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Breaking down the US-Russia ceasefire plan for Syria

RT | February 22, 2016

Following Moscow and Washington’s announcement of a joint ceasefire deal for Syria, the war-torn country may be on the verge of the biggest peacemaking breakthrough since fighting broke out there five years ago. Here is how the proposed truce should work:

When does it start?

The ceasefire will become official at midnight Damascus time on Saturday, February 27 (or on Friday at 22:00 GMT). Those who subscribe to the agreement have to publicly declare that they will desist from hostilities by a deadline 12 hours before the ceasefire comes into effect, and inform the White House or the Kremlin.

Who does it apply to?

It is clearer which parties it doesn’t apply to: “‘Daesh’ [Islamic State], ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ [an al-Qaeda offshoot], or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council,” according to the Joint Statement. The Syrian government, as well as the oft-mentioned “moderate opposition” factions and the Kurds, will have to take it upon themselves to put down arms – or face consequences.

If the sides agree, what will be expected of them?

Participants are obligated to “cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles” and “refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire.” They must also allow “unhindered and sustained” access to humanitarian assistance missions and employ only “proportional force” in self-defense against those not party to the agreement.

How will the ceasefire function in practice?

Moscow and Washington will “work together to exchange pertinent information,” such as up-to-date maps indicating which sides have agreed to the ceasefire, and where they are located. The parties that are confirmed to have agreed to the ceasefire conditions should no longer come under fire from either side. The firepower is then expected to be concentrated on Islamic State and other jihadists.

How will it be monitored?

A Task Force will be set up, co-chaired by Moscow and Russia, which will “promote compliance and rapidly de-escalate tensions,” serve as an arbiter to “resolve allegations of non-compliance,” and refer “persistent” truce-breakers to senior officials to “determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such parties from the arrangements of the cessation of hostilities.” A direct hotline will be set up between Moscow and Washington to avoid internal squabbles and improve contact inside the Task Force. The statement also leaves a role for public institutions and journalists in keeping the peace, promising that the ceasefire “will be monitored in an impartial and transparent manner and with broad media coverage.”

Read more:

Ceasefire in Syria to commence at midnight on Feb. 27 – Russia & US

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘White Book of crimes’: Report on war crimes by pro-Kiev forces in Donbass released in English

RT | February 10, 2016

A report on war crimes committed by Kiev’s army and militia in eastern Ukraine is now available in English. It’s compiled by Russia’s Investigative Committee and covers 54 criminal cases.

The report, entitled ‘The Tragedy of South-Eastern Ukraine: The White Book of Crimes’, was initially published last year in Russian and edited by Investigative Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin.

Some 2,500 volumes of evidence collected for the book include testimonies of over 100,000 witnesses.

“The book provides evidence of international and transnational crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine, collected by Russia’s Investigative Committee dealing with the relevant criminal proceedings, as well as records of international organizations on the matter and comments of scholars specializing in international law,” said committee spokesman Vladimir Markin.

Wednesday’s presentation of the book in English was aimed at attracting the attention of the international public to the problem of combating international crimes in Ukraine. Representatives of 14 foreign states, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration were invited to take part.

“The presentation highlighted the discoveries made by the Investigative Committee during its probe into the war crimes and other offences against the peace and security of the people in Ukraine, including the attack on the Russian Embassy in Kiev,” Markin added.

During the presentation, the Committee exposed those involved in the alleged crimes, as well as the sources they based the report on. Among other issues, they raised the question of transferring the collected evidence to the international justice authorities, so that they could decide whether Kiev should be brought to justice.

Markin stressed that the electronic versions of both Russian and English editions of the publication will be available on the official website of the Investigative Committee in the nearest future.

The agency dealing with the war crimes in Donbass was created as part of Russia’s Investigative Committee in 2014. It works closely with all departments that operate in areas where the majority of refugees from the southeast of Ukraine arrive in Russia.

Kiev’s “special operation” in the east of Ukraine aimed at suppressing the protest movement in the Donbass Region has been in progress since the middle of April 2014.

The operation brought about numerous civilian casualties and the general destruction of local infrastructure: according to the UN figures for December 2015, more than 9,000 people died in the conflict and some 20 thousand more were injured. Over 1.3 million lost their homes, as stated in the previous UN report published in August.

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Flatten Beirut: US professor’s advice for Israel

American Herald Tribune | February 21, 2016

A George Washington University professor has overtly suggested that Israel should “flatten Beirut” — Lebanon’s capital with around 1 million people — in order to allegedly destroy the missiles of Lebanon-based resistance group Hezbollah.

Professor Amitai Etzioni, the prominent American scholar who teaches international relations — and who has taught at a variety of prestigious US universities, including Columbia, Harvard and Berkeley, and who served as a senior advisor in President Jimmy Carter’s administration — made this proposal in an op-ed in Haaretz, the leading English-language Israeli newspaper.

The newspaper, also known as “The New York Times of Israel” represents the liberal wing of Israel’s increasingly far-right politics.

The author wrote a few op-eds that held blunt and aggressive titles; the latest of which originally used the headline, “Should Israel Flatten Beirut to Destroy Hezbollah’s Missiles?” but then was modified to “Should Israel Consider Using Devastating Weapons against Hezbollah Missiles?”

Etzioni cites Israel’s chief of staff, who claims that most of Hezbollah’s missiles are in private homes, an accusation that Israel alleges against all resistance groups in the region to justify Israel’s attacks on civilian areas. But this claim, according to sources, is to justify any Israeli attack on civilian areas, adding that “it has been proven numerous occasions that there were no weapons in the civilian areas Israel bombed in Gaza for instance.”

Etzioni suggests that there can be many Israeli casualties in case Israeli soldiers take part in raids on the alleged houses, explaining “I asked two American military officers what other options Israel has. They both pointed to Fuel-Air Explosives (FAE). These are bombs that disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by a detonator, producing massive explosions. The resulting rapidly expanding wave flattens all buildings within a considerable range.”

Etzioni concludes his piece implying Israel has no other option but to bomb the city of Beirut. “In this way, one hopes, that there be a greater understanding, if not outright acceptance, of the use of these powerful weapons, given that nothing else will do,” he pointed out.

Such claims are similar to the ones Israel used during its 2006 aggression on Lebanon, in which it justified killing large numbers of civilians and dropping over a million cluster bombs by dubiously claiming innocents were being used as human shields.

The article triggered the fury of several Lebanese authors and activists who know the truth is otherwise. “I’m just speechless. It sounds ISIS-like, just eradicating an entire community of people,” wrote Kareem Chehayeb, a Lebanese journalist and founder and editor of the website Beirut Syndrome.

Also, Belén Fernández published an article responding to Etzioini’s op-ed, titled “No, Israel Should Not Flatten Beirut.” In which she pointed out “that Israel has already flattened large sections of Lebanon, in Beirut and beyond.”

She recalls visiting a young man in a south Lebanon village near the Israeli border who “described the pain in 2006 of encountering detached heads and other body parts belonging to former neighbors, blasted apart by bombs or crushed in collapsed homes.”

Etzioni is considered to be one of the prominent American scholars; he was among the 100 most-cited American intellectuals. He has also served as the president of the American Sociological Association. Etzioni served in the Haganah — the army that formed Israel after violently expelling three-quarters of the indigenous Palestinian population — from 1946 to 1948, and then served in the Israeli military from 1948 to 1950.

Hezbollah, the Islamic Resistance group in Lebanon, on the contrary to the claims of Etzion, does not involve civilians and civilian areas in war. The resistance movement does not justify deliberate attacks on civilian areas in wars and does not overpass ethics of war.

Also today, the same group that has been inscribed on the US and Europe black list is the same group that has been protecting the Syrian civilians and fighting a pre-emptive war to prevent Lebanon from being trapped.

In 2014, an anonymous European intelligence officer had said in an interview with al-Akhbar newspaper that “Hezbollah is fighting a battle against terrorism on behalf of the world, so it must be supported, at least in this confrontation”.

“I can say today that the resistance fighters are defending Europe,” he added.

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 4 Comments

US dominates global weapons sale amid increasing imports


Press TV – February 22, 2016

The United States has expanded its weapons business, increasing its global arms sales amid rising imports by Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

According to a new study published Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the volume of international transfers of major weapons, including sales and donations, was 14 percent higher in 2011-2015 than over the five previous years, with the US and Russia doing most of the exporting.

The biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The report pointed to the Saudi-led war on Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been seeking to reinstate the country’s fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and undermine the Yemeni Ansarullah movement.

“A coalition of Arab states is putting mainly US- and European-sourced advanced arms into use in Yemen,” senior SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman said in the report.

The report also said US arms went to more than 90 countries.

The United States has sold or donated major arms to a diverse range of recipients across the globe, the report said.

“As regional conflicts and tensions continue to mount, the USA remains the leading global arms supplier by a significant margin,” said Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program.

“The USA has sold or donated major arms to at least 96 states in the past five years, and the US arms industry has large outstanding export orders,” including for over 600 F-35 combat aircraft, said Fleurant.

The biggest chunk of US major arms, 41 percent, went into Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East.

Now Scott Bennett, former US Army psychological warfare officer, says the trend does not come as a surprise “because it indicates a pattern that we’ve long seen, but has really quickened since the September 11th wars were initiated by the United States.”

Bennett told Press TV on Monday that the US governments “simply followed a policy of igniting fires around the world and then selling the equipment to put them out.”

Meanwhile, the latest report adds that Russia remains in second place on the SIPRI exporters list, with its share of the total up three points to 25 percent, though the levels dropped in 2014 and 2015 — coinciding with Western sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.

India took the largest chunk of Russian weaponry, AFP reported.

While the flows of weapons to Africa, Asia and Oceania and the Middle East all increased between 2006-10 and 2011-15, there had been a sharp fall in the flow to Europe and a minor decrease in the volume heading to the Americas, according to SIPRI.

The overall transfer of arms has been upwards this century after a relative drop in the previous 20 years.

China leapfrogged both France and Germany over the past five years to become the third-largest source of major arms globally, with an 88-percent rise in exports. Most of the Chinese weapons went to other Asian countries, with Pakistan the main recipient.

India remains by far the biggest importer of major arms, accounting for 14 percent of the total; twice as much as second-placed Saudi Arabia and three times as much as China.

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colombian Army Kills 7 ELN Rebels, Maybe Peace Talks Too?

teleSUR – February 21, 2016

The Colombian army killed at least seven ELN guerrillas in a special operation Saturday that took place near its border with Venezuela – an attack that is sure to have repercussions for the preliminary peace negotiations between the rebel group and the Colombian government.

Two other ELN (National Liberation Army) members were captured in Sunday’s offensive in the northern department of Arauca.

The Colombian Defense Ministry later tweeted that six rebels were successfully “neutralized” in the special operation. Meanwhile, the presidency tweeted a special congratulations to its troops for the “strong blow against the ELN in Arauca.”

According to Army Commander, General Alberto Mejia, the attack was a joint operation between army intelligence, the national air force, the national police and had the full support of the attorney general.

However, the attacks come as the ELN and the government have been trying to undergo preliminary peace discussions in an effort to end the ongoing fighting in the country. The talks have been tense in past weeks as both sides have accused the other of stalling negotiations while aggression on the ground continues.

The ongoing hostilities threaten to put in jeopardy the peace talks between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels – Colombia’s largest guerrilla group – who are aiming to sign a final peace deal by their self-imposed deadline of March 23.

The two sides have been undergoing negotiations in Havana, Cuba, for over three years in an attempt to bring the five decades of fighting to an end, which has seen over 220,000 people killed and millions more displaced or disappeared.

However, there remain several critical factors to actually reaching peace in the country, which include making peace with the second largest guerrilla group in the country, the ELN.

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Nigeria: Soldiers committing extrajudicial killings, citizens disappearing after arrest

American Herald Tribune | February 21, 2016

It seems that Nigerians have to fear not only the extremist group Boko Haram, but also official soldiers who have proved to carry out extrajudicial killings, where the soldiers act as merciless as insurgents that have been spreading death and destruction in the African country.

According to the Associated Press, farmers and villagers across Nigeria are being arrested upon allegations that they belong to the extremist group Boko haram. The stunning part of the story is that many of these detained people disappear and do not return.

According to the source, Nigerian soldiers detained a teacher and two middle-aged farmers in Duhu village. Some residents, who knew the men, insisted they did not belong to the extremist group, and marched to a nearby military base to demand their release.

The military denied detaining elementary school teacher Habu Bello and farmers Idrisa Dele and Umaru Hammankadi even though several villagers told the news agency they watched as the men were taken away by uniformed soldiers.

“If you have a problem with someone, you can influence the military to pick them up and then you will never hear about them again,” human rights lawyer Sunday Joshua Wugira told AP from his offices in the northeastern city of Yola, where police are investigating the January killings of three brothers from the Fulani tribe.

In one act of terror, AP reported that a teenager said she was captured last year by Boko Haram fighters who attacked her village and killed her father.

“Soldiers arrived to hunt down extremists, but interrogated my three brothers instead. Vigilantes then seized and killed them,” she said.

The girl did not only suffer from Boko Haram’s terror, but even worse from the terror of the Nigerian soldiers as well. The 16-year old girl was kidnapped by Boko Haram at 16 and raped in captivity; she was freed in November when soldiers attacked the extremist camp where she was being held. She tried to return to her home village, but had to flee again because vigilantes threatened to kill her unborn child, calling it a “terrorist baby,” she said.

“I don’t have any figures, but I can confirm to you that there have been a series of complaints about extrajudicial killings,” Duhu district leader Mustapha Sanusi said.

Since 2011, the military has been responsible for the deaths of some 8,000 detainees who were shot, starved or tortured, which counts more than a third of the estimated 20,000 people killed during the 6-year-old insurgency.

The AP report also said that refugees panicked in January when they found the trussed-up body of a refugee with his head bashed in at the Shettima Ali Monguno Teachers Village camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri.

“We now fear more for our safety because we cannot tell who is good or bad among us,” said one young refugee, insisting on anonymity for safety. “Our camp is well fenced and secured, yet one of us was murdered over the night.”

“People are living in fear and believe that at the end of the day they will never get justice,” said lawyer Wugira, who underlined that he has been offering free services yet due to this fear most disappearances go unchallenged.

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment