Aipac: Israel’s Agent Feeling Squeezed?

Aipac:  Israel’s Agent Feeling Squeezed?

 Franklin P. Lamb

The American Israel public affairs committee (AIPAC) has seen headier days according to US congressional staffers forced to work regularly with the pro-Zionist agent of Israel.  The grip of fear and the lock on Congress that the Israel first organization has long touted in its service to Israel may be weakening against a backdrop of American Jews rejecting the increasing rants of Prime Minister Netanyahu that are driving many Jews to distance themselves from him, from AIPAC, from other Arabphobic US Zionist organizations, and from Israel.

 

AIPAC tells some Congressional aids that fund raising is hurting and it can’t keep promises it made to certain candidates that it would arrange “indirect” funding for their current election campaigns.  This at the same time Netanyahu is increasingly becoming the butt of jokes across the Israeli and American political spectrum. Several in his cabinet and member s of the US Congress reportedly consider him an embarrassment.  A perception likely added to by his recent General Assembly cartoon gimmick and his repeated Nazi style arm and hand gestures that were widely distributed by the main stream American media outlets especially Reuters, AP and even the Zionist Drudge Report.

 

In addition, there are signs that some members of congress and their staffs, who are heavily lobbied by AIPAC to donate cash, are beginning to chaff at heavy handed AIPAC fundraising tactics.

 

Perhaps reflecting financial pressures on its free spending policies  including astronomical administration costs in the 75% range, on 9/24/12, Jonathan Missner, AIPAC’s Director of National Affairs and Development sent out  more 500,000 emails in a desperate and thinly veiled bid to raise cash to defeat Obama.

Wrote Missner:

 

Dear Friend of Israel:

I am writing because we have not yet heard from you, and your support is greatly needed by September 30th.

As I’m sure you know, Israel and America are now facing serious threats throughout the Middle East. In recent months alone we have seen:

  • Protestors in multiple Arab countries storm U.S. embassies, burn American and Israeli flags, and chant “death to America, death to Israel,” amidst false reports that a video was created by an Israeli Jew and backed by 100 Jewish financiers.
  • Iran sent military personnel and large quantities of weapons across to Syria to aid the Assad regime’s violent crackdown.
  • A deadly terror attack along the Egypt-Israel border that killed 16 Egyptians and enabled terrorists to penetrate into Israel.
  • Leaders in Iran and its regional proxies increased their vitriol against Israel. The frequency and intensity of these recent statements has been troubling: “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (August 17th).
  • If you’re like most pro-Israel Americans, these events have made you more scared for Israel’s existence than you’ve likely felt in many years.
  • But as you watch these dangers continue to unfold, it is important to remember there is something you can do to help keep Israel safe.
  • You can join AIPAC, and help ensure that our leaders in Washington speak out clearly and unequivocally in support of Israel and that the aggressions shown toward our greatest ally Israel must immediately cease.
  • At this dangerous time, the number one strategic answer to the threats facing Israel is for America to express – in every possible way- an unwavering, unshakable commitment to Israel.
  • We must ensure that President Obama speaks out for Israel.
  • We must ensure that America stands by its full commitment to Israel’s security assistance for fiscal year 2013, which is vital for Israel to be able to defend herself.
  • And we must ensure that America continues to pledge 100% of its diplomatic support to Israel.
  • We must do all of this, so that we can send a strong and loud message that America stands by Israel and that any attacks on Israel’s security is an attack on America’s security.”

AIPAC appears to be failing in carrying out its orders from the Israeli Embassy in Washington “to defeat Obama, whatever is required.” The latest polls, including two commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and one from the Anti-Defamation League show  Obama likely  avoiding  defeat  on November 6th that Tel Aviv hoped his combative attitude toward Israel would produce. Obama currently leads Mitt Romney by a 69-20 percent margin among likely Jewish voters. If these polls hold, while they represent a marked decline from the 78 percent of the Jewish vote Obama got in 2008, they show Romney’s promise to put Israel “first no matter what “ is not resonating with American Jews. By even garnering 25% of the Jewish vote this shows there is plenty of resistance to the Romney  candidacy on a variety of  domestic social issues that increasingly among the American public matter more than Israel’s  perceived zany schemes. These poll projections may have been reflected at the UN last week when Netanyahu appeared to back off a bit from his pillorying of the Obama administration as being weak on terrorism.

 

Meanwhile, according to an Arab American Institute (AAI)  poll, 52 percent of all Arab-Americans say they plan to vote for Obama, compared to 26 percent who have declared their support for Romney. Broken down by religion, Arab American Muslims support Obama overwhelmingly (75% to 8%), while Orthodox/Protestants support Romney by a 16% margin.  According to the poll, Arab American Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin (46% to 22%), continuing a steady migration away from the GOP toward the Democratic Party since 2002.

 

Congressional staffers report that the Obama White House is rejecting the tactics being employed behind its back to assert pressure for the “red lines” that Netanyahu’s has been pushing and that the administration is aware that AIPAC is actively working to defeat President Obama on November 6th.

What is confusing many in the American Jewish community appears to be the same as what perplexes a growing segment of the non-Jewish American public. And that is Netanyahu’s nonsense over Iranian progress in having nuclear weapons and the history of this “the sky is falling-we must cry wolf!” canard.

 

It was back in April  of 1984, that the British defense magazine Jane’s Defense Weekly got things started with its false claim that Iran was “engaged in the production of an atomic bomb, likely to be ready within two years.”

 

Jane’s became embarrassed since it could offer no proof to back its sensationalist claim and soon admitted that its speculation was based on a West German intelligence source which turned out to be an assistant engineer who visited the unfinished Bushehr nuclear reactor that year and became curious. Soon, a pillar of the US Zionist lobby,  US Senator Alan Cranston’s  picked up on the report and declared that Iran would have nuclear weapons by 1991.

 

The next year, Benjamin Netanyahu, a onetime campaign volunteer for Cranston, now an Israeli parliamentarian, began a campaign to inform the World that Iran could develop nuclear weapons within “three to five years” and therefore must be stopped through “an international front headed by the US.”

 

The current President of Israel Shimon Peres announced in 1992 that Iran would have nuclear weapons by 1999.  As noted by Robert Fisk in the UK Independent, current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in 1996 that Iran would have a nuclear arsenal by 2004.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined the project and reported to Congress in 1998 that Iran could build an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear or a biological payload that could hit the US within five years. Secretary of State Colin Powell soon claimed in 2004 that if fact, Iran had been working on technology to fit a nuclear warhead onto a missile. These allegations boldly came from Powell’s less than one year after his Iraqi weapons of mass destruction assertions were being proven to be false.

 

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined the project and reported to Congress in 1998 that Iran could build an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear or a biological payload that could hit the US within five years. Secretary of State Colin Powell soon claimed in 2004 that if fact, Iran had been working on technology to fit a nuclear warhead onto a missile. These allegations boldly came from Powell’s less than one year after his Iraqi weapons of mass destruction assertions were being proven to be false.

 

For his part, Netanyahu reportedly got into an ugly argument with the American ambassador to Israel last month over the Obama administration’s unwillingness to take matters regarding Iran to a more aggressive level. The Israeli prime minister was, according to the New York Times, “at his wit’s end” because, he claimed, Iran was “only four to six weeks away from a nuclear bomb”. A few weeks later, Netanyahu backtracked and pushed the deadline “to six or seven months away.”

And round and round it goes.

 

Congressional sources insist that White House staff will not forget Netanyahu’s blatant attempts to humiliate and defeat their boss.

 

The American public, as well as the international community are exhibiting exhaustion over this incessant hysteria which was summed up recently by Professor Stephen M. Walt, writing in Foreign Policy. “Those prophesying war with Iran are starting to sound like those wacky cult leaders who keep predicting the End of the World, and then keep moving the date when the world doesn’t end on schedule. At what point are we going to stop paying attention?”

 

One Congressional source emailed this observer: “Time will tell if next year’s AIPAC conference finds President Obama or any of his top aides on its program.”

Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon

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Is Netanyahu Insane or Suicidal?

[Is the man so enamored of himself that he would initiate a suicidal war with Iran, believing that he has the power to compel the US President to defend Israel against its own actions?  Judging from his habit of making wild accusations and wild hand gestures, even resorting to crayons and craft paper to make his demented points, it is easy to judge the man unbalanced.  But is he so irrational in his wild fantasies that he would initiate WWIII, not knowing for certain that Obama would have his back?  Nagging Jewish doubt might yet save them from themselves.  If Israeli leaders were not traditionally doubt-ridden over this very issue, then we would never have learned about the Israeli apocalyptic “Samson Option,” the Israeli “we’re taking everybody with us” nuclear strategy to nuke European capitals if the Western democracies allow Israel’s destruction.  In my opinion, Netanyahu would have no problem at all in carrying-out a Samson option.  Dropping a few dozen bunker-buster bombs on Iran seems far less harsh than that.  Preventing him from doing that will probably require a credible threat from the American President to use force, as required, to prevent IDF bombers from launching from any site.]

Insight: Azerbaijan eyes aiding Israel against Iran

By Thomas Grove

BAKU

Israel’s “go-it-alone” option to attack Iran’s nuclear sites has set the Middle East on edge and unsettled its main ally at the height of a U.S. presidential election campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exudes impatience, saying Tehran is barely a year from a “red line” for atomic capacity. Many fellow Israelis, however, fear a unilateral strike, lacking U.S. forces, would fail against such a large and distant enemy.

But what if, even without Washington, Israel were not alone?

Azerbaijan, the oil-rich ex-Soviet republic on Iran’s far northern border, has, say local sources with knowledge of its military policy, explored with Israel how Azeri air bases and spy drones might help Israeli jets pull off a long-range attack.

That is a far cry from the massive firepower and diplomatic cover that Netanyahu wants from Washington. But, by addressing key weaknesses in any Israeli war plan – notably on refueling, reconnaissance and rescuing crews – such an alliance might tilt Israeli thinking on the feasibility of acting without U.S. help.

It could also have violent side-effects more widely and many doubt Azeri President Ilham Aliyev would risk harming the energy industry on which his wealth depends, or provoking Islamists who dream of toppling his dynasty, in pursuit of favor from Israel.

Yet despite official denials by Azerbaijan and Israel, two Azeri former military officers with links to serving personnel and two Russian intelligence sources all told Reuters that Azerbaijan and Israel have been looking at how Azeri bases and intelligence could serve in a possible strike on Iran.

“Where planes would fly from – from here, from there, to where? – that’s what’s being planned now,” a security consultant with contacts at Azeri defense headquarters in Baku said. “The Israelis … would like to gain access to bases in Azerbaijan.”

“ICEBERG” RELATIONSHIP

That Aliyev, an autocratic ally of Western governments and oil firms, has become a rare Muslim friend of the Jewish state – and an object of scorn in Tehran – is no secret; a $1.6-billion arms deal involving dozens of Israeli drones, and Israel’s thirst for Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea crude, are well documented.

Israel’s foreign minister visited Baku in April this year.

But a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2009 quoted Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, describing relations with Israel as “like an iceberg, nine tenths … below the surface”.

That he would risk the wrath of his powerful neighbor by helping wage war on Iran is, however, something his aides flatly deny; wider consequences would also be hard to calculate from military action in a region where Azerbaijan’s “frozen” conflict with Armenia is just one of many elements of volatility and where major powers from Turkey, Iran and Russia to the United States, western Europe and even China all jockey for influence.

Nonetheless, Rasim Musabayov, an independent Azeri lawmaker and a member of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said that, while he had no definitive information, he understood that Azerbaijan would probably feature in any Israeli plans against Iran, at least as a contingency for refueling its attack force:

“Israel has a problem in that if it is going to bomb Iran, its nuclear sites, it lacks refueling,” Musabayov told Reuters.

“I think their plan includes some use of Azerbaijan access.

“We have (bases) fully equipped with modern navigation, anti-aircraft defenses and personnel trained by Americans and if necessary they can be used without any preparations,” he added.

U.S. CONCERNS

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has made clear it does not welcome Israel’s occasional talk of war and that it prefers diplomacy and economic sanctions to deflect an Iranian nuclear program that Tehran denies has military uses.

Having also invested in Azerbaijan’s defenses and facilities used by U.S. forces in transit toAfghanistan, Washington also seems unlikely to cheer Aliyev joining any action against Iran.

The Azeri president’s team insist that that will not happen.

“No third country can use Azerbaijan to perpetrate an attack on Iran. All this talk is just speculation,” said Reshad Karimov from Aliyev’s staff. He was echoing similar denials issued in Baku and from Israel when the journal Foreign Policy quoted U.S. officials in March voicing alarm that Azeri-Israeli action could thwart U.S. diplomacy toward Iran and across the Caucasus.

Israeli officials dismiss talk of Azeri collaboration in any attack on Iran but decline public comment on specific details.

Even speaking privately, few Israeli officials will discuss the issue. Those who do are skeptical, saying overt use of Azeri bases by Israel would provoke too many hostile reactions. One political source did, however, say flying unmarked tanker aircraft out of Azerbaijan to extend the range and payloads of an Israeli bombing force might play a part in Israeli planning.

Though denying direct knowledge of current military thinking on Iran, the Israeli said one possibility might be “landing a refueling plane there, made to look like a civilian airliner, so it could later take off to rendezvous mid-air with IAF jets”.

A thousand miles separates Tehran and Tel Aviv, putting much of Iran beyond the normal ranges of Israel’s U.S.-made F-16 bombers and their F-15 escorts. So refueling could be critical.

INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION

There is far from unanimity among Israeli leaders about the likelihood of any strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, whether in a wider, U.S.-led operation or not. Netanyahu’s “red line” speech to the United Nations last week was seen by many in Israel as making any strike on Iran unlikely – for at least a few months.

Many, however, also assume Israel has long spied on and even sabotaged what the Western powers say are plans for atomic weapons which Israel says would threaten its very existence.

A second Israeli political source called the idea of Azerbaijan being either launch pad or landing ground for Israeli aircraft “ludicrous” – but agreed with the first source that it was fair to assume joint Israeli-Azeri intelligence operations.

The Azeri sources said such cooperation was established.

As part of last year’s arms deal, Azerbaijan is building up to 60 Israeli-designed drones, giving it reconnaissance means far greater than many analysts believe would be needed just to guard oil installations or even to mount any operations against the breakaway, ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“With these drones, (Israel) can indirectly watch what’s happening in Iran, while we protect our borders,” legislator Musabayov said – a view shared by Azeri former military sources.

Less reserved than Israeli officials, the sources in Azerbaijan and in Russian intelligence, which keeps a close eye on its former Soviet backyard, said Baku could offer Israel much more, however – though none believed any deal was yet settled.

The country, home to nine million people whose language is close to Turkish and who mostly share the Shi’ite Muslim faith of Iran, has four ex-Soviet air bases that could be suitable for Israeli jets, the Azeri sources said. They named central Kyurdamir, Gyanja in the west and Nasosny and Gala in the east.

The Pentagon says it helped upgrade Nasosny airfield for NATO use. It also uses Azeri commercial facilities in transit to Afghanistan. But U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan is limited by Washington’s role as a mediator in its dispute with Armenia.

One of the sources with links to the Azeri military said: “There is not a single official base of the United States and even less so of Israel on the territory of Azerbaijan. But that is ‘officially’. Unofficially they exist, and they may be used.”

The source said Iran had been a main topic of talks in April with Israel’s Soviet-born foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

RECONNAISSANCE, RESCUE

Azeri tarmac, a shorter flight from key sites in northern Iran including the Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant and missile batteries at Tabriz, might feature in Israeli war planning in less direct ways, the former Azeri officers said.

With Israel wary of its vulnerability to pressure over air crew taken prisoner, plans for extracting downed pilots may be a key feature of any attack plan. Search and rescue helicopters might operate from Azerbaijan, the sources said – or planes that were hit or low on fuel could land at Azeri bases in extremis.

Such engagement carries risks for Azerbaijan and its oil platforms and pipelines operated with international companies.

Defending against Iran is part of public debate in Baku. The United States has provided Azerbaijan with three Coast Guard cutters and has funded seven coastal radar sites as well as giving Baku other help in protecting its oil installations.

Relations have long been strained between the former Soviet state and Iran, which is home to twice as many ethnic Azeris as Azerbaijan itself. Tehran beams an Azeri-language television channel over the border which portrays Aliyev as a puppet of Israel and the West, as well as highlighting corruption in Baku.

Azerbaijan sees Iranian hands behind its Islamist opposition and both countries have arrested alleged spies and agitators.

Faced with an uneven balance of force, Aliyev’s government makes no bones about Israel being an ally. As one presidential aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained: “We live in a dangerous neighborhood; that is what is the most powerful driving force for our relationship with Israel.”

However, Israel’s confrontation with Iran may turn out, the arms build-up in Azerbaijan, including recent Israeli upgrades for its Soviet T-72 tanks, may have consequences for the wider region and for the stand-off with Armenia – consequences that would trouble all the powers with stakes in the Caspian region.

“We keep buying arms. On the one hand, it’s a good strategy to frighten Armenia,” one of the former Azeri officers said of the shaky, 18-year-old ceasefire over Nagorno-Karabakh. “But you don’t collect weapons to hang on the wall and gather dust.

“One day, all these could be used.”

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

Chechen ex-militant: Georgia trained anti-Russian terrorists, then killed them in false flag op

Chechen ex-militant: Georgia trained anti-Russian terrorists, then killed them in false flag op

 Georgian police snipers ride along a road in a mountain gorge near the border with Russia’s Dagestan region, on August 29, 2012 (AFP Photo)

 

A former Chechen militant has accused Georgia of training a network of Islamic terrorists, claiming that a recent anti-terrorist mission on the border with Russia was in fact a pseudo-operation targeting Georgian-trained jihadists.

Last month Georgia claimed its forces had killed 11 militants who infiltrated the country through the Russian republic of Dagestan in a special operation personally led by the Georgian interior minister.

But Khizri Aldamov, who was an emissary of Chechen militants in Georgia for 18 years, before switching sides and returning to the fold of Moscow loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov earlier this year, has now put forward a different version of events.

In a recent video conference at Moscow’s Ria Novosti news agency, he claimed the people shot were recruited by Georgia to stir up Chechen separatism in Russia, and the whole operation was staged.

“Georgian President Saakashvili’s plan was to send his own guys across the border into Russia, not the other way round, and then shoot them. But there was no mission; this was a set-up,” Aldamov told RT.

He says the purpose of the operation was to frame Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and present Georgia as an anti-terrorist force, while getting rid of those Aldamov says “knew too much” about the country’s Islamic training program.

“Saakashvili is allergic to Russia, allergic to Putin, allergic to Kadyrov,” said Aldamov.

The two neighbors have been locked in a long-standing dispute over the two republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, whose independence Moscow supports, a conflict which escalated after the August 2008 war.

Along with some of the Georgian media, Aldamov questions some of the details of Tbilisi’s operation against the militants, the aftermath of which was shown on Georgian television.

“First of all, their weapons were American-made, second – none of them fired a single shot. That’s not all; the uniforms of these so-called fighters were brand new,” he alleges.

Aldamov claims that in his role as a go-between for Georgia and Chechen separatists, he trained many Islamist recruits himself. The practice supposedly continues today in Georgia, through the official Counter Terror Center.

“Everything is still controlled by the center – all the Mujahideen are in its hands. Any Chechen who lives in Georgia and wants to study in an Islamic country has to go through the center, and there they recruit him.”

Aldamov’s allegations caused a stir, but have not received universal endorsement.

Badri Nachkebia, a Georgian expert in conflict and political violence present at the conference, questioned whether Aldamov had a pro-Russian agenda after his sudden return to Chechnya. He also contradicted the assertion that the militants had been killed with one shot each – as if by their trusted allies – noting that three Georgian special services soldiers had been killed during the operation, and six more injured.

Meanwhile, political expert Nana Devdariani said that while the country may have harbored Chechen militants, it is unlikely that the operation was an inside job, or that there was a border crossing from Georgia into Russia, considering how well fortified the Russian side is.

On the official level, Georgian ministers insist there was a crossing from Dagestan, while Russian officials have categorically denied the claim.

In the clandestine circumstances of a simmering regional conflict where both sides have an agenda (not to mention that Georgia faces a national election next week), the truth will be hard to come by, and claims such as Aldamov’s may be impossible to confirm or deny.

Armenia Is Being All Things To Everybody, Except for Azerbaijan and Turkey

In Facing Its Adversaries, America’s Got a Hidden Lever: Armenia


Soldiers from various countries including Armenia

 

BY DANIEL GAYNOR
From The Truman Project

Most Americans wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the largest American embassy in the world is in Baghdad, Iraq. But the second-largest is in a surprising place: Armenia. It begs the question: why?

The best explanation is a real estate mantra: location, location, location. Armenia, a landlocked country with just three million people, might be in the roughest neighborhood in the world. But in America’s eyes, it might be in the most important position of any US ally to advance President Obama’s foreign policy agenda.

What it lacks in natural resources–it has little oil, gas or jewels–it makes up for in geography. Few countries are in better position to shape US foreign policy than Armenia.

Armenia borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran. As a part of the former Soviet Union, it relies on nearby Russia extensively for trade and military backing. The US has a significant stake in all five countries, and Armenia is now coming into view as a potentially potent lever to advance American aims.

That is, if the Armenians can be won over.

As the US tries to woo Armenia to become a stronger ally in the region, the term “geostrategic” has never been more apt. Armenia is literally at the center of a number of countries that Washington considers among its top priorities. As President Obama tries to accomplish key foreign policy objectives–like preventing Iran from attaining nuclear bombs or seeing democracy flourish in Russia–he’s got to encourage Armenia to play along.

To Armenia’s south, one such issue is unfolding in Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. Last  week, a media skirmish between the US and Israel boiled over when Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated publicly that America had no “moral right” to say whether or not Israel could bomb Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon. President Obama reportedly called Netanyahu at 3AM to quell tensions.

America is racing to develop every diplomatic pressure point it can on Iran, lest Israel launch a preemptive attack and embroil America in a third Middle East war in ten years. One of those pressure points goes straight through Armenia.

While the US has cut off formal relations with Iran–Washington talks through Switzerland’s embassy there–it’s no secret that it employs a variety of foreign policy crowbars to influence and destabilize Iran’s ruling regime. Some, like President Obama’s latest round of economic sanctions, are well known. Partnering with Armenia is not, but could have a major impact. Through economic and diplomatic incentives, the US is actively trying to shape Armenia into an ally. As President Obama seeks to economically isolate Iran–his sanctions have cut the value of Iran currency in half–he is trying to regionally isolate the regime, as well. Armenia is key to that strategy.

For Armenia, the game is far less simple. Partnering with the US–with whom it has a good, but not great, relationship–could alienate the few friends Armenia has left in the South Caucasus region. It wants military cooperation with Russia, but economic access to the west.

While it has tried to deepen relations with the European Union and the US, Armenia’s two best friends at the moment are arguably the US’s most challenging adversaries: Russia and Iran. That’s not necessarily because of shared ideologies, or even shared interests; it’s because Armenia doesn’t have many friends to pick from.

Of its four neighbors, two–Turkey and Azerbaijan– have have closed off their borders to Armenia. To go on a road trip, every Armenian must pass through either Tbilisi, Georgia or Tehran, Iran.

Why the frosty reception? Turkey, which the New York Times recently called “the historic nemesis of the Armenians,” is still steaming mad over the negative PR associated with Armenian Genocide. The Turks claim rogue military elements are responsible; Armenians believe the Turkish government is reluctant to take the blame.

In either interpretation, the facts are stark: about 1.5 million Armenians perished in a war with Turkey between 1915 and 1918. The Turks closed off its border in 1993, and with it, a significant chunk of Armenia’s economy disappeared. In the decades since, Armenia has pressed for international recognition of the genocide–and rightfully so–but that has only stoked the fire with the Turks.

But, while one would think that the genocide rift is what led Turkey to close off its border, it’s not. Instead, Turkey is standing in solidarity with another neighbor over a contested territory.

Azerbaijan, another fromer Soviet republic, shut its borders with Armenia after the two battled over an Armenian-populated enclave in Azerbaijan, called Nagorno-Karabakh, in the 1990′s. Today, the territory remains a “semi-autonomous” area; meaning that the Azeris want it back, the Armenians believe they control it, and the Karabakhtis has declared independence (which no country has formally recognized).

Meanwhile, the relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan is sliding downhill. Last week, Azerbaijan made a deal with Hungary to extradite a convicted Azeri murderer. (The man, eight years ago, nearly decapitated a sleeping Armenian serviceman with an axe at a NATO-sponsored English class.) He was returned under the condition that he would serve at least 25 more years in jail.

Instead, as the New York Times put it, he received “a new apartment, eight years of back pay, a promotion to the rank of major and the status of a national hero.” Uproar in Armenia ensued. Armenia’s President released a statement warning, “The Armenians must not be underestimated. We don’t want a war, but if we have to, we will fight and win.”

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is enjoying the windfall from oil exports. Israel, in particular, has strengthened relations with the Azeris, purchasing 30 percent of their oil from them, as well as selling them over $1.5 billion in military supplies. The US is also a buyer of Azeri oil. As the New York Times points out, Azerbaijan invested more money in its military than Armenia’s entire state budget last year. Hardly the sign of harmonious relations to come.

So far, Armenia’s walked a diplomatic tightrope with skill. As my Lonely Planet travel book explains, “Despite its limited resources, Armenia has become a master at geopolitics. What other country in the world can say it maintains good relations with the US, Russia and Iran?”

Given the cards they’re dealt, Armenia has been a remarkable success story. If America hopes to engender greater cooperation, it’s got to sweeten the deal–through trade agreements, offering economic reforms and encouraging private sector development in Armenia.

Armenia became independent in 1991. Two decades later, it’s still trying to find its footing in the region. It may not have gold, oil, gas or jewels to give to the US. But, instead, it may have something more useful: a strategic position in the most critical—and potentially most dangerous—region in the world.

Daniel Gaynor is Truman’s Writer and Digital Strategist. He can be followed on Twitter @DannyGaynor

Rebel support ‘pushes Syria deeper into the abyss of bloody sectarianism’ – Lavrov

Rebel support ‘pushes Syria deeper into the abyss of bloody sectarianism’ – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary)

Those who insist on a ceasefire only by the Syrian government encourage the opposition to intensify its hostilities, and “take upon themselves an enormous responsibility,” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

The shortest way to stop the loss of life in Syria, Lavrov said, is to adhere to the commitments in the Geneva communique, which were agreed upon by the Action Group as follow-up of the Kofi Annan Plan.

“We proposed to adopt a resolution in the UN Security Council that would endorse the Geneva communique as the basis for negotiations at the beginning of the transitional period, but this proposal had been blocked,” Lavrov noted.

“Those who oppose the implementation of the Geneva communique,” he explained, “in fact push Syria even deeper into the abyss of bloody sectarian strife.”

Lavrov noted that the deepening of internal conflict in Syria is of particular concern because the militarization of the conflict is combined with open calls for foreign intervention.

“We have consistently called for the consolidated efforts of the international community to compel the government and its opponents to immediately cease the violence and come to the negotiating table,” Lavrov said, adding that so far, there has been no progress in reaching unanimity on how to create conditions towards achieving that goal.

The foreign minister also expressed concern about the growing number of war crimes on both sides of the conflict, as recorded in a recent report by the UN Human Rights Council.

“Extremist organizations including al-Qaeda have become more active in Syria – they perpetrate terrorist attacks against innocent civilians and civil infrastructure,” Lavrov said.

The situation in the region requires the international community to use a comprehensive approach, and to reject“simplified and ideology-driven patterns and double standards,” the FM asserted.

He also condemned any unilateral sanctions “imposed by a state or a group of states sidestepping the United Nations to advance their political goals.”

“We have no doubt that such sanctions, especially when they are applied extra-territorially, weaken the unity of the international community and undermine the effectiveness of its efforts,” Lavrov said, adding that the events of recent years have clearly shown that “unilateral actions that violate international law and go beyond the decisions of the UN Security Council or distort the substance of these decisions do not do any good.”

He urged the UN to discuss the consequences of such actions and to resume discussions on the humanitarian limits of sanctions, a topic that, he said, somehow “faded away” in the UN.

Meanwhile on Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would contribute an additional $15 million in “non-lethal gear” to the “civilian opposition” trying to oust Assad. Another $30 million will be sent in humanitarian assistance to help people affected by the continuing conflict, Clinton said at a Friends of Syria meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA.

“It is no secret that our attempts to move forward at the UN Security Council have been blocked repeatedly, but the United States is not waiting,” Clinton said.

Islamist-Baath divide still torments Syria

Islamist-Baath divide still torments Syria

Gulf News

Today’s civil war has deep roots in Hafez Al Assad’s crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood and the rebellion has increasingly taken on an Islamist colouring

By Patrick Seale | Special to Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

The pitiless, vengeful, blood-thirsty battle now being waged in Syria is not something new or unexpected. Nor is it a mere by-product of the Arab Spring, although events in Tunisia and Egypt have undoubtedly contributed to creating an insurrectionary atmosphere in the whole region. Rather, the Syrian uprising, as it has gradually evolved over the past 18 months, should be seen as only the latest, if by far the most violent, episode in the long war between Islamists and Baathists, which dates back to the founding of the secular Baath Party in the 1940s. The struggle between them is by now little short of a death-feud.

This is not to suggest that the present rebellion is driven only by religious motives and sectarian hate. Although these are real enough, other grievances have piled up over the past decades: the ravages of youth unemployment; the brutality of Syria’s security services; the domination of key centres of economic, military and political life by the minority Alawi community; the blatant consumerism of a privileged class, grown rich on state patronage, in sharp contrast with the hardship suffered by the mass of the population, including in particular the inhabitants of the ‘poverty belt’ around Damascus, Aleppo and other cities. These deprived suburbs are largely the result of inward migration from the long-neglected countryside, which in the past decade has suffered catastrophic losses from a drought of unprecedented severity.

But beyond all this is the decades-long hostility of Islamists for Syria’s Baath-dominated regime. Formed by two Damascus schoolmasters soon after the Second World War, the Baath party was created as a secular and socialist movement dedicated to bringing about Arab unity and independence. Schoolboy members of the party clashed repeatedly at that time with members of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood. When the party seized power in Damascus in 1963, its clash with the Islamists burst into the open. The civilian leadership of the party had by then been largely displaced by Baathist officers ‑ including Hafiz AlAssad, father of the current President Bashar Al Assad‑ mostly from minority backgrounds. In turn, these Baathist officers had allied themselves with Akram AlHawrani, the charismatic leader of a peasant revolt, which was challenging the great landowners of the central Syrian plain, most of them resident in Hama.

Hama is today remembered as the centre of the Muslim Brothers’ armed uprising against Hafiz Al Assad, which he crushed in blood in February 1982, leaving a bitter legacy of sectarian hostility. Few recall, however, that 18 years earlier, in April 1964, rioting by Muslim rebels against the Baathist regime had already flared into something like a religious war. Funded by the old land-owning families, enraged at being dispossessed, and egged on by the imam of the Sultan Mosque in Hama, the rebels threw up roadblocks, stockpiled food and weapons, ransacked wine shops to spill the offending liquor in the gutters, and beat up any Baath party man they could find.

After two days of street fighting, the regime shelled the Sultan Mosque where the rebels had taken cover and from where they had been firing. The minaret collapsed, killing many of them. Many others were wounded but many more disappeared underground. The shelling of the mosque outraged Muslim opinion, igniting a fever of strikes and demonstrations across the country.

Thus, today’s civil war ‑ for that is what it has become ‑ has deep roots in modern Syrian history. The rebellion has increasingly taken on an Islamist colouring, as the Swedish writer Aron Lund explains in an informative 45-page report on Syrian Jihadism, published this month by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. It is striking, as he points out, that virtually all the members of the various armed insurgent groups are Sunni Arabs; that the fighting has been largely restricted to Sunni Arab areas only, whereas areas inhabited by Alawis, Druze or Christians have remained passive or supportive of the regime; that defections from the regime are nearly 100 per cent Sunni; that money, arms and volunteers are pouring in from Islamic states or from pro-Islamic organisations and individuals; and that religion is the insurgent movement’s most important common denominator.

In the last few months, the Syrian National Council (SNC) ‑ that is to say the Turkey-based civilian ‘political’ opposition ‑ has been largely up-staged by fighters on the ground. Most of these fighters are grouped into nine Military Councils (majlis askariya) of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), each Council divided into a number of brigades (kataib). But, in much the same way as these Councils have marginalised the SNC, so they also seem unwilling to take orders from the Turkey-based FSA commander, Col Riad AlAssad.

Lund points out that, with rare exceptions, the FSA is an entirely Sunni Arab phenomenon, and that most FSA brigades use religious rhetoric and are named after heroic figures or events in Sunni Islamic history. It is thought that about 2,000 non-Syrians, some linked to Al Qaida, are now fighting in Syria, about 10 per cent of the total rebel manpower, estimated at about 20,000 (although some sources put the figure twice as high at 40,000.) Most of these fighters would seem to be active only in protecting their home areas.

Three major fighting units, among a score of others ‑ Jabhat Al Nosra, the Ahrar Al Sham Brigades and Suqur Al Sham Division ‑ are among the most extreme Salafi groups in the Syrian rebel movement. The first has been linked to suicide and car bomb attacks in Syrian cities and to the assassination of pro-regime figures; the second carries out ambushes and uses remotely-triggered bombings and sniper fire against army patrols; and the third uses suicide bombers and frames its propaganda in jihadi rhetoric. The leaders of the last two have declared that their aim is to establish an Islamic state in Syria. All three seem to have welcomed AlQaida fighters into their ranks.

These fighting groups have gravely destabilised the Syrian regime but, without a foreign military intervention in their favour, they seem unlikely to topple it. The regime is fighting back with air and ground attacks, evidently determined to crush all pockets of armed rebellion on Syrian territory.

This is the conundrum facing the UN peace envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi. His task is to persuade the world community to impose a ceasefire on both sides, before bringing them to the table. But only when all are persuaded that there can be no decisive win for either side might they heed his call. In the meantime, thousands more will die or be driven from their homes and the country will sink further into blood and chaos, making the divide between the Islamists and President Bashar AlAssad virtually unbridgeable.

 

Patrick Seale is a commentator and author of several books on Middle East affairs

Why An Islamic Revolution In Saudi Arabia Is A Surefire Way To Send Oil To $300 A Barrel

Why An Islamic Revolution In Saudi Arabia Is A Surefire Way To Send Oil To $300 A Barrel

Marin Katusa picture

Marin Katusa, who works with Casey Research (http://www.caseyresearch.com/), is an accomplished investment analyst who specializes in the junior resource sector. He left a successful teaching career to pursue analyzing and investing in junior resource companies. In addition, he is a member of… More

There is little that would rock the oil world more than a revolution in Saudi Arabia.

But with a coming leadership crisis, it is becoming all too likely.

Saudi is facing major economic challenges as dramatic increases in social spending and domestic fuel consumption eat through the kingdom’s all-important oil revenues.

Saudi Arabia is smack in the middle of the Middle East, an ever-tumultuous region currently rocking and rolling more than usual as the Arab Spring challenges longstanding autocratic assumptions, while war-torn Syria and defiant Iran tip the delicate Sunni-Shia religious balance in the world’s most important oil region.

While the House of Saud might present itself as a stable, strong, and cohesive royal family, in truth the king and his successors are growing old and incapacitated in a throne room full of competing contenders. Meanwhile, the only other organized social group in the country – the Islamists – are waiting just outside the door.

Want to see oil at $300 a barrel?

To see $300/bbl oil, or to watch the news as Saudi troops attack Tehran, or to see a stranglehold on US oil imports, watch what a failed succession battle in the House of Saud that ends up destroying the whole family and ushering in an Islamist age in Saudi Arabia would do to the price of oil.

It could happen sooner than you think.

A Shaky House of Saud

The king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Aziz bin Saud, is almost 90 years old. In Saudi Arabia’s royal system, the throne passes not from father to son but from brother to brother. The problem with the system is that none of King Abdullah’s brothers are exactly young and full of vigor.

Crown Prince Salman, next in line to the throne, is already 76. He got the Crown Prince nod after two of his elder brothers died. The remaining brothers now average 80 years of age.

A king who ascends the throne in his seventh or eighth decade is unlikely to have the energy or even the time to enact significant reforms. And reforms are needed. I’m not pushing democracy – Saudis don’t generally want democracy. What I’m talking about are the endemic problems that are battering the world’s biggest oil producer: high unemployment, a corrupt bureaucracy, a crippled economy, a weak education system, and a society full of frustrated youth.

While the country crumbles, the three pillars that have long supported the royal family are also weakening. Massive oil revenues, which have long been used to buy public support, are being squeezed by sharply increased domestic demand. The Wahhabi Islamic establishment that supported the House of Saud is increasingly fractious and is losing credibility. And the royal family itself is struggling to maintain its rock-solid façade after losing two crown princes to old age in just a few years.

The country’s foreign relations are little better. The Middle East is in turmoil, and Saudi Arabia’s longstanding alliance with the United States is in distress.

Alongside these tangible problems is a multitude of intangible challenges that are revolutionizing the country. The regime used to control the population by controlling access to information, but of course that age is now almost over. The Internet has connected young Saudis with the rest of the world, and that worldview is prompting them to question some of the rules of their society.

Even the religious establishment in Saudi Arabia is seeing its power eroded. Young Saudis are increasingly independent, using the Koran to guide their decisions without following specific decrees from a particular religious leader.

The fact is, Saudi society today bears little resemblance to the passive masses of just a decade ago, and a decade from now the difference will be even bigger.

Trying to lead his country through these modern challenges is a 90-year-old king, backed by a 76-year-old crown prince and their octogenarian brothers.

Not surprisingly, it’s not working very well.

New Battles, Old Tactics

When the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt sparked protests in Saudi Arabia, the protesters were not demanding democracy or trying to oust the royal family. No, the young Saudis who filled those streets had more basic demands.

At the top of the list is jobs – 60% of Saudi’s citizens are under the age of 20, and the unemployment rate for young adults is nearly 40%. These young people want to be given the opportunity to better themselves and their country, but instead they cannot find work and live on government handouts.

Adding fuel to the fire, those handouts have been shrinking. Saudi Arabia’s population has skyrocketed in the last half century. In 1972 the country had 6 million inhabitants; by 1992 that number had climbed to 17 million; and today there are 28 million Saudi Arabians. Oil incomes have climbed too, but not nearly apace. As such the government has been struggling to keep the population appeased with fewer dollars per head every year.

The population keeps growing, and each person in the kingdom keeps using more oil. The result: shrinking oil revenues have to go further. It’s not a recipe for success, but when you’re 89 years old, you go with what has worked in the past.

And that is precisely what happened in the wake of the Arab Spring: King Abdullah drowned the protestors in money – a $130-billion social-spending package that built new housing, increased payrolls, and boosted unemployment payouts. Saudi Arabia’s entire annual budget is just $180 billion, so the king almost doubled spending to appease the protestors.

This tactic cannot work forever. Even in Saudi Arabia there is only so much oil money. The Saudi royals already need an oil price of at least $80 a barrel to support all their social programs, and with domestic oil consumption rocketing upward, that baseline price will keep climbing.

But the unrest continues.

The Summer of Saudi Discontent

After King Abdullah offered billions of dollars in social spending, many protestors went home… except in the country’s oil-rich eastern provinces, where the protests never stopped.

For the last 18 months, Saudis in the eastern Qatif region have been demonstrating regularly, demanding the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression, and an end to ethnic and religious discrimination. When Saudi security forces turned on the demonstrators last November, killing five, the protests took on a distinctly anti-Saud tone.

In June, King Abdullah ordered the country’s security forces to go on a state of high alert due to what he called a “turbulent situation” in the eastern region.

The unspoken side to the situation is that the turbulence is distinctly religious.

Most Saudis are Sunni Muslims, and Sunni Islam is the only allowed religion in the country. However, 15% of the country’s inhabitants are Shia, and they have faced direct and indirect persecution for decades.

Guess where the Shia live? In those turbulent, oil-rich eastern provinces.

That is one aspect of Saudi discontent. But there are more.

For example, last week Saudi security forces raided al Qaida cells in Jeddah and Riyadh. Evidence recovered during the raids supports the suspicion that a new branch in the Arabian Peninsula is gathering momentum for a wave of attacks. The royal family is at the top of their list of targets. Toppling the House of Saud would be a major victory for al Qaida, simply because of the instability that would ensue.

All told, between external threats, internal divisions, and domestic struggles, the Saudi royal family looks very unstable indeed. So what would happen if the House of Saud crumbled?

Remember, religion is the only social structure in Saudi Arabia. There are no political parties, unions, or social organizations, aside from a few charities run by members of the royal family. Were the House of Saud to fail, the only candidates ready to step up would be the Islamists.

The shift to Islamist rule in Egypt has made the world pretty nervous. Longstanding allegiances are in limbo, and long-term relationships are changing.

Imagine if it happened in Saudi Arabia.

Islamist leadership in Saudi would not be the moderate, democratic version we’re seeing in Egypt. The Islamists in Saudi Arabia are Wahhabi Muslims, who practice the strictest and most conservative version of the religion. I can see these imams making several moves.

First, a Saudi Arabia led by Wahhabi Islamists would not stay at peace with the Shia Islamic Republic of Iran. Both branches of Islam believe the other has strayed so far from the path that its followers are infidels. Odds of open war between Saudi Arabia and Iran would shoot sky-high the moment Islamists took power in Saudi Arabia.

Even worse, a Wahhabi Islamist Saudi Arabia might well turn its strongest weapon against the infidels of the West – by turning off the oil taps. It would be the 1973 oil crisis all over again, but in an even more oil-dependent world.

The price of oil shot up 300% in six months during the oil crisis. Today, that would mean an oil price of $300 per barrel.

It would also mean the end of the era of friendly US-Saudi relations… and the demise of the petrodollar. That is a story in itself – one of great significance to anyone who owns US dollars. I have discussed previously how a US-Saudi deal to only use dollars to trade oil created a deep pool of support for the US currency – and what will happen if the petrodollar dies. The short version is that as the global oil trade moves away from US dollars into yuan, yen, rubles, and pesos, the world would have yet another reason to devalue the dollar.

Expensive oil, open Sunni-Shia war in the Middle East, the loss of one of the world’s biggest oil producers as a stalwart ally, and an inevitable increase in religious politics across the Arabian Peninsula – such are the likely outcomes if the House of Saud comes tumbling down.

It is not inevitable. There are 7,000 princes in the Saud royal family, the result of multiple wives and lots of progeny. In that mix, there is undoubtedly a prince with the right mix of progressive thought and religious reverence to lead Saudi Arabia through its succession and into the future.

But whenever a throne room is that crowded, it is very easy for a brawl to break out, depriving that perfect prince of his chance and giving the Islamists their opening.

Either way, oil investors with the right picks in their portfolio will prosper, and the Casey Research energy team will be available to guide you along the way.

Mikati urges world to isolate Lebanon from Syria crisis

Mikati urges world to isolate Lebanon from Syria crisis

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned that the protracted crisis in Syria threatens civil peace the Middle East and said the world must isolate Lebanon from the Syria crisis.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati delivers a speech before the U.N. General Assembly. (The Daily Star/HO)
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati delivers a speech before the U.N. General Assembly. (The Daily Star/HO)

“The crisis in Syria threatens civil peace and stability in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, which requires the international community to exert great efforts to reach a political solution between the Syrian parties to stop the spiral of violence that claims hundreds of innocent victims every day,” Mikati said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly at midnight Thursday.

“It is the duty of the international community to neutralize Lebanon from the turbulent situation now and assist it to flourish and spread its [prosperity] throughout the Middle East,” he urged.

He also called on “the world to look at Lebanon as a beacon of hope and a message of freedom and pluralism, and as a chance to secure the safest and shortest way for a democratic, healthy and prosperous Middle East.”

Mikati stressed that “Lebanon adheres to the disassociation policy [from Syria unrest], but not in terms of the human duty toward Syrian refugees.”

He underscored Lebanon’s commitment to U.N. resolution 1701 and called for more world pressure on Israel to withdraw its troops from the Lebanese border village of Ghajar and Shebaa Farms.

Turning to the anti-Islam film which sparked violent protests across the region, Mikati said Lebanon denounces insults to any religion and stressed the need for building confidence through dialogue among cultures and civilizations.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mikati called for world recognition of the state of Palestine to “correct historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people.”

“No stability in the region without a Palestinian Spring,” he said, in reference to the Arab Spring or the wave of demonstrations and protests calling for democratic change in the Arab world.

He believed the “Palestine Spring” would come when Palestinians gained their rights to self-determination.

Mikati, however, said he believed that people of the Arab world are “eager for change through peaceful means and not through violence.”

He pointed out that “peace – coupled with freedom and justice – can provide security and stability to our world and put an end to tyranny, extremism, terrorism and peoples’ domination.”

“The legitimate aspirations of the peoples can only [be achieved] through peaceful transition and dialogue away from the cycle of violence and foreign intervention,” he argued before urging the international community to come out with an economic, cultural and developmental roadmap to help Middle East countries to cope with the change.

Lastly, Mikati called on the U.N. Security Council to “reconsider its restructure and its powers.”

He said the UNSC should also “expand to become more just and democratic as it takes into account the political and economic realities of the new world by increasing the number of its members and allowing small countries to participate in the membership.”

In remarks published Friday by pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Mikati denied the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, saying that he has received confirmation with regards to the issue.

“There is no presence of Iran’s revolutionary guards in Lebanon,” Mikati said, referring to remarks made by the top commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard in which he said that he had sent some Guard members to Lebanon and Syria.

“We have received confirmations from all sides that the question posed to one of the security officials was about the past and that his talk focused on the presence of Iran’s revolutionary guards in Syria but he did not touch on their presence in Lebanon,” he added.

Mikati also voiced certainty that Hezbollah would not involve Lebanon in the Syria crisis, reiterating that the resistance party agreed on the Baabda Declaration which stipulates that Lebanon remain at a distance from regional and international conflicts particularly in its neighbor.

“I am certain that Hezbollah will commit to this declaration and will not allow Lebanon to be involved in any matter that does not concern it directly unless it is an attack on Lebanon,” the prime minister said.

“And we will not provoke Israel so that it would interfere in Lebanon’s matters,” he added.

Mikati also called for an honest, Arab role to stop bloodshed in Syria but “not an Arab intervention.”

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani called Tuesday for an Arab intervention force to be sent to Syria to end the violence in Syria during his speech to the 67th General Assembly at the U.N.

(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

AP Story Pure Misinformation–Hyping Panetta Interview To Imply Imminent Chemical Weapons Threat

[AP scare-mongering, followed by more reasonable version from Ynet in Israel, of all places.]

Panetta says Syria moved some chemical weapons

The Associated Press

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta listens to a question during at a news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
By LOLITA C. BALDOR

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says intelligence suggests the Syrian government has moved some of its chemical weapons, but the U.S. believes that the main sites still remain secure.

Panetta says he does not have enough information to confirm if any of the moves suggest that some of the material has been acquired by the opposition forces battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It is widely believed that Syria possesses extensive chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and it has threated to use them if the country comes under attack. President Barack Obama has said there would be enormous consequences if the U.S. sees any movement or use of the weapons.

Panetta was speaking at a news conference with Canadian Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay.end of story marker

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press

Panetta: Syria moved some chemical weapons to boost security

US defense secretary says intelligence indicates Syria’s main WMD arsenal still secure, under government control

Reuters

The Syrians have moved some of their chemical weaponscapability to better secure it, but the country’s main chemical weapons sites remain intact and secure under government control, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday, citing US intelligence.

“There has been some intelligence that with regards to some of these sites that there has been some movement in order for the Syrians to better secure… the chemicals,” Panetta told a Pentagon news conference.

“So while there’s been some limited movement, again the major sites still remain in place, still remain secure.”

Panetta said that he does not have enough information to confirm if any of the moves suggest that some of the material has been acquired by the opposition forces battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The United States and Israel have both expressed concern that Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal – considered the largest in the world – would be compromised and wind up in terrorist hands, including those of Hezbollah.

Opposition forces have also expressed concern that the embattled regime will use its unconventional weapons, which include Sarin and mustard gas, on rebel forces and civilian population.

In August, rebel forces claimed that the Assad regime used “mass-killing thermobaric weapons” on civilians in Aleppo.

JUST THE FACTS–The New Conquistadors

JUST THE FACTS 

New Conquistadors

Just the Facts

US Removal of Radar from Honduras Creates “Open skies for drug trafficking.”

[SEE:  Behind deadly confrontations in Honduras, a new anti-drug strategy]

US radar technology

US officials announced they have suspended the sharing of radar intelligence with Honduras following the unilateral decision by the Honduran Air Force to shoot down two suspected drug flights. The announcement further destabilizes the already shaky US-Honduras counter-narcotics assistance program.

The radar technology had been in place since May as part of the US-led “Operation Anvil.” However, the US decided to suspend sharing radar intelligence August 18, according to La Prensa, following the downing of two suspected drug flights by the Honduran Air Force in July. The confusing incident led to the removal of the head of the Honduran Air Force.

The US has stated that it is willing to restore the radar system but only once it has carried out a full review that will establish strict guidelines to ensure no such unilateral actions take place in the future. Ramon Custodio, the head of Honduras’ human rights commission (known by its acronym CONADEH), said in response to the withdrawal of the radar that the country is now, “open skies for drug trafficking.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Honduras is one of the primary transit points for cocaine traversing Central America. The State Department estimates 79 percent of drug flights pass through the country.

The US’ concern, however, has not translated into a stable relationship with the Honduran government. Last month, US officials announced that police aid would be suspended to units under the command of the country’s police chief due to claims he ran death squads in the 2000s.

Hondurans are also not happy, especially with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has employed special teams to some of the more drug-ridden areas. In May, the DEA was involved in the killingof four suspected drug traffickers in the northeastern Gracias a Dios province, one of whom was a woman who was allegedly pregnant.

Still, the US is keen to continue with special operations and counter-narcotics activities in Honduras, InSight Crime has learned, and will likely proceed with greater caution going forward.

Nicaragua Follows Southern Neighbors’ Lead and Formalizes Pullout of “School Of the Americas”

Nicaragua Formalizes Pullout of SOA

Nicaragua formalizes pullout of SOA

Flying Solo: Nicaraguan military officers will no longer participate in the U.S. School of the Americas (photo/ Tim Rogers)
By David Hutt / special to The Nicaragua Dispatch 

The ‘School of the Americas’ (SOA) occupies a very dark place in Latin American history.

The U.S. military academy, based in Fort Benning, Georgia, has been training Latin American soldiers for well over half a century. More than 64,000 have passed through its doors, a significant number of which have been accused and convicted of human rights abuses. It has educated 11 dictators, including Panama’s former drug-dealing strongman, Manuel Noriega, and El Salvador’s Roberto D’Aubuisson, who controlled that country’s infamous death squads.

In March of this year, SOA graduate Pedro Pimentel Ríos of Guatemala was sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for his actions during the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre that left more than 200 dead. Three years earlier, in 2009, two-time graduate Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez led the military putsch against Honduras’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Dropping out of School: President Daniel Ortega and Father Roy Bourgeois are joined by the president’s daughter, Camila (left), Sandinista foreign policy advisor Miguel D’Escoto (right) and the SOA Watch’s Lisa Sullivan and Mary Anne Perrone (photo courtesy of SOAWlatina.org)

This month, Nicaragua became the sixth Latin American country—and the first in Central America—to announce the end of its participation in the school’s officers’ training program. In practice, Nicaragua has been slowly reducing its participation in the program over the past few years; it sent no new officers to the school this year.

In 2004, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez rather unsurprisingly severed his country’s links to the school, which he considers an “imperialist” training camp. Two years later Argentina made a similar decision. Neighboring Uruguay saw its neighbors’ pullout as an opportunity to affirm its long-standing dismissal of the school. Then came Bolivia in 2008, and Ecuador in 2012.

In 2007 Costa Rica, which has no standing army but sends police officers to the SOA for training, also toyed with the idea of discontinuing its participation. But the country decided to keep sending officers for anti-narcotics training.

In announcing his decision several weeks ago, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said, “The SOA is an ethical and moral anathema. All of the countries of Latin America have been victims of its graduates. The SOA is a symbol of death, a symbol of terror.”

Ortega went on to empathize that “We have been gradually reducing our numbers of troops at the SOA, sending only five last year and none this year. We have now entered a new phase and we will not continue to send troops to the SOA. This is the least that we can do.”

The decision came after Ortega met with a delegation from the “School of the Americas Watch” (SOAW), a campaign group that has been bringing awareness to the human rights abuses committed by SOA graduates since 1990. The group’s founder, Maryknoll priest Father Roy Bourgeois, was motivated to act after witnessing the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero in El Salvador in 1980. He describes the SOA as a “symbol of United States foreign policy whose role is always the same: to protect U.S. economic interests and control the natural resources of Latin American countries.”

In 2001, the school attempted to distance itself from the past by renaming itself the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.” It also justified its existence by commenting that “no school should be held accountable for the actions of its graduates.”

However, there have been questions about how much has changed. Maj. Joseph Blair, a former director at the school, said, “There are no substantive changes besides the name. They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and use the same manuals.”

The SOAW delegation spent 10 days touring Nicaragua meeting representatives from rural communities, Sandinista Youth brigades and the president. Lisa Sullivan, who works as the Latin America Coordinator for “School of the Americas Watch,” described her last meeting with President Ortega in 2008.

“After sixteen years of absolute economic dependency on the U.S., and with wounds of a U.S.-funded war still raw, the timing was just not right in 2008 to announce Nicaragua’s withdrawal from the SOA,” she said.

Four years later, the SOAW delegation found the Nicaraguan president better able to listen to their cause.

“From the moment we stepped into Nicaragua, it was clear that a lot had changed in four years,” Sullivan commentated. “In recent years, the ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean nations had offered Nicaragua the economic solidarity some degree of independence from the U.S. Still, the U.S. still controlled a large amount of funds for Nicaragua, and they were reluctant to anger their giant neighbor,” she said.

David Hutt is a freelance writer from London, UK, who will be on the trail of Latin America during the next year and will be working as a tour guide in León, Nicaragua. Follow his travels and misadventures on his blog, and follow him on twitter @davidhutt1990

Israeli Press Invents False Issue of Hezbollah In Nicaragua Out of Whole Cloth

By Tim Rogers
Israeli news media and members of the U.S. Congress started a whirlwind rumor that Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah is operating military training camps in northern Nicaragua. The Tico Times examines the truth behind the gossip.
Hezbollah

Dangerous gossip: To date, no proof exists to confirm claims published by Israeli media and echoed by U.S. lawmakers that the armed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah is operating training camps in Nicaragua.   Mahmoud Zayyat | AFP

From the print edition

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – For a story that appears to be based more on fear than fact, the rumors of Hezbollah activity in Nicaragua will not go away.

Former presidential candidate and radio producer Fabio Gadea last weekend criticized the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama for not taking a stronger stance against President Daniel Ortega, who he called “a friend of the worst tyrants and enemies of the United States.”

Gadea, who lost to Ortega in last year’s presidential elections, also criticized why no one has investigated recent reports in Israeli media that claim the Lebanese Shiite military group Hezbollah is currently training terrorists in a secret location in northern Nicaragua, near the Honduran border.

“Approximately 30 members of the terrorist organization reside inside the area, which is closed to locals,” the Times of Israel reported earlier this month, citing only Israel Radio as its source. “The Hezbollah men reportedly receive all their supplies from Tehran.”

Other Israeli media outlets picked up the report, citing “local media” in Nicaragua as the source of information. In Nicaragua, however, no local media is reporting that Hezbollah has a training camp here.

Nicaraguan authorities, meanwhile, have not commented on the accusations.

“I don’t know those reports, or in what media that is being reported in,” said Nicaragua Army spokesman Lt. Col. Orlando Palacios. “I would have to see [the reports] to give an opinion on them, but for the moment I don’t have any opinion.”

Asked if the army could categorically deny the existence of Hezbollah training camps in Nicaragua without reading the articles, Palacios repeated that the army has no comment.

“I repeat, I don’t know the articles and I can’t opine on something I haven’t read. Neither the army nor I have any opinion about this at this time,” Palacios said earlier this month.

Neither the army nor any other government authority in Nicaragua has issued additional comment on the Israeli media reports.

Though the reports appear unsubstantiated, they also are cause from some concern on Capitol Hill.

On Sept. 19, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, spoke in favor of House Resolution 3783, or “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012.” The bill, which Ros-Lehtinen helped get passed in a House voice vote last week, calls for a comprehensive U.S. government strategy to counter Iran’s growing presence in the Western Hemisphere.

Ros-Lehtinen has been deeply concerned for some time with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s overtures to Latin America – a move she calls his “tour of tyrants” to meet with “his fellow tyrants: the Castro brothers in Cuba, Ortega in Nicaragua, Correa in Ecuador, Chávez in Venezuela, and Morales in Bolivia.”

The congresswoman claims that Iran’s diplomatic foray into the leftist bloc of countries belonging to the Venezuelan-propped Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) is nothing more than a front for Iran to “carry out its nefarious activities in the region” and establish a “potential platform to increase the presence of Qods Force operatives, an arm of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran.”

The alleged Hezbollah training camps in Nicaragua, which no one has proven to exist, are a perfect example of Iran’s allegedly nefarious meddling, according to the Florida congresswoman.

“According to media reports, Hezbollah, which is Iran’s proxy, has established a training base in Nicaragua.  It is also concerning that the Ortega regime in Nicaragua does not require any visas for Iranian officials to enter the country, which can then become the gateway to enter the U.S. through our southern border,” Ros-Lehtinen told the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

Ros-Lehtinen, however, has been saying that Iranian activity in Latin America poses “an immediate threat” and a “clear and present danger” to the U.S. for the past year. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any substantial proof to support that claim or suggest that Iran is up to anything other than awkward diplomacy and peddling empty promises for aid.

Officials from the U.S. Southern Command, which presumably would be very interested in any such terrorist activity in Nicaragua, said they have no idea where reports of Hezbollah training camps are coming from. José Ruiz, spokesman for U.S. Southern Command in Florida, said he has never heard of any Hezbollah activity in Nicaragua.

“We are aware of [Iran’s] growing diplomatic and economic presence in the region, we are not aware of a military presence,” Ruiz said in an interview earlier this month. “This is definitely the first time I have heard of any Iranian presence in Nicaragua of this nature.”

Miguel d’Escoto, one of President Ortega’s closest advisors on foreign policy, said the accusations made by Israeli media amounts to “absurd craziness.”

“You smear as much as you can on the wall and some will stick,” said d’Escoto, who still holds the honorary rank of foreign minister. “It’s like Al Capone accusing someone of being a thief.”

A shift toward Latin America

The warnings about the Iranian threat in Latin America started last year about the same time as the U.S. pulled troops out of Iraq. The dramatic military drawdown after a decade of fighting a two-front war in the Middle East means there is a bloated military defense industry that needs to find a new mission after the final Iraqi and Afghan contracts are doled out, some analysts pointed out.

With drug-war violence, gangs and political instability rampant throughout Mexico and most of Latin America, the Western Hemisphere might have all the ingredients the military-industrial complex – both public and private – needs to retool its mission and head back out into the field.

Add a dash of Iranian mischief and Hezbollah intrigue, and defense contractors might have the selling points they need to secure another allotment of lucrative contracts in this hemisphere, said Latin America analyst Samuel Logan, director of Southern Pulse, a Latin America risk analysis firm.

Logan said the recent deployment of U.S. Marines to Guatemala and the uptick in U.S. anti-drug trafficking operations in Honduras suggest a shifting tide might already be happening.

“The military-industrial complex that has been in Iraq for the past decade is going to be looking for the next theater to make the argument for slush money and defense contracts,” Logan said. “These guys could be hot to trot on Latin America for the next five to 10 years.”

Tim Rogers is editor of  www.nicaraguadispatch.com

“Balochistan Assembly is a dummy and its members are corrupt.”

“The allegations of Mr Chan tantamount to breach of parliamentary privilege,”

[According to Mr. Achakzai, Chan abused a lawmaker’s privilege by revealing a common understanding of the true nature of the dummy assemble.]

Balochistan lawmakers warn Chan to withdraw his statement

QUETTA – The legislators of Balochistan Assembly have strongly condemned the allegations of Public Accounts Committee’s Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan that Balochistan Assembly is a dummy and its members are corrupt.They warned that if Mr Chan did not withdraw his remarks they would bring a condemnation resolution in Balochistan Assembly which would not convey a positive massage to PPP and centre. The session of the assembly started on Thursday with Speaker Muhammad Aslam Bhootani in chair.Soon after recitation of the Holy Quran, provincial Minister for Revenue Zamarak Khan Achakzai took the floor on a point of order and came down hard on Nadeem Afzal Chan, saying Mr Chan in a TV talk- show had accused that Balochistan Assembly was a dummy because the real parties had boycotted the elections and ministers were involved in embezzlement of funds. “The allegations of Mr Chan tantamount to breach of parliamentary privilege,” he added. He said representatives of almost all the parties were present in the assembly though some parties had apparently boycotted the elections, adding that chief minister and provincial government belonged to PPP and despite that leveling such allegations by PPP leader was regrettable.Minister for Environment Mir Asghar Rind said people sitting in Islamabad did not have proper knowledge of the area and population of Balochistan and were issuing statements sitting in luxurious hotels utilizing NGOs’ funds. He clarified that no party in Balochistan had boycotted elections, however, some of them fielded their candidates indirectly. “We are not hypocrite, therefore, we contested elections openly,” he added.Shahnawaz Marri, condemning PAC chairman’s statement, said same people would also sweep in upcoming elections, adding those who boycotted the elections were sitting in Dubai and London. “Who is funding these leaders to live abroad?” he asked, adding the PPP leader should not have leveled such allegations against Balochistan Assembly.MPA Nasreen Kethran said incumbent provincial government had carried out a lot of development work despite the fact that it got development funds after NFC-Award.Other lawmakers, including Ainullah Shams, Molvi Abdul Samad, Abdul Rehman Jamali and Younus Mullazai also denounced Chan’s statement, saying he was a senior leader and he should have not used such language against Balochistan Assembly and its members. “Anchor persons always strive to make people speak such words which could lead to confusion,” they added. They suggested that through a condemnation resolution this message should be conveyed that PPP leader had breached parliamentary privilege and as for as embezzlement of funds were concerned there should be an accountability of funds and they were ready for any punishment.Upon this, speaker directed legislators to contact concerned member and he should be told to explain the allegations or withdraw them otherwise Balochistan Assembly would bring a condemnation resolution and a positive message would not go to PPP and center. Sheikh Jaffar Khan Mandokhel, on a point of order, said establishment division should review its policy of deploying officials having Balochistan domicile forcefully in the province.He said Balochistan officials should remain in other provinces and as per rules officials of other provinces should come here and serve the people. Abdul Rehman Jamali, supporting MPA Shaikh Jaffar’s viewpoint, said Balochistan officials were performing well in other provinces and they should not be forced to return to province.He said there were other officials in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that might be deployed in Balochistan.Ainullah Shams said establishment division should review its policy and deploy officials according to the rules.

 

Anti-American Autumn Follows the Arab Spring

Anti-American Autumn Follows the Arab Spring

Anti-American Autumn Follows the Arab Spring

The brutal assassination of the American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three US diplomats in Benghazi, the cradle of anti-Qaddafi uprising in Libya, suggests an extremely improvident foreign policy of the United States in recent years.

The commentators and experts are busy seeking a triggering motive of the thugs. Was the mediocre film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ a true cause of the uprising or just a pretext?

‪The more we listen to them the more distressing is the impression. The West has lost the conscience and does not even dare to recognize the fatal mistake committed to Colonel Gaddafi. A few days ago the US president speaking at the UN General Assembly repeated a terrific mantra:

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the UN Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

 And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

First of all there was no UN Security Council mandate for intervention in Libya. If you essay a task reading the resolution 1973 (2011) on ‘no-fly zone in Libya’, you will find out that it does not contain a single word regarding possible intervention. The flexibility of that resolution was the only reason of its fatal approval by the Security Council.

Today Libya is being torn in parts by the rivaling tribes. During Gaddafi’s rule it was a confederation of tribes mostly loyal to central authority. Now they are not. Eastern tribes have already declared factual secession and ignored the parliamentary elections. They are trying to pocket the revenues of gas and oil fields exploration on their territories. One of the most economically prosperous countries of Maghreb is rapidly turning into Afghanistan or Somalia.

Every Libyan tribe now has its own armed militias with estimated total manpower exceeding 100,000. They permanently fight each other for lands, pastures, fresh water sources, but mainly – oil fields. For example a large scale war between Misratah and Benghazi clans for Sirte basin is looming nowadays. No one has a slightest intention to concede these assets to the central authorities in Tripoli.

Alexander Mezyaev from Strategic Culture Foundation describes the daily slaughterhouse routine in Libya:

‘On the whole, there are no signs that tensions are going down in Libya, where fighting flared up non-stop over the past 5-6 months. Serious clashes between the Toubou brigades and Arab groups began in Sabha, southern Libya, in June and took hundreds of lives. Later battles raged in Kufra, south-east Libya. The traditional inter-clan dispute over border control in the western part of Libya escalated into a three-day armed conflict between Zuwara city on the one side and the cities of al-Jumail and Reghladin on the other, with around 50 people being killed. Ten people died when Arabs and Tuaregs hammered each other in Ghadames, and around 1,600 Tuaregs were forced to flee to the nearby Derg later on. In June, the Zentan and Mashashia tribes locked horns in the Nafusa mountains, leaving over 70 people dead and some 150 – wounded. Government forces were deployed between Zentan and Shagiga to keep apart two local communities warring over land. The Barki council continued to pursue “federalist” policies in the east of Libya. Violence spilled even into the premier’s premises where a guard and a “rebel fighter” were killed in a shootout last May. Government facilities, international community representatives, and the security forces come under fire in east Libya with frightening regularity.’

The administration of Barack Obama not only supported ousting Colonel Gaddafi (just refresh in memory his delighted speech on October 20, 2011), but also facilitated raising Muslim Brotherhood to the power in Egypt. Today we witness anti-American demonstrations there as well (no victims yet by sheer luck). And they also support anti-Assad insurgents in Syria. What will happen to the feeding handin Damascus in case the guerrillas succeed we can’t even imagine.

Unfortunately the lessons of history are not learned in Washington. They have already paid a lot for distinguishing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ jihad (we are sorry to use this sacred word in ungodly militant meaning here). They consider the terror against geopolitical rivals as an admissible form of ‘national liberation’, while anti-American actions – as crimes against humanity. The price of such political schizophrenia for the US will be rising.

‪We shouldn’t relate these landmark events of the anti-American autumn exclusively to a movie parody released in America. The problem is much deeper. A villain global genie has already been let out of the bottle and is busy crushing the ancient mausoleum in Tripoli, demolishing Christian shrines in Kosovo, Indonesia, Nigeria, killing Egyptian Copts etc.

To understand the geopolitical solitaire on the Middle East properly we should name the winners and losers of the ‘Arab Spring’ gamble. The Gulf monarchies are certainly among the first. It is an open secret that the Gulf countries aspired to control Libyan gas for a long time. Qatar, having ambitious plans over the huge European liquefied gas market, was the main interested party in ousting the Libyan leader. As a bonus Qatar’s Emir Al-Thani has managed to get rid of his personal adversary (several harsh exchanges between them during some pan-Arab meetings were not left unnoticed) and a penultimate powerful secular leader of the Arabic world (the last one is Syria’s president Bashar Assad). Today the influence of pro-Salafi Islamists is seriously strengthened in Libya. The former military governor of Tripoli Abdelhakim Belhadj, theQatar protégé, is considered one the most influential figures there. Despite a miserable result in the recently held ‘democratic’ elections to the General National Congress, he still plays a decisive role in Libya.

The main loser is obviously Europe (to say nothing of the Libyan people who would live in a new Afghanistan). It hasn’t achieved any goal originally pursued. The attempt to show its political and military might has nearly turned fiasco and factual second Suez crisis. The idea to establish a liberal secular state in Libya has failed as well. Those taking Mahmoud Jibril for liberal are deeply mistaken: he has already called for restoration of polygamy and, according to him, would strictly act in line with Sharia principles.

Moreover the operation in Libya has created new problems for the European continent. They have lost a reliable gas supplier (no serious company would invest into what is now called Libya). They face multiplied illegal immigration from Africa. The threat of the emergence of a huge oil-rich terrorist hub on the other side of Mediterranean armed by sophisticated weapons including MANPADS is as tangible as never before. But maybe the most dangerous is the loss of the Third World leaders’ confidence. Now they know that flirtations and secessions to the West would not guarantee them against democratic bombings.

What should be the lessons of the tragedy in Benghazi? First of all the party of war in the UN Security Council should contain its ambitions to reshuffle the Middle East. Their irresponsible policies have already cost a lot not only to the region, but its own reputations. The clearly expressed will to make Security Council act symphonic to maintain international peace and security would be a smart first step. (Unfortunately, Mrs.Clinton gave a wrong signal earlier this week leaving Security Council conference room while her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov was about to switch on his microphone. The role of an offended girl does not correspond to the status of the US official.) They should understand that further attempts to destabilize Syria letting alone an apparent suicidal strike against Iran would catalyze irreversible processes in a global scale. The result will be shocking for the West: they would discover that they are definitely loosing subjectivity in international politics. The most retrograde forces will be advanced to the forefront putting an end to all human achievements in science, culture, arts, democracy and humanism. The agents of decadence are powerful even inside the US establishment. Will the sane and sober elements in national elites in America and other countries be able to cope with them is an issue critically important for the survival of contemporary world.

Los Zetas Control Mexican Penal System As Their Endless Labor Pool

Leaks: replacement Zetas

Leaks scented mushrooms.  Photo: AP / Adriana Alvarado

Leaks scented mushrooms. 
Foto: AP / Adriana Alvarado

Besides being one of the most violent and organizations increasingly consolidate their dominance throughout the country, in recent years Los Zetas have imposed its law in most prisons in the north. In those places co-opted directors and trustees and even organized mass escapes, as of Monday 17 Cereso in Piedras Negras, to free its members and supporters and replenish the lost paintings in their war against the Gulf Cartel and combat with the military government and police.

Saltillo. (Process). – The Zetas control most of the prisons in the north and for the last four years, in complicity with their managers-have organized mass escapes in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Zacatecas. In the latest, on Monday, 17, were 131 inmates who left the Social Rehabilitation Centre (Cereso) of Piedras Negras in the front door.

During that time the organized criminal group of 546 gunmen evasion or sympathizers, according to figures of the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security, which allowed him to replace their fallen members.

The leakage of Piedras Negras Cereso inmates took to the streets, where two buses were waiting to take them, admitted the state attorney, Homero Ramos Gloria, and the owner of the local Public Security, Jorge Luis Delgado Moran. As they dug the tunnel was only a screen to “cover up officials” who facilitated the escape prison.

The ruse did not work, so a judge issued a warrant Rio Grande rooting for 40 days against 16 people identified as suspects of the crime of escape of prisoners, including Cereso director, José Miguel Resendiz Perez, the head and Deputy Director of Security and Custody, Héctor Miguel Anguiano Saul Rosales and Francisco Ambriz Jacques, respectively, and several guards.

According to state officials, several of the inmates were transferred to Tamaulipas and others to strengthen the Zetas in their war against the Gulf Cartel (CDG).

The penultimate flight was in the morning of February 19 in the Cereso of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon. On that occasion 37 inmates climbed the tower from which slipped six, using ropes, to the street where waiting and gunmen aboard several trucks.

Previously Delta had taken the ambulance 44 members of CDG to be beaten to death in the courtyard of the prison while guards gave them protection.

Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina Cruz said the next day that the custodians of the tower six were being questioned. Shortly after the officers were seated and 29 prison guards, who confessed to receiving money from Los Zetas cells to allow them luxury, sell drugs, extort internal and enlivened with mariachis have parties and women.

Jorge Domene, security spokesman for Nuevo Leon, said the prison director, Geronimo Miguel Andres Martinez received bribes from the criminal organization for about 35,000 pesos per month, while the heads of the guard got between 20 000 and 25 000 , shift managers and custodians 10,000 in 4000-6000.

The fugitives were taken by Los Zetas to a ranch in the town of Anahuac, in upstate. Among them were three lords, who were reassigned as regional managers, other cells formed in the Monterrey metropolitan area and the state in rural municipalities.

Among the leaders were Oscar Soriano Manuel Bernal, The Spider, Rogelio Chacha Quintanilla, The Yeyo, and Jose Ricardo Barajas Lopez, The Speakers.To date 17 have been recaptured, including El Yeyo, and two were killed in clashes with the military.

The Speaker remains at large but senior Army him as the focal point for implementation of 49 people whose bodies were abandoned in Cadereyta last May. They say he even recorded with your cell performance and then uploaded the video to YouTube website, where it was only a few hours.

The largest mass escape organized by Los Zetas occurred the morning of December 17, 2010 at the Center of sentencing (Cedes) of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. On that occasion came at least two vehicles-a van and a school bus to pick up 151-convicts.

Days after Gov. Eugenio Hernandez Flores said the escape was carried out in collusion with the trustees: “It was a betrayal of the trust placed in them,” he said.

He reported that the director of the state prisons, Horacio Sepulveda-seventh that occupied that position in his administration, and the director of Kedesh, Efrain Hernandez, with only two months in office, were missing. The Attorney General’s Office to 41 trustees appropriated for alleged complicity in the escape.

On May 19, 2009 there was another rescue of prisoners in the prison of Cieneguillas, Zacatecas. This time fled 53. The operation was documented in a video that shows the ease with which the Zetas have access to prisons to get their accomplices.

The outside cameras and reception recorded the time in which 10 trucks arrived at the parking services without showing any documents, guards the main access either alerted by radio to his superiors about the arrival of the convoy.

The video shows the entry of a group of gunmen who locked the custodians.Minutes later we see that they run all prisoners. Up to the vans and leave prison.

The then Secretary of Government, Carlos Pinto Nunez told the guards Process facilitated the escape: “The trustees do not resist and left lock … From the beginning we assumed that there was complicity, even were well enclosed, for they could open and close cell “.

 

Recruiting system

 

A colonel who heads the operations of “special forces” in the country’s northeast Process described, provided omit their identity, the exponential growth of Los Zetas from the administration of Vicente Fox

At first, he says, the group was consolidated in Nuevo Laredo, where they were sent in 2001 by Osiel Cardenas to defend the place and prevent the killers of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, La Barbie, the Sinaloa Cartel, to settle in the area.

From there it spread rapidly to the main cities of the entity and Nuevo Leon.Began recruiting members among municipal police forces, who were in charge of caring for the narcotienditas “that then reproduced as fungi” he says.

During the Fox administration Zetas-CDG dispute against rival Sinaloa Cartel and other smaller groups caused 10 000 deaths, including police chiefs and uniformed. “At that stage-sets the source-Los Zetas were within reach hundreds of assassins trained in municipal and state police forces.”

He mentions that in some municipalities in the metropolitan area of ​​Monterrey “cartel” was synonymous with “law enforcement agencies”.

He began purging the police in Nuevo Leon in the town of Garcia, 99% were dismissed, in Escobedo, 90% in Guadeloupe, more than 70%, and in Santa Catarina and Monterrey, more than 60%.

Los Zetas changed their approach and began to recruit hitmen, hawks and stakes between gang thousand marginalized areas. There they found a vein endless “cannon fodder”, but inexperienced in handling firearms, added the colonel.

Besides, he says, organized mass escapes on penalties that control to replace their fallen members.

 

Criminal Control

 

The organization Citizens in Support of Human Rights, founded on April 23, 1993 between the Christian base communities of Guadalupe City, Nuevo Leon, worked several years with the inmates in the penal institution.

Its director, Consuelo Morales, tells that the association process left that job because the prisons are controlled by organized crime. Everyone knows, he says, that prison officials working for the CDG and Los Zetas, either by threats or bribes.

Those who are sent inside capos. They control from the drug trade, which is trading at expensive prices, to spaces of the floor to sleep. They have imposed a system of terror to the extent that families of prisoners must pay daily to avoid being hit.

In criminal and Topo Chico Los Zetas get up to 15 million pesos every month for their illegal activities, said the colonel.

The Diocese of Saltillo, represented by Bishop Raul Vera Lopez, also has a performing pastoral work in the prisons, but in recent months his work has been hampered by the mafia.

“We know that the prisons of our region are in the power of organized crime.Nobody we forget what has happened in other prisons where there have been leaks like this “(Monday’s 17 in Piedras Negras), Vera Lopez said local media on Wednesday, 19.

“Prisons have laws and governments themselves, imposed by organized crime, which causes suffering to common criminals. There is no order of legality and justice, much less a state of law in which we can trust, “he said.

To change this situation, he said, honesty is required in the administration of the criminal from the highest levels. He concluded: “It is unfortunate the degree of disorder we have reached and it seems that things could go worse, and you do not see that with the change of regime corruption is going to end.”

IS CENTRAL ASIA ON THE VERGE OF A WATER WAR?

Whether it’s Israel maybe pre-emptively striking Iran, Afghanistan spiralling into sectarian violence, Libya becoming home base for Al-Qaeda, or Syria continuing to be the site of a government-led genocide, there’s no shortage of potential dirty wars and ominous harbingers in the Middle East and Central Asia. While everyone is focusing on the recent turmoil in Benghazi, a new kind of conflict is rising in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that could eventually lead to the first water war of the 21st century.

It’s fair to say that when Louise Arbour, the hard-ass former UN prosecutor of war criminal Slobodan Milošević, lists her bets on future wars, the rest of us should take her seriously. In December 2011, writing for Foreign Policy, Arbour predicted Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, two obscure Central Asian countries to most westerners, as potential combatants in a war over quickly depleting water resources. Judging by current tensionsbetween the two, she might be right.

Basically the Tajiks, who are already plagued by an Islamic insurgency, plan to build the Rogun dam on the Vakhsh River. The river is a major tributary to the Amudarya—the main water vein for downstream Uzbekistan. While the hydroelectric power from the proposed dam would make the Tajiks rich, it’ll make the Uzbeks thirsty. This has been a problem for Uzbekistan since Stalin’s failed plan for the Transformation of Nature during the 1940s drained the Aral Sea (Uzbekistan’s main water reserve) to irrigate cotton fields.

Pissing off the Uzbeks, however, may not be what the Tajiks want to do. Besides being geopolitical wildcards, Uzbek President Islam Karimov is widely considered a tyrant, ruling over his country’s oil reserves and national wealth since a questionable 1991 election. He’s also a cheap imitation Saddam. And like any delusional dictator, he’s known for his outlandish behavior: like rewriting history books to make himself the spiritual descendant of the warlord Tamerlaneowning a soccer team in the national league (who are conveniently champions nearly every year), and allegedly ordering the assassination of a political dissident hiding in Sweden. Human Rights Watch even accused his regime of systematic torture, including boiling rebels alive.

One former diplomatic employee of a country in the region, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says the lack of western sanctions on Karimov is no surprise: “There’s the general feeling that Karimov gets off very lightly from the International community because of his violent campaign against Islamic extremists and the war on terror, which is really an excuse for a political crackdown.” Meanwhile, the Karimovs enjoys total rule over the state: “It’s modern tribalism. One family rules the country for two decades, keeping the population poor so they can use them as a cheap labor force under the loose tenants of communism,” the source added.

When or if a war will erupt is unknown. “I don’t want to speculate on the probability of a war breaking out,” says David Trilling of Eurasianet, “but Islam Karimov did up the ante [recently] by suggesting that attempts by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to build giant hydropower dams upstream could lead to war.”

According to Trilling, tensions have been escalating for years as the Uzbeks pressure the Tajiks by pulling classically dirty diplomatic moves the Russians are known for, like cutting off vital gas deliveries, mining their shared borders, and possibly resorting to covert attacks. “Late last year,” Trilling said, “all rail traffic to southern Tajikistan stopped when a rail bridge in a remote part of Uzbekistan mysteriously blew up. Tashkent blamed terrorists, as it is wont to do, but a visitor to the site described signs of deliberate sabotage.”

Joshua Foust, a Central Asian expert with the American Security Project, isn’t convinced war is inevitable, but says, “the potential is definitely there for that dispute to become violent […] if the Tajiks stopped releasing enough water to feed all of the Uzbek cotton fields, that might push things over the edge.” According to Foust, while internal violence in Central Asia by a state against its people is all too common, state to state violence is pretty rare. Yet he does admit there are ominous signs and the conflict needs to be monitored: “The reason why this hasn’t deteriorated into open violence is because both parties are keenly aware of the potential for violence.”

For NATO countries, another conflict in the ‘Stans might not mean more body bags and beheading videos. When asked to describe an American response to a war, Foust was blunt. “There is definitely not an appetite in Washington for initiating another armed conflict, that’s part of the reason there’s been no response in Syria. What the US would do immediately is focus itself on the humanitarian response. If there were American assets and citizens being targeted you’d see a very sharp response, but I don’t think that would involve troops on the ground.”

Foust also described the disruptive contest between superpowers in the region, as Russia, America, and China jockey for influence. “Although the contest is real, a war won’t happen until one of these outside powers funds their proxies against one another directly.” In other words, each superpower would look to pin down another in an Afghan-Soviet or Vietnam type of war, which among other things spawned the mujahedeen (precursors to Al-Qaeda) and severely taxed the infrastructure of the US Army, respectively. The US interest is simple: these countries are strategic supply routes for the eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan. If they were compromised it would only leave Pakistan as an option, which some see as an extremist hornets’ nest buzzing with anti-American sentiment.

Whether foreign interests are already stirring the pot is the real question. Foust told me that US Special Forces recently trained Kyrgyz soldiers. “They’ve also been training border guards and set up a counterterrorism training center in Tajikistan. But this is mainly to train domestic police forces against internal terrorists and, as far as I’ve heard, they’re not being used to help execute violent espionage […] but if, say, that train blowing up was confirmed to be the work of an intelligence service, that would be a precursor for actual violence.” And Putin’s Russia, or his USSR resurgent, are just as involved: “Russia is negotiating with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to host military bases, while they have an investment in training Tajik border guards to secure their southern borders. They also have the ultimate goal of a sort of Pan-Eurasian economic union, modeled loosely on the EU.” To confuse things even more, China’s commercial entities have been infiltrating all levels of economies in the area. And like everywhere else in the world, China is winning favor financially: “If they can make money somewhere, they’ll try. They’ve mainly focused on infrastructure building, on a credit to debt basis, especially in Kyrgyzstan.” By all indications, Central Asia is becoming the crossroads of the three global superpowers. If history is any indication, this often leads to death and destruction.

As for the regional players, when Tajikistan fought its civil war in the 90s it claimed an estimated 100,000 victims, proving that when they go to war, they do not fuck around. A full scale armed conflict with Uzbekistan (who is allied with Kazakhstan, another emerging player) would likely drag in the Kyrgyz. The Krygyz have not only battled a bloody internal uprising in 2010 that involved the ethnic cleansing of Uzbeks, but they continue to skirmish with them on their own shared borders. While at the moment it may seem unlikely, a water war could potentially be the spark that would upgrade the region’s brewing geopolitical shit-storm to a full blown shit-hurricane.

Fat Pig of Qatar Spreading More Lies At UN

[Some more of that “non-lethal” aid exploded in Damascus yesterday.]

Qatar’s PM: ‘We have a Plan B for Syria’

By Samuel Burke and Claire Calzonetti

After more than a year of unimaginable violence and a mounting death toll in Syria, the possibility seems lower than ever that real action will be taken to stop the slaughter.

The United Nations had been the only source of hope for a resolution, but back in May the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, caused a stir when he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that there was no “Plan B” in Syria. 

But Monday, Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani, gave a glimmer of hope by telling Amanpour that there is indeed a “Plan B” for Syria.

“We believe that we can solve it peacefully,” Al Thani said. He is in New York for the yearly United Nations General Assembly, and he says Arab countries are working on a plan of their own.

U.N. focuses on Syria

Qatar is a tiny country, with big money and big power. With its oil and gas riches, Qatar holds real clout in the Arab world.

“You need to make safe haven areas, first of all,” Al Thani says.

That would require a no-fly zone.

“If the Syrians want to break that, that’s another subject. We need somebody to have the teeth to tell them don’t do that, because that will not be allowed.”

While Al Thani wouldn’t offer up specifics about who will participate in this Plan B, he said the support might be wider than expected.
“I believe there are a lot of Arab countries who will participate. And there are also European countries who will participate.”

Nonetheless, he said the region needs the United States to step up.

“We are in an election period, so maybe this isn’t a diplomatic way to say it, but I hope that after the election the American government looks at this matter in different way.”

Al Thani maintains he isn’t looking for military intervention and says Qatar is not providing weapons to the Syrian uprisings, but said his country is providing logistic help – citing humanitarian aide and medicines.
Qatar played a key role in the liberation of Libya as the first Arab nation to recognize the rebels and to support NATO’s mission there.

In fact, Libyans were so thankful they hung the Qatari flag over a Gadhafi compound in Tripoli.

But Al Thani says that was possible through work via NATO and the help of the United States.

Now Qatar’s sights are on Syria.

And Qatar certainly isn’t lacking the money to send weapons to help the rebels.

“Money is not everything.” Al Thani says. “Will is more important than the money. A lot of countries have the money. But they don’t have the will.
President Assad was recently quoted in the Al Hayat newspaper criticizing the tiny, wealth nation, saying, “Qatar uses the power of money and revolves in the orbit of the West to repeat the Libyan scenario.”

Al Thani responded: “Qatar and the others interfere in Syria, because of his failure.”

US Special Forces Still Deployed in Iraq

US Special Forces Deployed in Iraq, Again

Despite the official US military withdrawal last December, American special forces “recently” returned to Iraq on a counter-terrorism mission, according to an American general in charge of weapons sales there. The mission was reported by the New York Times, in the fifteenth paragraph of a story about deepening sectarian divides.

The irony is that the US is protecting a pro-Iran Shiite regime in Baghdad against a Sunni-based insurgency while at the same time supporting a Sunni-led movement against the Iran-backed dictatorship in Syria. The Sunni rebellions are occurring in the vast Sunni region between northwestern Iraq and southern Syria where borders are porous.

During the Iraq War, many Iraqi insurgents from Anbar and Diyala provinces took sanctuary in Sunni areas of Syria. Now they are turning their weapons on two targets, the al-Malaki government in Baghdad and the Assad regime in Damascus.

The US is caught in the contradictions of proxy wars, favoring Iran’s ally in Iraq while trying to displace Iran’s proxy in Syria.

The lethal complication of the US Iraq policy is a military withdrawal that was propelled by political pressure from public opinion in the US even as the war could not be won on the battlefield. Military “redeployment”, as the scenario is described, is a general’s nightmare. In the case of Vietnam, a “decent interval” was supposedly arranged by the Nixon administration to create the appearance of an orderly American withdrawal. During the same “interval”, Nixon massively escalated his bombing campaign to no avail. Two years after the 1973 Paris peace accords, Saigon collapsed.

It is unlikely that the Maliki regime will fall to Sunni insurgents in Iraq, if only because the Sunni population is approximately twenty percent of the population. However, the return of US Special Forces is not likely to restore Iraqi stability, and they may become trapped in crossfire as the sectarian tensions deepen. The real lesson may be for Afghanistan, where another unwinnable, unaffordable war in support of an unpopular regime is stumbling towards 2014.

Washington Post Lets Ahmadinejad Call the Zionist Bluff Over the Real “Nuclear Threat” To Peace

[Never thought that I would live to see this, but the Biggest Establishment Insider Newspaper, the Washington Post, is totally rebuking the “Israel Lobby” with this one, plainly stating that we are only talking about the non-issue of alleged Iranian weapons because the Israel Lobby demands it.  What Obama himself recently labeled “noise,” concerning Iranian nukes and Israeli “red lines,” is simply a campaign hot-button issue in the US, but in Tel Aviv, it is the only real “existential threat.”  The only real threat to the existence of that shitty little police state in the Middle East is that Washington will stop pandering to them, thus drying-up all those juicy Jewish lobbyist dollars which power the American political system and keep theirs alive.] 

Iran accuses Israel of ‘threatening’ U.S. with allegations of Iranian nuclear weapon

U.N. General Assembly: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is taking aim at the United States and Israel at a high-level United Nations meeting, accusing Washington of shielding what he calls a nuclear-armed “fake regime.”

 By Anne Gearan
Israel is bullying the United States over the alleged threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon, using the prospect of an Israeli military attack on Iran to force the hand of its much larger ally, Iran’s president said Monday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the idea that Israel might well attack on its own, over the objections of the United States, and said Israel itself was an inconsequential interloper with no rightful place in the Middle East.

Pakistani People’s Party Crisis Unfolding Behind the Scenes

I have just received an email from Pakistan detailing a Breaking News story about the Zardari Administration, that is coming out of the Bangladeshi press.  If the news proves to be true, then it would represent the greatest political danger to the Bhutto/Zardari clan since Benazir’s murder.  Another crisis at the top levels of Pakistan’s civilian government could topple the administration, especially coming so soon after the recent Gilani resignation.  Details of the scandalous revelations can be read at Weekly Blitz news magazine.  I normally try to refrain from posting mere gossip, but after what seems like months of blasphemy law uproar, this case, which concerns adultery within the administration might be the straw that broke the Pakistani camel’s back.  New controversy might finally motivate Gen. Kayani to take control.

Conspiracy denied in Mexico gun mess

[According to this article from “Narco News,” US, Mexican Officials Brokering Deals with Drug “Cartels,” WikiLeaks Documents Show, a primary objective of the apparent fiasco “Fast and Furious” was the creation of a “simulated war” in Mexico and using American resources to tip the scales in that drug gang war in favor of the Sinaloa Cartel.  The author of the following article whitewashes the notion of an American conspiracy in this gun-running case, by pursuing the questions about a potential conspiracy from the wrong angle:  “The aim was to build a case against higher-ups of the ruthless Sinaloa cartel.” The facts remain, that at least 2,000 semi-automatic rifles (most of them AK-47s), hand guns, even grenade-launchers, were transferred from Arizona gun-sellers to the Sinaloa cartel, in order to empower the cartel as the top drug gang in Mexico and the American Southwest.  This speaks volumes about American law enforcement and governmental involvement in fostering the international drugs trade.]  

Conspiracy denied in Mexico gun mess

Inspector general says operation was not politically motivated By Dan Freedman Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is sworn in during a hearing of the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 20, 2012. The committee met Thursday to discuss a report by the Justice Department's inspector general about Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-trafficking case. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times) Photo: LUKE SHARRETT / NYTNS

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is sworn in during a hearing of the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 20, 2012. The committee met Thursday to discuss a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general about Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-trafficking case. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Operation Fast and Furious was many things — flawed in design, incompetently managed and needlessly prolonged — but it was not an ATF and Justice Department conspiracy to lay the groundwork for more gun control laws, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Thursday. Horowitz answered questions before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which in conjunction with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has spent over a year investigating the discredited Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives operation in Phoenix. Unlike previous hearings in which Republican lawmakers who dominate the committee and Attorney General Eric Holder engaged in heated, vituperative exchanges, Horowitz’s appearance was a virtual love fest. The inspector general won praise from committee Republicans and Democrats alike the day after his office released an exhaustive 471-page report that faulted ATF and the Justice Department for shoddy oversight of Fast and Furious while exonerating Holder. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called the report “extremely comprehensive, strong and independent.” But Issa insisted that if necessary, he would continue to pursue legal avenues to obtain the 100,000 or so pages of documents that formed the basis of the inspector general’s report. In Fast and Furious, ATF agents in 2009 and 2010 followed orders to let drug-cartel-connected middlemen ferry weapons purchased in the Phoenix area to Mexican drug kingpins rather than interdicting them. Agents call such tactics “gun walking.” The aim was to build a case against higher-ups of the ruthless Sinaloa cartel. But Fast and Furious netted only small fry while up to 2,000 weapons including AK-47s were spirited to Mexico. Two of the weapons were recovered at the murder site of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010, setting off a firestorm in Washington. In an appearance Thursday on the Spanish-language network Univision, President Barack Obama said he retains “complete confidence” in Holder, saying the attorney general “has shown himself to be accountable” by replacing ATF supervisors who directed the operation. He called gun walking in Fast and Furious “completely wrongheaded.” Among the Fast and Furious conspiracy theories popularized by gun-rights advocates was that Holder and other Justice and Obama administration officials encouraged gun walking as a way of building a case for gun control, specifically a requirement that border-state firearms dealer tell ATF of multiple purchases of semiautomatic rifles greater than .22 caliber. “Would your investigation have been able to uncover political motives behind allowing the operation to continue?” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. “Or is the entire fiasco a result of just gross mismanagement?” Horowitz said there was evidence that Justice and ATF officials discussed the gun purchases in Fast and Furious as examples of the need for the multiple-purchase regulation. “But we didn’t find evidence at the outset that (gun control) was driving (it),” he said.

FSA attacks Lebanon Army post near border with Syria

FSA attacks Lebanon Army post near border with Syria

The Daily Star
A general view of the village of Arsal, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)
A general view of the village of Arsal, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)

BEIRUT/BAALBEK: Members of the Free Syrian Army attacked a Lebanese Army post Friday night near the northern border with Syria, the Army said in a statement Saturday.

No causalities were reported.

“For the second time in under a week, a unit from the Free Syrian Army [consisting of] a large number of gunmen entered Lebanese territory overnight via the outskirts of Arsal, where it attacked one of the Lebanese Army’s posts,” the statement said.

Following the incident, Army reinforcements were dispatched to the area, while soldiers began pursuing the assailants who escaped toward the mountains as well as some border towns, according to the statement.

“The Army’s leadership affirms that it will not allow any party to use Lebanese territory to implicate Lebanon in ongoing events in neighboring countries,” the Army said.

Residents in Arsal, located 10 kilometers from the border with Syria, told The Daily Star that earlier Friday the Army caught an unspecified number of members of the Syrian rebel group, but released them hours later due to pressure by the town’s notables

Tensions have been running high on the 550-kilometer-long Syria-Lebanon border since the uprising began against President Bashar Assad’s government in mid-March of last year.

Syria has repeatedly claimed that rebel groups are operating in Lebanon’s border towns, and have asked authorities to crack down and prevent the smuggling of arms and gunmen.

Earlier this year, Lebanon’s Cabinet asked the Army to deploy heavily along the border and take all necessary measures to prevent smuggling. The government’s decision in July came after Syrian shelling killed two Lebanese in the northern Wadi Khaled border region and in light of repeated Syrian incursions into Lebanese territories.

In its statement Saturday, the Army reiterated its determination to protect Lebanese territory, adding that it would respond with force to any violation regardless of the party behind it. -With additional reporting by Rakan al-Faqih

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/Sep-22/188895-fsa-attacks-lebanon-army-near-border-with-syria.ashx#ixzz27JC2YZyg
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Top China official visits Afghanistan, signs security deal

 

[It is impossible to tell what the Chinese and Afghan security officials will be negotiating, whether it concerns the post-2014 period or just coordinating efforts until the end of this year, when the concerns about the Buddhist ruins at Aynak will become overridden by the urgency of the Aynak copper mine.  Work on the giant open-pit copper mine starts in December.]

Top China official visits Afghanistan, signs security deal

Rob Taylor
Reuters 

KABUL (Reuters) – China has signed security and economic agreements with Afghanistan during a rare trip to Kabul by a top Chinese official, in deals seen aimed at bolstering Beijing’s influence ahead of a NATO withdrawal of most combat forces by 2014.

Zhou Yongkang, China’s domestic security chief and a member of the ruling Communist Party’s central Politburo, made an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital late on Saturday, holding talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his garden palace.

Zhou’s visit was the first to Afghanistan by a senior Chinese leader since 1966 and followed a visit by Karzai to Beijing in June when both countries agreed to cooperate on combating extremism in the region.

During the talks, held under tight security after violent protests in Kabul over a film which insults Islam, Zhou signed agreements on increased security and economic cooperation, including a deal to help “train, fund and equip Afghan police”.

The agreement was not specific on how much assistance China planned to give the 149,000-strong police force, which is currently trained by the NATO-led coalition.

“It is in line with the fundamental interests of the two peoples for China and Afghanistan to strengthen a strategic and cooperative partnership which is also conducive to regional peace, stability and development,” Zhou said in a statement, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Resource-hungry China, which has a small border with Afghanistan in the country’s mountainous north-eastern corridor, is keen to invest in Afghan resource deposits worth as much as $1 trillion, based on U.S. Pentagon estimates.

Chinese state-owned miner China Metallurgical Group (MCC) operates the $3 billion Aynak copper mine in eastern Logar province, which has been subject to rocket attacks and other raids by insurgent groups looking to disrupt operations.

MCC won the contract to develop Aynak in 2008 and it was originally scheduled to begin production in 2013, but work has been delayed by the discovery of a huge and significant archaeological site in the area.

Zhou’s visit underscores the concern in Beijing about a deterioration in security as the NATO presence in Afghanistan winds down.

It also comes after Karzai last week voiced concern about strategic pacts signed with chief ally the United States earlier this year ahead of talks starting in three weeks’ time on a continued U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Zhou had originally been scheduled to travel to Turkmenistan following a visit to Singapore, but diverted to Afghanistan for the meeting.

The Chinese government fully respects the right of the Afghan people to choose their own path of development and will actively participate in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, Zhou told Karzai, according to Xinhua.

Karzai said security in the region “depends on the relations between Afghanistan and its neighbours”, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said, with both countries agreeing to expand their so far limited ties.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Copyright © 2012, Reuters

 

Russian-Sponsored National Conference to save Syria Held In Damascus Draws 20 Opposition Groups

 

Syria, Damascus

Held this morning the National Conference to save Syria, organized by the opposition in the coordinating body illiteracy Hotel in Damascus with the participation of about twenty political parties and framework of the opposition forces in Syria for consultations on ways to save the country from risks according to the announcement by the Preparatory Committee.

The Russian Ambassador in Damascus greatness God Komahmedov through the opening of the conference the need to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria and in the hands of the Syrians themselves away from any external interference including suspension of funding, arming and harboring armed groups included foreign mercenaries.

He pointed the Russian ambassador to the main objective, which should work on it now is to put an end to violence in Syria immediately by all parties and work to divert the crisis towards a peaceful political solution with the launch of a national dialogue hard without any preconditions, adding that this is the only way out of the current impasse, which does not bode continue well either Syria or for the entire region.

Russian Ambassador “The efforts of Russia’s existing aimed at achieving these objectives in coordination and dealing with all parties concerned, including the Syrian government, which we are in constant contact with them, including on decisions in order to reach the ultimate political solution to the crisis in our contacts also with Western countries including in the UN Security Council, as well as regional parties and focus our efforts on the induction and influence on armed groups to stop violence and to address the political solutions to the crisis in Syria. “

The Russian Ambassador in Damascus stressed that the Kofi Annan plan and statement of Geneva should be the basis for finding peaceful solutions to the crisis in Syria, expressing Russia’s support for the efforts of the new international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

Russian Ambassador “Russia confirms its readiness to move forward in dealing with all spectrums of the Syrian opposition on the basis of the above principles and attach great importance to unite all parties of the Interior was or foreign alike, and that common ground denying violence and external interference, as well as support the launch of a comprehensive national dialogue to in the interests of all Syrians. “

The Russian ambassador noted the relations of friendship and cooperation existing kinship between the Russian and Syrian peoples for decades.

Syrian opposition kick off “national conference” with absence of many parties

 
English.news.cn
Hassan Abdul-Azim, the head of the National Coordination Body for the Forces of National and Democratic Change (L) and the Egyptian charge d’affairs Alaa Abdul-Aziz attend the opening session of “National Conference for Rescuing Syria”in Damascus, Sept. 23, 2012. Syrian oppositional National Coordination Body (NCB) and some other opposition parties started a “National Conference for Rescuing Syria” in Damascus on Sunday, a day after some 28 opposition parties called for postponing the conference over disputes with the NCB. (Xinhua/Hazim)

DAMASCUS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — Syrian oppositional National Coordination Body (NCB) and some 20 other opposition parties started a “National Conference for Rescuing Syria” in Damascus on Sunday, amid the boycott of more than 28 parties which announced a day earlier that they had disagreements with the NCB in terms of vision and basics.

The all-day-long conference was kicked off Sunday morning with the Syrian national anthem. It is notable, however, that the conference started with neither the official Syrian flag nor the opposition’s one.

In an opening statement, the participants said they have agreed on a number of principles, mainly “bringing down the current regime with all of its symbols and fundamentals” in a way that would guarantee building a “democratic and civilian state… regardless of religion, sex and ethnicity.”

The statement also stressed on denouncing sectarianism and anything that could lead to fragmenting the society.

The statement’s signatories also stressed the importance of ” peaceful struggle” as a strategy to achieve “the revolution’s goals.” They, however, pointed out that the rebels’ Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a component of the “revolution” and it should protect the “strategic peacefulness of the movement.”

The NCB’s attitude towards the FSA is the main point of dispute with other opposition parties inside Syria.

On Saturday, a total of 28 opposition parties said their relation with the NCB is marred by the wrangling on the rebels’ tactics and their role in the 19-month crisis in Syria. They said they are against the militarization of the crisis and against the terrorist acts carried out by operative armed opposition on ground.

The 28 parties did not take part in Sunday’s conference.

Rajaa al-Naser, a NCB member, said at the opening session that “we believe and seek to put forward emergency plans that would allow the return of the displaced people and provide the medical treatment and livelihood for millions of restive Syrians, and we found no other prelude to this except the immediate halt of gunfire and the barbaric, brutal shelling.”

Russian Ambassador to Syria Azamat Kulmukhametov, who also attended the conference, stressed that “we see that the main goal now is to put an immediate end to the violence in Syria, whether it was from the government or the armed groups.”

He added that another “no less important” goal is “turning the current confrontation between the authorities and the armed opposition to the track of peaceful, political solution.”

The ambassador also stressed the importance of “solving the Syrian crisis by the Syrians themselves away from any foreign intervention, including halting the armament and the harboring of the armed groups that also group foreign mercenaries.”

After the opening session, al-Naser told Xinhua that the parties which refused to take part in the conference aim to ” confuse the conference,” adding that “this conference is for the opposition and we didn’t exclude anyone.”

The deep fracture among the Syrian opposition parties is expected to place more hurdles in the face of concrete results at the conference. The fractured opposition in the country has an even greater dispute with the broad-based one, as the Turkey-based Syrian National Council demands a foreign military offensive to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Sunday’s conference will be wrapped up with a final communique later in the day.

Syrian Terrorists Claim Control Over Most of Syria

“The international community’s efforts to halt more than 18 months of bloodshed in Syria have so far failed to make any headway.”

[It is a total falsehood that the international community has been trying to halt the bloodshed in Syria, since it took them so long to build the violence to this point.  For the “international community,” there is only one acceptable way to halt the war against Syria–the removal of Bashar al-Assad and the empowerment of an Islamist (Wahabbi) government.  The sheer audacity of American hypocrisy is unmatched in all of human history.  May we all burn in the hell that we are creating.] 

Rebels claim control over most of Syria

AFP

 

ATMA: The rebel Free Syrian Army said on Sunday that it now controls most of the war-torn country, a day after announcing that it has moved its command centre from Turkey to “liberated areas” inside Syria.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held talks about Syria on Saturday, agreeing the crisis was “a steadily increasing threat to regional peace and stability,” according to a statement.

Brahimi, who was appointed in early September, is due to brief the UN Security Council on Monday about his first round of talks with both the regime, including PresidentBashar al-Assad, and opposition groups.

The international community’s efforts to halt more than 18 months of bloodshed in Syria have so far failed to make any headway, and fighting persisted on the ground overnight and on Monday morning.

Regime forces shelled many rebel-held areas, including in and around Damascus, second city Aleppo in the north, neighbouring Idlib, the central cities of Hama and Homs, and Daraa in the south, a watchdog said.

In Aleppo, the key battleground for the past two months, an AFP correspondent reported clashes as rebels exchanged fire in Bustan al-Qasr and Bustan al-Zahraa neighbourhoods.

Government forces shelled the Aleppo districts of Fardus, Sakhur and Suleiman al-Halabi, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based-based watchdog.

It added that two rebel fighters were killed in Daraa province where the uprising against the Assad regime broke out in March 2011.

The Observatory said that 150 people were killed across Syria on Saturday– 88 civilians, 30 rebels and 32 soldiers. Another 25 bodies were found in Damascus.

As the fighting continued unabated, a rebel commander told AFP that the regime’s aerial superiority was the only thing preventing the Free Syrian Army from taking control of the capital.

FBI Conducts Interrogations of 12 Federal Police Officers Involved In Ambush of CIA At Tres Marias

Tres Marias: FBI interrogates the 12 federal police rooted

Ambush at Tres Marias Photo: Eduardo Miranda

Ambush at Tres Marias 
Photo: Eduardo Miranda

MEXICO CITY (proceso.com.mx.) – The 12 members of the Federal Police (PF) who were seated at the attack on the CIA and a sailor in Tres Marias were questioned by the FBI, according to statements of the lawyers for the federal daily Reforma .

The litigants claimed that FBI agents questioned the federal involvement in the alleged incident, on August 24, from other people who were aboard a van X-Trail and Voyager so far not been located.

According to lawyers for the officers seated, the FBI asked the PF’s about whether there were several trucks, marked the high or if not marked.

However, the coach clarified that the FBI had no offers and that it was worthless ministerial questioning.

They said the FBI asked about other people involved in the incident at Three Marias but indicated, PF agents know whether more elements involved.

According to what the lawyers told Reforma , is the second time that the feds are questioned by members of the FBI.

The first time was the day after the events in the delegation of the Attorney in Cuernavaca.

ATF let hundreds of U.S. weapons fall into hands of suspected Mexican gunrunners

ATF let hundreds of U.S. weapons fall into hands of suspected Mexican gunrunners

Gen. Antonio Erasto Monsivais holds up a seized .50 caliber Barrett model 99 single-shot rifle in the seized weapons warehouse at the headquarters of the Secretary of Defense in Mexico City. Mexican authorities have repeatedly complained that most of the weapons used by drug cartels there — including Barrett rifles — are coming from the U.S. The ATF’s Fast and Furious probe allowed guns to be trafficked south of the border in an effort to nail high-level cartel operative Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

Whistleblower Says Agents Strongly Objected to Risky Strategy

By John SolomonDavid HeathemailGordon Witkinemail

Hoping to score a major prosecution of Mexican drug lords, federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives permitted hundreds of guns to be purchased and retained by suspected straw buyers with the expectation they might cross the border and even be used in crimes while the case was being built, according to documents and interviews.

The decision — part of a Phoenix-based operation code named “Fast and Furious” — was met by strong objections from some front-line agents who feared they were allowing weapons like AK-47s to “walk” into the hands of drug lords and gun runners, internal agency memos show. Indeed, scores of the weapons came back quickly traced to criminal activity.

One of those front-line agents who objected, John Dodson, 39, told the Center for Public Integrity that these guns “are going to be turning up in crimes on both sides of the border for decades.” Dodson said in an interview that “with the number of guns we let walk, we’ll never know how many people were killed, raped, robbed … there is nothing we can do to round up those guns. They are gone.”

Dodson has taken his misgivings to the Senate Judiciary Committee as a whistleblower after his concerns were dismissed by his supervisors and initially ignored by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the panel’s top Republican — who is spearheading a probe of ATF’s actions – said “it’s time to step back” and examine the policy. Two of the guns involved in the sting operation turned up at the scene of a fatal shooting of a U.S. agent.

The Justice Department said today that Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the department’s acting inspector general to evaluate the concerns about ATF’s investigative tactics.

A Change in Strategy

Dodson told the Center he and several of his colleagues wanted to intercept some of the weapons but their objections were repeatedly overruled by ATF supervisors. The supervisors instructed them to simply record the straw purchases in a database, flag them as “suspect,” and monitor the suspected gun runners until evidence piled up about their connections to Mexican drug lords.

The tactics employed in the Fast and Furious case were part of an evolving change in the strategic direction of firearms investigations, ATF officials told the Center.

Mark Chait, ATF’s assistant director in charge of field operations, told the Center he personally decided to change the strategy in September 2010 after years of futile efforts to interdict guns from small-time straw buyers with little hope of dismantling major drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. The agency’s earlier focus on straw buyers was criticized last fall in a review by the Justice Department’s inspector general of ATF’s border effort, known as Project Gunrunner.

In addition, ATF officials have so far been frustrated in efforts to persuade the White House to implement even a simple change in firearm sales reporting requirements to help detect possible gun-running at the border.

“When we look at the complexities of the organizations working around the border of Mexico, just dealing with the lowest level purchaser, the straw purchaser, doesn’t get you to the organizer, the money people and the key people in that organization to shut that down. We found that if we don’t attack the organization and shut the organization down, they will continue to move guns across the border,” Chait told the Center. “It’s kind of a somewhat common sense approach that if you don’t get to the higher-level folks that are making the calls, then guns will continue to cross the border.”

But Chait went on to say that the policy was not set in stone. “I think we have a good strategy,” he said. “I think it needs to be reviewed. We’re taking a look at it right now to see if it needs to be tweaked in any way.”

The Fast and Furious investigation was initiated in October 2009, eleven months before Chait’s formal policy change.

With direct blessing of ATF headquarters in Washington and supervision by the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, a special ATF strike force known as Group VII was given permission to let federally licensed gun shops continue selling weapons to straw buyers already linked to a suspected Mexican gun running operation.

Officials told the Center that ATF allowed about 1,765 firearms over the 15 months of the operation to pass from gun dealers to the suspected straw buyers that were the accomplices of the gun running ring. Another 233 weapons had been bought by the suspects prior to the ATF operation starting, bringing the total number of guns in the case to 1,998.

Of those, 797 of the guns were eventually recovered as a result of criminal activity on both sides of the border — including 195 from inside Mexico — after they were used in crimes, collected during arrests, or interdicted through other law enforcement operations, the officials told the Center.

Understanding the Risks

The risks that some of the guns might end up in crimes was fully understood, memos show.

A case summary sent to ATF headquarters took note of “firearms being recovered in the Republic of Mexico or on/near the US/Mexico border.”

“ATF is attempting to not only secure a straw purchase/dealing in firearms without a license case against various individuals but more specifically to make the bigger connection to the Mexican Cartel/Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) obtaining these firearms for the best possible case and the most severe charges when it is time to Indict this case,” the memo read.

Dodson said his supervisors seemed pleased when one of the guns the agency had let “walk” showed up in a crime in Mexico. They were “elated every time a gun was recovered in Mexico” because they “saw it as proving the nexus that we were dealing with a real drug trafficking group.”

But the investigation dragged on for 15 months, in part, documents show, because the Justice Department was slow to approve a wiretap and bring prosecutions. Memos reveal that ATF supervisors were frustrated by the delays, but let straw buyers and suspected gun runners continue to move scores, even hundreds of guns a month, internal agency memos show.

An April 2, 2010 memo from the strike force leader to the Justice Department disclosed that ATF watched as targeted suspects purchased 359 guns in the United States in March 2010 alone.

The case summary sent to ATF headquarters in summer 2010 gave a much higher number.

“To date over 1,500 firearms have been purchased since October 2009 for over one million ($1,000,000.00) cash in over-the-counter transactions at various Phoenix area” gun dealers, the memo said.

Some of the field agents became increasingly incensed.

“Nothing happened. We’re monitoring the same buyers buying the same guns from the same dealers at the same rate and we’re not stopping any of it,” Dodson recalled.

Notations in the case files reviewed by the Center show ATF received several “trace” reports of guns they had let pass to straw buyers showing up in criminal cases in Mexico or on the U.S. side of the border.

In November 2009, for example, four 7.62 caliber weapons were recovered in Naco, Mexico only two weeks after one of the suspects had purchased them. Also, in July 2010 a Romanian AK-47 variant was recovered in Navojoa, Mexico, the records say.

Dodson, who told the Center he expects to be fired for speaking out, said four of the seven agents on the strike force had strong reservations about what they were being instructed to do. The three others, he said, backed the approach. Dodson’s biggest fear was that some of the guns would eventually be used against law enforcement.

That fear was soon realized.

A Death Raises Questions

In May 2010, a Customs and Border Protection agent confronted an armed band of gangsters along the U.S. side of the border. The suspects fled but some of the guns they left behind were traced back to weapons purchased by one of the suspects targeted in Fast and Furious, Dodson said.

U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry was fatally shot north of the Arizona-Mexico border in December while trying to arrest bandits who target illegal immigrants. Two weapons recovered at the scene were traced to the ATF’s Fast and Furious operation, according to Sen Charles Grassley.Then in December, two weapons recovered at the scene of a murdered Customs and Border Protection agent, Brian Terry, were traced to the ATF operation, according to Sen.Grassley.

“This may be a well-intended policy, but when you have agents on the ground for months questioning what’s going on, and a Border Patrol agent is killed, it’s time to take a step back and check to see if the policy has gone awry,” Grassley told the Center.

The ATF said in a statement today that neither gun recovered at the scene appears to be the weapon that killed Terry, and they may simply have been left behind by the criminals. “At this time, we’re not aware of any forensic evidence that would link these guns to the homicide,” the agency said.

Grassley said his committee has interviewed numerous ATF agents, including Dodson, who have come forward to raise concerns about the Fast and Furious operation and the potential danger of ATF’s approach.

“The ATF clearly had plenty of information on the bad guys. The problem wasn’t the fact that the guns weren’t being reported, it was that the ATF didn’t act on the information they had,” the senator said.

“We heard from more than a dozen people who brought forward allegations of wrongdoing at the ATF. What Agent Dobson has done by risking his career in an effort to expose the truth is patriotic. He is guilty of only one thing: committing truth,” Grassley added.

Dodson said he feels responsible for Terry’s death by being part of the ATF operation. He said he saw no other option but to go public — even if meant being fired — because he and his fellow agents’ concerns were ignored by supervisors.

Dodson said after his supervisors rejected the agents’ concerns, he filed a whistleblower complaint both by Web and phone to the Justice inspector general but was never contacted. He then approached Grassley, keeping his current supervisor on a joint terrorism task force apprised of his whistleblowing activities. Eventually, the inspector general contacted Dodson after Grassley intervened.

ATF supervisors told agents who disagreed with the strategy that “if you are going to make an omelet you’ve got to scramble some eggs,” Dodson said. “That was the attitude. I took it to mean that whatever crimes these guns were going to be involved in, those were the eggs, those were acceptable.”

Dodson said that another time a supervisor told him, “’It’s kind of a moot argument. They’re going to get those guns somewhere.’ But my feeling is we shouldn’t be making it easier for them.”

Internal agency memos show ATF supervisors dismissed the objections of agents in the Group VII strike force, insisting the prize of getting permission to run a wiretap and eventually rolling up a major gun or drug gang in Mexico merited the risks. There were even comments interpreted by the agents as veiled threats that they could lose their jobs if they didn’t fall in line.

“This is a time we all need to pull together, not drift apart,” Group VII supervisor David J.Voth wrote to his strike force team in March 2010, acknowledging “there may be a schism developing amongst the group.”

“If you don’t think this is fun you’re in the wrong line of work — period! This is the pinnacle of domestic U.S. law enforcement techniques. After this the tool box is empty,” Voth wrote.

“Maybe the Maricopa County Jail is hiring detention officers and you can get paid $30,000 (instead of $100,000) to serve lunch to inmates all day.”

Plagued By Delay

The operation, however, turned out to be anything but fast and furious.

By spring 2010, Voth appealed to the Justice Department for some “urgency” as the number of weapons ATF let through was growing.

In an April 2, 2010, email to one of his supervisors and an assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix, Voth wrote there was “no pressure but perhaps an increased sense of urgency.” The strike force supervisor noted that March 2010 was deadliest month in five years in Mexico and also yielded some of the largest movement of weapons from Fast and Furious.

“Our subjects purchased 359 firearms during the month of March alone, to include numerous Barrett .50 caliber rifles,” Voth wrote. “I believe we are righteous in our plan to dismantle this entire organization and to rush in to arrest any one person without taking into account the entire scope of the conspiracy would be ill advised to the overall good of the mission.

“I acknowledge that we are all in agreement that to do so properly requires patience and planning. In the event, however, that there is anything we can do to facilitate a timely response or turnaround by others, we should communicate our sense of urgency with regard to this matter.”

Nine months later, Fast and Furious finally bore some fruit.

On Jan. 25, 2011 — 15 months after the operation was launched and one month after the agent’s death along the border — the primary suspect named in the strike force case file, Jaime Avila, was indicted along with 19 alleged cohorts in Arizona. The 53-count indictment included 35 counts of making a false statement in connection with the acquisition of firearms. Avila has pleaded not guilty.

“The massive size of this operation sadly exemplifies the magnitude of the problems,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke at the time. “Mexican Drug Lords go shopping for war weapons in Arizona.”

When asked for comment on the office’s role in the ATF operation, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix noted today that federal prosecutors along the Mexican border have been pressing for tougher penalties against straw buyers who traffic arms to Mexico.

William Newell, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Phoenix office, announces the indictments that emerged from the Fast and Furious investigation on Jan. 25 in Phoenix. ATF officials say Newell is slated to become the agency’s new attaché to the Mexican government. Credit: Matt York/Associated PressDodson said some of the cooperating gun dealers who sold weapons to the suspects at ATF’s behest initially had concerns and wanted to end their sales. One even asked whether the dealers might have a legal liability, but was assured by federal prosecutors they would be protected, he said.

The case logs show ATF supervisors and U.S. attorney’s office lawyers met with some of the gun dealers to discuss their “role” in the case, in one instance as far back as December 2009.

Concerns about ATF’s approach even extended outside the ATF office in Phoenix.

Grassley’s office said it has gathered evidence and testimony that Darren Gil, the ATF’s then-attache to the Mexican government in Mexico City, also objected to the Fast and Furious strategy. He worried it might be viewed by the administration of Mexican president Felipe Calderon as a misguided approach that only armed drug lords for more violence.

The attache, Grassley said, raised his objections to ATF headquarters but was told supervisors there already knew about the operation. Gil was eventually removed from his job, and retired. His planned replacement is the special agent-in-charge in Phoenix during the operation, William Newell, ATF officials said.

Gil declined to be interviewed.

Behind the Debate

Law enforcement experts said the ATF’s strategy clearly had risks.

Phil Jordan, a former Drug Enforcement Administration administrator who once ran the inter-agency El Paso Intelligence Center, said: “I can’t comprehend how one of our agencies could allow weapons to flow if we knew that they could end up in the hands of the cartels, and then be utilized to kill people.”

A respected former ATF executive, Jim Cavanaugh, conceded that allowing guns to reach the streets may have been a mistake. “But the alternative argument could be, ‘Well I could have got one or two guys. But that would have allowed a ring of 30 to 40 to 50 gun traffickers to operate for two or three more years, and they could have pumped thousands of guns into Mexico,’ ” he said.

What other factors might have influenced ATF to let guns “walk” rather than confiscating them immediately and arresting the straw buyers?

Part of the answer may lie in the sort of frustration experienced by ATF in an earlier Phoenix case against firearms dealer George Iknadosian, who owned a store called X Caliber Guns.

Dozens of Romanian WASR 10 weapons bought by suspected straw buyers at X Caliber were eventually recovered at Mexican crime scenes, but authorities could not make a successful case against Iknadosian in 2009, alleging that he was part of a conspiracy trafficking firearms to Mexico. Federal prosecutors declined to take the case because federal courts were increasingly ruling that purchasers had to be barred from buying weapons in order for a dealer to be prosecuted. State prosecutors stepped in and charged Iknadosian with fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, but a state judge dismissed the case, using similar logic as the federal courts.

After a deadly shootout with suspected members of the Beltran-Leyva cartel on May 26th, 2008, that left eight policemen dead, authorities seized a variety of guns, including seven AK-47s, as well as 36 magazines, and 500 rounds of ammunition, according to ATF investigative reports. Credit: ATFATF officials were also facing a Justice Department inspector general’s review of Operation Gun Runner — a review which ultimately criticized the agency in November 2010 for not aiming higher in its border gun probes.

“ATF’s focus remains largely on inspections of gun dealers and investigations of straw purchasers, rather than on higher-level traffickers, smugglers, and the ultimate recipients of the trafficked guns,” the report said.

“Because there is no federal firearms trafficking statute, ATF must use a wide variety of other statutes to combat firearms trafficking. However, cases brought under these statutes are difficult to prove and do not carry stringent penalties — particularly for straw purchasers of guns,” the report noted.

“As a result, we found that [U.S. Attorney’s offices] are less likely to accept and prosecute Project Gunrunner cases. And when these cases are prosecuted and convictions obtained, Federal Sentencing Guidelines categorize straw-purchasing-related offenses as lesser crimes.”

The contretemps occurs just as Mexican President Felipe Calderon met today at the White House with President Barack Obama.

The presidential get-together was already expected to be tense, as friction has arisen over leaked American diplomatic exchanges that criticized the Mexican government. The cables, some of them classified secret, were disclosed by the Wikileaks website.

In an interview last week with El Universal, one of Mexico’s leading newspapers, Calderon said that U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual’s “ignorance has translated into a distortion of what is happening in Mexico” that has caused “an impact and an irritation in our own team.”

As he has several times, Calderon complained to El Universal that the American government has done little to curb the nation’s demand for drugs or stop the flow of weapons across the border.

“The institutional cooperation ends up being notoriously insufficient,” Calderon said.

Jordan, the former senior DEA official, said the ATF’s policy in Fast and Furious “supports President Calderon’s complaint that the U.S. is not doing nearly all it can to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.”

Publicly, ATF and Justice have tried to downplay any notion it would let guns knowingly flow to straw buyers to Mexican drug lords.

Newell, the special agent in charge in Phoenix, was asked at a news conference after the Avila indictment whether his agency would ever let guns knowingly cross the border. Newell answered, “Hell, no.” But, he said, suspects under surveillance sometimes elude agents, which could result in guns winding up in Mexico.

Grassley got a similar answer.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the senator, the Justice Department said ATF never “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico.” ATF, the letter added, makes “every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation into Mexico.”

Grassley told the Center he now believes those representations are contradicted by the documents his staff has gathered and the testimony of agents like Dodson. “The Justice Department and the ATF put up a wall to mislead the American people and were less than forthcoming,” he said.

Dodson also believes his agency has been less than forthright, and said that was part of the reason he went public.

“I’m boots on the ground and I’ve seen it done (let guns go through) and I had done it and I was instructed to do it almost every day I was down there. It happened,” he said.

“What we were doing in my opinion was wrong. It’s not what we do and for my agency to openly and publicly come in and deny we are doing it, I can’t even fathom it.”

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Ricardo Sandoval Palos also contributed to this story.

Frontex in the Aegean

Frontex in the Aegean

In 2009, 150.000 irregular migrants were intercepted in Greece, which amounts for 75% of all interceptions in the EU. Even though in 2010, this number is likely to drop again, it is clear that the closure of other routes to Europe (West Africa to Spain, Libya to Italy/Malta) has made Greece the presently last remaining gateway to the EU, turning it into a embattled ground where the EU is intervening decisively.

There are three tested responses to irregular migration, and the operations of Frontex in Greece and the Aegean have elements of all of them. The first would be to integrate Turkey into the border regime (similar to the case of Libya). On an institutional level, Frontex is trying to connect with the Turkish coast guard and to involve them in joint maneuvers and also seeks a working agreement with the Turkish border authority. But also Greece and the EU are trying to improve their cooperation with Turkey on migration matters: While Greece and Turkey have a readmission agreement (which Greece would like to extend, since practically, its functioning is questionable), the EU has been negotiating such an agreement for many years with Turkey, albeit without success so far. Functional readmission agreements would force Turkey to readmit not only nationals, but all irregular migrants who can be proved to have entered Greece and the EU via Turkey. This would shift the responsibility for securing borders and inhibiting the movements of migration to Turkey.

The second strategy aims to reinforce the border controls between Greece and Turkey, both at the land border in the Evros region as well as between the Turkish coast and the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Rhodos. For 2010, Frontex has announced they would hold their largest operation ever in Greece, thus mobilizing border guards and equipment from all over Europe. Concerning the land borders, the task is clear: sealing off and patrolling the border, possibly involving high-tech equipment for better monitoring of movements. At the sea borders, the task is much more unclear, since the geographical specificity of the islands close to the Turkish coasts don’t allow for the “diversion” of boats carrying potential irregular migrants. Still, an immense focus of Frontex seems to lie on intercepting and detaining migrants on the sea. One can only speculate to the motivations. For one, it is the interest of the border guards to establish custody of irregular migrants as early as possible. Another possible motivation is both to present a more decisive effort of guarding the border so that a crossing of the border seems more risky. Frontex has also been known to put a focus on going after facilitators of undocumented border crossings, so interfering with such crossings as early as possible might improve their chances to identify so called “smugglers”. In the end, it is also thinkable that Frontex attempts to establish a chain of evidence (footage from helicopters, portraits of those intercepted, protocols of interception) for all migrants to be able to present to the Turkey authorities an irrefutable claim that they did actually come from Turkey and are thus eligible for deportation under the readmission agreement.

The third strategy is to internalize the border. After all, the border is a selection mechanism to split between “legitimate and illegitimate” travelers, granting differing rights according to this categorization. Concerning irregular migrants, this selection process must not necessarily happen right at the border: the Greek state is intent on building so called screening centers in all geographic locations where migrants might be encountered: the land and sea borders, the metropolitan centers as well as at the points of exit, where migrants attempt to continue their journey northbound. Amongst other purposes, the screening centers allow for an individualization of migration, meaning that in the centers, the multiplicity of detained migrants are divided into single individuals with a distinct identity, history, situation, etc. This allows for differential treatment. While those found to be in need of protection might obtain asylum, most migrants will be identified as “economic migrants”, thus not legitimate to have entered the country and need to be deported. It is exactly this filtration and deportation process which Frontex is establishing, like in a field test, in the detention center of Samos island, where a so called translator is active in the center, interviewing the detainees and writing his version of their identity and story. It is however his version that becomes the official version, which makes deportation both legitimate and feasible: in the case of Samos, many migrants reported that the Frontex investigator denied their claim that they were from Palestine (to where no deportations can be made morally and practically) and changing their nationality to one that Turkey would accept under the Greek-Turkish readmission agreement. While only few migrants are released from Samos detention center, most are transferred to Athens, where they are held in yet a different detention center only to be transferred further to detention centers in the Evros region (Venna, for example) from where they are ultimately deported to Turkey. But while deportations to Turkey are still difficult and apply only to a few nationalities, Frontex has been known to have set up a deportation center in Athens and in the framework of their so called operation Attica have started to negotiate with other countries for the readmission of their nationals, effectively building a deportation system which most other EU member states have and with which Frontex has a lot of experience giving its involvement with charter deportations.

This example of the activities of Frontex in the Aegean demonstrates why Frontex is not just another border guard institution, or the europeanized version of a national border guard entity. While many components of what Frontex is involved in (patrolling, passport checks, etc) are comparable to the tasks of their national counterparts, its practice as a border authority is generally orthogonal to how a nation state would handle its borders. The approach of Frontex can only be described as cross-sectional, both geographically and methodically. Geographically, Frontex operates outside, on and inside the border, while methodically, Frontex combines all sorts of “services” around controlling “illegal” migration: interception, interrogation, identity checks and deportation are all part of the parcel, and Greece seems to be happy to accept the whole deal.

July 2010

Turkish Plans To “Weaponize” Refugees from Syria, Exporting Them To Europe

Turkish authorities plan to unleash Syrian refugees on Europe

Katerina

By Katerina Nikolas

The dispatch of 1,800 guards to the Greek – Turkish Evros border was to thwart a plan by Turkish authorities to flood Europe with Syrian refugees, thus forcing Europe to deal with the Syrian issue.

According to a WikiLeaks report Turkish Intelligence Services MIT plan to send a small army of Syrian refugees, including extreme Islamists, into Greece. The MIT plot intended to force Europe to intervene on the Syrian issue and halt the flow of refugees into Turkey.

The report says “Total estimated at 800-1000 individuals who are, first, to ‘take measure of” the Greek reaction and behind them is about a small ‘army’ 15-20000 Syrian refugees who for now are stacked in Turkish refugee camps.”

Europeonline reported Turkey was becoming increasingly nervous about the number of Salafists seeping into Turkey with the refugees. They quote Turkish rights activist Mehmet Salmanoglu saying “Other kinds of people are arriving now. They are not Syrians. They are long-bearded men who have money.”

In Antakya locals are concerned “that military aid from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some other Gulf countries to the Syrian rebels is promoting the presence of Islamists in Turkey.” In turn, MIT are exploiting the situation by assisting extremists to gain entrance to Europe through the porous Turkish-Greek border.

In turn, pressure within Europe by increased Islamic immigration, could be the push the U.S. needs to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, with the aid of Europe as an ally. Bloomberg reported former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said the U.S. and its allies would probably take more aggressive action against the Assad regime.

Back to the WikiLeaks report. Greek Intelligence received the information about the MIT plan via Frontex and the German Intelligence Service, prompting direct action by Greek Prime Minister Anthonis Samaras to immediately strengthen the border at Evros. Whilst Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias said the additional guards was to halt the flow of illegal immigration to Greece, and a possible increase due to the Syrian situation, no Turkish plot was revealed at the time. Germany “feared the existence of extreme Salafists among individuals of these groups of refugees.”

Following the tightening of the border and a clampdown on illegal immigrants in Athens, leading to arrests and deportations, Greece has been accused by human rights groups of acting illegally. However, it now appears that Greece had the support of Germany and Frontex, who felt the need to increase defenses against an influx of Islamic extremists. Greece alone has borne the insult for its “xenophobia” in the press.

Mr. Erdogan, It Is A Crime To Train Terrorists At Refugee Camps

[Google Trans. doesn’t do a very good job with some languages, Turkish is one of those problem languages.  Nonetheless, there are some big developments taking place in Turkey which we need to watch, over Erdogan’s deceitful Syrian campaign.  The following article touches upon several of the big headaches for the “Islamist-lite” Turkish P.M., all of them centered on building internal political opposition.  Noisy protests against Syrian gunmen running loose on the streets are taking place in Hatay (SEE: Tension in an unauthorized demonstration in Hatay), the site of the primary Syrian terrorist training camp called Apaydın.  In addition to that, the leader of Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has made that camp the focus of escalating national antiwar sentiments (SEE:  Kilicdaroglu: Apaydin Camp dedicated to training gunmen and sending them to Syria- Cham Press).  Mr. Kilicdaroglu is charging that the camp violates national laws by being a closed camp, that is run by foreigners.  He is demanding a public accounting of that facility, embarassing Erdogan, who flew into a cursing rage at the opposition’s actions.  He has since cancelled his next appearance at the UN, claiming that the anti-Kurd campaign is getting too serious.   He is also charging that the camp violates international treaty obligations under the UN convention on the treatment of refugees, specifically, the training of terrorists at refugee camps.  To deflect the heat, he has allowed the Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Commission to visit Apaydın camp (SEE:  Commission denies rumors of militant training camp at Apaydın).  They have basically “pooh-poohed” the notion, claiming that they saw only women and children.  It would be in keeping with Imperial NGO policy to have used this Human Rights organization to hide behind in Turkey, just as it has used other such groups to whitewash CIA activities in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Russia.  International scandal may help to force Erdogan’s hand and get these camps closed.]  

Turkish opposition came into conflict with the Syrian prime minister Government blamed for the influx of refugees and opponents of Bashar al-Assad

Photo: Gleb Garanich / Reuters
Syrian conflict could provoke a serious political crisis in Turkey. The course of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the most determined opponents of the regime in Damascus, causing more problems in the most Ankara. The opposition accuses the authorities that their intervention in the Syrian war has destabilized the border. Locals protest against the presence of 83 thousand refugees from Syria and armed opponents of Bashar al-Assad, which is becoming increasingly difficult to get along with. Experts do not rule out that under the pressure of the opponents Government will reconsider its policy toward Syria.
The war in Syria has political passions are running high in Ankara. The main opposition force – the Republican People’s Party (CHP) – accused Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a failure on the Syrian track, and foretold his imminent resignation. CHP Deputy Chairman Gursel Tekin convinced Ahmet Davutoglu care – the only way for the Turkish government to bring down a wave of criticism.
The political crisis in Turkey exacerbates activation Kurdish militants in the south-east. Almost every day new information becomes available about the attacks on Turkish Kurds checkpoints in border areas. According to experts, the ruling Justice and Development Party itself provoked the activity of Kurdish rebels, weakening the central government in Damascus, which was previously held under the control of national minorities.
In late August, there was another conflict in Turkey’s political summit – between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu. A group of deputies from the CHP arrived in camp Syrian opposition Apaydyn (Hatay). There, according to various sources, is based on three thousand to five thousand armed opposition. After CHP deputies denied access to the camp, Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused the ruling party and the prime minister personally to create a “closed military base” and violating the constitution.
The new round of confrontation on the Syrian issue was in the beginning of September, when in Antakya, the same border province of Hatay, organized a protest against the city flooded armed Syrians. For the Turkish leadership it became alarming signal: the locals many sympathizers Damascus Shiites. Any clashes with Syrian opposition could cause armed conflict in sectarian violence. In such a scenario developing events in neighboring Lebanon and Syria (see “Kommersant” on 27 July).
Opponents Tayyip Erdogan strongly urge expelled from Turkey of all Syrians, including their internal security threat. The same opinion is shared by the opposition press. One of these publications – the newspaper “Sozdzhu” – regularly publishes reports that the Syrians “hold in wild terror” in the border of Turkish cities.
Ankara about these issues is well known. According to experts, the Turkish government under pressure from opponents may revise its policy. According to “Kommersant” Now the Syrians from the site of potential conflict in the south-eastern provinces to the north of the country. Those who refuse to move to a specially built camps for them, the Turkish authorities have proposed to seek asylum in another country, or to return home. It looks like an idyll between refugees and official Ankara has ended. Too expensive for her to pay Tayyip Erdogan and his party.
Olga Kuznetsova

Russia strengthens its hand in Central Asia

Russia strengthens its hand in Central Asia

VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

Russia has consolidated its strategic positions in Central Asia by extending the long-term lease on its military facilities in Kyrgyzstan and securing the shutdown of a United States base in the former Soviet republic.

In exchange, Russia agreed to write off nearly $500 million in Kyrgyzstan’s debt and pledged to uplift its near bankrupt economy.

Under an agreement signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, the lease of the Russian airbase in Kant and a number of other facilities has been extended from 2017 for a further 15 years with an option for a further five-year extension.

“Russian military presence in the region, both in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, is a significant factor in stability,” Mr. Putin said at a joint news conference with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.

A political declaration signed by the two sides reaffirmed Kyrgyzstan’s intention to evict the U.S. airbase at the Manas international airport near the capital Bishkek. Russia “welcomed” the pledge and promised to help turn the Manas airport into a cargo transit hub between Asia and Europe.

Under another deal, Russia will help Kyrgyzstan build and operate hydroelectric power stations in Kyrgyzstan at an estimated cost of $5 billion. The deal will give Russia power to mediate in the acrimonious disputes between Central Asian states over scarce water resources.

Moscow has also promised to help Bishkek develop its mining industry and agriculture and to open Russian markets for Kyrgyzstan by granting it membership in the newly set up Customs Union of some former Soviet states.

FARC Wants To Take the Struggle from the Mountain Jungles Into the Legislature and the Streets

 

[Former Israeli spy and former military trainer Yair Klein recently revealed that the government of Colombia invited him to train the first units of FARC (SEE:  Yair Klein Reveals That He Was “Asked by the Colombian government to help train FARC.”  ).  Klein then went-on to train the so-called “self-defense forces” of the AUC–the true Colombian death squads.   FARC has thoughts of disarming now, after all of these years, because the peace initiatives of the Santos government are correcting those mistakes and bringing those vigilante leaders to justice.  Under his leadership, the Nation is desperately striving to overcome the years of devastation wrought by one of the first American “synthetic wars,” a complex and lengthy process of creating war, by the creation of opposing forces.  This process of controlling conflict through a slow process of military provocations, which justify even bigger reprisals, has enabled the lone superpower to generate new wars and conflicts anywhere desired.  Mexico is now in the beginning phases of this grueling, bloody process, which all concerned human beings should want to help them to avoid.  The complete militarization of the human race is not the answer to our problems, it is our biggest problem.]

 FARC

Peace is a true farewell to arms: Colombian rebel chief

By IANS/EFE,

Bogota : Colombia’s FARC rebels are prepared to lay down their weapons if upcoming peace talks with the government lead to an accord, guerrilla chief Rodrigo Londono said in an interview with Communist Party weekly Voz.

Peace, he said, “is a true farewell to arms”, the rebel leader, better known by the nom de guerre Timochenko, told the magazine.

Disarmament of the insurgents and their re-integration into civilian life is one of the six points on the agenda for the negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

“It would lack sense to begin a process aimed at achieving the definitive cessation of the conflict without contemplating the abandonment of weapons,” Timochenko said.

The peace process is to begin next month with a ceremony in Oslo, before shifting to Havana for the actual discussions.

The framework for the negotiations emerged in August after months of secret talks in the Cuban capital.

In his first comments to the media since the announcement of the peace process, Timochenko defined disarmament as “the abolition of the use of force, of the application of any type of violence, for the achievement of economic or political ends”.

The FARC approaches the process “with great expectations”, he said, adding that this third attempt at talks must avoid the errors of previous efforts, such as “arriving at the table to demand surrender”.

Bringing the guerrillas to their knees through force has been the official policy of Colombian governments across nearly five decades of armed conflict, a circle Timochenko said must be broken.

Founded in 1964, the FARC once had as many as 20,000 men and women under arms, but today numbers around 8,500 fighters.

Timochenko pointed to opinion polls showing that 77 percent of Colombians support the peace process and said the widespread backing must translate into an opportunity for equally widespread participation.

“We start from the idea that this process will be successful to the degree that those great majorities that favour the political solution have the chance to speak, to influence, to decide,” the FARC leader said.

The rebels will not set any deadlines for the talks in Havana, Timochenko said, despite Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ insistence that an accord must come within months, not years.

Timochenko noted that arranging the exploratory conversations in Cuba required “two years, when it was initially thought it would be a matter of weeks”.

Can Afghan Incompatibility with American Imperial Plans Serve To Justify Permanent Occupation?

[Is the ruse of the alleged 2014 “American withdrawal” now over?  With the Imperial cover now gone, how can anyone still play along with the scam?  If everybody in Afghanistan wants the Americans and Europeans dead, will Obama then proceed to unleash blanket carpet-bombing upon the Afghan countryside?  It is obvious to most of us that a simple US withdrawal in defeat has never been a consideration.  Total war will remain the only viable solution to the Empire-builders’ dilemma.] 

NATO’s Afghan strategy in jeopardy: experts

Experts warn that NATO’s decision to limit joint operations with Afghan forces threatens the alliance’s strategy (AFP, Tony Karumba)

 

By Mathieu Rabechault (AFP)

WASHINGTON — Coalition leaders say otherwise, but experts warn that NATO’s decision to limit joint operations with Afghan forces threatens the alliance’s strategy to hand over power and withdraw by 2014.

Announced on Tuesday, the move marks a setback to the US-led strategy for containing an 11-year Taliban insurgency, as a phased withdrawal of Western troops hinges on training and advising Afghan forces to take their place.

The decision was taken in a powder keg environment as protests sweep the Muslim world, and after an uptick in insidious blue-on-green attacks that have seen 51 NATO personnel shot dead by their local colleagues so far this year.

“It’s a serious challenge to the strategy,” Stephen Biddle, a George Washington University professor specializing in Afghanistan, told AFP.

NATO aims to train 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police by the end of 2014 as it transfers all security responsibilities to President Hamid Karzai’s local forces.

The alliance is gradually withdrawing the 112,600 troops remaining in its ISAF force. The Pentagon said last week that there are currently 77,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Jeffrey Dressler, senior research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said the effect on NATO’s drawdown strategy depends on how long the limitations on joint operations remain in place.

“It’s a minor setback at this point, but the significance of it obviously will increase with the length of time that the order stands,” Dressler said. “If it continues for months, then it’s definitely going to have an impact.”

Australian Brigadier-General Roger Noble, deputy to ISAF’s operations’ chief, admitted the recent string of green-on-blue attacks had been dispiriting.

“The problem with the insider attack is it strikes right at the heart of our resolve,” he told Pentagon journalists from Kabul. “It’s one thing to be killed in action by the insurgents. It’s quite another to be shot in the back of the head at night by your friends.”

Noble said the decision to scale back joint operations was “just normal military business and common sense,” and insisted it would not derail the drawdown effort.

“The bottom line is that beneath the noise and turbulence of day-to-day operations and events, the campaign remains on track to achieve its objectives,” he said.

President Barack Obama’s administration is under pressure from some to rethink its strategy, with three leading senators asking for a “strategic pause” to troop withdrawals.

“We cannot afford to rush to failure in Afghanistan,” Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman wrote in a letter.

“We believe those conditions are now worrisome enough to justify an immediate suspension of further US troop withdrawals at this time.”

During a videoconference with Karzai on Wednesday, Obama focused partly on the unprecedented wave of attacks on NATO troops by local comrades. The White House said the president was committed to pursuing his drawdown timetable.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking in Beijing, said the attacks were worrisome but insisted they would not delay or derail plans to complete a withdrawal of troops by the end of 2014 as planned.

Only a quarter of the insider attacks are believed to be the result of Taliban infiltration, and Biddle feared they could just be the “visible tip of a much larger iceberg” that is the inability of Western and Afghan forces to work together.

“It’s a lot easier to fix an infiltration problem than cultural incompatibility,” he said. “I think it has serious consequences for the way forward in the war.”

Sarah Chayes, a former adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was more categorical.

“We already know that this together strategy doesn’t work,” said Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“The Afghan army is only an arm of the government. If they don’t deal with the problem of governance and of corruption in the heart of the Afghan government, or the role of Pakistan, I can’t really see a lasting solution.”

Lebanon’s Future Movement Flounders Leaderless

A Void for Sunnis in Lebanon

By JOSH WOOD

BEIRUT — As spillover from the civil war in Syria continues to unsettle Lebanon, the prolonged absence of Saad Hariri, the country’s former prime minister and leader of its Sunni community, has created a political vacuum of sorts, as his influence has declined and new voices have emerged.

Mr. Hariri, whose father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in February 2005, has been outside of Lebanon for nearly a year and a half. Ousted from his position as prime minister at the start of last year by the March 8 coalition, led by Hezbollah, he now splits his time between Saudi Arabia and France. Security concerns, most say, are responsible for his self-imposed exile, though there have also been rumors in Beirut about financial difficulties.

The absence of Mr. Hariri, the head of the Future Movement, has left the Sunni population of Lebanon without its zaim, its leader. Traditionally from wealthy, powerful families, a zaim presides over large patronage networks, is seen as the protector of his sectarian community and commands high levels of loyalty. It is a position that stretches back centuries, but survives today in a political system still governed by sectarian identity.

Mr. Hariri remains the zaim of the Sunni community to most, but his continuing absence and the political moves that led to what was seen by many as a stumbling exit and the muting of his voice in Lebanese affairs of late have reduced his influence.

“It would be a mistake to suggest that Saad Hariri has lost his position entirely among Lebanon’s Sunnis, but it’s clear that his leadership has been called into question,” said Elias Muhanna, the author of Qifa Nabki, an influential blog on Lebanese politics and a professor at Brown University in Rhode Island.

At the same time, many Sunnis in Lebanon have become more supportive of rebels in Syria, who are mostly Sunni, and more hostile and aggressive toward allies of Damascus in Lebanon, notably the Shiite Islamist party Hezbollah.

“I think there is a regionwide kind of Sunni awakening,” said Imad Salamey, an associate professor of political science at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. “It is being reflected in Lebanon, where the Sunnis are taking a more and more militant role, and they are becoming more aware of their sectarian identity and linking their sectarian identity to their political demands.”

The Sunnis are one of the three major sectarian communities in Lebanon, along with the Shiites and the Maronites, and dominate in cities that include Sidon and Tripoli. By an unwritten rule going back to 1943, a Sunni serves as prime minister in each electoral cycle.

The perceived lack of leadership among the Sunnis has led some to criticize Mr. Hariri.

“I don’t know of a March 14 supporter who is not incredibly disappointed and frustrated — and even borderline insulted — by the political performance, the political strategy, even the political mind-set that Hariri has displayed over the past five years,” said Saleh el-Machnouk, a rising young Sunni political activist, referring to supporters of the March 14 alliance, a broad political coalition to which Mr. Hariri’s party, the Future Movement, belongs.

“These people feel humiliated, they feel frustrated, they feel like they have been let down, and worst of all they feel like there is no hope for a better future,” Mr. Machnouk added.

Mr. Machnouk, the 28-year-old son of a Future Movement member of the Lebanese Parliament, first gained attention for enthusiastically supporting Syria’s rebels at a time when most mainstream Sunni politicians hesitated to do so. Along with his confrontational calls for Hezbollah to disarm, this platform has lifted Mr. Machnouk from relative obscurity to popularity.

While perhaps more indicative of affinity with some of Lebanon’s disgruntled March 14 youth than political power, Mr. Machnouk’s Facebook page has garnered more than twice as many fans as Mr. Hariri’s.

Mr. Machnouk says he is trying to set up a political organization that will be secular in outlook and draw support from a religiously diverse base. But he concedes that is no easy task and that it will take time. “The mind-set of people is geared toward assuming that if you are a politician and you are Sunni, then you are a Sunni politician,” he said.

While he does not view himself as a Sunni politician, he champions causes that are on the minds of many in the Sunni community, to which most of his supporters belong. To a certain degree, Mr. Machnouk recognizes that by default, his message will be attractive to Sunnis. He said that he was looking to offer them an alternative political option, different from both the Future Movement and the puritanical Sunni radicalism of the Salafi sect.

One Salafi, Sheik Ahmed Assir, has gained notoriety in Lebanon this year by holding a monthlong sit-in in July along a stretch of highway in Sidon, south of Beirut, to protest the arsenal of weapons held by Hezbollah outside of government control. Like Mr. Machnouk, Mr. Assir has found that his political platform, based on supporting Syrian rebels and opposing Hezbollah, has quickly raised his profile.

“If most of the Sunni community is acting like I’m their zaim, in reality they are dealing with me because I’m vocalizing their pain,” Mr. Assir said.

“The person who oppressed people in Syria is the same person who oppressed us, so therefore we are directly related to the revolution,” he added.

When speaking of Hezbollah, Mr. Assir refuses even to use the name of the organization, which translates as the Party of God, considering it blasphemous.

“In the Koran, there are two parties, the Party of God and the Party of Satan — if you are not with the Party of God, you are with the Party of Satan,” he said.

Secular-minded Sunnis dismiss Mr. Assir as an attention-seeking rabble-rouser: Still, his political message, focused on restoring Sunni dignity and ending Syrian and Iranian influence in Lebanon, resonates with the Sunni community.

Despite his bold political actions — and a threat to take to the streets again soon — Mr. Assir denies that he is looking to become a political leader.

Analysts argue that while new voices in the Sunni community may wield new influence, they have little chance of challenging the traditional centers of Sunni political power.

“The outspoken figures we’ve seen emerge do not present a real alternative to the Future Movement, but they have played a role in fragmenting the Sunni electorate and channeling people’s frustrations with the status quo,” said Mr. Muhanna, the blogger.

Mr. Salamey, the political science professor at Lebanese American University, said that Mr. Hariri would remain “a very relevant political force in the country, regardless of and in spite of what happened, because the alternative is not out there.”

For many in Lebanon, a zaim remains a zaim, even after death. Posters plastered across Beirut attest to undimmed loyalties: to Bashir Gemayel, the Christian warlord assassinated in 1982, to Musa Sadr, the Shiite cleric who disappeared in Libya in 1978 — and to Rafik Hariri.

Uzbek Dictator’s Daughter’s Financial Shenanigans Land Her In Swedish Court for Possible Money-Laundering

ACLU takes CIA to court as agency denies existence of drone programme

ACLU takes CIA to court as agency denies existence of drone programme

Despite references by president and defence secretary, CIA has refused FOIA request on grounds it cannot confirm drone use

 in New York

guardian.co.uk

Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey

US secretary of defence Leon Panetta has publicly acknowledged the drone programme’s existence. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union will go to court on Thursday in an attempt to get the CIA to hand over documents related to PresidentBarack Obama’s controversial “targeted killing” programme that uses unmanned drones to strike suspected Islamic militants.

The programme has been repeatedly referenced in public by numerous senior officials, including by Obama himself and defence secretary Leon Panetta, but the spy agency has refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request from the civil liberties group because it says it will not confirm the secretive use of drones.

As a result the ACLU has gone to court to argue that the CIA cannot deny the existence of a programme that has been so widely reported, including in great detail in off-the-record briefings by administration and agency officials. Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, said: “It is preposterous. The assertion that this programme is a secret is nothing short of absurd.

“For more than two years, senior officials have been making claims about the programme both on the record and off. They’ve claimed that the programme is effective, lawful and closely supervised. If they can make these claims, there is no reason why they should not be required to respond to [FOIA] requests.”

The so-called targeted killing programme has become one of the most controversial aspects of Obama’s national security policy. It has been used in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia to strike at suspected terrorists and their supporters. Proponents of the programme say attacks can be highly accurate and come at little risk to American forces as there is no need for ground forces. Critics point out that there often civilian casualties and little is known about how targets are identified and targeted.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism tracks the strikesand has calculated that there have been 344 CIA drone hits in Pakistan alone since 2002, killing up to 3,325 people, including 881 civilians. Another area of concern is the use of drones to kill American citizens, such as radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old Colorado-born son. Both died in drone strikes in Yemen and relatives have sued top Pentagon and CIA officials for damages.

The ACLU’s demand for details of the programme – including documents related to its legal justification drawn up by the department of justice – is aimed at prompting a national debate on the scope of the drone programme and how it is used. Its legality is a particular issue. The memorandum justifying the legal basis for the targeted killing has now been requested by at least 10 members of Congress and three different lawsuits but it remains so secret that that acknowledging its existence is a classified matter. “The public has a right to decide for itself whether or not the programme is lawful or moral,” Jaffer said.

Some legal and security experts agree and believe that the current boom in drone warfare is only like to increase the demand for greater openness about how and why the weapons are used. Professor Amos Guiora, a national security and legal expert at the University of Utah, said: “Given that the drones are the warfare of the future you need a public debate about what’s being done in the public’s name.”

General Motors Wants Out of Govt. Bailout That Enabled GM Sell-Out of Workers and Retirees

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) – The Wall Street Journal took a fresh look Monday at General Motors Co.’s efforts to end its awkward relationship with the U.S. Treasury.

The article, citing “people familiar with the government’s thinking,” states the government is reluctant to sell its 26.5% holding in GM because it would mean booking a loss on the bailout. That’s understandable. While it’s great to be able to point to all the jobs saved by the $50 billion bailout, any political currency gained by the White House would be a lot sweeter if it also made a profit on the deal.

That’s not happening. Not yet, anyway. GM GM +1.92%   is currently trading at just under $24 a share, well below its $33 post-bankruptcy public offering in November 2010. The share price needs to reach $53 for the government to extract itself from GM without a loss.


Reuters

General Motors assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich.

What’s the likelihood of that happening? Much hinges on the success of GM’s heavily revamped lineup here at home, its ability to stem losses in Europe, and whether it can continue to grow sales in Asia. But with less than two months to go before the presidential election, investors won’t have enough information by then to judge whether GM’s performance on these three critical fronts has a realistic shot at lifting the share price past $53.

Does Wall Street think it can happen? The charts are not reassuring. Analysts surveyed by FactSet currently have an average $30.19 price target on the stock, slipping from a 2012 high of $34.35 in April. And while no one has a sell rating on GM, 4.3% of analysts following the company now have underweight ratings on it, ending a nine-month run free of underweight ratings, a reflection more of tougher macroeconomic conditions than specific shortcomings at GM.
So, given the political stakes, there’s little reason to bet the Treasury Department will bail out of its GM holdings any time soon. Unless, of course, Mitt Romney wins the election. If he does, and he keeps his word, he’ll end this uncomfortable alliance right away, incurring a loss to taxpayers that he can pin on his predecessor.

That scenario might be good for GM shareholders. If company executives are to be believed, shedding government oversight would free GM to conduct business the way it sees fit, not the Treasury.

But campaign rhetoric rarely delivers what it promises. As with most things, it’s easier to rush in than to get out. (Think Iraq, Afghanistan.) In this case, exiting GM without a loss would be spun into exiting with honor. Achieving anything close to that is going to take a while, especially in this economy.

Mexico’s Zetas Cartel Suspected of Planning Huge Prison Break On Texas Border

The Associated Press

 

Police officers stand outside the jail in Piedras Negras after the escape of more than 130 inmates on September 17, 2012.

Photograph by: STRINGER/MEXICO , REUTERS

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico — Officials said Tuesday they suspect the brutal Zetas drug cartel orchestrated the mass tunnel escape of more than 130 inmates at a northern Mexico border prison, possibly to replenish its ranks after suffering blows from a rival gang.

Jorge Luis Moran, public safety secretary of the northern border state of Coahuila, told The Associated Press that inmates inside the prison reported that those who plotted the escape were Zetas members and that some prisoners not in the gang were forced to go along.

“Clearly, the Zetas are behind this escape,” Moran said.

Police are also investigating whether the prison break might be linked to seizures of empty passenger buses in the region that could have been used to pick up the escapees and an attack on police officers deployed to the prison Monday, he said.

Four alleged criminals were killed in that shootout.

State officials said Monday night that 132 inmates had escaped through a tunnel from the prison in Piedras Negras, a city across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.

On Tuesday, Moran revised the total to 131. He said three female inmates initially thought to have been fugitives were found hiding in a prison visiting area, but two other prisoners not initially included in the original tally were discovered to have escaped as well.

Late Tuesday, Moran announced two of the inmates were captured after a shooting with state police. They were armed in an SUV driving about 40 miles away from the prison, Moran told the Milenio TV station.

The escape tunnel was 6.5 metres long and 1.2 metres in diameter, and after passing through it, the prisoners cut their way through a chain link barrier, authorities said.

Federal police units and Mexican troops, including 70 members of an elite military special forces unit, were searching Tuesday throughout the state of Coahuila for inmates who fled the prison.

The Zetas cartel has been fighting a bloody turf battle with the Sinaloa cartel in that border state.

Moran said the Zetas controlled the drug corridor until 2010, when members of the powerful Sinaloa gang were sent to the state.

The Sinaloa cartel is led by Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin Guzman.

Moran said the Zetas have also been hit by arrests, fatal shootings and guns seizures.

“They are running out of people,” he said.

Collusion between guards and drug gangs has played a role in past Mexican prison escapes.

Following the mass break in Piedras Negras, the director and two other employees of the state prison were detained for an investigation.

President Felipe Calderon called the jailbreak “deplorable” in a statement posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.

He appeared to re-ignite a long-running dispute between federal and state authorities, writing that “the vulnerability of state law enforcement institutions must be corrected.”

U.S. border officials said they were on alert, and Eagle Pass Police Chief Tony Castaneda said his department had received the list of 87 escaped federal inmates.

No escapees had been reported crossing the border.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Russia Gives USAID the Boot for Meddling In Its Political Process

(RTTNews) – Russia asked the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to wind up its activity in the country as it tried to meddle with the country’s political process by using its grants, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Russia told the USAID to cease its activity in the country because the agency had “tried to affect the course of the political process in the country by its use of grants,” Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in Moscow, adding that the agency would cease operating in Russia from October 1.

“The decision was called for primarily because the character of the agency’s representatives work in our country did not always comply with the declared aims of cooperation in bilateral humanitarian cooperation. We are talking about issuing grants in an attempt to affect the course of the political process in the country, including elections at different levels and institutions in civil society,” the Ministry said on its website.

Russian civil society has become fully mature, the Foreign Ministry said, and did not need “external direction.” Moscow is ready to work with USAID in third countries, it said.

U..S State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday had announced the termination of USAID’s activity in Russia.

“The United States recently received the Russian Government’s decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation,” Nuland said in a statement. “We are extremely proud of what USAID has accomplished in Russia over the past two decades, and we will work with our partners and staff to responsibly end or transition USAID’s programs.” she said in a statement.

USAID, which operates in more than 100 countries, has been active in Russia over the past two decades. Its array of social programs have targeted issues such as at-risk youth and pressing public health issues, Russian media reported.

The USAID supports development and governance programs around the world. The agency says it has provided “more than $2.6 billion toward Russia’s social and economic development” since 1992.

USAID says it has worked with a wide range of organizations, including government, the private sector and non-profit, during its 20-year history in Russia. The agency claims that its operations were aimed at creating “a more open and innovative society and a strengthened partnership between Russia and the United States.”

The latest development comes two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial legislation that requires Russian non-governmental organizations receiving foreign funding to register as a “foreign agent” and submit to more rigorous checks by the authorities.

Russian authorities say the new law is aimed at preventing foreign nations from influencing the country’s internal politics. Incidentally, foreign-funded NGOs and Western nations, particularly the United States, were blamed for inciting the widespread protests that followed Putin’s disputed re-election in May.

The Opposition claimed that the polls were marred by irregularities. Golos, Russia’s only monitoring group funded mainly by the U.S. and the EU, confirmed that it had received nearly 5,300 complaints alleging violations of electoral laws. The post-poll protests were brutally suppressed, with hundreds of demonstrators detained.

Putin was Russia’s President between 2000 and 2008, when he was forced to stand down by the Constitution. He then became Prime Minister after ushering in his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev as President. Medvedev is currently Russia’s Prime Minister.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

Massive air defense drills from October in Central Asia

Massive air defense drills from October in Central Asia

Massive air defense drills from October in Central Asia

Image via thekooza.com

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – It looks like Uzbekistan has gone far away from Russia as it is not attending joint exercises with the Collective Rapid Response Forces CSTO “Interaction-2012 on September 15-19 in the Republic of Armenia, nor is it attending joint command-and-staff air defense drills on October 5-16.

CSTO Collective Rapid Response Forces are being attended by special forces and task forces of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan and joint command-and-staff air defense drills starting from October 5 are attending by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. The Chistoye Nebo (Clear Sky) 2012 exercise will be held in Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Kazakh airspace and involve the interception of cruise missiles.

Russia will be represented by a group of experts from Air Force staff and MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors and an A-50 Mainstay AWACS plane deployed at the Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan’s three airbases will host the active phase of the drills. The former Soviet republic will also deploy five air defense brigades and command staff.

In line with the concept of the exercises, Kyrgyzstan will play the role of a “designated adversary” with its L-39 Albatros combat trainers and Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft.

Tajikistan will be represented by Air Force command staff. The exercises will be held as part of military cooperation among countries-members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and emphasize the air defense of the bloc from the southern direction.

Source: thekooza.com

Colombia’s Recovery from American-Inspired Death Squads

[The man in charge of Colombia’s National Police Force during that “Democratic Security” policy, Oscar Naranjo, is now chief national security adviser for Mexico’s attempt to recreate the Colombian Cartel Wars.  Both Colombian and Mexican drug-control operations were the US-administered implementation of American counter-insurgency methods acquired in the Afghanistan and the Middle East, introduced into civilian areas here in the West, which were not previously involved in war.  The American program here, just as in Kabul and Baghdad is to send-out death squads in the middle of the night to kidnap and murder whomever they will, while agitating gang wars between the cartels or the warlords, through a series of “false flag” murders and terrorist attacks.  A few strategically located car bombs also have a way of pumping-up the action.  The American idea, in all things, is to attack the problem by resorting to war, whether it is the “drug wars,” wars on poverty, or other social action “wars,” American capitalist solutions NEVER suggest correcting the conditions which breed the problems to begin with.  Every problem is seen as an opportunity to resort to war, the thing we do best.  Criminal networks and the black markets which spawn them have less chance of taking hold in economically healthy societies, ones which have plenty of legitimate opportunities available to the young and old who need them.  If clean jobs are available, how many would compound their lives by pursuing the dirty work of the drug cartels?] 

Santos announces ‘relaunch’ of ‘Democratic Security’

ADRIAAN ALSEMA
Colombia news - Santos in San Vicente de Caguan

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday announced a “relaunch” of the “Democratic Security” policy to counter a wave of guerrilla attacks against the security forces in the south and east of the country and violence committed by neo-paramilitary groups and drug gangs in the north.

The Democratic Security policy was created by Santos predecessor Alvaro Uribe and designed to push leftist guerrilla groups away from the cities and economically important areas, create investor confidence and improve the economy.

Santos’ “relaunch” of this policy includes a focus on the violence caused by drug gangs, local gangs and paramilitary groups that emerged from the remnants of the AUC, the national paramilitary organization that officially demobilized under Uribe.

“The Minister of Defense Rodrigo Rivera, the military and police top and the (presidential development) office of Accion Social are preparing a document to relaunch, as a priority policy of the government and plans to consolidate democratic security,” Santos said.

Earlier, Santos appointed former deputy Defense Minister Sergio Jaramillo as High Security Adviser to assist the Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior and Justice Ministries in fighting the leftist insurgency.

Since Santos’ inauguration, attacks by guerrilla groups FARC and ELN left dozens of soldiers and policemen dead, while violence committed by neo-paramilitary gangs, urban militias and drug gangs left thousands dead since the official demobilization of the AUC.

Mexico Bleeding from US-Trained Death Squads Along with DEA’s Cartel War

[SEE:Fighting “Simulated Wars” Nearly Always Leads To Real Wars ;Mexicans raise questions over CIA role in drug war ]

Mexican Special Forces Employed as Death Squads in Drug War, Email Records Released by WikiLeaks Reveal

by Bill Conroy

Specially Trained Troops Conducted “Surgical” Strikes on Narco-Trafficking Cells, Gangs and Addicts

Ciudad Juarez earned the reputation as the most dangerous city in the world as its murder rate ramped up exponentially between 2008 and 2011, with some 10,000 murders attributed to a “cartel” turf war being waged in the Mexican border community of some 1.2 million just south of El Paso, Texas.

However, a trail of email correspondence involving a Mexican diplomat obtained by the secret-spilling organization WikiLeaks seems to show that not all of the bloodshed in Juarez is attributable solely to sparring drug organizations — the narrative pushed by the US mainstream media.

In fact, the emails, which involve communications between a Mexican consulate officer stationed in the US and a Texas-based  private intelligence firm calledStratfor, seem to support a theory advanced in a Narco News story published back in December 2008, just as the violence in Juarez was beginning to heat up in the wake of a surge of Mexican troops into the city.

The initial surge of Mexican troops into Juarez took place in the spring of 2008 and it was followed by another surge of some 5,000 troops the next year.

The 2008 Narco News story was based on an analysis of murder cases in Juarez between January and mid-July of that year.

From the story:

The one clear pattern that emerges from the data is that the murders in Juarez are, in almost all cases, not the result of random violence or shootouts between rival drug gangs. In most cases, they are cold-blooded assassinations, often involving coordinated teams of armed, sometimes masked, men who are making use of intelligence, surveillance and paramilitary-like tactics to take out their victims.

… Is Juarez a city in the grips of a death-squad campaign being carried out by paramilitary operatives of a corrupt Mexican military seeking to corner the narco-trafficking business, with the acquiescence, maybe even complicity, of the Mexican government — and with our own government now set to support this bloodshed through its funding of Plan Mexico [the Merida Initiative]?

 “Surgical” Death

The description in the emails obtained by WikiLeaks of the Mexican diplomat, who doubled as a confidential source for Stratfor and is codenamed MX1, matches the publicly available information on Fernando de la Mora Salcedo — a Mexican foreign service officer who studied law at the University of New Mexico, served in theMexican Consulate in El Paso, Texas, and was more recently stationed in theMexican Consulate in Phoenix (though, sources indicate, he appears to have recently been recalled to Mexico).

MX1, in one of the emails released by WikiLeaks, describes the Mexican military’s mission in Juarez as involving a special-operations and intelligence-unit component that was embedded within the larger Mexican military force. These special units were charged with carrying out “surgical strikes” against narco-trafficking “cells” and “third war” criminals.

Stripped of the military jargon, these special strike forces sound very much like death squads.

From MX1’s email correspondence with Stratfor:

So, as you have no doubt gathered by now, the National Security Council decided to really up the ante in Juarez. We expect 5,000 additional troops and up to 1,000 additional federal police. Among the new elements, there will be at least 10 specialized intelligence units, as well as special forces units from both the Army and the Air Force. One of the intelligence units will be from the Navy (not for publication).

… The military will surgically remove cells that had been previously identified, but for whatever reason were not taken down yet. Periods of adjustment will ensue, but the military will fill any void left in terms of territorial control, ultimately causing the competing DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] to wait/give up. [Emphasis added.]

… The first to fall will be those waging the “third war”, as they are a bunch of retarded morons that have no chance against a force deployment of this size, and thrive only because of impunity.

The “third war” MX1 referred to in the email correspondence is described as follows in a 2009 article penned by Stratfor analysts Fred Burton and Scott Stewart:

This third war is the war being waged on the Mexican population by criminals who may or may not be involved with the cartels. Unlike the other battles, where cartel members or government forces are the primary targets and civilians are only killed as collateral damage, on this battlefront, civilians are squarely in the crosshairs.

In another Stratfor email, titled “Answers from MX1” and dated March 16, 2009, the Mexican diplomat goes into further detail about the Mexican military mission in Juarez.

Some have suggested that CDJ [Juarez] will be a laboratory of sorts for this massive strategy. If you look beneath the surface, you are likely to see some parallels between the tactics employed under

Democratic Security v2.0″ in Colombia. We will see if this works or not, but my impression is that it WILL WORK, precisely because so many powerful people have vested so much political capital in making it so.

So, now, the interesting stuff:

• All of the Special Forces that arrived in [Juarez in] the last 32 hours come from Mexico City. They are the “paracaidistas” [paratroopers]. They were present in Juarez before, but never in these numbers. Some were previously deployed in Guerrero.

• Some of the Special Forces that have arrived have experience in fighting the Gulf Cartel throughout its traditional areas of operation. Others have also been active in Sonora and Sinaloa.

The bulk, however, was immediately prior in Mexico City, where some finished specialized training as recently as two months ago. This would be the first time that they have the opportunity to put that training to the test.

… • The Mexican Air Force Special Forces are well trained to be extremely discrete and precise in their operations. They will be used for very targeted operations down the line, but it is expected that they will be out on patrol for the first few weeks of the operation, unless we get enough actionable intelligence really soon to mount operations in the coming days.

Narco News published a story in April 2011, which would have been some two years after the second military troop surge in Juarez, but while the Mexican militarywas still very active in Juarez, that revealed a US company, L3-MPRI, a division of a major US contractor, was involved in providing training to Mexican troops.

The training, according to an Internet job posting published by the company, was part of an effort called “Project Sparta,” which is designed “to train Mexican Army soldiers in basic and advanced urban warfare operations” with the ultimate goal of creating an “Urban Warfare Elite Force.”

The “new specialized reaction force” will support “federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the war against organized crime and the drug cartels,” the L-3 MPRI help-wanted ad states.

At the time the Narco News article was published in 2011, a spokesman for L3-MPRI denied that the company had an active contract in Mexico and its job postings for Project Sparta were subsequently pulled from the Internet — though Narco News had already made screen shots of the postings, which can be found at this link.

A Modest Proposal

An even more troubling revelation in the MX1 email trail is what the Mexican diplomat describes in a July 13, 2009, email as a “change in strategy” in the Mexican troop deployment in Juarez — a change that refocused the mission on a more “modest goal.” This new strategy is troubling in light of the wave of attacks in 2009 on drug rehab clinics in Juarez in which dozens of people, mostly recovering drug addicts, were slaughtered in commando style assaults. To this day, no one has really provided a definitive explanation for these senseless attacks — though some have suggested the “cartels” were seeking to kill potential informants at these clinics.

However, MX1’s description in the Stratfor email correspondence of the “modest goal” [eerily like that of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal”) seems to raise the quite troubling possibility that some of these assaults on the Juarez drug-rehab clinics may have been orchestrated by elements of the Mexican military.

From the July 13, 2009, MX1 email correspondence:

The larger picture of the change in strategy has to do with a more modest goal. As the major cartels have all guaranteed routes into the US, the addiction problem [in] Juarez is causing most of the violence. About 80% of kidnapping victims that survived that you talk to mention that their captors seemed to be high on something.

Therefore, a major component of the [Mexican military] strategy will be to prevent kidnappings and the like by directing efforts against drug addicts and gangs. Gangs are presenting major problems because they are pissed off at each other and their cartel bosses because they are not getting what they were promised. The more modest goal of combating the social violence is supposed to give some breathing room to the [cartel] bosses so that they can issue orders to calm things down. [Emphasis added.]

Gustavo De La Rosa, a well-known human-rights worker who was forced to flee Juarez after his life was threatened, raised similar concerns about the Mexican military’s apparent involvement in death-squad activity in an Oct. 3, 2009, article published by London’s Guardian newspaper.

De La Rosa, as quoted in the Guardian story:

There are execution squads [in Juarez], another breed forensically killing malandros [“down-and-outs, urchins, petty criminals and addicts”], planned assassinations of the unwanted. And if we look at exactly how they are done, they are experts in killing characteristic of training by the army or police.

I do not think these killings are the work of sicarios [cartel assassins], because I don’t think that anyone would want to pay the money the cartel sicarios charge to kill malandros. Sicarios kill members of the rival cartel; you wouldn’t need a sicario to kill malandros in a rehabilitation centre or abandoned house taking drugs.

I’m not saying … that the [Mexican] army is directly killing these people. But, in a city living in a culture of delinquency, soldiers become part of that culture. I kept a map and watched how these [death] squads move across the army checkpoints without hindrance. Until I was told to stop.”

Narco News attempted to contact De La Rosa by email, but he did not reply prior to publication. Mexican diplomat de la Mora Salcedo and Stratfor also were contacted previously by Narco News for comment but have not responded.

One US drug-war agent who reviewed the 2008 data on murder cases in Juarez for Narco News had this to say back then about his take on the Juarez bloodshed:

They’re anything but random acts. Some of these murders are likely the result of cartel turf battles, but the numbers seem too high for the cartels alone. I don’t think they would be killing each other at that rate.

With the murder tally in Mexico now exceeding 100,000 since President Felipe Calderon launched his war on the cartels in 2007 — and is now well beyond 10,000in Juarez alone — it seems the tired US mainstream media meme of attributing the carnage to “cartel” turf wars alone simply does not hold water, particularly in light of the revelations by MX1.

But such a dark truth will be hard to swallow for many, given it’s easier to believe, to accept, that only criminals are capable of murder. But in war, the rule of law breaks down, and the definition of who is or is not criminal is usually defined, in the end, by those with the most bullets.

That is the nature of the drug war.

But there is a bright side for those who are looking to profit from the horror, according to MX1, who shared the following aside in one of the Stratfor emailsdetailing the Mexican troop build-up and “surgical” attack plans in Juarez:

No doubt, interesting times ahead. Also, a pretty good time to invest in Juarez. Buy property, it is dirt cheap right now, but will be worth exponentially more as soon as things calm down. They will calm down.

 

Prior Stories in This Series:

• Mexican Diplomat Traded Secrets with Private Intel Firm Stratfor, WikiLeaks Documents Reveal

• US, Mexican Officials Brokering Deals with Drug “Cartels,” WikiLeaks Documents Show

Narco News was provided access to the Stratfor emails through an investigative partnership organized by WikiLeaks that includes journalists, academics and human rights organizations.

Russia’s ‘big bang’ in Central Asia

Russia’s ‘big bang’ in Central Asia

By M K Bhadrakumar

A period of intense high-level exchange is commencing this week between Russia and its Central Asian allies – and Pakistan. What characterizes the Russian strategy is a robust attempt to develop comprehensive partnerships with these countries in preparation of the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan with the expected withdrawal of the troops of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Russian focus is, not surprisingly, on the three countries to the north and south of Afghanistan – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forthcoming visit to Bishkek on Thursday promises to be a turning point in Moscow’s strategy. He is following it up in early October with visits to Islamabad and Dushanbe.

A raft of Russian-Kyrgyz agreements has been negotiated, to be signed during Putin’s visit to Bishkek. The indications are that Russia may write off two-fifths of the debt owed it by Kyrgyzstan (converting some of it for acquiring assets in Kyrgyzstan) and is committing itself to deeper involvement in the Kyrgyz economy, including renewed assistance in the construction of the Kamarata-1 hydroelectric dam project (despite objections by Uzbekistan).

The agreements include a strategic accord on the extension of the lease for Russia’s military facilities in the Central Asian country reportedly for a further 15-year period from 2017. These agreements taken together are expected to restore the mutual trust in the Russian-Kyrgyz relations, which had eroded in recent years leading to the ouster of Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev in a violent popular upsurge in April last year.

Bakiyev had reneged on his earlier plan to evict US forces from Manas Air Base, and Russian-Kyrgyz ties suffered a serious jolt.

The current leadership of Kyrgyzstan has also expressed its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus – although attaining full membership is going to be a long haul, given the weakness of the Kyrgyz economy in relation to the other three prospective partner countries.

The recent change of the Kyrgyz government led by Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov has not affected the momentum in the recent strengthening of Russian-Kyrgyz ties. The political changes in Bishkek may even work to Moscow’s advantage insofar as the presidency gains the upper hand and Moscow enjoys warm equations with President Almazbek Atambayev (although Russian influence with Kyrgyz politicians is fairly widespread).

Atambayev has openly called for the termination of the US base in Manas when the lease expires in 2014. He has spoken about converting the military base into a civilian facility (which the US can also make use of). But Washington has not accepted that this could be Atambayev’s final word on the subject.

Therefore, Putin’s visit to Bishkek this week will be keenly watched in Washington, especially whether Moscow proposes to strengthen its military presence in the volatile southern region bordering Fergana Valley. Manas is vital for the US as a transit hub for supplying the troops in Afghanistan, especially for their rotation. The hectic US efforts in recent months to tie up alternative basing facilities in Central Asia (in the event of eviction from Manas) have not borne fruit so far.

If anything, these efforts suffered a setback recently with Uzbekistan passing legislation banning foreign military bases on its soil. Moscow is carefully calibrating its relations with Kyrgyzstan with a view to influencing Uzbek policies vis-a-vis the US.

Engine of integration
Both Moscow and Tashkent are adept at fine-tuning this sort of delicate diplomatic waltz in their “time-tested” relationship. Arguably, there are signs of new thinking in the Uzbek policies in the most recent weeks in deference to the Russian interests. On the whole, September has turned out to be a good month for the Moscow-led integration processes in the Central Asian region. Uzbekistan has once again stated its intention to join the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Free Trade Zone Treaty before the end of this year.

Uzbekistan and Russia had signed a memorandum of understanding on the FTZ issue during Putin’s stopover in Tashkent in June, but since then, Uzbek policies have become increasingly unpredictable. Thus President Islam Karimov’s affirmation of the Uzbek decision in a joint statement with Kazakh President Nurusultan Nazarbayev after their talks in Astana last week will be duly noted in Moscow.

At present, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are signatories of the FTZ Treaty. Uzbekistan’s accession will provide a shot in the arm for the CIS integration process, given the size of its market and its diverse economy.

Equally, last week, the three countries belonging to the Customs Union (which is slated to evolve in due course into the Eurasian Economic Community) have taken a significant step toward forming a Eurasian Parliament. A working group to study the modalities of setting up the parliament met in Moscow last Thursday.

Evidently, the expectation is to create a broad-based political platform that brings together the political elites on a regular basis on the pattern of the European Parliament for harmonizing various national interests and formulating common positions and policies. Russia has thoughtfully mooted Astana as the seat of the proposed Eurasian Parliament.

The Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council of the Federal Assembly, Valentina Matviyenko, described Kazakhstan in this context as the “engine of Eurasian integration”. It is a revealing statement pointing toward the key role as “facilitator” that is increasingly played by Astana by helping out with the removal of wrinkles that appear from time to time on the Moscow-led integration processes.

However, what is of tangible significance to regional security in the near term is the report that appeared last week to the effect that Russia and Tajikistan have agreed on the terms of the continued presence of Russia’s 201 Motorized Division for another 30-year period. This issue has been hanging fire for some time, and there have been protracted negotiations, which often erupted into public statements by both sides.

Tajikistan has been the focus of intense great-power rivalries lately. The US was hoping to secure basing facilities in Tajikistan. As per earlier indications, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is due to visit Dushanbe in the third week of October. A visit by Putin to Dushanbe in October also seems to be in the cards. At the eleventh hour, Moscow seems to have ensured that it will not be squeezed out by the Pentagon in Tajikistan.

Thus, all things taken into account, we are witnessing a “big bang” in Moscow’s Central Asia policy. Most certainly, it needs to seen against the backdrop of the sustained efforts by the United States in the recent months to create “lily pads” in Central Asia and the lengthening shadows of Chinese presence in the region. From the Russian viewpoint, NATO’s drawdown in Afghanistan and the uncertainties of the post-2014 regional security scenario demand proactivism in its regional policies.

Again, there is also the big picture – Putin’s Eurasia Union project. Another round of summits of the Eurasian bodies, including the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), is being scheduled for the third week of December in Moscow, which will be the second such enterprise after Putin’s return to the Kremlin in May.

How Moscow and Tashkent propose to follow up on the latter’s recent decision to “suspend” its CSTO membership will be a key salient of the Moscow conclave. Moscow’s reaction so far has been one of reticence, which would suggest that it expected some sort of rethink on the part of Tashkent.

The heart of the matter is that the CSTO, without Uzbekistan in it, cannot hope to gain traction as a vehicle of collective security in Central Asia. In a manner of speaking, therefore, the Russian moves in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have a much broader regional reach than their bilateral content would suggest.

The sort of role that Moscow chooses to play in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would have great bearing on Tashkent’s policies. Having said that, the alchemy of Russian-Uzbek relations is a critical vector of Moscow’s Central Asia strategy; this was so even during the Soviet era.

Congruence of interests
Clearly, Putin’s visit to Pakistan, which is now expected to take place in October, has been scheduled at a most critical juncture in Russia’s Central Asia strategy. The visit was slated originally for August but Moscow evidently sought first to consolidate its strategic understanding with its Central Asian allies (especially Tajikistan) before hopping over to the south of the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush.

Most certainly, Russia’s acute concerns over the stabilization of Afghanistan provide the raison d’etre of the steady normalization of ties with Pakistan, but the geopolitical situation in the Central Asian region and the overall impasse in the US-Russia reset also need to be factored in. To be sure, Russia and Pakistan are eager to put behind them their past indifference toward each other and are showing interest in approaching the issues of regional security and stability as stakeholders.

The announcement in Islamabad that the Pakistani army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, will visit Russia this month at the invitation of the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, General Nikolai Makarov, is a dramatic indicator of the stirrings in the air.

That the visit by Kiani to Russia is being scheduled just ahead of Putin’s arrival in Islamabad on October 2 on a two-day visit merits attention. Moscow would take a good look at Kiani’s reputation as a staunch exponent of Pakistan’s strategic autonomy. His visit underscores that Russia is open to military-to-military cooperation with Pakistan.

On October 3, Pakistan will host a session of its quadrilateral summit of the heads of state from Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The key agenda item for the summit will be the struggle against terrorism in the Central Asian region.

The emergent geopolitical reality is that Russia and Pakistan have realized that they have a congruence of interests in the post-2014 scenario of regional security and they simply cannot afford to remain indifferent toward each other anymore.

The tensions and the fracture in the US-Pakistan relationship have compelled Islamabad to seek out Russia and mend bridges with it, while Moscow is gearing up for an expansion of its strategic profile not only in Central Asia and South Asia but in the Greater Middle East as a whole, where Pakistan has a looming presence by virtue of being a nuclear power and a major Sunni Muslim country.

The ground reality is that while the US might keep the Soviet-era military bases in Afghanistan, the transit routes that ferry supplies for those bases happen to be under the control of Russia or Pakistan. And if Russia and Pakistan coordinate their approach, it will be to mutual advantage.

The administration of US President Barack Obama is maintaining an air of strategic ambiguity in its regional policies in Pakistan and Central Asia. A clearer picture of the US intentions may be available only after the November election. But Moscow has begun posing taunting questions.

Addressing a regional audience last week in Astana, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov termed NATO’s plans to keep permanent military bases in Afghanistan as “controversial”. He demanded, “We need clarity here: If the anti-terrorist mission is complete (and this is still in doubt), then are the bases being kept for some other purpose?”

The Russian angst will find resonance in Islamabad. There is no sign of any let-up in the US pressure on Pakistan. Islamabad counted on the Taliban as its “strategic asset” in the Afghan end-game, but there is no visible urgency on Washington’s part to engage the Taliban in substantive talks.

The latest decision by Washington to brand the Haqqani Network a terrorist group grates on Pakistani policy and puts added pressure on the Pakistani military to commence operations against the group’s sanctuaries in North Waziristan. Meanwhile, the United States’ drone attacks continue relentlessly despite Pakistani protests.

Through the Russian connection, Pakistan hopes to create more negotiating space vis-a-vis the US by the time Obama revisits the Afghan problem after the November election is out of the way.

However, Moscow cannot but be mindful of the imperatives of its “special and privileged strategic partnership” with India. Equally, the Pakistani elites cannot easily jettison their choice of the United States as the preferred partner. Which would probably make the Russian-Pakistani waltz appear in US and Indian eyes as a mere spectacle while the music lasts.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Pakistan Desperately Needs Help But Leaders Remain Terrified To Take Moscow’s Hand

Dilly-dallying: IP pipeline – no concrete offer to Russia yet

Pakistan is desperately seeking funds for the pipeline and is in a critical situation since China has also backed out due to the US opposition. DESIGN: ESSA MALIK

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia are unlikely to seal a deal on the construction of Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Islamabad next month as the former is shy of making a ‘concrete offer’ of cooperation because of intense pressure from the United States.

Sources in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources told The Express Tribune Russian authorities were expecting some concrete offer from Pakistan for financing the construction of the pipeline during a meeting of the Inter-governmental Commission (IGC) held recently in Islamabad.

“During the dialogue, Russia wanted to know its position in the IP project with some clear offer from Pakistan – whether it will only finance the project or also construct the pipeline and provide machinery,” an official said, adding Pakistan did not give a clear response to these questions.

Now Russian authorities were perplexed and wondered how the two sides could make a breakthrough in such a confusing situation, he said.

The IGC meeting was a preparatory exercise prior to the visit of the Russian president in October to prepare the ground for striking deals on different projects like IP gas pipeline, Diamer Bhasha Dam and 1,000-megawatt CASA power import project. Russia has placed the IP pipeline on top of its priorities despite US pressure, which fiercely opposes trade and economic ties with Tehran over its alleged nuclear programme.

Under the IP project, costing a total of $1.5 billion, Pakistan will import 750 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) from Iran, which could be increased to one billion cubic feet per day (bcfd).

“We see Putin’s visit as a goodwill gesture only to bolster relations and no milestone will be reached due to the US pressure,” a petroleum ministry official remarked.

He said Moscow had expressed its desire to become a partner of Pakistan in overcoming the energy crisis and its energy giant Gazprom was ready to take part in the IP pipeline project.

Pakistan is desperately seeking funds for the pipeline and is in a critical situation since its long-trusted friend China has also backed out due to the US opposition.

“The Pakistan government should make a concrete offer and welcome the Russians at a time when no other country is coming forward to finance the project,” the official suggested.

Russia has also expressed interest in building another pipeline, which will run from Turkmenistan, pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan and end in India, which is referred to as the TAPI project. For this project, Pakistan and India have signed a gas purchase agreement with Turkmenistan.

This pipeline enjoys the backing of the US and Asian Development Bank (ADB), which is acting as transaction adviser to generate funds for the $7.5 billion project.

Recently, Pakistan organised a road show in Singapore to woo investors, and according to an official of the petroleum ministry, around six renowned companies have expressed interest in participating in the TAPI project.

Published in The Express Tribune

The Correct Deft Blow To Fergana “Solar Plexus” Could Overcome Many Issues In Central Asia

“THE BALKANS EURASIA”

ANDREY GROZIN THREATS ‘ARAB SPRING’ IN CENTRAL ASIA

Post-Soviet Asia clearly divided into two categories of States: with historical and cultural tradition of sedentary existence within the state structures (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan) and the republic formed nomadic titular ethnic groups who did not have a full-fledged state formation up to the accession of Russia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, ). These two blocks differ in many ways, among which is related to the integration of Russia and under its auspices.

In this state formation is not fully completed yet no country in Central Asia. Power elites in post-Soviet Asia, it is time to clearly understand the formation of states is bound to be a tough, but judging by recent events, bloody and brutal fight. And its outcome is not predetermined by the “recognition of the international community” or foreign investments.

The region has been a lot of trends occurring in direct conflict with any officially declare elites “modernizing” vectors of development of societies of the republics. These trends can be generally described as “de-modernization.”

a) After the collapse of the Soviet Union in Central Asia began to develop authoritarian political regimes with a bias rooted in local traditions and values ​​of secular model of state-paternalistic sense. Political Leader posits itself above and below is perceived as the “father of the nation.” The whole system of government is built under this scheme. In four of the five Central Asian republics is not simply a power hierarchy, headed by President, but “the super” form of government.

b) As a carrier of political and institutional structures are the mechanisms and procedures for strong presidential republic, where leaders actually cemented its powers and prerogatives of the “president for life” that are not just seen as guarantor of the Constitution, but are above the branches of government “constitutional monarchy “scope of the powers and capabilities are close to absolute. To the maximum extent this is manifested in the phenomenon of “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov and his successor , Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov , as well as the “Uzbek model” in Kazakhstan.

c) the entrenched clan system is a constant process of self-reproduction of the elite: no educational program has not affected the quality change of the controlling authority and business FIGs. Phenomenon clan maintains a stable position in society and the ruling class by maintaining a dominant position in the structure of traditional social relations. Definitely one can predict that a certain “overcome clans” in the foreseeable future in Central Asia should be expected. This situation is complicated by the unresolved question of succession in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, will inevitably contribute to a permanent state of struggle between the major groups within the Uzbek and Kazakh elite.

This trend could theoretically be changed only when a massive presentation of requirements in place in government and business, a new generation of politicians and voters – without the baggage of internationalism, mostly do not speak Russian, less conciliatory, more radical in the aspirations and methods. But such a “surge of drive” can not be predicted: in each of the republics it can happen at any time (or not happen at all).

Overall, the entire system is hardly any way oriented upgrades: everywhere there archaism – in the ideological and practical political life. Naturally, the clan system and the elite of society, capturing all the power pulses, also, in the end, focuses on different anti-modernization, “traditional”, “state-conservative”, etc. value.

Infrastructure, roads, power plants, hospitals and schools built in the Soviet time, slowly but surely destroyed, and monitor their state of the last generation of Soviet specialists are gradually disappearing. In five to ten years in the classroom will not be teachers, hospitals – physicians, and the lack of electricity will become the norm. Perhaps the governments of all countries of Central Asia seemed that the Soviet legacy will bear fruit forever.It is the destruction of the infrastructure can be a major cause of the fall easing, which would create huge uncertainty in one of the most fragile parts of the world.

It is difficult to find another such region as Central Asia, where undermining any of the five states can trigger the collapse of the whole pyramid. So for those who are ready to undermine this “Eurasian Balkans”, the only question is which of the States should be the first to push for maximum effect.

It seems that the “collective West”, despite the difference in estimates and tactical steps in Central Asia, in the foreseeable future will stick to a single strategy in the region.

Western regional organizations (OSCE, NATO and the EU) are guided by liberal ideology. It implies a liberal-democratic governance in the Member States themselves and the organization as a whole, as well as multilateral conflict resolution. These values ​​lead to the assessment of the political systems in Central Asia, as “defective”, requiring a substantial correction. West estimates the regimes in Central Asia, as a factor of permanent instability.

Based on data from the premises (even if you do not consider the obvious interest of Washington and Brussels in the geopolitical and resource potential of Central Asia) expect “indifference” to the situation in Central Asia from the U.S. and the EU is not possible. In the short term should rather be expected to attempt a broadcast model of the “Arab Spring” (or some of their own “Central Asian model” of regime change) at least in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and perhaps Turkmenistan.

In this case, regardless of the outcome of future elections in the United States, the policy of the Americans will be more “aggressive” and active than the “fading” of the EU, but rather an interest in maintaining stability in the region, the state, to maintain its economic position. For Americans, as their tactical decisions in the CA will depend on several factors. First, the dynamics of expansion of influence in the region, Russia and China, and secondly, the ability to preserve and expand its military, political, logistical and other infrastructure in the region in the upcoming reduction in the Western presence in Afghanistan.

Now the United States rely on Uzbekistan, which is geopolitically most convenient: bound up with all the countries of the region, the Uzbek area provides a significant increase in control of all of Central Asia. The question is how to implement this control: using the current government, or by initiating a new appearance. While there is a “withdrawal” of troops, probably “friendship” with Karimov, and then we will see. Moreover, that the fate of the former leaders of countries emerging from the “Arab Spring” have demonstrated a simple fact: No warranties Washington can not be trusted.

For Kazakhstan, Russia and China will fight for real, using all the opportunities available to them, so the “recycle mode” is not likely to happen. “Arab” technique is in its pure form will not pass, and we can try to organize a large-scale war by the elite (which, apparently, is already happening gradually.)

Through Tajikistan (as in the case of Kyrgyzstan), even in the best scenario for external operators, we can influence the CA only partially: as during the peak of the civil war in 1992-1993., Neighbors simply block the Tajik problem in this country, firmly closing of it.

Turkmenistan – and its gas resources – you can “learn” only “learn” of Iran. Trying to shake the “neutral” from inside Turkmenistan expensive and time – much more efficient to change the ruling elite in the process of “democratization of Iran.”

In the permanent instability in Kyrgyzstan is pointless – the republic lies on the edge of the region, being the most democratic (with a Western point of view) the country: there is no yet president for life. Can be influenced through Kyrgyzstan to China and his plans for economic dominance in Central Asia, however, in terms of control over the region, this is not a good area. So another “revolution” that solves little in the regional projections.

And throughout much of Central Asia can be solved by armed Islamist opposition (or disguised as her). The most dangerous place is the Ferghana Valley, which is in the midst of troubled plexus borders of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Blow to this point solves many problems at once, and without any of the “Arab spring.”

Andrei Grozin, Head. Department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan of the Institute of CIS countries

Source: IA REX

Knee-jerk Russian Reactionaries Attack Putin Even When He Is Doing the Right Thing

[Putin and the rest of Russia’s leaders face a daunting task in seeking to revive Russian spiritual values, which have largely lain dormant, or have been slowly corrupted by subservience to the state for seventy years of Communist totalitarianism. Russia and all of the former Soviet satellite countries are in an extended period of recovery from that era and the illogical dictates of the Central Committee (think, Aral Sea). Spirituality, as much as physical infrastructure, suffered grave deterioration during those years of neglect. Reviving dreams of future greatness for Russia is an essential part of embracing Russian leadership on the world stage today. Without Russian leadership we have very little chance to stop the forces pushing the nations to war.

One further point in parting, for those who misunderstood Putin’s meaning when he mourned the loss of the Soviet Union as humanity’s great loss–Putin meant that the world might have been spared the past 25 years of savage, unrestrained American hegemonic aggression and the threat of world war which looms before us today. If the Soviet Union had learned moderation, instead of simply collapsing in exhaustion, then there would be no impending war between us today, as we square-off over the remains.]

How Satan Is Destroying Russia

Welcome to 1598. In this year, King Henry IV of France proclaimed the Edict of Nantes, which regulated relations between the country’s Catholics and Protestants and put an end to a religious war that had been raging for decades. Four centuries later, in Russia, in September 2012, billionaire and former presidential candidateMikhail Prokhorovproposed a federal religious code to prevent an all-out religious war.

“In recent months, the relationship between citizens and the state and church has already led to a schism in society that threatens Russian culture,” Prokhorovwrotein a comment published in Kommersant on Sept. 12. He noted that despite the secular government clause in the Constitution, “the majority of politicians, including the leaders of parties in parliament, prefer to ignore what’s written there. Cozying up to the church … undermines the basic principles of the country’s supreme governing document and creates a multitude of dangers.”

The words “threat” and “danger” are bandied about by just about every Russian politician and public figure these days. But leaders have vastly different notions of what exactly the danger is. In a meeting with the public in Krasnodar on Sept. 12, PresidentVladimir Putinsaidthe main danger for the country is insufficient patriotism and a lack of “respect for our history and traditions and the spiritual values of our peoples.”

Putin also said Russia has become the “focus of an overt information war … and certainly of a well-directed propaganda attack.”

Putin’s speeches often sound like they have been written by professional diplomats, and their ambiguity raises more questions than his statements answer. For example, what “spiritual values” does Putin have in mind? This is, after all, the man who used the phrase “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” to describe the dissolution of the Soviet Union, one of the most militantly anti-religious regimes in history. And who is “directing” these attacks against the spiritual values of Russia’s nations?

Perhaps the key to understanding Putin’s speech can be found in a recent television program by Arkady Mamontov, “Provocateurs. Part Two,” aired on Rossia 1 state television a day before Putin spoke in Krasnodar. Mamontov, who has already established himself as a politically sensational filmmaker, revealed in his latest program that the United States has developed a plan for revolution in Russia. The foot soldiers in this revolution are members of the punk-performance group Pussy Riot. We were told that the main organizer of the revolution, including the Pussy Riot stunts, is billionaireBoris Berezovsky, who is pulling the revolutionary strings from his self-exile in London.

Neither Mamontov nor his interview subjects, professional Putin-lovers, produced a single fact proving contact between Berezovsky and the punk musicians. Nor did Mamontov interview Berezovsky, although the tycoon immediately responded with a categorical denial of having anything to do with Pussy Riot.

The film was harshly criticized not only by the liberal end of the political spectrum but even by some members of the Russian Orthodox clergy. Deacon Andrei Kurayev, whose views are hardly liberal,wroteon his LiveJournal blog: “I am not a supporter of Pussy Riot or Berezovsky. But why lie? Why pass off licentious animal instincts for the norms of Christianity?”

Perhaps Kurayev and Mamontov have different notions about Christianity and its norms. In aninterviewwith the Internet portal Orthodoxy and the World, Mamontov spun out a truly apocalyptic picture: “The devil really wants to destroy Russia and its people, to build something else on its territory,” he said.

Mamontov isn’t the only one seeing dark visions. A statementissued by the Eurasian Youth Union, headed by the pro-Kremlin ideologue Alexander Dugin, reads: “Everyone who sympathizes with liberals, Pussy Riot and the West belongs to Satan. This is the army of hell.”

In the days leading up to Saturday’s opposition march, the Eurasian union called upon its supporters to take to the streets to defy them: “On Sept. 15, the devil’s spawn will crawl out on the streets. Eurasians will go out with crosses, daggers and silver bullets to stop hell.”

Satan, evil oligarchs and punk rockers who have sold their souls to the devil, silver bullets, daggers and crosses. It sounds like a script for another Hollywood film about the eternal war between mortals and vampires. Unfortunately, in Russia this is simply a description of public opinion, which exists alongside the Internet and digital television. In fact, technology just spreads the paranoia.

Society has become split between the liberals and the Orthodox fundamentalists, who are locked in a Cold Religious War. There are no fatalities in this war yet, but there are casualties and prisoners of war. Take, for example, the three Pussy Riot members locked up for two years in prison.

In this context, Prokhorov’s proposal to ratify a religious code likely won’t go anywhere, at least in the near future. If we are lucky, the cold war won’t turn hot, and virtual silver bullets won’t be transformed into real bullets fired from a Kalashnikov rifle.

Victor Davidoff is a Moscow-based writer and journalist who follows the Russian blogosphere in his biweekly column.

The Moscow Times

Syria accuses Turkey of allowing al-Qaida transit

Syria accuses Turkey of allowing al-Qaida transit

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria accused neighboring Turkey Sunday of allowing thousands of Muslim extremists to cross into its territory, as the government and opposition said an explosion killed at least seven and cut off a main road leading south from the capital.

In letters to the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Turkey allowed “thousands of al-Qaida, Takfiri and Wahhabi terrorists” access to the country in order to “kill innocent Syrians, blow up their properties and spread chaos and destruction.”

Syrian authorities blame the anti-government uprising that began in March last year on a foreign conspiracy and accuse Gulf countries Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the U.S, other Western countries and Turkey, of offering funding and training to the rebels, whom they describe as “terrorists.”

Turkey serves as headquarters for the leaders of the Free Syrian Army rebels and hosts many meetings of the Syrian National Council opposition group. Relations between Turkey and Syria, once strong allies, have been deteriorating since after the crisis began last year and Ankara became one of President Bashar Assad’s harshest critics.

Although the conflict has left Syria internationally isolated, Iran has stood by Assad.

On Sunday, the top commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard says the elite unit has high-level advisers in Lebanon and Syria but remains undecided on whether to send military reinforcements to help save Assad’s regime.

Sunday’s comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari were the clearest indication to date of Iran’s direct assistance to its main Arab allies, Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. It also suggests Tehran is wary about being drawn into a Middle East conflict if outside forces attack Assad, who is locked in a civil war with rebel forces.

Jafari told reporters that Quds force members have been in Syria and Lebanon as advisers for a long time, but was not more specific.

He said decisions about whether to boost military aid to Syria if attacked would “depend on the circumstances.”

Also Sunday, state-run news agency SANA said rebels detonated a 600 kilogram (1,320 pound) bomb under the highway near the southern town of Khirbet Ghazaleh. It said the bomb was detonated by remote control and cut the highway that links Damascus with the southern city of Daraa and the Jordanian capital of Amman.

U.S. Tactics Threaten NATO

U.S. Tactics Threaten NATO

A growing chasm in operational practice is opening up between the United States and its allies in NATO. This rift is putting the Atlantic alliance at risk. Yet no one in Washington seems to be paying attention.

The escalating use of unmanned aerial vehicles to strike terrorist suspects in an increasing number of operational environments from the Arabian Peninsula to Southeast Asia, coupled with the continued use of military commissions and indefinite detention, is driving a wedge between the United States and its allies.

Attitudes across the Atlantic are hardening fast. This isn’t knee-jerk, man-on-the-street anti-Americanism. European governments that have tried to turn a blind eye to U.S. counterterrorism practices over the past decade are now forced to pay attention by their own courts, which will restrict cooperation in the future.

As recently as last month, the German federal prosecutor’s office opened a probe into the October 2010 killing of a German national identified only as “Buenyamin E.” in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan. There are at least four other similar cases involving German nationals and several reported strikes involving legal residents of the United Kingdom.

In March, Polish prosecutors charged the former head of Polish intelligence, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, with “unlawfully depriving prisoners of the their liberty” because of the alleged role he played in helping to establish a CIA secret prison in northeastern Poland in 2002–2003.

Last December, British Special Forces ran afoul of the UK courts for informally transferring two Al Qaeda suspects detained in Iraq, Yunus Rahmatullah and Amanatullah Ali, to U.S. forces. The British government has been instructed to recover the men from U.S. custody or face legal sanctions that could result in two senior ministers being sent to prison.

Perhaps the most dramatic example illustrating the gap that has opened up between the United States and its European allies concerns the 2009 in absentia conviction of twenty-three U.S. agents in an Italian court for the role they played in the extraordinary rendition of radical Imam Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr from Milan to Cairo.

Britain, Poland, Italy and Germany are among America’s closest military partners. Troops from all four countries are currently serving alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but they are now operating within a very different set of constraints than their U.S. counterparts.

The European Court of Human Rights established its jurisdiction over stabilization operations in Iraq, and by implication its writ extends to Afghanistan as well. The British government has lost a series of cases before the court relating to its operations in southern Iraq. This means that concepts such as the right to life, protection from arbitrary punishment, remedy and due process apply in areas under the effective control of European forces. Furthermore, the possibility that intelligence provided by any of America’s European allies could be used to target a terrorism suspect in Somalia or the Philippines for a lethal drone strike now raises serious criminal liability issues for the Europeans.

The United States conducts such operations under the legal theory that it is in an international armed conflict with Al Qaeda and its affiliates that can be pursued anywhere on the globe where armed force may be required. But not one other member of NATO shares this legal analysis, which flies in the face of established international legal norms. The United States may have taken issue with the traditional idea that wars are fought between states and not between states and criminal gangs, but its allies have not.

The heads of Britain’s foreign and domestic intelligence services have been surprisingly open about the “inhibitions” that this growing divergence has caused the transatlantic special relationship, telling Parliament that it has become an obstacle to intelligence sharing. European attitudes are not going to change—the European Court of Human Rights is now deeply embedded in European life, and individual European governments cannot escape its oversight no matter how well disposed they are to assist the United States.

The United States has bet heavily on the efficacy of a new array of counterterrorism powers as the answer to Al Qaeda. In doing so it has evolved a concept of operations that has much more in common with the approach to terrorist threats taken by Israel and Russia than by its European partners. There has been little consideration of the wider strategic cost of these tactics, even as the Obama administration doubles down and extends their use. Meanwhile, some of America’s oldest and closest allies are beginning to place more and more constraints on working with U.S. forces.

NATO cannot conduct military operations under two competing legal regimes for long. Something has to give—and it may just be the Atlantic alliance.

Tom Parker was formerly policy director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA. He is also a former officer in the British Security Service (MI5).

Why Is It So Hard To Stop Central Asia’s Drug Trade?

[In the following article by Joshua Kucera from the Soros’ website Eurasianet,Why Is It So Hard To Stop Central Asia’s Drug Trade?, he asks the wrong question.  He should be asking if it is even possible to stop the drugs, or who really wants to stop the drug traffic there.  Certainly the locals do not want to see the drug trade end, since it is the only source of cash in many remote areas, and the black market is the only source of supplies.  For such areas, where smuggling networks have operated for years, loyalties have been bought, creating reliable border-crossing methods that have worked well for years.  American efforts, based on attempts to seal those borders and creating suspicion about everyone within them (whether they are criminals or spies) will have little effect upon such clan-based networks, but they will probably generate all the inside information that CIA/DEA/FBI agents will need to compromise local military and government officials. 

This is the US counternarcotics strategy as it has been worked-out in Colombia and in most of Central America, and is now being implemented in Mexico.  This is the strategy that has been implemented by William Brownfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, the man who will now ride herd over the CACI (Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative) program.  No reasonable person would look to either Plan Colombia or the Mexican Merida Initiative as model plans to follow in their own homeland, whether in Central Asia or anywhere else.  American military/State Dept. planners have turned both countries into war zones with their master plans, which are allegedly about drug interdiction.  In neither country has the flow of drugs been stopped, or even slowed, on the contrary, both plans have only led to powerful cartels, who think in bigger terms.   A reasonable person is justified in being skeptical about any of the secret wars that have been conducted against any vice or addiction by the geniuses in Washington D.C.

Eurasianet evidently thinks that the Russians are being paranoid for blocking American efforts to implement their CACI plan (an alleged counter-narcotics initiative) in their neighborhood.  All of the governments involved in the plan have resisted signing-on with the Imperial plan, because it would create independent militarized police forces which could operate with full state authority, under American control (SEE:  Smashing Greater Central Asia, Part 1).  Further, the article appears to accept the American argument that putting an end to rampant opium production in Afghanistan would alienate the local population, whom US and NATO forces have allegedly been struggling to befriend.  The United States is now trying to overcome this natural distrust of their intentions and to get around Russian road blocks to utilizing the Russian-led CSTO organization (Collective Security Treaty Organization) to implement the initiative.  The US has settled upon “Plan B,” which would be to distort the CARICC regional information enter into a regional  intelligence agency, making it the regional counternarcotics authority to oversee the administration of the American CACI initiative.   Under American domination, CARICC becomes the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for Combating Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors.  

Does the US really want to stop the Central Asian drug trade or merely to organize all smuggling efforts under American control, and possibly, to streamline operations there?  When condemning Asian smugglers, or even Mexican or Colombian smugglers, it is customary to overlook the facts that the biggest crime bosses of them all are the bankers who run the whole operation from the United States or Europe.  How would major shipments of narcotics even be moved without the help of US military personnel or equipment, or that of complicit government officials all along the supply chain,  either in actual shipping or in simply “looking the other way”?   It it weren’t for smugglers and black markets, millions would go hungry, or otherwise suffer some other attribute of attrition.  The key to drug control is to take the profit out of the “black” business and to create new legitimate alternatives where called for.  

Dry-up the source in Afghanistan and there will be little to nothing for the hungry addicts on the streets of Moscow to shove into their arms.  Why is it that Russia is always painted as an object of obstruction in the international media, whenever it stands in the path of the global police state, or it offers real, workable solutions to actual human problems like heroin addiction?  People will continue to pay for their addictions until it is becomes impossible to continue, that is when the needed life-changing decisions will be made by the individual users.  Putin definitely understands mankind’s major issues, such as the big one which American leaders refuse to learn, that the era of police states is over.]

therearenosunglasses@hotmail.com 

Why Is It So Hard To Stop Central Asia’s Drug Trade?

Sudan Refuses To Accept US Special Forces

Sudan rejects US request to send special forces

Smoke billows from the US embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum (AFP PHOTO/STR)

KHARTOUM: Sudan has rejected a US request to send special forces to protect its embassy in Khartoum following violent protests against an American-made film mocking Islam, the official SUNA news agency said.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Sudan was capable of “protecting its guests in diplomatic representations,” SUNA quoted a ministry official as saying.

The United States had made the request to send special forces Friday.

US officials said Saturday that they were still monitoring the situation and that Sudan has “recommitted itself both publicly and privately to continue to protect our mission.”

“We have requested additional security precautions as a result of yesterday’s damage to our embassy. We are continuing to monitor the situation closely to ensure we have what we need to protect our people and facility,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

The Pentagon has indicated that it is examining the possibility of sending Marines to Sudan after deploying them in Yemen and Libya, where ambassador Chris Stevens was among four Americans killed in an attack on a US consulate on Tuesday.

The violence broke out during protests against an amateur Internet film produced on US soil that denigrates Islam and its Prophet Mohammed.

– AFP/fa

Taliban Attack Camp Bastion Wearing US Army Uniforms, Destroy 6 Marine Harriers

Taliban attack NATO base in US army uniform, 6 jets destroyed

By Sadaf Shinwari

Camp Bastion

Taliban militants attacked Camp Bastion in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan and destroyed six coalition forces jets using US army uniforms.

NATO-led International Security Assistance Force following a statement announced, “The attack commenced just after 10 p.m. when approximately 15 insurgents executed a well-coordinated attack against the airfield on Camp Bastion. The insurgents, organized into three teams, penetrated at one point of the perimeter fence.”

The source further added, “The insurgents appeared to be well equipped, trained and rehearsed.”

“Dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, the insurgents attacked coalition fixed and rotary wing aircraft parked on the flight line, aircraft hangars and other buildings”, ISAF said following the statement.

ISAF confirmed six Coalition  were destroyed and two were significantly damaged. Three coalition refueling stations were also destroyed. Six soft-skin aircraft hangars were damaged to some degree.

Coalition forces engaged the insurgents, killing 14 and wounding one who was taken into custody. In addition to the two coalition service members that were killed, nine coalition personnel – eight military and one civilian contractor – were wounded in the attack. None of their injuries are considered life-threatening.

The State of Democracy In Turkey–Mass Trial of 44 Journalists On Terrorism Charges

[Wasn’t defending Democracy in Syria the reason Turkish leaders took charge of the situation?]

Protests and Controversy Shadow KCK Press Case

The mass trial of 44 journalists, newspaper staff and distributors in the scope of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case opened in Istanbul this week amid concerns of journalists groups and human rights advocates that the trials are politically motivated to silence opposition press.

The suspects, 36 of whom have been under arrest for more than a year, are accused of working for the “press and distribution network” of the outlawed KCK, the alleged Kurdish umbrella organisation that includes the PKK.

An indictment more than 800 pages accuses all the major Kurdish media organs and news agencies of being under the direct orders of KCK. Journalists, editors, accountants and distributers are accused of “being a member of a [terrorist] organisation,” among other things.

“This trial is meaningful in the quality of being the biggest journalists’ trial in the history of the Republic of Turkey,” Necati Abay, spokesperson for the Solidarity with the Arrested Journalists Platform, said. “This trial is a typical example of mass injustice for journalists.”

Head Judge Ali Alcik and defence lawyers repeatedly clashed over court proceedings in what the defense termed a politically motivated case based on circumstantial evidence.

On Monday, Alcik allowed a limited audience in the courtroom as public protests outside the courtroom disturbed the proceedings. Monday’s hearing was postponed from the morning to the afternoon after protests outside the courtroom were met by the chants of “the free press cannot be silenced” from inside the courtroom.

Alcik closed the rest of the trial to the public Tuesday and filed charges against those inside the courtroom who chanted. On Wednesday, the court decided to end the trial a day early and move the next four hearings, scheduled to begin on November 12th, to the high security prison of Silivri.

The court discussed the demands of the defense on Thursday and released two defendants — Çağdaş Ulus, reporter for the daily Vatan and Cihat Ablay, employee of the Fırat Distribution Company — pending the trial.

As has been the case in other KCK trials, Alcik denied the defense’s request to allow defendants to speak Kurdish at the trial. Alcik said the defendants know a Turkish and Kurdish defense would prologue the trial. The defense’s argument about the Lausanne Treaty on the rights of the minorities was rejected on the grounds of the Kurds not being recognised as a minority.

In protest against the court’s decision to deny Kurdish defense and hold a closed trial in Silivri, in a symbolic gesture to show they were being muzzled on Wednesday (September 12th) the defendants covered their mouths with black ribbons.

“This [denying defense from giving their testimony in Kurdish] only happens in PKK cases,” Ozcan Kilic, the defense lawyer for the daily Ozgur Gundem, told SES Türkiye, noting that translators are allowed and provided for Kurds who face nonpolitical criminal charges.

Kilic said the suspects do not do this to block or lengthen the trial but “to put a rights issue on the agenda, Kurds use this method.”

Another defense lawyer, Davut Erkan, told SES Türkiye that all of their demands were dismissed, including the request that evidence collected for and used in the indictment illegally not be used, such as police searches not conducted according to the law and wiretapping of private conversations not related to the subject of the trial.

“Our presence there became meaningless. The lawyers made dozens of demands in two days, none was granted,” Erkan said.

The indictment is questionable, according to defense and press rights groups, because regular journalistic or commercial activities are considered under the rubric of taking orders from the PKK.

Meanwhile, the government has defended its stance, with high-level officials including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arguing that only a handful of the accused are actual journalists, while accusing the media of distorting news, making propaganda for the PKK and criticising the government.

Mehmet Emin Yildirim, former chief editor of the Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat, is among the accused. The indictment claims he provided logistic support to PKK members based on a piece of paper that was found among his possessions. The paper lists three shaving razors, one tube of toothpaste, one toothbrush, nine batteries and a small radio.

There are also two posting bills for packages containing these materials. The two packages were sent to prisons where Yildirim’s friends, including Vedat Kursun, one of his several imprisoned predecessors as editor-in-chief of Turkey’s sole Kurdish daily. The indictment argues he sent the packages to maintain Kursun’s sympathy to the KCK.

Yildirim, like Kursun and everybody in the indictment also made “terrorist propaganda” through their coverage of the news.

Dicle News Agency reporter Ismail Yildiz reported about a bomb set off inside a trash container near his office. His conversations on the bombing were tapped by the police. In the recording he said he was at the bombsite before other media and “the police are just arriving.” The prosecutors came to the conclusion that he knew about the bomb beforehand as a member of the organisation which set it off.

“We are concerned at the large number of journalists behind bars in Turkey and at the lack of due process in their detention and prosecution,” Nina Ognianova, the Europe and Central Asia Program Co-ordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told SES Türkiye. “We urge Turkish authorities to guarantee the right to a fair trial to all defendants, including their ability to build and present an effective defense in court. In a democracy, no journalist should be jailed for their work.”


Saturday, 15 September 2012

SES Turkiye               

Media Misses Horrific Nature of Consequences of Regional War In the Middle East

Op-Ed: Arab media views on war with Iran make WW3 sound very ordinary

Sydney– Middle Eastern perceptions of the threat of a war with Iran and those of the West are very different. Exactly how different can be seen in the speculation is appearing online in the region regarding the ramifications of a US/Iran war.

Al Jazeerabelieves that a war with Iran would escalate into a regional war with Iranian “proxies” striking at the US and predicts a war which would make the last decade look “tame by comparison”. This alludes to the Taliban style-asymmetrical warfare pattern and methods similar to the insurgency in Iraq.

None of this is to suggest that the United States would not “win” a war with Iran, but given the incredibly painful costs of Iraq and Afghanistan; wars fought against weak, poorly organised enemies lacking broad influence, politicians campaigning for war with Iran are leading the American people into a battle which will be guaranteed to make the past decade of fighting look tame in comparison.

A recent study has shown that an initial US aerial assault on Iran would require hundreds of planes, ships and missiles in order to be completed; a military undertaking itself unprecedented since the first Gulf War and representative of only the first phase of what would likely be a long drawn-out war of attrition.

For a country already nursing the wounds from the casualties of far less intense conflicts and still reeling from their economic costs, the sheer battle fatigue inherent in a large-scale war with Iran would stand to greatly exacerbate these issues.

Gulf News.com feels that any attack on Iran would simply reinforce the hardline anti-Western policies of the Iranian regime:

The expectation is that the Iranian regime would retaliate — probably by seeking to block oil shipments through the Gulf, with rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah, and, quite possibly, with a wider campaign of terrorism. It would also throw its weight behind the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Such predictions, however, gloss over the likely impact within Iran. No one knows for sure, but diplomats privately suggest three probabilities. The first is that bombing would solidify the Iranian leadership, weaken moderate politicians and disarm dissidents. The mullahs would claim they had been right all along about the US.

There in a few paragraphs you have a condensed version of the views in circulation around the Middle East at the moment.

The overall view of the result of an attack on Iran, by Israel with or without or the US:

1. Iran could use its terror networks around the world to attack Israel, the US and its allies.

2. An Iraq-style invasion would be a massive burden for the US.

3. The US doesn’t want another war.

4. The US can’t win a war against Iran by those means.

5. There would be a massive regional conflict, uniting Moslems against the US and Israel.

6. Iran could block the Straits of Hormuz, sending oil prices skyrocketing.

7. Iran may have been passing on “dirty bomb” nuke technology to proxies.

8. Iran has previously threatened strikes on the US in the event of a conflict.

9. The US can’t win a guerrilla-style Vietnam or Afghanistan type of war.

Underselling World War 3

There you also have the seeds of World War 3. These theories work on the basis of a traditional regional limited war. You can almost hear the geniuses talking about atomic suicide bombers. They assume that the same tactics which have dragged out conflicts would be too much for the American public or politicians to stomach.

Unfortunately, this is a rather complacent viewpoint. It really does sound like “business as usual”. The world has changed since 2001. The probability is that these tactics would be more than they’d be prepared to tolerate. The mindset of the world has changed. The only real “success” of Al Qaeda in its September 11 attack was to make the rest of the world perceive radical Islam as a threat. Iran’s involvement in supporting various groups in the region and its record of supporting terrorist groups around the world makes it a credibly dangerous threat.

That credibility is likely to become an own goal. Iran, in short, has become the best possible excuse for anti-Islamist hardliners to make political capital. Any attack by Iranian or Islamic groups in support of Iran in the case of a conflict would be a cause for rabble-rousing.

Worse, it would be an excuse for much more drastic types of warfare. The lessons of Afghanistan don’t quite apply in the case of a war against a nation. An enemy nation is a legitimate target. The US could simply stand off and fire its weapons, without invading, and destroy Iran. There would be no need to invade.

(Arguably, that’s exactly what the US should have done in Iraq. Simply destroying the regime’s military support, destroying the nuclear facilities beyond recovery and letting the locals argue it out among themselves would suffice. It’s a lot cheaper, too. It’s more than likely that the US would look for a simpler and less expensive option in any future Middle East war.)

Then there’s the capacity of Iran to hit targets in the West and the US. Another potential own goal, and a big one. Escalation by attacks on the West could backfire, badly. The use of “dirty bombs” or small nukes (there are quite a few ex-Soviet small “suitcase bombs” in circulation) could be a legitimate reason for the use of heavy nukes against Iran. Terror strikes in general could cause civil reprisals, as 9/11 did in the US. A dirty bomb or small nuke strike on Israel would inevitably get instant, massive retaliation.

There are no guarantees of a mere war of attrition under these circumstances. Nor is there much to be gained for the people in the region. Food prices would go up enormously as foreign imports dried up. Trade would become impossible. The black market, already thriving in Iran, would do very nicely, but the rich nations in the Gulf and elsewhere would get an entirely negative effect.

The Middle East, without trade, would become a human desert. The huge populations in this region would be at risk from multiple shortages. Iran’s very large population, without infrastructure, would be in a terrible position.

Fighting people isn’t the same thing as fighting politicians and lawyers

There’s another factor- People. In the past, guerrillas have fought politicians trying to stay in power and armies playing by rules. In a real war, those niceties aren’t in play. In 1945, massive attacks on civilian targets like Dresden, Tokyo and Eastern Europe were commonplace. The “civilized” allies weren’t very civilized at all. The hatred generated by years of war was literally translated into firestorms and massive attacks on cities.

The Middle East has never seen a war with whole countries literally obliterated from the face of the Earth. From Berlin to Moscow was one big graveyard of wrecked cities and millions of dead. About 24 million people died. People were killed simply for being German or Russian or just being in the wrong place. There were no laws in force at the time of the actual fighting. In one attack, the US Air Force burned Tokyo to the ground and killed about 100,000 people in a fire bombing raid.

That’s what a real war is like. Fighting politicians and lawyers isn’t the same thing as fighting people. The guerrilla methods of the past will be truly obsolete weapons if the sleeping but very ugly and merciless monster of vengeful human hatred is aroused. World War 3, in fact, won’t be fought so much with weapons, but with mindsets.

All involved are advised not to push those buttons. You can’t un-push them afterwards.

This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com

Stupid, Insulting Prank Islamaphobic Video Costs Multiple Lives

The Muslim world is against U.S.

At least three people were killed in clashes with police, protesters at the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia, writes Interfax .

In Tunisia, the evening of September 14, demonstrators broke into the U.S. Embassy and started setting fire to trees and beat the windows in the building of the embassy.

According to Reuters citing witness an event, the attack was accompanied by clashes with the police, who tried to drive away the people with tear gas. In addition, the police tried to prevent the attack on the embassy, ​​shooting into the air, but that did not stop the crowd.

According to CNN, a group of people went to the U.S. Embassy in Tunis after Friday prayers. Among those who participated in the attack, many Wahhabi (or Salafi) – representatives of the radical movement of Islam.

Another attack on the U.S. Embassy on Friday occurred in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. There, the police also opened fire, but the protesters were able to break into the embassy grounds. Details about what is happening in Khartoum at the moment.

According to Agence France-Presse , September 14 earlier in Sudan protesters broke into the embassy and the UK. In the attacks, according to various estimates, took part from 5 to 10 thousand people.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, said that the staff of the diplomatic mission in safety, said AFP. Germany, fearing demonstrations after Friday prayers, announced the closure of its offices in the Muslim countries. Germany’s Foreign Ministry has decided to close the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some North African countries. Such a decision is connected with possible protests against the film “The innocence of Muslims”, filmed in the U.S., the newspaper said Spiegel .

The protests, related to the release of the American amateur film “innocent Muslims” in which Islam is in a bad light, pass and other Arab countries.

According Lenta.Ru , Tripoli in Lebanon during the demonstration, one person died and another 25 were injured. Who they were, not specified. Demonstrators in Tripoli attacked the restaurant from the network KFC.

In the capital, Sana’a, Yemen, demonstrators gathered in 500 meters from the U.S. embassy and burned the American flag. However, they shouted, “Go away, slave devil. Leave, Ambassador Americans” and “Death to America, Death to Israel.” The police did not let them come to the building of the diplomatic mission. The day before, on September 13 in Sana’a trying to enter the U.S. Embassy killed four people.

Hundreds of people gathered in various cities of Pakistan, demanding the death of the author and film expulsion of American diplomats. There were no incidents during the demonstrations were not. The police immediately after the riots in the Muslim countries to strengthen protection of diplomatic missions in the United States Pakistan.

Continued protests in Iran. Several thousand people marched through the center of Tehran, shouting “Death to America” ​​and “Death to Israel.”

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, near the U.S. Embassy gathered about 350 radical Islamists protesting the film.

In Bangladesh, the demonstration was attended by 10,000 people. They burned American and Israeli flags and tried to march to the U.S. embassy, ​​but the police stopped them for a few miles. In general, the AFP, protest in Bangladesh was peaceful. Obtain and peaceful demonstration in Malaysia.

Protests in Muslim countries began on 11 September. Islamists, angry amateur American film “innocent Muslims” attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cairo and Benghazi. In Benghazi, killing four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. After the attacks of the U.S. embassies stepped up security.

Meanwhile, the bodies of 11 dead in attack on U.S. Embassy in Benghazi four Americans taken to the air base outside Washington, according to BBC Russian Service of the BBC . The attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya killed the country’s ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy staff.

The funeral was attended by President Barack Obama, he promised that justice will prevail and those responsible for the deaths of Americans will be punished. U.S. leader also said that Washington would respond immediately to such aggressive action.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also attended the ceremony, called on people of Middle Eastern countries to end the violence. As noted by RIA Novosti, U.S. Secretary of State once again pointed out that the government has nothing to do with the film “innocent Muslims”, which became a cause unrest in a number of Muslim countries.