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.

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