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Double Standards for Prisoners Vanished In Israel

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By Yahya Dbouk | Al-Akhbar | February 15, 2013

The case of Ben Zygier, known as “Prisoner X,” has opened the door to questions about the possibility of Israel secretly detaining other prisoners and abductees.

Zygier, a Jewish-Australian citizen, died in an Israeli prison two years ago, in a case Israel went to extreme lengths to cover up, imposing media gag orders.

This is not the first time Israel has hidden information related to the whereabouts and conditions of prisoners. Consider, for example, reports of the three Iranian diplomats kidnapped by the Lebanese Forces during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, who were reportedly moved to prisons in occupied Palestine.

Then consider the case of Lebanese prisoner Yahya Skaf. In addition to a wealth of reporting on his case, testimonies by other detainees all aver that he is still alive and being held in an Israeli prison. It’s a claim that Tel Aviv denies, maintaining that it lost Skaf’s body.

In the same vein, reports from various sources assert that Iranian General Mohammed Reza Asgari, who was kidnapped in Turkey in 2007, is being held in Israel.

Until recently, the global norm was to accept that Israel is a state where the rule of law is paramount. Any reports that questioned Israel’s democratic credentials were considered prejudiced or even anti-Semitic.

Yet if Tel Aviv was able to conceal the truth about Zygier for so long – the fact that he had committed suicide more than two years ago – then it’s entirely fathomable that Israel is withholding the truth about other prisoners like Skaf, Asgari, and the above-mentioned Iranian diplomats.

The answer is now clear and backed up by damning evidence: Israel has both the capability and the willingness to engage in such acts.

A simple hypothetical exercise. Let’s say the kidnapping, detention, and subsequent suicide of the Australian Prisoner X had happened to another detainee of a different nationality. How would the global media reaction differ? Would it have been as fervent as with the Australian Prisoner X?

Just look to the cases of the Lebanese and Iranian detainees, specifically with the three Iranian diplomats and General Asgari. Iran repeatedly declared that it had evidence as to their whereabouts, and the Iranian press reported extensively on the matter. Yet Israeli denials were enough to refute the Iranian account. Western and Israeli reports did not stop there, and Iran was even mocked as a source of fabricated news.

The same applies to cases involving Lebanese citizens, such as Skaf. Israel cannot possibly deny it has him, and that he had entered occupied Palestine. For one thing, Tel Aviv’s claims about Skaf and his lost body make little sense. If he had been a citizen of Australia, or other nations of similar stature, Israel’s account would have differed.

Israeli assertions that Tel Aviv had kept the Australian government in the loop on Prisoner X created more – not less – ramifications. Indeed, Israel is not only able to hide the facts and detain people in secret, but also to involve Western governments in the cover-up.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Italy Imprisons Military Intelligence Chief for Helping CIA Kidnap Egyptian Cleric

By Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky | AllGov | February 15, 2013

Unable to imprison the Americans behind the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric, Italy has successfully jailed five Italians who took part in the 2003 controversy, including the government’s former military intelligence chief.

Niccolò Pollari was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) abduction of Abu Omar (Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr). His former deputy, Marco Mancini, received nine years, and three Italian secret service officials were sentenced to six years each.

In November 2009, an Italian court tried 23 Americans (all but one of whom worked for the CIA) in absentia for the Abu Omar kidnapping. All of the convicted received jail sentences of seven years, except for Robert Seldon Lady, the former Milan CIA station chief, who had his sentence increased to nine years after appealing. During the original trial, Lady told an Italian newspaper he was not guilty—but also indicated he may have been involved in the abduction. “I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors,” he told Il Giornale. The U.S. government has refused to turn over any of those convicted.

After being abducted, Abu Omar was transferred to U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany and eventually shipped to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. “You cannot imagine,” he told Human Rights Watch. “I was hung up like a slaughtered sheep and given electric shocks…. I could hear the screams of others who were tortured too.”

The CIA later allowed him to be released after determining that he was not actually a part of a terrorist organization.

To Learn More:

Italy’s Ex-Intelligence Chief Given 10-Year Sentence For Role In CIA Kidnapping (by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian)

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

US general urges Pentagon to boost its African spying missions by 15-fold

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Press TV – February 15, 2013

A US general nominated to lead the American military’s Africa Command has called for a 15-fold surge in US spying missions in Africa amid reports of Pentagon’s plans to further expand its growing military presence in the continent.

Army General David Rodriguez estimated in a written statement submitted to the US Senate Arms Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the American military needs to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” The Washington Post reports Friday.

“I believe additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are necessary to protect American interests and assist our close allies and partners,” said the four-star general who has previously commanded US-led intervention forces in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The recent crises in North Africa demonstrate the volatility of the African security environment,” he added.

Rodrigues further emphasized during the hearing that Africa Command requires additional drones, other spying aircraft and more satellite imagery, adding that the US command currently gets only half of its “stated need” for North Africa and just seven percent of its total “requirements” for the entire continent, the report says.

The surging US military involvement in Africa has emerged despite earlier instructions by the Obama administration for the Pentagon to “pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia,” the daily underlines.

The development comes as the American military has intervened over the past two years in internal conflicts in African nations of Somalia, Libya and Mali, as well as central Africa.

This is while the US Air Force is building its fourth assassination and spying drone base in the poor African state of Niger as American Navy warships are expanding their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa, according to the report.

Despite insistence by US military authorities that they did not have plans to establish bases or move troops to Africa when they created the Africa Command in 2007, the Pentagon has since built a network of “staging bases,” including assassination drone facilities in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, and “a forward operating base for special operations forces in Kenya,” the report notes.

It further adds that the Pentagon has also expanded its military operations and construction at “the only permanent US base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which serves as a hub for ‘counterterrorism missions’ in Somalia and Yemen.”

Now, the daily emphasizes, there is a growing pressure to add even more bases in North and West Africa as the US military is set to build an assassination drone base in the West African country of Niger, which borders Mali, Libya and Nigeria, all nations that the Obama administration claims are threatened by an increasing influx of ‘al-Qaeda-linked’ Muslim militants.

The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations “expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty,” according to the report.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama Administration Asks Banks to Regulate Their Own Foreclosure Abuses

By Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky | AllGov | February 15, 2013

Having bungled the so-called independent review of foreclosure mistakes, the Obama administration has now decided that the best way to help homeowners is to have the banks—which were responsible for the foreclosure errors—examine the case files and decide how best to fix the situation.

In January, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) shut down the foreclosure review by independent consultants—which had already cost about $2 billion— after it was revealed that the banks had selected said consultants. The process also proved to be taking too long to resolve homeowner grievances, so the administration decided to reach a $3.6 billion settlement with the banks.

But before the money can be distributed to individuals wronged during the foreclosure crisis, more than four million cases need to be reviewed. Instead of federal regulators doing the work, they are trusting the financial institutions, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, to do it properly this time.

Housing advocates, not surprisingly, are worried the banks will shortchange homeowners while they scrutinize their earlier mistakes. “The whole process has been a slap in the face to homeowners and a slap on the wrist to banks,” Isaac Simon Hodes, an organizer with Massachusetts-based Lynn United for Change, told The New York Times. “The latest development shows how there has been no accountability.”

The OCC has promised to check the bank’s work to ensure things go right this time.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The U.S.’s Grossly Corrupt Health Protection System

Blame the Pentagon

By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR and JOSHUA FRANK | CounterPunch | February 15, 2013

The nation’s biggest polluter isn’t a corporation. It’s the Pentagon. Every year the Department of Defense churns out more than 750,000 tons of hazardous waste — more than the top three chemical companies combined.

Yet the military remains largely exempt from compliance with most federal and state environmental laws, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Pentagon’s partner in crime, is working hard to keep it that way.

For the past five decades the federal government, defense contractors and the chemical industry have joined forces to block public health protections against perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been shown to effect children’s growth and mental progress by disrupting the function of the thyroid gland which regulates brain development.

Perchlorate has been leaking from literally hundreds of defense plants and military installations across the country. The EPA has reported that perchlorate is present in drinking and groundwater supplies in 35 states. Center for Disease Control and independent studies have also overwhelmingly shown that perchlorate is existent in our food supplies, cow’s milk, and human breast milk. As a result virtually every American has some level of perchlorate in their body.

Currently only two states, California and Massachusetts, have set a maximum allowable contaminant level for perchlorate in drinking water. But the EPA won’t follow these states’ lead. In the Colorado River, which provides water for over 20 million people, perchlorate levels are high. The chemical is most prevalent in the Southwest and California as a result of the large number of military operations and defense contractors in the region.

In 2001 the EPA estimated that the total liability for the cleanup of toxic military sites would exceed $350 billion, or five times the Superfund Act liability of private industry. But the federal government has been complacent and allowed perchlorate to run rampant throughout our water supplies. This negligence and lack of regulatory oversight has left the Pentagon, NASA and defense contractors free to set their own levels, trimming the high, but necessary costs of restoring groundwater quality.

While the situation has become dire in recent years, it was the Clinton administration that didn’t do nearly enough to begin cleaning up these sites and certainly did not keep a close eye on how the Pentagon spent the money it received. During the 1990s the Defense Department spent only $3.5 billion a year cleaning up toxic military sites — much of that on studies, not actual work. In 1998, the Defense Science Review Board, a federal advisory committee set up to provide independent advice to the secretary of defense, looked at the problem and concluded that the Pentagon had no clear environmental cleanup policy, goals or program, which led lawyer Jonathan Turley, who holds the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at George Washington University, to call the Pentagon the nation’s “premier environmental villain.”

“If they can spend $1 million on a cruise missile, it seems kind of ridiculous they won’t spend $200,000 to see if our food is contaminated with rocket fuel,” says Renee Sharp, a scientist with Environmental Working Group. But if the Clinton program was chintzy, the Bush plan has been downright penurious.

While Bush has boosted overall Pentagon spending by billions, the administration has simultaneously slashed its environmental remediation program. Moreover, the Bush defense plan has called for “new rounds of base closures” to “shape the military more efficiently.” Efficiency is usually a code word for sidestepping environmental rules.

These military sites, which total more than 50 million acres, are among the most insidious and dangerous legacies left by the Pentagon. They are strewn with toxic bomb fragments, unexploded munitions, buried hazardous waste, fuel dumps, open pits filled with debris, burn piles and yes, rocket fuel. An internal EPA memo from 1998 warned of the looming problem: “As measured by acres, and probably as measured by number of sites, ranges and buried munitions represent the largest cleanup program in the United States.”

When a site gets too polluted, the Pentagon has chosen simply to close it down and turn it over to another federal agency. Over the past three decades, the Pentagon has transferred more than 16 million acres, often with little or no remediation. The former bombing areas have been turned into wildlife refuges, city and state parks, golf courses, landfills, airports and shopping malls.

Serious contamination of streams, soil and groundwater is a problem at nearly every military training ground. The sites are often saturated with heavy metals and other pollutants as well as unexploded weapons. The Government Accountability Office’s list of the kinds of unexploded munitions left behind on many training sites reads like a catalogue for a Middle East arms bonanza: “hand grenades, rockets, guided missiles, projectiles, mortars, rifle grenades, and bombs.”

But the government has gone to great extents to cover up its deadly legacy. In 2002 the Pentagon, defense contractors and perchlorate makers persuaded the editors of a prestigious journal to rewrite an article on the chemical’s health effects without the lead author’s knowledge or consent. Then in 2005 the White House loaded a National Academy of Science panel, which was set up to assess the health risks of perchlorate, with paid consultants of the rocket fuel industry, which, not surprisingly, recommended that exposure levels be set many times higher than the lower doses recommended by numerous independent research studies.

“Perchlorate provides a textbook example of a corrupted health protection system, where polluters, the Pentagon, the White House and the EPA have conspired to block health protections in order to pad budgets, curry political favor, and protect corporate profits,” Richard Wiles, Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 7 during a hearing held by committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who would like to see national safety standards for perchlorate in drinking water.

“All the pieces needed to support strong health protections are in place,” said Wiles. “This is a nightmare of epic proportions for the Department of Defense and its contractors, and rather than address it head-on, they have spent 50 years and millions of dollars trying to avoid it.”

Jeffrey St. Clair’s latest books are Born Under a Bad Sky and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format.  He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net

Joshua Frank, Managing Editor of CounterPunch, is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, and of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bloody Sunday families given cheap deal

Press TV – February 15, 2013

Families of the victims of British army forces’ indiscriminate shooting at civilians in 1972 that left 14 civil rights protesters dead in Northern Ireland will get £50,000 apiece in compensation from the government.

On January 30, 1972, British soldiers from the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment shot 26 unarmed civil rights protestors and bystanders in Londonderry, killing 14, including seven teenagers.

The British army formerly maintained that the civil rights protestors were armed, had become violent and had instigated a gunfight.

However, following a public inquiry the Prime Minister finally apologized to the families in June 2010, cleared the protestors’ names and said the shooting by the army was an “unjustified and unjustifiable” attack on unarmed protesters.

The British Ministry of Defense has made the compensation offers to the victims’ families but reports said the sums are a not final settlement and could change as lawyers of the families are negotiating them.

The ministry has also included those seriously injured as eligible to receive the damages.

This comes as the offer has angered the families of the victims that say the figure is derisory and an insult to the dead and their relatives.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Western Media and Israel: The Definition of Insanity

By Jamal Kanj | Palestine Chronicle | February 14 2013

Western media is obsessed with presenting a positive spin on everything related to Israel, while trivializing good and accentuating negative news on Palestine.

It’s admirably free in many aspects, but when it comes to discussing Israel the Western media loses its spark. Disingenuous news spin and Israeli pampering are doing peace a great disservice.

In 2003, the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon rejected a road map for peace by adding 14 conditions. Western media downplayed the provisions, emphasizing only Sharon’s pretense at approval.

Now, the same media wants the public to believe that Israel’s anti-peace coalition lost seats in the current Israeli election.

At first glance, this may appear speciously accurate. But the media fails to impart that the pro-peace camp did not gain any new support.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have lost direct party control over some members of the Knesset, this did not translate to a loss for the anti-peace crowd. That’s because the same exact number of seats (11) went to Netanyahu’s former acolyte Naftali Bennett. That means in this election, the Israeli public voted in a far more radical anti-peace coalition. To the right of his former boss, Bennett’s Jewish Home party calls for the annexation of large parts of West Bank.

However, instead of focusing on this the Western media remained sanguine that another new self-proclaimed centrist party, Yesh Atid (There is a Future), won 19 seats. It ignored the fact that in 2009 another perceived centrist party, Kadima, won more seats than Netanyahu’s Likud party – but this hardly mattered. The anti-peace coalition of right wing parties has maintained an overall majority in the Knesset. Meanwhile, Kadima – which ran on a national and pro-peace platform in 2009 – was reduced from 28 seats to just two.

Yesh Atid did well in this election after campaigning on domestic issues and calling for an end to military service exemption for ultra-Orthodox Israelis. Even though the new party received less than 45 per cent of the seats secured by the anti-peace camp, its leader Yair Lapid declared he would not enter the government unless Netanyahu was serious about peace negotiation. In reality, and on issues most critical to Palestinians Lapid’s position does not differ much from the current anti-peace government.

In an article headlined “Lapid’s peace-process doublespeak”, Israeli newspaper Haaretz concluded his party’s platform “does little to distinguish it from the hawkish agendas”. On the subject of occupied East Jerusalem, he believes Israel has “no existence without (East) Jerusalem”. He is so far out of touch that, according to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baski, he thinks by taking firm stand he will “be able to convince the Palestinians to give up Jerusalem”.

Alon Pinkas, former Israeli consul general in New York, accused the new party of being “too vague” on peace negotiations. Sadly, even Lapid’s professed interest in “peace” stems from inhibited racism, a desire to preserve an ethnocentric nation and a wish to avoid living in a country “half Arab, half Jewish”.

Lapid belongs to the same school of deceptive Israeli leaders who claim to support a two-state solution and announce their readiness to make “painful sacrifices”, while impeding Palestinian statehood by building separation walls and illegal “Jewish only” colonies.

The Palestinian leadership must stop waddling. They need to behave like a recognized nation, not an observer of events, and they can’t afford to wait for a new Israeli government to emerge – or until the West recycles another peace plan for the same elusive Zionists.

With an indifferent world community and absence of tangible Arab support, the Palestinian leadership can’t give it another try as “Jewish only” colonies are disintegrating Palestine. It was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes a weekly column on Arab issues and is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

Ecuador’s Financial Reforms Help Explain Why Voters Likely to Re-Elect Correa

By Alex Main | CEPR Americas Blog | February 14, 2013

On Sunday Ecuadorians will head to the polls to vote for a president and vice president, members of the National Assembly, mayors, and other elected officials. As we’ve done ahead of other elections in Latin America, CEPR has published a report offering some economic context to help understand the choices that voters are likely to make.

The report, entitled Ecuador’s New Deal: Reforming and Regulating the Financial Sector, focuses on the innovative financial reforms that have been implemented since President Rafael Correa took office in 2007.  The report explains how these measures helped Ecuador recover from some of the hemisphere’s worst shocks during the world recession.  It also shows how the reforms contributed to a substantial increase in government revenue much of which has been channeled toward health, education, housing and other social spending.  Given these advances, it is not surprising that the latest polls put Correa at 50 percentage points ahead of his closest opponent.

Earlier today, CEPR issued the following press release outlining the contents of the paper:

A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) examines the financial reforms carried out by the Rafael Correa administration, reforms which the paper concludes are in large part responsible for the economic success Ecuador has experienced over the past several years, including its successful counter-cyclical policies during the global recession after 2008. The paper, “Ecuador’s New Deal: Reforming and Regulating the Financial Sector,” examines the Correa government’s taking control of the Central Bank, implementation of capital controls, increased taxation of the financial sector, and other regulatory reforms. It concludes that these played a major role in bringing about Ecuador’s strong economic growth, increased government revenue, a substantial decline in poverty and unemployment, and other improvements in economic and social indicators.

Ecuador will hold presidential elections on Sunday, February 17. Correa is almost certain to be re-elected; Reuters reports that he “has a lead of as much as 50 percentage points over the nearest of his seven rivals in opinion polls.”

“Ecuador has gone against the conventional wisdom and shown that there are alternatives,” CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot and lead author of the paper said. “By pursuing policies that have prioritized economic development, employment, and poverty reduction over financial and foreign interests, Ecuador has surmounted some of the problems that had previously held it back, and that have hampered progress in other countries.”

The paper notes that by the last quarter of 2012, unemployment had fallen to 4.1 percent, its lowest level on record (for at least 25 years), while the national poverty rate fell to 27.3 percent as of December 2012, 27 percent below its level in 2006.

The paper finds that financial reforms contributed significantly to an unprecedented rise in government revenue under Correa, from 27 percent of GDP in 2006 to more than 40 percent in 2012.  This not only allowed for vitally important expansionary fiscal policy, but also a large increase in social spending.  The biggest increase was in housing, but there were also significant increases in health care spending and other social spending.  The government’s most important cash-transfer program (the Bono de Desarollo Humano) increased by one-fourth, and education funding more than doubled, as a percent of GDP, from 2006-2009.

The paper concludes that “What is most remarkable is that many of these reforms were unorthodox or against the prevailing wisdom of what governments are supposed to do in order to promote economic progress. Taking executive control over the central bank, defaulting on one-third of the foreign debt, increasing regulation and taxation of the financial sector, increasing restrictions on international capital flows, greatly expanding the size and role of government – these are measures that are supposed to lead to economic ruin.  The conventional wisdom is also that it is most important to please investors, including foreign creditors, which this government clearly did not do.”

“While not all of Ecuador’s reforms went against orthodox policy advice,” Weisbrot said, “many of them did – and they succeeded. It should be no surprise that Correa is such a popular candidate heading into this Sunday’s elections.”

The paper notes that “Ecuador’s success shows that a government committed to reform of the financial system, can – with popular support – confront an alliance of powerful, entrenched financial, political, and media interests and win. The government also took on powerful international interests as well, in its foreign debt default, its renegotiation of oil contracts, and its refusal to renew the concession for one of the United States’ few remaining military bases in South America.” It notes that this success indicates that developing countries may have more and better policy options than is commonly believed to be the case.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Diplomat Once Again Denies Claims about Iranian Arms Shipment to Yemen

Fars News Agency | February 15, 2013

TEHRAN – A senior Iranian diplomat once again categorically denied the recent accusations about Iran’s arms shipment to Yemen as “baseless”.

In a letter to President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Zhang Yesui on Thursday, Iran’s Permanent Representative to the UN Mohammad Khazayee said initial investigations showed that the ship intercepted by the Yemeni government does not belong to the Islamic Republic.

The ship had been registered in a European country and sailed under the flag of Panama, Khazayee said, adding that none of the vessel’s personnel were Iranian.

Referring to similar accusations leveled against Iran by Yemen, a number of which were later rejected by Yemeni officials, Khazayee said no proof about the latest allegation has yet been presented.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast categorically denied the accusations about arms shipment to Yemen as baseless, and reiterated that Tehran respects the regional stability and security.

Mehman-Parast’s remarks came after several Yemeni officials, including the country’s Interior Minister Abdel-Qader Kahtan, and the Saudi-led Yemeni media claimed that an Iranian ship seized by the Yemeni military contained weapons destined for Yemen’s Houthi Community in the North of the country or as other Yemeni officials claimed for rebels in Somalia fighting the central government.

“We have announced several times that we prioritize the region’s stability and security, and underline the rights and national sovereignty of (other) countries,” the Iranian diplomat said.

Last week, Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi accused Iran of smuggling arms into the Arab country. The Yemeni government asked the United Nations to probe a seized ship it claims contained Iran-made weapons.

Iranian officials on different occasions have strongly refuted Yemeni officials’ allegations, saying that Iran attaches importance to maintaining security and stability of regional countries, specially Yemen.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

The Conservatives’ Latest Salvo Against Hezbollah

Harper Government Sides with US and Israel Against Lebanon

By YVES ENGLER | CounterPunch | February 13, 2013

In response to hotly contested claims that Hezbollah was responsible for bombing Israeli citizens in Bulgaria last July, immigration minister Jason Kenney called the Lebanese group a “vile anti-Semitic terrorist organization” and urged the European Union to “follow Canada’s lead in listing Hezbollah as a proscribed and illegal terrorist organization.”

Kenney’s comment last week is part of a concerted campaign against a group the Los Angeles Times has called “Lebanon’s largest political party and most potent armed force.” Stephen Harper blamed Hezbollah for Israel’s summer 2006 invasion, Israel’s fifth, of Lebanon, which left 1,100 (mostly civilian) Lebanese dead and much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed. The month after Hezbollah successfully held off the Israeli invasion, foreign minister Peter MacKay said: “Lebanon is being held hostage by Hezbollah. There can be no doubt about that. Hezbollah is a cancer on Lebanon, which is destroying stability and democracy within its boundaries.” For his part, public safety minister Stockwell Day claimed the “stated intent of Hezbollah is to annihilate Jewish people.” (Despite Day and Kenney’s claims, Hezbollah was created in response to Israel’s 1982-2000 occupation of southern Lebanon and its pronouncements suggest it is largely concerned with Israel’s occupation of Arab lands.)

Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, the Conservatives’ demonization of Hezbollah gathered steam when Daniel Bellemare, a Canadian official, took charge of the international investigation into the February 2005 assassination of five-time Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. In November 2007 Bellemare, deputy attorney general and special advisor to the deputy minister of justice until October 2007, was appointed commissioner of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) into the bombing that killed Hariri and two dozen others. Concurrently, he was named prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which was set to continue the UNIIIC’s work beginning in March 2009.

Both the internal and international investigations into Hariri’s killing were far from conclusive. Initially, Syrian security officers were implicated in the killings and in the post assassination upheaval Syrian troops were driven from the country. Four Lebanese generals were also incarcerated for four years in the killings but they were released when the evidence against them was dismissed.

In 2010 the Netherlands-based STL began to point its finger at Hezbollah and in August 2011 four members of the Party of God were formally charged in the Hariri killings. But before the charges came down the international investigation was discredited in the eyes of many. A July 2011 survey of 800 Lebanese, sponsored by leading Arabic-language daily As-Safir, found that 60 percent of the country believed the international probe was politicized. The poll also found widespread distrust of Bellemare, who was accused of being pro-Israel and anti-Hezbollah. He also had suspiciously close relations with US officials.

Just after Bellemare issued the indictments against four individuals with ties to Hezbollah Lebanese daily Al Akbar published a detailed article on the Canadian titled “UN Tribunal: A Prosecutor’s ‘Tunnel Vision’” (translated by its English edition). “An example of this bias appears in paragraph 59 of the indictment, where Bellemare states that ‘all four accused are supporters of Hezbollah, which is a political and military organization in Lebanon. In the past, the military wing of Hezbollah has been implicated in terrorist acts.’ Bellemare does not offer a reference supporting his assertion that Hezbollah was involved in terrorism, and, so far, no international judicial body has issued a decision describing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. In fact, there is no international consensus surrounding Hezbollah’s ‘terrorism’ status, and the UN does not recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Several countries, including the US, Israel, and Canada have officially labeled the group as a terrorist organization — though, notably, the European Union has not. Bellemare seemingly chose to include his personal political opinion and perhaps the views of some of his colleagues in an international indictment.”

Many Lebanese believe the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad had a hand in Hariri’s death yet Bellemare refused to say if he interviewed any Israeli suspects. A TV station linked to Hezbollah, Al Manar, claimed Bellemare “lost credibility” for his “politicized tribunal” because he was unwilling to investigate Israel’s possible implication in the killings. The “Israeli enemy is ‘innocent’ and will remain so in the eyes of the international community and the STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare.”

The most damning evidence against Bellemare came from the US State Department. A series of US diplomatic cables, released by Wikileaks, suggest he worked closely with the US embassy in Beirut. On one occasion Bellemare asked US officials for information on Syria and for help in convincing the British to assist an investigation committee. The former deputy attorney general also requested two temporary FBI investigators be paid by the US. An October 2008 cable from the ambassador in Beirut to Washington read: “Bellemare showed a good understanding of the problems [for the US] associated with complying … but his frustration was nonetheless evident: ‘You are the key player [he said]. If the US doesn’t help me, who will?’” The US embassy gave Bellemare “an ‘excellence’ preliminary assessment for his effort and determination, and we urge Washington to exert every effort to respond to the investigation committee’s request related to the information and support.”

Hezbollah claimed the Wikileaks cables confirmed that the US manipulated the probe. “The information leaked on meetings between the prosecutor and the US ambassador confirms what we have always said — that the US administration is using the court and the investigation committee as a tool to target the resistance [to Israel, i.e. Hezbollah],” noted Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah in December 2010.

In January 2011 the Lebanese government collapsed when 10 cabinet ministers and one presidential appointee withdrew over then Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s refusal to reject the STL. At the start of 2011 many feared that the STL’s expected indictment of Hezbollah members could re-ignite the country’s civil war, which lasted from 1975-1990. This didn’t bother Washington. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in favour of the STL and announced $10 million in added funding for the floundering tribunal. The US ambassador in Lebanon Maura Connelly said “the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is an irrevocable, international judicial process; its work is not a matter of politics but of law.” Even President Obama chimed in, saying the STL’s first indictment could end an “era of impunity” and that it was “a significant and emotional time for the Lebanese people.”

In the first 10 weeks of 2011 Foreign Affairs released three statements that dealt with the STL. On January 13 the ministry complained about the dissolution of Lebanon’s government over the matter. “These resignations are an attempt to subvert a safe and secure Lebanon and cannot be tolerated. Hezbollah’s actions in bringing down the government are a clear attempt to undermine the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Canada believes that the work of the Special Tribunal should go forward so that justice can be served.” A follow-up statement explained: “We urge the future Lebanese government to continue to support and cooperate with the Tribunal and to continue to uphold its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions on Lebanon.” In March 2011 the Conservatives gave a further $1 million contribution to the STL. “Canada has been a strong supporter of the Tribunal, having already contributed $3.7 million to the voluntarily funded Tribunal since 2007,” explained foreign minister Cannon.

An August 2011 Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report, detailed in Montréal daily La Presse, found that “many Lebanese consider the work of the STL an inquest led by Canadians.” At the time more than 20 Canadians were involved in the Tribunal’s work and last March another Canadian replaced Bellemare. According to CSIS, this country’s association with the highly divisive tribunal increased the likelihood of Canadians being targeted.

The Conservatives latest salvo against Hezbollah is another reminder that the Harper government has sided with the US and Israel against most Lebanese.

Yves Engler’s latest book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment