-Ukrainian maritime border in the Kerch Strait which links the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea, has long been a bone of contention between the two states. It was remaining undefined since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine unilaterally established a maritime border with Russia in the 1990s, saying it was based on the Soviet-era administrative border between the two republics. Russia has repeatedly denied the existence of Soviet administrative borders.

According to Soviet-era maps, the border between Russia and Ukraine was directly down the middle of the Kerch Strait. However, the man-made Kerch-Yenikal Channel, which is navigable for large ships, then falls into Ukrainian waters.

Up to 9,000 ships pass through the Kerch Strait each year. Ukraine charges Russian ships passing through the Kerch-Yenikal Channel for navigation and pilotage services.

In the summer of 2003, a bitter dispute broke out between Russia and Ukraine over the Tuzla Island in the middle of the Kerch Strait, which came to a head when Russia tried to construct a dam on the island. Ukraine accused Russia of encroaching on its territory.

In line with Thursday’s preliminary agreement, the Tuzla Island would be considered Ukraine’s territory, a souse in the Russian delegation said.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian lawmaker said he believed the agreement was in Russia’s interests and in line with “historical justice.”

“As for Tuzla Island, there has always been an opinion that it belongs to Ukraine,” Dmitry Sablin, the first deputy head of the Russian parliamentary committee in charge of relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said.

Russian political analyst Alexei Vlasov said he believed the agreement was a result of a “compromise” between Russian and Ukraine.

“Moscow and Kiev have both made certain concessions,” he said without specifying.

Supreme Court of Pakistan accused security forces for abductions in Balochistan

Supreme Court of Pakistan accused security forces for abductions in Balochistan

<a href='http://balochwarna.com/features/articles.20/Pakistan%E2%80%99s-dirty-war-from-Bangladesh-to-Balochistan.html'>Pakistan’s dirty war from Bangladesh to Balochistan</a>

Quetta :

The top judge of Pakistan’s highest court on Wednesday accused the paramilitary Frontier Corps of involvement in the disappearance of a third of all the missing persons in Balochistan.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court is investigating cases of missing people in Balochistan, where the military has retorted to brutal killings, bombardment of villages, abductions and other human rights violations in its bid to put down the Baloch peoples’ struggle for freedom.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, returned to Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, to hear cases of the families of abducted Baloch and those who have been killed by Pakistani security forces under their on-going policy of ‘kill and dump’ across Balochistan.

The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, an organisation striving for the save recovery of abducted Baloch, says that over 14,000 Baloch activists hailing from different spheres of life have been abducted by Pakistan FC and intelligence agencies. They say that over 450 people from the aforementioned number of abducted Baloch have been killed under custody and their brutally tortured and bullet riddled bodies were found dumped across Balochistan.

VOA’s Deewa Radio on Wednesday quoted Nasrullah Baloch, the chairman of VMBP as saying, “every day Frontier Corps and secret agencies kidnap political workers in broad daylight and keep them in their illegal torture cells, then we receive their bullet-riddled, mutilated dead bodies.”

“Enough evidences are available for involvement of the Frontier Corps in picking up of every third missing person” in Balochistan, Mr Chaudhry remarked during a hearing.

The court also heard a case involving the abduction of 30 Baloch men and killing of two members of BSO-Azad in the Totak village of Khuzdar district of Balochistan in February last year. The FC officials have been ordered to produce people from the Totak incident which it had in custody.

It is worth recalling that on 18 February 2011 the Pakistan FC and other security forces had attacked the Torak village near Khuzdar. Two members of BSO-Azad namely Naeem Qalandrani and Yahya Qalandarani were killed and arrested over two dozen members of Qalandarani Baloch tribe were abducted. The bullet ridden body ofMaqsood Qalandrani was found dumped in Quetta on 16 July 2011. The rest of the people abducted in February last year are still being illegally held by Pakistani intelligence agencies.

Balochistan, which also straddles Iran and Afghanistan, is rich in in natural resources including Oil and Gas, but the Baloch people remains one of the most deprived in South East Asia. Rights activists have accused the military of mass arrests and extra-judicial executions in its bid to counter a national liberation struggle.

International Human Rights Organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Asian Human Rights Commission have extensively reported on Pakistani atrocities against Baloch people. These groups say that abductions are often carried out in broad day light in presence of multiple eye-witnesses – family members and fellow passengers.

In June this year the UN human rights Chief Navi Pillay voiced concern about “very grave” rights violations during Pakistani military operations. She had said disappearances in Balochistan had become “a focus for national debate, international attention and local despair”

The Middle East Needs Dialogue not War

The Middle East Needs Dialogue not War

Even if President Bashar al-Assad were to quit the scene, the opposition would still have to reach a negotiated compromise with Syria’s powerful officer corps and security services — the backbone of the regime — as well as with representatives of the various minorities, which are an ancient and essential part of Syrian’s social fabric, notes Patrick Seale.

“Dialogue is the strategy of the brave.” This is the striking phrase I heard from the mouth of Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Store, one of the wisest of European statesmen, when I attended the Oslo Forum last month, an annual gathering of would-be mediators of the world’s conflicts. Rarely has dialogue been more necessary than in today’s deeply disturbed Middle East.

In Syria, the present fierce struggle is unlikely to yield a decisive outcome. Even if funds and weapons continue to pour in to the rebels, the latter will not be able to defeat the Syrian army on their own. The opposition prays for an external military intervention, but this is not likely to happen. The mood in the United States and Europe is to withdraw from Middle East conflicts not to get sucked into yet another one. In any event, so long as the Syrian opposition remains deeply divided it will have no hope of achieving its goals.

What then are we left with? More of the present bloody stalemate in which many more people will die or be displaced from their homes. Syria will be destroyed to the delight of its enemies — Israel first among them.

Even if President Bashar al-Assad were to quit the scene, the opposition would still have to reach a negotiated compromise with Syria’s powerful officer corps and security services — the backbone of the regime — as well as with representatives of the various minorities, which are an ancient and essential part of Syrian’s social fabric.

Only a dialogue, preceded by a ceasefire honoured by both sides, could save Syria from the catastrophe of a sectarian civil war, in which there would be no winners, only losers. This is what Kofi Annan, the UN-mandated mediator, is trying to achieve. He should be supported not undermined. The deal now being negotiated in Egypt between the Muslim Brothers and the armed forces could provide a model for Syria.

Dangerous tensions in the Gulf could also be fruitfully contained through dialogue. It is reported that Egypt’s President Muhammad Morsi is soon to pay an official visit to the Saudi monarch, King Abdallah, and has also accepted an invitation to visit Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. Imagine what a formidable diplomatic coup it would be for Egypt if President Morsi were to initiate a tripartite strategic dialogue between Cairo, Riyadh and Tehran. Acting together, these three major capitals could resolve many of the region’s conflicts, and put an end to destabilising interventions by outside powers.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, could, through dialogue and cooperation, draw Iran into the security architecture of the region. That would be a far better recipe for stability and peace than a policy of threats, sanctions and intimidation.

In spite of the propaganda emanating from Israel and Washington, there is no evidence that Iran wishes to acquire atomic weapons. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ai Khamenei declared last February that the possession of such weapons would be “pointless, dangerous and a great sin from an intellectual and religious point of view.” He should be taken at his word. Western intelligence agencies have themselves confirmed that, while Iran wishes to master the uranium fuel cycle, it has not embarked on a military nuclear programme.

Nor is there any real evidence that the Gulf region faces a threat from Iran’s alleged “hegemonic ambitions.” I believe too much is made of Iran’s alleged role in stirring up Shia communities in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The Islamic Republic is at present in no shape to threaten or dominate anyone. It is simply seeking to survive in the face of a campaign of cyber attacks, assassination and sabotage by the United States and Israel, which is just short of outright war. Crippling sanctions have reduced its oil exports by a million barrels a day; its currency has collapsed; and its hard-pressed population is struggling to cope with 30 percent inflation. Under such intense pressure, Iran may well lash out in frustration, triggering a regional hot war, which would definitely not be to the advantage of the vulnerable Gulf Arabs.

Instead of helping to resolve conflicts by promoting dialogue between the states of the region, the United States is reinforcing its armed forces in the Gulf region. It is reported to be bringing additional F-22 and F/A-18 warplanes to local bases, and is doubling its minesweepers from four to eight. A senior U.S. Defence Department official has explained that this deployment of American power is intended to provide “tangible proof to all of our allies and partners and friends that even as the U.S. pivots towards Asia, we remain vigilant across the Middle East.”

Is this really what the region wants to hear? The militarisation of American foreign policy started during the Cold War in response to what was perceived as a threat from the Soviet Union. Militarisation was then greatly expanded under George W. Bush’s administration. The result was two catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have devastated these countries, bankrupted America and gravely damaged its reputation. The American historian William Polk has calculated that the United States has spent at least $2.59 trillion on ‘defence’ in the last five years, a large part of it on weapons, and is planning to spend 5% more in the next five years.

Israel and its neo-con allies in the United States are pushing the Obama administration to bring Iran to its knees, in much the same way as they pushed the Bush Administration to destroy Iraq. The Arabs should not lend their backing to this campaign. The conflicts of the region — and especially the dangerous tensions regarding Iran’s nuclear facilities — would best be settled by dialogue and compromise rather than by military force.

No doubt some Gulf countries fear they would be threatened by Iran if the American protective umbrella were removed. But even if the United States were to withdraw its bases from the region, as some U.S. strategic thinkers advocate, it would retain an ‘over-the-horizon’ naval presence which would surely provide adequate protection.

I have long argued in this column that it is not an Arab interest to make an enemy of Iran. The Gulf States and Iran have many commercial and strategic interests in common, not least the security of their vital region. The clear lesson of the present crises is that local powers should be able to protect themselves or reach a satisfactory accommodation with their non-Arab neighbours by means of dialogue and cooperation.

It is Israel that needs to be persuaded that its current policy of seizing Palestinian territory while seeking to weaken and destabilise its neighbours, is not the best way to ensure its own security. On the contrary, Israel’s long-term survival can only be assured if it normalises its relations with the Arabs, as well as with Iran, by allowing the emergence of a Palestinian state. Only a sincere and sustained dialogue can bring this about. That should be the urgent focus of the international community.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East. His latest book is The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press).

Copyright © 2012 Patrick Seale – distributed by Agence Global

A Brick Wall In Front of Us Looks Like Humanity’s Best Hope

[Mr. Young and I seem to be on the same page on this topic–American foreign policy is out of control.  That remains our only area of agreement.  

Whenever the CIA resorts to its usual bag of tricks, we see Washington playing the “Islamist card,” no matter siding with and sponsoring terrorists seems contradictory to American ideals.  Whenever contemporary logic fails the great planners in Washington, there is always a tendency to hand the mess that they have made over to the CIA, for them to toy with.  It is then that we start seeing new, unknown terrorist groups sprouting up everywhere, like insidious weeds.  This is the case with Libya and Syria.  They are both cases of CIA running covert ops, using teams of Special Forces soldiers, or private contractors, which are composed of “retired” Spec Ops personnel.   Pakistan has suffered by this type of “benign” neglect for many years, as the Western geniuses have somewhat relieved their troubled their brows, acquired through years of  twisting our would-be Empire’s foreign policy problems into knots.  

The spy agency started this entire “war on terror” more than thirty years ago with the creation of the first Afghan “Islamist” Mujahedeen.  Like it or not, Washington’s latest covert dalliance with their romanticized Muslim warriors/”freedom fighters,” will finally force the struggle which they have studiously engineered into the UN Security Council, where it will be resolved in a most unsatisfying manner by red-faced diplomats.  Russia is clearly in the right in its current stance on Syria (No More Libyas!) and the resistance that it is putting up before America’s plans for perpetual war.  When you look at the entire terror war with an honest pair of eyes, you cannot help but think that we might all be better off, now that Obama has lost control of the neocon war begun in anger by Bush and Cheney.   Considering the ultimate conflagration which that war policy has been driving the world to, one sees that humanity’s only hope lies in efforts to end this war, before the nuclear threshold is broken.  

Now, if only saner heads can prevail, we might still have a chance of turning the whole damned mess around.  Grandiose schemes, like America’s plan to “take-over-the-world plan,” are destined to fail from the start, as long as human nature remains what it is.  As long as slothe and indifference to the world are the norm, no would-be world tyrant can wage muster enough troops to wage an idealistic war.  Conversely, as long as the fires of idealism continues to burn within the breasts of a significant few, no plan that relies on callous indifference among a population reduced to “human cattle” has any real chance of succeeding either.  As long as there are Americans like me and my kind we will remain the “sand” that clogs the gears of the war machine.

“Just a fly in the ointment…. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass.”–John McClane]    

 America writes itself out of the script

By Michael Young

Lately, the U.S. administration has been so preoccupied with domestic issues vital to President Barack Obama’s re-election, that you wonder where the Middle East stands in Washington’s future. That’s not to say that American officials are ignoring the region. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has devoted much effort to Syria and Iran, while related American concerns further afield, such as those in Afghanistan and Pakistan, have also preoccupied decision-makers. The problem is more fundamental. Because the president’s mind is focused elsewhere, there is a sense of conceptual confusion when addressing the Middle East.It is understandable that Obama’s aims are to revive the U.S. economy and shift foreign and defense priorities toward Asia, where American interests are bound to expand in the coming decades. What is less explicable is that at such a revolutionary moment in the Arab world, when foreign policy certitudes are collapsing almost on a daily basis, the administration does not appear to have any long-term overriding vision or interpretation of the region to help define how the United States must act to advance its national interests.

In many ways strategy is a narrative that policymakers apply to situations to explain probable outcomes, allowing them to take the long view in planning advantageous behavior.

Developing a foreign policy strategy is complex, demanding clear direction from the president or a State Department mandated by the White House to take the lead in policy formulation. It entails interaction between different, often competing, government bureaucracies, which have to ultimately hammer out compromises (successful or not) that ensure everyone is on the same page. At some stage Congress, which controls the money, is brought on board, and usually will try to impose alternative paths of its own. Ideally, a strategy requires flexibility, so that Washington can adapt to political surprises, which tend to overwhelm the big ideas and can substantially rewrite the story.

But if crafting a strategy is never easy, articulating it so that foreign capitals and the public know what is going on is not rocket science. The administration will insert relevant references in speeches. Officials will write op-ed pieces and publish papers. Think tanks will be enlisted to disseminate or will pick up new policy vibes from the administration. And the president and his aides will get on an airplane and spread the good word. Time is valuable, so the time that a president devotes to an issue shows how important he thinks it is.

On the basis of all this, the Middle East seems to be a rather poor cousin in the Obama administration. After high-profile visits early in his term, Obama has kept away from the Arab world. Even in his speeches, his disinterest is palpable. And the speeches of others reflect no guidance on the region from the White House, but rather multiple guidances that rarely seem properly integrated.

For instance, in Syria, where the Americans have the capacity to politically cripple a principal regional rival, namely Iran, the Obama administration is still dependent on the goodwill of Russia and China, two countries that want to see American power reduced.

Is that surprising? Washington is still stuck in the old ways. During the past 18 months there has been no visible overhaul in American thinking to adapt to the transformations in the Arab world. There have been conferences, statements of purpose, reactions to events, promises, much sound and fury, but none of it noticeably part of a larger cohesive framework in the minds of administration figures.

Even the military involvement in Libya last year was done in spite of Obama’s manifest misgivings. The president allowed himself to be dragged into the conflict because he did not want to be accused of allowing a massacre in Benghazi. As in Egypt a few weeks earlier, the U.S. seemed to be caught off guard, propelled by events largely outside its control, for which it seemed inadequately prepared.

Most of the pillars sustaining American involvement in the Middle East since the end of World War II have collapsed. The relationship with Saudi Arabia has been severely shaken during Obama’s term. Egypt has entered a new phase of its history, one in which American influence is in decline. The so-called Palestinian-Israeli peace process is without a process and offers no prospects of peace.

On the more encouraging side, a prominent American adversary, Syrian President Bashar Assad, is struggling to survive, and his almost certain fall will weaken two American enemies, Iran and their Lebanese followers in Hezbollah. And Iraq, while it remains under the significant sway of Tehran, will slowly move away from Iran and assert its political independence, not least thanks to the revitalization of its oil production capacities.

It is astonishing that at such a crucial stage in the Arab world, Washington is doing little hard thinking. Obama has written himself out of the script, a distant apparition alien to the peoples of the Middle East. But the region remains critical, no matter what the president believes, and it can still bite the world in the rear end. When that happens, the Americans cannot afford to lead from behind. They need to be up front, knowing precisely what they want.

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.