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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: AIPAC, Bibi, Karzai, and Syria

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Never underestimate the sheer might of AIPAC, Bibi, and the Neocons…!

Naturally, AIPAC has ‘serious concerns’ with Iran deal

Gareth Porter reported today on our Foggy Bottom Neocons’ duplicity…

U.S. Officials Hint at Reservations on Final Nuclear Deal

The “first step” agreement between Iran and the United States that was sealed in Geneva over the weekend is supposed to lead to the negotiation of a “comprehensive settlement” of the nuclear issue over the next six months, though the latter has gotten little attention.

But within hours of the agreement, there are already indications from senior U.S. officials that the Barack Obama administration is not fully committed to the conclusion of a final pact, under which economic sanctions would be completely lifted.

The administration has apparently developed reservations about such an “end state” agreement despite concessions by the government of President Hassan Rouhani that were more far-reaching than could have been anticipated a few months ago.

The signs of uncertain U.S. commitment to the “end state” agreement came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night. The officials repeatedly suggested that it was a question of “whether” there could be an “end state” agreement rather than how it could be achieved.

“What we are going to explore with the Iranians and our P5+1 partners over the next six months,” said one of the officials, “is whether there can be an agreed upon comprehensive solution that assures us that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”

The same official prefaced that remark by stating, “In terms of the ‘end state’, we do not recognise a right for Iran to enrich uranium.”

Later in the briefing, a senior official repeated the same point in slightly different words. “What the next six months will determine is whether there can be an agreement that…gives us assurance that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”

“We’ll see whether we can achieve an end state that allows for Iran to have peaceful nuclear energy,” said one of the officials.

Looking at Bibi’s recent perfidy…

Shifting gears, Israeli team heading to US to try to shape final nuclear pact

After speaking with Obama on Sunday, Netanyahu dispatching national security adviser to Washington; says permanent deal must dismantle Iran’s program.

“I spoke last night with President [Barack] Obama. We agreed that in the coming days an Israeli team led by the national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, will go out to discuss with the United States the permanent accord with Iran,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party.

Taking a gander at our own Critters’ actions… Interim deal on Iran splits Congress on new sanctions

And, I mustn’t leave out Bandar Bush… Why Saudi Arabia Doesn’t Trust the Iran Deal, Either

However, the EU had chimed in today…Brussels satisfied with Iran nuclear deal

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv… Wary of war, Israeli public gives Iran deal a chance

Here’s a great primer on what looms ahead… Four Emerging Myths About the Iran, P5+1 Deal.

Now, getting to the root of the real problem in Israel and the MENA… Israel-Palestine: Enough Negotiations Already!

Moving along to Karzai’s latest demands…

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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: AfPak, Egypt, Israel, P5+1 and Turkey

7:33 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

At the end of that Press TV interview, it would appear that Karzai’s little snit over delaying the signing, is all about his handgroomed Prez candidate and Washington’s preferred puppet…! Now, in eating some crow, by thinking that we couldn’t possibly have bought off the entire Loya Jirga, I was sorely mistaken…

Loya Jirga Head Rejects Karzai Demand to Delay U.S. Pact Signing

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s demand to delay the signing of a security pact with the U.S. until after April’s presidential vote is unacceptable and will harm the country, the head of a council of tribal elders said.

Karzai has “no right” to delay the signing of the accord that would pave the way for a continued American presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, chairman of the loya jirga council called by the president, said yesterday.

“Every demand of Mr. Karzai and ours have been practiced and accepted by them,” Mojaddedi told reporters in front of the council’s compound in Kabul.

…After that, the agreement would have to be signed by both countries before it’s ratified by Afghanistan’s parliament and signed into law by Karzai, according to two U.S. officials who briefed reporters Nov. 21 on condition of not being identified discussing the process.

Karzai’s public show of toughness is a throwback to his stance ahead of a 2011 loya jirga to consider the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement, said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based political and security analyst. The legally binding agreement was signed in 2012.

The president’s speech ahead of the council that year was similarly combative, Kohistani said. Karzai then backed down and signed after that loya jirga gave him “political cover.”

“It will be interesting to see if he now allows himself to be persuaded by the council and moderates his tone, as he did then.”

Anthony Cordesman wrote a very sober analysis of what’s at stake…

Just the Beginning: Afghanistan Troop Deal Prelude to Another Half Decade of War

The current debate over a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan disguises far more serious challenges in the years to come. The BSA is a necessary first step in creating the conditions for United States troops to stay in Afghanistan and function there. But even if Afghan President Hamid Karzai can be persuaded to stop manipulating the issue in an effort to gain domestic political support, it is only a prelude to the real challenges the U.S. faces in staying in Afghanistan.

First, the United States must make hard choices as to how many U.S. troops it will keep in country, their role as advisors and enablers to the Afghan forces and how much money it is willing to pay to keep the Afghan forces combat capable. Senior U.S. officers have said it will take some 11,000 to 13,600 U.S. and allied troops to support Afghan military and police forces through at least 2016, and these estimates seem all too accurate given the problems in Afghan forces — particularly the police elements. It will also take some $3 billion to $5 billion in aid, although all of this aid does not have to come from the U.S.

The U.S. will also be advising forces that cannot now defeat the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other insurgents. They can only create a layered defense that may be able to secure most population centers and key lines of communication. U.S. combat forces will leave a nation very much at war, and the U.S. cannot predict how much aid and assistance Afghanistan will need…

Please read the entire article…! In other noteworthy Af/Pak news… The ruling parties in northwestern Pakistan have blocked the supply lines of US-led forces.

Moving along to the P5+1 negotiations… Read the rest of this entry →

by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Bibi, Karzai, and, the P5+1

1:45 am in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Mere hours after the ink dried on that Security Pact, in which Kerry assured… No combat role for US forces in Afghanistan, Karzai threw a hard fastball right under Kerry’s voluminous jowls…

United States gives Afghanistan year-end deadline for crucial security deal

Karzai’s surprise move, which came just a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the pact’s language had been agreed upon, suddenly threw its future into question and seemed certain to reignite tensions with Washington.

…In a statement certain to irritate the United States, which is eager to clinch the deal as soon as possible, Karzai told the assembly any agreement on the status of U.S. forces would have to wait until after a presidential election in April.

“This pact should be signed when the election has already taken place, properly and with dignity,” Karzai, who cannot run in the 2014 vote under the constitution, told the elders…

A senior Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Karzai intended to leave the pact unsigned until he is sure the international community will not interfere in the election. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, confirmed that, adding that the grand assembly and parliament also had to approve the pact.

“Once we are assured of peace and security, and transparent elections, then President Karzai will sign this pact after the election if this is approved by the Loya Jirga and passed by the parliament,” Faizi said.

He did not explain how Karzai intended to sign the document after a new president had been elected.

Karzai has appeared wary of being too closely associated with the security agreement, which would formally invite foreign forces to stay in Afghanistan.

“President Karzai just doesn’t want to own the agreement,” said Kate Clark of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network think tank. “He kept handing the responsibility for agreeing or not agreeing to the agreement to the people in the hall, to the delegates of the Loya Jirga.”

Once a weasel politician, always a politician…! Speaking of which…

Obama Promises To Respect ‘Dignity’ of Afghans If U.S. Troops Stay

President promises U.S. troops won’t enter Afghan homes except under ‘extraordinary circumstances’

President Barack Obama sent a letter to President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, striking an empathetic and diplomatic note about how American troops will conduct themselves in Afghanistan, as the two countries near an agreement for a continuing U.S. presence there.

In the days before the U.S. and Afghanistan agreed on language for a bilateral agreement to keep U.S. troops in the country for at least another decade, there were reports that the Afghan government would demand an apology for the suffering of the Afghan people during military operations. Obama’s letter stopped short of that, but promised to treat Afghans with “dignity.”

“Over time, and especially in the recent past, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that Afghan homes are respected by our forces and that our operations are conducted consistent with your law,” Obama said in his letter(6pg PDF), which was posted on the Afghan government’s website. “We will continue to make every effort to respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes and daily lives, just as we do for our own citizens.”

Obama promised that under the new agreement, U.S. forces would not enter Afghan homes for military operations, except under “extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals.” One of the chief complaints among Afghans has been the practice of “night raids” where coalition troops enter homes in the middle of the night searching for suspected insurgents.

Now, if y’all believe that, I’ve got a slighty used bridge for sale, real cheap…!

Let’s look at what the WH had to say about it, Stateside…

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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Breakthrough Imminent? Edition

7:15 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

It seems that we’re about to see a pivotal shift in International Relations, fully exposing our misbegotten Foreign Policy, all within the next couple of days…!

Starting, alphabetically, with Afghanistan…

Afghanistan rejects provision of US security pact

Afghanistan has rejected a key provision of a security pact with the United States that would allow the US forces to stay in the country beyond 2014.

A spokesman for the Afghan President Hamid Karzai insisted that the government would not allow the US military forces to enter people’s homes after the end of combat operations in 2014.

He emphasized on Karzai’s position that he would not accept any agreement allowing US forces to enter Afghan homes for “the purpose of aggression.”

Karzai and other high-ranking Afghan officials have repeatedly expressed their opposition to such US attacks on Afghan homes.

American and Afghan representatives are working on compiling a draft of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement to present it to the Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan assembly of elders consisting of some 3,000 Afghan tribal leaders from all over the country.

The assembly will consider the deal on Thursday. If the assembly agrees, the deal will be sent to the parliament for final ratification.

Here’s some analysis and commentary on the impending Loya Jirga in Kabul, from both: Jim White and DSWright…!

Shifting gears back to Iran and the P5+1 talks…

I had to laugh when I saw this Israeli op-ed…

Sorry, the French won’t save us from Iran

Israel media tempers excitement over the French president’s visit, and reports on political maneuvering within the Knesset

Despite the excitement around the visit of French President Francois Hollande to discuss, among other subjects, the Iranian nuclear program, and the gratitude in Israel for France’s tough stance on a potential deal with Tehran, some Israeli commentators argue that any optimism should be tempered.

“Hollande split into three” during his visit, writes Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth. “First there was the Israeli Hollande, the one who spoke about Iran as if he were the Israeli prime minister. Yesterday was the Palestinian Hollande, who spoke as if he were Abbas. Today we will have the third Hollande, the salesman who is trying to increase the French economic presence in Israel…The change in American policy in the Middle East and the Iranian threat are causing the French to suddenly dream that for the first time in history… they will be able to be a friend of the Israelis and a friend of the Palestinians.”

I suppose it’s starting to dawn on Bibi that the jig is up…

Netanyahu takes Iran’s nuclear campaign to Kremlin

At odds with ally Washington over terms of an emerging international nuclear agreement with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will on Wednesday take his campaign against the deal to Moscow.

“We’d like them to have a better understanding of our concerns and the need to prevent Iran from having a breakout capacity,” an Israeli official told AFP ahead of the trip.

“A breakout capacity means that they have the capability to develop a nuclear weapon at a time and a place of their choosing in the future,” the official said.

So, while Bibi is reading headlines like this in Tel Aviv… Iranian Jews Protest in Favor of Nuclear Program! On the other side of the pond, Bloomberg had this to say… Iran Nuclear Deal Sought in Geneva Following Israeli Objections

And, sticking to this side of the pond, McClatchy, reports…

Obama tries to ward off new sanctions against Iran

“What we are suggesting, both to the Israelis, to members of Congress here, to the international community, but also to the Iranians, is ‘Let’s look, let’s test the proposition that over the next six months we can resolve this in a diplomatic fashion,’ ” the president said. “I think that is a test that is worth conducting.”

Obama said the proposal would require Iran to halt advances on its nuclear program, as well as roll back elements that get it closer what he called a “breakout capacity, where they can run for a weapon before the international community has a chance to react.” The regime would be subject to more vigorous inspections, in some cases daily, the president said.

Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers, encouraged by intense pro-Israel lobbying, are moving to stiffen sanctions against Iran, a move that Obama said would undermine the Geneva talks.

Obama even trotted out NSA Susan Rice to allay the Warhawks’ bloodthirst…

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by CTuttle

‘Some Stirred-up Moslems’

1:46 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Let’s reflect back…

From a Zbigniew Brzezinski interview ‘Le Nouvel Observateur’ (France), Jan 15-21, 1998 p.76.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

Now, from the ever intrepid, Coleen Rowley…


Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons

…I almost choked on my coffee listening to neoconservative Rudy Giuliani pompously claim on national TV that he was surprised about any Chechens being responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings because he’s never seen any indication that Chechen extremists harbored animosity toward the U.S.; Guiliani thought they were only focused on Russia.

Giuliani knows full well how the Chechen “terrorists” proved useful to the U.S. in keeping pressure on the Russians, much as the Afghan mujahedeen were used in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1980 to 1989. In fact, many neocons signed up as Chechnya’s “friends,” including former CIA Director James Woolsey…

Of course, Giuliani also just happens to be one of several neocons and corrupt politicians who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from MEK sources when that Iranian group was listed by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The money paid for these American politicians to lobby (illegally under the Patriot Act) U.S. officials to get MEK off the FTO list…

…There are other theories, of course, as to why U.S. officials could not understand or grasp this “terrorist link.” These involve the U.S.’s constant operating of “friendly terrorists,” perhaps even al Khattab himself (and/or those around him), on and off, opportunistically, for periods of time to go against “enemy” nations, i.e., the Soviet Union, and regimes we don’t’ like.

Shifting Lines

But officials can get confused when their former covert “assets” turn into enemies themselves. That’s what has happened with al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in Libya and Syria, fighters who the U.S. government favored in their efforts to topple the Qaddafi and Assad regimes, respectively. These extremists are prone to turn against their American arms suppliers and handlers once the common enemy is defeated.

The same MO exists with the U.S. and Israel currently collaborating with the Iranian MEK terrorists who have committed assassinations inside Iran. The U.S. government has recently shifted the MEK terrorists from the ranks of “bad” to “good” terrorists as part of a broader campaign to undermine the Iranian government. For details, see “Our (New) Terrorists, the MEK: Have We Seen This Movie Before?”

Giuliani and his ilk engage, behind the scenes, in all these insidious operations but then blithely turn to the cameras to spew their hypocritical propaganda fueling the counterproductive “war on terror” for public consumption, when that serves their interests. Maybe this explains Giuliani’s amazement (or feigned ignorance) on Friday morning after the discovery that the family of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers was from Chechnya…

Moscow warned against classing terrorism as either domestic or foreign – right after it emerged that the alleged bombers have links to Russia’s North Caucasus region. New York’s former mayor Rudy Giuliani has already admitted that the U.S. has, for a long time, turned a blind eye to terrorism in the North Caucasus. Western media have tended to portray the armed groups in the mountainous region as freedom fighters – as Aleksey Yaroshevsky explains…

One final note… U.S. to Announce $10 Billion Arms Sale in Middle East

…The Obama administration plans to announce an arms package to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates worth as much as $10 billion — the centerpiece of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the countries next week, according to U.S. officials.

The arms sold to Israel also will include an unspecified number of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, air defense radar and KC-135 refueling tankers; the U.A.E. will probably buy 26 F-16 jet fighters, and the Persian Gulf nation as well as Saudi Arabia will each buy precision missiles, said the official who provided details on condition of not being named before the deal is announced…

Boosting Capabilities

The move to beef up the capabilities of allies in the Middle East began with President Barack Obama asking then- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to examine ways to boost Israel’s military edge in light of potential threats in the region, three U.S. defense officials told reporters today at a briefing. The U.S. suspects Iran of developing nuclear weapons and is concerned the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad may use chemical weapons…

Go Team USA…!

*gah*

by CTuttle

“It’s Just Damage Limitation Now”

7:30 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

My only regret of living here in the tropics is having to get up at two in the morning, to catch ‘Up’…!

Now, there was a flurry of news and views, all across Asia and the Middle East, that bears noting…

In Afghanistan, with the sudden halt in joint ISAF operations

Afghanistan: “It’s Just Damage Limitation Now”

Why did you write No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan?

I’d been travelling to Helmand for five years, first in 2007 with the Brits, then later mostly with the U.S. Marines, covering every major operation since the war in the south was taken seriously.

Despite new troops, extra resources and new polices, it kept getting worse.

It was more dangerous for me and the troops I was with, Afghan security forces didn’t seem to be improving, and perhaps most importantly, locals were not being won over but instead were complaining of civilian casualties, damage to their homes, being inconvenienced and disrespected, or preyed upon by the Afghan police.

Yet in the second half of 2010, statements from Kabul, Washington and London kept talking of progress, goals being met and the Taliban being on their last legs.

This was the exact opposite of what I had been seeing, so I felt that I had to write this book

Et Tu, Brute…? Crocker: Taliban Infiltration Worse Than US Will Admit

Now, It’s rather amusing that neocons luminaries, such as Ross Douthat: It’s not about the video, and, Jennifer Rubin, recognize the problem, but can’t see the forest for the trees…

White House dumps false cover story on embassy attacks?

For a week various Obama administration figures, including the White House press secretary, have insisted that the attacks on U..S. embassies in the Middle East were a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. But that excuse has not held up to even superficial scrutiny… {…}

I’m not sure what that even means. But in any case, the administration, perhaps recognizing their cover story on the attacks was blown, is now backpedaling fast.

There is all the more reason now to get to the bottom of this, to hold hearings and for the president himself to answer questions. If it is now conceded that this was more than a spontaneous uprising the questions remain: Was there an intelligence failure? And is the president’s purported Middle East policy a flop?

Jennifer did cite Foggy Bottom’s and the WH’s frantic back-pedaling…

Ms. Nuland…

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by CTuttle

Of Course It’s Political…

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

I am totally pissed…! Just take a gander at this new report released by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in which, they point out that almost half of all the World’s Refugees, are running from our American Wars! Through the end of 2010, Afghanistan and Iraq ranked #’s 1 and 2, with 3.05 million and 1.68 million, respectively. Now, where did they flee to? Try, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria, on for size! One would suppose that all those people fleeing into one’s country would tend to be a destabilizing factor within those afflicted countries. However, in good news, we do lead the World in ‘accepting’ those refugees, (Go USA!) with the whopping grand total of 72K to date! That sure speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Anyways, I wanted to focus on the upcoming Freedom Flotilla-Stay Human departure to Gaza…

Blog: Of Course the Flotilla is a Political Provocation

By Joe Catron – As the launch of the Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human approaches, increasing numbers of Zionist officials and commentators illuminate the depths of their moral and intellectual bankruptcy by arguing that it is a political – not humanitarian – project.

Ran Curiel, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, offers an example as good as any other. On May 10, he actually went to the trouble of calling a press conference in Strasbourg to offer this conclusion. “In our view, the flotilla is clearly a political provocation … since there’s no need for a flotilla to aid Gaza,” he said. “You can pass whatever you want to Gaza through normal channels.”
Curiel’s reasoning leaves much to be desired. Nobody seems entirely clear on what can enter Gaza through his “normal channels,” namely the Erez Crossing, and a large majority of its necessities continue to arrive at a high premium via tunnels from Egypt. And humanitarian opposition to the siege has always had more to do with its crippling effect on Gaza’s economy than its obstruction of aid. Due to the impossibility of legally importing most goods, or exporting nearly anything, unemployment now reaches 45%, and 300,000 people survive on a dollar a day.

Nevertheless, his conclusion is sound, if self-evident. The Freedom Flotilla is indeed “a political provocation.” Why shouldn’t it be? And when has it pretended to be anything else?

Like its predecessors, from the successful Free Gaza boats of 2008 to the Freedom Flotilla that suffered lethal violence by Israeli commandos in international waters last year, this Flotilla is an unabashed act of solidarity with a people fighting colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid.

The Flotilla targets the denial of Palestinian self-determination, not a humanitarian crisis. It aims to break the siege, not only because the siege causes hardship for Palestinians, but also because it obstructs their inherent rights to determine their collective destiny, and that of their historic homeland. The goal is not a reliable flow of international charity, or even a functional economy, but rather Palestinians’ sovereignty over their own coasts and territory…

As Al Jazeera’s MJ Rosenberg slays the odious strawman of ‘Delegitimising’ Israel (is that even a word?)…

It’s Netanyahu who is delegitimising Israel

Israel’s way of “changing the subject” from its illegal occupation of Palestine is to label any criticism as an attack.

The “pro-Israel” lobby’s latest hobbyhorse is “delegitimisation”. Those who criticise Israeli policies are accused of trying to “delegitimise” Israel, which supposedly means denying Israel’s right to exist.

Even President Obama has gotten into the act, stating in his May 19 speech that “for the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimise Israel will end in failure”.

Obama seemed to be referring to the Palestinians’ plan to seek recognition of their state at the United Nations this autumn, although it’s hard to imagine just how that would delegitimise Israel.

After all, the Palestinians are not seeking statehood in Israeli territory, but in territory that the whole world (including Israel) recognises as having been occupied by Israel only after the 1967 war. Rather than seeking Israel’s elimination, the Palestinians who intend to go to the United Nations are seeking establishment of a state alongside Israel. That state would encompass 22 per cent of Mandate Palestine, with Israel possessing 78 per cent. [...]

…That is why Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu routinely invokes Israel’s “right to self-defence” every time he tries to explain away some Israeli attack on Palestinians, no matter whether they are armed fighters or innocent civilians.

If the whole Israeli-Palestinian discussion is about Israel’s right to defend itself, Israel wins the argument. But if it is about the occupation – which is, in fact, what the conflict has been about since 1993 when the PLO recognised Israel – it loses. [...]

It’s not the Palestinians who are delegitimising Israel, but the Israeli government which maintains the occupation. And the leading delegitimiser is Binyamin Netanyahu, whose contemptuous rejection of peace is turning Israel into an international pariah. [...]

So let’s ignore the talk about “delegitimisation,” even though Madison Avenue message-makers certainly deserve credit for coming up with that clever distraction. Israel’s problem is the occupation, the Israeli government that defends it, and the lobby that enforces support for it in Congress and the White House.

Once again, Israel’s “best friends” are among its worst enemies.

For those of you following more closely, I should point out that some ‘suspected’ Mossad agents were chased off one of the ships…

A group suspected of being linked with the Israeli foreign intelligence agency the Mossad was reported to have tried to thwart the sailing of a Greek ship slated to join the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla II due to set sail sometime next week.

The elements tried to sabotage the ship’s engine, but a crew discovered the men while checking the equipment, Quds Press said, quoting sources from the flotilla’s organizing body, on Saturday. The sources added that the men fled the scene. [...]
Meanwhile, the European campaign to end the siege on Gaza, one of the largest organizers of the flotilla, has announced that the first ship to join the flotilla has departed from France.

The ship, titled “Dignity”, has left the Corsica seaport in France and is on her way to the point where the rest of the ships will take off, said ECESG member Mazen Kahil in a press statement. He added that the ship will join another French ship docked in Greece.

He also announced that technical problems on some of the ships could cause delays in the scheduled departure of next week.

About those ‘technical problems’, as Edward Teller had noted in his recently updated post…

On facebook, Max Blumenthal has linked to an article by his colleague Joseph Dana. Dana reports the Greeks are responding to safety complaints made against three of the 10 boats scheduled to leave Greek waters toward Gaza. The MV Audacity of Hope is one of the three:

Early this morning, I discovered that a ‘private compliant’ had been filed against the US boat to Gaza. The compliant, it is still unclear who filed it, stated that the US boat to Gaza is not ’sea worthy’ and requires a detailed inspection.The harbor master where the boat is in port has declared that until the compliant is resolved the boat is not permitted to leave. Currently, lawyers representing the US boat are looking into the origins of the compliant and weather it was filed as a result of Israeli economic or diplomatic pressure on the Greek government. The boat is US flagged and registered in the United States.

10 ships are expected to sail as part of the Gaza aid flotilla. Currently three ships, including the US boat, have had complaints levied against them. US boat organizers believe that Greece will attempt to delay the ships indefinitely by using a serious of bureaucratic measures such as endless safety checks and cargo inspections. Despite the setbacks, organizers are continuing with their nonviolence and safety training. They are hopeful that the Greek government will allow the ships to sail next week as initially planned.

So, it’s not just ‘Legal’, but, Physical sabotage that is being attempted, and they haven’t even set sail…

As Alice Walker had so movingly wrote, about why she was participating…

Auntie, I simply Can’t Imagine It! Joining the Freedom Flotilla II To Gaza

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: What else would I do? I am in my sixty-seventh year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one’s understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Please read her inspirational story, and, please join me in wishing her and all the participants, a safe journey…!

God Bless and God Speed to the Freedom Flotilla…! Stay Human, indeed…!

UPDATE: Craig Murray wrote at his Blog today…

Obama Wants More Dead Rachel Corries to Boost AIPAC Standing

…As Ray [McGovern] sets out on the US Gaza peace flotilla ship, he has been warned in the starkest of terms that the Obama administration will do nothing to protect their US flagged vessel, or the US citizens on board, against attack by the Israelis.

I also have been cautioned by a source with access to very senior staffers at the National Security Council that not only does the White House plan to do absolutely nothing to protect our boat from Israeli attack or illegal boarding, but that White House officials”would be happy if something happened to us.” They are, I am reliably told, “perfectly willing to have the cold corpses of activists shown on American TV.”

F*ck Obummer, and the horse he rode in on…! *gah*

by CTuttle

‘If You See Something, Say Something™’ And Other Shenanigans

7:30 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Some very serious shenanigans are happening, here and abroad, that truly need to be exposed…

First, Stateside…

U.S. Homeland Security asks Jewish groups to be vigilant for terrorists

Jewish Federations are the first faith-based group to partner with the security agency in its campaign urging Americans to keep a watchful eye on others for potential involvement in terror crimes.

…Jewish Federations of North America officials met today at the White House with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The meeting, coinciding with the announcement of the Federation movement’s new partnership with DHS, was dedicated mainly to the state of threats posed to American Jewish institutions… [...]

“Homeland security begins with hometown security, and our nation’s faith-based organizations play a critical role in keeping our communities safe,” said Secretary Napolitano, according to the White House readout of the meeting.

“Expanding the ‘If You See Something, Say Something™’ campaign to national Jewish groups, the first faith-based partnership for the campaign, is an important step in the Department’s ongoing effort to engage the American public in our nation’s security efforts,” Napolitano continued. [...]

…“This new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security will empower us to counter this threat as we become more actively involved in our own protection,” Gelman added.

“For more than a century, Jewish Federations have been the connecting force of the North American Jewish community,” said Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with DHS and SCN to leverage our wide collective network to help better protect U.S. Jewish institutions from potential threats.”

There goes another brick out of the Wall, in the separation between Church and State…! Amongst other ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ infractions…!

Now onto the US/Nato actions in Afghanistan…

UN attempts to whitewash US-NATO civilian killings in Afghanistan

…A 11 June press statement from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan slates May 2011 as the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since at least 2007. However this big-hearted announcement conceals a grossly pernicious attempt to cover up US-NATO killings of civilians in occupied Afghanistan.

In its report, UNAMA documents 368 conflict-related civilian deaths and 593 civilian injuries in May 2011. Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA states that, “More civilians were killed in May than in any other month since 2007 when UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties”. [...]

…So according to this statement from the UN, 94% of Afghan civilian deaths are caused by other Afghans, and 6% could not be attributed to any party. The press release contains no mention of the terms “US” or “NATO” whatsoever.

Then, hidden away towards the end of the statement (still without mentioning the words “US” or “NATO” at all), is a single sentence which lays in direct contradiction to the ‘could not be attributed’ claim:

Air strikes caused three per cent of the total civilian deaths in May.

Now, let’s look again at the Libyan fiasco…

First, Glennzilla: In a pure coincidence, Gaddafi impeded U.S. oil interests before the war…

Antiwar’s John Glaser’s War in Libya Fought for Oil…

One last Libyan link… The Lies behind the West’s War on Libya…

However, I shall end on a more positive note…

Freedom Flotilla II — “Stay Human” mission to Gaza

To All Gaza Friends…

As we get ready to sail in two weeks, Israel has stepped up the threats, threatening to sue the Canadians who are going, threatening to sue the satellite phone company if it provides us with service, threatening to kill and maim us if we don’t stop, then saying, “I told you so…we said we would kill you.”

This behavior has got to stop. Israel is behaving like the schoolyard bully whom parents and teachers fear, because his parents are rich and have contributed to the school. It’s time for us to put our foot down.

Start calling your members of parliament/congress now. Start writing letters to the editor. Start a civil movement on social networks of outrage against Israel’s attacks on civilians. Distribute this statement below and post on your websites.

We CAN stop Israeli attacks against us if we work together.

God Bless and God Speed…!

by CTuttle

Groundhog Day: We’re Winning in Afghanistan

9:42 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

“There’s been considerable progress in taking away from the Taliban safe havens,” Gen. David Petraeus said in an interview with NATO TV aired on Wednesday.

“They have to fight back, they’re losing momentum that’s quite clear,” he said. “They know they need to regain that momentum.”

Today’s USA Today had this little bit of propaganda…

General: Heart of Afghanistan insurgency beaten

Coalition forces in Afghanistan have beaten the insurgency in an important stronghold of Taliban fighters, though pockets of resistance remain, a U.S. commander said Monday in an interview with USA TODAY.

“This is really the heart of the insurgency,” Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills said of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. “I believe they have been beaten.” [...]

The progress in Helmand province “shows you the momentum is shifting,” said James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Loosening the Taliban’s grip on the drug trade “could have a cascading effect in the years ahead,” he said.

“We can hold with massive U.S. forces,” said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We haven’t shown that Afghan forces can hold.

“It’s going to be a couple of years before we know what these accomplishments mean.”

Mills said coalition forces have succeeded in disrupting the Taliban’s ability to control and resupply its insurgents in Helmand province, and that militants have had to take refuge away from populated areas. “They’ve suffered defeat after defeat on the battlefield,” Mills said.

Central Asia Scholar, Joshua Foust, quickly dispatched that nonsense…

Tricky Logic

…Ignore the fact that just about everything he’s saying is wrong (starting with calling Helmand “the heart of the insurgency,” which not even General McChrystal was willing to say, as he considered Helmand only important as it related to Kandahar). By this logic—momentum is decisively shifting to favor us—we should therefore be contemplating a negotiated settlement with the defeated Taliban and a substantial withdrawal of our victorious Surge troops in July of this year, as promised at the start of the surge in 2009.

Of course, nothing of the sort will actually happen. Victory is justification for more presence, not less (just as defeat is justification for more presence, not less). Increased violence means we’re winning, so therefore we must stay to ensure the win (even though decreased violence would mean we’re winning, so therefore we must stay to ensure violence continues to decrease). We cannot negotiate with pure evil Talibal Qaeda, no matter their status, because some guys just need a good killin’ to fix the problem. And so on…

Interestingly, you can’t really fault the Marine General for his rosy outlook, he’s only following his CinC’s earlier lead…

Petraeus offers optimistic assessment of war in Afghanistan

Gen. David H. Petraeus on Tuesday offered an optimistic assessment of the war in Afghanistan, writing to his subordinates that coalition and Afghan troops in the past year “inflicted enormous losses” on mid-level insurgents and “took away some of their most important safe havens.”

The three-page letter to the troops made many of the same points that U.S. military officials have offered for weeks: an improving situation in southern Afghanistan, where the bulk of U.S. troops are based; a relentless mission tempo to kill insurgent field commanders; and an overall weakening of the Taliban.

“Now, in fact, the insurgents are increasingly responding to our operations rather than vice-versa, and there are numerous reports of unprecedented discord among the members of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban senior leadership body,” Petraeus wrote.

But Petraeus’s optimism – he has recently compared the situation in Afghanistan to how he felt near the end of 2007 in Iraq, when violence there began to fall sharply – is not widely shared among Afghans, or even other NATO diplomats or U.S. military officials.

The Grey Lady’s At War blog had this to say…

An Uncharacteristically Upbeat General in Afghanistan

Triumphalism is not supposed to be in the prayerbook of the American military’s Church of Coin these days, but last Wednesday, Jan. 19, proved to be something of an exception. At the morning standup that day, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, was uncharacteristically jubilant. “We’ve got our teeth in the enemy’s jugular now, and we’re not going to let go,” General Petraeus exulted after being briefed on the military operations of the past 24 hours, according to two senior officers who saw the classified standup that day. [...]

“The deep downturn could just as easily be interpreted as an early winter reprieve, after an intense summer fight, and would not represent any longer term degradation of capacity,” Mr. Lee wrote. “If the 2011 spring offensives sustain, or build on, the level of violence achieved this year then it will be a sure indicator that the surge operations achieved little.”

“Taking the national data as a whole we consider this indisputable evidence that conditions are deteriorating,” the report said.

As everyone says here these days, we will see who is right come springtime.

I guess that’s why Betrayus is hedging his bets… and predicts intensified fighting in 2011.

The ANSO report on Afghanistan: Security Conditions across Provinces Deteriorating: Report…

Gates plays down Afghan troop figures in budget

Defense Secretary Robert Gates played down the accuracy of troop figures outlined in a budget request unveiled on Monday, saying the pace of the upcoming drawdown in Afghanistan was still unclear.

Pentagon budget documents forecast the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will drop to an average of 98,250 in fiscal year 2012, compared with an estimated average of 102,000 soldiers and support personnel in fiscal 2011.

Fiscal 2012 starts in October.

President Barack Obama has announced plans to start drawing down troops from the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan in July, with the goal of passing lead security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

Gates, briefing reporters on the budget request, said he explained to lawmakers the 98,250 figure was “a conservative approach to budgeting … since we don’t know how many troops will be reduced during the course of FY ’12.”

“Depending on the size of the drawdowns, that (funding earmarked in the budget) may be money that we just don’t spend,” he added.

How about we pull them all out of harms way…?

*gah*

by CTuttle

Karzai’s Corrupt House of Cards is Collapsing

2:31 am in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Interestingly, although I’ve been following and blogging about Hamid Karzai’s corrupt ways and ties, for years now, little did I realize how fast it could possibly topple his government…

On Tuesday, the WaPoo reported about this sudden Bank seizure…

Afghan authorities take over biggest bank to avoid meltdown

…Afghanistan’s Central Bank has taken control of Kabul Bank, a politically potent financial institution partly owned by President Hamid Karzai’s brother, and ordered its chairman to hand over $160 million worth of luxury villas and other property purchased in Dubai for well-connected insiders, according to Afghan bankers and officials. The Central Bank’s intervention aims to shore up Afghanistan’s largest private bank, whose faltering finances threatened to wreak both economic and political havoc. Kabul Bank handles salary payments for Afghan soldiers, police and teachers, and has taken in more than $1 billion in deposits from ordinary Afghans. U.S. officials have long worried that trouble at Kabul Bank could trigger financial mayhem, a prospect that would leave Afghan security forces without pay, threaten unrest by angry – and often armed – depositors, and gravely undermine President Obama’s entire Afghan strategy

Which subsequently sparked a run on the Kabul Bank on Wednesday and Thursday…

Run on Afghan bank’s deposits reported

NBC News: Large investor confirms funds were used to buy Dubai villas

…About $155 million in deposits have been withdrawn from Afghanistan’s largest bank in just the last two days, spurring fresh concerns among U.S. and Afghan officials that a financial panic could spread through the country and derail the U.S. war effort, according to bank insiders and U.S. officials.

Mahmood Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan’s president and one of the principal shareholders in the troubled Kabul Bank, told NBC News in a telephone interview that panicky depositors withdrew $70 million from the bank on Thursday. This is on top of an estimated $85 million taken out on Wednesday, he said.

Which prompted Hamid Karzai to respond on Thursday…

Karzai: Afghan govt will back Kabul Bank

…Afghan President Hamid Karzai reassured nervous customers at the troubled Kabul Bank on Thursday, saying every penny of their deposits would be guaranteed by the government.

Larger than usual crowds gathered to withdraw funds from Afghanistan’s largest bank Wednesday and Thursday after two top executives resigned amid allegations of mismanagement and unorthodox real estate loans.

"The Kabul Bank is safe," Karzai said in a news conference with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal echoed that message, saying that fears about the stability of Kabul Bank had not sparked a "crisis" at Kabul Bank.

Even Petraeus had to chime in…

Petraeus backs Karzai over corruption

…Speaking to the media at his base in Camp Eggers, near Kabul, Gen Petraeus acknowledged, however, that concerns over sleaze were hindering a counter-insurgency drive in Kandahar and that Nato’s showpiece push in Marjah district faced tough obstacles.

Gen Petraeus described Mr Karzai as “very forthright about corruption” and said the Afghan president’s chief concern was one the US shared: Taliban safe havens in Pakistan.

He was speaking on the day that Robert Gates, US defence secretary, arrived in Kabul for talks with Mr Karzai. The Afghan president had intervened to release Mohammad Zia Salehi, one of his national security advisers, who was arrested in July over claims that he accepted a car in return for favours.

Mr Karzai’s move was widely seen as weakening two US anti-corruption bodies involved in the arrest – the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigative Unit. The Afghan president subsequently ordered a review of their conduct.

Gen Petraeus said: “There clearly was some friction, if you will, over the arrest of the individual who was in the palace. I think frankly those issues, perceptions, have been resolved.”

The Guardian wasn’t so charitable as the rest of the Lame Stream Media was and named names…

Afghan officials resist clean-up of Kabul Bank as scandal engulfs elite

President Hamid Karzai’s brother calls for US to guarantee deposits amid fears collapse would threaten police and army salaries

…The central bank on Tuesday ordered that the chairman and chief executive of Kabul Bank, who are both large shareholders in the bank, should step down from their positions and a government official be appointed to manage the bank.

But western officials with intimate knowledge of the financial drama said the US treasury wanted to see much stronger action. That would include bringing the bank into line with international norms…

Such independence would risk bringing to light allegations that members of the country’s business and political elite have, for years, apparently got away with using deposits of thousands of ordinary Afghans to fund lavish lifestyles. The bank’s funds are said to have been used to invest in loss-making enterprises and, allegedly, the re-election campaign of President Karzai.

In the words of one foreign official, the US treasury is anxious to "rip the lid" off the cowboy capitalism that has been allowed to flourish at Kabul Bank. [...]

"But there are lots of assets off the books. The hunch is that shareholders would like to continue to use bank assets how they want, rather than bring it into line with international best practice."

Naturally, the corrupt fired parties blamed everybody else…

Ex-executives say their dismissals triggered run on Kabul Bank

…The two ousted executives of Afghanistan’s largest bank have blamed a hasty management purge for a run on the embattled institution this week.

President Hamid Karzai ordered the dismissal of the managers at Kabul Bank this week after concerns about questionable loans that shareholders had approved for themselves, including some to fund the purchase of high-end real estate in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

Why not, though…? A mere week ago, Karzai was saying…

Kabul blames most corruption on Western allies

…Afghanistan said Monday blame for most of the corruption plaguing the impoverished country lies with its Western backers who dole out "illegitimate" contracts that have created an "economic mafia".

Afghanistan, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, is under intense pressure from its foreign backers to end endemic graft.

Presidential spokesman Waheed Omer said Afghanistan’s foreign allies were responsible for the vast bulk of corruption in the country, which is mired in extreme poverty despite receiving tens of billions of dollars in Western aid over the past decade.

"Our international partners provided the ground for some people in Afghanistan to become unbelievably rich. Some people (have) become an economic mafia in Afghanistan," he said.

Even Bloomberg reported it… Karzai Says Corrupt Firms Undermine Afghan War (Correct)

Sadly, there’s kernels of truth to Hamid’s charges…

Billion Dollar Audit Missed by Pentagon Watchdog
Military auditors failed to complete an audit of the business systems of an Ohio- based company – Mission Essential Personnel – even though it had billed for one billion dollars worth of work largely in Afghanistan over the last four years.

…In September 2007 the U.S. Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) awarded Mission Essential Personnel (MEP) a five-year-contract worth up to 414 million dollars to provide 1,691 translators in Afghanistan. MEP was a start-up company created by three men, including Chad Monnin, a U.S. Army Special Forces reservist who was injured in a parachute accident. Procurement rules give preference to companies owned by injured veterans, even if they have no prior experience.

When the Obama administration decided to expand the war in Afghanistan last year, MEP quickly hit the ceiling of what it could bill. On May 10, INSCOM gave MEP a 679 million dollar extension without bothering to put it up for competitive bid. MEP will also get a share of the Intelligence Support Services Omnibus III contract, a five-year contract, with a ceiling of 492 million dollars, announced on Aug. 10, 2010.

The only two other contractors that have held multi-billion dollar contracts to supply translators to soldiers and diplomats in the Global War on Terror – L- 3/Titan and Global Linguist Services – have both been investigated for alleged overcharging, suggesting that this type of work falls in the high risk category of government spending.

Yet the Defence Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) failed to conduct a full business systems audit for MEP.

The CS Monitor truly puts it all into its proper context…

Kabul Bank run may pose more immediate threat than Afghan Taliban

The Kabul Bank is a bedrock for a stable Afghan society. Its collapse could spell disaster for the country already battling a resurgent Afghan Taliban.

…The fallout from Kabul Bank’s problems could extend beyond the economy. The Post reported Thursday that "an unchecked run on Kabul Bank, which could spread alarm to other banks, would jeopardize not only depositors’ savings but President Obama’s Afghan strategy, which is built around efforts to rally the public against the Taliban."

American officials, security analysts, and Afghan businessmen also see it as a security threat. The US hopes a growing Afghan economy will lift living standards, undercut support for the Taliban, and increase confidence in Mr. Karzai. And the Kabul bank particularly plays a central role: it houses $1.3 billion in deposits from ordinary citizens, and also handles payments for teachers, soldiers, and police – the bedrock of a stable Afghan society.

Once again, I ask ya; what are we fighting, and dying, for…?

*gah*