Wednesday, December 30, 2009
By: Dahr Jamail
News Source: Truthout
The band Junkyard Empire does not differentiate among music, message and life.
Political Affairs magazine said, "A jazz version of Rage Against the Machine, Minnesota-based Junkyard Empire blends jazz instrumentals, hip hop, and socially conscious lyrics to create a fresh sound ... this new Midwestern band has something to say."
The title track of their new CD Rebellion Politik, declares:
They lure us in stores to keep us all poor
Ignoring the cure for what's at the core
Explore the floor of the third world poor
Creating the wars for mineral ore
Lead vocalist/rapper Brian Lozenski, whose stage name is MC Brihanu says, "Music and art should represent life. My life revolves around social justice and trying to make a better world for my children. Therefore my music reflects that. I don't think every piece of art and music needs to be explicitly political, but there needs to be an accurate reflection of people's lives. Most of the mainstream music we hear today is purposefully not political. That is a political act in itself because corporate media does not want its consumers to think critically and challenge the status quo." They are a band endorsed by Noam Chomsky.
Christopher Cox, founder of the band, tells Truthout the name evolved in this way:
"I originally proposed the name 'Refuse Empire' which was clearly anti-imperialist, but also an ecological statement. The US is an empire of refuse, since the American Empire is based on everything being expendable, quick, throwaway ... including capitalism itself, which never leads to long-term good, it only leads to short-term 'good,' and that's a short-term good only for a small group of people. So building an empire on junk is not good for anyone for the long term." The name then morphed into Junkyard Empire from there.
Mirroring Cox's thoughts, Brihanu is clear about the current state of affairs, and what he feels needs to happen:
"The number one problem I see right now is the corporate control of the government. We cannot hope to see any realistic change until we separate private enterprise from the federal and state governments. The public cannot compete with the corporations in terms of money and power. The political system we have can work only if it is able to operate without politicians being allowed to profit from their political decisions. The only other way would be through a violent revolution and I think no one really wants to see the chaos that would ensue. However, I also realize that the power elite will not let go without a fight, so it may come to a traditional bottom up revolution in order to create a more just society."
Brihanu began his activism as a student at Cornell University where he pushed for fair housing and culturally diverse programs. He has been involved in the campaign for the release of Mumia Abu Jamal and other political prisoners, in anti-poverty initiatives and in the demand for education rights. The list of organizations he associates with range from the Uhuru Movement to Wellstone Action to The League of Pissed Off Voters. He believes that activism is integral to his life. Even as a public school teacher he tried to engage his students in thinking critically about society.
Cox is a Sonoma State University graduate in political science. He has earlier worked on Project Censored, a group with the mission "to teach students and the public about the role of a free press in a free society - and to tell the News That Didn't Make the News and Why." "My head was into political organizing," the trombone/keyboard/electronics player told Truthout, "So for me, I didn't want to play music just to make a living, I wanted to get politics in there."
In August, Junkyard Empire was invited to Cuba for a rare opportunity to meet with Cuban arts organizations and leaders and to perform several shows. The Havana Times wrote of their visit, "The US hip hop group Junkyard Empire - accompanied by trombone, drums and bass - invited everyone attending 'to sing against imperialism and to unite their voices for freedom and equality.' According to the host, they represented good-hearted Americans who defied the blockade to come to Cuba and offer their art."
The state of political consciousness in the United States today is a joke, and civic participation in activism pales in comparison to that during the Vietnam era. In the wake of President Obama's recent announcement to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan people are feeling more powerless and demoralized than ever. It is in this environment that Cox, Brihanu, guitarist Bryan Berry, bass guitarist Dan Choma and drummer Graham O'Brian have created a combination of activism and art. The day after Obama's announcement, Cox and Berry were arrested in Minneapolis while protesting the escalation.
The band does not shy away from hot topics. Everything from the US financial meltdown to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis is addressed in the new album. The song "Manifest" tackles head-on the foundational doctrine of the United States:
So the message becomes repetitive, seduce you like a sedative
You hear it in school, in the media and in your church edifice
We're the civilized here to save the savages
Their culture is ravenous, they're a lesser people
Not equal to receive the gifts bestowed on god's righteous leaders
Let's teach them they're inferior and should despise themselves
And if they don't conform to us, they've destined themselves for hell
If they rebel we have no choice but to take them by force
It's what we're destined for, so you know it's god's law
And if need be it's a justification for war
By any means necessary, destroy all our adversaries
And spread our doctrine to the edge of the Earth
Cause the world is ours, it was manifested by birth
We want your land and your resources for the nourishment of our society
But don't fight it and don't test we
Just realize this is your manifest destiny
To ensure their survival and success, musicians in the US keep away from the contentious issue of politics. They are rewarded by the corporate-dominated media with excessive publicity and, as a consequence, higher sales. In such an atmosphere, bands like Junkyard Empire are unlikely to find any of their songs reaching the number one position on the charts. Nor do they hanker for that brand of popularity. They do want to reach people, but through different routes and for very different reasons.
It is not indifference to public taste, but rather an examined intent to sensitize the public that guides the band.
Ask them what is wrong with someone just wanting to listen to music to have a good time, and leave politics out of it, and Brihanu responded, "Why does it make them uncomfortable? Does it make them uncomfortable to hear the misogyny, violence, and materialism prevalent in 'fun, party' music? The best music should stimulate our minds, bodies, and souls. It is impossible to deny the impact of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Michael Franti, Fela Kuti, Dead Prez, Public Enemy, and numerous other musicians on our society. Like those musicians, we want to challenge people through our music in the hope that they will question what we've been taught and how we operate. I also believe that if you have a platform to say something then you should say something with substance. Plus, there's nothing wrong with shakin' your ass to a political message that sparks a fire inside of you."
Cox shares his view: "Some of the most educated and political people I know are jazz musicians. However, most of them don't feel politics belong in their art. But I think politics affects everything we do, including our music. And as a jazz musician, I have always felt there should be more to the music. My take is that all music has intense social relevance. For us, we're just taking this path because we have some things we want to say, and we're using music as our way of saying it. If you're given a stage, why not include something that changes people's minds, or at least opens them up?"
Truthout attended the band's release concert of their new album, Rebellion Politik, in September, at the Cedar Cultural Center in downtown Minneapolis. The band refers to the title track as an "operating theory" that uses as a force for organizing and political action, "the science of survival in a repressive environment."
The track "Original Assumption" asks:
What is freedom?
Is it the perceived option to choose between two preconceived concoctions
Of a two party dictatorship, based on maintaining a deranged relationship
With no explanation of our benefits
The chorus of the title track reinforces the thought:
Rebellion Politik, the opposite of what you know as politics
Where corporate capital makes the government break their promise
It's a new day where people create the policy
And the economy trickles up to eradicate the poverty
So get up, stand up, these are our demands, what
We want our money back so politicians get your hands up
Equal distribution of the land and the profits
An end to all war and a socialized democracy
These lyrics come as no surprise from a band that, along with thousands of protesters, was chased by riot-gear clad police at last year's Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. The experience galvanized the band as a unit, explained Cox. "That experience kind of made Junkyard Empire, in our minds. It solidified for us how much we want to be a part of the movement, versus being a band that is just into the subject matter."
One of their gigs during the convention week took place on the steps of the Capital, the day after Rage Against the Machine had played at a festival. Cox recounted, "We played for a protest called 'No peace for the war makers.' We played our set on stage, with some speeches between our songs, it was great, and intense. All of a sudden I looked to my right and saw about 50 cops in riot gear, and I was wondering what was about to happen. So it was a bit awkward, but the energy was great. It was the first time for us, as a band, that we felt like we were doing exactly what we wanted - playing live music, involved in a live protest, cops around, and being connected to both, was incredibly energizing."
The band's conviction is both refreshing and unmistakable. Junkyard Empire believes that their music can assist in fomenting the change they feel must happen in the world right now. For them, it is important to combine music, art and politics because they see music as an inspirational mechanism to create change.
Brihanu reminisced, "One of the first ways I realized that there were problems to be confronted, was when I was listening to Public Enemy and KRS-One as a child. It helped me interpret my world and built a passion for social justice inside me that I didn't even realize was there."
Today he hopes their band might have the same effect on people.
"Our music and message are one in the same, they are meant to provoke thought and inspire us all to realize our true potential. We want to be the soundtrack for a mass social movement in the US and around the world."
Right now I'm speaking as the voice of the masses
Defeated, mistreated, believe it you beat us robbed us and gassed us
We've been passed up, locked up, exploited and downsized
But we will uprise, no compromise, this is the fire next time
Junkyard Empire is sporadically touring the Midwest, looking to partner up with other radical bands for a larger tour, and working towards a tour of Europe. They are also in the planning stages for other international political actions, and are promoting Rebellion Politik, which is their third album.
Bhaswati Sengupta contributed to this report.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Tuesday that Moscow will pursue plans for new weapons to counter the US missile defense system, and added that the US plans are holding up a new nuclear disarmament treaty.
In response, the US State Department, in a statement issued the same day, rejected Moscow's concerns, saying the two issues were completely separate and discussions would continue separately.
Russia and the US have still not drafted a successor to the Cold War-era Start I treaty, which expired on December 5.
Russia believes any US missile shield is a threat — and one it has now vowed to counter.
Analysts say Moscow wants a clause in the new treaty that would limit the scale of any US defense shield, BBC reported late on Tuesday.
The US has shelved plans for missile defense stations in Central Europe but still intends to use a sea-based system.
The State Department statement added that Washington and Moscow's joint position recognizing the inter-relationship between defensive and offensive weapons systems had not changed.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Thanks to Cairo's obstruction, Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy en rout to the Gaza Strip will take a detour and head to Syria Latakia, in a bid to enter Egypt through El-Arish.
The convoy of 250 vehicles has been stranded in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba after Egypt refused to allow it to go through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba — the most direct route. Cairo insisted that the convoy can only enter through the Mediterranean port city of El-Arish.
"The aid convoy will leave Aqaba for (the Mediterranean port of) Latakia in Syria before going to El-Arish, in line with Cairo's decision," said Maysara Malas, of Jordan's powerful trade union federation, which has been helping to organize the aid convoy.
"We hope that Egypt does not put more obstacles. It's unfortunate that Israel has interfered in Egypt's decision, which serves the Zionist entity," he added.
Around 250 trucks, ambulances and other vehicles laden with Arab, Turkish and other European aid — both food and medical supplies — in Aqaba arrived on Thursday hoping to take the ferry across to Nuweiba.
"After talks between the Turkish government's envoy and the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba, we agreed to go to Syria," Zaher Birawi, spokesman for the convoy told AFP on Monday.
The convoy was scheduled to deliver medical, humanitarian and educational aid to Gazans on December 27, which marks the first year anniversary of Israel's three-week war against the sliver.
Egyptian police also stopped some 200 protesters from renting boats on the Nile to hold a procession to commemorate the death of over 1,400 victims of Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.
US intelligence sources have confirmed Iran's assertions that a document published by a British daily about Tehran's nuclear program is a fabrication.
According to a former CIA official, US intelligence agents have found that the document, which was published by the Times of London on December 14, was fabricated by Israel or Britain, the Inter Press Service (IPS) reported on Monday.
The IPS report was penned by renowned investigative journalist Gareth Porter.
Philip Giraldi, who was a CIA counterterrorism official from 1976 to 1992, told IPS that intelligence sources say the US had nothing to do with forging the document.
He added, however, that US intelligence sources mainly suspect Israel of carrying out the forgery, although, they do not rule out the possibility of the British having played a part in it.
The Times article said that Iran had been secretly experimenting on a key component of a nuclear bomb called the "neutron initiator."
Right after the article was published, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast dismissed the report as completely "baseless."
The Times article did not identify the source of the document, but rather quoted comments by "an Asian intelligence source," who claimed that his government believes that Tehran has been working on a neutron initiator since 2007.
"An Asian intelligence source" is a term some news media use to refer to Israeli intelligence officials.
The Times story came just before US politicians and their European allies launched a new round of verbal attacks against Iran, threatening it with tougher sanctions and the possibility of an Israeli military attack.
Porter wrote US media reports have left the impression that US intelligence analysts are confident about the document's authenticity. This is while it has been widely reported that they have now had a year to assess the issue.
Although Giraldi's intelligence sources did not reveal all the reasons that led analysts to conclude that the document had been fabricated, they did note that the source of the story itself was suspicious.
"The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government," Giraldi said.
Other than The Times, Murdoch's press empire includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post, all of which are known for the strongly pro-Israeli tone they take in their reports.
Porter added that other than its source, the two-page document itself included a number of giveaways that also indicated fraud.
For example, the image of the Farsi-language original of the document, which was also published by the Times lacked any confidentiality marking, although the subject of the document logically put it into the highly classified category.
Furthermore, the document did not include information about the issuing office or the intended recipients. It vaguely referred to "the Centre," "the Institute," "the Committee," and the "neutron group."
The ambiguity was in stark contrast with the concreteness of the plans, which included detailed instructions about recruiting eight individuals for different tasks for very specific numbers of hours and for a four-year time frame.
The vagueness can be explained by reasoning that security markings and identifying information in a forged document would increase the likelihood of potential errors that could expose the fraud.
The absence of any date on the document also conflicted with the rest of the information, which came in detail. The 2007 timeline was only introduced by the Times' unnamed foreign sources.
A clear motive for suggesting the early 2007 date would be to appease the Israeli government by discrediting the US intelligence community's November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran was not working on a nuclear bomb.
The biggest reason for discarding the document as fraudulent is its attempt to suggest past Iranian experiments on Polonium-210 for use in a neutron initiator, a claim which was ruled out by the UN nuclear watchdog in a February 2008 report.
This is not the first time that Giraldi has been tipped off by his intelligence sources on forged documents. He was the individual who identified those responsible for the two most notorious forged documents in recent US history.
In 2005, Giraldi identified Michael Ledeen, the extreme right-wing former consultant to the Pentagon, as an author of the fabricated letter, which introduced the allegation that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger.
That letter gave the administration of former US President George W. Bush the opportunity to claim that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons program, an allegation that was proven completely false following the invasion of Iraq.
Giraldi also identified officials in the "Office of Special Plans" who worked under Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith as those who forged a letter, allegedly written by a Saddam intelligence aide, about an operation to arrange for an unidentified shipment from Niger.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Britain has witnessed major anti-Israel demonstrations, as several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters rallied in front of the Israeli embassy in London.
The demonstrators condemned the deadly Israeli offensive and continued Israeli siege of the impoverished Gaza Strip, demanding an end to the 'inhuman' blockade.
"We continue to be outraged at the attacks on Gaza and the crimes against humanity that was committed there," Glen Secker from Jews for Justice for Palestinians said on Sunday.
The protesters who chanted "end the siege now", also held banners naming Saudi King Abdullah, Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as accomplices in the massacre of Gazans.
A group of UK parliamentarians also took part in the protests, voicing concern for the Gaza siege.
"The Israeli ambassador to London has demanded that our law should be changed. But I should point out that it is not for him to demand how we should change our law," Labor MP Martin Linton told Press TV.
Linton was pointing to a recent arrest warrant issued for former Israeli Prime minister Tzipi Livni in the British court system.
The warrant was hastily withdrawn after an extraordinary intervention from the Foreign Office and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown himself.
Pro-Gaza protests were also staged in over a dozen other cities across Britain this week, amid tight security.
The latest development comes as the Viva Palestina convoy made its way to the blockaded strip, despite hindrances.
The third international convoy, which departed from London on December 5, is made up of international volunteers who have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in their local communities to pay for ambulances, minibuses, vans, and lorries to fill them with medical and other aid that is desperately needed in Gaza.
The Viva Palestina convoy was organized to direct the world's attention to the fact that Israeli war criminals committed horrendous crimes in Gaza as well as to the courageous Palestinian resistance.
Israel's three-week offensive against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, more than half of them civilians, according to medical sources.
The Israeli assault also led to the destruction of schools, mosques, houses as well as UN compounds, inflicting $1.6 billion damage on the Gaza economy.
Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators have gathered in New York to mark the one-year anniversary of Israel's devastating attack on the Gaza Strip.
The protestors, which included Muslim, Christian and Jewish human rights activists, marched against the Tel Aviv regime's three-week war on Gaza and urged world countries to stand up to Israeli crimes against Palestinians, IRNA reported on Sunday.
"Now is the time to stand with Palestinians. Now is the time to speak out against the Israeli genocide," New York Rabbi Joseph Cohen told IRNA. "The regime of Israel is not only the enemy of Palestinians, but also an enemy of the Jewish people."
Tel Aviv attacked Gaza on December 27 with the declared goal of "self-defense" and toppling the Hamas government. More than 1,400 Palestinians, including a large number of women and children, were killed in the conflagration.
The attack, which lasted three weeks, also wounded thousands of others, displaced 60,800 civilians and seriously damaged 17,000 homes at a time when Gazans were already subjected to a months-long blockade which had in turn triggered a humanitarian crisis in the tiny Palestinian territory.
More than two months after Tel Aviv declared an alleged ceasefire, disturbing revelations of the Israeli army's massive violations of human rights set the wheels turning on an international war crime case.
During the offensive, Israel reportedly shelled three clearly GPS-designated UN schools and opened fire on hospitals, ambulances, medical personnel and civilian homes.
After categorical denials that it used white phosphorus on the densely-populated Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers finally admitted that they had pounded the Palestinian coast with at least twenty white phosphorus bombs.
The most shocking revelation, however, came on January 4 when Israeli troops evacuated some 110 Gazans -- half of whom were children -- into a single-residence house in the Zeitoun neighborhood and warned them to stay indoors.
Twenty-four hours later, the soldiers shelled the home incessantly, killing more than 30 of the people inside the house.
A 575-page report headed by Jewish South African judge Richard Goldstone has substantiated claims of Israeli war crimes and human rights violations during the Gaza war.
In the year that has passed since Israel's offensive, the Tel Aviv government has blocked the reconstruction of thousands of damaged buildings in Gaza.
Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician and former minister of information, condemned Israel's refusal to allow in supplies to rebuild Gaza's shattered infrastructure.
"Today 25,000 houses in Gaza remain unrepaired because Israel is not allowing a single sack of cement or a piece of glass into Gaza," he told Al Jazeera on Monday.
In the year that has passed since Israel's offensive, Tel Aviv has blocked the reconstruction of thousands of damaged buildings in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel's move to build hundreds more housing units for settlers in the occupied East Jerusalem Al-Quds.
"The Palestinian Authority strongly condemns the new decision to build in East Jerusalem and wonders whether there is a freeze of settlement activity or an intensification of it," AFP quoted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying.
Erekat addressed the US president Barack Obama's administration, saying Washington "needs to realize that the policies of the Israeli government embody settlements and not peace and that their choice is settlements and not peace."
The Israeli media on Sunday said Tel Aviv invited tenders for the building of some 692 new housing units in three settlements in East Jerusalem Al-Quds, which Israel occupied during the 1967 six-day war and annexed later despite strong opposition from the international community.
The international community has repeatedly called for a permanent halt to all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem Al-Quds, which Palestinians demand as the capital of their promised state.
The new homes come despite Tel Aviv's recent gesture to Palestinians under breaking international pressure to freeze its illegal settlement activities and pave the way for the revival of Middle East peace talks.
In November, Israel announced a 10-month moratorium on building in the West Bank; which does not apply to public buildings and projects already underway, and also excludes East Jerusalem Al-Quds.
Earlier in the month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hawkish government approved 900 new housing units in another East Jerusalem Al-Quds settlement attracting further outrage among Palestinians and a rare criticism from even the United States and other Western allies.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
By: Lawrence Smallman
Source: Al Jazeera
An aid convoy that has traveled over 3500km to deliver vital medical and food supplies to the Gaza Strip is currently stranded because of Egypt's refusal to grant it easy passage.
The Viva Palestina convoy, made up of almost 250 lorries, remained in the Jordanian port of Aqaba on Saturday, having waited over 48 hours to board ferries for the Egyptian Red Sea port of Nuweiba.
But Egypt has so far insisted that the aid be delivered through its Mediterranean port of El-Arish, a much longer journey that would require the convoy to go around the Sinai peninsula and through the Suez Canal.
George Galloway, a British politician leading the convoy, on Saturday appealed to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to allow the lorries through before medical and food supplies were ruined by the heat.
"Please President Mubarak - let us resolve this matter. We can only sail through Nuweiba. We are only four hours away from Gaza," Galloway told Al Jazeera.
"We have this aid, and the people of Gaza need it on the anniversary on the 27th December - a year after Israel's 22-day bombardment of the besieged Palestinian territory.
"All fingers should be pointing at Israel, not getting confused and pointing at Egypt", Galloway said.
But Maged Botros, a member of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party, told Al Jazeera that the government in Cairo has every right to specify the port by which Viva Palestina enters its territory.
"We are talking about 250 trucks passing along this critical territory [the Israeli-Egyptian border] - it is technically so difficult to allow.
"There are good reasons not to allow them through Nuweiba ... these trucks might create a big infiltration problem for Egyptian security forces", he said.
But convoy members told Al Jazeera that traveling through the Suez was not a viable option, as passengers are not allowed to go with cargo ships and that the port of El-Arish is too shallow to take the size of ship needed to transport the aid.
Zuber Hatia, who has driven thousands of kilometers from the British city of Portsmouth, said there was a symbolic reason why Viva Palestina cannot make the extra long journey to El-Arish.
"We are only a four hour ferry ride and a four hour drive from Gaza - we have to be there by 11:35am on 27th December - the first anniversary of Israel's war on Gaza", Hatia said.
"So though we have all the cargo manifests, we have to just sit, wait and hope. Unfortunately, the Egyptians I have spoken to say this is a 'political aid convoy' rather than a humanitarian aid convoy - and that makes all the difference," Hatia said.
"And though the Jordanians are being very kind to us while we wait, the fact is our trucks are impounded in a car park 30km from the port with tones of medicines spoiling in this Middle Eastern heat.
"Please Mubarak, let our people go!", Hatia said.
Israel's ambassadors and consuls generals from all over the world have been summoned to attend a conference to be held over global challenges facing Israel.
The meeting to be attended in Jerusalem Al-Quds on December 27-31 is hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the ministry reported on its website.
"The idea is to facilitate direct dialogue with the country's leaders, mutual updates on major diplomatic issues, and a discussion of action plans to deal with the challenges awaiting Israel in the international arena in the coming year, including the Iranian threat," it said.
This is while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a report by the UN Human Rights Council's Gaza commission a real threat to Israel.
The UN Special Rappoteur for the occupied Palestinian Territories has also urged western powers to push Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip immediately. Richard Falk also called for economic sanctions against Israel.
This is the first time a conference for all of Israel's heads of missions has been held.
Benyamin Netanyahu will also attend the conference along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor, and other senior officials.
As Western powers batten down the hatches and prepare sanctions against Tehran, a senior Russian official says there still is no proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
In remarks published on Friday, deputy Russian foreign minister Alexander Saltanov reiterated that Moscow is not convinced that Iran seeks to weoponize its nuclear program, and moreover he has not been shown any corroborative evidence confirming that the country has any such plans.
"Russia has no concrete information that Iran is planning to construct a weapon. It may be more like Japan, which has nuclear readiness but does not have a bomb," Primakov told The Jerusalem Post.
In order to pressure Iran into halting its nuclear work, Washington and a number of European countries have vowed to push for new UN sanctions early next year.
But the calls for renewed pressure were once again snubbed by China and Russia.
Saltanov said while "Iran has a positive potential" to cooperate with the West on its nuclear case, it is most evident that a military solution against the Tehran government would only make matters worse.
"If Israel attacks Iran it will cause great instability and will only postpone the Iranian program, not end it," noted the Russian official.
Israel routinely threatens to bomb Iran's enrichment sites, arguing that the country's nuclear work is a mortal threat to Tel Aviv, which ironically is reported to have the Middle East's sole nuclear arsenal and 200 nuclear warheads at its disposal.
This is while Iran, unlike Tel Aviv, is a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has opened its nuclear facilities to routine inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog.
In response to Israeli war threats, Tehran warns that if Tel Aviv steps out of line, it will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to maritime traffic, including the 15 or so supertankers that sail through on a daily basis to deliver the world's oil supplies.
A recent report by the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) has confirmed that if the United States or Israel decide to bomb Tehran's nuclear sites, Iran's naval modernization and maritime capabilities have reached a point where it can shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
"Given the importance of the Strait, disrupting traffic flow or even threatening to do so may be an effective tool for Iran," said the intelligence report, which was revealed by Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin in November.
It notes that while Iran's ability to shut down the Strait of Hormuz may be transitory, the impact would undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences for the already-fragile world economy.
"[World economies would suffer] a serious economic impact from a sustain closure of the Strait of Hormuz due to greatly reduced supplies of crude oil, petroleum supplies and (liquefied natural gas)," ONI said.
On the same note, the report adds that not only has Tehran acquired "increasingly sophisticated systems" from China and Russia, but the “modernization” of the Iranian navy is to an extent that would help the government carry out such a closure if need be.
Friday, December 25, 2009
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Bethlehem, Patriarch Fouad Twal, has voiced concerns over the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.
"How can one celebrate while Palestinians are still struggling with a devastating blockade one year after Israel's onslaught on Gaza?" Twal said while addressing the Midnight Mass at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity on Thursday.
Twal went on to complain that people have no freedom to move around freely and travel or to reunite with their families, alluding to the Israeli policy of restricting Palestinian residents by building separation walls and erecting a large number of checkpoints throughout the West Bank.
Bethlehem is surrounded by Israel's separation wall on three sides.
He further pointed out that the Palestinians are tired of such a situation.
He made the remarks as thousands of Christians gathered to celebrate Christmas in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, where the birth place of Jesus Christ is taken to be.
The Christmas celebration was aimed at challenging the Israeli movement restrictions at a time when Gazan worshippers were banned from attending the ceremonies.
Despite the stringent Israeli security measures, Bethlehem hotels reported full occupancy for the first time in months.
Christmas celebrations began at noon on Thursday, marking Christmas Eve with the annual procession led by Twal.
In December 2008, Tel Aviv launched a three-week all-out military offensive against Gaza, killing at least 1,400 people, including a large number of women and children, and leaving thousands more injured.
The Gaza Strip has been in a state of calamity ever since, with thousands of people still homeless due to the long-imposed Israeli siege on the Palestinian sliver.
British Lawmaker George Galloway has criticized Egypt over denying the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy to enter the Gaza Strip.
The humanitarian convoy to the Gaza Strip has become stuck in Jordan as Egypt is reportedly denying the convoy's passage through its territory.
"It's a strange Christmas for us. We are stuck in Aqaba. 500 people, 210 vehicles, hundreds of tons of aid which is desperately needed in Gaza," Galloway said in an interview with Press TV on Friday.
"Our Jordanian friends are doing their best to keep us warm and to feed us," he added.
The British anti-war activist also called it a very complex situation.
"It's a very complex situation. We have on the Turkish level quite a diplomatic activity going on, because the Turkish prime minister personally appeared on live television in Damascus three days ago and asked the Egyptian government to facilitate this convoy; so this is a slap in the face, you can say, to the Turkish government," he further explained.
"We don't yet know exactly what tactics we will follow. That would depend on the diplomatic situation, but one thing we are not going to do is run away. We came all this way to Aqaba."
"We are very sad not yet angry, but we will get angry if the days go by," he noted.
The humanitarian convoy arrived in Jordan on Tuesday and was expected to leave via sea to Egypt.
The convoy left London almost two weeks ago with 80 vehicles. Its size grew with the addition of dozens of vehicles from Turkish charities.
Galloway earlier appealed to Egyptian authorities to facilitate the convoy's passage through its territory. The convoy aims to break Israel's crippling blockade on Gaza.
Lifeline 3, the third international convoy headed to Gaza under the name Viva Palestina, comprises 210 trucks laden with basic food items and medical supplies. 450 activists, including 30 Americans, 150 Turks and a number of Europeans are accompanying the convoy.
The already impoverished Gaza Strip has been under a complete Israeli siege, with full cooperation of Egypt, ever since the Hamas resistance movement, which does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state, won parliamentary elections in a surprise victory in 2007.
Israel's three-week offensive against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 which left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, including a large number of civilians, deteriorated the already dire situation.
The Israeli assault led to the destruction of schools, mosques, houses as well as UN compounds, inflicting $ 1.6 billion damage on the Gazan economy.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Hezbollah's leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah says the UK is prepared to introduce reforms to its legal system to appease Israel.
Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday criticized the British government's decision to reverse an arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
"Britain who claims to have the world's oldest democratic system has expressed readiness to make changes to its legal system to avoid issuing arrest warrants for Israeli officials over committing war crimes," Nasrallah said.
A British court recently issued an arrest warrant for Livni over links to Israeli war crimes against Palestinians during its December 2008 - January 2009 offensive which left over 1,400 Palestinians dead in the Gaza Strip.
Livni canceled her participation in a meeting in London after the verdict was issued.
The arrest warrant sparked furor among Israeli officials who warned the UK of strained relations.
"Israel calls on the British government to fulfill, once and for all, its promises and prevent an abuse of the British legal system against Israel and its citizens by anti-Israel elements," a statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
"The lack of determined and immediate action to correct this distortion harms the relations between the two countries," it added.
In response, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed regret over the verdict and vowed to alter the law so that judges could no longer issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials or military officers.
Several Israeli officials have canceled visits to Britain because of similar arrest warrants issued after the Gaza war.
British Lawmaker George Galloway has appealed to Cairo to allow the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy he is accompanying to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The call comes as activists on Viva Palestina faced problems as the convoy was making its way to the Jordanian capital, Amman.
The aid shipment, which originally departed from London on December 3 with the aim of breaking the months-long Israeli siege on Gaza, was prevented by Jordanian police from entering Amman, where it was scheduled to hold rallies.
Instead, dozens of the convoy's vehicles formed a rolling road block on the main highway to the city and shut down traffic in a move the organizers called a peaceful protest.
After an hour of grid blocked traffic, the police had to back off and promise to allow the pro-Gazan team into the capital city amid unexpected gestures of support from Jordanian drivers stuck in the traffic jam.
In Amman, the founder of Viva Palestina George Galloway thanked Jordanian authorities for finally facilitating the convoy's entry into Amman and appealed to the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to also open the way for Viva Palestina.
"I ask him on behalf of our convoy, on behalf of all the people around the world, whose hearts are bleeding, whose eyes are weeping for Palestine to please open your gates for us and allow us to proceed through the gates of Rafah to besieged Palestine," he urged.
The convoy is scheduled to spend two days in Jordan before moving to the Red Sea port of Aqaba where it hopes to take a ferry into Egypt, hopefully, crossing into Gaza.
If nothing intercedes, Viva Palestina is to cross into Gaza on December 27 to mark the first anniversary of the Israeli offensive against the blockaded enclave, but this will not happen if authorities in Cairo refuse to allow the convoy ashore.
Lifeline 3, the third international convoy headed to Gaza under the name Viva Palestina, comprises 210 trucks laden with basic food items and medical supplies
450 activists, including 30 Americans, 150 Turks and a number of Europeans are accompanying the convoy.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
One of Iran's top diplomats says Tehran and Tokyo share the same vision on Afghanistan, as they believe a military buildup is not the answer to its problems.
The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council said Tehran and Tokyo have the same outlook on Afghanistan, as they both believe the problems the war-torn Central Asian state currently faces do not have a military solution.
Saeed Jalili, who is on a tour of Japan, made the comment in a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, as he touched upon the important role that Tehran and Tokyo can play in the development of the region and Asia in general.
"The troop surge in Afghanistan is a repetition of past failed policies," Jalili said.
Japan is one of the largest donors to Afghanistan with $6.9 billion pledged funds.
The Japanese government's aid organization, the International Cooperation Agency, has also sent 90 employees to Afghanistan, a number which was reduced to 50 after the UN guest house bombing in Kabul 3 months ago.
Iran is also one of the largest contributors to Afghanistan's development, despite having suffered a great deal of damage itself because of the proximity to the world's leading producer of illegal drugs.
In 2009, Iran was the fourth largest investor in Afghanistan, with funds going to agriculture, health care and reconstruction projects, especially those involving infrastructure such as, roads, bridges, and the electricity network.
Since the war began, Japan has aided the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan with a naval mission that provides fuel to US and British vessels operating in the Indian Ocean.
However, Japan's new government has vowed to replace its refueling mission in Afghanistan with humanitarian aid, signaling the possible start of a new era in Japanese foreign policy.
While announcing the news earlier in September, Hatoyama said that "Japan wants to make a positive contribution in the field of our specialty... such as agricultural support or job training, which the Afghan people would be pleased to see."
He explained the Japanese initiative is to provide paid vocational training, mainly to former Taliban members.
The mission aims to pave the way for reducing poverty among the former militants based on the argument that many young men join the Taliban movement for money.
Even though it seems not easy for Japan to step out of the US sphere of influence, the new government in the country has promised to pursue a an independent diplomatic course, one that could take Tokyo away from its top security ally, Washington.
US analysts fear the victory of the Democratic Party against the Liberal Democratic Party may be the start of a deeper change in the Asian country's orientation and a move away from its long-time dependence on the United States.
Comments made by Japan's new Prime Minister have added to those worries in the US, as he has vowed to pursue an independent diplomatic course, one that could take Tokyo away from its top security ally, Washington.
"Japan up until now has been receptive to the United States, but I want to build a relationship in which Japan can act more proactively and tell them our opinions frankly," Japan's new Prime Minister said in his first press conference in office in September.
An expert on Japanese foreign policy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington Michael Auslin is one of the analysts that share that view.
“There is a fear of dramatic change in the US-Japan alliance… No one knows what will happen next, or even who to talk to for answers," Auslin told The Washington Post earlier this year.
More than a dozen human rights groups and charities have condemned the international community's failure to end Israel's crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Amnesty and Oxfam were among 16 UK-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which hurled criticism in a report against the world's silence toward the "collective punishment" of some 1.5 million Gazans.
"The international community has betrayed the people of Gaza by failing to back their words with effective action to secure the ending of the Israeli blockade, which is preventing reconstruction and recovery," said the report on Tuesday.
Israel and Egypt have sealed off crossings into the Hamas-run coastal enclave since June 2007, barely permitting vital humanitarian aid into the impoverished territory.
"It is not only Israel that has failed the people of Gaza" with the months-long blockade, said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.
"World powers have also failed and even betrayed Gaza's ordinary citizens. They have wrung hands and issued statements, but have taken little meaningful action to attempt to change the damaging policy that prevents reconstruction," he stressed.
According to rights groups, Israel has allowed only 41 truckloads of construction materials into Gaza, hindering the reconstruction of "the extensive damage" Israel's last year offensive inflicted on homes, civilian infrastructure, public services, farms and businesses in the region.
The report also called on European foreign ministers to visit Gaza to see the damage for themselves and urged the EU to do all it can to lift the blockade.
Israel controls all Gaza's border crossings except the Rafah terminal with Egypt, which Cairo rarely opens.
Egypt has recently started to erect a metal barrier to disrupt an underground tunnel network Gazans use for pushing in their basic needs that Israel does not allow into Gaza markets.
Israeli warplanes regularly pound the tunnels which Tel Aviv claims Palestinian activists use for smuggling weapons for resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip. But the Palestinians vehemently reject the allegations, describing the tunnels as food tubes helping the 1.5 million people living in the coastal territory fight off starvation.
Israel has threatened another massive war against the Gaza Strip as the impoverished enclave continues to suffer in the aftermath of the devastating January offensive.
Israeli planes have been dropping thousands of leaflets across Gaza, warning Palestinians against cooperating with the resistance fighters based in the coastal sliver.
The leaflets also threaten Gazans with a new attack just ahead of the first anniversary of Israel's 22-day onslaught against the Palestinian territory.
On December 2008, Tel Aviv launched an all-out military action against Gaza, killing 1,400 people, including a large number of women and children, killed and leaving thousands more injured.
The threats come despite the Israeli army's failure in its January operation to reach its strategic and military objectives — above all its pledged overthrow of Israel's long-time arch foe, Hamas.
In July, the activist group Breaking the Silence released print and video testimony from some 30 soldiers who said they entered Gaza with firing guns upon a "permissive" guideline by commanders, urging to shoot first and worry later about distinguishing civilians from combatants.
The 112-page testimony also accused Israeli troops of using Palestinian civilians as human shields and charged Israel with dropping forbidden white phosphorus bombs indiscriminately into Gaza streets on the top of aerial bombardment and heavy artillery fire.
In April, former South African UN prosecutor Richard Goldstone led an independent fact-finding mission commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations during the Gaza war.
The committee's 575-page report mostly highlighted Israeli atrocities against the people in the beleaguered Gaza Strip and documented deliberate targeting of centers, such as schools and mosques, known to be holding civilians.
The document also filed complaints that the Israeli soldiers killed unarmed people on the run, saying some of the victims were even waving white flags.
In October, the damning report was put up for a vote in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and endorsed by an overwhelming majority of 114 countries while 18 opposed and 44 abstained.
The three-week Israeli land, sea and air offensive in the Gaza Strip also devastated a large part of the infrastructure in the impoverished coastal enclave, which remains under Tel Aviv's blockade despite international opposition.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
British Member of Parliament George Galloway has leveled strong criticism at Arabs over their inaction and failure to play a role in organizing aid convoys to the besieged Gaza Strip.
“It is a shame that this convoy [Lifeline 3] is coming from Europe and not from the Arab countries,” Galloway told reporters upon his arrival at Damascus International Airport.
He said that Lifeline 3 charity convoy is a message of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip on the first anniversary of the Israeli onslaught against the coastal sliver.
Israel's three-week offensive against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, more than half of them civilians, according to medical sources. The Israeli assault also led to the destruction of schools, mosques, houses as well as UN compounds, inflicting $ 1.6 billion damage on the Gaza economy.
The British anti-war activist added that the third Viva Palestina convoy is aimed to direct the world's attention to Israeli war criminals who committed the horrendous crimes in Gaza as well as the courageous Palestinian resistance. He voiced hope that the Egyptian authorities would secure the arrival of the convoy without hindrance.
Galloway meanwhile expressed his deep gratitude to Syrian authorities for the contribution they made to facilitate the entry of the Lifeline 3 convoy organized by the UK-based Viva Palestina movement. Galloway described Syria as a fortress and the symbol of pride that has never forsaken Palestine.
The third international convoy to Gaza departed from London on December 5, 2009. The convoy is made up of volunteers from Britain, Ireland, Belgium and Malaysia, who have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in their local communities to pay for ambulances, minibuses, vans and lorries and to fill them with medical and other aid that is desperately needed in Gaza.
Lifeline 3 will arrive in Gaza on December 27 through the Rafah border crossing to make a dent in the ongoing Israeli blockade imposed on the impoverished enclave.
Israeli political and military authorities now face the possibility of international prosecution and arrest over war crimes in the Gaza Strip. A British court has issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
The UN Security Council awaits investigative reports ordered pursuant to recommendations made by UN investigator Richard Goldstone, who detailed countless Israeli war crimes not just in the attacks on Gaza in 2008, but throughout the Israeli siege, which began in 2006.
Meanwhile, Egypt is building a wall along its border with Gaza which is installed and funded by the US in order to block the tunnels that have served as the only lifeline for needed food, household and consumer goods in Gaza.
As the US and Saudi jet fighters massacre civilians in the northern parts of Yemen, Iran slams the use of military action as the solution to the ongoing conflict in the war-stricken Arab country.
"Iran is unhappy with the ongoing situation in Yemen. It is the killing of Muslim brothers," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast told reporters at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
He criticized the killing of innocent people who have nothing to do with military.
"Military actions against civilian people are inhumane," he said.
The spokesman asserted that the ongoing conflict in Yemen would be settled should the sides hold negotiations as soon as possible and foreign forces stop their interference in the country's internal affairs.
Yemen's Houthi fighters in the northern part of the country say US fighter jets have bombed their region in several occasions, claiming the lives of civilians in their air raids. The Houthis say the US Air Force had taken the northwestern province of Sa'ada under about 30 air assaults.
So far, the US officials have categorically denied any direct involvement in the air strikes on Houthi fighters, alleging they have only targeted growing al-Qaeda training camps, mostly located in southern parts of the Persian Gulf state.
The New York Times on Saturday reported that Yemeni government allegedly benefited from US military equipment and intelligence support under the pretext of fighting "al-Qaeda" although the attacks have mostly killed civilians.
The conflict in northern Yemen began in 2004 between Sana'a and Houthi fighters. The conflict intensified in August 2009 when the Yemeni army launched Operation Scorched Earth in an attempt to crush the fighters in the northern province of Sa'ada.
The Houthis accuse the Yemeni government of violation of their civil rights, political, economic and religious marginalization as well as large-scale corruption.
The Saudi air force has also been involved the conflict by launching its own operations against Shia resistance fighters.
The United Nations, which according to its charter is set up "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace," has failed to adopt any concrete measures to help end the bloody war.
Monday, December 21, 2009
By: Gareth Porter – Inter Press Service
In 2004, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that a member state had violated its Safeguards Agreement by carrying out covert uranium conversion and enrichment activities and plutonium experiments for more than two decades. The nature of certain of those enrichment activities, moreover, raised legitimate suspicions of interest in a nuclear weapons programme.
The state was found to have lied to the IAEA even when it began investigating these suspicious activities, claiming that its laser enrichment research did not involve any use of nuclear material.
If that sounds like a description of Iran's troubled relationship with the IAEA up to 2004, that's because it bears striking resemblance to it. In fact, however, it is a description of the deception of the IAEA by the government of South Korea.
There was just one major difference between the South Korean and Iranian cases: Iran never enriched uranium at a level that could only represent an interest in nuclear weapons, but South Korea did.
Yet the IAEA treated Iran as a state to be investigated indefinitely, after failing to give South Korea even a slap on the wrist.
Even more remarkable is the fact that the two cases were the subject of IAEA reports issued within the same week in November 2004.
Three months before the report on its nuclear activities was published, South Korea admitted doing everything in violation of its Safeguards Agreement that Iran was found to have done up to 2003.
In the early 1980s, South Korea had carried out uranium conversion in a facility that was kept secret from the IAEA. It had also secretly extracted plutonium from a hot cell, and had carried out at least 10 covert uranium enrichment experiments from 1993 through 2000 using undeclared natural uranium metal.
South Korea had used 3.5 kg of natural uranium metal for its unreported enrichment experiments; Iran had used 8.0 kg of natural uranium for the same kind of experiments.
But by far the most important finding by the IAEA was that, during a series of covert experiments in uranium enrichment using atomic vapor laser isolate separation (AVLIS) in 2000, Korean scientists enriched the uranium to 77 percent. South Korea finally admitted that experiment in its August 2004 declaration to the IAEA.
"Not only did they have an undeclared uranium-enrichment programme, but they were actually making something close to bomb-grade, so you have to conclude someone wanted to develop a capability to make nuclear weapons," said David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security after the Korean violations were revealed.
Despite covert activities that could only be reasonably interpreted as evidence of an intention to develop nuclear weapons, however, Seoul was given what amounted to a free pass. .
After its August 2004 confidential admission to its covert activities, South Korea mounted an aggressive diplomatic offensive, aimed at avoiding any legal consequences.
First, South Korean officials put pressure on IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei not even to disclose the enrichment in his report to the Governing Board. The South Koreans threatened to undermine ElBaradei's reelection bid, according to a Nov. 25, 2004 Washington Post story.
ElBaradei was well aware that South Korea's ally, the George W. Bush administration, was seeking to oust ElBaradei, because of his refusal to conform to U.S. policies toward Iraq and Iran.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration had made no secret of the fact it wanted the IAEA Board of Governors to call for Iran to be reported to the U.N. Security Council.
U.S. officials understood that the South Korean covert enrichment and other violations were, if anything, worse than those of Iran. At least some officials were prepared to support a resolution in the IAEA Governing Board to send Korea's case to the Security Council in order to establish a precedent that could then be applied to Iran, according to the Post story.
But the British, French and Germans were negotiating with Iran on an agreement under which Tehran would maintain its suspension of uranium enrichment, and they were threatening to send the Iranian file to the Security Council if Iran did not agree.
Given those negotiations, ElBaradei felt no need to write a report that would be the basis of a resolution from the IAEA Board of Governors in late November 2004 to refer the South Korean case to the U.N. Security Council.
ElBaradei's Nov. 11, 2004 report on South Korea confirmed that enrichment had gone as high as 77 percent but did not raise the obvious question of whether its covert nuclear activities had been military-related.
It recounted without comment the South Korean authorities' explanation that both the plutonium and uranium enrichment experiments had been "performed without the knowledge or authorization of the Government".
Given the fact that South Korea had admitted that the covert uranium
enrichment had been carried out by no less than 14 government scientists, an IAEA investigation was obviously in order. But the report gave no hint that there was any need to find out who had authorised it and why.
In effect, ElBaradei's report on South Korea effectively eliminated the issue from the agency's agenda.
Three days after the report, Iran reached agreement with the Europeans on a
voluntary suspension of enrichment and more negotiations. Since there was no chance of getting the Iranian case referred to the U.N. Security Council,
Secretary of State Colin Powell told the South Koreans at a meeting in Chile
that the United States was now prepared to "accept Seoul's explanation" for
its covert enrichment to bomb-grade levels.
That clearly signaled that the United States had decided against a resolution to send the South Korean case to the Security Council after the European agreement with Iran.
The subject of South Korea's violations of its Safeguards Agreement was
never raised again at an IAEA meeting. In 2007, an IAEA Safeguards report
said the agency was "able to clarify all issues relating to past undeclared
It offered no explanation for the enrichment to bomb-grade levels and the
obvious official falsehoods surrounding the activities, or for its own
acquiescence in it.
In contrast to ElBaradei's lack of curiosity about the obviously suspect
official South Korean explanations for its bomb-grade enrichment, his report
on Iran, issued four days later, concluded that it would "take longer than
in normal circumstances" to "conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear
materials or activities in Iran".
The report suggested the IAEA would continue to pursue what it called "open source reports relating to dual use equipment and materials" in Iran. That meant that any technology, not matter how innocent, would now be treated as evidence of an Iranian covert nuclear weapons programme.
The double standard of treatment of the South Korean and Iranian cases implied that the United States had hard intelligence that Iran had exhibited an interest in nuclear weapons, whereas South Korea had not.
However, the closest thing to such evidence in U.S. possession was a set of documents of uncertain provenance and authenticity.
On the other hand, nuclear physicists working in the Korean nuclear programme, who had been recruited by the CIA, had reported in the mid-1970s that South Korea was carrying out a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
The stark contrast between the treatment of the Iranian and South Korean cases by the IAEA Secretariat and its Board of Governors is the most dramatic evidence of a politically motivated nuclear double standard practiced by the agency and its Governing Board, dominated by the United States.
And as the episode showed, that double standard essentially reflected the political-military interests of the U.S. government.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has warned Columbia not to attack his country.
Addressing the Colombian bourgeoisie, Chavez said on Sunday that Bogota is preparing an attack on his country. He warned them, saying that if an attack on Venezuela takes place, "you will regret it. We are not disarmed nor are we sitting here with our arms crossed."
He told his countrymen that they must be calm but fully alert as Colombia has sent two army battalions to the Venezuelan border.
Also, the Yankees are setting up seven bases across Colombian territory and are moving their planes to Aruba and Curacao, he said in his weekly “Alo Presidente” television show.
He went on to say that the US military, in preparation for a possible attack, has sent intelligence agents, war ships, and spy planes to Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire, which are self-governing Dutch islands.
The US has given billions of dollars in aid to its ally Colombia, ostensibly to help it fight guerrillas and drug traffickers. President Alvaro Uribe says the new base deal is just an extension of existing military cooperation for operations limited to Colombian territory.
The Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that the clock is now running for Iran to respond to a draft deal over the delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran.
Mike Mullen expressed concern over Iran's response to UN-backed proposal, which was first floated by the Obama administration. The offer requires Iran to send most of its domestically-enriched uranium out of the country for further refinement.
Mullen said while he supports the aforementioned offer, he would rather have plans for a military strike on Iran, whether by Israel or the United States, as a last resort.
"I grow increasingly concerned that the Iranians have been non-responsive. I've said for a long time we don't need another conflict in that part of the world," said the top US military officer.
"I'm not predicting that would happen, but I think they've got to get to a position where they are a constructive force and not a destabilizing force," he added.
Iran however has not accepted the proposal, calling for "concrete guarantees" for the return of its fuel as some Western countries' have previously failed to adhere to their nuclear commitments with regards to Tehran.
The US has refused to consider Iran's concerns and insists the draft deal is “unchangeable.”
The Islamic Republic has put forth a counter-proposal suggesting that 400 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium be taken to the Island of Kish for a simultaneous swap with an amount equivalent to 20 percent of the original batch
Iran needs the fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor that produces radioisotopes used in cancer treatment by over 200 hospitals in the country.
Washington and a number of European countries say "they have suspicions" about Iran's nuclear plans, accusing the country of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran, which is a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty unlike some of its regional neighbors, has categorically dismissed the accusations, saying its plans aim to generate electricity for a growing population.
In a Friday press conference on the sidelines of UN Climate talks in Copenhagen, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that attempts to link nuclear technology to nuclear bombs is a pretext used by certain states that wish to dominate the world.
"If we consider nuclear technology as equal to nuclear bombs, we will be depriving human beings of its [technological] benefits," said Ahmadinejad, adding that those who tie the two concepts together are countries which both "own a nuclear bomb and use nuclear energy."
Former head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission says the Israeli nuclear whistleblower has served the regime because his revelations helped Tel Aviv intimidate others.
Yet Uzi Eilam, a retired army brigadier-general who ran the commission between 1976 and 1986, says the whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu did a service by alerting foes to the country's military might.
Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years as a traitor in a secret trial in 1986. He was abducted at that time from Italy after revealing information about an illegal nuclear program at Israel's Dimona reactor to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.
Vanunu's information proved that Israel had broken the 1968 treaty on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
There is a US law that prohibits the support of countries that break the treaty in question.
Eilam said Vanunu's interview with the British paper, which led foreign experts to conclude that Israel had produced fissile material for as many as 200 atomic warheads, had helped Israel's strategic standing by unveiling its military might.
He was released in 2004, but confined to Israel since then even though he was merely a technical assistant with limited and outdated information. Israeli military officials; however, worry that he may reveal more secrets about Israel's nuclear weapons.
To date, he is still not permitted to speak to non-Israeli's.
"I've always believed he should be let go," Eilam, told Reuters on Sunday.
"I don't think he has significant knowledge to reveal (about Dimona) now," he added.
"It served to bolster our deterrence," he concluded.
Vanunu has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize including this years' award. He has reportedly asked that his name be removed from the list that holds the name of Shimon Peres as the man, according to Vanunu, is behind Israeli atomic policy.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Iran's president says it is hard for powers to make changes in the battle against climate change, because the global economic structure revolves around profit.
"Because the economic and political structures that some have made up are based on maximum profit and cheap energy, it is difficult for them to make changes," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Press TV's correspondent in Copenhagen on Friday.
"They will have to give up their interests to make those changes or they will have to make new investments," he added.
In an indirect reference to the US, its Western allies and the military campaigns they have waged in the region, Ahmadinejad said "those who start wars for their interests" can not easily reach deals in one meeting.
However, he said that the climate summit could not be called unsuccessful because it was a "step forward."
Ahmadinejad, who was in the Danish capital to take part in the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, also expressed hope that all countries would eventually make a contribution.
After years of apparent attempts to reach a deal on combating global warming, representatives from various countries around the world finally managed to seal an agreement on Friday.
Analysts believe that the agreement is not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change, as it is not-binding and countries have serious reservations about some part of the package.
Third world countries present at the Copenhagen summit have also spoken out against the deal, calling the process 'fairly undemocratic.'
Lumumba Stanislas Dia-Ping of Sudan, who heads the G-77 group representing 130 countries in the Copenhagen summit, said the deal put forth by Washington is the worst of its kind as it will lock developing countries and poor people into a cycle of poverty forever.
The US Congress has sent President Barack Obama a massive annual military spending bill, part of which is to be used to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a rare weekend vote on Saturday, the Senate approved the $636.3 billion package, which cleared the House of Representatives 395-34 on Wednesday, by an 88-10 margin.
In addition, Obama is expected to send Congress an emergency spending measure of at least $30 billion early next year to pay for his recently announced decision to send 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.
The bill includes $80 million to acquire more unmanned Predator drones for the US air war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
With little public debate in the United States, the pace of the drone bombing attacks has steadily increased, starting last year during ex-president George W. Bush's final months in office.
US drone attacks have killed about 625 people in Pakistan alone over the past 15 months.
The civilian casualties in the attacks and the perceived violation of sovereignty have caused a dramatic rise in anti-US sentiment in Pakistan.
The new military spending bill includes $101.1 billion for operations and maintenance and military personnel requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the planned withdrawal of all US combat forces from Iraq by August 2010.
The package also funds the purchase of 6,600 new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles configured to better resist improvised explosive devices — roadside bombs used to deadly effect by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
US President Barack Obama has signed the foreign aid budget law for 2010 which includes the granting of $2.775 billion in security aid to Israel.
The Israeli Ynet news website reported that the budget signed by Obama, for the first time, also grants $500 million to the Palestinian Authority.
The aid also includes $100 million to be used by US General Keith Dayton, who is in charge of training the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
The aid will be handed over to the Palestinians under the condition that the American taxpayers' money will only be transferred to a Palestinian government whose members accept the conditions of the international Quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The conditions include recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting past agreements signed with the Tel Aviv regime.
The $3 billion aid is comprised of $2 billion in security aid and $1 billion in civilian aid.
The annual American security aid to Israel increased to $2.4 Billion after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office and gradually relinquished the civilian aid.
The aid is accompanied by special additions to the Israeli military industries for the development of technologies, particularly in the missile field.
Israel has unveiled a new long-range unmanned aerial vehicle, known as Hermes 900, which is capable of reaching Iran.
Designed by Elbit, the Israeli defense electronics manufacturer, the drone is said to boost surveillance and be capable of hitting targets as far as Iran, some 1500 kilometers (950 miles) away.
The new Hermes, an upgraded version of Hermes 450 used during the 2006 war on Lebanon, can stay in the air for 36 hours and can be used for both spying and air strike purposes.
It also uses innovative avionics and can operate silently, which allows for missions over urban areas.
Elbit says the new drone has successfully completed its maiden flight and would enter production after additional flight tests.
Under the allegation that Iran is a "threat" to its existence, Israel, the sole nuclear power in the Middle East, has on several occasions threatened to knock out Iran's nuclear facilities through military action.
Tehran defends its nuclear program as totally peaceful and within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory.
The NPT grants its members the right to develop peaceful nuclear technologies.
Iran has warned Israel of a crushing response if Tel Aviv commits such a stupid mistake of attacking the country.
"One step out of line and Israeli warplanes will be completely destroyed," said Amir Ali Hajizadeh Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force.
"Even if they escape our sophisticated defense system, they will never see their bases again; because our surface-to-surface missiles are on their marks to target Israeli military bases before the dust settles," he added
Saturday, December 19, 2009
US Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Barack Obama has signed the order for a recent military strike on Yemen in which scores of civilians, including children, have been killed, a report says.
Upon the orders of Obama, the military warplanes on Thursday blanketed two camps in the North of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, claiming there were "an imminent attack against a US asset was being planned," ABC News quoted anonymous administration officials as saying on Friday.
The US air raids were then followed by a Yemeni ground forces attack.
The operation led to the death of around 120 people of whom many were civilians, including children, the report quoted Yemeni opposition as saying.
Obama also contacted Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, after the blitz in order to "congratulate" him on his efforts against 'al-Qaeda,' the US news outlet quoted White House officials as telling reporters earlier.
The latest development comes in the wake of recently intensified attacks on the country's Shia Houthi fighters which has brought about a dire humanitarian situation in northern Yemen.
So far, the US officials have categorically denied any direct involvement in the air strikes on Houthi fighters, alleging they have only targeted growing al-Qaeda training camps, mostly located in southern parts of the Persian Gulf state. Yemen's Houthi fighters however insist US fighter jets have been bombing their region, claiming the lives of civilians in their air raids.
The reports of the US military intervention in Yemen come as Saudi Arabia has also been lending full support to the Yemeni government's crackdown on Yemen's Houthi minority.
Yemen's Shia minority have recently slammed foreign military intervention in Yemen and the United Nations' apathy on the humanitarian situation and the "siege on civilians in northern Yemen."
International aid agencies and some UN bodies including United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have voiced concern over the dire condition of the Yemeni civilians who have become the main victims of the conflict in the country.
The United Nations, which according to its charter is set up "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace," has failed to adopt any concrete measures to help end the bloody war.