Saturday, December 29, 2012

Erdoğan ordered the Turkish Air Force strike that killed 34 civilians

    Saturday, December 29, 2012   No comments

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the Turkish Air Force to strike 34 people in Uludere last year based on intelligence that there was a high-profile Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant among the group, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has said on the first anniversary of the killings.

“It was said that there was a high-profile PKK member among the group but information about civilians was also given to the prime minister,” Demirtaş said in a speech he delivered to thousands of people gathered for a commemoration in the southeastern province of Şırnak’s Uludere district Dec 28.
Demirtaş called on Erdoğan to “confess that it was he who gave the bombing order.” 

Some 34 civilian Kurdish villagers were killed in an air strike on Dec. 28, 2011, when they were allegedly mistaken for PKK militants as they smuggled oil from northern Iraq into Turkey.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Iran starts navy drills in Hormuz Strait

    Friday, December 28, 2012   No comments

Iran has started six days of naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz. The official IRNA news agency says the manoeuvres began early Friday, involving warships, submarines, jet fighters and hovercrafts.

The drills come as the West increases its pressure over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran says it will unhesitatingly take measures to control the Strait of Hormuz if outside forces attempt to create instability in the area.
A show of military strength - The drills, dubbed Velyat 91, or Guardianship 91, cover nearly 1 million square kilometres from the Strait of Hormuz to the northern part of the Indian Ocean, including the Sea of Oman.
Officials say the manoeuvres will test Iran’s defensive and missile systems, combat vessels and submarines.
"The aim of Velayat 91 drills is to show the strength of Iran’s navy and its ability to defend the country’s territorial waters, its interests and its resources in the sea."

Esmail Kosari, the deputy head of the Iranian parliament’s Commission for Foreign Affairs and National Security, disclosed that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will launch a larger naval exercise in its western waters after the six-day drill.

A very rough guide to Hell

    Friday, December 28, 2012   No comments

Why visit?

Hell’s landscape is unrivalled. Its bottomless ravines, towering mountains and fiery floods have inspired artists for centuries. Pandemonium, the capital (formerly black Dis) has a strikingly cosmopolitan buzz and, as a bonus, is crime-free.
An exclusive resort for centuries, Hell is a place where kings tend to wear their crowns and popes their tiaras. Everywhere you look, you will see famous faces. Spot the celebrity!

Overweight and out of form? Hell offers the ultimate workout. Shed those extra pounds, and keep on shedding them!

If you like to travel light ’n’ easy, Hell is for you. Get all your jabs on site, and don’t bother to pack the sun cream. Only hypocrites wear clothes; fiery serpents and fat maggots are often the only attire. In a charming tradition, each visitor is presented on arrival with hot metal chains as a lasting memento of their stay. Get yours personally engraved at no extra charge.

Time stands still here, as the ocean boils and the great abyss yawns before you. Feel the hot sand under your feet, watch the chimeras and gorgons frolic, take a trip on a demon’s back, smell the brimstone on the breeze! You know how you always hope holidays will never end? This one never will.

Hell: Into everlasting fire

    Friday, December 28, 2012   No comments

TO MANY in the West, Hell is just a medieval relic. It went out with ducking stools and witchcraft. It should have disappeared with Plato, who said he wanted to delete every reference to future pain from Homer as damaging to moral character; or with Cicero, who said not even old women believed it; or with Seneca, who thought it a fable only for not-yet-shaving boys.

Hell hardly hurts any more. In everyday parlance (“What the hell are you doing?”), it is merely a bark, not a place. As a place, it is anywhere nasty: the London Underground in summer, the worst bits of Lower Manhattan, department stores at sales time, a publisher’s party. Philosophically, Jean-Paul Sartre has encouraged the idea that Hell is other people. Theologically, even the Vatican now defines Hell as a state of exile from the love of God. The devils and pitchforks, the brimstone clouds and wailing souls, have been cleared away, rather as a mad aunt might be shut up in the attic.

But hold on. For many people in the world, Hell still exists; not just as a concept, but as a place on the map. “Hell is Real,” declare the billboards across the American South: as real as the next town. To make it an abstraction is comforting and tidy, but doesn’t work. Religion thrives on fear, as well as hope: without fear, bad behaviour has no sanction and clerical authority wins scant respect. “[People] must have hell-fire flashed before their faces,” wrote General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, “or they will not move.” And there can be no fear of a place that is not detailed and defined. Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists all still have a Hell, and those who are devout believe in it. So do fundamentalist Christians. For some decades now they have specialised in “Hell Houses” in which terrified American teenagers, herded by “demons”, are shown graphic strobe-lit scenes of brawlers, suicides and drug-takers, as plausibly infernal as any medieval imagining.

The governments of Turkey, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan play a dangerous game

    Friday, December 28, 2012   No comments

SNAKING their way from Kirkuk, a city 240 kilometres (150 miles) north of Baghdad, through Kurdistan and across Turkey’s eastern region of Anatolia to the Mediterranean are pipes that once carried 1.6m barrels a day (b/d) of Iraqi oil to the global market and yielded fat transit fees to Turkey along the way. The infrastructure underpinned the two countries’ mutual dependence. But nowadays the balance of power has shifted. A third party, the Iraqi Kurds, has changed it. It is unclear who will emerge on top. But Iraq’s central government in Baghdad is on the defensive.

Wars, saboteurs and, since the 1990s, economic sanctions have left the Iraqi sections of the pipeline system in a mess. Barely a fraction of its capacity is used. One of the two parallel lines stands empty and the source that once fed them, the giant Kirkuk oilfield, is dilapidated. The oil ministry in Baghdad has vague ideas about revamping the pipeline, perhaps to carry crude extracted near Basra, in the far south, though this would need an expensive new pipeline to link both ends of the country.

Looting, feuds and divided loyalties threaten to destroy unity of fighters as war enters new phase

    Friday, December 28, 2012   No comments

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in Aleppo

It wasn't the government that killed the Syrian rebel commander Abu Jameel. It was the fight for his loot. The motive for his murder lay in a great warehouse in Aleppo which his unit had captured a week before. The building had been full of rolled steel, which was seized by the fighters as spoils of war.

But squabbling developed over who would take the greater share of the loot and a feud developed between commanders. Threats and counter-threats ensued over the following days.

Abu Jameel survived one assassination attempt when his car was fired on. A few days later his enemies attacked again, and this time they were successful. His bullet-riddled body was found, handcuffed, in an alley in the town of al-Bab.

Captain Hussam, of the Aleppo military council, said: "If he had died fighting I would say it was fine, he was a rebel and a mujahid and this is what he had set out to do. But to be killed because of a feud over loot is a disaster for the revolution.

"It is extremely sad. There is not one government institution or warehouse left standing in Aleppo. Everything has been looted. Everything is gone."

Captured government vehicles and weapons have been crucial to the rebels since the start of the conflict, but according to Hussam and other commanders, and fighters interviewed by the Guardian over a fortnight in northern Syria, a new phase has been reached in the war. Looting has become a way of life.

"Spoils" have now become the main drive for many units as battalion commanders seek to increase their power.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When Bahrain Said: Get Lost

    Thursday, December 27, 2012   No comments


BAHRAIN, one of America’s more repressive allies, tries to keep many journalists and human rights monitors out. I recently tried to slip in anyway.

The jig was up at the Bahrain airport when an immigration officer typed my name into his computer and then snapped to attention. “Go back over there and sit down,” he said, looking at me in horror and keeping my passport. “We’ll call you.”

The Sunni monarchy in Bahrain doesn’t want witnesses as it tightens its chokehold over a largely Shiite population. Almost every evening, there are clashes between the police and protesters, with both sides growing more enraged and violent.

Around 100 people have been killed since Arab Spring protests began in Bahrain in February 2011. I was in Bahrain then as troops opened fire without warning on unarmed protesters who were chanting “peaceful, peaceful.”

The oppression has sometimes been nothing short of savage. Police clubbed a distinguished surgeon, Sadiq al-Ekri, into a coma — because he tried to provide medical aid to injured protesters. By all accounts, torture has been common.

In the larger scheme of things, Bahrain is a tiny country and maybe doesn’t matter much to the United States. What nags at me is that this is a close American ally — assaulting people in some cases with American equipment — yet the Obama administration mostly averts its eyes. This is a case not just of brutal repression, but also of American hypocrisy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Britain covered up ‘Nazi-style’ slaughter of Mau Mau inmates

    Tuesday, December 04, 2012   No comments

ATTEMPTS by British colonial authorities to cover up the killings of 11 prisoners during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya have been laid bare in previously 
secret government documents.

No-one has ever been prosecuted for the deaths even though evidence showed the 
detainees at Hola detention camp were clubbed to death by prison warders after they 
refused to work.

But attempts by British officials to blame their deaths on “drinking too much water” rather than violence, and refusals to identify individuals involved, were revealed in the cache.

One of three elderly Kenyans, who last month won a High Court ruling to sue the British Government for damages over torture, claims he was beaten unconscious during the incident in March 1959.

The prison camp was one of many built during the uprising, in which suspected rebels were detained by British colonial forces, often in dire conditions, the Foreign Office files released by the National Archives showed.

Serious concerns about the clampdown were raised as far back as 1953, the second year of the uprising, when the then solicitor general described reported abuses as “distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia”, according to one of the secret documents.

read more >> 

Mali civilians vow to take up arms against Islamist extremi

    Tuesday, December 04, 2012   No comments

Sitting on the roof of his mud-walled compound on a hillside near Bamako, Amadou Maiga is dreaming of war. As the spokesman for the Gando Iso militia, Maiga says Malians cannot wait for international help to reclaim the north of his country from Islamist extremists. So they are preparing to take matters into their own hands.

"If we wait… we will give time for these terrorists to occupy the area because, according to the information, on the ground, more terrorists are coming," he said, from his home in Boulkassoumbugu, a suburb of the Malian capital.

The UN security council is expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss plans for a 3,300-strong regional Ecowas force to enter Mali, but it is unlikely any sort of military operation will begin before next September. Last week the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said military force may be required as a last resort, but stressed the importance of dialogue over war.

The militias are angry about the delay, and about the suggestion that Mali's government will offer the minority Tuareg separatists autonomy in exchange for joining the fight against al-Qaida-affiliated insurgents.

"There is nothing to negotiate with these criminals who killed people, who broke everything, who looted everything on the way," Maiga said.

Gando Iso, meaning sons of the land, is one of three militia groups unofficially supported by the government which have been training fighters at army military camps in Sevare, outside Mopti, 400 miles north of Bamako. Since the coup in March that left power precariously shared between a weak interim government and military junta leaders, the militias have gathered around 3,000 men and women who are willing to start a rebellion. "We don't want to work outside the law but if we have to do it… then we will take the decision to go," Maiga said.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why Tunisia ignored sharia law

    Monday, December 03, 2012   No comments

The Arab Spring countries of North Africa are struggling to balance their secular and Islamic roots, but the leader of Tunisia’s ruling party thinks he has the answer.
Rached Ghannouchi co-founded the Ennahda party, but only returned from 22 years in exile after Tunisia became the first country of the Arab Spring to oust its leader.
Secular Tunisians and national media have questioned how much sharia law would be enshrined in Tunisia’s new constitution, but Ghannouchi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday that the problem has already been bypassed.
“There was some dispute about enshrining sharia,” he said, “that’s why we had to push away the controversy and we settled for what was said in the 1959 constitution about Tunisia as an Arab country.” 
While Islam has always been the main religion in Tunisia, politics have long been secular.

Despite Sanctions, Tehran Provides Treatment for Poisonous-Reptile Bites to Coalition Soldiers in Afghanistan

    Monday, December 03, 2012   No comments

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan—Relations between Iran and the U.S. are poisonous, with one exception: an antidote for snake bites.

In a surprising—and irony-rich—byproduct of the Afghan war, the Pentagon finds itself dependent on a scientific research arm of the Iranian government to treat bites by Oxus cobras, Haly's pit vipers and other snakes peculiar to the battlefields of southwest Asia.

Despite U.S.-led international sanctions designed to paralyze Iran's trade with the outside world, the Defense Department buys the drugs through a middleman, with orders totaling 115 vials at $310 apiece since January 2011.

Medical guidance issued by U.S. Central Command says drugs made by Iran's Razi Vaccine & Serum Research Institute "should be the first line of antivenin therapy" because they counter venoms of the most-common Afghan snakes, said a U.S. officer who has read it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers Razi antivenin an experimental drug, and requires military doctors to file a report any time the antivenin is used. FDA-approved antivenins won't work on Afghan snake bites because they are manufactured from snake venom found in U.S. species, say military doctors.

For their part, the Iranians say they are willing to sell Razi drugs to anyone. "We make this to save lives, and it doesn't matter if the person is Iranian or Afghan or American," said Hadi Zareh, lead researcher in Razi's antivenin department. "We are happy to hear we have saved a person's life, even an American soldier."

Prompted by questions from The Wall Street Journal, Pentagon lawyers are investigating whether the purchases violate sanctions rules and require a waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department. "We are working with the Department of Defense to confirm the details of these purchases to ensure compliance" with sanctions regulations, a Treasury spokesman said.

Mr. Zareh said the U.S.-led sanctions campaign, intended to discourage Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, has had the side effect of making it harder for Razi to produce the very drugs the American military is purchasing. The institute, he said in an interview, is finding it "very difficult to buy chemical products for the laboratories and some of the equipment that we need. Prices have also increased because of sanctions."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Briefing on Syria, General Assembly

    Saturday, December 01, 2012   No comments

Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Briefing on Syria, General Assembly
30 Nov 2012 - Briefing by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria at the General Assembly.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Nezar AlSayyad

President Mohammed Husni Morsi Tantawi Mubarak
Over the course of the past two years, the Arab World celebrated the fall of several of its most brutal dictators but last week it witnessed the meteoric rise of yet a new dictator, President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt.

While the world was occupied with celebrating the cessation of hostilities between Hamas and Israel in Gaza and heaping praise on Morsi for his intervention, Morsi seized the opportunity to issue the most sweeping decree ever issued by an Egyptian President in history. With one Constitutional declaration, Morsi -who has held both executive and legislative authority since he sidelined the Egyptian Armed forces a few months ago- fired the Public Prosecutor and castrated the Egyptian Judiciary by declaring that his decisions cannot be appealed to any court.  Morsi and his party did not initiate the Egyptian uprising but they came out of it as the major winners with latent intent of giving Egypt a new Islamic constitution.  Citing a need to protect the “revolution” from unspecified dangers, Morsi achieved in a very short time what no modern leader of Egypt had ever achieved, a total control of all branches of government. Even Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century did not held such unchecked powers.

As Morsi announced his decree, the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails and its political wing- the undeservedly named “Freedom and Justice” Party- orchestrated major demonstrations in support of his decision in an attempt to preempt the anticipated opposition. The process of wrestling total control of governmental powers through preemptive mobilizations is not unusual. Indeed it is a recurring pattern in contemporary Egyptian History.   In the 1950s and 1960s Egyptians were mobilized to support the many decrees of the Army Officers who organized the 1952 coup that turned Egypt a decade later into a socialist republic.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hamas in the New Middle East

    Saturday, November 24, 2012   No comments

“I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform.” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya issued this declaration before a crowd at the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo on February 24, 2012.

In 2011, Hamas withdrew its political headquarters from Syria and declined Bashar Al-Assad’s request to stage rallies in support of the Syrian regime at Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. Haniya's statement simply confirmed that Hamas had officially broken ties with its longtime state sponsor in Damascus. The Arab Awakening ended the alliance that Hamas had formed with the Assad regime in the aftermath of the Palestinian group’s expulsion from Jordan in 1999.

The Syrian uprising placed Hamas in between a rock and a hard place. Even as Hamas sought to remain loyal to a regime that had provided economic aid and weapons during times of isolation, the group could not maintain an alliance with a regime that was brutally oppressing a Sunni-led opposition movement. Hamas' final calculation that severing ties with Assad would best further its long-term objectives was driven by an assessment of the Syrian crisis, particularly with respect to Palestinian refugees in Syria and Palestinian public opinion. However, the rising wave of democratic and moderate Sunni Islamism throughout the region was perhaps Hamas’ greatest incentive to break ties with Syria and pursue alliances with Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar.

Hamas is betting that new geopolitical realities in the region may offer it an opportunity to escape isolation, gain recognition as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians in Gaza, spread its ideology, and cultivate ties with neighbors. Nonetheless, by breaking ties with Assad and cultivating ties with Tehran’s strategic competitors, Hamas is jeopardizing its relations with Iran as well.

FSA armed groups clash with Kurds near Turkey

    Saturday, November 24, 2012   No comments

Syrian rebels attacked army positions in the northern province of Aleppo on Saturday while Islamist fighters clashed with Kurdish militias on the border with Turkey, residents said.

Insurgents also attacked troops guarding the strategic Tishrin dam, located on the Euphrates river between the provinces of Aleppo and Raqa.

The rebels have surrounded the area, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the town of Manbij, local resident Abu Mohammed told AFP.

Opposition fighters already control one of the main routes to Raqa and the Tishrin dam would give them a second passage, connecting a wide expanse of territory between the two provinces, both of which border Turkey.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Syria's Kurdish leader rejects new opposition, labels it Turkey proxy

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012   No comments
Saleh Muslim, head of the
Democratic Union Party (PYD)

A party that controls much of Syria's Kurdish region on Tuesday rejected the new opposition coalition, highlighting the deep divisions still remaining between the many Syrian armed groups 20 months into the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Saleh Muslim, head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said he had not been invited to talks in Doha this month in which the Syrian National Coalition was formed, and he labelled the group a proxy of Turkey and Qatar.

The coalition, led by moderate Sunni Muslim cleric Mouaz Alkhatib, was meant to unify Syria's myriad opposition groups in a bid to secure Western backing in their efforts to topple Assad, and has been endorsed in the West by Britain and France.

Previous efforts to unite the opposition under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council ultimately failed after widespread accusations that the SNC had little sway within Syria and was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

"They're making the same mistakes as the Syrian National Council. They're one colour, a cleric is the ruler. More than 60 percent of the SNC were from the Muslim Brotherhood and the religious groups, and they've made the same mistake with this coalition," Muslim told Reuters in London.

"It (the opposition coalition) has emerged from obedience to Turkey and Qatar," he said, adding that the Kurds included in the group were not representative of Syria's Kurds and were handpicked by Turkey to follow its agenda.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CHP to PM: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should suspend the activities of NATO’s radar base in eastern Turkey

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012   No comments

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should suspend the activities of NATO’s radar base in eastern Turkey if he is really sincere in his harsh language toward Israel, the main opposition leader has said, arguing that the facility protects Israel. 

“If Erdoğan wants to do something in favor of Gaza, he can do it very simply. If he was actually against Israel, then he would suspend the activities of the Kürecik radar base,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said. 

“Why was the radar station in Kürecik [in the eastern province of Malatya] established? It’s because of Israel’s security. Erdoğan, you are appealing to the Arab League and United Nations to take action for Gaza: Then do it yourself and be an example to the world,” Kılıçdarğlu said in his address to the CHP’s parliamentary group meeting today. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Israel targets journalists, media buildings in Gaza

    Sunday, November 18, 2012   No comments

By Ernesto Londoño, Karin Brulliard and Abigail Hauslohner, Updated: Sunday, November 18, 7:40 AM

TEL AVIV — The Israeli military struck two buildings used by journalists in Gaza early Sunday during the fifth day of a campaign against militants in the Palestinian enclave. Hours later, artillery rounds landed in southern Israeli cities and the country’s missile defense system intercepted a powerful long-range rocket over Tel Aviv, the second such incident in as many days.

Sunday’s strikes in Gaza suggested Israel is continuing to expand its range of targets after hitting almost exclusively military sites during the first few days of the operation, dubbed Pillar of Defense. On Saturday, an Israeli bomb demolished the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The crossfire dimmed hopes for a ceasefire as Arab leaders led by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi were set to convene in Cairo on Sunday to discuss a negotiated end to the conflict.

“We are extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organizations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday during the opening session of the weekly cabinet meeting. “The army is prepared to significantly expand the operation.”

The sites hit in Gaza early Sunday included buildings used by Britain’s Sky News channel and the Dubai-based pan-Arab broadcaster al-Arabiya, the news organizations reported. At least six journalists were wounded, according to a health ministry spokesman in Gaza quoted by wire services.

One of the buildings was used by al-Quds channel, which serves as a mouthpiece for Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza. The Foreign Press Association in Israel issued a letter expressing concern and noting that a United Nations Security Council resolution says that journalists covering conflict civilians that must be protected.

The Israeli military said the sites struck overnight included a “communications antenna used by Hamas to carry out terrorist activity.” In a statement, it said it also hit dozens of underground rocket launchers and a Hamas training base.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Iraqi president: Turkey failed to accurately read Syria

    Saturday, November 17, 2012   No comments

In an assessment of Turkey's Middle East policy, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said Ankara failed to understand the situation in Syria, misjudging the political processes and developments in the country.
“Turkey was mistaken about Syria; top Turkish officials could not properly read Syria. Initially, Ankara thought everything would be very easy and that [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad would leave very quickly; later, they realized developments would not go in that direction,” Talabani said in an interview with the Milliyet daily on Friday.

Commenting on the Syrian Alawites, who dominate the government and hold prominent military positions despite being a minority, Talabani said they do not want to leave their positions of authority and so cling to the Baath regime.

“Christians [also a minority in Syria] are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a phrase going around in Syria: Alawites to coffins and Christians to Lebanon. The Druse, a Middle Eastern religious community, are also divided,” Talabani said.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Morocco activists slam African migrant treatment

    Saturday, November 10, 2012   No comments

RABAT, Morocco — Dozens of Moroccan and foreign activists demonstrated Friday in front of a Rabat courthouse where a Guinean advocate for sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco is being tried in what the demonstrators called part of a wider crackdown.

Laye Camara, the founder of the Council of Sub-Saharan Migrants in Morocco, was arrested by police on Oct. 20 and charged with selling alcohol without a license and smuggling cigarettes after police found three bottles of wine and two cartons of cigarettes in his apartment.

"For months the situation has been very tense and the Moroccan authorities have become very violent, while the press has stigmatized us and is encouraging racism," said Sadio Balde, a colleague of Camara's at the council and also from Guinea. "The situation has become intolerable."

Last week, the pro-regime weekly magazine Maroc Hebdo had a cover story entitled "the Black Peril," accusing sub-Saharan Africans of living off begging, drug trafficking and prostitution. The cover featured a close up shot of a black man's face.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Erdoğan criticizing UNSC, IMF, OSCE, and OECD

    Friday, November 09, 2012   No comments
Throwing diplomacy out the window, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized major world institutions, bashing both the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for their structures. He also argued that capital punishment “is legitimate in certain situations,” referring to the recent court ruling in the case against Norwegian-mass murder Breivik.

Speaking at the Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia, Erdoğan criticized the U.N. for its inaction on certain issues, including Syria and the Israel-Palestine stalemate. He went on to issue harsh criticisms against the IMFfor what he called its “bitter” prescriptions.

In a stab at Norway, Erdoğan said the prison sentence handed to Norwegian-mass murderer Anders Breivik was insufficient and that he should have been given the death penalty instead to ensure peace for the families of the victims. “I asked them, I was curious. How can someone who has killed 77 people be sentenced to 21 years in prison? I was told that he [Breivik] would not be out again, that something would be found at the end of the 21 years to keep him in for another 21 years.”

Assad's interview with Russia Today

    Friday, November 09, 2012   No comments
Assad: Erdogan thinks he's Caliph, new sultan of the Ottoman (EXCLUSIVE)


In an exclusive interview with RT, President Bashar Assad said that the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but proxy terrorism by Syrians and foreign fighters. He also accused the Turkish PM of eyeing Syria with imperial ambitions.

Assad told RT that the West creates scapegoats as enemies – from communism, to Islam, to Saddam Hussein. He accused Western countries of aiming to turn him into their next enemy.
While mainstream media outlets generally report on the crisis as a battle between Assad and Syrian opposition groups, the president claims that his country has been infiltrated by numerous terrorist proxy groups fighting on behalf of other powers.

In the event of a foreign invasion of Syria, Assad warned, the fallout would be too dire for the world to bear.

Missteps by Rebels Erode Their Support Among Syrians

    Friday, November 09, 2012   No comments

Rebels firing on a man suspected of
being a pro-government fighter in
Idlib Province on Oct. 26.
Syria's rebel fighters — who have long staked claim to the moral high ground for battling dictatorship — are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners.

The shift in mood presents more than just a public relations problem for the loosely knit militants of the Free Syrian Army, who rely on their supporters to survive the government’s superior firepower. A dampening of that support undermines the rebels’ ability to fight and win what has become a devastating war of attrition, perpetuating the violence that has left nearly 40,000 dead, hundreds of thousands in refugee camps and more than a million forced from their homes.
The rebel shortcomings have been compounded by changes in the opposition, from a force of civilians and defected soldiers who took up arms after the government used lethal force on peaceful protesters to one that is increasingly seeded with extremist jihadis. That radicalization has divided the fighters’ supporters and made Western nations more reluctant to give rebels the arms that might help break the intensifying deadlock. Instead, foreign leaders are struggling to find indirect ways to help oust Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
And now arrogance and missteps are draining enthusiasm from some of the fighters’ core supporters.
“They were supposed to be the people on whom we depend to build a civil society,” lamented a civilian activist in Saraqib, a northern town where rebels were videotaped executing a group of unarmed Syrian soldiers, an act the United Nations has declared a likely war crime.
An activist in Aleppo, Ahmed, who like some of the others who were interviewed gave only one name for security reasons, said he had begged rebels not to camp in a neighborhood telecommunications office. But they did, and government attacks knocked out phone service.
One fighter shot into the air when customers at a bakery did not let him cut into a long line for bread, Ahmed recalled. Another, he said, was enraged when a man washing his car accidentally splashed him. “He shot at him,” Ahmed said. “But thank God he wasn’t a good shot, so the guy wasn’t hurt.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Will Erdogan do nothing to save the lives of Kurdish hunger strikers?

    Thursday, November 08, 2012   No comments

If you knew that more than 700 of your citizens might die soon, what would you do to stop it? That is the question that the Turkish government and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, faced with the massive hunger strike by Kurdish prisoners, now in its 58th day, need to answer.

But the answer so far seems to be "nothing". Very few in the west seem to be aware of the issue, with international media focused more on geopolitical concerns and the ongoing Syrian crisis. Yet they have a question of their own to answer: can Turkey still be held up as a role model for the Arab spring movement as it becomes more and more apparent that the Turkish government is apathetic towards the democratic rights and demands of its almost 20 million-strong Kurdish minority?

The hunger strikes started on 12 September with 65 prisoners. The official number has since reached 716, with claims from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party (BDP) that elected officials from the party might join the ranks if their demands continue to be ignored.

Consisting largely of Kurds jailed after being linked to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), the urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), a guerilla group recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, the hunger strikers have three key demands. These are an end to the solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the PKK, in jail since 1999 and without any access to his lawyers for almost a year now; the right to defend themselves in Kurdish in courts; and the right to study in Kurdish.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Syria's rebels: Fewer innocents

    Wednesday, November 07, 2012   No comments

A RECENT video showing a group of rebels kicking men, bound with ropes, before killing them has raised concerns about Syria’s opposition fighters. The UN says the killings, which were captured on camera in a checkpoint raid during a battle to take control of the town of Saraqeb, may be a war crime. Members of the Syrian opposition have condemned the killings, highlighting the growing divisions within forces battling against Bashar Assad. Others have tried to write off the violence, saying extremists or Salafists, whose numbers are increasing among the fighters, were responsible.

But in the three months since rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, executed a group of regime militiamen in a school playground in July, the UN and Human Rights Watch (HRW), an advocacy group, have documented an increasing number of such crimes. "We need to be clear that opposition crimes do not approach the systematic crimes by the regime that account for the majority of the deaths in Syria," says Nadim Houry of HRW. "But we have documented grave acts by the rebel fighters in Aleppo, Idleb and Latakia that are likely to be happening elsewhere too."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for president

    Friday, October 26, 2012   No comments
Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for president

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Russia: US coordinates weapon deliveries to Syria rebels

    Thursday, October 25, 2012   No comments
Russia today accused Washington of "coordinating" deliveries of arms to Syrian rebels, despite assurances by the State Department that the United States provides no lethal assistance.

"Washington is aware of the deliveries of various weapons to illegal armed groups active in Syria. Moreover, judging by the declarations of US officials published in US media, the US coordinates and provides logistical assistance in such deliveries," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia's top general Nikolai Makarov on Wednesday said rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad's army in Syria are using US-made Stingers, a type of shoulder-launched missile systems also known as MANPADs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Remembering the Paris massacre 50 years on

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012   No comments

Protesters gathered in central Paris to mark fifty years since a deadly police crackdown on Algerian anti-war protesters, one of the darkest days in modern French history.

Rachel HOLMAN (text)
Anti-discrimination organisations and advocacy groups gathered for a massive rally in the heart of Paris Monday to remember the victims of a deadly police crackdown against Algerian protesters in Paris fifty years ago
On the evening of October 17, 1961, tens of thousands of Algerian anti-war protesters from the Paris region gathered at various landmarks in the city to protest against a curfew targeting their community.
The demonstrations were organised by the Paris-wing of the revolutionary Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), which was fighting for Algeria’s liberation from France. The protest was meant to be peaceful but scores were killed and a community left devastated.
Bodies found in River Seine
That fateful night, French police acted swiftly and ruthlessly under the orders of their chief Maurice Papon to quell the protests. Gun shots rang out as thousands were arrested en masse, herded on to buses and transported to the makeshift detention centres in the Paris area. Those detained reported that they were beaten and held for days without food. Dead bodies were also found washed up on the banks of the River Seine after they were allegedly dumped in the city’s famous river by the French police.

The Paris massacre that time forgot, 51 years on

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012   No comments
Fifty-one years to the day, French President François Hollande has recognised the October 17, 1961 massacre of Algerian protesters in Paris. Historian Jean-Luc Einaudi talks to FRANCE 24 about one of the darkest chapters of French colonial history.
By Tahar HANI 
Exactly 51 years after one of the murkiest episodes in recent French history, French President François Hollande recognised on Wednesday the "bloody repression" of Algerian protesters by French police that took place in the heart of Paris on October 17, 1961.

On that fateful day, French police – under the leadership of Paris prefect Maurice Papon – brutally crushed peaceful demonstrations of Algerian anti-war protesters who had gathered in and around the French capital to protest against a French security crackdown in Algeria.

The incident occurred at the height of the Algerian war of independence, when the French colonial administration was locked in a bitter battle with the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) – the Algerian party fighting for the North African nation’s liberation from France.

More than half-a-century later, the details surrounding the October 17 massacre – including the casualty figures – remain murky. A day after the demonstrations, the left-leaning French newspaper Libération reported the official toll as two dead, several wounded and 7,500 arrests. The death toll, however, was disputed by the FLN, which claimed that dozens were killed.  Many of the bodies were found floating in the River Seine.

Libya: New Proof of Mass Killings at Gaddafi Death Site

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012   No comments
New evidence collected by Human Rights Watch implicates Misrata-based militias in the apparent execution of dozens of detainees following the capture and death of Muammar Gaddafi one year ago. The Libyan authorities have failed to carry out their pledge to investigate the death of Gaddafi, Libya’s former dictator, his son Mutassim, and dozens of others in rebel custody.

The 50-page report, “Death of a Dictator: Bloody Vengeance in Sirte,”details the final hours of Muammar Gaddafi’s life and the circumstances under which he was killed. It presents evidence that Misrata-based militias captured and disarmed members of the Gaddafi convoy and, after bringing them under their total control, subjected them to brutal beatings. They then executed at least 66 captured members of the convoy at the nearby Mahari Hotel. The evidence indicates that opposition militias took Gaddafi’s wounded son Mutassim from Sirte to Misrata and killed him there.

“The evidence suggests that opposition militias summarily executed at least 66 captured members of Gaddafi’s convoy in Sirte,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “It also looks as if they took Mutassim Gaddafi, who had been wounded, to Misrata and killed him there. Our findings call into question the assertion by Libyan authorities that Muammar Gaddafi was killed in crossfire, and not after his capture."


Monday, October 15, 2012

Turkey should readjust its policies in Syria, says Yakış

    Monday, October 15, 2012   No comments

Regarding Turkey's foreign policy in the Middle East and particularly in Syria, Yaşar Yakış, a former minister of foreign affairs and the president of the Center for Strategic Communication (STRATİM), told Today's Zaman that “Turkey should make an adjustment to its foreign policy route just like the captain of a ship would.” Yakış, who is also a retired ambassador and the country's longest-serving diplomat in the Middle East, added that "you cannot insist on a policy just because it was a part of your foreign policy in the past. Each new situation requires an adjustment in foreign policy because if the captain of a ship holds the steering wheel in a constant position, the ship changes its direction due to external factors.”
“Turkey took part on the right side of history [when] a dictator was confronted by his people, but while doing this our actions went beyond the actions of other actors and destroyed all bridges with the regime.” He claims that in Syria Turkey acted with the motivation of “not repeating the mistake it made in Libya, where it expressed misgivings regarding the relevance of the NATO operation, and he went on to say: “The Western countries encouraged us, but then put on the brakes because of a fear that fundamentalists could take over in Syria. Turkey was caught off guard and remained alone, in the offside position.”

Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria

    Monday, October 15, 2012   No comments

WASHINGTON — Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

That conclusion, of which President Obama and other senior officials are aware from classified assessments of the Syrian conflict that has now claimed more than 25,000 lives, casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States.

“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Syria, Turkey, Israel and the Greater Middle East Energy War

    Sunday, October 14, 2012   No comments

By F. William Engdahl

On October 3, 2012 the Turkish military launched repeated mortar shellings inside Syrian territory. The military action, which was used by the Turkish military, conveniently, to establish a ten-kilometer wide no-man’s land “buffer zone” inside Syria, was in response to the alleged killing by Syrian armed forces of several Turkish civilians along the border.

There is widespread speculation that the one Syrian mortar that killed five Turkish civilians well might have been fired by Turkish-backed opposition forces intent on giving Turkey a pretext to move militarily, in military intelligence jargon, a ‘false flag’ operation.[1]

Turkey’s Muslim Brotherhood-friendly Foreign Minister, the inscrutable Ahmet Davutoglu, is the government’s main architect of Turkey’s self-defeating strategy of toppling its former ally Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.[2]

According to one report since 2006 under the government of Islamist Sunni Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his pro-Brotherhood AKP party, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood.[3] A well-informed Istanbul source relates the report that before the last Turkish elections, Erdogan’s AKP received a “donation” of $10 billion from the Saudi monarchy, the heart of world jihadist Salafism under the strict fundamentalist cloak of Wahabism. [4] Since the 1950’s when the CIA brought leading members in exile of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to Saudi Arabia there has been a fusion between the Saudi brand of Wahabism and the aggressive jihadist fundamentalism of the Brotherhood.[5]

The Turkish response to the single Syrian mortar shell, which was met with an immediate Syrian apology for the incident, borders on a full-scale war between two nations which until last year were historically, culturally, economically and even in religious terms, closest of allies.

That war danger is ever more serious. Turkey is a full member of NATO whose charter explicitly states, an attack against one NATO state is an attack against all. The fact that nuclear-armed Russia and China both have made defense of the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime a strategic priority puts the specter of a World War closer than most of us would like to imagine.

In a December 2011 analysis of the competing forces in the region, former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi made the following prescient observation:

Hitched to Qatar's rising star, Al Jazeera takes a bumpy ride skyward

    Sunday, October 14, 2012   No comments

By Elizabeth Dickinson

It’s mid-afternoon as Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, takes a brief respite from the news to recall a whirlwind year.

As a wave of Arab uprisings swept the region, Egyptian revolutionaries broadcast the channel live on giant screens in Tahrir Square. Rebels in Benghazi gave reporters a hero’s welcome in Libya. And US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly credited the channel for helping her to stay abreast of the upheaval.

In short, Al Jazeera televised the revolutions, and the world tuned in.

Yet three fallen leaders and more than a year later, it’s not just Al Jazeera’s audience that has grown. So, too, have its critics. Founded by the Qatari emir in 1996, the channel's main detractors early on came from the West, where its penchant for broadcasting Al Qaeda messages and portraying graphic images of the US-led war in Iraq irked many, including former President George W. Bush.

But since the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera’s previous success has been amplified and the Qatari government has started playing a bigger part in regional policy. Suddenly, the cozy relationship between patron and broadcaster carries a bit more baggage.

“It’s important to take seriously where the funding of this network comes from,” says Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center. “You’re basically talking about a journalistic organization that by definition has a conflict built in.”

Such criticisms have indisputably grown – that Al Jazeera downplayed uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and overemphasized certain Islamist groups’ perspectives in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, all seemingly in line with Doha’s foreign policy interests. Concerns about Al Jazeera’s independence were amplified when the station’s director general, Wadah Khanfar, resigned in September and was replaced by a member of the royal family.

Serious as they are, however, such accusations are also a sort of backhanded compliment – an acknowledgment of the impact that the network now has. Viewership is higher than ever, reaching 260 million households in 130 countries.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Turkey's opposition leader calls FM 'an idiot'

    Tuesday, October 09, 2012   No comments

Main oppoisiton Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu slammed Turkey's foreign policy decisions today, calling Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu "an idiot," daily Hürriyet reported.

"Who is on Turkey's side? Hamas, Barzani, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Syria has Brazil, Iran, Russia and China on its side," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "Is this 'strategic depth,' or strategic blindness? The process that resulted in Turkey's becoming part of such a meaningless balance comes from a foreign minister whose incompotence is known by the entire world. You don't need deep knowledge to know that. You have to be a real idiot to do that."

Source: Hurriyet

US Protestants no longer a majority, says study

    Tuesday, October 09, 2012   No comments

For the first time since European settlement the US does not have a Protestant majority, according to a study, with the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation on the rise.

The percentage of Protestant adults in the US has reached a low of 48%, the first time Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has reported with certainty that the number has fallen below 50%.

The drop has long been anticipated and comes at a time when there are no Protestants on the supreme court and the Republicans have their first presidential ticket with no Protestant nominees.

Among the reasons for the change are the growth in nondenominational Christians who can no longer be categorised as Protestant, and a spike in the number of American adults who say they have no religion. The Pew study, released on Tuesday, found about 20% of Americans said they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15% in the past five years.

Scholars have long debated whether people who say they no longer belong to a religious group should be considered secular. While the category as defined by Pew researchers includes atheists, it also encompasses majorities of people who say they believe in God, and a notable minority who pray daily or consider themselves "spiritual" but not "religious".

Still, Pew found overall that most of the unaffiliated were not actively seeking another religious home, indicating that their ties with organised religion were permanently broken.

Growth among those with no religion has been a major preoccupation of American faith leaders, who worry that the US, a highly religious country, would go the way of western Europe, where church attendance has plummeted.

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