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The Syrian Democratic Forces: Just an Invention by Washington to Save Face?

Sputnik – 03.11.2015

As America’s previous strategies for dealing with the Syrian crisis fell into disarray, the Pentagon scrambled to gather a ragtag band of militia groups under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces. But the new alliance is barely holding together, and may in fact have been dreamed up as an excuse to continue pumping weapons into the region.

Mere days after the Obama administration announced it was ending its controversial plan to train and equip so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, a new player arrived on the scene.

“The sensitive state our country Syria is going through and rapid developments on the military and political front… require that there be a united national military force for all Syrians, joining Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs and other groups,” read a statement released by the newly formed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) last month.

The alliance consists of the Kurdish YPG militia, an Assyrian Christian group, and a number of various Arab groups collectively known as the Syrian Arab Coalition.

And according to a senior US military official speaking to the New York Times, the Syrian Arab Coalition was “an American invention.”

Washington’s new Syria strategy involves supporting this nebulous ground alliance in a fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group – in addition to sending between 30 and 50 US Special Forces as “advisers.”

But according to the government officials, the Syrian Arab Coalition consists of only 5,000 fighters. These are spread across various groups without any real central leadership, and approximately 20% of those forces said they had no interest in staging an offensive against IS.

If the SDF is to display any effectiveness, it will be from the 40,000-strong Kurdish militia – a fact which doesn’t exactly sit well with America’s Turkish allies. But by creating the Syrian Arab Coalition, the United States can indirectly arm the Kurds while maintaining plausible deniability.

“The YPG is a very effective fighting force, and it can do a lot. But these Arab groups are weak and just a fig leaf for the YPG,” Barak Barfi, of the New America Foundation, told the Times.

“There is no deep-rooted alliance between these groups; this is a shifting tactical alliance.”

The Syrian Arab Coalition is all but nonexistent, but even the broader SDF is in tatters. Despite the Pentagon’s dumping of 50 tons of ammunition into Syria last month, the alliance is in desperate need of heavy weapons, radios, infrastructure, leadership, and, yes, ammunition.

Visiting the frontlines in Syria, Ben Hubbard of the New York Times reported on just how ill-equipped the alliance is. Fighters wear old, worn-out boots and ragged fatigues. Security checkpoints are manned by teenagers armed with aging rifles. The only unifying factor at this time appears to be a yellow flag meant to represent the SDF, though it has no command posts to fly over.

“This is the state of our fighters: trying to fight ISIS with simple means,” one commander said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State.

The SDF is also in dire need of leadership. While the group is meant to be led by a six-person military council, that council currently consists of a single individual, who largely serves as little more than a spokesman.

Creating an illusory group to justify military actions in Syria isn’t exactly a new strategy for the Obama administration. When the US-led coalition first began airstrikes in Syria, Pentagon officials said they were targeting an al-Qaeda affiliate known as Khorasan.

“There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful way or identifiable manner,” Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain wrote for the Intercept.

“What happened here is all-too-familiar. The Obama administration needed propagandistic and legal rationale for bombing yet another predominantly Muslim country.”

With the SDF, the administration can similarly deny arming Kurdish militias, and pretend it has an actual strategy in the region.

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 2 Comments

‘Intrusive’ and ‘secretive’: ACLU obtains government docs on Stingray surveillance

RT | November 3, 2015

The ACLU has acquired the Justice Department’s guidelines on the use of Stingray technology, showing the surveillance tools are capable of tracking targets, recording and listening in on calls – even of innocent parties – and bugging.

“The government is using intrusive new forms of technology to invade our privacy but it is shrouding its practices in secrecy, and Stingrays are a very poignant example of that,” Linda Lye, senior staff attorney with the Northern California American Civil Liberties Union, told RT.

“We shouldn’t have to surrender our privacy merely by using the modern conveniences of daily modern life like a cell phone.”

The documents confirm long-held suspicions that the controversial devices, which mimic cell phone towers and trick cell phones into thinking it is a legitimate tower, are capable of recording the numbers of a mobile phone’s incoming and outgoing calls, as well as intercepting the content of voice and text communications.

