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London Olympic rockets left unguarded

Military rockets left unguarded outside a block of flats in London
Military rockets left unguarded outside a block of flats in London
Press TV – May 5, 2012

Amateur video posted on the internet shows military rockets left unguarded outside a block of flats in Bow, East London, as Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) prepares to deploy missiles on top of flats in London during the 2012 Olympics.

The video was posted by journalist Brian Whelan who lives in Bow Quarter, London. The video shows unguarded military rockets with nobody around.

The unguarded military rockets were part of the MoD’s security plans for the London Olympics. Earlier this week, the MoD confirmed that six sites, including two residential blocks of flats, would be tested as launch pads for missile systems in order to combat air threats during the Olympics.

Local residents have expressed their anger over the plans saying they were not consulted and questioning why the MoD did not build a missile base instead of using residential flats as a missile base.

Experts have also expressed concerns over the security risks for people. Military liaison officer Lieutenant Colonel Brian said flats could be targeted because of missiles deployed on their roof tops.

Furthermore, experts have called into question the usefulness of the missiles saying they would be useless in poor weather because the missile systems rely on the operator being able to see the target.

Writing on his blog, Whelan also described how these missiles work. The missile battery is the HVM A5 Missile System. Whelan revealed that only a small number of A5 missiles were fired in trials and even two malfunctioned during trials.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Solidarity and Realpolitik: My Response to Jeff Halper

By Susan Abulhawa | Palestine Chronicle | May 4, 2012

Some years ago, I was on a panel with three men, Jeff Halper among them, at a Sabeel conference in Pennsylvania. Each panelist was asked to give their vision for a solution to the ‘Palestine/Israel conflict’.  Because I was sitting at the end of the table, I was the last to speak.  I listened to each one of my fellow participants lay out different versions of a two-state solution, each more depressing than the other, each with irrelevant nuances (all previously articulated by Israel, by the way) on how to make the refugee problem just go away.  They spoke the tired talk of land swaps, compromise, several surreal highways that bypass humanity for miles on end, and more creative solutions designed to circumvent the application of human rights where Palestinians are concerned.

When my turn came, I spoke of Palestinians being accorded the same basic rights that apply to the rest of humanity, including the right to return to one’s home after fleeing a conflict.  I spoke of equality under the law regardless of religion.  I spoke of a construct that would prevent one group from systematically oppressing another.  I spoke of human dignity and the universal right to it.  I spoke of equal access to resources, including water, regardless of religion.

I will never forget Jeff Halper’s response, which he was eager to voice even before I had finished speaking.  He began with a smile, the way an adult might smile at the naive remarks of a small child.  He needed to give me a lesson in reality, and proceeded to tell me, in the patronizing way of someone who knows best, that my vision lacked “how shall I say it… Realpolitik”.

I did not waiver then, nor have I since, on my position that Palestinians are not a lesser species who should be required to aspire to compromised human dignity in order to accommodate someone else’s racist notions of divine entitlement.

That said, I do not consider Jeff Halper racist and I acknowledge the mostly positive impact he has had in bringing attention to one of Israel’s enduring cruelties, namely the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes as a tool to effectuate ethnic cleansing of the native non-Jewish population.  But in my view, that does not entitle him to speak of what Palestinians should or shouldn’t do.  I also don’t think it qualifies him as an anti-zionist when he clearly accepts the privilege accorded to Jews only.  After all, Jeff Halper is an American from Minnesota who made aliyah (Israel’s entitlement program that allows Jews from all over the world to take up residence in my homeland, ultimately in place of the expelled natives). Perhaps is it my lack of Realpolitik, but I cannot reconcile embracing the very foundation of zionism on one hand, and calling oneself an anti-zionist on the other.

In a recent interview on Al Jazeera’s website with Frank Barat, he did just that.  He also laid out a dismal scenario for the future of Palestinians, based on what Israel is very likely plotting, namely the annexation of Area C and the pacifying of the Palestinian Authority (also likely) with economic incentives and mini Bantustans they can call a state.  But he missed the mark, repeatedly, when it came to Palestinians themselves, as if he sized us all up with a glance and decided he was not impressed. Despite the burgeoning nonviolent resistance taking place all over Palestine, in various forms ranging from demonstrations, significant solidarity campaigns, hunger strikes, and more, he says that “[Palestinian] resistance is impossible” now.  At best, he trivializes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is the first coordinated nonviolent movement of Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine that has also managed to inspire and capture imaginations of individuals and organizations all over the world to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom.  Again, my lack of Realpolitik here, but to me, creating a situation where it is possible to force the implementation of human rights and restore dignity to Palestinian society is in itself an end.  Jeff Halper seems unable to consider anything other than a negotiated agreement to be an end.

He enumerates all that is wrong with internal Palestinian issues.  Of course there are problems. We know our leadership is doing little more than pick up the trash and keep people in line while Israel steals more and more of our land.  We are not happy about it either.  But he seems to suggest that he, along with other Israelis I presume, have been carrying the burden of resolving this conflict.  In one instance he says:

“We’ve (I assume Israeli leftists?) brought this to governments, we’ve raised public awareness, we’ve had campaigns, we’ve done this for decades, we’ve made this collectively, one of two or three really global issues. But without Palestinians we can only take it so far.”

Then he adds:

“I am trying to challenge a little bit my Palestinian counterparts.  Where are you guys?”

If I read this correctly (and I will grant the benefit of the doubt that it was not meant as it reads), then he clearly sees himself at the forefront of the Palestinian struggle where his Palestinian counterparts are disorganized, haphazard, or not present.  He even suggests that at this crucial time, “Palestinians have to take over,” further supporting the suggestion that Palestinians are not at the helm of the resistance.

He also asserts that importing Jews from all over the world to live in colonies built on land confiscated from private Palestinian owners is “not settler colonialism”.  What is it then?

But back to his strange assertion that Palestinians “should take over” (from whom?), he describes an instance where he refused to participate in the global march to Jerusalem because the Palestinian organizers (who took over?) did not want to include the world “Israel,” the name of the country that denies our very existence and seeks in every way to eradicate us.  Is it that Jeff Halper wants “Palestinians to take over” as long as Palestinians do so in a way that does not offend the sensitivities of the very people deriving privilege at their expense?  That is not how solidarity works.

I don’t presume to tell Israelis what they should or should not do but I would like to see Israelis concentrate on their own failures rather than ours.  I would sure like to hear those who have made aliyah acknowledge that it was not their right to do so; that making aliyah is a crime against the native people who have been and continue to be forcibly expelled to make way for those making aliyah. I would like to hear an apology. The trauma that Palestinians feel is very much part of the Realpolitik and it is not unlike the trauma in the Jewish psyche.  It comes from the same humiliation and anguish of not being considered fully human. Of being treated like vermin by those with the guns. If Halper truly understood that, perhaps dropping the word “Israel” – a word that hovers over the rubble of our destroyed homes and suffuses the pain at our collective core – would have been a no brainer expression of solidarity.

– Susan Abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010) and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine (www.playgroundsforpalestine.org).

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Israel threatened to take down world in nuclear Armageddon’

Press TV – May 5, 2012

Israel is the only regime that has threatened to obliterate all world countries in a “nuclear Armageddon,” if its existence is put in jeopardy, a political analyst tells Press TV.

In a Friday interview, Mark Glenn, from The Crescent and Cross Solidarity movement, lashed out at Israel for its nuclear stockpile, sayingTel Aviv is the only regime that “has threatened to take the entire world down in a nuclear Armageddon in the instance that her precious experiments in Jewish self-rule in the Middle East ceases to materialize.”

“There is no other country in existence today that has basically told the entire world that if we are going to go down we are going to take the rest of the world down with us,” he added.

Even Israel’s most prominent military professor, Martin Van Creveld, has once alluded to such nuclear ambitions by Israel and confirmed that Tel Aviv has several hundred atomic warheads and rockets targeted at all directions — mostly at European capitals — and that Tel Aviv is ready to take the entire world down before the regime itself ceases to exist, Glenn pointed out.

The analyst expressed regret that the nuclear threat from Israel looms over the world, while Tel Aviv continues to use its mainstream media outlets to level allegations against other countries, accusing them of possessing non-civilian nuclear programs.

Israel is widely believed to be the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Tel Aviv began building its first plutonium and uranium processing facility, Dimona, in the Negev desert in 1958.

Former US President Jimmy Carter has stated that Israel has a nuclear arsenal that includes between 200 and 300 warheads. Decades of recurrent reporting and aerial footage have also established the possession of atomic arms by Israel.

Under its official policy of nuclear ambiguity, Tel Aviv neither confirms nor denies the possession of nukes and refuses to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or allow inspections of its nuclear facilities.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Video | , , , , | 10 Comments

Sarkozy and Hollande on Middle East: La Même Chose

By Patrick Galey | Al Akhbar |  May 5, 2012

When the frontrunners in France’s presidential race took their seats on Thursday evening for a final televised debate, they did so with battle lines firmly entrenched.

Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande had spent the previous month on a vitriolic campaign trail exposing deep rifts among the French electorate over the economy, immigration, and nuclear energy.

But the most significant player in Sunday’s election, which most opinion polls predict will go down to the wire, was not even in the studio.

Both Hollande and Sarkozy are mindful that the 6.4 million who voted for Marine Le Pen of the far right National front will have a large bearing on the outcome of Sunday’s run-off. That’s why they have sought to echo Le Pen’s strident anti-immigration rhetoric which reached out to disenchanted voters and hardliners alike.

Hollande vowed to cut economic migration at a time when France is feeling the pinch from the eurozone’s financial turmoil. Sarkozy went one step further, referencing Le Pen by name and claiming only he had the experience and gumption to put a meaningful cap on immigration’s pall over France by cutting the number of people entering the country in half.

Judy Dempsey, a senior associate at Carnegie Europe, said although immigration was being touted as a domestic stand from both candidates, using the issue as a sweetener to attract far-right voters could have an adverse effect on France internationally.

“Immigration is foreign policy and when they speak about immigration now in France it’s fortress Europe,” she said. “[Hollande and Sarkozy] don’t see immigration in a positive sense and it sends completely the wrong signal to the younger generation and the emerging business community in the Middle East.”

It was not until the final minutes of Thursday’s debate that the issue of foreign policy was raised. Here, both candidates demurred.

Sarkozy was quick to point out how he took the lead as France led the way in a number of international decisions while in office.

France’s president has often sought to paint himself as a highly experienced operator in the realm of global diplomacy. As well as inheriting French involvement in NATO’s Afghanistan mission, Sarkozy oversaw the stationing of French troops in the Middle East and Africa, largely in a peacekeeping capacity.

He played a prominent role in meditation between Tbilisi and Moscow in 2008 when the fight over Abkhazia and South Ossetia threatened to boil over into all out war.

And last year, Sarkozy’s France spearheaded NATO’s campaign for military intervention in Libya.

Sarkozy avoided mentioning Libya in Thursday’s debate after embarrassing allegations that his 2007 presidential campaign had received an offer of funding from Tripoli. Sarkozy is seeking legal action over the claim, but thought better of opening that particular can of worms in the closing moments of a potentially election-changing televised appearance.

Hollande’s public statements indicate striking Middle Eastern policy similarities to the current government. Like Sarkozy, Hollande has declared that an Iranian nuclear missile would be unacceptable for Europe. Like Sarkozy, Hollande has called for a two-state solution in Palestine while trumpeting Israeli security as a key French concern.

The Socialist leader has been necessarily vague over French foreign policy. He currently lacks a dedicated adviser for overseas affairs. Instead of laying out detailed plans for France’s global relations, the Socialist challenger has made a point of criticizing Sarkozy in this regard.

Looking ahead to the next term in office, Hollande has struck a remarkably similar tone to the current government.

Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe have been among the most hawkish European officials to address the Syrian crisis, closing the French Embassy in Damascus and calling multiple times for President Bashar Assad to leave office. Sarkozy has issued incessant calls for a full ceasefire in Syria, and has somewhat ominously compared the restive city of Homs to Benghazi, Libya’s erstwhile rebel stronghold.

Hollande, for his part, declared last month that he would support military intervention in Syria, “if done within a [United Nations] framework.” Juppe has offered words to the same effect in recent weeks.

According to Thomas Klau, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, both Sarkozy and Hollande will wait and see what happens in Syria before veering from the French course of public criticism of the Damascus government.

“The current government and Juppe have been very active on the Syria dossier and doing all they could to get Russia to move its stance,” Klau told Al-Akhbar. “I wouldn’t expect the French policy to be different under Hollande. Much of his policy will be determined by events on the ground and the success – or the lack of it – from the [U.N./Arab League Envoy Kofi] Annan’s mediation effort.”

Dempsey added that Hollande had raised the prospect of military intervention in Syria “because he can say it without the responsibility” of having to go through with it. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, France still has some global clout, but not nearly enough to convince Russia or China to bless any advance on Syria. Both candidates know and accept this, and continuity in the French approach to Damascus is more likely than meaningful change.

In a similar way, with Paris’ pro-Israel lobby as influential among the Socialists as they are in Sarkozy’s UMP party, Hollande, should he win, is unlikely to depart from France’s current line on Palestine.

In spite of a few diplomatic gaffes, including branding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar,” Sarkozy has spent much of the last five years offering support to Israeli officials. Hollande, with influential pro-Israeli figures such as Dominique Strauss-Kahn having the ear of many Parisian socialists, will have a hard time departing from such engagement.

“Nicolas Sarkozy was personally convinced that the national interest of Israel was very close to French national interest,” Klau said. “With Francois Hollande, his attitude isn’t very significant. Neither of them place themselves in the Arabist tradition of French foreign policy, which has lost relevance anyway.”

So if foreign policy has provided so few soundbites in the French presidential election, it is because both candidates are largely in assent.

That is not to say Sarkozy and Hollande agree on every foreign policy area.

Hollande used Thursday’s debate to repeat a campaign promise that, if elected, he would withdraw all French troops serving with NATO from Afghanistan by the end of 2012 – a full year ahead of a planned pullout, and much to the chagrin of Sarkozy. The French president has said he’d prefer not to renege on the current withdrawal timetable agreed with NATO.

In recent months, Sarkozy has faced the wrath of Turkey, one of France’s major trading partners, by pursuing legislation that would make it illegal to deny the Armenian Genocide. Amid opprobrium from Ankara, the president has pushed ahead with the controversial bill, which critics have denounced as a cynical attempt to get France’s estimated 400,000 ethnic Armenians on his side ahead of elections.

Sarkozy has made no secret of his objection to Turkey applying for EU membership, and fallout over the genocide bill is just the latest of a series of spats with Ankara during his time in office. Hollande also indicated he would oppose Turkish EU accession if elected, but, significantly for officials in Ankara, he has not ruled out future negotiations.

“Sarkozy is openly hostile to the notion that Turkey should join the EU, whereas the Socialist position is that that door should remain open,” said Klau.

France’s poor diplomatic ties with Ankara can be counted as a black mark against Sarkozy’s foreign policy initiatives, something Hollande should seek to take advantage of, according to Dempsey.

“Sarkozy had something near contempt for Turkey and there is no love lost between Ankara and Paris,” she said. “This would change slowly under Hollande. It’s time France considered [engagement with Turkey] as its long-term strategic interest but that is one thing that Hollande might be able to change if he wins.”

With France mired in discontent over domestic issues, it is no surprise that neither Hollande nor Sarkozy has been overly willing to share their opinions on global affairs.

But whoever inherits control of one of NATO’s largest troop contributing countries will need to keep plans in place.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran’s Tactical Strength

By Philip Giraldi | The American Conservative | May 2, 2012

A New York Times story on March 19 reported that there might be “perils” for the U.S. in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran and warned that “it may be impossible to preclude American involvement in any escalating confrontation” with “dire consequences for the region and for United States forces there.” The story received wide play in the media, a respite from the barrage of persistent press coverage that has been portraying a new Middle East war as both inevitable and a legitimate response to a burgeoning threat. The conclusion, based on the outcome of the Internal Look war games concluded in early March, is not particularly surprising, as many inside and outside the government have long been arguing that it would be impossible for Washington not to get involved in such a conflict given the U.S. military presence in the region and expected pressure from Israel and its friends.

But the real story of the still-classified war games, which were designed primarily to test internal communications and response coordination between Central Command in Tampa and operational units in the Middle East, was the ability of the Iranians to counterattack effectively against American forces and U.S. regional allies. The Netanyahu government has been arguing that any Iranian response to an Israeli air attack would be manageable, with few casualties among Israelis, because Iran would fear an escalation that would bring U.S. forces to bear. Yet even modest retaliation from Iran would almost unavoidably draw the U.S. into the fray. The war games tested a number of scenarios in which U.S. forces were hit either deliberately or by accident, producing a reaction from Washington that included sustained bombing of Iranian coastal defenses and nuclear sites, which quickly escalated into a full-scale regional conflict.

The war games demonstrated that the United States Navy would have considerable problems in dealing with Iranian offensive operations in the narrow waters of the Straits of Hormuz. Iran is believed to have more than 5,000 mines available, many of modern design and exceedingly difficult to detect, sweep, and disarm. The Iranian Navy has also become adept at small-boat swarming tactics, in which large numbers of light vessels attack larger warships in what have been described as suicide runs. U.S. warships have been training to deal with such tactics and it is believed that they can counter them somewhat effectively, but the games revealed that there is a high probability that American vessels will be sunk with considerable loss of life. Iranian cruise missiles also pose a threat. Iran has Chinese sea-skimmer models and has also developed its own variants. Again, U.S. warships have countermeasures, but sustained attacks at sea level combined with missiles that approach their targets vertically from high altitude could cause considerable casualties. In the earlier Millennium Challenge war games carried out in 2002, a combination of Iranian cruise missiles and swarming small boats employing innovative tactics and operating on internal lines defeated a much larger U.S. Navy squadron. The result was so disturbing that the game was canceled before it was concluded. 

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: Mirage and Reality in Southern Bolivar

By Isaias Rodriguez Arango | CPTnet | 5 May 2012

“Colombia is a social state under rule of law, organized in the form of a unitary, decentralized Republic, autonomous from its territorial subdivisions, democratic, participatory and pluralistic, founded on respect for human dignity and on the work and solidarity of the people who belong to it, and on the prevailing value of the general interest.” –Title I, Article 1, Political Constitution of Colombia (1991) (unofficial translation).

Colombians increasingly see our 1991 Constitution as a mirage. The illusion is evident when seen from areas as hard-hit by armed conflict as southern Bolívar province’s San Lucas mountains—a mining area at the epicenter of a complex war that at times leaves it unclear who pulled the trigger. The only thing always clear is that the peasant miner, farmer, or ordinary resident of the region generally is the one who ends up worse off. But in spite of these odds, the locals continue to claim a willingness to pay the ultimate price to remain on these lands that and their Guamoco and Zenu ancestors have long inhabited.

Small-scale gold mining provides a livelihood to hundreds of families in southern Bolivar. But the region is now in the sights of AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world’s most aggressive international mining companies. Communities therefore face threats from the state ranging from industrial regulation to paramilitary activity designed to force them off the land.

Without public or private aid, the small-scale miners cannot meet new environmental and safety standards supposedly aimed at sustainable exploitation. At the same time, government agencies overlook deliberate violations by industry giants. High prices of essential goods and services increase the likelihood of economic displacement. Taken together, these practices expose a mining policy that intentionally excludes small-scale miners.

Colombia’s gold-mining industry also faces serious public safety problems. The previous administration’s “Democratic Security” policy did not achieve its purported aims. Residents say that paramilitaries, guerrillas, Army, and police are all active in the region. Threats against community leaders and spokespeople persist, as does impunity for crimes against them.

A look at the numbers

According to the regionally-based Comprehensive Peace Observatory (Observatorio de Paz Integral, OPI), seven paramilitary groups are active in the Middle Magdalena region. Their primary criminal activities are drug trafficking and extortion. Their larger aim is to maintain social, political, economic, and military control of the area. In 2006, 6,000 paramilitary members demobilized in the Magdalena Medio region, but during that same year twenty-six new groups emerged. These criminal organizations have been accused of committing 1,051 targeted killings between 2006 and 2011. In 2008, FARC guerrillas and the Águilas Negras paramilitary group in southern Bolivar formed an unusual alliance, complicating identification of the perpetrators of violent actions.

Contrasting with the OPI’s findings, media references to the alleged demobilization of 31,000 AUC paramilitaries in 2006 tend to imply that the paramilitary structures have been eradicated. But the real objective of demobilizations may have to gain the benefits of the Justice and Peace Law, including a maximum jail sentence of eight years for demobilized paramilitaries. But in many cases clause 11.4 of the same law—which requires incorporation into civilian life and the cessation of all illegal activity in order to receive those benefits—went unenforced.

Given these facts, we must not be lulled into believing that Southern Bolivar province and the Middle Magdalena region are no longer ravaged by internal conflict, or that the armed entities have abandoned these lands so coveted for their wealth of natural resources and minerals.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syria border guards foil infiltration attempt from Turkey: Report

Press TV – May 5, 2012

Syrian state media say border guards have foiled an attempt by an armed group to infiltrate into the country from neighboring Turkey.

According to the official Syrian news agency, SANA, clashes broke out between Syrian forces and members of the armed group near the village of Allani, close to the border with Turkey, in the northwestern province of Idlib on Saturday.

Syrian officials said several border guards were killed and injured during the fighting on Saturday. A number of armed men were also killed and wounded.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said five people were killed in a bomb attack in the northwestern city of Aleppo on Saturday. Two similar attacks were also reported in the capital, Damascus.

The clashes on the Syrian-Turkish border come despite a ceasefire that took effect on April 12 and the presence of UN observers tasked with monitoring the truce.

The UK-based Observatory also said on May 2 at least 15 Syrian security forces were killed in a terrorist attack near the village of Rai in the northern province of Aleppo.

The ceasefire in Syria was part of a six-point peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in March.

The first group of the UN observers arrived in Damascus late on April 15. The observers were approved for the mission according to UNSC Resolution 2042 passed on April 14.

On April 21, the UN Security Council met and unanimously voted on Resolution 2043 to send a mission of 300 observers to Syria.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment