Newsletter Resumen Latinoamericano (english) 5-10-2013
FARC Describes as Modest Scope of Peace Dialogues
Havana, Oct 3 (Prensa Latina) The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People»s Army (FARC-EP) described as modest the scope of the peace talks with the government of Colombia.
In a statement released here, Ivan Marquez, member of the guerrilla delegation, said that on the first item of the agenda, agricultural issues, they reached an agreement to formalize land ownership.
In this regard, he highlighted, it was made a government commitment to deliver the titles to all the farmers who actually own land.
However, he stressed that the recent national agrarian strike that shook Colombia s confirms social dissatisfaction on this point and justifies the approach that the guerrillas tabled for debate in Havana.
Both sides exchanged views during 14 cycles on about 200 minimum proposals to solve rural problems and political and civic participation.
On this last point, the report highlights the proposals submitted by the FARC-EP to Colombia Executive for discussion, including a national constituent assembly.
The text also says that, apart from this particular point, they treated a possible solution of the illicit crops problem.
Referring to the issue of the victims, the FARC-EP proposed forming a committee to review and clarify the truth of the history of social and armed conflict.
This group should be composed of local and foreign experts.
New Uruguay-Argentina Disagreement over Border Paper Mill
Buenos Aires, Oct 3 (Prensa Latina) Argentina will go to the International Court of Justice in the Hague after Uruguayan President Jose Mujica authorized the Botnia-UPM paper mill to increase production, which unilaterally broke an agreement between the two countries.
Argentina regretted that a company’s interests of had become a determining factor in bilateral relations, said Foreign Minister Hector Timerman on Wednesday night at presidential palace, along with the governor of Entre Rios, Sergio Urribarri.
During his speech, Timerman underlined that during his meeting with Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro, Argentina «requested to continue holding talks and not to fall into a confrontation, which would only benefit UPM, but Uruguay did not respond.»
According to a ruling of the Court in the Hague in 2010, the paper mill was allowed to produce 100,000 tons per year and a bilateral commission was created to clarify any questions.
That ruling had ended a bilateral conflict that emerged in 2007 when the construction of the paper mill began on Uruguayan soil and near the binational waters of the River Uruguay.
Urribarri described the Uruguayan decision as unilateral and unnecessary and also warned about the pollution caused by the paper mills.
Nearly 57 kg of phosphorus and 142 kg of nitrogen are dumped into the river, meaning that 16,540 kg of untreated organic matter are dumped, he said.
The Finnish paper mill has now been authorized other 100,000 tons more, an action that would double pollution, warn Argentinean politicians and environmentalists.
Candidates Begin Presidential Campaign in El Salvador
San Salvador, Oct 3 (Prensa Latina) Presidential candidates for the 2014 elections in El Salvador started their campaigns and set the tones of their proposals and messages to the population.
The race for the citizen vote started with diverse activities organized by the parties, two of them out of the capital city.
In San Salvador, Sánchez Cerén y Oscar Ortiz, presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), walked around important avenues of the city, surrounded by thousands of supporters.
«We will have a respectful campaign and we ask the other candidates to respect us», said Vice president Sánchez Cerén.
The FMLN intends to continue and strengthen the changes made by the government in favor of the majorities, the inclusion and the participatory democracy.
Norman Quijano, the right-wing candidate of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), started the day in the city of Izalco, 65 km west the capital city, with his supporters singing the anthem of the association that says «Up with the Homeland, Down with Communism».
The main slogan of Quijano’s campaign is to «rebuild El Salvador» from the disaster he attributes to president Mauricio Funes and the FMLN.
President calls to discuss new educational program
Caracas, 02 Oct. AVN.- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on citizens to make a nationwide debate over the content and quality of the country’s new educational program.
Such debate should be «democratic and creative,» said Maduro and called on people, students movements, communal councils, universities, teachers and experts to take part in it.
The idea is to get the foundations to enhance the national educational system and so have children and adolescents with sound knowledge in matters of language, literature, social and exact science, he added.
For instance, the President said «education should be used for young people to know where they come from, the way we develop, how the body works. When a boy reaches first degree (high school) he should be an expert in the human body.»
At a televised meeting with his ministers, Maduro said «if we managed to build historic conscience of the homeland, if we managed to develop knowledge in maths, science, physics, chemistry, develop human knowledge comprehensively, we would bring up generations of wise people needed to have a real advantage in a complex and competitive 21 century.»
Freeing from political parties, not views
So-called «experts» among conservative groups would probably propose to depoliticize education, commented Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Nevertheless, President Maduro said a debate on education should be focused on removing political parties from it, instead of depoliticizing it because «education in democracy should embrace political culture with citizens who exert their opinion in a really free democracy.»
«It’s an evil deed from fascist ideology to say that we should depoliticize and de-ideologize. No, we have to ideologize, talk about ideas, the Constitution (Simon) Bolivar’s thinking, future. We have to discuss, analyze about socialism, capitalism, humanism and about schools of thought, political and social regimes that exist in humanity,» Maduro said.
Education minister Maryann Hanson said in turn that there has been progress in matters of educational program.
She particularly commented about elementary and primary education, which currently proposes training children from an interdisciplinary view, making them think and solve day to day problems.
Also, Hanson said the debate should be focused now in the secondary educational program, which has not been discussed by 21 years and which should be adapted to the country’s political, historic and economic reality. «In the end, we have to transform life.»
«We need to continue advancing to the national program proposed in the Constitution,» the Education minister said.
Meanwhile, vice-president for the social area Hector Rodriguez said the Constitution may be the base to start a debate. «There is the conceptual framework to start with.»
People are aware of opposition’s destabilizing actions, Deputy says
Caracas, 02 Oct. AVN.- People are fully aware of destabilizing actions carried out by opponents to harm the Bolivarian Government and Venezuelan people, said deputy to the National Assembly, Jose Avila.
Interviewed in local television, Avila criticized that conservative groups continue an economic war, supported by the United States, with the aim of destabilizing the country.
“They are betting on a social outbreak, they are in the pursuit of social unrest. The only difference is that these people are fully aware of what is going on,” said the Deputy.
In this connection, he called on Venezuelan citizens to be prepared to fight economic strategies used by rightists to attack the country.
“We are going to face them the same way we faced them in 2002, but more aware of it, with more organization and people organized in many ways,” Avila said.
Deputy Jose Avila commented that opponents think that “without the physical presence of commander (Hugo) Chavez they are going to take control of the country… They will never do that.”
“We have to continue deployed in this combat, deployed in this battle because it’s not a silly thing what is at stake,” he added.
Cordial relations with US depend on mutual respect, Maduro says
Caracas, 01 Oct. AVN.- As the United States Administration does not respect Venezuela’s sovereignty and independence, there will not be cordial relations with the U.S. Government, said Tuesday Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
«Unless the United States Administration does not understand that it has to respect Venezuela, that this is a sovereign country, there will just not be cordial relations neither cordial communication,» President Maduro said in in remarks broadcast on radio and television hookup.
The Venezuelan Government believes in respectful communication in terms of equality, basing on respect to the international law «and that must be understood» as the Venezuelan people do.
«Venezuelans do not want to surrender our sovereignty, our freedom, dignity, our retrieved independence and homeland. They are wrong, that is why they commit so many mistakes,» said the President together with his executive cabinet.
From Miraflores Presidential Palace, the Venezuelan President released a video that shows three U.S. diplomats meeting with opposition leaders in southeastern Venezuela.
Kelly Keiderling, who is the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela as the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt met with opposition mayor Victor Fuenmayor.
The three officials visited the seat of Venezuelan opposition group Sumate (Join up!) in Bolivar state last September 27th. They were gathering information about political problems fostered in that region.
Sumate was established by Maria Corina Machado in 2002 for the express purpose of mobilizing support to recall Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and its leaders requested financial support from the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in their attempts to oust the then President.
According to the video, diplomats were dealing with «a plan of updating, funding and destabilizing actions» to attempt against municipal elections scheduled for next December 8th.
In turn, President Maduro denounced that this action «is meddling and we will not allow it in Venezuela, in our domestic affairs… We are ready to face and neutralize all plans under way against our people’s stability.»
Aristide supporters protest in Haiti
Thousands mark anniversary of ex-president’s ousting in 1991, with some calling for current president to resign
1 October 2013
A child adds a tyre to a burning barricade in Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Jean Jacques Augustin/EPA
Riot police in Haiti have broken up an anti-government demonstration by thousands of people to mark the anniversary of the ousting in 1991 of the former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
A handful of protesters responded by setting ablaze barricades that blocked a major thoroughfare through the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince.
Critics of the current president, Michel Martelly, gathered under a heavy police presence on Monday morning and marched through the capital’s shanties, all Aristide strongholds. Some demonstrators demanded that Martelly resign because of corruption allegations, while others protested over the absence of elections. Riot police fired teargas at the demonstrators after they left the approved route.
Haiti was supposed to have held legislative and local elections two years ago, but infighting among different branches of the government has delayed the vote. Martelly has said elections will be held this year, but that looks unlikely.
Aristide’s political party, the Lavalas Family, has said it plans to run, and its popularity could pose a formidable challenge to Martelly and his allies. Thousands of people shadowed Aristide in May as he toured the capital following a court hearingin one of the biggest rallies in Port-au-Prince this year.
Cuba’s Other Internationalism: Angola 25 Years Later
The Other Side of Paradise
September 27, 2013
«Photo Credit: sahistory.org.za»
Cuba is rightly known worldwide for its many acts of humanitarian internationalism, exemplified by its numerous medical missions across the world. However, one of Cuba’s greatest accomplishments has often been neglected in most corners of the mainstream press and academia due to a combination of the ongoing efforts to undermine and marginalize revolutionary Cuba and the ongoing legacy of the Cold War imperialist intervention that has largely influenced our collective understanding of history.
This October will mark the 25th anniversary of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale – what Isaac Saney has called “Africa’s Stalingrad” due to its central role in striking a fatal blow against the occupation of South West Africa (now Namibia) and kick-starting negotiations with the African National Congress which would soon put an end to the rule of the racist apartheid system in South Africa. Writing from prison, Nelson Mandela stressed that the battle of Cuito Cuanvalae «was the turning point for the liberation of our continent—and of my people—from the scourge of apartheid.»
From the eve of Angola’s independence in November 1975, South African Defense Forces, supported by the CIA, sought to assist UNITA (Union for the Total Liberation of Angola) in their attempt to seize power from the revolutionary government of the MLPA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) by carrying out numerous invasions, incursions and sabotages within Angolan territory. Given the prospect of potentially “losing” Angola, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger bluntly proposed that “We might wish to encourage the disintegration of Angola.” Using Zaire’s (now Congo) Mobutu as a channel for the aid, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger approved Operation IA-FEATURE, which consisted of $40 million in funding and U.S. military trainers which sought to support UNITA and other anti-MPLA groups.
The victory of Angola and Mozambique gaining independence was regarded as a destabilizing force – as the respective revolutionary governments instantly became important allies of anti-apartheid groups operating within South Africa. Because of this, the apartheid government in South Africa viewed the newly independent countries of Angola and Mozambique as a threat to their hegemony in the region and regarded the United States as a welcome ally.
Responding to the requests of the newly independent Angolan government in 1975, the first contingent of Cuban troops arrived on Angolan soil. They would be the first of many. In addition to the deployment of troops and military equipment, Cuban military advice was central in defeating the South Africans at Cuito Cuanavale.
Cutio Cuanavale was a small town in the southeast of Angola located on the Cuito River – but became the site of the most intense fighting during the war. The battle for Cuito Cuanavale lasted roughly six months and at the time was the largest battle on African soil since World War 2. The fighting took place on both the ground and in the sky, with Cuban pilots taking to the air in combat against the South African air force. The stakes were so high for the South Africans that it has been revealed that the apartheid government was considering the use of nuclear weapons in an attack against Angola’s capital city of Luanda in order to prevent their own defeat.
Overall, the number of Cuban volunteers (including troops, educators and doctors) who served in Angola from 1975 to 1991 is officially estimated at over 300,000 – 2,000 of which whom lost their lives.
This is primarily the reason why Cuba was the first non-African country visited by Nelson Mandela following his release from prision in 1991. Later at the 1995 Southern Africa Cuba Solidarity Conference, Mandela remarked that “Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonizers. They have shared the same trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment, and apartheid. Hundreds of Cubans have given their lives, literally, in a struggle that was, first and foremost, not theirs but ours. As Southern Africans we salute them. We vow never to forget this unparalleled example of selfless internationalism.”
Reflecting on the role of the Cubans in Angola, Ronnie Kasrils remarked that “Those patriots and internationalists were motivated by a single goal—the end of racial rule and genuine African independence. After thirteen years defending Angolan sovereignty, the Cubans took nothing home except the bones of their fallen and Africa’s gratitude.”
For more information please read Piero Glijeses’ Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976
Hezbollah Mourns Baalbek Martyrs: We were Attacked, but Contained Sedition
Head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sayyed Hashem Safieddine said that at the time we came under attack in Baalbek, we kept patient and sought to calm and contain the situation and not let the country be driven into sedition, but nevertheless some voices went out against us using the language of sedition and sectarianism.
“From the first moment of the incident in Baalbek, we said that the State and the security forces are the only ones authorized to handle these events as all the events in all areas are being handled,” Sayyed Safieddine said.
Sayyed Safieddine was speaking on Sunday as Hezbollah and Baalbek residents held a funeral for the martyrs Imad Ballouk and Ali al-Berzawi, who were killed in Saturday’s clashes.
The Lebanese army carried out patrols and set up checkpoints in Baalbek on Sunday after five people were killed in clashes in Baalbek’s al-Qalaa marketplace amid cautious calm in the city.
Funeral procession proceeded from Imam Khomeini Huseiniyah in Baalbek, with the participation of political and clerical figures down to the martyrs cemetery in the city, where the head of Hezbollah’s Shariah Council Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek led the mourners who turned out en masse for the funeral.
“What happened in Baalbek is very painful and it is what we have been warning against and asking the state to shoulder its responsibility,” Sheikh Yazbek said. “The attack and the killing brought us to a point which we do not accept as we are in need of people to help prevent sectarian and confessional strife.”
“Through the blood of our martyrs, we urge all those keen on this country’s safety to protect our country from those who are tampering with its security,” he added.