“The public and courts and criminal defendants have a right to know when the government is using intrusive new forms of technology. It raises cutting edge legal questions, like what kind of court authorization does the government need to get before it uses this technology?” Lye added.

According to the documents, the devices “may be capable of intercepting the contents of communications, and therefore, such devices must be configured to disable the interception function, unless interceptions have been authorized by a Title III order.”

Title III is a federal wiretapping law that allows law enforcement, with a court order, to intercept communications in real time.

The documents also discussed the possibility of “flashing” a phone’s firmware “so that you can intercept conversations using a suspect’s cell phone as a bug.”

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Justice two years ago to force it to disclose its policies and procedures concerning Stingrays.

“By withholding information about this technology from courts in applications for electronic surveillance orders, the federal government is essentially seeking to write its own search warrants while engaging in a form of dragnet surveillance,” argued the ACLU in the complaint.

The documents, numbering over 70 pages, show the government had not been upfront about how the surveillance tool was being used by law enforcement, and that it was capable of spying on innocent bystanders.

“Stingrays … scoop up information not only from the target the government is investigating, but also third parties as to whom that the government has no reasonable cause or suspicion about whatsoever. That means innocent bystanders are having their rights compromised,” said Lye.

The surveillance tools go by a number of different names – Wolfpack, Gossamer, and swamp box – and are generally the size of a suitcase. They work by emitting a stronger signal than nearby towers in order to force a phone or mobile device to connect to them instead of a legitimate tower.

The Stingrays can be used to determine the location of phones, computers, and wireless PC data cards, also known as air cards, according to Wired. Once a mobile device connects and reveals its unique device ID, law enforcement can use a handheld device that can track a phone or mobile device, including pinpointing an exact office or apartment where it is being used.

Concerns about the use of Stingrays have been mounting as of late. The ACLU has identified 57 agencies that own stingrays or similar devices in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition, federal rules don’t apply to local police departments, which purchase the Stingrays independently of the federal government and are among the most prolific users of the technology. They have been using them without obtaining warrants for years.

The Baltimore Sun reported that city police have used the technology 4,300 times since 2007, often without obtaining a search warrant. Defense attorneys and prosecutors are currently reviewing thousands of criminal cases involving the trackers.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, now require their agents to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before using the device in most cases.

Lye told RT that the courts serve as an “important, independent arbitrator to determine whether investigators have met probable cause that warrants invading privacy.” She said that applying for a warrant is a time-tested method for balancing government’s legitimate need to investigate in the name of public safety and the public’s need for privacy.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires the government to get a warrant before it searches someone’s phone or seizes someone’s property. The reason we have that is before we adopted that provision, the British would engage in general searches anywhere they pleased in order to look for violations of British customs laws,” Lye said.

“Stingrays engage in the electronic equivalent of a general search. They search not only the target of an investigation but innocent third parties, and that kind of privacy intrusion is not what the framers intended.”

Congress is also concerned. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he plans to introduce a bill criminalizing any use of a Stingray without a warrant. The bill would apply to state and local agencies as well as federal ones.

The Washington Examiner was given a draft copy of the bill and reported that violations would be punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison, but that it includes wide exemptions, including for situations involving “emergencies that include an ‘immediate danger of death,’ national security or … the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

Hamas says Britain must apologize for Balfour Declaration carving up Palestine

RT | November 3, 2015

Palestinian political Islamists Hamas have demanded Britain apologize for agreeing to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917, a move experts say had “profound and pervasive” consequences for those who lived there.

Hamas released its statement Monday to coincide with the 98th anniversary of the declaration. It claimed the 1917 agreement between then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour and influential Jewish community leader Baron Walter Rothschild is now null and void.

The original declaration, which aimed to combine two apparently contradictory aims, read: “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The Israeli News Network reports Hamas wants Britain to apologize for the declaration, retract it and admit it was a mistake.

“The path of our people towards freedom, return and liberation goes like the path of other peoples who were under occupation – through struggle by all methods and means, first and foremost an armed struggle,” the statement said.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Oxford University history professor Avi Shlaim said the Balfour agreement continued to resonate throughout the region and beyond.

“Its consequences were both profound and pervasive, and its impact on the subsequent history of the Middle East was nothing less than revolutionary,” he said.

“It completely transformed the position of the fledgling Zionist movement vis-à-vis the Arabs of Palestine, and it provided a protective umbrella that enabled the Zionists to proceed steadily towards their ultimate goal of establishing an independent Jewish state in Palestine.”

The declaration’s impact was out of proportion to its size. It took the form of a mere letter from one party to another and yet, Shlaim says, defines the state of the Middle East to this day.

“Rarely in the annals of the British Empire has such a short document produced such far-reaching consequences,” he said.
A number of former British colonies have recently called for relations between themselves and the former imperial power to be redressed.

In September, Barbadian historian Sir Hilary Beckles reminded David Cameron that the prime minister’s own family was enriched by slavery in the Caribbean colonies.

In July, Indian politician Shashi Tharoor debated Britain’s past occupation of India at an Oxford Union debate.

“Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India. We paid for our own oppression. It’s a bit rich to oppress, maim, kill, torture and repress and then celebrate democracy at the end of it,” Tharoor said at the debate.

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli forces storm, shut down Hebron radio station

Ma’an – November 3, 2015

HEBRON – Israeli forces on Tuesday morning stormed the offices of a Palestinian radio station in Hebron, where they destroyed equipment and ordered the station’s closure, in the latest violation of press freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory.

353060CManbar al-Hurriyya (Freedom Tribune) radio station, which is reportedly affiliated with Fatah, wrote on its website that Israeli forces had destroyed equipment inside the offices and confiscated other equipment.

The soldiers then issued a military order notifying employees that the station was to be closed and its broadcast banned.

The Israeli army said in a statement that the station was shut down “as part of the ongoing battle against incitement.”

It continued: “Forces confiscated broadcasting equipment in order to prevent the incitement which has caused a flare of violence in the region over recent weeks.”

It accused the radio station of encouraging “stabbing attacks” and “violent riots,” and reporting “false and malicious claims of security forces executing and kidnapping Palestinians in order to provoke violence.”

The statement said that Israeli forces had shut down the station twice before, in 2002 and again in 2008.

The incident comes a day after a Palestinian press freedoms watchdog condemned more than 450 violations of media freedoms since the beginning of the year.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, known as MADA, said in a statement that it “condemns the ongoing violence against Palestinian journalists by the Israeli Occupying Forces,” including more than 100 violations in October alone.

It said that “continued impunity with lack of accountability” encouraged Israeli forces “to commit more crimes and assaults.”

The watchdog said that while press violations had not reached last year’s proportions, when 17 Palestinian journalists were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, violations had “witnessed an enormous escalation this year.”

The group called for accountability, but also for “preventing censorship and persecution of journalists and activists regarding their opinions and comments on social media.”

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reaping the Fruits of the War on Terror in Yemen

By Michael Horton | CounterPunch | November 3, 2015

Yemen was an early victim of the US led war on terror. The first targeted assassination by a US drone occurred there in November 2002. Yemen’s mountains and deserts were where the US developed and tested its flawed drone-centric counter-terrorism strategy. A combination of indifference, faulty intelligence, and incompetence has led to the deaths of hundreds of Yemeni civilians.

As tragic as these deaths are, they pale in comparison with the death and destruction unleashed by the current war in Yemen, a war that US foreign and counter-terrorism policies are partially responsible for.

As in most parts of the world where the US has waged its war on terror, the supposed targets—terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State—are the primary beneficiaries.

These organizations exploit and feed off the chaotic and divisive environments that arise from short-sighted and uninformed “whack a mole” counter-terrorism strategies. Such an outcome is perfectly acceptable to the thriving military-industrial complex that drives and profits from US foreign policy.

Yemen is one of the countries where the disastrous consequences of the war on terror are most evident and potentially most consequential. Yemen’s strategic location across from the Bab al-Mandeb—a critical shipping corridor—and its long border with Saudi Arabia ensure that the chaos that has engulfed the country will not be easily contained.

The war has already spread across Saudi Arabia’s southern border where Houthi forces and elements of the Yemeni Army have repeatedly attacked military targets deep within Saudi territory. The same forces have reportedly launched anti-ship missiles—which the Yemeni Armed Forces have in their inventory—at ships belonging to the Saudi Navy.

Much of southern Yemen, which includes areas that Saudi Arabia and its allies claim to have “liberated,” is being infiltrated by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State. Parts of Aden—Yemen’s major port city—are now under the control of AQAP and allied bands of militant Salafis who are enforcing their version of Sharia law on the once cosmopolitan and relatively liberal city.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government—most of whose members remain in their villas in Saudi Arabia—has been unable to assert its authority in the liberated areas. As one of the better organized forces in the country, AQAP is filling the void. This is undoubtedly being facilitated by Saudi Arabia and its allies who view AQAP and militant Salafis as useful proxies. Just as they view groups like al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front in Syria as allies in their war against the government of Bashar al-Assad.

So how have US foreign policy and its counter-terrorism strategies contributed to the chaos that has engulfed Yemen?

In the wake of September 11th, then Yemeni President Saleh—a wily political survivor—recognized that the US’ war on terror was going to be a gift to corrupt governments like his. Saleh promised to be an ally in what he knew would be a war without end against organizations that are easily manipulated by intelligence services.

Thanks to the generosity of US tax payers, weapons and US Special Forces trainers poured into Yemen. There was little effective oversight of how the weapons and newly trained soldiers would be used. Rather than targeting al-Qaeda—an organization that the security services of Saleh’s government had already thoroughly penetrated—Saleh used his US supplied and trained special and counter-terrorism forces against his real enemies: namely the Houthis and those in south Yemen who opposed Saleh’s corrupt northerner dominated government.

In exchange for weapons and training, Saleh also agreed to let US drones hunt down and kill Yemeni citizens. It mattered little to him that the strikes strengthened AQAP. AQAP benefited from the cycles of revenge that resulted from the deaths of what were most often civilians. The drone strikes also weakened and de-legitimized tribal authority, one of the few constraints on the growth of AQAP and Saleh’s corrupt government.

US policies in Yemen—which were narrowly focused on killing the “bad guys” in the parlance of George W. Bush—altered the balance of power and helped set in motion the country’s rapid descent into chaos. With support from the US, Saleh was emboldened and rather than falling back on negotiations and patronage, which are long-established traditions in Yemen, he pursued his enemies. However, he and his forces were not powerful enough to prevail. Saleh, who is a student of Yemeni history, forgot that there are few periods when one man or a government has exercised control over the entirety of the country.

Rather than being defeated, Yemen’s Houthi rebels fought back and in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” in Yemen, they took over a large part of northwest Yemen. In the south, southern separatists, who were routinely imprisoned and disappeared by the security services and “counter-terrorism” forces, were further radicalized. Now, in southern Yemen, the flag of a unified Yemen is nowhere to be seen. It has been replaced by the flag of the formerly independent south Yemen and the black flags of al-Qaeda.

The US has spent billions of dollars—the actual amount is unknown—on its war on terror in Yemen. It is worth contemplating what the political situation in Yemen would look like if even a fraction of that money had been spent on programs that tackled the real issues that drive instability in Yemen like water shortages, government corruption, a lack of schools and medical facilities, and food insecurity. And what if this aid had been linked to meaningful reform within government institutions?

While it is of course unlikely that Yemen would be a bastion of stability and transparent government, it is just as unlikely that the country would be mired in a brutal civil war that has drawn in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Unfortunately, US policy makers have learned nothing from fourteen years of trillion dollar failures in Afghanistan and Iraq and now Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Rather than rethinking its policies in Yemen and pushing for a negotiated end to hostilities, the US is aiding and enabling Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in Yemen. This war has killed thousands, impoverished millions, and effectively ceded control of large parts of Yemen to AQAP and other militant Salafi organizations.

The US’ war on terror in Yemen has done nothing but increase instability, embolden terrorist organizations, and ensure years—likely decades—of healthy profits for the companies that make up the military-industrial complex. These companies—not the American or Yemeni people—are reaping the fruits of a war without end.

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Syria peace talks a small step, but leans forward

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 2, 2015

When diplomats from seventeen countries sit down together for the first time in a particular format and after “a frank and constructive discussion” for over seven hours and manage to find common ground to issue a joint statement spelling out in nine points their “mutual understanding”, although “substantial differences remain”, regarding an acute regional conflict, that is commendable effort – especially, when it is about “the grave situation in Syria and how to bring about an end to the violence as soon as possible”.

Indeed, the joint statement issued in Vienna in the evening of Friday, October 30 is notable for both bringing together a common ground between the participants as well as for giving a sense of direction and a pledge that the ministers who attended the talks will reconvene within two weeks “to continue these discussions” and in the meanwhile “working to narrow remaining areas of disagreement, and build on areas of agreement”.

The salience of the joint statement lies in its neatly sidestepping the contentious issue of the future of President Bashar Al-Assad and instead focus on the peace process in search of a settlement and the fight against terrorism. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon couldn’t have put it better when he said afterward, “The future of Syria or the future of all these peace talks and Syrian-led negotiations should not be held up by an issue of a future of one man. Basically, I believe it is up to Syrian people, who have to decide the future of President Assad.”

The highlights of the joint statement are: a) the unity, independence, territorial integrity and secular character of Syria are “fundamental”; b) the rights of all Syrians must be protected; c) the peace process will be under the UN auspices; d) the political process will comprise the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition; e) it will be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, and the “Syrian people will decide the future of Syria”; f) the political process will lead to “credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance”, followed by a new constitution and elections under UN supervision in which “all Syrians, including the diaspora” will be eligible to participate”. In the meanwhile, modalities of a ceasefire will be explored, which will, however, exclude the Islamic State and other extremist groups. A follow-up meeting is expected next week.

It does not need much ingenuity to figure out that the stance of Russia and Iran has been vindicated to a very great extent. How could this have happened? The short answer is that the United States has begun distancing itself from the position of its so-called ‘allies’ in Syria – Saudi Arabia, in particular. The body language at the Vienna talks suggests an overarching US-Russia amity. The US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sat side by side and frequently consulted each other.  The friendly atmosphere was evident also during their joint press conference after the talks in Vienna.

The unspoken question is how in an “inclusive” political process where the people of the country are to be the final decision-makers regarding the future of their country — and where even the Syrian diaspora can participate — how on earth one single individual by name Assad can be made the solitary exception because Saudi Arabia doesn’t like his face (for whatever reason)? The Saudi insistence that Assad should be removed through a political settlement or by force has become untenable. What Saudi Arabia seeks is a political order in Syria that is imposed top-down, whereas, the joint statement takes the contrarian position that it is the Syrian people who will choose their next leadership – not any foreign power.

During the Kerry-Lavrov press conference, it transpired that Moscow has proposed more cooperation with Washington for a coordinated fight against the Islamic State. Kerry said he would seek President Barack Obama’s approval for the Russian proposal. Meanwhile, it is to be noted that Russia has only perfunctorily disagreed with President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy around four dozen military advisers to Syria. (Iran’s reaction, too, is notably low-key.) Of course, Obama’s detractors in the US have gone to town to vilify him by claiming he has gone back on his word that he will not put ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria. But it stands to reason that this is not a ‘mission creep’, as made out to be by Obama’s critics.

Of course, there is a dichotomy in the Obama administration’s overall approach on Syria following the Russian military intervention. Clearly, Obama is figuring out his way forward and is unsure of the downstream repercussions of the Russian military operations. The tantalizing question is whether the US isn’t, after all, edging closer to the original Russian proposal for a concerted effort to fight the IS? Indeed, if a nation-wide ceasefire takes hold in Syria between the government and the ‘moderate’ opposition concurrent with the political process (which is what has been envisaged in the joint statement), it opens the door to a Russian-American coordinated military effort against the IS. Obama cannot be oblivious of that. The text of the joint statement is here.

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Cameron denies scrapping vote on Syria airstrikes after warning from MPs

RT | November 3, 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron has reportedly scrapped plans to call a House of Commons vote on approving airstrikes against Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria after failing to win over enough Labour MPs to counterbalance rebellious Tories.

Whitehall sources told The Guardian and The Times that Downing Street had unofficially decided not to extend Royal Air Force (RAF) bombing campaigns from Iraq to Syria over fears Cameron would be humiliated by a second defeat on the issue.

MPs previously voted down launching airstrikes against Syria, specifically targeting forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, in 2013.

Cameron had insisted he would only call a vote when he had achieved a clear, cross-party consensus.

However, the estimated number of Labour MPs expected to vote in favor of airstrikes – between 20 and 30 – would not counteract the number of Tories planning to rebel.

One Downing Street source denied the claims, saying Cameron will still call a vote when a consensus is reached.

“The prime minister’s position hasn’t changed,” the source said.

“He’s consistently said that we would only go back to the House [of Commons] on this issue if there was clear consensus and that remains the case.”

“Meanwhile, the government continues to work to bring the conflict to an end in Syria and we are working closely with our allies to inject greater momentum into efforts to find a political solution, which we’ve always said will be the way to bring this war to an end and give Syria hope for the future.”

In a further blow to Cameron’s campaign to extend British bombing to Syria, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee released a report saying they are “not yet persuaded” by the case for Syrian airstrikes.

The report expresses concerns that Royal Air Force airstrikes would only have a “marginal effect” and could prove a “distraction” from a diplomatic solution.

MPs agreed that the humanitarian catastrophe means there is a “powerful sense that something must be done.”

But they added that military action should not be used unless there is a “coherent international strategy.”

“We believe that there should be no extension of British military action into Syria unless there is a coherent international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating ISIL and of ending the civil war in Syria.

“In the absence of such a strategy, taking action to meet the desire to do something is still incoherent,” they added.

However, one former Labour minister threatened to quit the party after suggestions Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership team would consult the Stop the War coalition over a government proposal to begin military action.

Tom Harris MP, a former transport minister, posted on Facebook it would be “goodbye” from him if the anti-war group was consulted.

The British government has already authorized drone strikes against ISIS targets in Syria without the backing of parliament. In September, it was revealed that two British nationals fighting for extremist organizations had been killed by RAF drones.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit London this week to discuss international relations, including the situation in Syria. The US is already carrying out airstrikes in the country.

“While in London, [Kerry] will meet with British Foreign Secretary [Philip] Hammond to discuss a range of bilateral and global issues, including Syria,” a spokesperson for Kerry said.

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Syria hospitals Russia accused of bombing don’t exist – Defense Min

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Video | , | Leave a comment

Saudi authorities block contact with death row political prisoners

Reprieve | November 3, 2015

Reports have emerged that the family of political prisoners facing execution in Saudi Arabia have been unable to make regular, scheduled calls with the prisoners, raising concerns over their well being.

Ali Adubisi, the director of a Saudi human rights organisation in Europe who is assisting activist Sheikh Nimr and six other political prisoners, told Reprieve that Mr Nimr yesterday failed to make a regular weekly call – something which has never happened previously during over three years in prison.

Sheikh Nimr is facing beheading and crucifixion by the Saudi authorities over his involvement in political protests. Families of other political prisoners facing execution – including juveniles Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon – have also expressed concern over their recent inability to make contact with them.

The highly secretive nature of the Saudi justice system means that prisoners are usually executed without their families or lawyers receiving any prior warning – making the apparent block on communications by the Saudi authorities particularly concerning.

The news comes as the UK Government reveals that, despite cancelling a bid to provide services to the Saudi prisons system, discussions with the Saudi Government over judicial cooperation are still “ongoing.” Reprieve is calling on the Government to provide further details on what such cooperation involves, and what safeguards are in place to ensure that the UK will not be complicit in Saudi Arabi’s death penalty system.

Commenting, Kate Higham, caseworker at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “The apparent blocking of contact between families and political prisoners is deeply concerning – especially since those facing execution include several people sentenced to death as children over their involvement in political protests. The Saudi authorities need to ensure that legal representatives and families have unfettered access to their clients and loved ones, in addition to reviewing and overturning these unjust sentences.”

November 3, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment