Monday, November 30, 2009
By: Stewart Brennan
It seems that a good man, Mohammed El Baradei, has been pushed out of the I.A.E.A. (International Atomic Energy Agency) by exterior political influences that have their sights on forcing a one sided agreement in regards to the Iranian pursuit of nuclear energy.
The Western Leaders may not have liked him, but I for one, commend Mohammed El Baradei, the now former Director General of the IAEA, for standing up to The US Bush Administration in 2005 and proving what we all suspected, that Iraq had NO weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Baradei destroyed the Bush Administrations reason for going to War; which Bush and company ignored by their merciless invasion of Iraq. The IAEA report by Mr. Baradei should now be used to investigate the US & British administrations for major War Crimes.
Mr. Baradei also confirmed after repeated inspections that Iran was pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and found no evidence of them building Nuclear Weapons. These statements have angered Western Leaders who seemed determined by any means necessary to convince us that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Mr. Baradei is also acclaimed for criticizing Israel for not opening its nuclear sites to IAEA inspection. This position of standing up for the principals of equality and fairness by applying International Law to all Countries in matters of the IAEA is to be highly commended.
Of course this position has put Mr. Baradei in hot water with the leaders of the Bash Iran club, including Israel, The US, France, and Britain. After all, why should Israel be treated the same as every other country? According to the USA, some nations are above the law.
Who Did I Leave Out?
Oh yes! I did not mention India, Pakistan, and North Korea, but for the moment anyways, the Pakistan army is being paid for and run by the USA while India gets all of its Nuclear upgrades from the United States for free. So according to the American Government, they don’t count. North Korea is in China’s hands and the US does not want to rock the trillion dollar boat load of borrowed money from China, so North Korea does not count for now.
Laws are for Everyone or No One.
I feel that International Law should be applied to all nations regardless of who they are, or the law is useless. At least Iran has abided by the IAEA rules up until now. The announcement of 10 new proposed Uranium enrichment plants does not break any laws. But it does show Iran’s reactionary anger towards the breakdown in communications and diplomatic talks that the West has sabotaged with ultimatums. Ultimatums are not called negotiations.
The IAEA made a proposal to Iran, which suggested that they ship 80% of its nuclear material to Russia, where Russia would then ship the material to France to be upgraded. Iran looked at this proposal as something that could be worked on. However, it was not immediately stressed that 80% of the fuel was to be sent in one shipment. Of course doing so would leave Iran open to military attack and cause minimal nuclear fallout to the oil region or to her neighbor, Russia.
Right from the start, Iran stated that it did not want France to be involved in the exchange program due to past history in which France broke a binding agreement to build a nuclear power station in Iran. So, Iran came up with a counter proposal that stated they would agree to send a smaller percentage of nuclear material at a time instead. This is perfectly acceptable in good faith.
However, the US, Britain, and France immediately condemned Iran and had their representatives in the IAEA turn 180 degrees about face and condemn Iran. Two days later Mr. Baradei is no longer the Director General of the IAEA.
I have worked in large corporations near the very top to know that the actions taken in the last few days at the IAEA were made by Political heavy weights behind the scenes. There are political powers at work here with the ability to manipulate important World governing bodies into supporting their specific agenda’s. There will not be another fair assessment made by the AIEA ever again as long as the USA, Britain, and France control the United Nations Security Council.
Mr. Baradei’s presence will be missed now that the IAEA has come under the direct influence of outside parties that have an agenda that benefits their specific ambitions. It is a very bad development for World Peace indeed.
There is one very important question not being asked.
Who at the IAEA issued the new demands on Iran last Friday November 27th, 2009? Which person, was it Mohammed El Baradei the IAEA official that was forced out of the IAEA over the last days of November 2009 or did someone else make the statement? Tick tick tick…I heard a pin drop in this room.
What we are seeing is the USA, Britain, and France trying to save face from their unproven accusations made at the end of the G20 summit towards Iran.
We are also seeing an Israeli push for military attacks on Iran on top of the new sanctions being proposed by three of the UN Security Council tyrants. They are also trying to strong arm Russia and China to go along with them.
Are we to believe that Israel is allowed to get away without being inspected by the IAEA, and Iran who abides by the rules is to be condemned for negotiating in good faith? We are now repeating a cycle that has the media war drums playing the same sounds as they were before the invasion of Iraq. This time however, there is no longer a man of honor leading the IAEA and that will make war inevitable because Britain, France, and the USA have hijacked the IAEA and desire an end to Iran’s ability to go it alone without Western interference.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Source: Al Jazeera
Iran's government has ordered its atomic energy organization to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants, state media has reported.
Irna, Iran's state news agency, said on Sunday that construction of five plants whose locations had already been decided would start within the next two months, while suitable locations would be found for the other five.
The announcement came after a cabinet meeting chaired by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president.
Ahmadinejad said that in order to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity, Iran would need 500,000 centrifuges of the current model being used in Natanz, Iran's largest nuclear enrichment plant.
"We should reach a position where we can produce from 250-300 tones of nuclear fuel a year. To do this we must employ new centrifuges with a higher speed," Ahmadinejad said.
'Response to resolution'
The decision comes only days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, censured Iran over its nuclear program and called on Tehran to halt the construction of a newly revealed enrichment facility near the city of Qom.
A senior US official said on Sunday that "if carried out [the plant construction] would constitute yet another violation of Iran's continuing obligation of suspension of all enrichment-related activities.
"There remains a fleeting opportunity for Iran to engage with the international community, if only it would make that choice," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Obama administration has not yet released a formal response.
Alireza Ronaghi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Iran, said the latest announcement was a very clear reaction to the IAEA resolution.
"The head of Iran's atomic organization said that Iran didn't have any plans to have any more nuclear enrichment facilities, but the resolution forced them to make this decision.
"He also said that the new enrichment facilities will ... be built in the mountains - safe from possible strikes by air, or any other kind of threat.
"Right now I don't think that ratcheting up the rhetoric against Iran will help. Both Iran and the international community are moving towards a place where there will be no more space left for reconciliation," Ronaghi said.
Iranian MPs responded angrily to the resolution by demanding that Ahmadinejad's government reduce ties with the IAEA.
"We consider the behavior of the IAEA to be that of double standards and political. We want it to give up this double standard which has tarnished its reputation," the MPs said in a statement on Friday.
Western powers, including the US, accuse Iran of covertly seeking to develop atomic weapons. They demand that Iran accept a UN brokered offer that would delay Iran's ability to make a nuclear weapon as well as engage in broader talks with the ultimate goal of persuading it to stop its enrichment program.
Iran has amassed about 1,500 kilogram’s (3,300 pounds) of low-enriched
uranium at Natanz but Tehran insists it is for civilian purposes.
The UN offer aims to convince Iran to hand over more than 1,200 kilogram’s (2,600 pounds), more than the commonly accepted amount needed to produce weapons-grade material.
Iran has rejected the UN terms for the plan.
The decision to build more enrichment plants will aggravate tensions between the Islamic Republic and major powers seeking a diplomatic solution to the long-running dispute over Iranian nuclear work.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Source: PressTV - London
The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has plans to visit Iran in future.
President Ahmadinejad made the remarks after returning home from a five-day tour which took him to five African and South American countries including Brazil.
Describing the whole tour as successful, the Iranian President added that “We had great talks with Brazilian officials. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is scheduled to visit Iran.”
“The development of ties between Iran and Brazil will influence our relations with Latin America,” he explained.
The Iranian chief executive began his tour of Gambia, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Senegal on Sunday, just days after Israeli president Shimon Peres completed a tour to Latin America aimed at rallying support against Tehran.
However, the Israeli president's visit to Brazil and Argentina, home to the largest Jewish communities, led to angry demonstrations against the trip in both Latin American countries.
Iran's close ties with Latin America and particularly Brazil are a cause of major concern both to Israel and its staunch ally, the US.
Ahmadinejad's visit to Latin American and African countries comes also as Washington moves to prepare a new slate of sanctions against Iran over the country's nuclear issue.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has thrown his weight behind Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear program aimed at peaceful purposes in September's UN gathering in New York.
During his stay in Brazil, Peres also met with the Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim who is considered to be one of the strongest men in the Brazilian government.
However, the Israeli leader's efforts to overshadow Ahmadinejad's upcoming visit seemed to be in vain as Jobim later asserted that Brazilian authorities would hold talks with whomever they pleased.
Jobim said that no one had the right to dictate to Brazil who to talk to or not, pointing out that the decision was entirely up to the Brazilian government.
Ahmadinejad was greeted by First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, foreign policy adviser to Iran's Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Ali-Akbar Velayati, and several ministers and members of Parliament upon his arrival in Tehran on Friday morning.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Report By: PressTV
More international community members condemn Israel over plans to authorize construction of 900 new housing units at Gilo, a settlement built illegally on Palestinian land occupied in the 1967 war.
China criticized the Israeli government's move to expand a Jewish neighborhood in the part of Jerusalem, Al-Quds, claimed by Palestinians, saying it poses new obstacles to the Middle East peace process.
"We urge the Israeli side to take concrete measures to restore Palestine-Israel mutual trust and create favorable conditions for the early resumption of talks between them," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday.
The remarks by China's Foreign Ministry were also echoed by the Swiss government which called on Israel to stop construction of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
"Switzerland is deeply concerned about the destruction of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem near the old town and the planned eviction of Palestinian families," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said Thursday in a statement.
It added East Jerusalem, Al-Quds, is an integral part of the Palestinian territories and under international humanitarian law Israel must protect the local civilian population.
"There is no military necessity that could justify the destruction of these houses or the evictions of Palestinian families," the statement expounded.
The Brazilian government also added to a chorus of international demands that Israel stop settlement activity in the disputed part of Jerusalem, Al-Quds.
In a statement, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Tel Aviv's decision to expand Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory violates the UN Security Council's resolutions on the issue and contradicts the Israeli obligations within the context of the "roadmap" towards the peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"It represents a blow to international efforts aimed at reviving the peace process in the region and is another obstacle to achieving the goal of establishing a future Palestinian state that is geographically cohesive and economically viable," the statement said.
The Brazilian government, meanwhile, called on the Israeli government to reverse the decision so as to "enlarge the political conditions necessary for the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations."
Israel gave approval on Tuesday for the construction of hundreds of new housing units in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, Al-Quds, drawing more international criticism.
The United States and France have summoned the Israeli ambassadors to both Washington and Paris, in the past few days to express strong resentment over the issue of the Jewish settlement and reiterate that the decision was not compatible with efforts to find a lasting global solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Under the 2002 Roadmap for Peace plan brokered by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, Israel has to 'dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and also freeze all settlement activities'.
There are currently 121 Israeli settlements and approximately 102 Israeli outposts built illegally on Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967. All of these settlements and outposts are illegal under international law and have been condemned by numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions.
These settlements and outposts are inhabited by a population of some 462,000 Israeli settlers. Some 191,000 Israelis are living in settlements around Jerusalem, Al-Quds, and a further 271,400 are further spread throughout the West Bank.
By: Art Levine – Truthout Report
The fight by financial reformers to hold the secretive Federal Reserve accountable for its role in allowing Wall Street and big banks to spiral out of control - and then keeping secret how it bailed them out - faces its first major test today. The House Financial Services Committee will consider two competing amendments on auditing the Fed.
They can't come too soon. Earlier this week, for instance, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) even filed a lawsuit over the Fed's continuing refusal to disclose the financial institutions that have received federal funds in the last six months - and the terms, if any, of federal assistance.
One audit proposal offered by Reps. Ron Paul and Alan Grayson has garnered the backing of the leading reform coalition, the 200-group Americans for Financial Reform and over 300 House co-sponsors for an earlier version. The amendment by the libertarian Republican Ron Paul and Rep. Grayson demands unprecedented auditing of the Fed's actions and public exposure of which financial institutions get its money. As Heather Booth, the director of Americans for Financial Reform, puts it, "We need an audit of the Fed to examine what was the mismanagement of the economy before the meltdown, to look at the role of Chairman Benrnanke - and to see who has gotten what from the Fed and what they're doing with it."
She adds, "We know that lending isn't happening and bonuses continue to go up. So what's happened to the money?" Indeed, the $700 billion Wall Street bailout engineered by the Fed and Treasury Department is only a relatively small portion of $17.5 trillion in guarantees, loans and giveaways, as compiled from government documents by Nomi Prins, the investigative author of It Takes A Pillage.
The other Fed audit bill, offered by the liberal North Carolina Democrat Mel Watt (generally considered a "friend" of reform by Booth), considerably narrows the scope of any Fed decisions the General Accountability Office (GAO) could review. It also delays for at least a year disclosures of which financial institutions have received funds.
The reason for the more limited oversight in the Watt amendment is to protect the Fed's much-vaunted independence and avoid the dangers of Congressional politicization, Congressional supporters say. "It's already politicized," Booth counters. "The banks run it." Indeed, even the audit proposals under consideration don't change the governance of the Fed to make it more democratic and accountable.
The Watt amendment has been denounced by some watchdog groups, liberal economists and the progressive blogosphere as a sell-out designed to weaken oversight and draw votes from the tougher Paulson-Grayson amendment.
Dean Baker, the liberal economist, sarcastically declared in a column at TPM Cafe:
Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) is out to protect the independence of the Fed from the risk of an intrusive audit from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The risk comes in the form of a bill initiated by Ron Paul and Alan Grayson that calls for an audit of the Fed. The bill, which now has more than 300 cosponsors, would allow Congress to find out to whom the Fed lent more than $2 trillion through its special lending facilities, and under what terms. Congress would also be able to find out which countries were allowed to take advantage of dollar swaps at the peak of the financial crisis last fall.
Allowing our elected representatives to know what our central bank (the Fed) is doing with our money might seem reasonable, but not to Mr. Watt. He has proposed an alternative which would keep this information secret. According to Mr. Watt, the prospect of a full GAO audit poses a huge risk to the Fed's independent conduct of monetary policy.
It is not clear how a GAO audit precludes Fed independence, but we should know exactly what we could be putting at risk...
We would not be sitting here in the wreckage of an $8 trillion housing bubble, with 10.2 percent unemployment and 2 million foreclosures a year, without the Fed's independent monetary policy. We would not have seen the projections of debt soar by $6 trillion at the end of the next decade without the Fed's independent monetary policy.
Watt, in turn, has circulated a letter to colleagues under the headline "Increase the Transparency of the Federal Reserve," claiming, "While my amendment will certainly fall short of demands by those intent on destroying the independence (if not the existence) of the Fed, the critics of my amendment will have to concede... that my amendment will provide transparency of the Fed's financial operations that will be completely unprecedented."
But critics don't concede that, as the Huffington Post first reported, asserting that his amendment has exemptions that would limit the ability to examine such vital Fed functions as loans and liquidity arrangements. Under the Watt amendment, auditors would even be barred from examining such loans' impact on "reserves, the balance sheet or financial condition of a Federal reserve bank or the Federal Reserve System."
Moreover, the case for the Paul-Grayson amendment was underscored in a letter sent to the committee members on Wednesday by Americans for Financial Reform, signed by such leading member groups as the AFL-CIO and Public Citizen. "This audit would shed light on questions the Fed has so far refused to answer, including the names of financial institutions that have received special loans and the conditions under which those loans were made," the supporters said.
But Paul's backers also note the revisions that have been made to calm the concerns of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that too much internal decision-making would be exposed, although he also rejects the whole notion of any meaningful auditing oversight. "To shield policy discussions from political influence, the amendment exempts transcripts or minutes of meetings of the Board of Governors or the Federal Open Market Committee. It also provides for delayed release of audit information dealing with individual market actions," the reformers said.
Even so, Bernanke's attitude towards disclosing virtually anything the Fed does has essentially been to tell Congress to buzz off. Bernanke had told PBS, " "I don't think the American people want Congress running monetary policy." Maybe not, but they certainly want someone to look at the Fed's books as populist rage at the failures and waste of the bailout boondoggle have skyrocketed.
Indeed, the Senate and House are at odds over how much power to give the controversial Fed. The original Obama administration and Barney Frank reform proposals have aimed to strengthen the general regulatory role of the Fed (with the exception of supporting an independent consumer protection agency), while the Senate reform proposals under Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), have gone in the opposite direction. They seek to strip the Fed of much of its oversight role over banks and replace that function with a new super-agency.
All this comes at a time when the House Financial Services Committee is poised to finish its work on a package of reforms that could change the oversight of the financial industry. These range from loophole-laden derivatives reform to yesterday's backing of the power to break up firms that are "too big to fail" to a new consumer financial protection agency. Progressives critics contend, though, that many of the bills still haven't gone far enough, although liberals hailed the passage of the break-up power granted yesterday.
Previously, breaking up the big financial institutions if needed, favored by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, was just another item on the wish list of progressive bloggers and columnists such as Paul Krugman. It still doesn't mean that legislators are bringing back the repealed Glass-Steagall law that separated commercial banking and riskier investment divisions. Yet even a few months ago, with the Obama administration and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner opposing measures to preemptively shut down dangerous financial giants, few imagined we'd be reading stories like this in today's newspapers (via the Los Angeles Times):
Reporting from Washington - A House committee voted Wednesday to give the government extraordinary new power to break up large financial firms that pose a potential risk to the economy.
The proposal by Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pa.) would allow regulators to break up such big companies before their failure becomes imminent. It goes beyond the powers requested by the Obama administration to seize large firms on the brink of failure should their collapse threaten to damage the wider financial system.
"I recognize this is extraordinary power. Hopefully it will never have to be used," Kanjorski said. It would be used only if other regulatory measures did not reduce the potential threat of "huge, megalopolis-like" companies failing, he said.
A new council of financial regulators would have authority to dismantle large operations. Under the plan, the forced divestiture of assets worth more than $10 billion could not take place without the Treasury secretary's approval. The forced divestiture of more than $100 billion would require consultation with the president.
The House Financial Services Committee voted 38 to 29 to add Kanjorski's proposal to legislation that would grant federal regulators so-called resolution authority to dissolve large financial firms teetering near bankruptcy.
If passed into law, the measure would render moot the controversy over the concept that some companies are too big to fail.
And, strikingly, with pressure from tough-minded regulators such as Sheila Bair of the FDIC and liberal advocacy groups, even the bills that contain industry-friendly loopholes have been strengthened in several ways in recent weeks. "Organizing works," says Heather Booth. These improvements include closing a loophole exempting foreign-traded derivatives from oversight. Moreover, Truthout has learned, an amendment being backed by Barney Frank will be introduced today that would force major financial institutions to pay up front a total capped at $200 billion for a "resolution authority," likely managed by the FDIC, to shut down huge failed companies.
That latter major pay-ahead reform is a direct result of the case made by Bair in toughening the resolution authority, so the federal government wouldn't have to essentially go begging to Wall Street firms to pay for winding down a competitor after it failed. As Bair said in testimony in October:
To be credible, a resolution process for systemically significant institutions must have the funds necessary to accomplish the resolution. It is important that funding for this resolution process be provided by the set of potentially systemically significant financial firms, rather than by the taxpayer. To that end, Congress should establish a Financial Company Resolution Fund (FCRF) that is pre-funded by levies on larger financial firms -- those with assets of at least $10 billion.
The systemic resolution entity should have the authorities needed to manage this resolution fund...We believe that a pre-funded FCRF has significant advantages over an ex post funded system... it avoids the pro-cyclical nature of requiring repayment after a systemic crisis.
As a result of such advocacy, the scope of proposed reforms is striking, though long overdue and hardly yet law in the face of strong industry opposition.
The biggest remaining problem, reformers say, is what they see as the weak, but improving, House approach so far to monitoring derivatives such as the shady "credit default swaps" - the bets that blew up Wall Street.
Even worse, The Nation magazine's William Greider has reported, key portions of the House Financial Services Committee's derivatives bill exempting certain businesses and trades from being monitored were apparently written directly by industry, although the hard evidence for that still isn't clear. Some House staffers also challenge that notion of industry influence: "We could give two shits what the big banks say," one aide says.
Neverthless, The Washington Post, even if a bit breathlessly, reports today on the ambitious proposals moving through Congress:As lawmakers on Capitol Hill inch closer toward overhauling the nation's fractured financial regulatory system, each hour of debate, each tweak of legal language, each tedious roll call carries the potential to generate colossal changes in the relationship between Washington and Wall Street.
One proposal, spearheaded by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) would usher in unprecedented scrutiny of the Federal Reserve by allowing auditors to examine every aspect of the central bank's actions. That measure could come to a vote in the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday, though its prospects for success remain uncertain.
Another provision, pushed by Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pa.), would empower federal regulators to dismantle financial firms before they grow so large that their failure could endanger the entire financial system -- even if those firms appear to be healthy and well-capitalized.
The proposals are among scores of ideas floated on bill after bill in recent months. Thus far, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has steered his version of financial reform through that legislative minefield, navigating past Republican opposition, unrelenting pressure from industry lobbyists and consumer advocates, and occasional discord among some Democrats -- all while trying to emerge with a bill that can both pass the entire House and still resemble the original blueprint.
He is moving closer to that goal.
Frank's committee so far has approved legislation to create a new agency to oversee mortgages, credit cards and other loans to consumers, as well as measures to oversee the largely unregulated derivatives market, improve investor protections and impose stricter rules on credit-ratings agencies.
Each issue required noteworthy concessions, always with the endgame in mind.
Yet that endgame won't be good enough if the final result is reform in name only. So while mainstream advocacy groups continue to press for tougher oversight, they also don't want to alienate potential Congressional supporters by denouncing legislators too harshly. Such pragmatic concerns don't worry critics who are still troubled by the shape of emerging legislation. As Greider said in a new column attacking the hypocricy of Goldman Sachs:
Goldman and the other big dogs of Wall Street are afflicted with the stink of greed, having harvested swollen fortunes from the calamity they caused for the rest of the country. [CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd] Blankfein made it worse by recently telling a British interviewer that, when you consider all the good things Goldman Sachs does for the economy, "we're doing God's work." God evidently rewards such good works up-front. Goldman executives expect to collect more than $20 billion in bonuses at year's end. The rest of the economy is still waiting for its reward.
To soften the sting, Blankfein announced the firm will devote $500 million to assist small businesses, either as loans or grants to help the little guys learn better managerial skills. More to the point, Blankfein spoke the words that financial titans have avoided. "I apologize." The firm, he acknowledged, did some bad stuff, though he did not say what...
Wall Street is belatedly responding to its public relations problem. But this is really a political problem because public anger is gathering force and focus and scaring the bejeesus out of Washington pols...
If Wall Street wants really to win back public respect, there is a more substantial gift it can make that does not involve money. Goldman Sachs and the other banking behemoths can take their foot off the Congress and free servile politicians to enact true financial reforms. Call off your lobbyists, let democracy function in behalf of the public interest, not yours.
Monday, November 16, 2009
By: Anoush Maleki – Press TV
As US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart discuss a timetable for imposing possible sanctions on Iran, the country awaits the West's official response to its proposal on exchanging nuclear material for fuel.
"Unfortunately, so far at least, Iran appears to have been unable to say yes to what everyone acknowledges is a creative and constructive approach," The New York Times quoted President Obama as saying after an hour long meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev. "We are running out of time with respect to that approach."
What the American president was referring to was a proposal by his administration that was forwarded to Iran through the UN nuclear agency. Under the offer, Tehran would relinquish the bulk of its low enriched uranium (LEU) and receive nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran some 15 months later.
Although the draft of the deal was approved by Iranian representatives in nuclear talks in Vienna in mid-October, Iranian lawmakers rejected it after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear rods for the Tehran Research Reactor.
Iran then put forward its own proposal to buy ready-made fuel under an agreement that would both satisfy its interests and address Western concerns about its controversial nuclear program.
The plan envisages a two-staged exchange; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards nearly one third of Iran's uranium stockpile inside the Iranian territory for the time that it takes a supplier — Tehran says it will deal with any potential seller that is a member of the UN nuclear agency — to deliver uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent to the UN-monitored site.
If an agreement was reached based on Iran's proposal, the West would overcome its fears that the Iranian nuclear program, despite being monitored by UN agents 24 hours a day, would be used to pursue a military agenda and ultimately make Iran a nuclear armed state.
Iran says its activities are conducted in line with its obligations to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it is a signatory to, and that it only seeks the civilian applications of the technology.
Nonetheless, Iran's proposal awaits an official reply from the West.
It has been reported that Turkey has stepped up to temporarily keep Iran's low enriched uranium. However, the government in Tehran has asserted that its uranium stockpile will not leave the country.
Meanwhile, in a move ignoring the proposal, Presidents Obama and Medvedev discussed what appeared to be preparations for imposing new rounds of sanctions against Iran — even though China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is opposed to such a move.
President Medvedev said the Kremlin was not "completely" happy about the pace of negotiations with Iran. "If something does not work there are other means to move the process further."
President Obama said the alternative to the failure of ongoing talks would be "an approach that would involve increasing pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations."
According to The New York Times, the Obama administration has set an internal deadline for negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the closing date is the end of the year.
Iran says it is for dialogue but it is necessary for world powers to raise the spirit of cooperation.
Mohsen Rezaei, the former head of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and former presidential candidate who is currently the secretary of the Expediency Council, said in an interview on Sunday that the West should move to lift anti-Iran sanctions if it wants to build the ever-absent trust over the country's nuclear drive.
"I think suspension of sanctions against Iran could be an appropriate response and a trust-building measure from Westerners," he said.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the US step to renew sanctions proves that President Obama is no better than his predecessor George W. Bush.
"After one year of giving speeches and baseless slogans, it is a disgrace to see the behavior and the attitudes of this president are not better than his predecessors," he said.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also commented on the issue.
"Our national security is the most important thing; our national unity is on top. And those who thought they could take concessions from the Iranian nation through imposing sanctions and issuing threats are disappointed today," he said. "They understand now they have no alternative but cooperation with the Iranian nation, they have no alternative to stop short and stand side by side with the Iranian nation."
And yet, the approach taken by the US administration seems to be the opposite. Accepting Iran's proposal would undoubtedly be seen as an auspicious step that would lead to further cooperation and negotiation.
News Source: Al Jazeera
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister has warned the Palestinian leadership against any attempts to unilaterally declare statehood for the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
West Bank-based Palestinian officials said on Sunday that they were preparing to ask the United Nations Security Council to declare their backing for the Palestinian quest for an independent state.
In a radio address on Sunday evening, Netanyahu said: "There is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"Any unilateral action would only unravel the framework of agreements between us and can only lead to one-sided steps on the part of Israel."
Netanyahu did not specify what "steps" Israel could take, but Israeli legal experts have said that if the Palestinians were to move forward on their own then Israel could cancel interim peace accords.
"Israel could say there has been such a gross and major violation that the agreement itself is no longer in force," Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to Israel's foreign ministry, told The Associated Press news agency.
Interim accords agreed by the two sides set up a system of interlocking administrations that falls far short of peaceful relations but brings some order to issues like Palestinian imports and exports, tax collection, utilities and security co-operation.
The Palestinian Authority, which is led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is itself is a product of the interim accords.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that the Palestinians had decided to turn to the UN due to frustration at the lack of progress peace talks, which have been stalled since Israel launched 22-day offensive in Gaza last December.
"Now is our defining moment. We went into this peace process in order to achieve a two-state solution," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.
"The endgame is to tell the Israelis that now the international community has recognized the two-state solution on the '67 borders."
Israel captured and occupied larges areas of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war, and the Palestinians want to form their state based on the borders agreed by a ceasefire before then.
"They are not looking for a unilateral declaration of independence, they have already done that on November 15, 1988," Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, said.
"What they want is something a lot more concrete," she said.
"They know it won't immediately result in the withdrawal of Israeli occupation troops from their territory, but they want the Israelis to stand in front of an international collective will that says this is what needs to be done in order for peace to be realized."
Barack Obama, the US president, has been trying to restart talks between Abbas and Netanyahu since the US leader took office in January.
But the efforts have been hindered by the issue of illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Abbas has demanded a freeze in the construction before the resumption of negotiations.
Mohammed Dahlan, a senior official in Abbas's Fatah faction, said on Sunday that the UN initiative would be "a real test of the intentions of the international community".
"We are now leading a diplomatic battle," he said. "If the American administration does not agree, that will be another setback."
If the Security Council does not approve the measure, Dahlan said other options include a unilateral declaration of statehood and "popular, comprehensive resistance against settlement and the occupation".
Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, who in June set a goal of establishing the institutions of a state within two years, said it was time for the international community to take responsibility for "the mission of ending the occupation".
"This is the responsibility of the international community and when we talk about that and international law, of course we are talking about the United Nations," he said in Ramallah.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said: "Everyone knows this will not go to the Security Council without the green light from the US.
"If the US gives the green light, it means the relations between the US and Israel are in trouble.
"The US and Israel have avoided the Security Council for more than 16 years. To go back to it today, would be a major shift, a game changer in the diplomatic process.
"All Palestinians would be quite excited. Everyone, on all various levels, feels betrayed by a process that delivered not much after 16 years and seven agreements with the Israelis while quadrupling the illegal Israeli settlements."
Nimr Hamad, an adviser to Abbas, said the Palestinian president would travel to Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the plan with Hosni Mubarak, his Egyptian counterpart.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
By: Stewart Brennan
(Independent Writers for Truth)
It is my firm belief that while the US Federal Government continues to usurp power away from the fifty States of America, the American people cannot see the Freedom they believe they have, nor will they see it in the near or distant future. The US Constitution is in tatters and hanging by a thread while business interests carve out huge amounts of wealth from the American people.
The President, and / or the United States Congress, will not make any positive changes in day-to-day life for the American people, not while these same politicians steer the country in the direction of their personal pursuit of power and wealth. It will be the people who reclaim their ship and steer the country back from the brink of chaos.
Very few politicians today take a moral stand for what is right and what is wrong. There was a time, not long ago, when America was a great nation and practiced decision making with moral obligation, humanitarian beliefs, and empathy for the people of her own Country and the World at large. This is no longer the case. In fact, I would dare say that the USA is heading 180 degrees in the opposite direction and is on a collision course with domestic and global disaster.
Hope lays in the ability of the American people to retake control of their countries destiny, instead of trusting and relying on politicians or charlatans to do it for them.
Indeed, it is not just a country that will be saved from ruin if the American people are successful in reclaiming their Constitution, but the world will also be saved from disaster.
Extremely wealthy business interests financed this current reckless direction by design through the Federal Government structure they built. It is their insatiable thirst for wealth, power and world domination that their soulless empire was built.
Across the globe, the US Federal Government is busy creating and funding War around the World and over the last 8 years has gone to war on its own people. When will we all wake up?
Health Care or Don’t Care?
The Health Care Bill is truly the most talked about issue or argument of the day. The powers that be have made sure that there is division among the American people through the broadcast of shouting matches, name-calling, and labeling. This agenda only serves to hide the bigger issue, “Who has the power, and who gets to control the wealth generated by it”.
It isn’t hard to find a wide array of opinions no matter where the conversation takes place. One thing is clear however, if this bill is left as is, it will have the potential of ripping the Country apart.
The current trend points to civil unrest with a government unwilling to budge due to corporate meddling. The details of this Health Care Bill when implemented will wake Americans up and grab their attention and emotions. The only way to stop this trend is for the Federal government to back down. But I do not see that happening short of mass civilian disobedience. When a Country like the USA has a gun culture, it is most probable that they will be used at some point given the high anxiety this topic has raised. I would prefer to see the politicians become moral patriots with empathy for their own citizens, but when congress is more intent on protecting War criminals and stuffing their pockets, I don’t see a chance in hell that things will change, short of a revolution.
The current health care proposal that just passed the House of Representatives is a large Federal power grab and suited to big corporate interests. The Senate will not change much before it votes on it, and when both the house of representatives and the senate agree to a final draft, nothing good will come out of it.
I have always believed that health care should be a single payer system. Health care should be at the State level and treated as a non-profit entity, where all employed by the system have a pay scale, including doctors, nurses, and technicians. The services would not diminish as some would have you think but in fact would remain the same and cover everyone. After all, where else will the doctors and nurses go? Canada? Mexico? Cuba? I think not.
Of coarse, the biggest enemy to the single payer State plan is the Insurance companies who currently reap trillions of dollars in profits every year. The real solution here is to remove the Insurance companies out of the picture completely. The second thing required is to enact legislation to restrict the Pharmaceutical companies from gauging the public as they currently do. Profits should not exceed 40% for any product they produce, and that is being generous. Consumer rights must be reinstated and protected.
Universal Health Care should be paid for by the taxes already collected from the American people through the IRS and not by additional taxation. Your tax dollars already pay for it. What you do not have is control of those tax dollars. That is what needs to be dealt with.
Is it better for a Federal government to run 50 different state governments, or is it better for the 50 states to run their own affairs and congressionally direct the federal system to support the 50 states?
The big question is, “Where are all the Tax dollars going?” The Federal government collects trillions of dollars every year through the IRS. In my observation, the corruption runs deep, and I suspect, as I am sure you do also, that powerful interest groups are at the heart of the problem.
Maintaining 700 military bases around the World to preserve corporate Empires are a major drain of US taxpayer dollars. 1.5 trillion dollars goes into preserving and maintaining US military bases throughout the World. That does not count the hundreds of billions spent to conduct the Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan. Did you know that the USA is paying the Pakistan Army with US taxpayers’ money? What will this achieve for Americans back home? Well one thing is for sure, a larger debt incurred with interest due for the American people.
US Tax dollars are given to foreign governments such as Israel, Egypt, Honduras, Columbia, Saudi Arabia, etc. for military hardware to help preserve the US influence and corporate empires throughout the regions of the World. Some of the biggest customers of the American Tax payer’s cash are the military industrial corporations R&D projects for new weapons. How tight do you suppose those budgets are?
Homeland Tax Investment:
All I hear these days is that the USA has lost its manufacturing base. Anyone who thinks that this is true must have forgotten the Military Congressional Complex. This group has succeeded in securing trillions of taxpayer dollars to run a weapons industry that profits on destabilizing countries by arming both sides in a war. The US taxpayer pays the tab here too while the corporations get extremely wealthy.
Congress knows that War is big business and produces jobs for voters. Corporations such as Boeing, Raytheon, and GE remind politicians of this all the time and it is why these corporations succeed in procuring American Tax dollars from politicians. Of course these companies tell their employees which political candidate is faithful to the company and deserving of employee votes. I know this from personal experience.
I ask you, “Should your tax dollars go into supporting the weapons industry that destroys other countries or should your tax money go into creating jobs that rebuilds America?”
Why not spend money at home developing industries that will better the country and the Planet? Surely there must be a better way to spend tax dollars than on the War Industry. At the very least, there must be some money to rebuild recession torn America and aid for the American people.
Banking & Political Campaign Regulation:
America must recoup its taxation and monetary systems from the private interests that control it, and then they must isolate and regulate the investment banking system.
The Federal government is the main problem due to the Private interest groups behind the scenes that own shares in the Federal Reserve. The corruption is so widespread that both the Federal Government and the Private Interest groups are virtually one and the same. It is through these Interest groups that the Federal Government has legislated power to itself for the sole intent of building an empire and cornering all markets at the expense of the American people and the 50 states.
The Federal Empire has become a monster much the same way the early Roman Empire was. The extremely wealthy own all the land, the wealth, and have all the power. They wage war for profit and steal the riches from the conquered. They do not care about the people but are aware that the people can rise up so they throw confusion at them to keep them at bay. How long do you think that will last?
The solution to dismantling the Federal Empire is to put congress into line and implement a strict campaign policy where limits are imposed on funds a politician may receive and spend, to the amount of $300,000.00. It would also be in the people’s interest to limit campaigns to between 6 and 8 weeks.
The largest part of political corruption lays in campaign contributions and gifts by corporate interests and lobby groups. Therefore campaigns should be closely monitored so that limits are adhered to and that no sitting candidate would be allowed to receive gifts before, during or after service to his / her country.
World opinion of the USA dropped like a stone the moment the United States invaded Iraq. The once mighty America that was looked upon as the beacon of freedom is now viewed as just another military dictatorship with aims of global domination. However, there is a chance for the USA to redeem itself in World opinion and once again stand proud of its founding principals. To achieve this, the USA must conduct an investigation and put on trial all those that conspired in the invasion of Iraq and all the fallout that ensued as a result of those decisions.
The USA must hold a War Crimes trial for its Illegal Invasion of Iraq, for sending thousands of US soldiers to their deaths, for the slaughter of over 1 million Iraqi civilians, and for violating human rights by torturing hundreds of prisoners.
In doing so, America will show the World that NO ONE in the USA is above the Law.
Above all else, this trial will return America back into the World community as a moral leader and a country worthy of the highest praise it once enjoyed.
· Single payer health care is the only way to provide complete care for all people. Create a State run single payer system that is funded by existing taxes collected by the IRS. Have those taxes transferred back to the State to support the Health Care Plan.
· Create a universal pay scale for doctors, nurses, and technicians as all other industries do.
· Remove the Insurance companies from health care altogether and regulate the Pharmaceutical companies to price guidelines.
· Remove the Federal Reserve and return monetary control to the Treasury.
· Remove the IRS from the Federal system and allow the State to collect taxes for the services it is responsible for.
· Regulate Investment Banks and Isolate them from Main Street Banks.
· Implement Strict Campaign Funding Limits to $300,000.00 per political candidate. Do not allow gifts, before, during or after sitting in office.
· Limit political campaigns for re-election to 8 weeks maximum.
· Close military bases around the World.
· End the Wars by bringing the soldiers home
· Conduct a US War Crimes Trial on the GW Bush administration.
I am sure there are many other things that can be addressed here and there are a number of things that will be direct results of these 11 points. The main thing is to start the change now, and how you start is by forming a third political party to run against every democrat or republican that does not adopt these 11 principals of change. The nation is in your hands and together you can be the change you envision for your country. Stand up, stand proud, and stand together!
Source: Al Jazeera
The leader of the Lebanese group Hezbollah has accused Barack Obama, the US president, of "absolute bias" in favor of Israel and of disregard for the dignity of Arabs and Muslims.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Obama has gone further than his predecessor, George Bush, in supporting the Jewish state adding that the high expectations that followed Obama's election had been "shattered".
He said Obama's initial statements calling on Israel to freeze settlement building and then backtracking was a "tactic" agreed on by both Israel and the US, and that the initial settlement demand had been exposed as "an American ploy to pass the time and gain Arab sympathy".
Wednesday's remarks are the Hezbollah leader's strongest criticism yet of Obama since he took office almost a year ago.
Hezbollah and Israel fought a bitter 2006 summer war that killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel before it ended with a UN-brokered ceasefire.
Nasrallah said any "illusions" anyone had about the US president being more even-handed in handling the interests of "the Arab nations, Arab and international governments, the Arab Islamic world and in the third world" had collapsed.
He added that "quickly the truth of this delusion was shown and all the analyses and the illusions collapsed".
"What we see is absolute American commitment to Israeli interests, Israeli conditions, and Israeli security ... while disregarding the dignity or feelings of the Arab and Muslims people and their nations and governments."
Nasrallah, who is influential among supporters of his Shia group in the Arab world, warned Israel against waging another war on Lebanon, repeating his pledge to hit back deep within Israel.
During the speech Nasrallah also lashed out at a major missile defense exercise staged recently by the US and Israeli forces to test technology aimed at protecting Israel from a missile attack.
Nasrallah warned Israel to "send whatever military brigades, five or seven, and if you want send the whole Israeli army … We will destroy and crash it in our hills, valleys and mountains".
He made no comment on Israel's seizure of a ship last week carrying weapons it said originated in Iran and were destined for Hezbollah, a claim the group has denied.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
By: Mark LeVine
Opponents of the Goldstone report might well be hoping that after its lopsided condemnation in the US House of Representatives and successful relegation back to the UN's Human Rights Commission, the report will become little more than an historical footnote in a decades-long conflict.
This might in fact occur, given the imbalance of power between the contending sides. But historians can do a great deal with footnotes.
When the glare of history is finally shone upon the whole affair, it might well turn out that the reasons for such vehement opposition from US politicians, and only tepid (at best) support for it among other major powers, have far more to do with their own geostrategic interests than with protecting Israel.
The report, written by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, has caused uproar in Israel and the US for its alleged bias against Israel and avoidance of serious criticism of Hamas. The condemnation, House Resolution 867, passed by a 344-36 vote.
Before the vote on the resolution, Goldstone sent a letter to members of Congress refuting most of the allegations contained in it. But his rebuttal did not lead to substantive changes in the report's accusations and apparently had no effect on the vote.
Given the way in which opposition to the report unfolded it would be easy to conclude that this is merely another case of the vaunted Israel lobby shutting down any debate over Israel's actions in the Occupied Territories.
Yet while Israel's supporters no doubt took the lead in pushing the resolution, there is a back story to this drama that has likely played an equally, if not more important, role in the firestorm it has generated.
Why would the House go so far out of its way to stamp out even the consideration of war crimes accusations against Israel? And why would Barack Obama, the US president, have pressured Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, not to push the report in the UN when he had to know that such actions would cost Abbas most of his little remaining credibility among Palestinians?
Accessory to war crimes
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, if Israel is guilty of committing systematic war crimes across Gaza and the West Bank, then the US, which supported, funded and armed Israel during the war, is an accessory to those crimes.
Goldstone explains in no uncertain terms that Gaza was not an aberration in terms of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
Rather, it marked not only a continuation of Israel's behaviour during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, but "highlights a common thread of the interaction between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians which emerged clearly also in many cases discussed in other parts of the report.
It referenced continuous and systematic abuse, outrages on personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment contrary to fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law".
"The Mission concludes that the treatment of these civilians constitutes the infliction of a collective penalty on those persons and amounts to measures of intimidation and terror. Such acts are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and constitute a war crime," the report says.
Put simply, if there is blood on Israel's hands, than it is has dripped all over America's shirt.
Israel could not and would not have engaged in the level of wholesale destruction of Gaza painstakingly catalogued in the report without the support of the outgoing Bush administration, and acquiescence of the incoming Obama administration.
Israeli narrative challenged
Not only that, but on the same day the report was released the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel's military leadership is preparing the country for yet another invasion of Gaza in the near future.
It is not clear how much of Gaza is left to be destroyed, but the report's detailed discussion of Israel's attacks on innumerable homes, mosques, schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities show what lengths Israel will go to to punish Gazans, and Palestinians more broadly.
There is also the larger context of the peace negotiations. If Israel can be guilty of humanitarian crimes at this level, then it puts the entire Israeli narrative about the occupation - that it is ultimately about preserving the country's security - into question.
In fact, the report declares precisely this, in paragraph 1674, when it argues that the Gaza invasion "cannot be understood and assessed in isolation from developments prior and subsequent to it. The operation fits into a continuum of policies aimed at pursuing Israel's political objectives with regard to Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a whole".
Almost everyone outside the US, including in Israel, understands that the occupation has always been about settlement, not security, since Israel could have militarily occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 indefinitely without establishing a single settlement, and could withdraw from all its settlements tomorrow and maintain a military occupation until it felt secure enough to turn the territory over to Palestinians.
As famed general Moshe Dayan once put it, the settlements in the Occupied Territories are essential "not because they can ensure security better than the army, but because without them we cannot keep the army in those territories. Without them the IDF would be a foreign army ruling a foreign population".
But the US remains heavily invested in maintaining this security narrative; both because it is the core of the strategic alliance between the two countries with all the military, strategic and financial implications that come with it, and because, as with the Gaza invasion, the settlement enterprise could never have proceeded without US support, or at least acquiescence.
This dynamic continues to operate today, as the same day House Resolution 867 was passed, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, explained that the US preferred to return to peace talks even without a settlement freeze, despite the fact that not stopping settlement construction during negotiations has been deemed by former senior Israeli negotiators such as Moshe Ben Ami and Yossi Beilin as among the single biggest factors dooming the Oslo peace process.
The Obama administration refuses even to push the parameters painstakingly set by his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, before leaving office, to which both Israelis and Palestinians were very close to agreeing.
One has to wonder whether the US Middle East policy-making establishment, which is dominated by defence and security interests, is even interested in bringing about a speedy resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Beyond what the Goldstone report says about America's role in Israel's actions, the report holds a mirror up to US actions in its 'war on terror'. In so doing it paints for US policy-makers and politicians a more frightening picture of a future in which all countries are held accountable for their actions.
Here it becomes clear that, as it has been for four decades, Israel is both the spear and the shield for the projection - and protection - of US power in the Middle East. It engages in activities the US cannot do openly, and it acts as the first line of defence when US interests might be attacked diplomatically.
In going after Israel, the report, however unintended, is going after the US, which has committed many of the same crimes (of which Israel is accused) in its occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps through its drone attacks, in Pakistan and other countries. This is the report's true danger, and why - from the US perspective - its accusations against Israel cannot stand.
Specifically, the idea of treating a Western-allied state, Israel, and a resistance movement, Hamas, as equally capable of committing war crimes and being held accountable for them, sets an alarming precedent for the US as its engagement in Iraq stretches on indefinitely and deepens in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Why not hold the US (or Pakistan, China, Russia, or India for that matter) to the same standards as we hold the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or opposition movements in Kashmir, Chechnya or Tibet? None of these powers would allow this to happen.
Moreover, the report condemns the "Dahiya doctrine," which involved the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.
Although claiming to work hard to protect civilians in the countries it is occupying, one of the primary complaints against the US by citizens of Afghanistan or Iraq is the frequent killing of civilians and destruction of infrastructure, particularly if it could be deemed to be "supporting infrastructure" for "terrorists".
And when such abuses are committed, paragraph 121 of the report reminds the world that "international human rights law and humanitarian law require states to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute allegations of serious violations by military personnel".
This is an indirect stab at the US judicial system, which has so far failed to hold anyone but a few low-level soldiers accountable for the numerous abuses committed by the US in Iraq and the 'war on terror' more broadly.
Perhaps the most dangerous suggestion in this regard is the report's call for applying "universal jurisdiction" to the conflict.
As paragraph 127 states: "In the context of increasing unwillingness on the part of Israel to open criminal investigations that comply with international standards, the mission supports the reliance on universal jurisdiction as an avenue for states to investigate violations of the grave breach [of the] provisions of the Geneva Conventions."
There is no power that wants its officials or military and security personnel subject to prosecution by other countries.
In this regard, it is not coincidental that the same day resolution 867 was passed an Italian court convicted 23 former CIA agents of participating in the illegal rendition of an Italian imam, who claims he was subsequently tortured in captivity.
In June, the Italian newspaper il Giornale published an interview with Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA's Milan station chief, in which he admitted, "Of course it was an illegal operation. But that's our job. We're at war against terrorism".
This is a crucial statement, for it reveals that the US establishment believes that in a 'war on terror', there are no legal limits to what it can do. And if Israel is condemned for the same attitude, this would vitiate America's ability to take whatever actions it desires, however illegal, to pursue its interests.
Obama might not take such actions, but his successors might. And if another major terrorist attack were to occur on US soil, there is little doubt that the gloves would once again come off, whether Obama wanted to keep them on or not.
In such a situation, the psychology of uncritical victimology that characterised post-9/11 America will be crucial to enabling such policies to be (re)put in place.
As the report quotes an Israeli professor (paragraph 1703): "Israeli society's problem is that because of the conflict, Israeli society feels itself to be a victim and to a large extent that's justified and it's very difficult for Israeli society to move and to feel that it can also see the other side and to understand that the other side is also a victim." This problem is equally difficult for Americans to overcome.
Report's historical imprint
Among the final coincidences accompanying the passage of resolution 867 was its release the day after Clinton held a high-profile meeting in Morocco to champion the country's recent official promotion of democracy.
But in her celebration of the Moroccan example she neglected to mention that press freedoms, the core of any democratic system, are suffering increasing restrictions in the country. Freedom of speech or challenging the country's political-economic elite remains heavily circumscribed, especially when it comes from the country's principal Islamically motivated opposition movement.
Of course, Clinton cannot push too hard for democracy in the Muslim world; democratically-elected governments would not tolerate many of the US' core policies in the region, from uncritical support for Israel to its own military and economic alliances and activities.
The day after her Morocco meeting, Clinton was in Egypt, meeting once again with the Egypt's autocratic leader, Hosni Mubarak, with not a word about democracy.
Against such policy interests, it might well be that the Goldstone report will be relegated to history without being acted upon.
What few of its opponents understand is just how big an imprint this most exhaustive study of the Israeli occupation will leave.
It might not help Palestinians and Israelis achieve peace today, but future historians will likely look upon it as a crucial document in exposing the realities of the American dominated Middle Eastern system for the world to see.
Mark LeVine is currently Visiting Professor at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University, Sweden. His most recent books include Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009) and Reapproaching Borders: New Perspectives on the Study of Israel-Palestine (Rowman Littlefield, 2008).
Monday, November 9, 2009
Official US Air Force Document Reveals the True Intentions Behind the US-Colombia Military Agreement
By: Eva Golinger
An official document from the Department of the US Air Force reveals that the military base in Palanquero, Colombia will provide the Pentagon with “…an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America…” This information contradicts the explainations offered by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the US State Department regarding the military agreement signed between the two nations this past October 30th. Both governments have publicly stated that the military agreement refers only to counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations within Colombian territory. President Uribe has reiterated numerous times that the military agreement with the US will not affect Colombia’s neighbors, despite constant concern in the region regarding the true objetives of the agreement. But the US Air Force document, dated May 2009, confirms that the concerns of South American nations have been right on target. The document exposes that the true intentions behind the agreement are to enable the US to engage in “full spectrum military operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies…and anti-US governments…”
The military agreement between Washington and Colombia authorizes the access and use of seven military installations in Palanquero, Malambo, Tolemaida, Larandia, Apíay, Cartagena and Málaga. Additionally, the agreement allows for “the access and use of all other installations and locations as necessary” throughout Colombia, with no restrictions. Together with the complete immunity the agreement provides to US military and civilian personnel, including private defense and security contractors, the clause authorizing the US to utilize any installation throughout the entire country - even commercial aiports, for military ends, signifies a complete renouncing of Colombian sovereignty and officially converts Colombia into a client-state of the US.
The Air Force document underlines the importance of the military base in Palanquero and justifies the $46 million requested in the 2010 budget (now approved by Congress) in order to improve the airfield, associated ramps and other installations on the base to convert it into a US Cooperative Security Location (CSL). “Establishing a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Palanquero best supports the COCOM’s (Command Combatant’s) Theater Posture Strategy and demonstrates our commitment to this relationship. Development of this CSL provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”
It’s not difficult to imagine which governments in South America are considered by Washington to be “anti-US governments”. The constant agressive declarations and statements emitted by the State and Defense Departments and the US Congress against Venezuela and Bolivia, and even to some extent Ecuador, evidence that the ALBA nations are the ones perceived by Washington as a “constant threat”. To classify a country as “anti-US” is to consider it an enemy of the United States. In this context, it’s obvious that the military agreement with Colombia is a reaction to a region the US now considers full of “enemies”.
COUNTERNARCOTICS OPERATIONS ARE SECONDARY
Per the US Air Force document, “Access to Colombia will further its strategic partnership with the United States. The strong security cooperation relationship also offers an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America to include mitigating the Counternarcotics capability.” This statement clearly evidences that counternarcotics operations are secondary to the real objetives of the military agreement between Colombia and Washington. Again, this clearly contrasts the constant declarations of the Uribe and Obama governments insisting that the main focus of the agreement is to combat drug trafficking and production. The Air Force document emphasizes the necessity to improve “full spectrum” military operations throughout South America – not just in Colombia – in order to combat “constant threats” from “anti-US governments” in the region.
PALANQUERO IS THE BEST OPTION FOR CONTINENTAL MOBILITY
The Air Force document explains that “Palanquero is unquestionably the best site for investing in infrastructure development within Colombia. Its central location is within reach of…operations areas…its isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection and minimizes the US military profile. The intent is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the US ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and presence at minimum cost. Palanquero supports the mobility mission by providing access to the entire South American continent with the exception of Cape Horn…”
ESPIONAGE AND WARFARE
The document additionally confirms that the US military presence in Palanquero, Colombia, will improve the capacity of espionage and intelligence operations, and will allow the US armed forces to increase their warfare capabilities in the region. “Development of this CSL wil further the strategic partnership forged between the US and Colombia and is in the interest of both nations…A presence will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation and expand expeditionary warfare capability.”
The language of war included in this document evidences the true intentions behind the military agreement between Washington and Colombia: they are preparing for war in Latin America. The past few days have been full of conflict and tension between Colombia and Venezuela. Just days ago, the Venezuelan government captured three spies from the Colombian intelligence agency, DAS, and discovered several active destabilization and espionage operations against Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. The operations - Fénix, Salomón and Falcón, respectively, were revealed in documents found with the captured DAS agents. Approximately two weeks ago, 10 bodies were found in Táchira, a border zone with Colombia. After completing the relevant investigations, the Venezuelan government discovered that the bodies belonged to Colombian paramilitaries infiltrated inside Venezuelan territory. This dangerous paramilitary infiltration from Colombia forms part of a destabilization plan against Venezuela that seeks to create a paramilitary state inside Venezuelan territory in order to breakdown President Chávez’s government.
The military agreement between Washington and Colombia will only increase regional tensions and violence. The information revealed in the US Air Force document unquestionably evidences that Washington seeks to promote a state of warfare in South America, using Colombia as its launching pad. Before this declaration of war, the peoples of Latin America must stand strong and unified. Latin American integration is the best defense against the Empire’s aggression.
*The US Air Force document was submitted in May 2009 to Congress as part of the 2010 budget justification. It is an official government document and reaffirms the authenticity of the White Book: Global Enroute Strategy of the US Air Mobility Command, which was denounced by President Chávez during the UNASUR meeting in Bariloche, Argentina this past August 28th. I have placed the original document and the non-official translation to Spanish that I did of the relevant parts relating to Palanquero on the web page of the Center to Alert and Defend the People “Centro de Alerta para la Defensa de los pueblos”, a new space we are creating to garantee that strategic information is available to those under constant threat from imperialist aggression.
Source News Story
Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney from New York, living in Caracas, Venezuela since 2005 and author of the best-selling books, “The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela” (2006 Olive Branch Press) and “Bush vs. Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela” (2007, Monthly Review Press). Since 2003, Eva, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and CUNY Law School in New York, has been investigating, analyzing and writing about US intervention in Venezuela using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain information about the US Government’s efforts to destabilize progressive movements in Latin America.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
At approximately 1:30 p.m. CST Nov. 5th, 2009, a soldier went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, killing 12 people and wounding at least 31 others, according to base commander Lieutenant-General Bob Cone.
Truthout spoke with an Army Specialist who is an active-duty Iraq war veteran currently stationed at the base. The soldier spoke on condition of anonymity since the base is now on “lockdown,” and all “non-authorized” military personnel on the base have been ordered not to speak to the press.
“A soldier entered the ‘Soldier Readiness Center (SRC)’ with two handguns and opened fire,” the soldier, who is currently getting treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) explained. “That facility is where you go just before you deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.”
The soldier named the gunman as Major Malik Nadal Hasan, and said he was about 40 years old. According to the soldier, Hasan was a member of the base’s Medical Evaluation Board, and worked there as a counselor.
At a news conference Thursday evening, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone said Maj. Hasan, who was shot four times, is alive and in stable condition at a nearby hospital where he is being guarded by military personnel.
“I can confirm Major Hasan was the gunman, and I actually saw him this morning,” the soldier explained. “I was over in the area doing some paperwork, and saw him at the facility. He seemed fine to me, and I spoke with one of my friends who had an appointment with him this morning. They said Major Hasan seemed OK to them too.”
The soldier believes that at least one Killeen Police Department officer was killed before the gunman was shot.
Fort Hood, located in central Texas, is the largest US military base in the world and contains up to 50,000 soldiers. It is one of the most heavily deployed bases to both Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the shooter himself was facing an impending deployment to Iraq.
The soldier says that the mood on the base is “very grim,” and that even before this incident, troop morale has been very low.
“I’d say it’s at an all-time low - mostly because of Afghanistan now,” he explained. “Nobody knows why we are at either place, and I believe the troops need to know why they are there, or we should pull out, and this is a unanimous feeling, even for folks who are pro-war.”
In a strikingly similar incident on May 11, 2009, a US soldier gunned down five fellow soldiers at a stress-counseling center at a US base in Baghdad. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news conference at the Pentagon that the shootings occurred in a place where “individuals were seeking help.”
“It does speak to me, though, about the need for us to redouble our efforts, the concern in terms of dealing with the stress,” Admiral Mullen said. “It also speaks to the issue of multiple deployments.”
Commenting on the incident in nearly parallel terms, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the Pentagon needs to redouble its efforts to relieve stress caused by repeated deployments in war zones; stress that is further exacerbated by limited time at home in between deployments.
The condition described by Mullen and Gates is what veteran health experts often refer to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While soldiers returning home are routinely involved in shootings, suicide and other forms of self-destructive violent behavior as a direct result of their experiences in Iraq, we have yet to see an event of this magnitude take place in Iraq.
Prior to the May incident, the last reported incident of this kind happened in 2005, when an Army captain and lieutenant were killed when an anti-personnel mine detonated in the window of their room at a US base in Tikrit. In that case, National Guard Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez was acquitted.
The shocking story of a soldier killing five of his comrades does not come as a surprise when we consider that the military has, for years now, been sending troops with untreated PTSD back into the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to an Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center analysis, reported in the Denver Post in August 2008 Titled, “The Battle Within”, more than “43,000 service members -- two-thirds of them in the Army or Army Reserve -- were classified as nondeployable for medical reasons three months before they deployed” to Iraq.
The Battle Within
Mark Thompson also has reported in Time magazine, “Data contained in the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of US troops taken last fall, about 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope.”
In April 2008, the RAND Corporation released a stunning report revealing, “Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan - 300,000 in all - report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment.”
President Barack Obama, speaking during an event at the Department of the Interior in Washington, said that the mass shooting at Fort Hood was a "horrific outburst of violence". He added, "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil."
Victor Agosto, an Iraq war veteran who was discharged from the military after publicly refusing to deploy to Afghanistan, has had firsthand experience with the SRFC at Fort Hood, where he too was based.
“I knew there would be a confrontation when I was there, because the only reason to do that process is to deploy,” Agosto explained, speaking to Truthout near Fort Hood . “So the shooter clearly intended to stop people from deploying.”
Agosto was court-martialed for refusing an order to go to the SRC to prepare to deploy to Afghanistan.
“I was court-martialed for refusing the order to SRC in that very same building. I didn’t enter the building, but I didn’t go in because I was refusing the process,” Agosto continued. “It’s a pretty important place in my life, so it’s interesting to me that this happened there.”
By: Dahr Jamail - Truthout
Thursday, November 5, 2009
News Source: Al Jazeera
The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a UN-sponsored report that says Israel committed war crimes during last winter's military assault on the Gaza Strip.
The Goldstone report, which accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, has already been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, which sponsored the fact-finding commission.
The General Assembly on Thursday voted by a margin of 114 to 18 to adopt the report after debating it for two days.
Forty-four member-nations abstained from voting.
The report calls on both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate accusations of human-rights violations during the 22-day conflict in December and January.
The debate at the General Assembly, which began on Wednesday, was called for by the Arab UN group, with the backing of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (Nam).
Most of criticism in the report, compiled by a fact-finding panel led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, was directed towards Israel's conduct during the offensive, in which human rights organizations say about 1,400 Palestinians - many of them women and children - were killed.
Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were killed over the course of the war.
Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN in New York, said on Wednesday: "The Palestinians put forward this resolution with several co-sponsors knowing that they have the support to have it passed in the General Assembly.
"This is really an attempt to keep the Goldstone report alive. The resolution endorses the report and also attempts to force it upon the Security Council, by getting the secretary-general involved."
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian observer to the UN, said the report concluded that the Israeli military onslaught "was planned in all of its phases as a deliberately disproportionate and systematic attack aimed at punishing, humiliating and terrorizing the Palestinian civilian population".
Mansour warned that efforts by Israel and its supporters to discredit the UN report and its authors would not deter Arab states from following up the recommendations "in all relevant international forums, including the Security Council and the International Criminal Court, until the realization of justice with the accountability of the perpetrators of these crimes and violations".
Gabriela Shalev, Israel's UN ambassador to the UN, hammered Wednesday's debate at the UN as "yet another campaign against the victims of terrorism, the people of Israel".
"The Goldstone report and this debate do not promote peace. They damage any effort to revitalize negotiations in our region. They deny Israel's right of self-defense," she told the assembly.
"From its inception in a one-sided mandate, the Gaza fact-finding mission was a politicized body with predetermined conclusions," she added.
US House vote
The US House of Representatives on Tuesday dismissed the report as being "irredeemably biased" against Israel.
The house voted in favor of a non-binding resolution calling on Barack Obama, the US president, to maintain his opposition to the report.
Goldstone last week sent a letter to the US House of Representatives saying that the text of the US resolution had "factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context".
He offered several rejections and clarifications of the ideas expressed in the resolution.
In response to Goldstone's criticism, three parts of the resolution were amended on Tuesday to clarify that Goldstone had sought an expansion to the commission's mandate so that his team could investigate claims that Hamas had violated international law during the Gaza war.
The Goldstone report accused Israel of using "disproportionate force" and of deliberately targeting civilians.
The report called for cases to be referred to the ICC in The Hague if Israel and Hamas do not investigate the war crimes allegations against them within six months.
Hamas has agreed to hold such an investigation, but Israel has not.