Municipal officials in Baalbek also condemned the fighting, saying it contradicted the city’s traditions of coexistence. “What happened is rejected and is now behind us, and everyone has to work to prevent it from recurring,” said Hamad Hasan, the head of the municipality, at a meeting of local authorities and clerics.
Source: Al-Manar Website
srael’s Secret Nuclear Biological and Chemical Weapons (NBC)
By Manlio Dinucci
Global Research, October 01, 2013
For years, Syria and Egypt refused to abandon their chemical weapons facing a threatening neighbor, Israel, which develops very sophisticated ones, in addition to biological and nuclear weapons. However, while Syria has joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons , we are taking a look at Israeli activities.
The UN inspectors who monitor chemical weapons in Syria would have much to do if they were sent to monitor the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (NBC) of Israel.
But according to the rules of “international law”, they cannot do so. Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, nor the Convention Banning Biological Weapons , and has signed but not ratified the Convention Banning Chemical Weapons.
The entrance of the Israel Institute for Biological Research, Ness- Ziona . This structure is the cover for the research and manufacturing of Israeli chemical and biological weapons.
According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, Israel – the only nuclear power in the Middle East, has 100 to 300 nuclear warheads and their appropriate vectors ( ballistic and cruise missiles and fighter-bombers ). According to SIPRI estimates, Israel has produced 690-950 kg of plutonium, and continues to produce as much as necessary to make from 10 to 15 bombs of the Nagasaki type each year.
It also produces tritium, a radioactive gas with which neutron warheads are made, which cause minor radioactive contamination but higher lethality. According to various international reports, also quoted by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, biological and chemical weapons are developed at the Institute for Biological Research, located in Ness- Ziona, near Tel Aviv. Officially, 160 scientists and 170 technicians are part of the staff, who for five decades have performed research in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology, pharmacology, physics and other scientific disciplines. The Institute, along with the Dimona nuclear center , is “one of the most secretive institutions in Israel” under direct jurisdiction of the Prime Minister. The greatest secrecy surrounds research on biological weapons, bacteria and viruses that spread among the enemy and can trigger epidemics. Among them, the bacteria of the bubonic plague (the ” Black Death ” of the Middle Ages ) and the Ebola virus, contagious and lethal, for which no therapy is available.
With biotechnology, one can produce new types of pathogens which the target population is not able to resist, not having the specific vaccine. There is also strong evidence of research to develop biological weapons that can destroy the human immune system. Officially the Israeli Institute conducts research on vaccines against bacteria and viruses, such as anthrax funded by the Pentagon, but it is obvious that they can develop new pathogens for war use.
The same expedient is used in the United States and in other countries to get around the conventions prohibiting biological and chemical weapons. In Israel the screed secret was partially torn by the inquiry that was conducted, with the help of scientists, by the Dutch journalist Karel Knip. It has also come out that toxic substances developed by the Institute have been used by the Mossad to assassinate Palestinian leaders. Medical evidence indicates that in Gaza and Lebanon, Israeli forces used weapons of a new design: they leave the body intact outside but, upon penetration, dévitalise tissues, carbonise liver and bones, and coagulate the blood. This is possible with nanotechnology, the science that casts microscopic structures by building them atom by atom.
Italy also participates in the development of these weapons, linked to Israel by a military cooperation agreement and being its number one European partner in research and development. In the last Finance Act, Italy provided an annual allocation of € 3 million for projects of Italian- Israeli joint research. Like the one indicated in the last notice of the Farnesina (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), “new approaches to combat pathogens resistant to treatment.”
In this way, the Israel Institute for Biological Research could render pathogens even more resistant.
Translation Roger Lagassé
Senior Gulf Officials in Israel to Coordinate against Iran
An Israeli report said on Wednesday that Israeli officials have conducted in recent weeks a series of secret intensive meetings concerning Iran with high-ranking officials from the Gulf States.
Israeli Channel 2 reported that the two sides discussed coordinating moves against Iran as they expressed their apprehension and suspicion over Iran’s peaceful rhetoric relating its nuclear ambitions.
Among the issues, reportedly discussed in the meetings, was a recent secret visit of a senior figure from the one of the Persian Gulf States to the Zionist entity.
Envoys from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have in recent days asked Washington for clarifications regarding US intentions in its new diplomacy with Iran. This was also the focus of talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan.
On the other hand, Debkafile reported that this is the first time Israel official sources have publicly aired diplomatic contacts of this kind in the region.
They also reveal that the Zionist entity, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates have agreed to synchronize their lobbying efforts in the US Congress to vote down the Obama administration’s moves on Iran.
Was Obama Planning on Striking Syria or Working to Gain Traction in Talks With Iran?
By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Global Research, September 30, 2013
There are several ways to interpret the Obama Administration’s August 31, 2013 decision to ask the US Congress to vote on a so-called «limited strike» against Syria. These interpretations need to be analyzed to see what the intentions of the US were when it threatened to engage Syria in a direct war.
The first interpretation is that President Obama did not want to be solely responsible for an illegal and unilateral US attack on the Syrians. His aim was to get the backing of the US Congress to claim to have a democratic mandate from the elected representatives of the American people and to make sure that any backlash and legal blame would not target him alone. By making sure that the US Congress was his presidential administration’s accomplice, Obama could share the blame with the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. In other words, Obama wanted to ensure that he would have some type of protection before embarking on a blatant violation of international law by hiding behind US legislature and formulating some type of argument through it. With an approval from the US Congress, the Obama Administration could claim it followed the wishes of the representatives of the American people and that it is not accountable for any war crimes. The US Congress would also support this position and oppose any calls by different world powers and the international community to hold US officials legally accountable.
Obama’s «redline» against the use of chemical weapons figures prominently in a debate on the nature of the US threats. Some believe that President Obama was merely embarrassed and trying to save face by enforcing the Syria redline that he made. This view, however, overlooks the fact that the US government has repeatedly been trying to indict Syria with the employment of chemical weapons for almost an entire year before the chemical attack in Ghouta. Before backing down, the Obama Administration was actually not reluctant to say that the chemical weapons redline was passed, but looking for every opportunity to try and say that the redline was passed.
Despite the fact that the Obama Administration falsely claimed that it did not need the authorization of the US Congress for initiating aggression and although John Kerry appeared very enthusiastic about attacking Syria, another interpretation is that President Obama and US Secretary of State Kerry wanted to back down from ordering the Pentagon to attack the Syrians. Those that believe this interpretation think that the US government was either bluffing about attacking Syria or wanted to back down from an attack by means of using a no vote in the US Congress to save face.
Other views are that the US was getting involved directly, because the insurgents were losing the war. Washington’s intervention was aimed at equalizing the playing field either to prolong the fighting or to ultimately open the door for eventual regime change in Damascus. The emphases on the limited nature of the attacks by the Obama Administration could have not only been a means to sell the war to the US population and international public opinion, but also a way of trying to get Syria’s allies not to react. This point leads to the next view.
Another interpretation is that Obama and Kerry were reading the signs and wanted flexibility of action and that they put out feelers to see how Syria’s main allies in Iran, Russia, and China would react to US military threats. The threats of military intervention in Syria seem to be testing the resolve of Russia, Iran, and China. Envoys and messages were dispatched to these Eurasian powers, with careful consideration of Moscow and Tehran, to see what their reactions would be.
Obama Tested the Reaction of the Eurasian Axis
It has long been understood that Iran, Hezbollah, and their Iraqi and Palestinian allies would militarily react to a US attack on Syria. It has also been understood that Washington’s posturing against Syria has been a show of force against Syria’s allies, particularly Tehran. According to Walter Posch, an expert on Iran at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the Iranians are not intimidated by US military posturing. Posch puts it like this: «If you come with a show of force to the Iranians, they usually call your bluff.»
According to Posch, Tehran had been informed by Washington either directly or through indirect lines of communication about US preparation to attack Syria. During his visit to Tehran, Sultan Qaboos of Oman could have possibly carried a message of some sort from Obama to Iran about Syria. The Sultanate of Oman has been known to act as an intermediary between Tehran and Washington before.
The visit of Sultan Qaboos to Tehran took place in the same window of time that Jeffry Feltman, Ban Ki-moon’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the United Nations, arrived in Tehran. Before his entry into the United Nations, Feltman served as a US diplomat in Israel, Anglo-American occupied Iraq, and Lebanon before he was appointed as the US assistant secretary responsible for the Middle East and North Africa.
The official reason for Jeffery Feltman’s visit to Iran was holding bilateral meetings with Iranian officials about the Syrian conflict. His visit to Tehran was formally for the United Nations, but his visit was also tied to the US government. In some form or another, he was sending a message from Washington to Tehran about Syria that essentially wanted to see what Tehran would do about a limited US-led attack on the Syrians.
The responses that the Obama Administration got from Iran and Syria’s other allies may have not been the ones that US officials expected. It was reported immediately after the US said it would attack Syria that Lebanon’s Hezbollah began mobilizing its forces for a general war against the US. In Iraq various militias threatened to attack American targets and to damage the economic interests of the United States. The Kremlin sent the SSV-201 intelligence ship Priazovye to the Syrian coastline to collect information on US military movements and to augment the Russian naval armada in the Eastern Mediterranean. A Russian military leader also told the Russian news agency Interfax that the characteristics of the naval force in the Eastern Mediterranean were being amended to adjust Russia’s military position to the changing situation in the region. Vladimir Putin also promised to help Syria against the United States and called John Kerry a liar publicly. China joined Russia by dispatching its Jinggangshan landing ship to the area too. Moreover, the US government would face formidable opposition at the G20 summit held in Russia, where Beijing and Moscow would be supported by Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa in their opposition to a US attack on Syria.
War: America’s Worse Option
The US government knows that an attack on Syria is a receipt for real disaster with unpredictable consequences. If Syria is attacked, at the very minimum the US government can forget about any settlement with Iran or an easing of relations with the Russian Federation. Add China’s opposition at the United Nations and Beijing’s agitation about Obama’s so-called «Pacific Pivot» to the picture. If the Obama Administration did attack Syria, it would have led to a larger confrontation and resulted in American political, economic, diplomatic, strategic, and military losses.
Syria would not be a sitting duck in a direct US attack either. The Syrians could use an entire arsenal of military hardware that is impractical and inapplicable in guerilla combat. Syrian Tishreen missiles would inflect damage to any US naval units in the Eastern Mediterranean that get too close to the Syrian coast and Syria’s anti-aircraft units would prevent the US from establishing aerial dominance in Syrian skies. Damascus would fight back and there would be escalation and a regional expansion of the fighting that would draw in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran right away.
Additionally, when Obama threatened to attack Syria the US was not really in the proper position to attack Syria. Both the US and NATO did not even have enough military units near Syria to safely bomb Syria without being repelled by Damascus. The best that a Pentagon assault could have done under the configuration that the Pentagon had in place was to try changing the balance of power in Syria between the combating sides. The US government may also have been planning on assassinating President Bashar Al-Assad and key Syrian military and civilian officials as part of the so-called «limited strike.»
What Was the United States Government Planning?
What was the US trying to do if it knew that it could not start a war against Syria? Regardless of whichever one of the mentioned views is correct, the outcome of President Obama’s threats against Syria has been that Iran and the US are holding direct talks and Syria has agreed to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.
Syria is essentially being disarmed of its strategic deterrent against Israel’s biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, which would figure importantly in a Syrian war against Israel or a wider US-Iranian regional war. At the same time the Obama Administration seems to be edging towards a grand bargain and diplomatic breakthrough with Iran in what could possibly be compared to Richard Nixon’s reestablished of ties with the People’s Republic of China or a new «Nixon-Mao moment.»
What is known now is that President Obama had sent a secret letter to Tehran to open up dialogue and negotiations with his counterpart Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, while he was threatening to attack Syria. Rouahani’s administration has actually begun talking about «win-win» outcomes for the US and Iran and the Iranian government also helped make the proposal with Russia that Syria destroy its chemical weapon stocks to neutralize US threats. John Kerry and Mohammed Javad Zarif, the new foreign minister of Iran, held a bilateral meeting in New York City on September 26, 2013. The next day, Obama and Rouhani had a direct telephone conversation in the first direct talk between US and Iranian leaders since 1979.
Are the talks with Tehran and Syrian chemical disarmament the result of Obama’s threats to attack Syria or all along the calculated objective of Obama’s threats to attack Syria? If Russia, Iran, and China formed a formidable opposition that would have prevented US attacks on Syria and if Syria would have been able to protect itself, it sure looks this way.
Chemical Experts Start Securing Syria Sites
Experts overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal have begun securing their work sites, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN said in a statement.
«Joint work with the Syrian authorities has begun on securing the sites where the team will operate,» said the statement, which detailed the activities of the team’s first day of work on Wednesday.
«In addition, planning continues for one of the team’s immediate tasks, disabling Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon.»
On Wednesday, the team also considered «the health and environmental hazards which they may have to confront», said the joint statement.
«Meanwhile, discussions on the size of Syria’s stockpiles are also under way, as well as long-term planning, so that deadlines unanimously imposed by the executive council of the OPCW and the UN Security Council are met,» it added.
«In their discussions with the authorities, the OPCW-UN team was keen to stress that the onus was on the Syrian government to meet the verification and destruction deadlines,» said the statement.
CIA Ramps Up Training Program for ’Moderate’ Syrian Militants
The CIA is expanding a covert effort to train opposition militant groups active in Syria amid concern that «moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the country’s civil war,» U.S. officials told The Washington Post.
The US daily reported Thursday that the CIA program is so minuscule that it is expected to produce only a few hundred trained militiamen each month even after it is enlarged.
«The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win,» the daily indicated.
The officials, who spoke to Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the agency has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in the Jordanian kingdom in recent weeks in a push to double the number of opposition gunmen getting CIA instruction and weapons before being sent back to Syria.
Current and former U.S. officials told the U.S. daily that the intelligence agency has trained fewer than 1,000 insurgents this year.
«The CIA effort was described as an urgent bid to bolster moderate Syrian militias, which have been unable to mount a serious challenge to (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad,» the daily stated.
The CIA is “ramping up and expanding its effort,” said a U.S. official familiar with operations in Syria, because “it was clear that the opposition was losing, and not only losing tactically but on a more strategic level.”
The latest setback came last month, when 11 of the largest armed factions in Syria, including some backed by the United States, announced the formation of an alliance with a goal of creating an Islamic state. The alliance is led by Al-Nusra Front, a group that has sworn allegiance to the terrorist al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
Moreover, the U.S. officials said the classified program has been constrained by limits on CIA resources, the reluctance of opposition gunmen to leave Syria for U.S. instruction and Jordan’s restrictions on the CIA’s paramilitary presence over its territory.
Officials also underlined that the main CIA training effort does not involve instruction on using high-powered weapons such as rockets and antitank munitions, which are being supplied by main regional Arab countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
«Although the agency is involved in tracking those arms flows and vetting recipients,» the report in Washington Post read.
It also noted that the CIA program amounts to a trickle into the ranks of opposition militants, who total about 100,000 gunmen.
Recently, fierce clashes erupted between the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front terrorist group and the free Syrian army in the wake of disputes on power and control sharing over areas not reclaimed so far by the Syrian army.
The Syrian national military launched a wide-scale military operation in May 2013 in the country’s main provinces to restore security and release citizens from terrorist threats.
Syria was hit by a violent unrest since mid-March 2011, where the Syrian government accuses foreign actors of orchestrating the conflict by supporting the militant opposition groups with arms and money.
ISIL Creeps towards Turkish Border after Heavy Fighting with FSA
Violent clashes broke out between militants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Storm of North Brigade gunmen of the Free Syria Army in the rural town of Azaz on the border with Turkey.
The UK-based opposition Syrian Observatory reported that «ISIL militants are moving towards the headquarters and checkpoints of Storm of North Brigade near the Bab al-Salamah border crossing in the north of country.
«They are also moving towards villages in the city countryside that witnessed some displacements,» the same sources said.
Revival of battles was not surprising, especially that the agreement signed two weeks ago between both parties maintains the ISIL’s control over sites it had earlier occupied in Aazaz, and the organization still keeps on arresting Storm of North militants.
Moreover, media war between both sides also constitutes a cornerstone, as Storm of North warned ISIL of turning Aazaz into a cemetery for the latter’s gunmen, accusing the organization of disloyalty in many areas, in reference to the ISIL militiamen who stormed headquarters of the so-called Ahfad Al-Rasool Brigade in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
ISIL spokesman, Mohammad Adnan al-Shami, slammed what he called unjust campaign to discredit his organization, accusing Storm of North of receiving western support.
For their part, other armed terrorist groups – such as the Free of Levant Movement, Hawks of Syria Brigades, Army of Islam, Tawhid Brigade, Forqan Brigades and Haq Brigade – have called upon the ISIL and Storm of North Brigade «for an immediate cease-fire» between both of them in the area of Azaz.
In a joint statement, the opposition armed groups also called on ISIL to withdraw forces towards the areas where they were stationed before the outbreak of clashes between the two sides.
Developments in Aazaz haven’t obscured the fierce battles between ISIL and Al-Nusra Front on one side, and the Kurdish militants on the other.
Kurdish media sources revealed that violent battles erupted between the two sides in Tal Half of Ras al-Ein city surroundings, in addition to military confrontations that took place in Aleppo city and countryside.
Recently, fierce clashes erupted between the ISIL, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front terrorist group and the so-called free Syrian army in the wake of disputes on power and control sharing over areas not reclaimed so far by the Syrian army.
The Syrian national military launched a wide-scale military operation in May 2013 in the country’s main provinces to restore security and release citizens from terrorist threats.
Syria was hit by a violent unrest since mid-March 2011, where the Syrian government accuses foreign actors of orchestrating the conflict by supporting the militant opposition groups with arms and money.
Source: Al-Manar Website
Gaza: Crushed Between Israel and Egypt
By Jonathan Cook
Global Research, October 02, 2013
The furore over the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria has overshadowed disturbing events to the south, as Egypt’s generals wage a quiet war of attrition against the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
Hamas has found itself increasingly isolated, politically and geographically, since the Egyptian army ousted the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in early July.
Hamas is paying the price for its close ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic movement that briefly took power through the ballot box following the revolutionary protests that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Since the army launched its coup three months ago, jailing the Brotherhood’s leadership and last week outlawing the movement’s activities and freezing its assets, Hamas has become a convenient scapegoat for all signs of unrest.
Hamas is blamed for the rise of militant Islamic groups in the Sinai, many drawn from disgruntled local Bedouin tribes, which have been attacking soldiers, government institutions and shipping through the Suez canal. The army claims a third of the Islamists it has killed in recent operations originated from Gaza.
At an army press conference last month, several Palestinians “confessed” to smuggling arms from Gaza into Sinai, while an Egyptian commander, Ahmed Mohammed Ali, accused Hamas of “targeting the Egyptian army through ambushes.”
The Egyptian media have even tied Hamas to a car bombing in Cairo last month which nearly claimed the life of the new interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim.
Lurking in the shadows is the army’s fear that, should the suppressed Muslim Brotherhood choose the path of violence, it may find a useful ally in a strong Hamas.
A crackdown on the Palestinian Islamic movement has been all but inevitable, and on a scale even Mr Mubarak would have shrunk from. The Egyptian army has intensified the blockade along Egypt’s single short border with Gaza, replicating that imposed by Israel along the other three.
Over the past weeks, the army has destroyed hundreds of tunnels through which Palestinians smuggle fuel and other necessities in short supply because of Israel’s siege.
Egypt has bulldozed homes on its side to establish a “buffer zone”, as Israel did inside Gaza a decade ago when it still occupied the enclave directly, to prevent more tunnels being dug.
That has plunged Gaza’s population into hardship, and dealt a harsh blow to the tax revenues Hamas raises on the tunnel trade. Unemployment is rocketing and severe fuel shortages mean even longer power cuts.
Similarly, Gaza’s border crossing with Egypt at Rafah – the only access to the outside for most students, medical patients and business people – is now rarely opened, even to the Hamas leadership.
And the Egyptian navy has been hounding Palestinians trying to fish off Gaza’s coast, in a zone already tightly delimited by Israel. Egypt has been firing at boats and arresting crews close to its territorial waters, citing security.
Fittingly, a recent cartoon in a Hamas newspaper showed Gaza squeezed between pincers – one arm Israel, the other Egypt. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesperson, was recently quoted saying Egypt was “trying to outmatch the Israelis in tormenting and starving our people”.
Hamas is short of regional allies. Its leader Khaled Meshal fled his Syrian base early in the civil war, alienating Iran in the process. Other recent supporters, such as Turkey and Qatar, are also keeping their distance.
Hamas fears mounting discontent in Gaza, and particularly a demonstration planned for November modelled on this summer’s mass protests in Egypt that helped to bring down Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas’ political rival, Fatah – and the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank – are reported to be behind the new protest movement.
The prolonged efforts by Fatah and Hamas to strike a unity deal are now a distant memory. In late August the PA annnounced it would soon be taking “painful decisions” about Hamas, assumed to be a reference to declaring it a “rogue entity” and thereby cutting off funding.
The PA sees in Hamas’ isolation and its own renewed ties to the Egyptian leadership a chance to take back Gaza.
As ever, Israel is far from an innocent bystander.
After the unsettling period of Muslim Brotherhood rule, the Egyptian and Israeli armies – their strategic interests always closely aligned – have restored security cooperation. According to media reports, Israel even lobbied Washington following the July coup to ensure Egypt continued to receive generous US aid handouts – as with Israel, mostly in the form of military assistance.
Israel has turned a blind eye to Egypt pouring troops, as well as tanks and helicopters, into Sinai in violation of the 1979 peace treaty. Israel would rather Egypt mop up the Islamist threat on their shared doorstep.
The destruction of the tunnels, meanwhile, has sealed off the main conduit by which Hamas armed itself against future Israeli attacks.
Israel is also delighted to see Fatah and Hamas sapping their energies in manoeuvring against each other. Political unity would have strengthened the Palestinians’ case with the international community; divided, they can be easily played off against the other.
That cynical game is in full swing. A week ago Israel agreed for the first time in six years to allow building materials into Gaza for private construction, and to let in more fuel. A newly approved pipe will double the water supply to Gaza.
These measures are designed to bolster the PA’s image in Gaza, as payback for returning to the current futile negotiations, and undermine support for Hamas.
With Egypt joining the blockade, Israel now has much firmer control over what goes in and out, allowing it to punish Hamas while improving its image abroad by being generous with “humanitarian” items for the wider population.
Gaza is dependent again on Israel’s good favour. But even Israeli analysts admit the situation is far from stable. Sooner or later, something must give. And Hamas may not be the only ones caught in the storm.
USA Acknowledges Fraud in Use of Resources in Afghanistan
Washington, Oct 3 (Prensa Latina) The Pentagon provided millionaire funds to Afghan National Police, but exerts little control over that money, contributing to waste, fraud and abuse of authority, an official report said today.
According to John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), this lack of oversight led Afghan units to acquire products at prices too high, resulting in questionable costs for the U.S. government.
Between October 2011 and December 2012, the Pentagon paid about 27 million dollars directly to the Afghan National Police to purchase fuel, but did not make any assessment of the dangers of fraud in the operations.
However, U.S. officials allocated more than $ 243 million dollars for such expenses for fiscal year 2014, which began Oct. 1, without having a plan to mitigate those risks, the report said.
In another similar report to Congress last July, Sopko said that billions of dollars for U.S. forces in Afghanistan are out of control and may fall into the hands of insurgents and terrorists operating in that country.
The White House plan to reduce troops in Afghanistan from 63,000 now, to less than 10 000 after December 2014, but Washington assesses a so-called option zero or withdrawal of their units.
As a preliminary step, the Pentagon plan provides U.S. forces to be reduced to 34,000 by February 2014.
According to the Pentagon, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will cost about seven billion dollars, in part because the fighting against the Taliban still persist.