You are browsing the archive for Christian Science Monitor.

by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Ali Abunimah, The ICC, House of Saud, and Turkey

4:15 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Ali Abunimah will be here for Sunday’s FDL Book Salon!

The Palestinians are making progress towards unity between themselves…

Palestinian factions start talks on forming joint government

Officials from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the rival Islamist Hamas group met in Gaza on Tuesday to discuss the make-up of a unity government they hope will end a seven-year schism.

Officials from the two groups said they planned to propose non-politically affiliated candidates for seats in a unity cabinet which will be tasked with preparing presidential and parliamentary elections after six months.

Azzam Al-Ahmed, the senior Fatah official sent by Western-backed Abbas from the West Bank, led the talks with Hamas’s delegation, headed by exiled Islamist leader Moussa Abu Marzouk.

Abbas announced plans for a unity government as a step towards Palestinian elections on April 23. Many past attempts to heal the rift between Fatah, that dominates the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, have failed.

Palestinian sources in Ramallah, the seat of Abbas’s administration, said they wanted the list of names to be ready by Thursday when he meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in London to discuss the stalled peace talks with Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel is stymieing their efforts…

Israel accused of cracking down on lawyers

Accusations of torture and mistreatment abound as several Palestinian lawyers are arrested by Israeli authorities.

A Ramallah-based rights group is accusing Israeli authorities of cracking down on Palestinian lawyers, following a series of indictments and arrests of attorneys based on charges of passing information between Hamas members in and outside Israeli prisons.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society said the moves against the lawyers were ‘dangerous’ and ‘unprecedented.’ ‘It’s a scare tactic to instil fear into those who are working hard to provide the basic levels of protection for Palestinian detainees,’ said Qaddura Fares, the group’s head.

Fares was referring to the recent indictment of a 42-year-old Palestinian-Israeli lawyer, and the arrest of six people, five of them lawyers, from East Jerusalem.

Mohammad Abed, a Galilee native, was indicted last month on charges of passing messages between detainees and the Hamas leadership, and receiving approximately one million shekels ($288,800) for his alleged services. Abed was arrested along with four others who worked for the Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

This was a shocker…

I totally concur with this excellent +972 Mag article…

Ehud Olmert is going to jail for the wrong crimes

During his premiership, Ehud Olmert was responsible for two of the most horrific military operations of the past decade. More than a thousands Lebanese, a third of them civilians, and 165 Israelis, a quarter of them civilians, were killed in the Second Lebanon War.

In the wake of the war, the IDF developed the Dahiya doctrine, by which the army deliberately targets civilian infrastructure as a means of inducing suffering for the civilian population in ‘enemy cities.’ Not three years had gone by and Olmert sent the army to implement the new doctrine in Gaza. Operation Cast Lead took the lives of nearly 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of whom were civilians, and nine Israelis, of whom three were civilians (these statistics do not include Palestinians and Israelis killed by friendly fire).

The IDF stated that each military operation is taken under serious consideration and implemented with utmost care. And yet, somehow, in the operations that followed, the army was somehow able to show more restraint and decrease the number of deaths, especially among non-combatants.

Ehud Olmert is responsible for both of these terrible events. He has blood on his hands. The blood of over 2,000 people. Today he was sent to jail for six years for accepting bribes in order to build some ugly buildings in Jerusalem. When will he be put on trial for the serious crimes he committed?


Ex-intel chief: Israel should punish Assad for killing civilians

Moral considerations for military intervention should be weighed alongside strategic ones, says Amos Yadlin, also calling for NATO-led no-fly zone

Now, speaking of war crimes, I wonder if anybody in the MSM will mention this little bombshell…

Read the rest of this entry →

by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Egypt, I/P, Syria, and Yemen

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Here we go again…! From the CSM…

Did Syria use chlorine gas against rebels in Kfar Zeit?

The US State Department says there are indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used against opposition forces in Syria earlier in April.

The United States has indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used in Syria this month and is examining whether the Syrian government was responsible, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

‘We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical’ in the town of Kfar Zeita, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to a rebel-held area.

‘We are examining allegations that the government was responsible,’ she told a regular news briefing. ‘Obviously there needs to be an investigation of what’s happened here.’

Syrian opposition activists reported that helicopters dropped chlorine gas on a Kfar Zeit on April 11 and 12. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told ABC television’s This Week on April 13 that the attack was ‘unsubstantiated.’

Psaki said chlorine was not one of the priority one or two chemicals Syria declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) under a Russian-U.S. agreement for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

Psaki said the United States was still trying to determine the facts.

‘We take all allegations of the use of chemicals in combat use very seriously,’ she said. ‘We’ll work with the OPCW, who is obviously overseeing the implementation, and determine if any violation occurred.’

Even Hollande piles on…France backs claims that Syrian forces have used chemical weapons recently

Meanwhile, in Syria…

So while everybody agrees that Assad is secure in his position and the Syrians move forward with their planned elections… The UN slams Syria…

Top UN officials warn against Syrian presidential elections

Top United Nations officials have cautioned that Syria’s newly announced presidential elections have a risk of undermining efforts to achieve a political solution to the country’s three-year-old conflict, a UN spokesman said here on Monday.

‘The secretary-general and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, have repeatedly warned that the holding of elections in the current circumstances, amid the ongoing conflict and massive displacement, will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution that the country so urgently needs,’ Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters at a daily briefing.

‘Such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Communique,’ Dujarric said in reference to an action plan adopted in June 2012 during the first international conference on the Syrian conflict, calling for a political transition in the country.

Ironically, neither Assad, nor the SNC(or whatever version) had ever agreed to the Geneva Communique, even when it was first drawn up…! Here’s a great RT clip on the foreign intervention… Young Blood: Teenage Europeans joining jihad in war-torn Syria

Now, reflecting back…

An Eyewitness to the Syrian Rebellion: Father Frans in His Own Words

…Father Frans was murdered under still unclarified circumstances in the embattled Syrian city of Homs earlier this month.

Opposition sources have blamed the Syrian government for his death. But it is widely believed that Father Frans was killed by hard-line Islamist members of one of the rebel factions that have taken control of his Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood in Homs.

The texts of Father Frans, who had lived in Syria since 1966, provide an eyewitness account of the origins of the anti-Assad rebellion and the gradual hardening of the front between opposing rebel and government forces in Homs.

In many respects, the Father’s observations contrast sharply with what has become the standard view of the rebellion in Western media.

Perhaps most notably, whereas the rebellion is typically held to have been sparked by the violent repression of peaceful protests, according to Father Frans, the ‘protest movement’ contained an armed and violent element ‘from the start’ and the violent opposition quickly gained the ascendancy over the peaceful opposition.

Thus, in a letter published in January 2012 on the Dutch-Flemish Mediawerkgroep Syrië website, Father Frans wrote:

‘From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.’

In the same letter, Father Frans insisted that what was occurring in Syria could not be described as a “popular uprising,” since the majority of Syrians do not support the opposition and ‘certainly not’ its armed component.

Moving along… Lebanon is holding their Presidential elections tomorrow…

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…

Read the rest of this entry →

by CTuttle

Syria Will Not Implode, It Will Explode

5:36 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

All war is deception. ~Sun Tzu

Let’s look at some of the current developments that are swirling inside and out, of the Syrian borders…

Syrian tanks amass near Turkish border: FSA general

A general in the rebel Free Syria Army said on Friday that Syrian government forces had amassed around 170 tanks north of the city Aleppo, near the Turkish border, but there was no independent confirmation of the report.

General Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the Higher Military Council, an association of senior officers who defected from President Bashar al-Assads forces, said the tanks had assembled at the Infantry School near the village of Musalmieh northeast of the city of Aleppo, 30 kms (19 miles) from the Turkish border.

“The tanks are now at the Infantry School. They’re either preparing to move to the border to counter the Turkish deployment or attack the rebellious (Syrian) towns and villages in and around the border zone north of Aleppo,” Sheikh told Reuters by telephone from the border…

Now, using the same Salt Shaker with that last article, DebkaFile reports…

Saudis forces mass on Jordanian, Iraqi borders. Turkey, Syria reinforce strength

…”(H)eavy Saudi troop movements (headed) toward the Jordanian and Iraqi borders (with Syria) overnight and up until Friday morning….after King Abdulah put the Saudi military on high alert for joining an anti-Assad offensive….”

Units include tanks, missiles, special forces and anti-air batteries. Two units were deployed. “One will safeguard Jordan’s King Abdullah against potential Syrian or Iranian reprisals from Syria or Iraq.”

“The second will cut north through Jordan to enter southeastern Syrian, where a security zone will be established around the towns of Deraa, Deir al-Zour and Abu Kemal — all centers of the anti-Assad rebellion.” {…}

The failure of (US/Russian) talks “would spell a worsening of the Syrian crisis and precipitate Western-Arab military intervention, which according to military sources in the Gulf is scheduled for launch Saturday, June 30.”

DF also said that Western forces reported Jordan “on war alert.”

Now, straight from the horse’s mouth…

…Libya’s model isn’t “a solution to be copied because it took (the country) from one situation into a much worse one. We all now see how the Libyan people are paying the price,” he (Assad) said.

“The policies of the Turkish officials lead to the killing and bloodshed of the Syrian people,” he added.

He said reports about Iranian and Hezbollah forces aiding Syria are false.

“This is a joke that we hear many times in order to show that a rift has been created within the army and that therefore there is not an army.”

Pointing fingers at Washington, he said:

“The colonialist nature of the West has not changed. From the colonialist standpoint, regional countries should not move according to their national interests and if any country moves against their (Western) values and interests, they say no, like what happened in the case of Iran’s nuclear program.”

“Western states are opposed to Iran’s access to nuclear knowhow; they are more fearful of Iran’s expertise in the nuclear field than what they claim to be a nuclear bomb.”

He also called insurgents “gangs of mercenaries and criminals.” Outside forces are directing them.

For them and their sponsors, “reforms are not important, since the very forces that claimed (a lack of) reforms were the problem. They never benefited from them…all they wanted was (continued) unrest.”…

Phyllis Bennis largely agrees with Assad’s assertions…

Syria is not Libya: it will not implode, it will explode beyond its borders

Probably the only useful thing outside powers can do, would be to engage in serious new diplomacy, in which supporters of both the regime and the armed opposition participate.

Fifteen months on, the short Syrian spring of 2011 has long since morphed into a harsh winter of discontent. Syria is close to full-scale civil war.

If the conflict escalates further, it will have ramifications far outside the country itself. As former UN Secretary-General and current envoy of both the UN and the Arab League Kofi Annan put it, “’Syria is not Libya, it will not implode, it will explode beyond its borders.”

Like so many other times before, the human cost of this conflict is incalculably high. It’s not surprising that the normal human reaction is “we’ve got to do something!” But exactly what any army or air force might do that would actually help the situation isn’t very clear.

US/NATO military intervention didn’t bring stability, democracy or security to Libya, and it certainly is not going to do so in Syria…

Now, Russia isn’t about to be fooled by a second UN Security Council R2P fiasco, and this CSM article spells it out in a relatively decent fashion, despite all it’s Western biased strawmen…

What is Russia thinking on Syria?

…In Syria, they argue, Western nations are pursuing their own geopolitical interests under the guise of a humanitarian “right to protect” which supposedly trumps the country’s sovereignty. Moscow sees it as its duty to block such attempts. {…}

…Speaking to an audience of students in Copenhagen today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upped the criticism of Russia, saying, “I have been telling (the Russians) their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war” in Syria.

But today Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, responded emphatically that Russian policy toward Syria will not change under duress. Russia’s position is “well-known, balanced and consistent, and completely logical,” Mr. Peskov told the independent Interfax news agency. “So it is hardly appropriate to talk about this position changing under someone’s pressure.” {…}

…Russian analysts argue that any violation of national sovereignty is a form of neoimperialism which, even if packaged as a humanitarian intervention, tends to be wrapped up with the geopolitical interests of the intervening powers and seldom leads to better humanitarian outcomes. They cite most of the wars of the past decade, from Kosovo to Iraq to last year’s NATO intervention in Libya (which Russia acquiesced to in the Security Council) to make their point.

“We were told that military interference in Libya would be limited to protecting civilians, but we were deceived, pushed aside once we’d let it get through the Security Council,” says Pavel Gusterin, an Arab specialist with the official Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow. “Why would we let them do this again?

Just to be sure, it’s already out of Russia’s and the UN’s hands…

Syria Rebels Increasingly Violent, Thanks to Foreign Arms

…The opposition is still a disparate, rag tag group of localized militias with conflicting agendas and many of whom are Sunni extremists or have ties to al-Qaeda. They are increasingly to blame for massacres of civilians as well. Nothing has changed, except that the weapons being funneled to them by the US, European Union, Turkey, and the Gulf Arab states are being put to use.

But none of this bodes well for an end to violence in the country. Foreign meddling on behalf of all sides in Syria has been instrumental in prolonging the conflict by emboldening both sides and making a political settlement more remote.

“The intensity of the divisions in the country, the external environment in which sides are providing arms to both of the contending parties—all of that suggests that the situation’s going to continue to deteriorate,” James Dobbins, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center and a former US assistant secretary of state, told NPR…

Now, to be clear on our Persian fantasies…

Our obsession with Iran obscures the bigger threat

It is funny what people choose to worry about. The west is obsessed with stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons. By contrast, Pakistan’s nuclear programme is not much discussed. And yet, by any sensible measure, Pakistani nukes are much more worrying.

Start with the obvious: Pakistan already has nuclear weapons – probably more than 100 of them – and is thought to be increasing production. Iran has still to assemble a single nuclear weapon. The prospect of an Iranian bomb is said to be unthinkably dangerous because of the country’s connections to terrorist groups, its hostility to the west and Israel, the risk it will spread nuclear technology and the prospect of a regional arms race. And yet, almost all these considerations apply even more forcibly to Pakistan. {…}

…Yet it is Iran’s non-existent nukes that continue to obsess the west. Diplomats have spent so long trying to stop Iran that I get the impression they no longer even ask themselves why it is such a high priority. Press them, and you will get explanations about the dangers of a Middle Eastern arms race and Iran’s regional ambitions.

Interestingly, few seem to take seriously the idea that Israel often evokes – that Iran might actually commit nuclear genocide.

Western concerns are valid. But, in themselves, they do not seem compelling enough to explain the desperate focus on Iran. The main reason the Iranian dossier is so urgent seems to be the fear that Israel will soon attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, provoking a wider war. American and European diplomats are reluctant to put it quite that directly, since this carries the uncomfortable implication that western policy is driven by Israel. But when people say “time is running out” over Iran, it is the prospect of an Israeli attack they are usually thinking about…

Are you surprised…?

AIPAC and Syrian intervention lobby

I have it on good authority that something called Syrian Emergency Task Force in Washington, DC is enlisting the help of AIPAC to lobby the US government for military intervention in Syria.

*gah*

An Apology to the Aligned…