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Samidoun calls for the freedom of political prisoners in Egyptian jails

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – February 22, 2019

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network condemned the executions carried out by the Egyptian regime against 9 Egyptian youths, calling for an end to the “systematic and continuous repression and killings by the fascist regime of General Abdel-Fattah Sisi.”

“What is happening in Egyptian prisons is systematic and documented torture. While this is widely known, it does not receive sufficient attention from international human rights bodies and legal institutions,” said Mohammed Khatib, the Europe coordinator of Samidoun. He referred to the “disgraceful collaboration between the so-called international community and the generals in Cairo.”

Khatib launched a scathing attack on the Egyptian regime and what he called “the silence of the Egyptian and Arab parties who describe themselves as standing with the people. They say with words that they oppose the Camp David regime, but remain silent on the daily violations of the rights of tens of thousands of Egyptian prisoners in Egyptian jails by that same Camp David regime.”

He pointed out “the perpetrators of torture and killings that took place in the prison known as ‘Scorpio’ (the Tora prison complex) and other jails and prisons have not been held accountable for their crimes. As a result, this only encouraged further repression and organized state terror on the part of the generals.”

The steadfastness of political prisoners in the jails of the Arab reactionary, dictatorial regimes stems from the deep and absolute conviction and reality in the interdependence and linking of the struggle of the national and social movements in the Arab world with the struggle of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian prisoners, which is the spearhead of the liberation cause,” said Khatib. “The crimes perpetrated by the Camp David regime against the poor and the oppressed in Egypt cannot be separated from the crimes of the Zionist enemy and imperialist powers in the world, because of the Egyptian state’s dependence on these same imperialist forces. These powers see these regimes as a tool to destroy popular movements in order to further plunder and steal the resources of the Arab peoples.”

He called on activists and friends of the Samidoun Network internationally to stand with political prisoners in Egyptian jails and advocate and organize against the executions while working for the release of all Egyptian prisoners.

February 22, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Pompeo the Warmonger Supports Authoritarian Regimes

By Brian CLOUGHLEY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 20.01.2019

On January 2 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Brazil, and his Department noted that in discussions with Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo they “highlighted the importance of working together to address regional and global challenges, including supporting the people of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua in restoring their democratic governance and their human rights.” Pompeo declared that the US and Brazil “have an opportunity to work alongside each other against authoritarian regimes.”

From this we gather that Pompeo is a strong advocate of democratic governance and will always make it clear that the United States supports unfortunate people living in countries having “authoritarian regimes.” It is apparent he must believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Unfortunately it transpired that Pompeo is a selective supporter of democracy and freedom of religion, because after he left Brazil and went to the Middle East he voiced vigorous support for despots who rule countries in a manner that is undeniably authoritarian.

In a speech in Cairo on January 10 Pompeo threatened Iran and declared that “Nations are rallying to our side to confront the regime like never before. Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions.” It must be gratifying for him that these nations have joined the US in its crusade against Iran, three of them being hereditary monarchies and one run by a non-regal martinet.

Oman, for example, is “an absolute monarchy by male primogeniture. The Sultan, Qaboos bin Said al Said, has been the hereditary leader of the country since 1970.” Freedom House notes that “The regime restricts virtually all political rights and civil liberties, and imposes criminal penalties for criticism and dissent… Political parties are not permitted, and the authorities do not tolerate other forms of organized political opposition.”

In Jordan “the monarch holds wide executive and legislative powers, including the appointment of the prime minister and all seats of the senate. The monarch approves and dismisses judges; signs, executes or vetoes all laws; and can suspend or dissolve parliament.”

The leader of Kuwait, the Amir, according to the CIA Factbook, is “chosen from within the ruling family, confirmed by the National Assembly; the prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the Amir.” In this autocracy, according to Human Rights Watch, there are “no laws prohibiting domestic violence or marital rape… a man who finds his mother, wife, sister or daughter in the act of adultery and kills them is punished by either a small fine or no more than three years in prison.”

Pompeo wants “democratic governance and human rights” in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Why not in Oman, Jordan and Kuwait?

The only one of Pompeo’s countries not ruled by a supreme monarch is Egypt, whose president is Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who “was elected in May 2014, almost a year after he removed his elected predecessor, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, from office in a coup.” Sisi “won a second four-year-term in March 2018 against a sole minor opposition candidate. Human rights lawyer Khalid Ali and former prime minister Ahmad Shafiq withdrew from the race, and the former armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan was arrested.”

In his warmongering anti-Iran, anti-Syria speech Pompeo announced that his visit to Egypt was “especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian, coming so soon after the Coptic Church’s Christmas celebrations” and visited the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ and the Al-Fattah Al-Alim mosque where he praised Egypt’s “freedoms here in this houses [sic] of worship, these big, beautiful, gorgeous buildings where the Lord is clearly at work.”

He ignored Amnesty International’s statement that in Egypt “the authorities continued to violate the right to freedom of religion by discriminating against Christians.” His own Department recorded that last year “Irrespective of religion, authorities also did not apply equal protection to all citizens and sometimes closed churches, in violation of the law, according to multiple sources.”

The bigotry of the Egyptian regime and its clerics was epitomised on January 13 when Al Azhar University which is responsible for “a national network of schools with approximately two million students” expelled a female student for being hugged by a male friend. The scandal was revealed in a video clip which “showed a young man carrying a bouquet of flowers kneeling before a young woman and then hugging her in what appeared to be a marriage proposal.” According to a University spokesman this violates “the values and principles of society”. There was not a word from Pompeo, that self-declared admirer of Egyptian places of worship where “the Lord is clearly at work.”

Pompeo continued his tour of the region, and next day, as he landed in Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian regime announced that for the seventh time it had extended its state of emergency which “allows authorities to take exceptional security measures, including the referral of terrorism suspects to state security courts, the imposition of curfews and the confiscation of newspapers.” This would be supported in Saudi Arabia where, as chronicled by Freedom House, the “absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. No officials at the national level are elected. The regime relies on extensive surveillance, the criminalization of dissent, appeals to sectarianism, and public spending supported by oil revenues to maintain power. Women and religious minorities face extensive discrimination in law and in practice.”

This discrimination was highlighted by the New York Times on January 13 when it published an Op-Ed by Alia al-Houthlal that implored Pompeo to ask Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman to release her sister, the women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Houthlal, who is imprisoned in Riyadh. Ms Alia al-Houthlal wrote that her sister had been tortured in prison, and that a close associate of bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani, who has been named in connection with the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi [brutally killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year], was present at several torture sessions.

The Times reported that Pompeo began his conversation with bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, by saying “I want to talk to you about a couple of places we’ve been. We think we learned a lot along the way that will be important going forward.” There was no mention of the torture of Loujain al-Houthlal or any other gross violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia where the regime continues to “repress peaceful activists and dissidents, harassing writers, online commentators and others who exercised their right to freedom of expression by expressing views against government policies.”

There was none of that embarrassing stuff. It was all skated over, with Pompeo saying only that “we spoke about human rights issues here in Saudi Arabia – women activists. We spoke about the accountability that – and the expectations that we have. The Saudis are friends, and when friends have conversations, you tell them what your expectations are.”

Pompeo’s expectations include joint action with the Saudi regime and other Middle East autocracies to “counter Iranian malign influence,” which he regards as an even higher priority than “working against authoritarian regimes” in Latin America, which Washington is determined to dominate. Pompeo’s objections to authoritarianism are highly selective, for in his Cairo speech he confined himself to describing Iran “malevolent,” and “oppressive” while denouncing “Iranian expansion” and “regional destruction,” which is a trifle ironic, coming from a Secretary of State whose military devastated Iran’s neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pompeo’s ethical approach is decidedly ambiguous and his moral flexibility would attract the admiration of a trampoline gymnast. His Cairo speech was titled “A Force for Good: America’s Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East,” but it is apparent that reinvigoration is confined to plans for destruction of Iran, in which Washington will be assisted by Pompeo’s friends — the Middle East’s authoritarian regimes.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Mediterranean Pipeline Wars Are Heating Up

By Viktor Katona | Oilprice.com | December 28, 2018

Things have been quite active in the Eastern Mediterranean lately, with Israel, Cyprus and Greece pushing forward for the realization of the EastMed pipeline, a new gas conduit destined to diversify Europe’s natural gas sources and find a long-term reliable market outlet for all the recent Mediterranean gas discoveries. The three sides have reached an agreement in late November (roughly a year after signing the MoU) to lay the pipeline, the estimated cost of which hovers around $7 billion (roughly the same as rival TurkStream’s construction cost). Yet behind the brave facade, it is still very early to talk about EastMed as a viable and profitable project as it faces an uphill battle with traditionally difficult Levantine geopolitics, as well as field geology.

The EastMed gas pipeline is expected to start some 170 kilometers off the southern coast of Cyprus and reach Otranto on the Puglian coast of Italy via the island of Crete and the Greek mainland. Since most of its subsea section is projected to be laid at depths of 3-3.5 kilometer, in case it is built it would become the deepest subsea gas pipeline, most probably the longest, too, with an estimated length of 1900km. The countries involved proceed from the premise that the pipeline’s throughput capacity would be 20 BCM per year (706 BCf), although previous estimates were within the 12-16 BCm per year interval. According to Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli Energy Minister, the stakeholders would need a year to iron out all the remaining administrative issues and 4-5 years to build the pipeline, meaning it could come onstream not before 2025.

The idea of EastMed was first flaunted around 2009-2010 as the first more or less substantial gas discovery in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Tamar gas field in Israel’s offshore zone, paved the way for speculations about an impending gas boom. Then came the 535 BCm (18.9 TCf) Leviathan in 2010 and the 850 BCm (30 TCf) Zohr discovery in offshore Egypt five years later and suddenly it seemed that an Eastern Mediterranean gas expansion is inevitable. Yet over the years, the operators of Leviathan have already allocated part of their total gas volumes to domestic power generating companies and most notably NEPCO, the Jordanian electric power company (1.6-2BCm per year). Egypt has been concentrating on meeting domestic needs and getting rid of LNG imports, moreover once it bounces back to gas exporter status in 2019, it will only use its own 2 LNG terminals in Damietta and Idku. Related: Has Oil Hit Rock Bottom?

Thus, a pertinent question arises – whose gas would be used to fill the EastMed pipeline? If the pipeline starts in offshore Cyprus, then it would be logical to expect that Cyprus’ gas bounty would be somehow utilized. Yet Cyprus has been lagging behind Egypt and Israel in its offshore endeavors and so far lacks a clear-cut giant field to base its supply future on. The two discoveries appraised heretofore, the 6-8 TCf Calypso operated by ENI and the 4.5 TCf Aphrodite operated by Noble Energy, are not enough to support the construction of a relatively expensive gas pipeline – all the more so as Noble has signed a provisional deal to send Aphrodite gas to Egypt’s Idku LNG terminal, most likely by means of a subsea gas pipeline. If we are to judge the viability of the EastMed on the current situation, there is only Calypso and Israel to fill the pipeline, as Greece’s gas export plans are close to zero on the probability scale.

The subsea section from Cyprus’ offshore zone to the island of Crete lies in depths of 3km and is stretched across a seismically active zone. But there is even more – should Turkey claim rights on Cyprus’ offshore hydrocarbon deposits (in February 2018 it sent warships to scare away ENI’s drilling rig that was on its way to xxx), the project is all but dead. This is far from an implausible scenario as President Erdogan stated that Turkey would never allow for the extortion of natural resources in the East Mediterranean by means of excluding Ankara and Northern Cyprus. Cognizant of the risks inherent in an East Mediterranean gas pipeline, there has been no interest from oil and gas majors to participate in the project. This is worrying as the $7 billion are expected to be financed from private investors, of which there is a palpable dearth – despite the EU’s 35 million funding to promote what it sees as a Project of Common Interest. Related: Wall Street Sees Oil Price Recovery In 2019

Yet even for the European Union, the EastMed gas pipeline presents a bit of a headache as its commissioning would render the Southern Gas Corridor, comprising so far only of Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) with a 10 BCm per year throughput capacity, irrelevant by creating a sort-of competitor. The price of the natural gas to be supplied via the EastMed pipeline might become the biggest obstacle of them all – if the cost of producing offshore Mediterranean gas turns out to be $4-5/MMBtu as expected, the addition of further transportation costs to it all would place EastMed supplied at the bottom range of European gas supply options (Russian gas supply is alleged to be profitable with price levels as low as $4/MMbtu). All this might change if any of the East Mediterranean countries were to discover a giant gas field, altering the economics of production or possibly even liquefaction.

In fact, 2019 will witness several key wells being drilled across Cyprus, Egypt and possibly even Israel. ExxonMobil’s testing of Block 10 in offshore Cyprus would largely point to the overall attractiveness of Cyprus as an oil and gas producing country – the drilling has already started, with results expected in Q1 2019. The ENI-operated Noor offshore field in Egypt, adjacent to Zohr, is a much hotter prospect with BP buying into it lately – most likely it will outshine all the other drilling sites in the Eastern Mediterranean, however, if a big discovery is confirmed, it would be most likely used for Egyptian purposes which run counter to the EastMed gas pipeline. Thus, EastMed’s only hope is that Israel 2nd international licensing round, results to be announced in July 2019, will elicit a couple of Leviathan-like finds that would make pipeline construction profitable. Until then, the prospects are rather bleak.

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 25.12.2018

There is a great uproar over the recent decision by US President Trump to pull US troops out of Syria, announcing his reason for doing so is that ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, has largely been defeated. What lies behind the decision and more important, what was behind the surprise emergence of ISIS across Syria in 2014 brings the spotlight to yet-classified documents of the Obama term. If the reorganized Justice Department is compelled to make these documents public in lawsuits or Freedom of Information requests, it could rock organizations such as the CIA and many in the Obama camp.

In 2010 the US Administration under President Barack Obama developed a top secret blueprint for the most ambitious and far-ranging series of US-backed regime change across the Islamic Middle East since World War I and the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot agreement. It was to set off a wave of wars and chaos, of failed states and floods of war refugees unimaginable to the most cynical veteran diplomat, and beyond the belief of most lay persons in the world.

In August, 2010, six months before Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was launched by the Washington NGOs including the NED, the Soros Foundations, Freedom House and others, President Obama signed Presidential Study Directive-11 (PDS-11), ordering Washington government agencies to prepare for “change.” The change was to be a radical policy calling for Washington’s backing for the secret fundamentalist Islamic Muslim Brotherhood sect across the Middle East Muslim world, and with it, the unleashing of a reign of terror that would change the entire world.

According to US Congressional testimony of Peter Hoekstra, former Chairman of the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Obama Administration PSD-11 directive–as of March 2017 still classified Top Secret–“ordered a government-wide reassessment of prospects for political reform in the Middle East and of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the process.”

A Grandiose Task Force

To draft the contents of PSD-11, a top secret task force was established within the Obama National Security Council (NSC), headed by Dennis Ross, Samantha Power, Gayle Smith, Ben Rhodes and Michael McFaul.

The PSD-11 Task Force members were remarkable in many regards. Samantha Power, who would go on to become Obama’s UN Ambassador and lead the demonizing of Russia after the CIA’s Ukraine Color Revolution coup in 2014, was to play an instrumental role in convincing President Obama that Libya’s Mohammar Qaddafi must be militarily removed for what she called “humanitarian reasons.” Dennis Ross, accused by Palestinian opponents of being “more pro-Israeli than the Israelis,” co-founded the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-sponsored Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). He was Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director at the NSC for the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia when he was part of the PSD-11 task force.

Gayle Smith would later go on in 2015 to head the USAID, the CIA-linked State Department agency that funneled US taxpayer millions to finance the NGOs of the Arab Spring and other Color Revolution regime changes. Michael McFaul, who once described himself as a “specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions,” was later named Obama’s Ambassador to Moscow where he coordinated opposition protests against Putin.

The Top Secret PSD-11 report that the Task Force drew up was partially revealed in a series of legal Freedom of Information Act requests to the State Department. Released official documents revealed that the NSC Task Force had concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “viable movement” for the US Government to support throughout North Africa and the Middle East. A resulting Presidential directive ordered American diplomats to make contacts with top Muslim Brotherhood leaders and gave active support to the organization’s drive for power in key nations like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria, at the 2011 outset of the “Arab Spring.” The PDS-11 secret paper came to the bizarre conclusion that the Muslim Brotherhood’s brand of political Islam, combined with its fervent nationalism, could lead to “reform and stability.” It was a lie, a lie well known to the Obama PSD-11 Task Force members.

The True Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan–Arabic for The Brotherhood–is a secret masonic-like organization with a covert  or underground terrorist arm and a public facade of “peaceful doing of charity.” It was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna who developed the cult’s guiding motto. The credo of his Society of Muslim Brothers was incorporated into a chant of six short phrases:

Allah is our goal; The Prophet is our Leader; The Qur’an is our Constitution; Jihad is our Way; Death in the service of Allah is the loftiest of our wishes; Allah is Great, Allah is Great.

Al-Banna created a secret or hidden arm of the Ikhwan in Egypt and later worldwide, known as the Special Section (al-nizam al-khass), or, as it was referred to by the British in Egypt, the Secret Apparatus (al-jihaz al-sirri). That was the military wing of the Brotherhood, in effect, the “assassination bureau.” Al-Banna taught his recruits, exclusively male, that “Jihad is an obligation of every Muslim.” He preached the nobility of “Death in the Service of Allah,” and wrote, Allah grants a “noble life to that nation which knows how to die a noble death.” He preached a death cult in which “Victory can only come with the mastery of the ‘Art of Death.’” For the Brotherhood that “mastery” was perfected in the killing of “infidels” in Jihad or Holy War in the name of Allah. The infidels could be other Muslims such as Shi’ite or Sufi who did not follow Al-Banna’s strict Sunni practice, or Christians.

Hasan Al-Banna called for adoption of the very strict Islamic Shari’a law, the complete segregation of male and female students, with a separate curriculum for girls, a prohibition of dancing, and a call for Islamic states to eventually unify in a Caliphate.

During World War II, leading Muslim Brotherhood figures spent exile from British-controlled Egypt by fleeing to Berlin where, among others, Al Banna’s close Muslim brotherhood ally, Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, worked intimately with the SS and Heinrich Himmler to create special Muslim Brotherhood terror units of the SS, so-called Handschar SS, to kill Soviet soldiers and Jews. In the 1950’s the CIA discovered the Nazi Muslim Brotherhood recruits in exile in postwar Munich and decided they could be “useful.”

Virtually every major Jihadist terrorist organization and leader has come out of the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama bin Laden, who worked for the CIA in Pakistan recruiting Jihadist Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, was a Muslim Brotherhood member who was recruited by the CIA and Saudi Intelligence head Prince Turki al-Faisal, to create what came to be called Al Qaeda. Other known terrorist members of the Ikhwan were Al Qaeda’s Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and the blind Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman who recently died in a US prison serving time for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Sheikh Omar was accused of conspiring to assassinate Egypt’s Mubarak and masterminding the Muslim Brotherhood assassination of Anwar Sadat in addition to the bombing of the World Trade Center.

The members of the Obama Administration National Security Council PSD-11 Task Force that recommended a US Government embrace of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood in Islamic countries of the Arab Middle East, knew very well who they were dealing with. Since the 1950’s the CIA had worked with the Ikhwan around the world. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iraq and in Syria, al Nusra Front in Syria, as well as the so-called Islamic State or ISIS all were created out of Muslim Brotherhood networks, changing names as a chameleon lizard changes color to suit its surroundings.

The origins of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria and later of ISIS , the murderous wars and chaos sweeping across the Arab Middle East and into Western Europe since 2010, could all be directly traced back to those Washington Obama policies, their so-called Arab Spring, coming from that August 2010 PSD-11 Presidential Task Force directive. This is what threatens to come out with declassification of US Justice Department files in the coming months. Some in Washington speak of treason, a strong word.

December 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Egypt bans yellow vests fearing copycat Gilets Jaunes protests

MEMO | December 11, 2018

The Egyptian authorities have quietly clamped down on the sales of reflective yellow vests fearing that they could prompt copycat protests inspired by the Gilets Jaunes demonstrations taking place in France. The measure was taken as a precaution as Egypt approaches the seventh anniversary next month of the revolution that toppled the dictator Hosni Mubarak after a 30-year rule. Any form of public gatherings are banned.

According to testimonies from industrial equipment dealers in Cairo, retailers have been instructed not to sell yellow vests to walk-in buyers and to restrict business to wholesale deals with verified companies, but only after obtaining permission from the security forces.

“They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France,” said one retailer. Another added that, “The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions.” Both spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisals from the authorities.

Security officials confirmed that the restrictions would remain in place until the end of January, but the Interior Ministry refused to comment on the issue. Over the past two years, hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been deployed across the country to quash any protests or commemorations of the revolution.

The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become a symbol of the wave of demonstrations against a rise in fuel taxes and the economic policies of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Egyptian media outlets have covered the Paris protests regularly, stressing the riots, looting and arson, in an attempt to support Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s frequent warnings that street action leads to chaos. In October, Al-Sisi even described the 2011 Egyptian revolution as “the wrong cure to the wrong diagnosis,” stating that the protests had achieved insufficient change due to a lack of understanding among the people of what the problems in the country were.

Egypt has witnessed a dramatic crackdown on freedom of speech since the military coup in 2013 that brought Al-Sisi, then a general, to power. The government has also increased regulatory legislation on the grounds of “national security”. The Muslim Brotherhood, which played an instrumental role in the revolution and was subsequently elected to govern, has since been banned and declared a terrorist group.

Amnesty International has described the situation in Egypt as the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades, with the state systematically using arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence any dissent and create an atmosphere of fear. Hundreds of journalists and human rights activists have also been arrested and held without trial.

The government in Cairo has criticised the findings of many NGOs and accused them of being deliberately “misleading” about human rights abuses in Egypt.

December 11, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment

The gulf within GCC is only widening

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | December 10, 2018

The annual summit meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh on Sunday was particularly important for Saudi Arabia as a display of its regional leadership. But the short meeting of the GCC leaders behind closed doors, lasting for less than an hour, ended highlighting the huge erosion of Saudi prestige lately.

The litmus test was the participation by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. King Salman’s letter of invitation to the emir was perceived as some sort of an olive branch for reconciliation. But Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi represented the country at the summit.

The calculation by the hot headed crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE that Qatar would pack up is turning out to be a historic blunder. Qatar had some trying times but it has successfully weathered the harsh embargo by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the boycott is now hurting its enforcers. Qatar “celebrated” the anniversary of the boycott in June by banning the import of goods from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt (which had cut diplomatic and transport ties on June 5, 2017.) Ironically, Iran has been a beneficiary as Qatar established diplomatic relations with Tehran and began importing Iranian products.

Qatar also strengthened its alliance with Turkey, which stepped in as provider of security for Doha. And Turkey checkmated any plans that Saudis and Emiratis might have had to use force to bring the Qatari emir down on his knees.

The emir’s absence from the summit in Riyadh yesterday underscores that he is not in a mood to forget and forgive. Equally, Kuwait and Oman also have issues to settle with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There is tension between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia over two oil fields – Khafji and Wafra – that are jointly owned by the two states, which have a capacity to produce more than half a million barrels per day, but have been closed since 2014 and 2015, respectively. The dispute is over the sovereignty over the so-called Neutral Zone on their border, which has been undefined for almost a century.

The Saudis are not relenting. “We’re trying to convince the Kuwaitis to talk about the sovereignty issues, while continuing to produce until we solve that issue,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg in an interview in October. Similarly, Saudis and Emiratis have stationed troops in Yemen’s southern province of al-Mahra that borders Oman although the region has no presence of Houthi rebels. Oman considers the move an infringement on its national security. Interestingly, instead of the Sultan of Oman, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmood Al Said represented the country at the GCC summit.

To be sure, like Banquo’s ghost at Macbeth’s banquet in Shakespeare’s play, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi provided the backdrop to the GCC summit. The GCC states (including Qatar) have not criticized the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) but they would know this is a developing story and it has dented Saudi prestige irreparably, especially with the US Senate is at loggerheads with the Trump administration. The big question for the Gulf region would be as to where Saudi Arabia is heading. (See the blog by Thomas Lippman What Now For U.S. Policy And The Crown Prince?)

Of course, if the GCC disintegrates due to these contradictions, Saudi Arabia will be the big loser, because it will be a reflection on its regional leadership. But do the Saudis understand it? The remarks by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir at the end of the GCC summit showed no sign of remorse.

He said, “The members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are keen that the crisis with Qatar will have no impact on the Council (GCC). But this does not mean relinquishing the conditions imposed on Qatar.” Doha should stop supporting terrorism and extremism and avoid interfering in other countries’ affairs and needed to fulfill the Arab countries’ conditions to open the way for its return to the full-fledged work in the GCC. “The stance towards Qatar came to push it to change its policies,” he added.

The leading Saudi establishment writer Abdulrehman al-Rashed fired away at Qatar on the day of the GCC summit. In a column entitled Is it Time to end the GCC? in the Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat (owned by royal family members) he wrote:

“Qatar… has been putting obstacles in the GCC path and it has succeeded where Saddam and Iran have failed: It managed to destroy and rip it [GCC] apart… It organized an internal and external opposition against the United Arab Emirates. It is now the primary financier of the greatest attack against Saudi Arabia and it stands behind the politicization of Khashoggi’s murder… Today’s [GCC] summit could not conceal the dark political cloud hanging over its head. It also strongly poses a question over the future of the GCC as doubts rise over the value of this union… A wedge has been driven in the GCC.”

The disarray within the GCC undoubtedly calls attention to the decline of US influence in the Middle East region. At the end of the day, the Gulf states have not paid heed to repeated US entreaties for GCC unity. Ideally, GCC should have provided today for the US strategy a strong platform for launching the regime change project against Iran. On the contrary, GCC is split down the middle, with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait getting along just fine with Tehran. While addressing the summit in Riyadh on Sunday, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad hit the nail on the head when he said, “The most dangerous obstacle we face is the struggle within the GCC.”

December 11, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egypt tortures Palestinian resistance combatants: Report

MEMO | November 12, 2018

“We were a group of 15 combatants returning from a training mission from one of the countries that supports the Palestinian resistance. When we arrived at Cairo airport, we were taken to an underground place. We were blindfolded, handcuffed, and transferred to a number of prisons.” This is a part of a testimony of a Palestinian resistance combatant who was detained in Egyptian prisons and has been released recently.

Al-Khaleej Online will reveal in this investigation that the Egyptian intelligence and national security services tortured a number of Palestinian resistance combatants and students during their travel and study, in order to extract security information related to the Palestinian resistance.

The investigation documented a number of testimonies of more than 20 Palestinians, including those fighting in the Palestinian resistance, who were detained in secret prisons of Egyptian intelligence and national security, and subjected to physical and psychological torture throughout their interrogation period.

According to these Palestinians’ testimonies, the Egyptian officers had mostly asked them about their military action, especially during the waves of escalation with the Israeli occupation, and their way of firing shells from inside the Strip.

The data Al-Khaleej Online has revealed about the Egyptian security’s torture and interrogation of resistance combatants have been confirmed by sources in the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip use Cairo Airport to travel around the world because there is no airport inside the Strip and the occupation does not allow them to travel through Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing.

The Egyptian authorities have been using the so-called “deportation” system for Palestinian travellers wishing to travel outside Egypt. A bus from Rafah Border Crossing is transferred to Cairo Airport under high-security measures. No one from inside the bus would be allowed to leave it until it gets inside the airport. The travellers are then handed over to the security authorities there.

November 12, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 6 Comments

MI6 knew that terror-suspect was tortured into giving false Iraq-Al-Qaeda info – report

RT | November 7, 2018

UK ministers relied on questions from a tortured terror suspect to make their case for the Iraq War, the Middle East Eye (MEE) has claimed. British spies fed questions to the suspect even though they knew of his mistreatment.

According to redacted documents, seen by the MEE, an MI6 officer knew that Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was placed inside a sealed coffin by the CIA at a US-run Afghanistan based prison. Al-Libi – alive inside the coffin – was then taken, aboard a truck, to an aircraft that was to fly to Egypt.

The MI6 officer and his colleagues reported the incident to their department’s London HQ, stating that they “were tempted to speak out” on behalf of al-Libi, but failed to do so, adding: “The event reinforced the uneasy feeling of operating in a legal wilderness.”

Once al-Libi was in Egypt, a country with a well-documented history of human rights abuses, both MI6 and MI5 fed questions to the detainee, receiving reports from his Egyptian interrogators.

Al-Libi, under torture, told his jailers that Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda had links to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. The claim was cited as fact by US President George W. Bush as he made the case for war.

Upon being returned to the CIA, al-Libi stated that he had lied to avoid further torture. By that point the US, along with the UK, had already invaded Iraq.

As well as Bush, al-Libi’s false information was cited by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell in his infamous speech advocating for war at the UN Security Council on February 5 2003. On the same day, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament there were “unquestionably” links between Al-Qaeda and Iraq.

“There is evidence of such links. Exactly how far they go is uncertain. However… there is intelligence coming through to us the entire time about this,” Blair said.

The US had been keen to link Iraq to Al-Qaeda in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. In evidence disclosed to the Chilcot Inquiry, Bush had raised the issue in a phone call with Blair, who is said to have replied that he couldn’t accept it without seeing compelling evidence.

READ MORE:

British govt urged to come clean on ‘links to torture’ after Iraq invasion

November 7, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oman rejects mediating between Israelis, Palestinians

Press TV – October 27, 2018

Oman says it will not act as a “mediator” between Israelis and Palestinians, playing down an earlier visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The sultanate was only offering ideas to help Israel and Palestinians to come together, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah told a security summit in Bahrain’s capital Manama on Saturday.

The remarks came a day after Netanyahu visited Oman in a rare visit, while accompanied by other senior Israeli officials, including the head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

“We are not saying road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world,” Reuters cited Abdullah as saying.

Despite apparently trying to sound impartial, Abdullah said Oman relied on the United States and efforts by US President Donald Trump in working towards the “deal of the century.”

The Trump administration has targeted the plan at the situation in the Palestinian territories.

Details are yet to emerge, but reports say it envisages a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty across about half of Israel-occupied West Bank and all the Gaza Strip. The deal also reportedly foresees potential disarming of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, and does not find Palestinians entitled to the eastern part of Jerusalem al-Quds as their capital.

This is while Abbas, who visited Oman before Netanyahu for three days, has renounced the plan, saying it has been devised without consulting the Palestinians. He also spurned any intermediary role by the US late last year after Washington recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

In June, however, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan assured the US of their support for the plan during visits to those countries by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy to the region.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the Manama gathering on Saturday that the kingdom believed the key to “normalizing” relations with Israel was the “peace process.”

The Omani minister also claimed Israel was “present in the region, and we all understand this, the world is also aware of this fact and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same and also bear the same obligations.”

Observers say Muscat has come to accommodate the US plan under pressure from Washington and Riyadh, the strongest US ally in the Persian Gulf region, which has been inching towards Tel Aviv over the past years.

Palestinian groups, however, condemned the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Oman, urging Arab countries to support the oppressed people of Palestine, instead.

Hamas warned about the dangerous consequences of Netanyahu’s visit for the people of Palestine. The Islamic Jihad movement also censured the visit, saying Oman acquitted Netanyahu of the crimes committed against innocent Palestinians by welcoming him to the country.

Commenting on Netanyahu’s visit, Paul Larudee, with the Free Palestine Movement, told PressTV, “What in the world would Netanyahu know about peace and stability, when his objectives and objectives of Israel have always been war and instability?”

“The importance is what their objectives are not. They are not about Arab unity, not about solidarity with Arabs who are suffering namely the Palestinians,” he said.

“These other countries realize that sooner or later they are potential targets of Israel… that they can be in the same place that the Palestinians are now,” Larudee said.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Egypt, Cyprus sign accord to build gas pipeline

MEMO | September 20, 2018

Egypt yesterday signed an agreement with Cyprus to construct a maritime pipeline between the two countries, which will transfer of natural gas from Cyprus to Egypt for re-export to different markets, especially the European Union (EU) countries.

The agreement was signed in a meeting held in Cyprus between the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El-Molla, and the Cypriot minister of Energy, Industry, Tourism and Trades, Georgios Lakkotrypis.

The project, which was said to cost around $800 million, will involve building a pipeline to transfer natural gas from Cypriot Aphrodite field to Egypt’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities.

El-Molla said that the agreement contributes “to boosting the economic relations between Egypt and Cyprus and is considered as an important step in maximising the benefit of the discoveries of the Cypriot gas fields.”

“The Egyptian-Cypriot agreement is not only about the implementation of a maritime pipeline, but it will contribute positively to securing gas supplies to the EU,” he added.

The deal, El-Molla reiterated, will encourage further research exploration activities in the region and will contribute to further support joint cooperation in the field of oil and gas between the two countries.

Referring to another memorandum of understanding, which was signed between Egypt and the EU in the field of energy last April, the Egyptian minister stressed that it “will open up important prospects for the role that Egypt can play in the industry.”

On his part, Lakkotrypis said that the deal was “an important milestone, not only for Cyprus but also the entire eastern Mediterranean region,” adding that “it’s [the joint agreement] the first of its kind in Cyprus and Egypt’s shared region.”

September 20, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt president approves law restraining social media

Press TV – September 2, 2018

Egypt seems to be intensifying its crackdown on opponents with a new law. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved the legislation, authorizing officials to monitor social media users.

As reported by the official gazette on Saturday, the new law gives state authorities the right to monitor the activities of social media users on the internet.

The legislation, it said, places social media accounts with over 5,000 followers under the supervision of the Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media.

That means any popular blog, website or even account on Facebook, Twitter or other platforms, could be considered a media outlet and subject to the supervision of the media regulator which could block them for spreading fake news.

The controversial law was passed in the parliament back in July.

Critics argue that it increase state power to crack down on opposition activists.

Human rights groups have on numerous occasions criticized Egypt for its tough approach towards opponents.

The Sisi government has silenced most critics in the media, rolled back social freedoms, and placed draconian restrictions on demonstrations and the work of rights groups.

Tens of thousands of people have been detained since 2013, when the military, led by Sisi, overthrew Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, came to power after the 2011 uprising toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Read more:
Egypt arrests prominent blogger amid crackdown on dissent
Egypt subjecting prisoners to horrendous abuse, torture

September 2, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 2 Comments

Corbyn attacked for Islamist hand-sign, claims it was in solidarity with Cairo massacre victims

RT | August 15, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn has found himself involved in a row after a picture of him making a sign linked to the Muslim Brotherhood surfaced. His spokesperson said it was done in solidarity with the victims of a 2013 massacre in Egypt.

The picture, published by the Daily Telegraph and reportedly taken in Finsbury Park Mosque in 2016, shows Corbyn with four outstretched fingers and his thumb tucked in against his palm. The hand-gesture is called Rabbi’ah and used by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in a sign of solidarity with ex-Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the victims of the Rabaa massacre.

Morsi, who was democratically elected following the Arab Spring and the subsequent fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown by, now-president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in a July 2013 coup d’etat.

A spokesperson for Corbyn said he had been “standing up for democracy” when he used the Rabbi’ah symbol, telling the paper: “The four fingered gesture is a well-known symbol of solidarity with the victims of the 2013 Rabaa massacre in Cairo.”

The hand gesture stems from the August 2013 massacre, when Egyptian security forces under the command of el-Sisi raided two Morsi supporter camps in Cairo; including one in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square where the gesture gets its name. Human Rights Watch, who described the raids as “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,” estimated that a minimum of 817 people and more likely at least 1,000 died during the dispersal.

The Islamist MB is a transnational organization which originated in Egypt, before spreading across the Arab world. Its brand of political Islam has influenced groups such as Hamas in Gaza, and cites Turkey and Qatar amongst its supporters. The organisation is listed as a terrorist group by countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia and Syria

In 2003 the Supreme Court of Russia listed MB as a terrorist organisation for its role the creation of a largely Chechen Islamic extremist group, which has committed multiple terrorist attacks on Russia

While it is not considered a terrorist group by the UK, upon the conclusion of an investigation into the MB ex-British prime minister David Cameron said aspects of the group’s ideology “run counter to British values of democracy.”

August 15, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment