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Iran Is Not Our Enemy

Despite what all the media are yammering at you, despite all the fear mongering about Iran’s “nuclear threat” (Iran has been fully verified by the IAEA and ALL the U.S. intelligence community agree and are on record that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons), despite talk that Iran is intolerant, despite the daily barrage of bad press and unpleasant innuendo, Iran is a great country, friendly, cultured, fun and spiritually-minded!

The “Powers That Were” are dead set on taking us to war against Iran, but “They lied about Vietnam… Iraq… Afghanistan…” and “Iran Is NOT Our Enemy ! “

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ASA Summit Promotes South-South Ties, Regional Integration

Venezuelanalysis | March 1, 2013

The signing of twenty-seven new economic and social agreements between the nations of South America and Africa was the product of three days of meetings held between representatives of more than 60 countries in Equatorial Guinea last week.

The Third South America Africa Summit (ASA) took place just outside the capital of Malabo, where heads of states and high-ranking officials outlined ways to improve commercial, technological and transportation collaboration between the two continents.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff as well as Bolivia’s President Evo Morales were in attendance on Friday as were the presidents of Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Suriname and Cape Verde, among others.

“We are here to contribute with our experiences together, always thinking about the liberation of our countries in Africa as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean”, said President Morales on Friday.

During his speech, Morales drew attention to the need to take back the natural resources that have been “looted” by the United States and Europe, highlighting the gains that have been made as a result of such policies in the Americas.

“We began to take back our resources and the result has been a change in the economic and financial history of much of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean”, the Bolivian head of state asserted.

“Unity for the dignity of our peoples, unity for equality, and, above all, unity for our liberation”, he added.

This sentiment of economic and political independence was echoed by the majority of ASA representatives including Nigerian Foreign Minister, Viola Adaku Onwuliri.

“Let’s show our ability to make tangible decisions that will lead to economic development and the integration of Africa and South America.

With true political will, we will be able to achieve it, just a s we have already been able to overcome the burdens of colonialism and racism”, Onwuliri said.

For his part, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua read a letter written by Hugo Chavez who apologized for his inability to participate personally in the conference.

“I truly lament, in the deepest of ways, my inability to be physically present with you and I reiterate once again…my most irrevocable commitment to the cause of union between our people”, the Venezuelan President wrote.

In his missive, Chavez hailed the “indivisible historic ties” that bind the regions and which have obliged the two continents “to walk together until the very end”.

“I will never be tired of saying it: we are one people. We must find each other, beyond the formalities and the speeches, in the feeling of unity.”

“In this way we will take our people out of the labyrinth where they had been cast by colonialism and, in the 20th century, by neoliberal capitalism”, the head of state said.

EXPANDING THE ALLIANCE

Apart from the commercial accords inked on Saturday, participating countries also expressed their support for Argentina in its territorial dispute with the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands.

A further resolution saw the condemnation of the more than 50 year-old US blockade on Cuba and a declaration calling for Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations.

Many countries expressed their desire for the expansion of the ASA alliance, advocating the inclusion of all of Latin America and the Caribbean, not only those members belonging to the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) bloc.

President Nguema of Equatorial Guinea described the absence of these nations as “unjustifiable” given the important commonalities that exist between Africa and the developing nations of the Americas.

“The history of our continents, largely exploited by other countries, compels us to take measures of South-South cooperation which will allow us to emerge with liberty, independence and coexistence in this globalized world of confronting interests”, Nguema said.

Following this line, the President of the Spanish-speaking African nation proposed that ASA be incorporated into the recently established Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) alliance that includes all countries in the Americas except the United States and Canada.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jaua reported that Nguema’s proposal has received the support of many allied Latin American nations and that “what needs to be done is to discuss [the proposal] with Unasur and then with CELAC”.

Jaua additionally informed that there will be an encounter between the leading members of ASA next month in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to guarantee the materialization of the agreements signed last weekend.

“On April 26, there will be a meeting of the Follow-Up Commission which is made up of Nigeria, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea to see through the accords that have been solidified in this third summit,” the Venezuelan Minister said.

FINDING ITS FOOTING

The tri-annual ASA first took place in Abuya, Nigeria in 2006 and was followed by a second encounter in Margarita Island, Venezuela in 2009.

While many member nations agree that more needs to be done to strengthen the alliance, trade between the continents has grown from $7.2 billion in 2002 to $39.4 billion in 2011.

Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino explained that relations between the two regions have not been easy over the years “because we don’t know each other very much and we don’t have much work experience together.”

At the same time, Patino affirmed that there are great possibilities for collaboration and that the two continents “have much to offer one another” in ways that go beyond pure commercial relations.

Ecuador is slated to host the next ASA summit in 2016.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gasoline prices, a challenge to Obama

By Ralph Nader | February 28, 2013

Here we go again. A sudden surge in the price of gasoline and heating oil is followed by reported expressions of frustrated despair by hard-pressed consumers in the midst of silence from the oil companies and abdication of responsibility by the elected and appointed officials of federal and state governments.

The price of gasoline is up by about 50 cents in the past month, according to AAA, making the average gallon go for close to $4 per gallon in many parts of the country. Prices are even higher in California. AAA says that this “is the most expensive we’ve seen gasoline in the dead of winter.”

Every penny increase in the annual price of gasoline takes over $1.6 billion dollars from the pockets of American consumers (Source). That doesn’t even count the higher prices for heating oil homeowners are paying.

There was a time when even a few cents increase in the price of gasoline or natural gas would provoke Congressional investigations, actions by state Attorneys General, and condemnations of the producer countries, the OPEC cartel and Big Oil from presidents and the heads of antitrust divisions of the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission. That is, until smooth, smiling Ronald Reagan came to Washington, D.C. with his mantra that “government is not the solution; government is the problem.”

Well, now the multi-layered petroleum cartel has become institutionalized, having “gotten government off its back” and they’ve put the New York Mercantile Exchange speculators at the gaming tables.

There seems to be an adequate supply of crude oil in this recessionary global economy. What could be the cause of this latest price spike? The news media offer a spectrum of possible factors – restrictions on exports of Iranian oil imposed by western governments, instability in Syria and elsewhere in the volatile Middle East, oil hungry China, oil speculators on Wall Street and reduced refinery capacity in the U.S.

Each price surge in recent decades seems to have different principal causes. This time it seems to have been precipitated by surging prices of crude – easily manipulated – and in the U.S. the permanent or temporary shutdown for repairs, of too many refineries.

Believe it or not, the U.S. is now a net refined petroleum importer because of the continuing refusal by the industry to rebuild or expand refinery capacity on the very sites where many refineries have been shut down, often in favor of offshore, cheaper installations.

Whenever supply and demand for refined oil products is tight, all it takes is for one or two refineries to suspend operations, other than for repairs, and the prices surge all over the country.

This happened in January to a refinery in California, due to a fire, and more prominently the closure of a key refinery in Port Reading, New Jersey, owned by the Hess company. Five dollars a gallon gas “is a real possibility,” John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital, told Yahoo! Finance, adding “this is partly being driven by the lost refinery capacity of about one million barrels per day…that’s a lot.” (The U.S. consumes about 19 million barrels a day of refined petroleum products.)

So what can our so-called representatives in Washington do about a gouge that has angered almost all conservative and liberal consumers? Well, the Democratically-controlled Senate can start by holding investigatory hearings. The President can speak out more forcefully and indicate he may release some of the government’s crude oil reserves to increase supply.

He can order his Justice Department to at the very least subpoena pertinent oil industry information for starters.

Mr. Obama can forcefully back up Gary Gensler, his appointed, savvy Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who has been trying to rein in excessive speculation that drives up prices and punishes the motoring public.

In 2011 CFTC data showed that massive inflows of speculative money drove up prices. At that time, even Goldman Sachs analyst, David Greely, claimed Wall Street speculation in the futures market was driving up oil prices. Earlier, Rex Tillerson, the head of ExxonMobil, estimated that speculation was responsible for a more than $40 per barrel price increase when oil was just over $100 per barrel. Over the last month crude oil has ranged in price from $93-$120 per barrel.

Admiral Hyman Rickover who, more than 40 years ago, wisely said that there should always be government-owned shipyards to provide a yardstick by which to restrain the high prices and cost overruns being charged by private ship buildings manufacturing the Navy’s ships. That means, in this oil price context, that the government should own and operate some refineries for the armed forces. Any excess capacity could loosen the market with gasoline and heating oil when the corporate interests maneuver tight supplies for which they get immediately rewarded with cold cash.

Were Obama to direct some of his bully pulpit heat on those members of Congress who are marinated in oil, he might find more support from Capitol Hill for all these initiatives.

So call the switchboard at the White House comment line (202-456-1111) and tell the president that you are fed up and determined to drive less, carpool and walk more where possible, but that he, the president, must be more aggressive in taking on the staggeringly profitable and tax-favored big oil companies.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , | 8 Comments

U.S. Policy Shift on Syria: Edging Closer to Direct Military Intervention

By Ben Schreiner | Aletho News | March 1, 2013

Though President Obama last year rejected a proposal from the State Department, Pentagon, and CIA to directly arm Syrian rebel fighters, his administration is once again edging closer to directly intervening in the Syrian war.

As the Washington Post reported Tuesday, “The Obama administration is moving toward a major policy shift on Syria that could provide the rebels with equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles and possible military training and could send humanitarian assistance directly to Syria’s opposition political coalition.”

White House spokesperson Jay Carney confirmed the Post‘s reporting Wednesday, stating that the U.S. is “constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people, in form of humanitarian assistance, and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance.”

The exact nature of the additional U.S. assistance is expected to be announced Thursday at a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” in Rome.  The U.S. has previously sent communications equipment and night-vision goggles to rebels fighting in Syria.

John Kerry the Interventionist

The – perhaps – unlikely driver of the reported shift in U.S. policy on Syria has been none other than new Secretary of State John Kerry. The very man many continue to insist on mislabeling a dove.

Speaking as early as February 13, Secretary of State Kerry proclaimed that there were “additional things that can be done” to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad aside. And on Monday, Kerry again went on to reiterate that the West was “determined to change the calculation on the ground for President Assad.”

“We are examining and developing ways to accelerate the political transition that the Syrian people want and deserve,” Kerry commented further.

Although a policy change for the Obama administration, advocating for a more direct role for the U.S. in Syria has long been Kerry’s position. As Kerry commented in May of 2012: “The concept of a safe zone is a reality and worth the discussion. The concept of working with the Turks and the Jordanians, if everybody is on the same page, there could be some [military] training [of the opposition forces]. If we can enhance the unity of the opposition, we could consider lethal aid and those kinds of things.”

In the same interview Kerry went on to voice support – under the right conditions – for “U.S.- or NATO-led airstrikes on the Syrian military.”

This should come as no surprise given Kerry’s previous support for U.S. bombing campaigns in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Some dove! Of course, the American foreign policy establishment as a whole has steadily veered toward a greater affinity for missile and bomb diplomacy.

“Once war was considered the business of soldiers, international relations the concern of diplomats,” C. Wright Mills wrote of the U.S. over 50 years ago in The Power Elite.  “But now that war has become seemingly total and seemingly permanent… Peace is no longer serious; only war is serious.”

If nothing else, then, Kerry has proven himself once again to be a rather “serious” man.

Intervention by Proxy

While Kerry helps edge Washington closer to direct military intervention into Syria, U.S. proxies continue to ramp up their campaign to topple the Syrian regime.

As the New York Times reported Monday, Saudi Arabia has recently begun to funnel heavy weapons purchased from Croatia to Syrian rebel groups via Jordan. The Saudi shipments, the paper goes on to note, “have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad.”

The U.S. role in the Saudi arms flow, the Times reports, “is not clear.” Yet, it is hard to fathom that such shipments were not sanctioned by Washington, given the close military ties the U.S. maintains between those involved.  After all, Saudi Arabia remains one of the largest purchasers of U.S. arms. The Pentagon, meanwhile, maintains “a robust military-to-military relationship with Croatia,” providing the Croatian military with “training, equipment, equipment loans, and education in U.S. military schools.” And U.S. military aid to Jordan tops $300 million a year.

Moreover, the U.S. has had upwards of 150 military planners stationed along the Jordanian border with Syria since last summer, where the Croatian arms are reported to have passed into rebel hands. It has long been reported that the CIA is overseeing the arms shipments to Syrian rebels from within Turkey.

The U.S. is thus already well entangled in the Syrian war – albeit if by the use of proxy forces.

Thwarting Dialogue

The push to further enhance the degree of U.S. intervention – from guiding regional proxies to direct military support – comes as the rebel drive to oust Assad appears to be reaching its limits. In fact, Mouaz Mustafa, the political director of the U.S.-based Syrian American Task Forced, recently argued that, “Assad cannot be deposed without the consent of the U.S.”

This realization has even left some in the West to admit that Assad still retains a sizable base of domestic support.  As former U.S. diplomat Karen AbuZayd commented in a recent interview with CBC Radio, “there’s quite a number of the population, maybe as many as half, if not more, who stand behind him [Assad].”

Thus, we see the exiled Syrian opposition – long opposed to dialogue – now hinting at a new willingness to engage in negotiations with the Syrian regime.  Yet, the U.S. continues to insist that any political dialogue must be preempted by regime change.

As State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell commented on Wednesday, “the [political] process has to include Assad leaving, but it’s really up to the Syrian people.”  Another example of the limits of America’s democratic ideals, as we see that the choice for the Syrian people begins and ends with supporting Washington’s agenda.

Of course, as long as a sizable segment of Syrians stand behind Assad – or at least refrain from supporting the armed rebels – demanding that Assad leaves only portends a protracted military struggle. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was left to comment Monday, “It seems extremists, who bet on a military solution to Syria’s problems and block initiatives to start dialogue, have for now come to dominate in the ranks of the Syrian opposition.” And the ranks of Washington, it appears as well.

Yet, even as Washington and its European allies antagonize Russia by preparing to heighten their intervention into Syria, they still desperately seek the legitimacy of a United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing a military intervention. And for this they need Moscow.

Cajoling Russia to Pave the Road to Tehran

Writing in Foreign Policy, Christopher Chivvis of the RAND Corporation and Edward Joseph, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, argue that the threat of Western military intervention is what is needed to bring Russia around to supporting the “regime change” line.

“Changing the Russian position means changing Moscow’s calculus on Syria,” Chivvis and Joseph write.  “And that means presenting the Kremlin with an alternative that it finds more unpalatable than the status quo: a NATO-backed, Turkey-led military coalition invited by the Arab League to intervene in the Syria conflict.”

And here we have the bankruptcy and hubris of the American foreign policy elite.  It’s all rather transparent: capitulate to our demands, or face the brunt of military force. Only war is serious.

Of course, Chivvis and Joseph go on to tout the “blow to Iran and a boon to the United States and its regional partners and allies” a toppled Assad would present. “Israel would be a primary beneficiary, with its antagonist, Hezbollah, having been dealt a serious setback,” they continue.

How all this is supposed to entice Moscow is not exactly clear. What is good for American is good for the world, it appears. Indicative, perhaps, of what Chalmers Johnson once wrote to be the self-aggrandizement of imperial rot.

And so with the typical delusions of grandeur, the U.S. edges closer to direct military intervention into Syria – closer, too, to unleashing a dangerous regional conflagration. In fact, the Iran war drums are already beating louder; for regime change in Damascus only paves the road to Tehran.

Ben Schreiner can be reached at: bnschreiner@gmail.com.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

French troops to stay in Mali until July: Officials

Press TV – March 1, 2013

French officials say the country’s forces will remain in Mali until at least July amid reports of a serious humanitarian crisis in the northern areas of the country caused by the French-led war in the West African nation.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, made the announcement on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week, an unnamed French diplomat also said that it is unlikely that “the French presence will be over in six months.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on February 6 that the country would begin the withdrawal of its troops from Mali in March.

“We will continue to act in the north… I think that from March, if everything goes according to plan, the number of French troops should decrease,” Fabius said.

France launched its war on Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters in the country. The war has left thousands of Malians homeless.

The French-led war in Mali has also displaced thousands of people, who now live in deplorable conditions.

On February 1, Amnesty International said “serious human rights breaches” — including the killing of children — were occurring in the French war in Mali.

The rights organization said there was “evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike” carried out by French forces against the local fighters.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 6 Comments

Report: US and Allies Are Training Rebels in Fight against Assad

Al-Manar | March 1, 2013

The Times published on Friday a report under the headline “US and Allies Are Training Rebels in Fight against Assad”.

The British paper said that “the US and several of its European allies are overseeing training bases for the Syrian rebels in Jordan in an effort to bolster moderate groups fighting to overthrow President (Bashar) Assad.”

The paper indicated that “the move is the most far-reaching US involvement yet in the Syrian crisis and reflects broader Western concerns that Islamic militants such as Jabhat Al-Nusra (Front) are making the running in the battle against the regime.”

It further quoted intelligence officers and diplomats in the region as saying that “rebel fighters are being offered training ranging from the use of light arms to more complicated maneuvers, such as how to secure chemical-weapons facilities.”

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment