Friday, May 31, 2013

Syria peace talks likely to be postponed until July or August

    Friday, May 31, 2013   No comments
Peace talks in Geneva between Syria's warring parties are almost certain to be postponed after further diplomatic setbacks on Friday, as Russia announced its intention to ship more weaponry to the Assad regime.

Heavy fighting continued on the ground in Syria, where it emerged that a British man and American woman had been killed, apparently while fighting with the rebels in Idlib, in the north, earlier this week.

The US and Russia had together conceived the Geneva talks between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition, raising hopes that the two superpowers, long at odds over the civil war raging in the country, could at last make some progress in curbing the violence.


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Pro-Fracking Spin on Public Radio: Brought to you by Qatar

    Friday, May 31, 2013   No comments
The April edition of the monthly public radio program America Abroad, "Global Energy and Innovations," sounded like an infomercial for the natural gas "fracking" industry. Which, in essence, is what it was.
The show, which is distributed by Public Radio International (PRI), began with host Madeleine Brand declaring:
Thanks to a breakthrough in the technology known as "fracking," the hydraulic fracturing of rock, the United States is enjoying a boom in cheap natural gas.
She went to say that "supporters argue that the new technology not only brings new jobs but also provides cleaner energy than coal."
And what do fracking opponents say? That's unclear; the counterpoint to fracking's boosters--"natural gas will do everything we want it to do," as one soundbite put it--is the observation that "some experts" think that cheap gas means "there’s less incentive to develop clean, renewable energy."

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Turkish Police foil al-Nusra bomb attack planned for Adana

    Thursday, May 30, 2013   No comments
Seven members of Syria's militant al-Nusra group were detained on Wednesday after police found sarin gas, which was reportedly going to be used in a bomb attack, during a search of the suspects' homes, Turkish media have reported.
Newspapers claimed on Thursday that two kilograms of sarin gas, which is usually used for making bombs and was banned by the UN in 1991, had been found in the homes of suspects detained in the southern provinces of Adana and Mersin. Twelve suspects were caught by the police on Monday. The reports claimed that the al-Nusra members had been planning a bomb attack for Thursday in Adana but that the attack was averted when the police caught the suspects. Along with the sarin gas, the police seized a number of handguns, grenades, bullets and documents during their search. Five of the suspects were released later on Thursday.

In another incident in Adana, the police received intelligence that a bomb-laden vehicle had entered Adana, the bombs being of the same type used in a recent attack in Hatay's Reyhanlı town, the Taraf daily reported on Thursday.


Sen. John McCain accused of meeting with kidnappers in Syria

    Thursday, May 30, 2013   No comments
Senator McCain poses with kidnappers in Syria
Sen. John McCain is denying Lebanese media reports that he posed with known kidnappers during his recent visit to Syria.

Two men pictured next to Mr. McCain were responsible for kidnapping 11 Lebanese Shiites, press from that country is claiming, as reported in the Daily Mail. And nine of those abducted are still being held hostage, the Daily Star in Beirut claims.

The two suspected kidnappers — Mohamed Nour and Abu Ibrahim — in the photo with Mr. McCain are members of the Northern Storm militant group, who are believed to have planned and executed the abduction, the Daily Star said.

Mr. McCain’s office went on the defensive, issuing a statement through spokesman Brian Rogers.
“A number of the Syrians who greeted Sen. McCain upon his arrival in Syria asked to take pictures with him, and as always, the senator complied,” he said, as quoted in the Daily Mail. “[It] would be regrettable” if those pictured with the senator were kidnappers, he added.

He spoke about his visit on CNN Wednesday night. "We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people," he said.

read more of the Washington Times report >> 

Read the Associated Press Report Here >>

Read the Daily Kos Report here >>

 

Turkish FM fails to convince Syrian opposition to attend Geneva II meeting

    Thursday, May 30, 2013   No comments
Turkey
Syria’s main opposition group said today it would not take part in proposed U.S.-Russia peace talks, a day after, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu participated in their Istanbul meeting.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria,” the opposition acting chief George Sabra told reporters in Istanbul today, according to Agence France-Presse.

In addition to the question of participation in the proposed Geneva conference, the election of a new president, the agreeing on an interim government and the voting in of new members to join the group were the other main reasons for the gathering in Istanbul.

The minister will address the opposition on behalf of the 11 core group members of Friends of Syria, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News ahead of his meeting on May 29.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New York Times, sarin and skepticism

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013   No comments
During the run-up to the Iraq War, the New York Times amplified erroneous official claims about weapons of mass destruction (FAIR Action Alert, 9/8/06). Looking at the paper's coverage of allegations of chemical weapons use by Syria, some of the same patterns are clear: an over-reliance on official sources and the downplaying of critical or skeptical analysis of the available intelligence.
In "Syria Faces New Claim on Chemical Arms" (4/19/13), the paper told readers that, according to anonymous diplomats, Britain and France had sent letters to the United Nations about "credible evidence" against Syria regarding chemical weapon use. On April 24, the Times reported that Israel had "evidence that the Syrian government repeatedly used chemical weapons last month."

The next day (4/25/13), the Times reported that, according to an unnamed "senior official," the White House "shares the suspicions of several of its allies that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons." The article spoke of the "mounting pressure to act against Syria," adding, "Some analysts say they worry that if the United States waits too long, it will embolden President Bashar al-Assad."
And then on April 26, under the headline "White House Says Syria Has Used Chemical Arms," the Times reported:

The White House, in a letter to Congressional leaders, said the nation's intelligence agencies assessed ''with varying degrees of confidence'' that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had used the chemical agent sarin on a small scale.

 The story included a source, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), who presented the intelligence as more definitive: She "said the agencies actually expressed more certainty about the use of these weapons than the White House indicated in its letter."

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Despite Horrific Repression, the U.S. Should Stay Out of Syria

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013   No comments
Syria
By Stephen Zunes

The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left policymakers scrambling to think of ways the United States could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led to increasing calls for the United States to provide military aid to armed insurgents or even engage in direct military intervention, especially in light of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

The question on the mind of almost everyone who has followed the horror as it has unfolded over the past two years is, “What we can do?”

The short answer, unfortunately, is not much.

This is hard for many Americans to accept. We have a cultural propensity to believe that if the United States puts in enough money, creativity, willpower, or firepower into a problem that we can make things right. However, despite the desires of both the right-wing nationalists and liberal hawks, this isn’t always the case.

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Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Challenges

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013   No comments
Pakistan
The new government in Pakistan will have to take some hard decisions on difficult issues pertaining to foreign policy, even though the choices will be very limited. Numerous complexities will emerge not only in its dealings with its immediate neighbours like Afghanistan and China, but also external players in the sub-continent, predominantly the US.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the most difficult challenge for the new Pakistani leadership will be how to manage the situation post-2014, and how best to guard its interests. Within a year, two things are expected to happen: fresh elections for the Afghan President and the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan. In a situation where Karzai is not very popular either with the non-Pashtuns or with the Taliban, Nawaz Sharif will have an onerous task to ensure that the next president is acceptable to Pakistan, and will help in safeguarding Pakistan’s interests. The second part of the challenge will be the roadblocks to the reconciliation process and how Nawaz Sharif will influence the final outcome – whether he will continue to give support to the Taliban, which will not be acceptable to the Americans or to Karzai, or whether he will try to accommodate the non-Pashtuns and non-Taliban Pashtuns to arrive at a durable solution. The core interest of Pakistan will be the same, to ensure that a pro-Pakistan dispensation is in place once the Americans leave. Whether or not to support the Taliban will be a difficult choice.

Syrian rebels turn on their political leaders: Fighters want more of their members added to exiled Syrian National Coalition

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013   No comments
Syrian rebels carrying out pubic executions
Syrian rebel groups have strongly criticised their political leadership outside Syria, saying it has no real connection to the rebellion and calling for half of its members to be drawn from fighters inside the country.

The rebuke follows a chaotic week for the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and is likely to further undermine the standing of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which has been treated by its foreign backers as if it were capable of replacing Mr Assad and its regime.

A meeting of the exiled SNC in Istanbul has still not decided if it will attend a peace conference in Geneva, tentatively planned for June, and, if so, who should attend. It is also deadlocked about Western-supported proposals to broaden the membership of the 60-member coalition with more secular representatives.

The statement issued in the name of the Revolutionary Movement in Syria said that the failure of the opposition had opened the door to “blatant interference” by outside powers. This is probably a reference primarily to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which support different opposition factions; Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, which is regarded with suspicion by the Saudis.

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Syria: Arms Sans Frontières

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013   No comments
If it was already a gargantuan task to get all sides conducting and feeding the war in Syria around a table in August, three events in the last three days have just made that task much more difficult but no less urgent. The first and by far the most important was Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Saturday in which the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah personally committed his movement to the survival of the Assad regime. Unlike any other development in the grinding two-year war of attrition between Syria's Sunni majority and its Alawite-dominated government and military, Nasrallah's statement has the power to upset the fragile balance between Sunnis, Shias and Christians in Lebanon that has lasted since the end of its own 15-year civil war. For the first time in its history, Hezbollah shed the fig leaf that its sole purpose was to defend Lebanon against Israel, and publicly committed itself to waging a sectarian war against fellow Arabs.

Syria and the Middle East: our greatest miscalculation since the rise of fascism

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013   No comments
There could no more dreadful idea than to pour more armaments into the sectarian war now consuming Syria. Yet that is precisely what Britain's coalition government wants to do. The foreign secretary, William Hague, seemed on Monday to parody his hero Pitt the Younger by demanding "how long must we go on allowing … ?" and "what we want to see is …". Who is this we? But even Pitt would never be so stupid as to declare war on Syria, which is the only morally sound outcome of Hague's rhetorical mission creep.
For two years pundits have proclaimed the imminent fall of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. High on Arab spring, they declared he would fall from the logic of history. Or he would fall because western sanctions would bring him down. Or he would fall because the media, as in the novelScoop, were with the rebels and had decided they would win.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

French diplomat & Syrian opposition members backstage dealing

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013   No comments
Syrian opposition talks aimed at presenting a coherent front at an international peace conference to end the civil war faced the prospect of collapse after President Bashar al-Assad's foes failed to cut an internal deal, opposition sources said on Friday.

The failure of the Syrian National Coalition to alter its Islamist-dominated membership as demanded by its international backers and replace a leadership undermined by power struggles is playing into the hands of Assad, whose forces are attacking a key town as his ally Russia said he would send representatives to the conference, coalition insiders said.

After two days of meetings in Istanbul, senior coalition players were in discussions late into the night after veteran liberal opposition figure Michel Kilo rejected a deal by Syrian businessman Mustafa al-Sabbagh, who is the coalition's secretary-general, to admit some members of Kilo's bloc to the coalition, the sources said.

Kilo has said that his group wants significant representation in the opposition coalition before it will join.

Russia slams end of EU arms embargo, calls S-300s ‘stabilizing factor’ in Syria

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013   No comments
S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. (RIA Novosti / Vladislav Belogrud)

The EU voted Tuesday to end an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition but had no immediate plans to ship weapons amid continuing efforts to negotiate a solution to the crisis. Russia criticised the EU move, saying it undermined diplomatic efforts.

The European Union on Tuesday lifted an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, in a move that drew rebuke from Moscow even if there were no immediate plans to deliver military equipment to the forces locked in a bloody civil war with the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Tonight EU nations agreed to bring the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition to an end,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement, adding that it was a “difficult decision for some countries” only a few months after the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize.

How Timbuktu’s manuscripts were saved from jihadists

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013   No comments
In TIMBUKTU, MALI — It was 7 o’clock on a hot night in August, and Hassine Traore was nervous. Behind him were 10 donkeys, each strapped with two large rice bags filled with ancient manuscripts. The bags were covered in plastic to shield them from a light rain.

Radical Islamists had entered Timbuktu four months earlier, and they had set about destroying everything they deemed a sin.
They had demolished the tombs of Sufi saints. They had beaten up women for not covering their faces and flogged men for smoking or drinking. They most certainly would have burned the manuscripts — nearly 300,000 pages on a variety of subjects, including the teachings of Islam, law, medicine, mathematics and astronomy — housed in public and private libraries across the city.

The scholarly documents depicted Islam as a historically moderate and intellectual religion and were considered cultural treasures by Western institutions — reasons enough for the ultraconservative jihadists to destroy them.

But a secret operation had been set in motion within weeks of the jihadist takeover. It included donkeys, safe houses and smugglers, all deployed to protect the manuscripts by sneaking them out of town.

This is the story of how nearly all the documents were saved, based on interviews with an unlikely cast of characters who detailed their roles for the first time. They included Traore, a 30-year-old part-time janitor, and his grandfather, a guard.

“We knew that if we attracted any attention, the Islamists would arrest us,” Traore recalled.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Syria: the imperative of de-escalation

    Sunday, May 26, 2013   No comments
As the death toll has risen and the Assad government has become more entrenched, so too have the calls for a more muscular western policy towards Syria. The debate has revolved around two models for managed military escalation: establishing no-fly zones or arming the rebels. Neither involves “boots on the ground”, which is why they can best be characterised as “intervention-lite.” Supporters of these policies argue that they will make Assad more likely to step down, empower the so-called moderates among the opposition, and bring the war to a speedier conclusion. However, there is considerable evidence for such approaches being more likely to lead to a full-scale military intervention by the west, while making a political solution even more difficult to grasp.

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After Sunni Salafis joined jihad in Syria, now it is Iraqi Shiites turn

    Sunday, May 26, 2013   No comments
By Abigail Hauslohner
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi fighters in the video shoulder assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades as they walk down a highway lined with cypress trees. Grinning, some hold up cell phones and camcorders to capture the moment — the aftermath of a victorious battle to secure the Aleppo airport from Syrian rebels who had attempted to take it.

“You are the sons of Iraq, and the sons of Islam!” shouts one of their commanders. The men cheer.

Weeks later in Baghdad, Abu Sajad, the nom de guerre of an Iraqi militia commander who appears in the video, whose location and circumstances were impossible to verify, proudly displayed it as proof that Iraqi Shiites are playing a critical role supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in what has become an increasingly sectarian and regional war.

Until recently, the involvement of Iraqi Shiites in Syria’s war was cloaked in secrecy here in Iraq, whose Shiite government has denied any involvement in the conflict. But recent interviews with militants, analysts, Arab government officials and residents of Shiite cities across Iraq illuminate a trend that is growing increasingly open as Iraqi fighters come to view their participation as part of a regional struggle to defeat al-Qaeda and what they say is a broad effort by the region’s dominant Sunnis to wipe out Shiites.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

How Syria's neighbors see the crisis?

    Saturday, May 25, 2013   No comments
...
In Israel, people may be shocked by the cruelty of the Syrian civil war and be sorry for its many victims, but the political and military echelon know well that as long as the war continues, Syria will continue to crumble, thousands of Hezbollah fighters will spill their blood in defense of the Assad regime and  Iran will also be bothered by the events; thus, the reality plays into Israel's hands and its starategic situation will continue to improve. However, no senior Israeli offcial would dare say this publicly, because remarks such as this will display a utilitarian and not moral approach. To believe this is allowed, to say so is forbidden.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Syrian Human Rights Group is EU-Funded Fraud

    Thursday, May 23, 2013   No comments
Rami Abdelrahman
In reality, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has long ago been exposed as an absurd propaganda front operated by Rami Abdul Rahman out of his house in England's countryside. According to a December 2011 Reuters article titled, "Coventry - an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist," Abdul Rahman admits he is a member of the so-called "Syrian opposition" and seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad:
After three short spells in prison in Syria for pro-democracy activism, Abdulrahman came to Britain in 2000 fearing a longer, fourth jail term.

"I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I'll return when Bashar al-Assad goes," Abdulrahman said, referring to Bashar's father and predecessor Hafez, also an autocrat.
One could not fathom a more unreliable, compromised, biased source of information, yet for the past two years, his "Observatory" has served as the sole source of information for the endless torrent of propaganda emanating from the Western media. Perhaps worst of all, is that the United Nations uses this compromised, absurdly overt source of propaganda as the basis for its various reports - at least, that is what the New York Times now claims in their recent article, "A Very Busy Man Behind the Syrian Civil War’s Casualty Count."


Civil Society Under Attack Around the World

    Thursday, May 23, 2013   No comments
In December 2011, 159 governments and major international organisations recognised the central role of civil society in development and promised to create an “enabling” operating environment for the non-profit sector.
Despite the tall talk at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid and Development Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, today NGOs, trade unions, faith based groups, social movements and community based organisations working to expose rights violations and corruption remain in a state of siege in many parts of the world.

Reports by U.N. officials and respected civil society organisations show that false prosecutions and murderous attacks on activists are rife and threatening to derail international development objectives even as we debate a new framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015.

In fact, moves are being championed by some governments to limit civil society participation at high-level meetings of the U.N. General Assembly through a process whereby states can issue politically motivated objections to the inclusion of particular NGOs in key discussions.

Unfortunately, legal restrictions on free speech, formation of civic organisations and the right to protest peacefully appear to be on the rise despite the rhetoric of engaging civil society in global decision making forums.

In many countries civil society groups are being prevented from accessing funding from international sources, as highlighted by the U.N.’s special expert on freedom of assembly and association in his latest report.

In Russia, non-profit advocacy groups receiving international funding are being subjected to intrusive inspections to ensure compliance with a controversial law that requires NGOs to register under the highly offensive nomenclature of “foreign agents”, or face sanctions.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Syrian army says captured Israeli Jeep is proof of aid to rebels

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013   No comments
Israel has denied supplying military hardware to Syrian rebels after pro-government Syrian forces on Monday displayed an Israeli-made Jeep it says was captured during recent fighting near Syria’s border with Lebanon.

The Syrian army on Monday displayed an Israeli-made Jeep it said was captured from a rebel organization during recent battles for control of Qusayr, a Syrian city near the Lebanese border. Damascus claimed the vehicle was proof of Israeli and U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition.

Israeli officials denied the claims of aiding the rebels. They said the jeep was a model that was retired from Israel Defense Forces service years ago and it is not clear how it reached the rebels.

The Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen, which has ties to Hezbollah, broadcasted video of Syrian army personnel next to the Jeep, which showed bullet damage.

The vehicle is identifiable as a relatively old, armored model of the Sufa Jeep, which is manufactured in Israel under license from Chrysler.

Such vehicles have been used by the IDF for decades in the territories and were used by Israeli forces in the South Lebanon buffer zone until Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.

The IDF license number, 669491, is clearly visible in the clip, as are the maximum speed limits and other markings typical of IDF vehicles.

The Syrian officer interviewed in the film said this was proof of Israeli aid to the Free Syrian Army, one of the major opposition groups behind the armed rebellion against Assad.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Nigeria begins offensive against Islamist sect

    Friday, May 17, 2013   No comments

More than 2,000 Nigerian troops have begun an offensive in Borno state to regain territory seized by Boko Haram Islamists, army sources said Thursday. President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno and two other states on Tuesday.
Nigerian forces attacked Islamist strongholds in the northeast on Thursday, security sources said as an offensive got under way to wrest back territory from increasingly well-armed Boko Haram insurgents.

Soldiers raided areas in the Sambisa Game Reserve, a remote savannah of some 500 sq km (200 sq miles) in Borno state where Islamists have established bases, said two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. They gave no further details.

Preparing for possible further action across three frontier states where President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, the armed forces also deployed jet fighters and helicopter gunships to the region.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Syria Death Toll Likely As High As 120,000, 41,000 of those confirmed killed were Alawites

    Thursday, May 16, 2013   No comments
BEIRUT, May 14 (Reuters) - At least 94,000 people have been killed during Syria's two-year conflict, but the death toll is likely to be as high as 120,000, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

The group said that at least 41,000 of those confirmed killed were Alawites, the sect of President Bashar al-Assad.

Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Observatory, said that the Alawite death figures were confirmed by eight different Alawite sources in coastal cities and in Homs.

Syria's conflict started as peaceful protests against the four-decade rule of the Assad family but turned into civil war, pitting the Sunni majority against minorities, in particular the Alawites, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

"We believe the real figure of those killed from both sides is above 120,000 because both sides are being discreet on their casualties," Abdulrahman said. (Reporting by Mariam Karouny; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

U.N. condemns Assad forces, but unease grows about rebels

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013   No comments
The U.N. General Assembly condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and praised the opposition on Wednesday, but a decline in support for the resolution suggested growing unease about extremism among Syria's fractious rebels.

While the non-binding text has no legal force, resolutions of the 193-nation assembly can carry significant moral and political weight. There were 107 votes in favor, 12 against and 59 abstentions - a drop in support compared with a resolution condemning the Syrian government that passed in August with 133 votes in favor, 12 against and 31 abstentions.

U.N. diplomats cited concerns that Syria could be headed for "regime change" engineered by foreign governments and fears about a strengthening Islamist extremist element among the rebels as reasons for the decline in support for the resolution.

Russia, a close ally and arms supplier for Assad, strongly opposed the resolution drafted by Qatar, which Assad's government has accused of arming the rebels seeking to oust him. But Moscow, which along with China has used its veto three times to prevent Security Council action against Assad, could not block the motion as there are no vetoes in the General Assembly.

Diplomats said the Russian delegation wrote to all U.N. members urging them to oppose the resolution. Moscow has complained that the resolution undermines U.S.-Russian efforts to organize a peace conference that would include Assad's government and rebels, a meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said would likely take place in early June.


Benghazi bomb kills and injured dozens as Libya's security unravels

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013   No comments
A car bomb ripped through the car park at the main hospital in Benghazi on Monday, killing at least 15 people, days after Britain ordered the evacuation of all non-essential staff in Libya out of security concerns.

The device was detonated outside a busy bakery next to the grounds of the al-Jala hospital in Libya's second city just after lunch time.
Local officials said more than 40 people were injured in an attack that marked how the country is struggling to prevent a slide into chaos in the wake of Col Muammar Gaddafi's removal in 2011.
Salam al-Barghathi, a senior security official, said that a well-armed militant group appeared to be responsible, adding that weapons including Kalashnikov rifles were found inside the wreckage of the car.
Witnesses described scenes of carnage in the aftermath. A doctor at the hospital said only one of the dead was carried into the hospital intact, causing difficulties with immediately establishing the number of people killed.
"I saw people running and some of them were collecting parts of bodies," said one witness.

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Syrian rebel atrocity video: No apology for ‘revenge’, more clips promised

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013   No comments
A chilling tape of a Syrian rebel apparently eating the lung of a slain government soldier has prompted calls on the opposition to prevent such abuses. However the fighter has also reportedly had support from within his ranks for his “act of revenge.”

The video, 27 seconds of footage, was first spotted in April, with the TIME magazine conducting a probe into whether it had been faked for propaganda purposes. On Sunday, the clip emerged on a pro-regime website, triggering a wave of rage online.

Human rights organizations, as well as his fellow rebels, have condemned the rebel.

However, Khalid Hamad, known by his war nickname Abu Sakkar, didn’t seem to regret his behavior much, labeling it as revenge: “an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth.”

In an interview with TIME magazine, he commented on his actions: “We opened his cell phone, and I found a clip of a woman and her two daughters fully naked and he was humiliating them, and poking a stick here and there.”


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Soad El Khammal : "Je ne peux pas pardonner" aux auteurs des attentats du 16 mai 2003 au Maroc

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013   No comments
Dix ans après les attentats du 16 mai 2003, les victimes et familles de victimes de la barbarie terroriste restent profondément marquées par les drames personnels et familiaux qu’elles ont vécus. Parmi elle, Soad El Khammal, présidente d’une association de victimes, a perdu son mari et son fils dans les attentats. Reconstruction personnelle, pardon, justice : elle s’est confiée à Jeune Afrique. Interview.
La vie de Soad El Khammal, ancienne professeure d’histoire-géographie et mère de deux enfants, a basculé dans la nuit du vendredi 16 mai 2003. Ce soir-là, son mari, avocat de 49 ans, et son fils, adolescent de 17 ans, dînent au restaurant La Casa España, dans le centre de Casablanca.
Vers 22 heures, deux jeunes terroristes kamikazes pénètrent dans cet établissement très fréquenté et actionnent leurs explosifs. Le bilan est terrible : 22 morts et des dizaines de blessés. Le mari et le fils de Soad font partie des victimes.


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Turkish PM under fire over bombings ahead of US trip

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013   No comments
Turkish opposition leaders accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of pursuing a flawed Syria policy that has cost Turkish lives following a deadly twin bombing last week as Erdoğan headed to Washington Wednesday for talks on the Syria crisis.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Turkey's two main opposition parties of assuming a “provocative and inhuman approach” in the aftermath of a deadly May 11 twin bombing near the Syrian border as the opposition leaders accused Erdoğan of pursuing a Syria policy that has cost the lives of Turkish citizens.

The angry exchanges between Erdoğan and Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahçeli are the latest indication of the strong differences between their respective Syria policies. The harsh rhetoric came just hours before Erdoğan departed for a much-anticipated official visit to Washington, where he will have talks with US President Barack Obama on Thursday that are expected to focus on the Syrian crisis.
 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Syria mutilation footage sparks doubts over wisdom of backing rebels

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013   No comments
Leader of Umar al-Faruq brigade who committed the crime

Anti-Assad fighter appears to eat internal organ of dead government soldier in horrific footage

Horrific video footage of a Syrian rebel commander eating the heart or lung of a dead government fighter has aroused furious international controversy, fuelling an already heated debate over western support for the armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The grisly film had been circulating for several days, attracting extensive comment on social media networks such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. But in the face of of an often vicious propaganda war between the government and rebels, early doubts about the film's authenticity faded when the perpetrator, named as Khaled al-Hamad, admitted that he had mutilated the corpse of an unnamed soldier as an act of revenge.

"We opened his cell phone and I found a clip of a woman and her two daughters fully naked and he [the dead soldier] was humiliating them, and sticking a stick here and there," Hamad told the Time news website.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an independent monitor, said: "The figure in the video cuts the heart and liver out of the body and uses sectarian language to insult Alawites [Assad's minority sect]. At the end of the video [the man] is filmed putting the corpse's heart into his mouth, as if he is taking a bite out of it."


Algeria and the Shirt of Nessus

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013   No comments

Yasmina Khadra emerged as a writer in the 1980s, at a time when Islamic extremism was taking root in his native Algeria. Economic suffering gave an opportunity to the Islamists, some of them inspired by the example of the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Women were accosted for dressing immodestly, bars and restaurants attacked for serving alcohol, and traditional imams driven from their positions. The Islamists called for a Muslim regime, and succeeded in forcing the government to accept elements of Sharia law. A drop in Algeria's oil revenue drove further unrest, culminating in the violent protests of October 1988. Hundreds of people were killed in the government crackdown, and outrage at government repression gave more power to the Islamists. Understandably, the question of Muslim extremism became the core of Khadra's work as a novelist.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Maher: Islam is a uniquely threatening and destructive force and that Muslims are uniquely oppressive and violent

    Sunday, May 12, 2013   No comments
Glenn Greenwald: Last night I was on Bill Maher's HBO show "Real Time". There have always been numerous views of Maher's with which I agree. But he has become one of the most vocal and extreme advocates of the view that - while religion generally should be criticized - Islam is a uniquely threatening and destructive force and that Muslims are uniquely oppressive and violent, and that mentality has infected many of his policy views (see here and here for some comprehensive background; just two weeks ago, he had a fairly typical outburst on this topic). When I was scheduled to do the show, I was hoping that the opportunity would arise to debate these views (or that I could create the opportunity), and last night it did.

Iran Surprises Again!

    Sunday, May 12, 2013   No comments
Saeed Jalili
by Farideh Farhi

Okay, it is time to admit that the only thing predictable about Iranian politics these days is its unpredictability!

There are people who know Iran well and as early as a few months ago thought that the next president of the country was already decided by the powers that be. There are also others who will say that they predicted all this. I am not one of these.

I am stunned. As of late yesterday (Friday), I did not think that former president and current Expediency Council chair Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani would run for the presidency. All the talk about his entry – and the previous talk and hope about former president Mohammad Khatami’s entry – was mostly tactical, I thought. The loud calls – and pleas – for either Khatami or Hashemi Rafsanjani to run were to show the depth of their support among various sectors of Iranian society, from a good number of the urban middle classes to the business community. I thought it was sort of a flexing of social power muscle. But, given the hysterical reaction both former presidents elicit from the hardliners, I thought they would ultimately be reluctant to run, in the end preferring to throw their support to another candidate who would try to carefully pull the country to the middle.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Explosions hit Turkish town on border with Syria, killing four and injuring 22

    Saturday, May 11, 2013   No comments
Several explosions have hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border. At least four people were killed, Interior Minister Güler told reporters. Other 22 were reported injured.

"Two car [bombs] were set off in front of the municipality," Güler said, but other reports indicated that there were three or more explosions.

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Pakistani elections: more than a dozen killed by bomb blast in Karachi

    Saturday, May 11, 2013   No comments
At least 18 people have been killed in bomb attacks and gun battles in Pakistan as millions of voters turned out despite the threats of violence in landmark national and provincial elections.

A bomb attack in the port city of Karachi on Saturday morning targeted the office of the Awami National party (ANP), killing 11 people and wounding more than 40, according to Reuters. Local media also reported gunfire in the city, underlining the range of risks faced by the country's 86 million voters.

A bomb exploded outside a polling station in the north-western city of Peshawar, killing at least one person and wounding 10 others, according to local police officer, Mukhtiar Khan. An explosion also destroyed an ANP office in the north-west, though no casualties have so far been reported.

In the south-western Balochistan province where separatists oppose the election, gunmen killed two people outside a polling station in the town of Sorab and a shoot out between supporters of rival candidates in the town of Chaman ended with four people dead, according to police and government officials.

The violence follows a string of bombings and shootings by the Taliban, which have marred the runup to the elections and claimed the lives of more than 130 people.

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Scientific Journals Adapt to New U.S. Trade Sanctions on Iran

    Saturday, May 11, 2013   No comments
Scientific journals are being asked to help tighten U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. On 30 April, the Dutch publishing behemoth Elsevier of the Netherlands sent a note to its editorial network saying that all U.S. editors and U.S. reviewers must "avoid" handling manuscripts if they include an author employed by the government of Iran. Under a policy that went into effect in March -- reflecting changes in a law passed by the U.S. Congress in December -- even companies like Elsevier not based in the United States must prevent their U.S. personnel from interacting with the Iranian government.

The sanctions, aimed at punishing Iran for its pursuit of nuclear technology, have been broadened somewhat from previous rules issued by the enforcement agency, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division of the Treasury Department.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Benghazi Schools Obama In The Politics Of Scandal

    Friday, May 10, 2013   No comments
President Obama has led an administration that so far has avoided a headline-grabbing, signature scandal. But now he's learning how one begins to take shape.

In many ways, the Benghazi story is following the arc of many Washington scandals of the past. It's rarely the initial incident that gets politicians in trouble. Instead, it's the way in which they respond to it.

After months of relative inattention, the media are seizing on missteps surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September, during which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials were killed.

With Father and Sister Imprisoned, Exiled Bahraini Activist Maryam Alkhawaja Condemns Ongoing Abuses

    Friday, May 10, 2013   No comments
The Bahraini government continues its crackdown on opposition protesters, with demonstrations repressed and scores of dissidents held behind bars. We’re joined by Maryam Alkhawaja, a leading Bahraini human rights activist. Her family has been highly critical of the U.S.-backed monarchy, and they have paid a heavy price. Maryam’s father, human rights attorney Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, is serving a life sentence in prison. He has already spent two years in jail. Her sister, Zainab Alkhawaja, is also imprisoned. A close friend of the family, Nabeel Rajab, is also in jail. Rajab had been the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. "There has hardly been any real accountability of the Bahraini government of the human rights violations that have been going on in Bahrain for more than two years now," says Alkhawaja, who is now the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.


Syria crisis: US-Russia accord offers no easy answers

    Friday, May 10, 2013   No comments
By Jim Muir

The vogue word "game-changer" has been heavily overused in recent months. But the agreement that seems to have emerged on Syria from more than five hours of intensive talks in Moscow between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov may turn out to be just that.

For the past two years, the international community has been hamstrung from taking concerted action over Syria, because the UN Security Council was paralysed by big power differences, with disputes between Washington and Moscow at the core.

Now at last the two seem to be genuinely singing from the same song sheet.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra

    Thursday, May 09, 2013   No comments
The flag of Jabhat al-Nusra flying over Raqqa

 armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist organisation with links to al-Qaida that is emerging as the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Evidence of the growing strength of al-Nusra, gathered from Guardian interviews with FSA commanders across Syria, underlines the dilemma for the US, Britain and other governments as they ponder the question of arming anti-Assad rebels.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said that if negotiations went ahead between the Syrian government and the opposition – as the US and Russia proposed on Tuesday – "then hopefully [arming the Syrian rebels] would not be necessary".
The agreement between Washington and Moscow creates a problem for the UK and France, which have proposed lifting or amending the EU arms embargo on Syria to help anti-Assad forces. The Foreign Office welcomed the agreement as a "potential step forward" but insisted: "Assad and his close associates have lost all legitimacy. They have no place in the future of Syria." Opposition leaders were sceptical about prospects for talks if Assad remained in power.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Syrian rebel leader Salim Idriss admits difficulty of unifying fighters

    Wednesday, May 08, 2013   No comments
ANTAKYA, Turkey — The defected Syrian general whom the United States has tapped as its conduit for aid to the rebels has acknowledged in an interview with McClatchy that his movement is badly fragmented and lacks the military skill needed to topple the government of President Bashar Assad.

Gen. Salim Idriss, who leads what’s known as the Supreme Military Command, also admitted that he faces difficulty in creating a chain of command in Syria’s highly localized rebellion, a shortcoming he blamed on the presence within the rebel movement of large numbers of civilians without military experience.

“It is difficult to unify the (rebels) because they are civilians and only a few of them had military service,” Idriss said.

Idriss has become the key man in the international coalition that’s battling to end the Assad regime. The United States announced in April that it would funnel $123 million in nonlethal aid through his group, an operation that’s already begun. At the same time, U.S. allies, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, agreed at a meeting in Istanbul that all lethal aid destined for the rebels would pass first to Idriss.

But whether Idriss and his Supreme Military Command can become a functioning military force remains a huge question. While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was confident of Idriss’ ability to deliver a coherent rebel strategy while keeping weapons away from al Qaida-linked Islamist groups, there’s been little evidence that that’s the case.

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Who is arming the Syrian rebels?

    Wednesday, May 08, 2013   No comments
Human rights activists and military affairs analysts have all concluded that Syria is awash with weapons. It will take years to bring the spread of weapons inside Syria under control. The availability of weapons in Syria is not a safety problem for Syrians after a settlement is reached, it will be a problem of all neighboring countries, especially Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

The New York Times compiled a record of cargo flights believed to be supplied to the rebels show that Syria might be the country with most weapons in the hands of non-governmental agencies at this time.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

U.S. skeptical on reported use of chemical weapons by Syrian rebels

    Tuesday, May 07, 2013   No comments
U.S. officials said Monday that they were taking seriously new allegations that Syrian rebels had used chemical weapons but had seen no evidence to confirm the reports.

The Obama administration has said it believes the Syrian government likely used the nerve agent sarin in recent months and has supported a U.N. investigation into the use of chemical agents in Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad has alleged the illicit weapons were used by the opposition.

On Sunday night, a Swiss broadcaster aired an interview with a leading member of a U.N. investigative committee, Carla Del Ponte, in which she said there are indications the rebels, not the government, used chemical weapons. U.S. officials, however, said they did not believe the rebels had obtained sarin or other such illicit agents.

“We are highly skeptical of suggestions that the opposition could have or did use chemical weapons,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “We find it highly likely that any chemical weapon use that has taken place in Syria was done by the Assad regime. And that remains our position.”

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Kenyan Mau Mau victims in talks with UK government over legal settlement

    Monday, May 06, 2013   No comments
Ian Cobain and Jessica Hatcher in Nairobi

The British government is negotiating payments to thousands of Kenyans who were detained and severely mistreated during the 1950s Mau Mau insurgency in what would be the first compensation settlement resulting from official crimes committed under imperial rule.
In a development that could pave the way for many other claims from around the world, government lawyers embarked upon the historic talks after suffering a series of defeats in their attempts to prevent elderly survivors of the prison camps from seeking redress through the British courts.
Those defeats followed the discovery of a vast archive of colonial-era documents which the Foreign Office (FCO) had kept hidden for decades, and which shed new and stark light on the dying days of British rule, not only in Kenya but around the empire. In the case of the Mau Mau conflict, the secret papers showed that senior colonial officials authorised appalling abuses of inmates held at the prison camps established during the bloody conflict, and that ministers and officials in London were aware of a brutal detention regime in which men and women were tortured and killed.
As a handful of details began to emerge last week from the confidential talks between lawyers for the government and the Mau Mau veterans, the FCO said it acknowledged the need for debate about Britain's past, and added: "It is an enduring feature of our democracy that we are willing to learn from our history." Up to 10,000 former prisoners may be in line for compensation, if the talks result in a settlement. Although the individual amounts will vary greatly, the total compensation is likely to run into tens of millions of pounds.
The Foreign Office knows that compensation payments to Mau Mau veterans are likely to trigger claims from other former colonies. Any such claims, if successful, would not only cost the British taxpayer many millions of pounds; they could result in testimony and the emergence of documentary evidence that would challenge long-cherished views of the manner in which Britain withdrew from its empire.
Former Eoka guerrillas who were imprisoned and allegedly mistreated by the British in 1950s Cyprus are already considering bringing claims against the British government.

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U.N. Has Gathered Testimony Indicating That Syrian Rebels Have Used Sarin Gas, Says Investigator

    Monday, May 06, 2013   No comments
Use of WMD in Syria could make a brutal war worse
GENEVA, May 5 (Reuters) - U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria's civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

"Our investigators have been in neighbouring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated," Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iowa Town Named for Muslim Hero Extols Tolerance

    Sunday, May 05, 2013   No comments
ELKADER, Iowa — Amid an expanse of undulating farmland, deep in the steep valley carved by the Turkey River, the town of Elkader sits most of the year in remote obscurity. Population 1,200 and gradually shrinking, it is the seat of a county without a single traffic light.
Improbably enough, this community settled by Germans and Scandinavians, its religious life built around Catholic and Lutheran churches, bears the name of a Muslim hero. Abd el-Kader was renowned in the 19th century for leading Algeria’s fight for independence and protecting non-Muslims from persecution. Even Abraham Lincoln extolled him.

This weekend, for the fifth year in a row, Elkader will welcome a delegation of Arab dignitaries to celebrate this rare lifeline of tolerance, spanning continents and centuries. Coming less than three weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, which the authorities say were committed by two Muslim brothers, the Abdelkader Education Project’s forum stands more than ever for an affirming encounter between the United States and Islam.

“Our audience is the people who are compassionate already,” said Kathy Garms, 63, a retired human-resources administrator who is the driving force in the Abdelkader project. “But there are so many people who are ignorant or scared or even hateful. We just hope that once they get across the starting line, they will listen.”

Abdallah Baali, Algeria’s ambassador to the United States and an annual participant in the forum, put its impact in global terms. “In our increasingly tormented world,” the ambassador wrote in an e-mail, “Abd el-Kader — a true world hero — is ‘talking’ today to a much broader audience about our shared values and on how humanity could and can prevail over all differences and prejudices.”

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