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After the flames, only determination remains in Burin and Madama

International Solidarity Movement | June 3, 2013

Burin and Madama, Occupied Palestine – On Monday 3rd June, around a dozen settlers from the illegal colony of Yizhar set fire to Palestinian’s fields in the villages of Burin and Madama, destroying at least 50 acres of arable land with olive trees. The settlers were joined by a jeep of border police when 40-50 Palestinians from the village of Burin came out to attempt to put out the fire, with some being stopped from doing so by the border police present.

As people from the two villages south of Nablus were hoping for an uneventful workday, the settlers from Yizhar, renowned for being one of the worst for settler violence, set fire to fields in the Khallat al-Injas neighbourhood of Madama. One young person there desribed how, “then I went there quickly with my friends and tried to extinguish it. During that time the settlers went to the eastern area which is between Madama and Bureen. They set fire into the hills there.”Before long, the enormous fires spread across the field and towards the olive tree groves of neighbouring Burin. Shortly after, Israeli border police turned up at the scene in Burin’s land, delaying the extinguishing of the fire.

Salman Valley was a major source of income for Burin (photo: ISM)

Salman Valley was a major source of income for Burin (photo: ISM)

Of the Palestinians that gathered, the Israeli border police only allowed uniformed firemen and those from the Palestinian Authority’s civil volunteer service to put out the raging fires. Those who approached to help were threatened with pepper spray. The fire was eventually slowed down when  the border police left and the community was able to help. Areas of the hills still burned when volunteers were leaving at around 6 o’clock in the evening. The Israeli fire service appeared in case the fire spread to settler-occupied land, but did nothing to help the Palestinians nearby.

This level of violence is far from unheard of in the villages of Madama and Burin, which like other villages in proximity to Yizhar, are both subject to regular crop burnings, harassment and serious violence from the illegal settlement, who, with the assistance of the Israeli occupation forces, show no signs of stopping their assault on the surrounding Palestinian land and its inhabitants. Residents of Burin also face harassment from the Israeli army, which includes the tear-gassing of a Burin home, with a months old baby inside, during this February’s ‘al-Manatir‘ demonstration. A protest for which the village has received several military reprisals since, including destruction of the local cultural centre.

Yizhar is at the forefront of settler violence and operates a strict “price tag” policy, where any action taken by the Israeli government on illegal settlements within the West Bank must be met by carrying out harsh and violent crimes on Palestinian communities. It’s has frequently produced anti-Palestinian propaganda, including literature justifying the killing of Palestinian children and material supporting the actions of mass murderer Baruch Goldstein.

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Arabs Need Iran: Part I

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By Sharmine Narwani | Al-Akhbar | 2013-06-03

In 2011, when Arab revolts began to sweep the Middle East and North Africa, the view from Washington and its closest allies was one of concern. How would the removal of mostly pro-Western dictatorships affect the balance of power in the region? More importantly – how to prevent these events from boosting Iran’s influence?

Two years on, the regional competition for influence is in full throttle. In its sights – among many other developments – are recent efforts by Iran and Egypt to upgrade their relationship.

The spoilers will have none of it. Said Steven A. Cook last week on the website of that most prestigious of US institutions, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): “Other than some quick cash and subsidized energy, there is nothing that Tehran can offer Cairo that will, in the long run, be to Egypt’s benefit.”

He has it entirely wrong. “Quick cash and subsidized energy” can only be used to describe the superficial offerings of countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both vying for influence in this new Egypt.

There is no contest whatsoever between that kind of assistance and what Iran can bring to the table. Iran has achieved its economic independence the hardest way imaginable – through a devastating eight-year war with Iraq and decades of potentially-debilitating sanctions. It has shrugged off the yoke of imperialism, built infrastructure, social services and industry from scratch, harnessed its own resources toward establishing domestic self-sufficiencies, created a dynamic – if imperfect – indigenous political system of representative government, and managed to maintain the security of its oft-threatened borders through military innovation and soft power.

In short, with similar-sized populations (Iran’s 78 million to Egypt’s 82 million) and the experience of tackling monumental state-building challenges with varying degrees of success, there is simply no country better situated to provide developmental guidance to Egypt – and other economically vulnerable Arab states – than the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Seeing is Believing

Other than a frustratingly brief trip some years ago to attend a Tehran conference where I had little opportunity to get around, I had not visited Iran in eight years. In the latter part of 2012, I made three trips to the country – in large part to discover how Iran continues to thrive despite the “biting sanctions” we keep hearing about.

And thrive it does. Visitors land at the brand new Imam Khomeini international airport as a first step in experiencing an utterly revamped Tehran. You drive into the city on new highways, lit up almost excessively by closely aligned lampposts and the Iranian penchant for colorful lighting at major intersections. Streets are lined with trees, shrubs and flowers planted and nurtured by a succession of rather remarkable mayors that Tehran residents like to boast about.

Those are the city planners who develop well-manicured parks and children’s playgrounds to break up the urban monotony, build women’s sports facilities to encourage good health, spearhead campaigns on AIDS awareness, and pass out free condoms and hypodermic needles to prevent infection among drug users.

Tehran feels new and fresh – like it has had a facelift. New buildings abound, each more luxurious than the last, although sales have slowed dramatically in recent years, much like in other capitals hit by economic slowdown and ridiculously expensive housing. I cannot believe the greenery – this is a dry climate and I cannot seem to recall the city ever overflowing with late summer foliage like this.

New restaurants, cafés, and boutiques dot the boulevards; the bazaars are well-stocked and cleaner than I recall. Nothing seems to be in shortage – and Iranians are producing more of the food products on their supermarket shelves than ever before. In 2011, Iran ranked 11th globally in agricultural output, just behind Japan, Russia, Turkey, and Australia – and is ranked first and second worldwide in the production of a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and nuts ranging from apricots, cucumbers and walnuts to pistachios, saffron, and watermelon.

This is a country hell-bent on achieving self-sufficiency, after all. Under threat of increasingly punitive US-sponsored economic sanctions, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year promised the development of a “Resistance Economy” that will aim to stop all dependence on oil revenues and switch to knowledge-based industries and vital commodities instead.

After eight years away from the country, none of Tehran’s significant advances impressed me as much as the pollution-solution. Surrounded by the Alborz mountain range that traps pollutants, the capital has struggled for decades to lessen air pollution, much of which stemmed from aging vehicles that service a city of more than 12 million residents.

During past trips to Tehran, the stench of petrol from cars was omnipresent in congested areas – you’d have to clean blackened particles from your nose every day. In 2012, I experienced none of these things. The city still has high alerts on dangerous pollution days, but has come a long way from the days when the municipality enforced alternative driving days for cars with even and odd license plate numbers.

For starters, during my eight-year absence, Tehran has launched around 80 subway stations servicing more than 2.5 million passengers daily, and inaugurated a 60-station rapid transit bus system with just under two million daily users.

More impressive yet is the Islamic Republic’s nationwide effort to convert public transportation and privately owned vehicles from petrol engines to ones that run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

Pay attention now. Iran’s experiment to switch to alternative fuel-based vehicles is the kind of super-efficient central government initiative that the country now frequently launches – with varying degrees of success. It is one of many zero-to-a-hundred projects initiated in recent years that seeks to diversify the economy, create jobs, generate revenues or solve a problem. To Iran’s credit, at least they think big and make the effort – few other governments engage in these kinds of expansive nation-building activities anymore.

Partly to help stem air pollution, and mostly to reduce the country’s dependence on imported gasoline – and therefore mitigate the effect of US-backed sanctions against companies that sold refined petroleum to Iran – the Islamic Republic embarked on an ambitious program to adopt Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) based on alternative fuels.

In just a few years, Iran has established a fleet of around 3 million NGV, the largest in the world (by contrast, the US has just over 200,000) and now has the capacity to domestically manufacture 1.5 million CNG cylinders per year at extremely competitive costs.

Big Thinkers Build Nations

In writing this series of articles based on my Iran trips, I am constantly reminded of an MSNBC promotional ad featuring Rachel Maddow, where she stands in front of the Hoover Dam in a blue hardhat and gets sentimental about big-projects-that-build-nations:

“When you are this close to Hoover Dam, it makes you realize how small a human is in relation to this as a human project. You can’t be the guy who builds this, you can’t be the town who builds this, you can’t even be the state who builds this, you’ve got to be the country that builds something like this. This is a national project – this is a project of national significance. We’ve got those projects on the menu right now and we’ve got to figure out whether or not we are still a country that can think this big.”

The current mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf – a former commander in the Revolutionary Guard and national police chief who is widely admired for his big thinking and ability to get the job done – happens to be one of eight candidates running for president in the June elections.

Tehran residents are attached to their mayors, and in a city of between 12 to 14 million, are able to propel them to the presidency (current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the previous mayor). And after eight years in this role, you would be hard pressed to find a Tehrani who doesn’t praise Ghalibaf for his role in developing their capital. If he emerges as a national frontrunner, Tehran will push him over the line.

Among the other eight 2013 presidential contenders is Dr. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a former speaker of parliament (majlis) who holds one of Tehran’s 30 majlis seats and a close adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to whom he is related through marriage.

I met with Haddad-Adel during one of my trips to Iran last year – not to discuss regional or domestic politics – but to learn about four “academies” set up by the Iranian government two decades ago. These academies are meant to drive “big thinking,” establish best practices, and initiate macro planning for national projects in the areas of Sciences, Medical Sciences, Arts, and the Farsi language.

The Farsi language as a big national project? As it happens, that’s the academy headed up by Haddad-Adel, who holds a PhD in philosophy and has translated Immanuel Kant’s books into the Persian language.

What could be so urgent and critical about the national language that would move a country under prohibitive international sanctions to direct resources toward it?

“Farsi is as old as Iranian civilization – they are inseparable,” explains Haddad-Adel. “We Iranians are proud of our national language and literature. We regard our Persian literature as one of the most important elements of our national identity. And we have to support this language against the dangers that threaten it – new words, idioms and terms entering the language through science, technology and culture – mostly through the English language.”

Under Haddad-Adel’s tenure, one of the 15 departments dedicated to the task of preserving the Persian language has created a nine-volume dictionary converting over 40,000 foreign words into Persian equivalents. A quick glimpse through the final volume shows that a lot of the terminology being replaced are technological, medical and scientific words (laparascopy, intra-muscular injection, binary pulsar, supramolecular). But also covered are subjects like political sciences (interdependence, deconstructionism, national security), music (chord, grand-barre, capo d’astro) and sport (play-offs, kayak, surfboard).

Seventy different university groups and more than 150 people are involved in this task. The academy has developed complicated software for finding Persian equivalents for English terms.

“Language is not something that can be improved by command though,” says Haddad-Adel. “The velocity of development is so rapid, it is not possible for the public to follow it. We try to disseminate it through cultural ways.”

Another project of the academy: a Persian-to-Persian dictionary covering at least 1,000 years of the language – and tracking words like “khasteh” which means “tired” in modern Farsi and “injured” in old Persian through its exportation to the Ottoman Empire and current usage in modern Turkey as “hastehan” which means “hospital.”

Yet another department is developing a six-volume encyclopedia containing the “whole history of Persian language and literature in the Indian subcontinent.” Explains Haddad-Adel: “Persian was welcomed by Indians. It was a language of culture and has been for more than 800 years the official language of the old Indian courts and intellectuals. British colonialism ended this.”

There is more to this than the preservation of language – cultural revivalism, national security, identity politics, nationalism are woven into the fabric of the academy’s work. The Iran of Haddad-Adel isn’t a nation in decline – it appears to be getting geared up to lead a renaissance.

Mississippi Calls on Iran for Help

I next visited the director of the Medical Sciences academy Dr. Alireza Marandi, a pediatrician by training, two-time minister of health, university professor and a current member of the Majlis from Tehran.

In 2009, I had read an article in the UK-based Sunday Times (reproduced on this blog) that told the remarkable story of Iran’s provincial health houses. The post-revolution initiative to rapidly deliver basic medical care to under-served rural areas was able, in a short time, to reduce child mortality rates by 69 percent and maternal mortality in rural areas from 300 per 100,000 births to 30.

So astounding were these results that the US state of Mississippi – which, according to the Sunday Times article, has “some of the worst health statistics in the country, including infant mortality rates for non-whites at Third World levels” – turned to Iran for advice, assistance and training on how to achieve these results back home.

Dr. Marandi was Iran’s minister of health around the time the first health houses (khaneh behdasht) were established in post-revolutionary Iran. He recalls the difficulties in getting funding back in the early 1980s:

“During the Iran-Iraq war we had very little oil to export – we were limited to about one million barrels per day. The price of oil had come down to about $7-8 per barrel. The country was under bombardment. Yet during this time, the country still focused on developing a primary healthcare system.”

That wasn’t even the hard part. When majlis-approved funding finally came in to run one pilot program in each of Iran’s provinces, the planners had a difficult time finding local men and women with the required five years of elementary education to staff the health houses – especially the girls. Today, with literacy rates among Iran’s youth (ages 15-24) at 98 percent according to the World Bank, all health house workers have at least a high school education.

The women are trained for basic healthcare procedures – monthly check-ups for mothers, vaccines for children, schedules and checklists, breastfeeding guidance, preventive care. The men are largely responsible for environmental health issues like water and sanitation – they check village water supplies, add chlorine where necessary, teach locals personal hygiene, how to disinfect things, install basic toilets, and lay water pipes.

Today, says Marandi, Iran has some 20,000 health houses in 65-70,000 villages around the country and has established a primary healthcare “network” connecting health houses to larger health centers in larger towns, which in turn plug into hospitals and specialized medical facilities in urban areas. Although challenges still exist in this system, Iran has solved a vital social service and healthcare challenge that continues to plague most developing nations.

Despite a lack of funds, Marandi’s ministry of health tackled many more major health problems in those early days. In 1983, the highest rate of immunization in Iran was 25 percent. A few years later, that rate skyrocketed to 95 percent throughout the country. Iranians desperately needed more physicians (only 12,000) and a more diversified medical worker base, so the ministry of health under Marandi pushed through a bill that took all health-related schools (midwifery, dentistry, nursing, etc) away from the ministry of education. By streamlining and adding to existing resources, in that first year 1,200 students were increased to 6,000, students were directed into undermanned specialties where jobs awaited, and new schools of medicine were built – at least one for each province.

Today, there are 120,000 physicians in Iran. The country is self-sufficient in the production of medical experts and support staff, and has diversified into specialties like fertility treatments, heart, cornea, and kidney transplants that Iranians were forced to seek outside the country a few decades ago. Iranian expertise and relatively low-costs now even draw medical tourism from near (Iraq) and far (Canada).

“We now have every sub-specialty you can think of,” says Marandi, who received an award for his accomplishments from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000.

While Iran has the benefit of considerable oil resources to cushion its economy, throughout the 1980s the country was broke. Economically, Iran was in not much better a position than Egypt or Jordan are today, both countries just months away from bankruptcy. There is a missionary zeal that permeates the higher echelons of government and their immediate ranks below. Many decision makers I interviewed are driven by both religious faith and geopolitics – determined to satisfy public needs and focused on discovering efficiencies that will thwart the negative effects of sanctions. Despite frequent accusations of corruption and mismanagement, clearly a lot is getting done in the country – and with a real spirit of innovation.

In the next installments, I will write about my interviews with leaders in technological and scientific fields including Iran’s controversial nuclear energy program, huge achievements in nanotechnology, political insights on what top Iranian politicians think about a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt, and US-sponsored sanctions…and the unexpected fact that Iran has cloned sheep.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perpetual War – and Obama’s Perpetual Con Game

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Report | May 29, 2013

Barack Obama is a master trickster, a shape-shifter, and a methodical liar. The man who has arrogated to himself the right to kill at will, anywhere on the globe, accountable only to himself, based on secret information and classified legal rationales, now says he is determined that Washington’s “perpetual war” must one day end – sometime in the misty future after he is long gone from office. He informed his global audience of potential victims that he had signed a secret agreement (with himself?) that would limit drone strikes to targets that pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot be captured – a policy that his White House has always claimed (falsely) to be operative. He promises to be more merciful than before, “haunted” as he is by all the nameless deaths, although he admits to having done no wrong.

He is a man of boundless introspection, inviting us to ride with him on his wildly spinning moral compass. But, most of all, he is not George Bush – of that we can be certain, if only because he is younger and oratorically gifted and Black. “Beyond Afghanistan,” he said, “we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” Thus, magically, he redefined the U.S. war on terror out of existence (in perpetuity) by breaking the conflict down to its daily, constituent parts, while simultaneously affirming that America will soon travel “beyond Afghanistan” despite the fact that many thousands of Special Operations troops will continue their round the clock raids in the countryside while drones rain death from the skies for the foreseeable future.

Such conflicts, we must understand, are necessitated by the “imminence” of threats posed to U.S. security, as weighed and measured by secret means. His Eminence is the sole judge of imminence. He is also the arbiter of who is to be detained in perpetuity, without trial or (public) charge, for “association” with “terrorists” as defined by himself. He has no apologies for that.

America must turn the page on the previous era, because “the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11.” A reevaluation is in order, since “we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.” In that case, why not call for repeal of the layers of war on terror legislation that have accumulated over the last 12 years, including Obama’s own NDAA preventive detention bill? Or, he could simply renounce these measures and refuse to employ them as a matter of policy. Instead, the president defended his own maximalist interpretation of the law, and claimed that the legal basis for his kill-at-will authority is firmly rooted in the Congress’s 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AMUF). Although he made vague reference to changes that Congress might make in the AMUF, there was no substantive indication that he sought to impose restrictions on his own or any other president’s authority to wage war precisely as he has for the last four years.

Obama’s blanket interpretation of AMUF – the legal logic – had previously been considered a state secret. It was news to much of the U.S. Senate, too, until assistant secretary of defense Michael Sheehan, in charge of special operations (death squads) at the Pentagon, told lawmakers earlier this month that the AMUF allows Obama to put “boots on the ground” anywhere he chooses, including “Yemen or the Congo,” if his classified logic compelled him to do so.

The senators were stunned – although it is no secret that Obama has already put U.S. Special Forces boots on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, and has sent a combat brigade on permanent posting on the continent. Central Africa is one part of the world in which al Qaida has found little traction. The purported “bad guy” hiding in the bush, Joseph Kony, is the Christian leader of the remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Obama authorized the deployment under the doctrine of Humanitarian Military Intervention, or Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a war-making notion that is, at best, ill-defined under international law and non-existent in U.S. statutes. However, if Obama is sincere (!) in wanting to phase out AMUF, as he averred last week, he’s always got R2P as a backup.

Death squad honcho Sheehan is a believer in the perpetual lifespan of AMUF, which he considers operative until al Qaida has been consigned to the “ash heap of history” – an eventuality that is “at least 10 to 20 years” away. Since this is the guy who carries out Obama’s kill orders (the identity of his counterpart in the CIA is, of course, a secret), one would think that Sheehan and Obama would be on the same page when it comes to al Qaida and AMUF. But then, we are told that page has turned.

Obama is very good at flipping pages, changing subjects, hiding the pea in his hand while we try to figure out which bowl it’s under. His call for Congress to come up with a substitute for AMUF – without yet offering his own version – is a ploy to more explicitly codify those powers assumed by Bush and expanded upon by the Obama administration. Or, the Congress can do nothing – a very likely outcome – and Obama can pretend to be the reluctant, self-restrained global assassin, preventive detainer and regime changer for the rest of his term.

Not a damn thing has changed.

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Turks Take to the Streets, but Erdogan Remains

By Hüsnü Mahalli | Al-Akhbar | June 3, 2013

Overnight, what was once a consensus on the stability of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government turned into a schism. The barrier of fear collapsed and demonstrations spread throughout the country, leading to clashes that left many injured. However, the “Sultan” remains, at least for now.

Istanbul – The bloody wave of clashes in Turkey over the past two days has raised many questions, from comprehending the Turkish government’s disproportionate reaction, to debating the possibility of a wider “Turkish Spring.”

The information is conflicting, but there is one constant: The barrier of fear that has protected Turkish PM Erdogan, who has exerted his authority over the entire country, has come tumbling down. Though the view prevails that Erdogan is still firmly in control, there is no denying that the events took everyone by surprise.

It is clear there is more to the issue. The transformation of a public square into a mall does not warrant hundreds of injuries and arrests, or people from 47 districts taking to the streets.

Erdogan blamed the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its president Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Yet there is no denying that the control and hegemony practiced by Erdogan, which by and large turned the private media into an official spokesperson for the government, is a large factor in the turnout.

The reason might also be Erdogan and his party’s interference in the private affairs of individuals, such as the recent decision to ban alcohol. Or it could be popular discontent with the Syrian issue, with some polls indicating that up to 80 percent are not happy with the situation.

Kılıçdaroğlu expressed it boldly. The government’s policy toward Syria is a threat to Turkey national and homeland security. Erdogan’s reply, as usual, was violent and provocative, accusing him of “supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because they are both Alawis.”

Some believe that Erdogan’s attack on Hezbollah and Iran is another reason behind the popular discontent with the prime minister. There are about 20 million Alawi Turks, albeit known to be the most ardent defenders of secularism in the country.

No matter what, Erdogan’s strength lies in the political, economic, and moral support of the US. Istanbul’s stock market has 66 percent foreign investment. What does that mean? It means that Erdogan, who has sold off almost all of the public sector, is now a hostage to this money and investment. If foreign investment declines, it will lead to an economic collapse, taking with it Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AKP) party.

The AKP came to power following an economic collapse. They remain in power due to economic “achievements.” It was interesting that in all this confusion, several Turkish, US, and British newspapers rooted their analyses in this framework. However, they differed about the outcomes.

Those who believed it was a Turkish Spring cited its causes in economic and cultural reasons, as well as fear of the Islamization of the state.

The Turkish press say that talk of a Turkish Spring is “exaggerated.” However, some Turkish pundits admitted that the current events are “a turning point in the sanctity of the image of Erdogan and his party.”

Nevertheless, the Turkish press agreed that the demonstrations “reveal the gap in the opinions of citizens and the view of the ruling AKP.”

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Syrian Opposition Disintegrates, SRGS Withdraws

Al-Manar | June 3, 2013

The “Syrian Revolution General Commission” announced its withdrawal from the Syrian opposition body of the National Coalition on Monday. It accused the opposition leaders of misusing funds and pursuing personal ambitions.

SRGC considered, in a statement, that the Coalition’s initiatives do not fit the real nature and goals of the so-called revolution.

“We are withdrawing from the Coalition… because it is taking initiatives far removed from the true revolution and cannot represent the revolution in an authentic way.”

“Money has been wasted on the personal interests of the Coalition members who are more concerned with appearing in the media than helping the revolution,” teh statement added.

SRGC said that the Coalition violated the agreement on increasing the number of the representatives of the Syrian militants in the coalition during last meeting in Istanbul.

SRGC also accused some countries of “utilizing the Syrian revolution for its own interests” and exerting pressure on the Syrian opposition “without taking the true aims of the revolution into consideration.”

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Corruption | , , | Leave a comment

John McCain and the Desperate Flailing of Syrian Oppositionists’ External Supporters

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Going to Tehran | June 3rd, 2013

Much was made last week about the infiltration of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) into Syria for a brief photo op with various anti-Assad “rebels”—who, it turns out, have allegedly been involved in kidnapping Lebanese Shi’a pilgrims.  (Senator McCain claims that none of the individuals with whom he was photographed identified themselves by names of those accused of kidnapping Shi’a pilgrims; his spokesman says it would be “regrettable” if the Senator had been photographed with people accused of committing such acts.)   Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, another GOP Senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, noted acidly, “They say there are some pro-Western people and we’re going to vet them.  Well, apparently we’ve got a senator over there who got his picture taken with some kidnappers, so I don’t know how good a job we’re going to do vetting those who are going to get the arms.”

In a blog post provocatively titled “Did John McCain Provide Material Support for Syrian Terrorists?”, see here, the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow wrote that a recent Supreme Court ruling (Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, issued in 2010) “upheld the [U.S.] government’s broad reading” of the statute that criminalizes “material support” for terrorism.  In this reading, “coordinated political advocacy”—that is, advocacy coordinated with groups engaged designated by Washington as terrorist organizations—counts as material supportThose engaged in such “coordinated political advocacy” can be federally prosecuted; if convicted, they might go to jail for ten years.

In his post, Doug points to a number of cases where U.S. government’s expansive definition of material support for terrorism—now largely ratified by the Supreme Court—has produced disturbing legal outcomes.  He argues that:

“lawmakers who approved the law should be subject to the same legal risks.  Consider Sen. John McCain, who has been campaigning for war in Syria, just as he previously promoted war most everywhere else around the globe.”

After examining press reports on Sen. McCain’s trip to Syria—and on the activities of some of the rebels McCain met there—Doug concludes that Sen. McCain:

“would seem to have provided ‘material support’ to terrorists.”

“Having his photo taken with Islamic extremists could reasonably be interpreted as an endorsement, which, based on past cases, could be seen as providing ‘material support’ for terrorism.  Presumably that isn’t what Sen. McCain intended.  But the law’s application is not based on intent.

To be fair to the rest of us, the Justice Department should investigate…[A]s much as I oppose vague and ambiguous criminal enactments by the federal government, I would enjoy seeing Senator McCain in the dock,  It would be cosmic justice for his support of the catastrophic invasion in Iraq and endless occupation of Afghanistan.”

After his drive-by photo op in “liberated” Syria, Sen. McCain apparently traveled to Yemen.  We were struck by the Yemen Post’s report on his visit, see here; we also append the story below:

“According to several Yemeni-based local newspapers, US Senator John McCain, who briefly visited Yemen earlier this week to offer his support to the coalition government and discuss political and security developments is rumored to have directly urged President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to facilitate the transfer of Jihadists to Syria.

As the Free Syrian Army is struggling to secure its advances against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose lists of supporters while thin remains mighty in military might, Washington and its allies in the region are said to be looking at ways to swell the ranks of the opposition by allowing foreign fighters to enroll against Assad regime.

In a move which analysts have already qualified as dangerous given the repercussions a similar policy led to in the 1980s, when Jihadists were sent to fight off Russian troops in Afghanistan, security experts worry al-Qaeda will use this opportunity to increase its recruitment pool while offering precious ground experience to its militants, which experience would be used later on against Yemen central government.

A source told several newspapers, ‘Senator McCain’s visit was to drum up support for Jihadist groups fighting Bashar al-Assad regime.’

While the government has so far refused to comment on the issues, quite understandably since its military is still locked in an on-going military struggle against Islamic operatives in its southern provinces, all the while preparing for the return of some Gitmo terror prisoners.  Yemeni officials would have a difficult time reconciling the idea of Jihad in one place while fighting off the same rhetoric in its own backyard.”

If true, the Yemen Post report could be construed as another piece of evidence against the apparently terrorist-supporting Sen. McCain.  For, according to this story, McCain lobbied the Yemeni government to send more jihadi fighters to Syria, in order to swell the ranks of groups engaged in terrorist activity—representatives of which the Arizona senator had met with immediately before traveling to Yemen.

What all of this suggests is the mounting desperation that advocates of using Syrian oppositionists—whether Syrian or not—to overthrow the Assad government must now be feeling.  Their project has failed.  But, rather than accept this failure, many, like Sen. McCain, want the United States to double down on their unsuccessful pseudo-strategy—to provide still more support the opposition forces, and even to become directly involved militarily (through no-fly zones, etc.).

Fifty-two years ago, the United States foolishly tried to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government by invading Cuba with a force of anti-Castro rebels.  When that force, unsurprisingly, got into trouble almost immediately upon landing in Cuba, there were those who wanted President John F. Kennedy to order U.S. air support for the rebels.  While Kennedy made a huge blunder by proceeding with the invasion in the first place, he was sufficiently astute at least not to compound his mistake by taking the United States into an overt, aggressive war against Cuba (certainly a covert campaign of aggression was already underway).

Similarly, President Obama has made egregious blunders in his policy toward Syria since March 2011.  Let’s hope he doesn’t compound them by listening to John McCain and others desperate to hold on to delusions of American empire in the Middle East.

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

What is Happening in Istanbul?

By İnsanlik Hali | defnesumanblogs | June 1, 2013

To my friends who live outside of Turkey:

I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.

Four days ago a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students.  Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees.  Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.

They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.

No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.

But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray.  They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.

Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.

They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:

The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.

They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return. Two young people were run over by the panzers and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd.  After a three hour operation she is still in Intensive Care Unit and in  very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.

These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will.

On top of all that, the government control over its people’s personal lives has become unbearable as of late. The state, under its conservative agenda passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the color of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.

People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.

What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.

Yet they still march. Hundred of thousands join them. Couple of more thousand passed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim.

No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.

Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.

Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs. Around the square they placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3g networks were blocked. Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless network for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.

People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul.

Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.

***

I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.

As I was posting articles that explained what is happening in Istanbul on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question:

«What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?»

This blog is my answer to her.

By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:

Freedom of expression and speech,

Respect for human rights,

Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,

The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.

But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!

Please spread the word and share this blog.

Thank you!

For futher info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help

Görsel

Taken from Occupy Gezi Facebook page. Also used by Reuters

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Gazprom may shelve Shtokman project as US shale revolution bites

RT | June 03, 2013

After years of failed attempts to start developing one of the world’s largest gas fields, Gazprom might delay the Shtokman project for decades. The shale revolution in the US – the project’s key export market – is undermining its profitability.

Development of the Shtokman gas condensate field in the Barents sea will most likely be postponed “for future generations,” Vedomosti daily quotes Andrey Kruglov, Gazprom deputy chairman. This week Russia’s gas monopoly is due to discuss the future of the world’s biggest gas deposits, where an estimated 3.9 trillion cubic metres of gas is held.

Experts say there’s no point in developing the field right now, as the project is difficult and costly and may fail to find sufficient demand.

US shale gas has definitely “undermined Shtokman that was oriented on the US market,” says Tatyana Mitrova, the head of Russia’s oil and gas development department at the Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “The deposit is difficult…the problem is that there’s really no other market left for Shtokman, after it became irrelevant for the US,” agrees Michael Korchyomkin, a director at East European Gas Analysis.

Having been developed at the beginning of this century, the production of shale gas in the US has significantly moved on. In 2010, shale gas represented more than 20% of the country’s gas production, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The agency also said that by 2035 around 40% of the world’s gas might be unconventional, and shale gas will by far be the greatest part of it.

“Gazprom has been trying to start developing the project for about 10 years. They planned to liquefy part of the extracted gas and deliver that to the US, and transport another part to Europe through a pipeline. The trans-Baltic Nord Stream pipeline was being built for that project,” Kruglov explained. Initially it was planned to start extracting gas from the Shtokman field this year. Its income and expense pro forma is estimated at $30 billion.

The South Kirinskoe deposit on the shelf of the Sea of Okhotks may become the alternative to the Shtokman field, according to Kruglov. It “has almost the same stock as the Shtokman has and is located much closer to the Asian Pacific markets.”

The Kirinskoe deposit is 28 km from the shore at a depth of 90 metres. Shtokman is 550 km away from the shore, at a depth of about 330 metres.

Vedomosti sources told the paper there were plans to develop the South Kirinskoe deposit earlier than Shtokman. It should become the base for a Gazprom LNG plant in Vladivostok, that is due to begin operating in 2018.

However, Grigory Birg, a co-director at Investcafe, remained skeptical, saying the new project will require huge investment and may face the same fate as the Shtokman project.

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , | Leave a comment