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Saddam’s Green Light

By Robert Parry, from the first investigative series published at Consortium News in early 1996

In summer 1980, Iraq’s wily president Saddam Hussein saw opportunities in the chaos sweeping the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Islamic revolution had terrified the Saudi princes and other Arab royalty who feared uprisings against their own corrupt life styles. Saddam’s help was sought, too, by CIA-backed Iranian exiles who wanted a base to challenge the fundamentalist regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And as always, the Western powers were worried about the Middle East oil fields.

So because of geography and his formidable Soviet-supplied army, Saddam was suddenly a popular fellow.

On Aug. 5, 1980, the Saudi rulers welcomed Saddam to Riyadh for his first state visit to Saudi Arabia, the first for any Iraqi president. The Saudis, of course, wanted something. At those fateful meetings, amid the luxury of the ornate palaces, the Saudis would encourage Saddam to invade Iran. The Saudis also would claim to pass on a secret message about President Jimmy Carter’s geo-political desires.

During that summer of 1980, President Carter was facing his own crisis. His failure to free 52 American hostages held in Iran was threatening his political survival. As he wrote in his memoirs, Keeping Faith, “The election might also be riding on their freedom.” Equally alarming, President Carter had begun receiving reports that the Republicans were making back-channel contacts with Iran about the hostage crisis, as he would state in a letter to a journalist nearly a decade later.

Though it was unclear then, this multi-sided political intrigue would shape the history from 1980 to the present day. Iraq’s invasion of Iran in September 1980 would deteriorate into eight years of bloody trench warfare that did little more than kill and maim an estimated one million people. What little more the war did was to generate billions of dollars in profits for well-connected arms merchants — and spawn a series of national security scandals.

In 1986-87, the Iran-Contra Affair peeled back some of the layers of secrecy, but bipartisan investigations dumped the blame mostly on White House aide Oliver North and a few low-level “men of zeal.” Later inquiries into Iraqgate allegations of secret U.S. military support for Saddam Hussein also ended inconclusively. The missing billions from the sleazy Bank of Credit and Commerce International disappeared into the mist of complex charge and counter-charge, too. So did evidence implicating the CIA and Nicaraguan Contra rebels in cocaine trafficking.

A similar fate befell the October Surprise story and President Carter’s old suspicion of Republican interference in the 1980 hostage crisis. A special House task force concluded in 1993 that it could find “no credible evidence” to support the October Surprise charges.

Haig’s Talking Points

Still, I gained access to documents from that investigation, including papers marked “secret” and “top secret” which apparently had been left behind by accident in a remote Capitol Hill storage room. Those papers filled in a number of the era’s missing pieces and established that there was more to the reports that President Carter heard in 1980 than the task force publicly acknowledged.

But besides undermining the task force’s October Surprise debunking, the papers clarified President Reagan’s early strategy for a clandestine foreign policy hidden from Congress and the American people. One such document was a two-page “Talking Points” prepared by Secretary of State Alexander Haig for a briefing of President Reagan. Marked “top secret/sensitive,” the paper recounted Haig’s first trip to the Middle East in April 1981.

In the report, Haig wrote that he was impressed with “bits of useful intelligence” that he had learned. “Both [Egypt’s Anwar] Sadat and [Saudi Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel.” This fact might have been less surprising to President Reagan, whose intermediaries allegedly collaborated with Israeli officials in 1980 to smuggle weapons to Iran behind President Carter’s back.

But Haig followed that comment with another stunning assertion: “It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd.” In other words, according to Haig’s information, Saudi Prince Fahd (later King Fahd) claimed that President Carter, apparently hoping to strengthen the U.S. hand in the Middle East and desperate to pressure Iran over the stalled hostage talks, gave clearance to Saddam’s invasion of Iran. If true, Jimmy Carter, the peacemaker, had encouraged a war.

Haig’s written report contained no other details about the “green light,” and Haig declined my request for an interview about the Talking Points. But the paper represented the first documented corroboration of Iran’s long-held belief that the United States backed Iraq’s 1980 invasion.

In 1980, President Carter termed Iranian charges of U.S. complicity “patently false.” He mentioned Iraq’s invasion only briefly in his memoirs, in the context of an unexpected mid-September hostage initiative from a Khomeini in-law, Sadeq Tabatabai.

“Exploratory conversations [in Germany] were quite encouraging,” President Carter wrote about that approach, but he added: “As fate would have it, the Iraqis chose the day of [Tabatabai’s] scheduled arrival in Iran, September 22, to invade Iran and to bomb the Tehran airport. Typically, the Iranians accused me of planning and supporting the invasion.”

The Iraqi invasion did make Iran more desperate to get U.S. spare parts for its air and ground forces. Yet the Carter administration continued to demand that the American hostages be freed before military shipments could resume. But according to House task force documents that I found in the storage room, the Republicans were more accommodating.

Secret FBI wiretaps revealed that an Iranian banker, the late Cyrus Hashemi, who supposedly was helping President Carter on the hostage talks, was assisting Republicans with arms shipments to Iran and peculiar money transfers in fall 1980. Hashemi’s older brother, Jamshid, testified that the Iran arms shipments, via Israel, resulted from secret meetings in Madrid between the GOP campaign director, William J. Casey, and a radical Islamic mullah named Mehdi Karrubi.

For whatever reasons, on Election Day 1980, President Carter still had failed to free the hostages and Ronald Reagan won in a landslide.

A ‘Private Channel’

Within minutes of President Reagan’s Inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, the hostages finally were freed. In the following weeks, the new administration put in place discreet channels to Middle East powers, as Haig flew to the region for a round of high-level consultations.

The trim silver-haired former four-star general met with Iraq’s chief allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and with Israel, which was continuing to support Iran as a counter-weight to Iraq and the Arab states.

On April 8, 1981, Haig ended his first round of meetings in Riyadh and issued a diplomatic statement lauding Saudi Arabia’s “dedication to building a better world and the wisdom of your leaders.” More to the point, he announced that “the foundation has been laid during this trip for the strengthening of U.S.-Saudi relations.”

After Haig’s return to Washington, his top secret Talking Points fleshed out for President Reagan the actual agreements that were reached at the private sessions in Saudi Arabia, as well as at other meetings in Egypt and Israel.

“As we discussed before my Middle East trip,” Haig explained to President Reagan, “I proposed to President Sadat, [Israel’s] Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin and Crown Prince Fahd that we establish a private channel for the consideration of particularly sensitive matters of concern to you. Each of the three picked up on the proposal and asked for early meetings.”

Haig wrote that on his return, he immediately dispatched his counselor, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, to Cairo and Riyadh to formalize those channels. “He held extremely useful meetings with both Sadat and Fahd,” Haig boasted. “In fact, Sadat kept Ed Muskie [President Carter’s secretary of state] waiting for an hour and a half while he [Sadat] extended the meeting.”

These early contacts with Fahd, Sadat and Begin solidified their three countries as the cornerstones of the administration’s clandestine foreign policy of the 1980s: the Saudis as the moneymen, the Israelis as the middlemen, and the Egyptians as a ready source for Soviet-made equipment.

Although President Carter had brokered a historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Sadat, Begin and Fahd had all been alarmed at signs of U.S. weakness, especially Washington’s inability to protect the Shah of Iran from ouster in 1979. Haig’s Talking Points captured that relief at President Carter’s removal from office.

“It is clear that your policies of firmness toward the Soviets has restored Saudi and Egyptian confidence in the leadership of the U.S.,” Haig wrote for the presentation to his boss. “Both [Fahd and Sadat] went much further than ever before in offering to be supportive.”

Haig said “Sadat offered to host a forward headquarters for the Rapid Deployment Force, including a full-time presence of U.S military personnel.” Sadat also outlined his strategy for invading Libya to disrupt Moammar Khadafy’s intervention in Chad. “Frankly,” observed Haig, “I believe he [Sadat] could easily get overextended in such an undertaking and [I] will try to moderate his ambitions on this score.”

‘Special Status,’ Money and Guns

Haig reported that Prince Fahd was “also very enthusiastic” about President Reagan’s foreign policy. Fahd had agreed “in principle to fund arms sales to the Pakistanis and other states in the region,” Haig wrote. The Saudi leader was promising, too, to help the U.S. economy by committing his oil-rich nation to a position of “no drop in production” of petroleum.

“These channels promise to be extremely useful in forging compatible policies with the Saudis and Egyptians,” Haig continued. “Both men value the ‘special status’ you have conferred on them and both value confidentiality. I will follow up with [Defense Secretary] Cap Weinberger and [CIA Director] Bill Casey. …The larger message emerging from these exchanges, however, is that your policies are correct and are already eliciting the enthusiastic support of important leaders abroad.”

In the following years, the Reagan administration would exploit the “special status” with all three countries to skirt Constitutional restrictions on Executive war-making powers. Secretly, the administration would tilt back and forth in the Iran-Iraq war, between aiding the Iranians with missiles and spare parts and helping the Iraqis with intelligence and indirect military shipments.

When the Soviets shot down an Israeli-leased Argentine plane carrying U.S. military supplies to Iran on July 18, 1981, the State Department showed it, too, valued confidentiality. At the time, State denied U.S. knowledge. But in a later interview, Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Veliotes said “it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment.”

According to a sworn affidavit by former Reagan national security staffer Howard Teicher, the administration enlisted the Egyptians in a secret “Bear Spares” program that gave the United States access to Soviet-designed military equipment. Teicher asserted that the Reagan administration funneled some of those weapons to Iraq and also arranged other shipments of devastating cluster bombs that Saddam’s air force dropped on Iranians troops.

In 1984, facing congressional rejection of continued CIA funding of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, President Reagan exploited the “special status” again. He tapped into the Saudi slush funds for money to support the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in their war in Central America. The President also authorized secret weapons shipments to Iran in another arms-for-hostages scheme, with the profits going to “off-the-shelf” intelligence operations. That gambit, like the others, was protected by walls of “deniability” and outright lies.

Some of those lies collapsed in the Iran-Contra scandal, but the administration quickly constructed new stonewalls that were never breached. Republicans fiercely defended the secrets and Democrats lacked the nerve to fight for the truth. The Washington media also lost interest because the scandals were complex and official sources steered the press in other directions.

‘Read Machiavelli’

When I interviewed Haig several years ago, I asked him if he was troubled by the pattern of deceit that had become the norm among international players in the 1980s. “Oh, no, no, no, no,” he boomed, shaking his head. “On that kind of thing? No. Come on. Jesus! God! You know, you’d better get out and read Machiavelli or somebody else because I think you’re living in a dream world! People do what their national interest tells them to do and if it means lying to a friendly nation, they’re going to lie through their teeth.”

But sometimes the game-playing did have unintended consequences. In 1990, a decade after Iraq’s messy invasion of Iran, an embittered Saddam Hussein was looking for pay-back from the sheikhdoms that he felt had egged him into war. Saddam was especially furious with Kuwait for slant drilling into Iraq’s oil fields and refusing to extend more credit. Again, Saddam was looking for a signal from the U.S. president, this time George H.W. Bush.

When Saddam explained his confrontation with Kuwait to U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, he received an ambiguous reply, a reaction he apparently perceived as another “green light.” Eight days later, Saddam unleashed his army into Kuwait, an invasion that required 500,000 U.S. troops and thousands more dead to reverse.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret Life of Timothy McVeigh

Published on May 11, 2015

TRANSCRIPT AND SOURCES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=14714

Timothy McVeigh. We’ve been told so much about him, the Oklahoma City bombing, and what it meant for America. But what if it’s all a lie? Join us today for this special Corbett Report podcastumentary as we examine the multiple trucks, multiple bombs, government informants, faked executions and other pieces of information suggesting that McVeigh was not a “lone wolf bomber” at all but a sheepdipped special forces operative working for the government, exactly as he claimed.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, Video | | Leave a comment

‘Broadest spying powers imaginable’: SNP MPs plan to block Tory Snoopers’ Charter

RT | May 12, 2015

Scottish Nationalists are hoping to use their new-found parliamentary leverage to block controversial Tory plans to introduce legislation that would see the further erosion of privacy rights across the UK.

As the first days of parliament get under way, Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) MPs are planning to rail against Tory plans to revive a Data Communications Bill dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s Westminster MPs plan to achieve this goal by lobbying moderate Tories, who previously opposed Home Secretary Theresa May’s surveillance agenda.

Among the Conservatives that Sturgeon’s party could court is David Davis, a senior Conservative backbencher who triggered a by-election in 2008 over Tory plans to introduce a policy shift that would see terror suspects detained for up to 42 days without trial.

Speaking to the Telegraph on Tuesday, an SNP MP said surveillance falls into a “tricky civil liberties space for the Conservatives where there are fault lines.

“We think the mass collection of data is wrong. There is a line beyond which it is unacceptable for civil liberties can be impinged,” he added.

‘Suspicionless surveillance’

On Friday, Home Secretary Theresa May told the BBC that ramped up surveillance powers are a “key example” of Tory policy that was blocked by the Liberal Democrats during the previous parliament.

May’s announcement angered privacy rights campaigners who warn of the erosion of civil liberties in an era of mass surveillance.

The Snoopers’ Charter would pave the way for internet and mobile phone firms to retain records of customers’ online browsing habits, use of social media, emails, text messaging and voice calls.

In a climate of increased terror threats, the Conservatives argue it would aid British security officials in monitoring online activity and protect the national interest in the process.

However, the European Court of Justice ruled against the legislation last April, warning it would result in human rights violations. The Court outlined a more moderate data retention program at the time that would aid criminal investigations.

Nevertheless, in July 2014 it emerged the government was seeking to push through emergency legislation, which would flout the Court’s judgment and re-legislate for the blanket retention of data.

As a single majority government – in the absence of the Liberal Democrats – the Conservatives are expected to ramp up online surveillance powers quickly.

The SNP’s opposition to these plans will likely be mirrored by Labour and the Lib Dems. Should a few dozen Conservative MPs back their thinking, May’s plans to revive the Snoopers’ Charter could be blocked.

Speaking to RT on Tuesday, Privacy International’s Legal Director Carly Nyst said the Snoopers’ Charter would give UK authorities some of the “broadest spying powers imaginable.

“These powers are nothing short of blanket, suspicionless surveillance of everyone who uses the internet,” she said.

“Should the Snoopers’ Charter be made law, Britons can expect to have every single website they visit, late night phone call they make and embarrassing Google search they enter logged and retained for 12 months,” she added.

On the question of whether SNP MPs would succeed in blocking the Snoopers’ Charter, Nyst predicted the party’s opposition to the legislation would prove troublesome for May.

“The government has declared its strong intention to see this legislation through; however, it must first overcome strong opposition, not only from the SNP, but from ordinary people across the country,” she said.

“It seems clear that the government is going to have a tough time selling to the British people the falsehood that in order for police in this country to do their job, the government needs to completely erode online privacy and expression.”

Privacy rights & privacy wrongs

Prior to the general election, Britain’s Open Rights Group lobbied stringently for parliamentary candidates to radically reform Britain’s mass surveillance policies.

They demanded the incoming government alter the legal framework governing surveillance to protect citizens from intelligence agencies’ routine snooping.

The group’s Executive Director Jim Killock told the Guardian last month he believes privacy rights could be nullified within a decade if the Conservatives and Labour don’t pursue a different approach to surveillance.

Killock also noted that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelatory disclosures on GCHQ mass surveillance had little impact on snooping policy from London to Washington.

Classified US documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 caused international outrage when they uncovered the invasive nature of joint UK-US surveillance programs.

The NSA whistleblower’s disclosures revealed US and UK authorities’ ongoing scrutiny of Britons’ email activity, social network records, web browsing history and mobile phone data.

Tory plans to ramp up mass surveillance in Britain come almost 12 months after a poll revealed widespread opposition to state-sponsored snooping in Britain.

The research revealed the vast majority of those surveyed thought that citizens’ financial, medical, and credit information should remain private.

It also showed an overwhelming majority believed web browsing, mobile phone, telephone and email records should remain beyond the gaze of snoops.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Phony Free Speech in Garland Texas

Pamela Geller needs to be exposed for what she is

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • May 12, 2015

Personally, I believe that the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment is the bedrock freedom granted by the Constitution of the United States and as long as someone is not using that right explicitly to call for violence against someone else he or she should be free to say anything, even if it is deliberately offensive or calculated to provoke a hostile response. Pamela Geller, who recently staged the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland Texas that resulted in two deaths, would no doubt say the same thing. But in reality Geller is a hypocrite. She is only referring to her own personal “freedom” to say what she wants to inflame passions regarding a religious group that she despises. When Muslims try to use the same “freedom” to express their own concerns over speech that they consider blasphemous Geller dismisses their appeals as a ruse to enable the introduction of Shariah law.

Geller is a wealthy Manhattan-based Jewish widow who is the founder and editor of what until recently was called the Atlasshrugs.com website as well as president of Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). She first came into prominence in 2010 when she helped spearhead the successful campaign to block the construction of the proposed Park51 Islamic Center that she inaccurately described as a “victory mosque” that would dishonor the victims of the terrorist attack and constitute a second wave of 9/11 , persistently conflating Islam in general with what she refers to as “barbarism” and terror.

In 2011 Pamela Geller campaigned to block the U.S. government’s licensing of al-Jazeera America, which she refers to as “Terror TV,” revealing the insincerity of her espousal of free speech when the speech does not conform to her agenda. She has also been one of the leading promoters of the palpably ridiculous assertion that “Fundamentalist Islam wants Shariah to replace the U. S. Constitution and fundamentally transform America,” a theme that has unfortunately been picked up by a number of Republican politicians. She also believes that anyone who bows to pressure and avoids cartooning or lampooning Mohammed is ipso facto conforming to Islamic law.

More recently Geller and AFDI have been behind a series of poster campaigns on urban transit trains and buses in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The posters have featured the World Trade Center burning alongside a Quran verse advocating terror, a call to support civilization (Israel) against barbarism (Jihad), and the message that “killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah.” A poster that ran in Washington featured Hitler meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem with the caption “Islamic Jew Hatred: it’s in the Quran.” An ad in San Francisco showed journalist James Foley just before he was beheaded by ISIS. When local transportation boards resist placing the posters on their vehicles and in their stations because of the highly politicized bigoted views they reflect AFDI takes them to court to force them to cooperate.

There is little ambiguity or subtlety in what Geller does and her ten year track record reveals clearly that she wallows in hate. She believes that when Muslims pray five times a day they are actually cursing Christians and Jews. Her Mohammed art exhibition featured cartoons showing a malevolent looking founder of Islam with a roll of toilet paper on his head and pants pulled down to reveal his buttocks while pissing on “Freedom of Speech.” Or if that does not leave one laughing, there is another showing Mohammed impaled through his anus on a pencil labeled “truth” and still another featuring a grinning Prophet riding a unicycle while juggling five dismembered heads. The caption reads “Religion of Peace.”

Geller claims to be an expert on Islam, but she has never studied it formally and cannot read or speak Arabic. She cherry picks from translations of the Quran and Hadith texts to find material that matches her agenda, aided and abetted by her colleague Robert Spencer, who also claims expertise without any language skills or serious study. Both have benefited materially from their bigotry and Geller’s hypocrisy is on display through her citation of the horrors contained in Islamic texts presumably while knowing full well that it is just as easy to find plenty of bloodshed and even genocide in the Hebrew Bible.

Though strident and essentially humorless, Geller, who decries living in an age “where evil is good, and good is evil,” admits to the nature of her particular obsession, jokingly accepting that she has been labeled as a “racist-Islamophobic-anti-Muslim-bigot.” She is also perhaps not surprisingly a leading advocate for Israel, conceding that she sees the world through the “prism of Israel” and noting along the way that “… Jew hatred is a religious imperative in Islam.”

Geller is independently wealthy which no doubt provided seed money for her endeavors, but her efforts are also supported by a number of pro-Israel groups and individuals, including several donors that are regarded as relatively mainstream. That leads to the plausible surmise that while many Jewish organizations and wealthy individuals keep their distance from Geller at least some of them are secretly supportive of her. In 2013 AFDI received nearly one million dollars in reported donations, $400,000 of which was spent to oppose “…capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.” The organization claims on its website that donations to it are tax deductible, which, if correct, would suggest that it is an IRS 501(c)3 educational foundation, though the site does not explicitly make that claim. If it is true, only donors contributing beyond a certain level have to be identified in the annual tax filing, which means that contributors are effectively secret.

Ironically, many of the folks that Pamela marches in step with are themselves opposed to free speech and are inclined to support draconian legal sanctions against “hate speech,” similar to those in place in a number of European countries, including France. They like the concept of laws against language that denigrates races, ethnic groups or religions because in practice the laws are frequently only enforced if one says something about Jews or Judaism, which is what they were really designed to protect. They are particularly active in the United States currently seeking to shut down any criticism of Israel at universities, claiming that it makes Jewish students “uncomfortable” or “threatened.”

Some European hate laws threaten fines and imprisonment if one denies or even questions details relating to the holocaust while in Canada, legislation has been proposed that criminalizes any criticism of Israel, conflating it with anti-Semitism, which is a hate crime. As ever, laws reflect who is important and let’s face it, no one in Europe or Canada really cares about powerless Muslims or increasingly marginalized Christians, but confronting powerful Jewish organizations is another thing altogether.

Whether Geller hoped to provoke a violent incident in Texas will have to remain unknowable, but the prepositioning of $10,000 worth of armed security including SWAT units for an event including only 200 attendees rather suggests that the intention was to craft a gathering in such a way as to bait local Muslims into doing something stupid. And one has to wonder at the honesty of Geller’s “free speech” agenda in any case. If some group were staging a public event with a $10,000 prize for whoever could shit on a Torah scroll in the most creative fashion Geller would be unlikely to approve of such an exercise of First Amendment rights.

There are, unfortunately, all too many people not unlike Pamela Geller who regard Muslims as vermin. That they proliferate in spite of all evidence that American Muslims are overwhelmingly peaceful and make good citizens invites the inevitable chicken and egg metaphor: what came first the Gellers preaching hatred or the hatred itself providing fertile ground for the Gellers?

Certainly the example set by Israel differs little from Geller except in that it is even more extreme. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint far right Jewish Home Party activist Ayelet Shaked justice minister in his new government. In 2014 she recommended the genocide of Palestinians, asserting in a July 1 st Facebook post that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy.” She called for their destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” Women should in particular be killed as they produce the “little snakes,” i.e. Palestinian children. Her future colleague in government, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, who will head the “Civil Administration” of the occupied West Bank has described Palestinians as “…beasts, they are not human” and has stated his belief that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.”

As free speech is a precious commodity, one should not allow Pamela Geller to define it. She can say whatever she wants to say but that does not mean that she bears no responsibility for the consequences of her action while the media and public should never give her a pass that legitimizes her message that all Muslims are homicidal maniacs intent on destroying the United States and, inevitably, Israel.

After the Garland Texas incident Geller was featured all across the media explaining herself and propagating her message. Most often she was treated with kid gloves by ignorant interviewers who apparently believed she had a right to be heard and that they ought not interfere with her ability to do so. She should indeed have the freedom to tell her story but the media also has an obligation to challenge views that are both ugly and bigoted to allow the public to hear another side to the Geller rant. It is unimaginable that if Geller were using her characteristic coarse language to describe either Jews or Christians that she would have been provided with any forum at all, but apparently when it comes to Islam the rules are somehow different and the freedom to express abhorrent views becomes the norm rather than the exception.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Ukrainian Parliament approves law allowing forced relocation of Russian citizens

RT | May 12, 2015

The Ukrainian Parliament has approved new regulations on martial law, which among other things allows for extrajudicial detention and relocation of Russian citizens in the country.

The law was approved by 254 deputies out of 322. It regulates how martial law can be declared in Ukraine and the changes to legal procedures it brings.

These changes include “forced relocation of the citizens of a foreign country who threaten or undertake aggression towards Ukraine,” the law’s memorandum states as cited by TASS. The parliament declared Russia an aggressor on January 27 by adopting a declaration to that end.

Apart from the relocation of foreign citizens, martial law will allow Ukrainian authorities to confiscate private property, regulate mass media, prohibit any rallies, marches and other mass gatherings and initiate the legal process of banning any political party or mass media deemed “acting against Ukraine’s independence.”

It also entails labor conscription for all able-bodied Ukrainians not currently in the army and a possible curfew. In areas of actual fighting, the role of local authorities is passed on to the military command.

This is the new version of the law, which was preliminarily approved on April 9.

For martial law to take hold, the parliament has to approve a corresponding ruling by the Ukrainian president. It can be declared in the whole country or selected regions.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | 2 Comments

Syrian opposition boycotts talks with UN envoy in Geneva

Press TV – May 12, 2015

Syria’s foreign-backed opposition group, the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC), says it is not attending ongoing Geneva negotiations with the United Nations special envoy to Syria.

Hisham Marwa, deputy head of the SNC, on Monday dismissed the talks with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura in the Swiss city as “unimportant.”

De Mistura began talks on May 5 with the participation of parties engaged in the Syrian crisis, including the Syrian government’s envoy to the UN in Geneva, Hussam Eddin Ala.

Marwa further criticized de Mistura’s decision to invite some 40 “dissidents, artists, civil society organizations and research centers” to attend the talks as a sign of his lack of seriousness.

“It became clear to us that he does not treat the coalition in a way that gives the impression that he is serious about finding a solution,” he said.

Instead of taking part in the talks, a member of the coalition will travel to Geneva to deliver two letters addressed to de Mistura and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“The letters lay out our vision for a political solution as well as our observations on de Mistura’s performance,” Marwa said.

In response, de Mistura said later on Monday that he has taken note of the coalition’s decision but still looks forward to the arrival of the group’s envoy to Geneva to hear the opposition’s points of view.

Previous UN-mediated talks on Syria, dubbed Geneva I and II, failed to reach a solution to end the four-year conflict.

The two conferences ended in failure after foreign-sponsored opposition figures in the talks refused to discuss widespread terrorism in the country and persisted in demanding the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a precondition.

Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. The violence fueled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of over 222,000 people, according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says over 7.2 million people have been internally displaced, and more than 3 million have been forced to flee the country.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | | Leave a comment

Ottawa plans to outlaw support for boycotting Israel: Report

Press TV – May 12, 2015

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has signaled plans to apply hate crime laws against advocacy groups that encourage the boycott of Israel, a report says.

The report by the Canadian broadcaster, CBC News on Monday said the move would target numerous civil society organizations who promote the boycott over the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the expansion of its illegal settlements in the besieged areas.

“If carried out, it would be a remarkably aggressive tactic, and another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the report read.

The Harper government’s intention was revealed in statements by federal ministers to the broadcaster about a “zero tolerance” policy toward groups supporting the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which is part of international efforts to pressure Tel Aviv to stop its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

A vast range of Canadian organizations support BDS including the country’s largest Protestant Christian denomination the United Church of Canada, Independent Jewish Voices, which is the chief organizer of the movement’s activity in Canada, various university groups and labor unions.

Asked what the policy means and what the authorities are doing to enforce it, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, detailed in a written statement a list of the country’s updated hate laws.

“We will not allow hate crimes to undermine our way of life, which is based on diversity and inclusion,” the spokesperson added.

Canadian civil liberty groups criticized the government plans, saying it would almost certainly be challenged under the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is the latest move the Canadian government is planning to muzzle the BDS movement and supporters of the cause.

In January, Canada’s then foreign minister, John Baird, signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Israeli regime in al-Quds (Jerusalem), pledging to combat BDS, a movement the agreement described as “the new face of anti-Semitism.”

Last year, Ottawa changed the country’s Criminal Code, expanding the definition of hate speech to include statements against “national origin” along with race and religion.

Micheal Vonn, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the change in the country’s criminal code is clearly “a tool to go after critics of Israel.”

The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.

Last month, 16 European foreign ministers condemned the “expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories,” demanding that all imported goods originating from settlements be distinctly labeled.

More than half a million Israeli settlers live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands. However, the Tel Aviv regime defies calls to abandon its illegal settlement activities.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

Poroshenko violates Minsk deal vowing to recapture Donetsk Airport – Kremlin

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RT | May 12, 2015

The Ukrainian president’s decision to reclaim Donetsk Airport, a key strategic point in the conflict in the country’s east, are in violation of the Minsk peace deal, says the Kremlin.

Petro Poroshenko vowed on Monday to take the airport back: “I have no doubt – we will free the airport, because it is our land. And we will rebuild the airport.” He also promised to erect a monument to the “cyborgs,” which has become a common nickname for the Ukrainian soldiers that fought against the forces of the self-proclaimed eastern republics for control of Donetsk Airport.

Poroshenko spoke at the premier of the documentary “Airport”, which was dedicated to the siege.

When asked if he thinks such words violate the Minsk peace deal, the Russian president’s press secretary said they do: “Of course, they are a violation. In fact, we have repeatedly said that Ukraine is not complying with the Minsk agreement.”

The Minsk deal is a peace roadmap for Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine. Brokered by Russia, Germany and France, it was signed in the Belarusian capital in February. It aims to implement the peace process agreed upon in the September 2014 talks, also in Minsk. Since February’s agreement was signed, the violence in the East has reduced, but both Kiev and the secessionists blame each other for violating the truce regularly.

As part of the Minsk deal, the sides agreed to move heavy weapons away from a demarcation line drawn across eastern Ukraine. The self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic says this leaves the airport in its territory. Its representative to Minsk Denis Pushilin says Poroshenko’s vow to reclaim the airport is a call to arms: “This is a direct violation of the Minsk agreements and a call to military action. We ask that the guarantor nations pay attention to these statements.”

Donetsk Airport has been one of the hottest flashpoints in the conflict in eastern Ukraine for about eight months. In January, Kiev admitted its forces completely surrendered the airport.

During the lengthy siege the airport was reduced to rubble. The casualty count is impossible to verify, with the two sides giving vastly different numbers, both saying they had lost dozens while claiming the opponent had lost hundreds.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Who Owns Agricultural Land in Ukraine?

By Elizabeth Fraser | Oakland Institute | May 8, 2015

The fate of Ukraine’s agricultural sector is on shaky ground. Last year, the Oakland Institute reported that over 1.6 million hectares (ha) of land in Ukraine are now under the control of foreign-based corporations. Further research has allowed for the identification of additional foreign investments. Some estimates now bring the total of Ukrainian farmland controlled by foreign companies to over 2.2 million ha;1 however, research has also identified important grey areas around land tenure in the country, and who actually controls land in Ukraine today is difficult to ascertain.

The companies and shareholders behind foreign land acquisitions in Ukraine span many different parts of the world. The Danish “Trigon Agri,” for example, holds over 52,000 ha. Trigon was established in 2006 using start-up capital from Finnish “high net worth individuals.” The company is traded in Stockholm (NASDAQ), and its largest shareholders include: JPM Chase (UK, 9.5 percent); Swedbank (Sweden, 9.4 percent); UB Securities (Finland, 7.9 percent); Euroclear Bank (Belgium, 6.6 percent); and JP Morgan Clearing Corp (USA, 6.2 percent).

The United Farmers Holding Company, which is owned by a group of Saudi Arabian investors, controls some 33,000 ha of Ukrainian farmland through Continental Farmers Group PLC.

AgroGeneration, which holds 120,000 ha of Ukrainian farmland, is incorporated in France, with over 62 percent of its shares managed by SigmaBleyzer, a Texas-based investment company.

US pension fund NCH Capital holds 450,000 ha. The company began in 1993 and boasts being some of the earliest western investors in Ukraine after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Over the past decade, the company has systematically leased out small parcels of agricultural land (around two to six hectares in size) across Ukraine, aggregating these into large-scale farms that now operate industrially. According to NCH Capital’s General Partner, George Rohr, the leases give the company the right to buy the currently-leased farmland once the moratorium on the sale of land in Ukraine is lifted.

Another subset of companies have Ukrainian leadership, often a mix of domestic and foreign investment, and may be incorporated in tax havens like Cyprus, Austria, and Luxembourg. Some of them are also led by Ukrainian oligarchs. For instance, UkrLandFarming controls the country’s largest land-bank, totalling 654,000 ha of land. 95 percent of the shares of UkrLandFarming are owned by multi-millionaire Oleg Bakhmatyuk with the remaining five percent having been recently sold to Cargill.  Similarly, Yuriy Kosiuk, Ukraine’s fifth richest man, is the CEO of MHP, one of the country’s largest agricultural companies, which holds over 360,000 ha of farmland.

With the onset of the political crisis, several of these mostly Ukrainian-based companies have descended into crisis themselves. One example is Cyprus-incorporated Mriya Agro Holding, which holds a land-bank of close to 300,000 ha. In 2014, the company’s website (which is no longer available online) indicated that 80 percent of the shares of Mriya Agro Holding are/were owned by the Guta family (Ukrainian), who hold primary leadership positions in the company. The remaining 20 percent are/were listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

According to news sources, in summer 2014 the company defaulted on its payments for two large Eurobonds, putting its future into question. The company first enlisted the support of US-based Blackstone Group and Ukrainian-based Dragon Capital, both of whom withdrew support after only one month; and later, the international auditing and financial service firm, Deloitte. An international bondholder committee was struck, comprised of several US and UK-based investment groups (including CarVal Investors – Cargill’s investment arm), which together own over 50 percent of the debt owed on Mriya’s 2018 Eurobonds and 15 percent of the 2016 Eurobonds. The future of this firm is unclear with some sources suggesting a risk of bankruptcy.

Other Ukrainian-owned companies incorporated in tax havens are also experiencing difficulties. Sintal Agriculture Public Ltd (based in Cyprus, traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange as of 2008, and holding almost 150,000 ha of land) ceased trading in shares on January 29, 2014 “until further notice” after bankruptcy proceedings were initiated against the company. In 2013, its website (now also defunct) indicated that 36.3 percent of the company was free floating shares.

The potential bankruptcy of these corporations, and the involvement of Western investors in the crisis management, raises questions about the fate of the agricultural land they hold. At this time, it is not clear how control over the agricultural lands in question will be addressed and what the role of foreign companies and funds who have invested in these companies will be. However, if things progress in a similar way to neighboring Romania, foreign control of this land could transpire.

Romania has a similar story of dissolving collectivized farms, giving land titles to collective farm workers, and imposing a moratorium on the sale of agricultural land. Loopholes in the country’s national legislation have created opportunities for foreign control of land via bankruptcy proceedings. As documented by Judith Bouniol, the bankruptcy of national agribusinesses has provided a gateway for foreign control of Romania’s farmland.

It is far from clear if the same scenario could take place in Ukraine. However, this lesson from Romania emphasizes the importance of keeping close watch on these agricultural land deals. In addition, the murky situation around land ownership in Ukraine raises many questions. Perhaps the most important is whether the growing concentration of Ukrainian land in the hands of a few oligarchs and foreign corporations can benefit the country, its people, and its economy.

1 Two land investment databases were accessed over the past year: the Land Matrix accessed in July 2014 and April 2015, and GRAIN’s 2012 data set on land investments worldwide. Taken individually, these databases suggest foreign land acquisitions of between 997,000 ha to 1.7M ha. When consolidated, individual deals reported by these databases represent over 2.2M ha of land in Ukraine.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Failing to Hide Israel-Iran-Iraq Secrets

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | May 11, 2015

By recently releasing a redacted version of top secret “talking points” that Secretary of State Alexander Haig used to brief President Ronald Reagan about Mideast developments in spring 1981, the U.S. government has inadvertently revealed what it still wants to hide from the public some 34 years later – because I found the full version in congressional files in late 1994 and first wrote about it in early 1996.

The key points that the U.S. government still doesn’t want you to know include that in early 1981 Israel already was supplying U.S. military equipment to Iran for its war with Iraq; that the Saudis had conveyed a “green light” supposedly from President Jimmy Carter to Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980; and that the Saudis agreed to finance arms sales to Pakistan and other states in the region.

All three points have relevance today because they reveal the early seeds of policies that have grown over the past three decades into the twisted vines of today’s bloody conflicts. The still-hidden sections of Haig’s “talking points” also could cause some embarrassment to the nations mentioned.

For instance, the Israelis like to present their current hostility toward Iran as derived from a principled opposition to the supposed extremism of the Islamic state, so the revelation that they were supplying U.S. military hardware to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s government, which had held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, suggests that less noble motivations were driving Israel’s decisions.

Though ex-President Carter has denied encouraging Iraq to invade Iran in September 1980 – at the height of the hostage crisis which was destroying his reelection bid – the Saudis’ “green light” assertion at least indicates that they led Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to believe that his invasion had U.S. backing.

Whether the Saudis deceived Hussein about the “green light” or not, their instigation of the war exposes the origins of the modern Sunni-Shiite conflict, though now the Saudis are accusing the Iranians of regional aggression. The Haig “talking points” reveal that the first blow in the revival of this ancient fight was thrown not by the Shiites of Iran but by the Sunnis of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime with Saudi backing and encouragement.

The Saudi agreement to pay for arms purchases by Pakistan and other regional government sheds light on another aspect of today’s Mideast crisis. Saudi financial help to Pakistan in the 1980s became a key element in the expansion of a radical Sunni jihadist movement that coalesced along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to carry on the CIA-backed war against the Soviet army and secular Afghan forces.

That war – with the United States and Saudi Arabia each eventually pouring in $500 million a year – led to the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the collapse of the modernist, leftist regime in Kabul to be replaced by the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban which, in turn, gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda led by a wealthy Saudi, Osama bin Laden.

Thus, the outlines of today’s violent chaos across the Middle East were sketched in those years, albeit with many subsequent twists and turns.

The Persian Gulf War

After the Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988 – with both countries financially drained – Saddam Hussein turned on his suddenly stingy Sunni benefactors who began refusing further credit and demanding repayment of wartime loans. In reaction, Hussein – after consulting with U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie and thinking he had another “green light” – invaded Kuwait. That, in turn, prompted a U.S.-led deployment to both defend Saudi Arabia and drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

Although Hussein soon signaled a readiness to withdraw his troops, President George H.W. Bush rebuffed those overtures and insisted on a bloody ground war both to demonstrate the qualitative superiority of the modern U.S. military and to excite the American people about a military victory – and thus to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome.” [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Bush’s military offensive succeeded in those goals but also provoked bin Laden’s outrage over the placement of U.S. troops near Islamic holy sites. The United States became the new target of Al-Qaeda’s terrorist revenge. And, for Official Washington’s emerging neoconservatives, the need to finally and completely destroy Saddam Hussein – then Israel’s bête noire – became an article of faith.

The Persian Gulf War’s demonstration of U.S. military prowess – combined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – also encouraged the neocons to envision a strategy of “regime changes” for any government that showed hostility toward Israel. Iraq was listed as target number one, but Syria also was high on the hit list.

By the early 1990s, Israel had grown alienated from cash-strapped Iran, which had withdrawn from the lucrative arms bazaar that Israel had been running for that Shiite government through the 1980s. Gradually, Israel began to realign itself with the Sunnis bankrolled by Saudi Arabia.

The 9/11 attacks in 2001 were an expression of the anti-U.S. outrage among Sunni fundamentalists, who were funded by the Saudis and other Persian Gulf oil states, but the intricate realities of the Middle East were then little known to the American people who didn’t much know the difference between Sunni and Shiite and who lacked knowledge about the hostilities between secularists like Hussein and fundamentalists like bin Laden.

President George W. Bush and his administration exploited that ignorance to rally the public behind an invasion of Iraq in 2003 out of unrealistic fears that Saddam Hussein would share weapons of mass destruction with Osama bin Laden. Beyond the false claims about Iraq having WMDs and about a connection between Hussein and bin Laden, there was little appreciation even within the higher levels of the Bush administration about how the ouster and killing of Hussein would shatter the fragile equilibrium between Sunnis and Shiites.

With Hussein removed, the Shiite majority gained control of Iraq, distressing the Saudis who had, in many ways, launched the modern Sunni-Shiite war by pushing Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980 but who now saw Iran’s allies gaining control of Iraq. The Saudis and other Gulf sheiks began financing Sunni extremists who flooded into Iraq to fight the Shiites and their enablers, the U.S. military.

The Saudis also built a behind-the-scenes alliance with Israel, which saw its financial and geopolitical interests advanced by this secret collaboration. Soon, the Israelis were identifying their old arms-trading partners, the Iranians, as an “existential threat” to Israel and pushing the United States into a more direct confrontation with Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com’sDid Money Seal Israel-Saudi Alliance?”]

Expanding Conflicts

The battlefront in the Sunni-Shiite conflict moved to Syria, where Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunni states joined in supporting a rebellion to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. As that conflict grew bloodier and bloodier, Assad’s relatively secular regime became the protector of Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities against the Sunni forces led by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the hyper-brutal Islamic State.

In 2014, pressed by President Barack Obama, the Saudis joined an alliance against the Islamic State, although Saudi participation was tepid at best. Saudi Arabia’s true enthusiasm was to push a series of regional proxy wars against Iran and any Shiite-related movements, such as the Houthis in Yemen and the Alawites in Syria. If that helped Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, so be it, was the Saudi view.

Though the two redacted paragraphs from Haig’s “talking points” from 34 years ago might seem to be ancient history no longer worthy of the secrecy stamp, the U.S. government still insists on shielding that information from the American people, not letting them know too much about how these entangling alliances took shape and who was responsible for them.

The primary sources for Haig were Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Saudi Prince Fahd (later King Fahd), both of whom are dead, as are several other principals in these events, including Reagan, Hussein and Haig. The two redacted paragraphs – that Haig used in his presentation to Reagan – read as follows, with underlined sections in the original “talking points”:

Fahd was also very enthusiastic toward your policies. As a measure of his good faith, he intends to insist on a common oil policy at a forthcoming meeting of his Arab colleagues which will include a single price and a commitment to no drop in production. Also of importance was Fahd’s agreement in principle to fund arms sales to the Pakistanis and other states in the area.

“Both Sadat and Fahd provided other bits of useful intelligence (e.g. Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel). It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd.”

The redacted version – with those two paragraphs blacked out – was released by the George H.W. Bush presidential library after the “talking points” went through a declassification process. The release was in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that I had filed in connection with the so-called October Surprise affair, in which the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 was alleged to have conspired with Iranian officials and Israeli intelligence officers to delay the release of the 52 American hostages held in Iran to ensure President Carter’s reelection defeat.

In 1991, Congress began an investigation into the 1980 issue, suspecting that it may have been a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal which had involved Reagan’s secret arms-for-hostage deals with Iran in 1985-86 (also with Israeli help). The George H.W. Bush administration collected documents possibly related to the 1980 events and shared some with the congressional investigation, including the Haig “talking points.”

But Bush’s operatives – trying to protect his reelection chances in 1991-92 – engaged in delays and obstructions of the congressional inquiry, which finally agreed after Bush’s defeat by Bill Clinton in November 1992 to say that it could find “no credible evidence” that Reagan and Bush had orchestrated a delay in Iran’s release of the hostages. The hostages were finally freed on Jan. 20, 1981, immediately after Reagan was sworn in as president.

Subsequent disclosures of evidence, however, buttressed the long-held suspicions of a Republican-Iranian deal, including documents that the Bush-41 White House had withheld from Congress as well as other documents that the congressional investigation possessed but ignored. [See Consortiumnews.com’sSecond Thoughts on October Surprise” or, for more details, Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia invites Greece to join BRICS bank

RT | May 12, 2015

Greece has been invited by Russia to become the sixth member of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB). The $100 billion NDB is expected to compete with Western dominance and become one of the key lending institutions.

The invitation was made by Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak on Monday during a phone conversation with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, according to a statement on Greece’s Syriza party website. Tsipras thanked Storchak, who’s currently a representative of the BRICS Bank for the invitation, and said Greece was interested in the offer.

“The Prime Minister thanked Storchak and said he was pleasantly surprised by the invitation for Greece to be the sixth member of the BRICS Development Bank. Tsipras said Greece is interested in the offer, and promised to thoroughly examine it. He will have a chance to discuss the invitation with the other BRICS leaders during the 2015 International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg,” the statement said.

During the 6th BRICS summit in Fortaleza in June 2014 the members agreed to forge ahead with the $100 billion NDB, as well as a reserve currency pool worth over another $100 billion. In March this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified the NDB.

The new bank is expected to challenge the two major Western-led institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It will finance infrastructure projects in the BRICS countries and across other developing countries and is expected to start functioning by the end of 2015, with the headquarters in Shanghai.

Strengthening ties

Russia and Greece have been strengthening economic cooperation, as both countries have their own issues. While Russia is stuck in a so-called ‘sanctions war’ with the EU and the US, Greece is struggling to repay its multibillion euro debt to the troika of international lenders – the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission.

Greece is trying to find a compromise with its international creditors to have a further €7.2 billion bailout unlocked. So far Athens has been settling its IMF repayments on time. The country started repaying €750 million in debt interest Monday, but Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis warned Greece’s finances are “a terribly urgent issue,” and the country could default by next month if no proper measures are taken.

Greece’s government has agreed a number of strategic deals with Russia during Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ visit to Moscow in April, including participation in the Turkish Stream project that’ll deliver Russian gas to Europe via Greece.

It was rumored Russia was ready to help Athens, but President Putin said Greece hasn’t formally asked Moscow for help. Instead of direct financial assistance Russia could help out by buying Greek state assets in privatization sales, or in other investment projects, the President said in April.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian newspaper confiscated for the second time in two months

Mada Masr | May 12, 2015

A newspaper’s issue is usually confiscated when it is critical of the authorities. However on Monday the annual issue of the private al-Watan newspaper was briefly confiscated due to a headline that was deemed not quite supportive enough of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The newspaper’s front page headline was changed from “Seven entities stronger than Sisi” to “Seven entities stronger than reform.” The report suggests that those entities represent the “deep state” threatening Egypt and resisting Sisi’s efforts to reform the country.

The seven entities, according to al-Watan’s report, included: Corruption, powerful people, businessmen, the Interior Ministry, the media, the unregistered economy and social media.

An opinion article by the newspaper’s managing editor Alaa al-Ghatrify was also censored. In a leaked copy of the banned article, Ghatrify slammed media personnel who are groomed by the state, according to him, to defend the ruling regime and face any criticism directed against state institutions.

The issue was then permitted to publish after amending the headline and removing the critical column. According to a statement by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI,) “sovereign entities” banned the issue as the original headline implied Sisi’s grip over state institutions was weak.

This is the second time authorities banned an issue for al-Watan newspaper from publishing in the last two months. In March 11, authorities banned an al-Watan issue for including an investigative report detailing the tax evasion of state institutions including the presidency, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense and General Intelligence Services among others.

Ghatrify, whose article was banned from publishing, criticized the decision on his Facebook account, saying, “This is a country that will never be reformed. Today is another example that we did not move on, we are still on January 24, 2011. Don’t let him think, don’t let him publish, don’t let him be liberated. Just censor and oppress,” he said. None of the newspaper’s editors, including Ghatrify, were available for comment to Mada Masr.

ANHRI stated that censoring the newspaper’s issue is “a direct violation to the constitution and re-imposes police censorship over journalism.”

Similar incidents of censorship have taken place in the past, especially when articles critical to the Armed Forces or the General Intelligence Services have been published.

In October of last year, an edition of the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm was recalled because of an interview with former Intelligence Officer Refaat Gebreel. Al-Masry Al-Youm website editor Ahmed Ragab told Mada Masr at the time that the paper received a phone call from the General Intelligence Services requesting it to halt printing and remove the interview.

Article 70 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, while Article 71 prohibits censorship, stating, “Censorship of Egyptian press and media is prohibited by any means, in addition to confiscation, suspension or closure, with the exception of specific censorship that may be imposed at times of war or public mobilization.”

However, certain laws allow for intervention in the media, especially when it comes to state institutions. A law issued under the presidency of Anwar Sadat states information regarding the General Intelligence Services is a national security secret and its publishing is prohibited except with written approval from the head of the General Intelligence Services. Breaking this law is punishable by six months to five years in prison, in addition to a fine ranging from LE100,000 to LE500,000.

In November, the State Council approved a Defense Ministry-authored bill banning media outlets from publishing news pertaining to the Armed Forces without prior written consent from the head of the Armed Forces or a relevant court.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment