The Destruction of the Middle East
Work by John Robles
1990 CSPAN: Israeli Secret Intelligence Service ISIS
The UK/US/NATO/FiveEyes (IsraHell) "Above" UN
The Five Eyes countries and NATO led by the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom have placed themselves in a no man's land outside of the law in their blind drive for global domination. These countries openly ignore international law, the authority of the United Nations and the sovereignty of all nations.
After the false flag event of 9-11 and the ensuing aggressive wars, droning and the illegal torture prisons they opened, such as the one in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, all events part of the commission of Crimes Against Peace (the ultimate war crime) and in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter, there is no way that the United States and this group of rogue nations can recognize the authority of the United Nations, for if they do they will have to recognize the crimes that they themselves are guilty of.
The Crimes that the US is guilty of such as Aggressive War and Crimes Against Peace have no statute of limitations therefore they will never recognize the authority of the United Nations and Julian Assange and all who fought against them will die as I will/have. The exceptional elites and Zionists have determined who of we, the population of the world, must die and they will systematically kill us all. They will not stop killing us until they dominate the world or until the world destroys it, Which I am afraid will never happen.
Welcome to he Matrix now go and die. There is no hope and their is no future, the genocidal Germanic/Anglo Saxons will kill us all. They should have been stopped but no one wanted to listen. They have been too busy sucking the economic teat.
People of the world: if you do not rise up. You will soon no longer exist! John Robles 02132016 Moscow Russia - On his death bed
Israel Closes Gaza/Egypt Executes 529 Muslims
Benjamin:Very good, thank you. Thanks for having me on.
Benjamin:I was on my way to Cairo to participate in an international Women’s Day delegation with 100 women that planned to go to Gaza, crossing into Gaza through the Egyptian border. I was one of the first ones to arrive.
I was stopped at the airport, taken into a separate area, held for about 12 hours in a detention center. And then, in the morning I was told that I was being deported.
When I asked if I could wait for my embassy representative to come and tell me what had happened, instead I was thrown to the ground, I was violently attacked, my arms were pulled so strongly that my shoulder popped out of its sockets.
Benjamin:And when I was screaming in pain, they took my scarf and stuffed it in my mouth and then dragged me like that through the airport to a waiting Turkish Airlines flight. And it was only when I got to Turkey that I was able to go to the hospital and get treatment.
Meanwhile, the other women were either not allowed into Egypt either and were deported, or they slipped through and got into Cairo but then weren’t allowed to proceed to Gaza.
So, it was very sad that the Egyptian Government kept us from a trip that we have been planning with the Egyptian officials for several months.
And it looks like, perhaps, these Israeli Government got to them and they are participating in trying to keep people away from Gaza. But it is also indicative of the brutality of the Egyptian regime right now.
Benjamin:Yes, it was definitely a military coup that happened in July. Morsi was elected in the elections that were considered free and fair. And the Muslim Brotherhood was more organized than the other factions that had participated in the overthrow of the Mubarak regime or the remnants of the Mubarak regime.
Many people had valid complaints about the way that Morsi Government was operating. There were ways to deal with that and that was through the next elections.
Instead, there was a military coup and this military government has been extremely brutal, certainly, to its own people, but also to the Palestinians who are living in Egypt.
The Hamas Government that had offices in Cairo were closed down, the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization, Hamas was considered unwelcome in Egypt and Palestinians who have been living in Egypt, lost their citizenship. And the border at Rafah, that is the gate between Egypt and Gaza, has been closed most of the time.
And in addition to that, the tunnels that used to be the lifelines for people in Gaza to get access to goods that the Israelis would not allow in (and I'm not talking here about rockets, I'm talking about medicines, food supplies, gasoline, things to repair their houses). All of those kinds of things have been stopped by this government that has blown up all of those tunnels.
Benjamin:Well, first, it should be recalled that since the time of the Camp David Accords the Egyptian Government has agreed to work with Israel to control the Palestinians. And they have not allowed for their border with Gaza to be one in which people and goods could go back and forth freely.
So, this isn’t new. But the cooperation with Israel has been strengthened since this Egyptian military government has gained power. I think there is certainly the hand of the US that has in the past used its money to Egypt as a way to push the Egyptian Government to be favorable towards its policies.
But now, it is also the fact that this Egyptian Government, since it came to power in opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling party in Gaza is favorable to the Egyptian Brotherhood and so is seen as an enemy of the Egyptian state right now. So, that’s why things have tightened up along the border and for the Palestinians living in Egypt, in general.
Benjamin:I certainly think that this government is doing what the US is happy about, but there are also things that it is not happy about. The Morsi Government was a moderate Islamist Government and to call them now a terrorist organization, the Egyptian Government is accusing them of the attacks that have been taking place particularly in the Sinai against the Egyptian police and the Egyptian military.
These attacks, the group that has been taking credit for them is not the Muslim Brotherhood, but an Al Qaeda inspired group. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood has been denouncing them and insisting that they have no connection to these military attacks. But the military Government in Egypt finds it convenient to blame this all on the MB, to blame it all on Hamas and to use it for its political purposes.
The US has been back and forth about its support for this coup. It says that it’s cut off military aid to Egypt and allowed the economic aid to continue. But, on the other hand, it continues to have close relations with the Egyptian military.
Perhaps, if we talk now about the latest issue of the courts that have just condemned 529 Egyptians to death, the US Government through the State Department released information saying that it was shocked by this and did not seem very happy with the way the Egyptian courts are now doing the bidding of the military government instead of administering justice.
Benjamin:Yes, it is quite outrageous that the Egyptian court that has been hearing the case of hundreds of Egyptians who have been accused of killing one policeman, that all of these people were condemned to death. It seems that this is the tactics that the Egyptian court is using to do such an outrageous verdict, and then there will be an appeal process, and hopefully things will be changed on appeal, but this is sending a terrible message to the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the millions in Egypt to tell them that they are considered to be terrorists, and they will be treated in the most harsh fashion.
The trial itself was a sham. There were only two sessions. The prisoners, hundreds of them were brought in a cage. The lawyers for the defendants were never able to even read over a thousand pages of indictment. So, they hardly knew what they were trying to defend their clients about. And the second day they were not even able to speak. The lawyers were not even allowed into the court. The judge called on the security guards to keep them out.
So, it was a total kangaroo trial and the international community, particularly the human rights community has been outraged by this, condemning it, calling for an immediate reversal of this verdict.
Now, this isn’t the end because there are hundreds more pro-Morsi supporters who are going to be on trial this week. And unfortunately, I think we can predict more ridiculous verdicts coming from this court.
Benjamin:Yes, Amnesty International has called it the largest group death sentence that they know about in recent years and in Egypt’s entire history. It really has been seen by lawyers and human rights groups as being absolutely outrageous, preposterous, ridiculous.
And I think in the coming days there is going to be a lot of pressure on the Egyptian military to do something, because this is obviously a court that is doing the bidding of the Government and trying to adjudicate not on the basis of anything legal, but on the basis of people’s political affiliation.
In addition to this there have been over a thousand people who have been killed since the July coup by this military Government. And the courts have done virtually nothing to deal with this excessive use of force to bring anybody to task for that. In fact, the only trial we know is of one policeman who was accused of killing people in detention.
There are also many-many credible reports of torture in prisons and there are about 16,000 people who have been put in prison since the coup. These are mostly MB supporters, but there are also people who were supporters of the original revolution against Mubarak – secular people, as well as some of the well-known cases, like the journalists who are on trial.
So, in addition to this horrible verdict, the death sentence for the 529 people, there are also the cases of these over 16,000 people languishing in terrible conditions in the prisons.
Benjamin:Many people who have been analyzing this situation say they doubt that they will carry out such a massive execution, that there will be appeals and changes, but some people will be executed.
And they are also saying that perhaps this is a way of increasing the level of violence, because the outrage of the MB might lead some of them to decide to go into some kind of military action or violent action against the Egyptian Government representatives, which would justify this crackdown.
And so, there certainly are people speculating of different reasons why the court might have done it. But one of the most insidious kind of analysis is that this is meant to push some MB members into a violent position and the military will be justified then in even greater crackdown.
All this is taking place as the military Government is positioning itself for elections in which the Chief of the military Sisi is putting himself forward as a candidate. So, it looks like there will be a crackdown, perhaps, a state of siege that will happen just as the elections are supposed to be taking place. And I think it is important for the world community to condemn this verdict, to condemn and Egyptian coup and to condemn the idea that a democratic elections of president could take place under these conditions.
19 September 2012, 00:25
Afghanistan: Spinning Failure as Success
The number of green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan is increasing amid widespread rioting over the American film “The Innocence of Muslims” as the US attempts to make a saving face drawdown of troops from the country. Cooperation between “coalition” troops and the Afghans is being cut back as the attacks continue, yet the US is still trying to paint a different picture of their failure in Afghanistan.
The western media reports that this year alone there have been 37 attacks on the US, and its NATO and want-to-be-NATO allies, all part of George Bush’s coalition of the willing engaged in their endless world war on terror.
Just like at the beginning of the invasion when the US and the Western media reacted with horror and indignation anytime the Afghans fought back, branding them enemy combatants then terrorists and hauling them off to their illegal torture prison, outside of the jurisdiction of international law, in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, the media in the West still don’t seem to get it. They continue to react with shock and indignation whenever the Afghan “allies,” yes that is the term they use now for the countrymen of the country they invaded, attack the "coalition" forces.
Let’s stop for a minute here and put things into the proper perspective. Unlike the Soviet Union, whose intervention was officially requested by the Afghan Government, the United States and NATO were never asked to enter the country, that’s one, two: the invasion of Afghanistan, and that is what it was no matter how the West hates to admit it, was never sanctioned internationally or even within the US, and Afghanistan never threatened the US, never committed an act of aggression against the US warranting invasion, and last and most importantly was never involved in the questionable events of 9-11.
The Western media says that the attacks by Afghan “allies” have killed 51 “international service members” this year with 12 attacks in August leaving 15 dead. Yet nowhere can you find an accurate body count of the innocent Iraqi people, including women and children who have died at the hands of the coalition. This is simple to explain and is part of the US propaganda war, the people back in Kansas don’t want to hear about it, the Afghan people are an abstraction, less than human, their lives do not count as much as those of the “coalition” forces. If the American people were to find out what the US is really doing in Afghanistan, they might become upset and call for an end to the military adventure.
The US’ vested interest in hiding the truth, including about Afghanistan, is obvious by the US reaction to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, yours truly, and anyone else who gets too close to the truth. The war should be over soon, you may think, at least that is what they want you to believe, not hardly, despite the fact that the US is to announce that 33,000 troops who were part of the “surge” three years ago, have left the country this actually means nothing. The number of troops will remain at close to invasion level with 68,000 US troops still in-country. That is the great pull-out?
The western media doesn’t mention this very real and provable fact, they continue to complain about Afghan "attacks," either they just doesn’t get it or they actually believe what they are writing when it comes to Afghanistan.
This is completely understandable, no one in the US wants to hear that they illegally invaded and decimated a country for no real reason, or at least not for the reasons they were lied to about and led to believe. No one wants to hear that their presence is not wanted and that they are aggressors and invaders: invaders who attacked one of the poorest and most defenseless countries in the world illegally and on false pretext and then stayed there for more than a decade killing the population without being able to claim any kind of a victory.
The media in the West complains that the spike in “insider” attacks is somehow who are fighting side by side. Against whom? Against other Afghan people. The once-CIA-backed Taliban? The reality is that the US invaded their country, and is killing their people, so how is it that an Afghan could, in their right mind, fight alongside the invaders? Well apparently many are now taking the first chance they have to fight back. Not against their Afghan brothers and sisters but against the invaders.
This is something the US just doesn’t seem to understand. Even if there weren’t thousands of cases of innocent civilians being killed and the constant “scandals” that go unpunished, incidents of urinating on corpses, collecting body parts as trophies and the like, the US would never be welcomed in the country. They are invaders.
The latest in a spate of what are now called “green-on-blue” attacks an Afghan soldier in Helmand province opened fire on a vehicle he believed was driven by NATO soldiers slightly wounding a foreign staff member. Also on Sunday, an Afghan police officer shot and killed four American troops in Zabul and on Saturday a member of a government-backed militia killed two British troops, also in Helmand.
Of course the escalation in violence and attacks against the Americans is being painted in a different light by officials and the press and Instead of admitting that they are completely losing control of the country and the situation for them is growing worse by the day, people like U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, are attempting to paint the increase in attacks as a sign of the decrease in power by the attackers. Panetta said while visiting Japan that the “… insider attacks are the last gasp of a Taliban insurgency that has not been able to regain lost ground.” So the fact that they are attacking more means that they are in fact weaker? Ahem. Okay, but sorry, if you call a black kettle white it is still black.
Further underlining the US military adventure’s failure in Afghanistan and in their meddling in the Muslim world in general, on Tuesday September 18th a woman wearing a suicide vest blew herself up on a minibus in Kabul killing 12 people including 7 foreigners. According to reports the dead were mostly Russian and South African nationals. Apparently the attack was in protest of the infamous film “The Innocence of Muslims”.
In Kabul thousands of protestors clashed with police over the same film, in violence that was even worse that the outbreak that occurred at the beginning of the year over the burning of Korans by US troops.
On Monday NATO reported that it has cut the number of joint operations with Afghan soldiers and policemen in order to lessen the chance of insider attacks. This is the second such order given recently which further flies in the face of the claim that they are fighting "shoulder to shoulder" with the Afghans.
The Pentagon, for its part, has "suspended most joint field operations with Afghan forces because so many Americans are being killed by the men they are training" according to CBS News reports. This comes on the heels of a decision to end all joint patrols and operations without first obtaining approval from the command structure.
If they call that winning, I would hate to see what they call losing.
18 September 2012, 00:05
Death Toll from Muslim Protests Continues to Rise
The death toll from protests against the US film “The Innocence of Muslims” continues to rise as protests continue to spread unabated around the world. Instead of calling for an end to the senseless violence and promoting peaceful protests many Islamic extremist organizations are calling for an even greater level of violence and for taking revenge.
The death toll from the worldwide protest against the American film that ridicules the Muslim prophet Mohammed, “The Innocence of Muslims” has continued to rise and currently stands at 14 . The latest deaths have occurred in Tunisia where 2 protestors were killed. Lebanese media reports that 1 person was killed in Tripoli, in Sudan 2 were killed and in Yemen 5 more people were killed in demonstrations around US Embassies.
the demonstrations have continued to spread to other countries, and have now engulfed over 20 countries including European countries. The attacks on specific locations serving Western interests have not only been on US Consulates but have also included the diplomatic missions of Germany and other foreign countries and even in some cases locations such as a KFC restaurant.
Although the spark that lit the fire of Muslim rage around the world is the abysmal hack-job-of-a-film “The Innocence of Muslims” the underlying reasons have been simmering under the surface for decades. Unfortunately the backlash has led to the loss of more life and more bloodshed and violence and has once again served to focus the world’s attention not on the positive aspects of the Islamic faith but on the violence that they are capable of committing when pushed to it.
To truly understand the seeds of Muslim rage one must go back decades, to the Iran hostage crisis in the 1970’s, the original war in Afghanistan where the Soviet Union was asked to intervene and where the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Ossama Bin Laden were created and funded by the CIA and the West.
The reasons for their rage are many multi-layered and complex and would require a book to go into all of them properly, but chief among them is the discrimination and xenophobia that Muslims have to face worldwide. Other reasons may be oppressive regimes, poor living conditions in many of their countries, lack of education, dogmatic rules and inflexible teachings and a propensity for the acceptance of violence in the name of their religion, whether openly admitted or not. Add to all that constant and persistent US meddling into the internal affairs of countries worldwide, in particular those in the Islamic world, western resources wars, aggressive invasions of sovereign Islamic nations, the extra-judiciary executions of leaders and a US foreign policy that is disrespectful of, and ignores cultural differences and strives to propagate its own agenda and superimpose its own image on how people of the world should behave and act, and you have what you see today.
The world, for the most part, and the international community agree that the killing of the US Ambassador in Benghazi was an abysmal and abhorrent act and one that must be punished but the US did not have clean hands in Libya in particular, in facts their hands were dripping with blood. The film in question is therefore just the spark that lit the fuse that set off the bomb of Muslim rage.
The debate, if the largely one-sided argument can be called that, in the US and in other countries has begun whether this was a matter of freedom of speech. Which seems odd to me because normally freedom of speech stops when you begin inciting people into committing acts of violence or provoking a reaction by insulting or demeaning their beliefs, character, race or religion.
Here with have a fundamental debate that the world should be focused on. Where does “freedom” end and defamation begin? Freedom comes with great responsibilities and people like Terry Jones, Pussy Riot, Femen and the makers of this film are clearly as ignorant to this fact as are their “protests” and abuses, under the color of “freedom”.
The hypocrisy and self-serving nature of some espousing “freedom of speech” is deafening and needs to be addressed, and this nowhere more evident than in the US and in US policy worldwide.
In a free and democratic world there cannot be one country dictating and super-imposing its beliefs on the rest of the planet. When my freedom treads on the freedom of my neighbor that is where that freedom ends. However this requires thought, restraint and above all and foremost, respect for those who are different from us. This is not evident in US policy, which tends to hold the vein that “You will do as we say, or we will destroy you.” This is true in US policy worldwide, the cowboy diplomacy George Bush, and the either you are with us or against us has no place in the modern world, unless we are to submit to a global dictatorship by America.
Dr. Todd Green, said it well in a piece on the topic: “We must go beyond the facile media explanations about intolerant Muslims and start to explore the complex political, economic, historical, and cultural circumstances that have contributed to these particular protests that are taking place in these particular geographies. And we must not be afraid to ask uncomfortable questions about how all of these circumstances have contributed to some of the frustrations and disillusionment that many in the Middle East have when it comes to their perceptions of the U.S. and its involvement in the region.”
Glenn Greenwald at the UK’s Guardian on the free speech aspect and said: “… the US and its western allies have, in the name of combating terrorism, engaged in free speech assaults aimed primarily at Muslims which are far more dangerous…” “… with these same right-wing free speech champions remaining utterly silent, except when cheering it all on.” He proceeded to give an example of a young Muslim who was arrested and on terrorism charges for posting something similar on the internet which again shows the utter hypocrisy of US policy, the young many faces 23 years in prison.
Back to the current situation, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have called for even more attacks on US interests with Al-Qaeda urging even more violence and praising the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and Hezbollah “seeking to foment the anger in Muslims.”
According to zeenews, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said that the US must be held accountable for the film. Nasrallah also called on the leaders of the Muslim world to take action and said: “We should not only express our anger at an American embassy here or there. We should tell our rulers in the Arab and Muslim world that it is ‘your responsibility in the first place’ and since you officially represent the governments and states of the Muslim world you should impose on the United States, Europe and the whole world that our prophet, our Quran and our holy places and honor of our Prophet be respected.”
Other Muslim leaders are attempting to defuse the anger of Muslims, reporting that: “The top cleric in US ally Saudi Arabia denounced the film but said it can’t really hurt Islam” and the head of the Sunni Muslim world’s pre-eminent religious institution, Egypt’s Al-Azhar, backed peaceful protests but said Muslims should counter the movie by reviving Islam’s moderate ideas.
Meanwhile the First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said."The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran condemns this inappropriate and offensive action," "Certainly it will search for, track, and pursue this guilty person who has insulted 1.5 billion Muslims in the world."
Also in Iran the 15 Khordad Foundation a government backed religious foundation has raised the reward for killing the author of the book, “The Satanic Verses” Salman Rushide by $500,000 and it now stands at $3.3 million. The have said the person who fulfills the 1989 fatwa will receive the money immediately.
While the producer of the film has gone into hiding, one of the film’s main promoters, Terry Jones, has been denied entry into Germany. Jones was banned from entering Germany after a far-right hate group, Pro Deutschland, announced plans of inviting him to a showing of the film. The German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had requested the ban on the grounds that Jones was a "hate preacher" and a German Interior Ministry spokesman said Jones’ visit "runs counter to the interest of maintaining public order."
Der Spiegel also said Deutsche Welle reported that the group that had invited Jones had held rallies near mosques in Berlin, where they “displayed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad…”
Once again I personally would like to plea to all who are offended by this, do not resort to violence, you will just be playing into the hands of those who promote hate.
14 September 2012, 23:27
Muslim Rage Spreads Worldwide
Protests against the US film have begun to spread all over the world. There have been attacks on US Embassies worldwide as Muslim anger against US policies and meddling has continued to fuel the anger. The protests involving hundreds of thousands have remained for the most part peaceful with most of the most serious violence directed at US Embassies, businesses and in one case an American school was burnt down. Since the murders in Benghazi (Libya) there have been no reports of violence against Americans.
Although the film was the spark that lit the flames of the violence, massive longstanding grievances and anger against the US and their attempts to force their policies on countries worldwide as well as the US’ constant meddling into affairs in Muslim world are now serving to feed the escalating violence. The deep socioeconomic problems in Arab Spring countries, something that has not been addressed is also playing into the hands of Islamists and adding more fuel to the crisis.
All over the world governments are asking Muslims to show restraint and not to escalate the level of violence.
On Friday the protests spread from Egypt and Libya to other countries including Israel, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. There were also widespread protests in countries outside the Middle East region, including but not limited to: Bangladesh, Kashmir, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Qatar.
In Jerusalem a protest near the Damascus Gate turned violent when protesters began throwing rocks at police. Apparently the protesters began to head in the direction of the US Consulate and were stopped by police using shock grenades.
According to Ynet news there were protests in Akko, in the Wadi Ara region and in the towns of Baqa al-Gharbia and Umm al-Fahmm, which were for the most part peaceful.
Yemen saw some of the most violent protests with reports saying that security forces killed four protesters who were rioting near the US embassy in Yemen.
In Khartoum hundreds of protesters stormed the German Embassy and set it on fire. Police used teargas to dispel the protesters who then began protesting outside the British Embassy nearby.
In Kashmir, in some of the largest anti-American demonstrations so far, at least 15,000 people took part in dozens of protests, chanting "Down with America," "Down with Israel" and calling US president Barack Obama a "terrorist." The country’s top cleric has demanded Americans leave the region immediately.
In Chennai, protesters threw stones at the US consulate, shattering some windows and burned an effigy of Obama. Police arrested more than 100 protesters.
In Bangladesh, about 5,000 people marched in Dhaka burning US and Israeli flags and calling for the death of the film-maker. Police stopped them from reaching the US Embassy.
In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, protests were extremely peaceful as only about 200 protesters held a peaceful protest outside the heavily guarded US embassy in Jakarta.
There were more protests in Tehran including demonstrations outside the Swiss embassy (which represents US interests in Iran). Reports say Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, denounced the anti-Muslim film during Friday prayers.
Three protesters were killed outside the US embassy in Tunis, where demonstrators attempted to enter the compound. The demonstrators included ordinary Tunisians and Salafist activists. An American school was also set on fire.
One demonstrator was killed by security forces in Tripoli as protesters attempted to storm a government building. An American Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant was also burned down.
In Damascus hundreds of protesters gathered outside US embassy holding a peaceful demonstration. Protesters carried images of President Bashar al-Assad and chanted anti-American slogans.
Hundreds of protesters attempted to march towards the US embassy in Islamabad and were stopped by police far from the city’s diplomatic quarter where the embassy is located.
Protesters filled the streets of Doha and lined the city’s main highway. No violence has been reported.
In closing I would personally like to ask all Muslims to show restraint and demonstrate peacefully as this was another provocation. Those who made the film want to see violence and want you to over-react. If you react violently you will be playing into their hands.
28 August 2012, 22:55
US in Afghanistan: Who’s the "Savage"?
US in Afghanistan: Who’s the "Savage"?
Another case of US Forces desecrating remains ends with a slap on the wrist for some of the perpetrators while others received no disciplinary action and on the same day the burning of Korans was also brushed off with those guilty also escaping serious punishment. Against the backdrop of increased Afghan on NATO violence and the beheading of 17 partygoers by Islamists, the question as to who really are the "savages" in Afghanistan begs to be asked.
Once again, as with almost every case involving egregious misconduct by US troops who have committed what can only be characterized as war crimes, those involved have received nothing more than the proverbial slap on the wrist, and the cases are in the hundreds if not thousands. We do not know the accurate figures because most such events are hidden and not reported.
This time the events in question could be called benign by US standards. For some reason, probably to minimize the backlash, both judgments came at the same time, namely rulings on cases of soldiers urinating on Taliban corpses and the burning of Korans.
In the case of the urinating Marines some of them received unspecified administrative “discipline,” it was reported on Monday, despite the US claiming that it was a “huge” embarrassment and caused a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation, as well as condemnation and an apology from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and even US Secretary of State Clinton, who vowed that the culprits would be found and punished.
The other judgment also released on Monday, involved the burning of Korans by US troops, an event which caused widespread riots, multiple deaths and calls from the Taliban and Islamists to kill foreign troops in Afghanistan and Americans in order to defend Islam’s Holy book.
Despite the outrage and deaths caused by their actions nothing “criminal” really occurred, according to the US.
Like I said these were benign events by US standards, after Abu Ghraib and similar events in Iraq, the mass murders of almost 20 civilians while they slept in their homes earlier this year by a “deranged” sergeant, cases of cutting off body parts as trophies (including the cutting off of fingers, noses, ears and even the peeling off of faces), families being set on fire, denial of medical care to mass numbers of civilians leading to their deaths, snipers posing with Nazi symbols, multiple cases of rape, sodomy and massacre after massacre after massacre, sure Marines simply urinating on corpses seems almost comic.
The Taliban are almost no better, however they trail far behind compared to the overall creativity and level of atrocity of NATO’s finest. Their savagery is just as brutal as that committed by some of the NATO forces but less widespread and frequent. The latest event attributed to the Taliban but denied by them and quite possibly carried out by “insurgents,” was the beheading of 15 men and 2 women for having a party with dancing and music, something they view as immoral and un-Islamic.
The Afghan authorities has launched an investigation with President Hamid Karzai saying,”…the attack shows that there are irresponsible members among the Taliban."
The beheading of the partygoers occurred in an area of Musa Qala district which is almost totally under Taliban control. Governor of Musa Qala, Nematullah Khan said, "They were having a music party and the Taliban came and killed them and cut off their heads."
On the same day to the south 10 Afghan soldiers were killed at a checkpoint and 2 NATO soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier while they were on joint patrol bringing the number of victims of Afghan soldier on NATO soldier violence to 42 this year alone. Now called “green-on-blue-killings” a further sign of the utter failure of almost 12 years of “coalition” occupation.
These are facts the west would rather we did not know because in Afghanistan as in Iraq every move against the citizenry and every bomb dropped has been done illegally. Both of these countries were attacked in illegal acts of military aggression for involvement in events they had nothing to do with, namely the events of 9-11, both of the countries never threatened or even posed a threat to the US, yet they have paid the price and have been illegally occupied so it is not surprising that the people are fighting back.
Going back to the subject of slaps on the wrists for those committing atrocities, for me, the reason they never pay the price for their illegal behavior has been clear for a long time. How on earth could the US judicial system or the US military deem anything their own killing machines do to be illegal if the whole war and occupation of Afghanistan is in and of itself illegal to begin with?
The truth is an extremely dangerous thing especially when it is something that might end plans for world domination, and that is what it is all about, but it looks like they may be failing.
In Afghanistan, a country decimated by close to 12 years of war the truths are hidden on a daily basis and as sites such as Wikileaks have found out (the hard way), reporting on the facts is something the US Empire will not allow.
The destruction and atrocities that the US has unleashed on the Afghan people continue on a daily basis and have been something the US has attempted time and time again to hide. As they continue so will the response from the Afghan side.
In Afghanistan the US obfuscates, hides and doctors the facts at every turn so that even finding an accurate count of the number of civilian deaths in the country is almost an impossibility with numbers ranging from the 10s of thousands to the millions. Yet one thing is crystal clear the US has failed in Afghanistan and there is little likelihood that there is a way out.
One question that I feel truly begs to be answered is quite a simple one: who in fact are the real “savages” in Afghanistan?
9 August 2012, 19:00
Iran vs Poland and UNGA’s Plans for Syria
Iran vs Poland and UNGA’s Plans for Syria
Rick continues listing the reasons why the ABM system in Poland is directed against Russia and discusses the fact that last Friday’s General Assembly’s resolution was drafted by Saudi Arabia and then co-sponsored by Bahrain and Qatar. VoR asked Mr. Rick Rozoff, the manager of the Stop NATO website and mailing list, to comment on matters related to these issues. Part II.
Why did the Polish President refuse to answer who the ABM system in Poland is targetted against and why is it clear they are being installed against Russia?
Try to imagine, first of all, how Iran would have the capability of launching basically intercontinental ballistic missiles over Poland, presumably over the Arctic Circle to hit the United States. I mean that’s the impossibility, fellacious from the very beginning. When the Obama administration scaled that back somehow by suggesting that standard missile 3 interceptors, which have a shorter range, could be used to intercept Iranian missiles, then it begs the question "where?". At what point do you intercept the Iranian missiles?The trajectory and the range of the standard missile-3’s could potentially intercept in some place south of Poland but where – Ukraine, the Caucuses? They don’t carry a charge, they’re kinetic hit-to-kill missiles, as they're called. So, you know, presumably no real damage is done in the fallout over the intended country. I don’t know that Ukraine or Armenia or whoever would be affected by this, would be consulted before this happening. But one thing that gives a “lie” to the entire argument, the deployment of any sort of interceptor missiles in Poland is aimed against Iran, is the fact that in May of 2010 the US moved a Patriot short range interceptor missile battery into the city of Morag in Poland, which is I believe only about 40 miles or 35 miles from the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.
And these are short range missiles?
Right, which can only be placed against presumed Russian missiles coming in. I mean they haven’t arranged to do anything in regard to Iran, so there is talk about how Poland, wanted an insurance from the United States if they put the longer range missiles in they'd have protection, but the protection clearly is not from Iran, or they wouldn’t put short range Patriot interceptors near the Russian border. The inescapable conclusion is that the Patriots are there as at least a symbolic signal to Russia.
What’s your take on the United Nations General Assembly vote from last week’s Friday? You wrote a very interesting article about it for your website.
Yes, it is a second vote of that nature in the General Assembly this year. There was earlier one in February and then it was re-dated last Friday. It is comparable to what the United States did in January of 1980 when the Carter administration went to the General Assembly, and, of course, General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, the Security Council would have to authorize anything substantive, like an article 7 on military intervention, for example. But what the Carter administration did in January of 1980 was to go to the General Assembly and get an overwhelming vote condemning the initial Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, which had occurred only a couple weeks earlier towards the end of September in 1979. But it wasn’t so important in terms of rallying or marshalling support within the world community fronting action. It was more a propaganda victory for the States, which then could portray the Soviet Union as being an aggressor in Afghanistan and justify its own covert involvement in supporting the Afghan Hafizullah Amin, and everything that is entailed, everything that happened to Afghanistan in the interim. So, what happened in February, what happened last Friday clearly is out of the same playbook, if you will, with what happened in 1980s. What the United States and its NATO allies have done is they introduced a resolution that appears on the surface to be somewhat balanced but is weighted heavily against the government in Damascus and calls for amongst other things the introduction of, a roughly paraphrasing it, a pluralistic multi-party political system within Syria. And Syria though is dominated by the Ba’ath party, actually does have multi-party system in the Parliament. The resolution, and I think your listeners have to know this, was drafted by Saudi Arabia and then co-sponsored by Bahrain and Qatar. So, you have hereditary monarchies, the least democratic nations in the world, drafting a resolution being pushed by the United States and its Western allies, its NATO allies, calling for political transformation in Syria, along the lines what I indicated with the paraphrase, but there is no sense of irony evidently in the world to realize that of all countries in the world that have been chosen to draft that resolution at Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, and Qatar and, I think, Egypt at one point co-sponsored it, these are the worst possible examples, and again reveals the abject hypocrisy of the west to be talking about a democratic transformation and the transition, governmental transition in Syria and at the same time hiding behind the likes of Saudi Arabia to affect that.
Teaming up with the Al-Qaeda, to bring that about?
Nobody is denying the fact that there are Jihadists, Wahhabi, Salafist, Al-Qaeda, elements operating in Syria’s part of the so called Free Syrian Army, and the United States seems to be willing as it did last year in Libya under very similar circumstances to not only tolerate but to assist that process. But going back to the vote, there were 133 countries voting in favor, only 12 voting against, some 31 abstaining. The abstentions are from countries that are hesitant to generally support the United States in its more aggressive moves around the world but, to be more honest, to have taken a principle position 31 countries by right they should have voted against it. It includes nations ranging from Ecuador to Vietnam, to Surinam, and other nations that have more or less independent foreign policy orientations. But what is frightening is that both in the February vote and last Friday there were only 12 nations out of 193 in the General Assembly that voted against the resolution – Russia, China, Syria. But only 9 other nations have stood with them. Those 9 nations as we talked about before in your program, are nations that are already targeted for Syrian or Libyan style regime change program themselves, nations like Zimbabwe, Belarus, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, and others, or simply by standing up to the United States, or, say, allies of Saudi Arabia, have declared themselves targets for Syrian style subversion interaction regime change. It’s a very sad moment in the world where the US and its allies have managed to corral that higher percentage of general assembly members nations in the world in fact to support what was clearly a one-sided resolution aimed against the government of Syria, and in the words of the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin he said something of the affect that the resolution acted as though there were no armed opposition in the country attaching no blame to the opposition for any of the violence.
He came down on government officials, that these are insurgents trying to take over the government and trying to engage in a violent overthrow of the official government of the country and the resolution just placed all the blame on the government.
That’s exactly what it did. And in regard again to the sponsors, these great models of Euro-Atlantic or Transatlantic democracy like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Bahrain, the Syrian Ambassador of the United Nations referred to them quite justly, quite accurately as despotic oligarchies, which is precisely what they are. Nobody in the west appears to be embarrassed to have allowed these three countries to sponsor and Saudi Arabia to draft a resolution calling for what they have the audacity to refer to as democracy.
25 July 2012, 18:48
The Failure of the Arab Spring
The Failure of the Arab Spring
What has happened in many of the countries that have been hit by the Arab Spring, and this was recently painfully obvious in Egypt, is the coming to power of radical and extremist Islamic elements that had less power or existed only on the fringes before the uprisings in their respective countries.
Expert after expert, time and time again, have stated that the results of the Arab Spring are going to be widespread long-lasting and difficult if not impossible to undo. The U.S. was warned many times that what they were unleashing was not going to go the way of their pie-in-the-sky scenarios but nevertheless they continue to push for regime changes which we have seen have only caused more bloodshed and suffering and not the quick implementation of reforms and the appearance of democratic governments.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Muslim organization in the world, is an example of one such group which had been banned in Egypt, and whose original goal was to bring about Sharia Law and Islamize society. Although their extremist and violent nature have been toned down many experts are worried that their claims and actions which appear to adhere to democratic principles are merely tactical and a way for them to obtain real power.
The Muslim Brotherhood had promised not to front a presidential candidate in Egypt but we have seen that was a lie. What other lies they have presented to garner the trust of the people are yet to be seen but if they went back on one promise they are sure to go back on others.
The Muslim Brotherhood has a long and violent history including bombings, assassinations and attempts at overthrowing governments. It was also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, who laid down the intellectual and theological justifications for the use of jihad, that inspired the leaders and founders of many of the modern day radical, militant and terrorist Islamic groups, such as Al Qaeda.
Tunisia, where Mohamed Bouazizi, the poor street grocer set himself on fire, the event that sparked the Arab Spring, appears may be another failure for the West, even though they claim success there. Laws prohibiting alcohol consumption and forcing women to wear traditional Muslim dress which did not exist before the Arab Spring are beginning to appear in the country.
According to Alon Ben Meir, a New York University based Middle East expert, in an interview with the Voice of Russia: “…without solid economic and other reforms, there is no chance that these countries will be able to develop democratic systems and as long as there is poverty and lack of freedom the radical Islamist elements will be able to recruit more and more of the population and gain power.”
Libya is another complete failure as the country has deteriorated into one where militias fight one another for control of cities and regions and there is still no real rule of law. Many international organizations have complained about the proliferation of weapons in the country and announcements by Islamists that they will be taking part in elections. These are just a couple of reasons for concern.
The opinion of Ben Meir was echoed by Claude Moniquet an expert in the field of regional conflicts and terrorism and the director of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, in a recently published book the Arab Spring, an Unhealthy Spring: “… democracy must include respect for the rights of women, youth, labor, and the right to freedom of expression. When that is all there, you can proceed to the election process. To do the opposite - it's like to start building a house from the roof down.”
In other words, you can not just overthrow a regime and have nothing to replace it with and you can not build democracy without a foundation, this is clear in all of the Arab Spring countries and elsewhere such as Iraq.
Bahrain is another complete failure for the West, as they support and supported the regime. It was an unpleasant surprise for Washington that the uprisings spread to Bahrain. How can they claim to support Democracy and human rights and all of the other talking points and catch phrases when they are in support of a brutal regime because it supports the U.S. military complex?
Then we have Syria, which some experts say became the battleground for Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and where it appears the days of Bashar Assad are numbered. With questions as to his whereabouts, high-level defections, the continued arming of rebel groups by the West and a security apparatus that is growing more and more difficult to control, the political elite and those in power are beginning to question their own survival, and when they go, the country goes.
What awaits Syria after Assad? A fair and just society? A Western style democracy? Safety and security for the citizens? Not likely.
Will there ever be real “democracy” in the region without a basis on which it is to be built? It looks seriously doubtful.
The views and opinions
expressed here are my own.
8 July 2012, 17:24
Iran Announces Contingency Plan: If Attacked It Will Respond
Iran Announces Contingency Plan: If Attacked It Will Respond
The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that they are capable of destroying 35 U.S. military bases within minutes if they are attacked.
This information came in a statement by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Force on Wednesday.
Recently Iran has also stated that U.S. warships are also “easy” targets. The Iranian general also stated that Palestinian lands, a direct reference to Israel, are also easy targets as well.
The statements made by Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh may be an upping of the rhetoric, after what are seen by some in the West as “failed” talks to end the Iranian nuclear conflict, but sources knowledgeable about Iran’s military capabilities say that there may in fact be reason for concern.
Moscow believes some progress was made at the recently held talks in the Russian capital but the U.S. and Israel have stated that there is no more use for diplomacy, meaning that they may be preparing for another military invasion.
For the U.S. Iran’s statements may be their second greatest fear, invading a country that has enough teeth to strike back and do significant damage to its forces and interests. Proof of this can be seen in its military “adventures” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, an attempt on pressuring Korea and next up in Syria.
Iraq and Libya, for their part, worked with the U.S. and agreed to disarm. Those two countries both agreed to the U.S. terms and attempted to appease the U.S. to rid themselves of sanctions etc. but instead they were eventually invaded, decimated and had their leaders killed.
Afghanistan was seen as easy prey and a primitive country that was living in the Middle Ages and the U.S. believed they would go and wipe everybody out and be out of there in a matter of months, never once looking at the lessons to be learned by the Soviet Union’s operations in the country.
Korea was also supposed to submit in the same way as Iraq and Libya did but decided on its own course and has been for the most part left alone. Iran has also refused to acquiesce to U.S. demands and instead of disarming, stopping its nuclear program and bowing to western demands has done the opposite and has armed itself to the teeth preparing for war against a superior opponent.
Unfortunately for the West this is the now the case and they have no one to blame except themselves. After seeing what happened in Iraq and Libya, and with all of the meddling the U.S. has been up to in the Middle East there are few countries who would dare to disarm for fear of being stabbed in the back and invaded.
Iran has also promised to close the Strait of Hormuz saying that U.S. warships would be easy targets. According to the WND website, citing their own sources, the Iranians are prepared to use an asymmetrical warfare tactic against warships that they called “swarming”, that is using up to 150 small fast and maneuverable boats that can be loaded with missiles or suicide bombers all coming from different directions and quite literally swarming down on U.S. warships.
At the beginning of this piece I mentioned the U.S. second biggest fear, but what is the first? The first and foremost we saw on 9-11, regardless on whom you blame for its planning, and that is an attack on U.S. soil. America is comfortable bombing and invading small, more or less defenseless countries on the other side of the world and this has even become a popular point with American voters, which we saw with regards to the former Yugoslavia.
Will America back off on Iran if it believes it will suffer massive losses? Or will it take the threat of a symmetrical attack on U.S. soil to finally convince the West that peaceful dialogue, mutual respect and diplomacy are the best ways to get along with the rest of the world?
Why does the West feel the need to recreate the planet in its own image? The world is full of countries, peoples and cultures that have their own rich heritages, customs and beliefs, things that can be shared, learned from, and which should be respected.
After World War II the United Nations was created and it was supposed to be the place where differences could be worked out and where we could discuss mutually important issues in an atmosphere of shared respect and as equals. Never again was the world supposed to allow one country to dominate it and subjugate it as Hitler had attempted to do.
So why are we allowing the U.S. to do so in the name of Democracy or humanitarian intervention or security? Iran has decided to stand up against what they know to be a superior force. I know I may sound completely naïve in saying this but why can’t we respect each other, assist each other and just get along?
You may blame Iran and say they have no right to arm themselves, you may say they are a threat to world peace, but in reality they have been pushed into a corner and they feel their country and their existence is under threat. Why is it that only the West can arm itself to the teeth and subjugate the world?
28 June 2012, 19:26
U.S. Double-Standards Crystal Clear in Bahrain
U.S. Double-Standards Crystal Clear in Bahrain
Even in today’s world of instant messaging, internet, mobile and satellite communications and worldwide mass media, there are still places that exist, where events take place unbeknownst to the rest of the planet.
Even in today’s world of instant messaging, internet, mobile and satellite communications and worldwide mass media, there are still places that exist, where events take place unbeknownst to the rest of the planet. There exists countries that do not want the world to know what is going on within their borders or there exists countries that try to control the flow of information coming out of areas where their activities are not within the boundaries of what the civilized world would find as acceptable or appropriate.
Serbia and Kosovo are places where such a media blackout exists and those are places I believe need more attention from the international community another is Bahrain.
Officially called the Kingdom of Bahrain, the country is a small island nation situated in the western part of the Persian Gulf and has a population of about 1,234,571 according to a 2010 census. The country ranks 42nd on the Human Development Index, it is also a member of the UN, the WTO, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.
Bahrain was caught up in what has become known as the Arab Spring on February 14th 2011 when protestors took to the streets demanding more political freedom and an improvement in the human rights situation in the country. Originally there was no threat to the monarchy nor were there calls for a regime change in the country. This all changed however on February 17th when police killed four protestors while attempting to clear the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the central gathering place for most of the protests taking place in the country.
Since then the response and the crackdowns on peaceful and unarmed demonstrators by police and security forces has been described as brutal. Almost 3,000 people have been arrested and more than 70 have been killed, according to the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja, in an interview for the Voice of Russia. There are also wide spread reports of torture, beatings and the denial of medical assistance leading to death.
As with most of the Arab Spring countries there is an internal conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. In Bahrain the majority of the population is comprised of Shiites although the Sunnis control most of the government sectors and politics. There are reports of widespread and institutionalized discrimination in employment, housing and other areas against the Shiites.
According to Ms. Al-Khawaja there exists a media blackout in Bahrain. The most obvious and pervasive form being a system of filtering and blocking internet sites that is implemented and executed by the Bahraini Information Affairs Authority (IAA) and which has a noticeable impact on the overall speed of the internet traffic for the country’s more than 250,000 internet users. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) there are over 1,000 sites currently blocked in Bahrain including their own.
Bahrain has also seriously cracked down on bloggers and regularly arrests people for posting on Twitter and Facebook. The opposition groups views and opinions have no place in Bahraini media so they resort to the internet. One such person Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (http://www.bahrainrights.org/en ) who I interviewed last September (http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/09/20/56438166.html) has been arrested twice and may have been tortured. During one arrest according to the center, he was beaten and blindfolded and in his own words was threatened with rape and kicked when he refused to say he loved the prime minister.
The situation in the country is getting worse with many experts saying that the situation may soon explode. According Ms. Al-Khawaja part of the daily routine for many Bahraini citizens involves being tear gassed and trying to save their children from suffocating.
Human rights organizations all over the world have called for a halt to dozens of widespread abuses in the Kingdom. Some of the most notable being the following: Human Rights Watch has called on the Bahrain’s High Court of Appeal to reject the use of confessions possibly obtained by torture, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) wrote an open letter to the King of Bahrain to state its concerns about the arbitrary detention of Nabeel Rajad, Amnesty International has issued many statements, in particular with regard to the persecution of medical personnel who were attempting to assist injured protestors, Human Rights first says the persecution of Human Rights Workers is getting worse, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies stated in a report: “The human rights situation in Bahrain in 2011 witnessed unprecedented deterioration at almost all levels, especially in light of the repressive retaliatory action aimed at crushing the popular uprising which demanded far-reaching democratic reforms…”, and the list goes on.
So where are the calls from the U.S. and NATO for a “humanitarian intervention” or for regime change in Bahrain, a U.S. ally that hosts a base for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet? Nowhere. However on May 9, 2012 Hillary Clinton met with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa and expressed that “…much work remains to fully address ongoing human rights issues.” Where were statements like this to Gadaffi or to Assad?
So with all of these reports what does the U.S. do? They sell arms to the Bahraini Government. In February of this year 18 representatives and 3 Senators, all of them from the Democratic Party, wrote a letter of protest to Clinton who in turn, did nothing.
There have been widespread reports that the security forces are using military grade tear gas on protestors and gassing homes, killing civilians. But that is just one of the lesser pieces of equipment and weaponry that the U.S. is selling Bahrain. The entire Bahraini military, called the Bahraini Defense Force and numbering about 13,000, is equipped U.S. hardware, everything from F-16s, to Blackhawk helicopters, to Abrams tanks and even an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate. But the relationship does not end there, Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet giving them a base in Juffair and has signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. military.
When speaking recently with regards to Syria I think Russia’s plenipotentiary envoy in human rights affairs, Konstantin Dulgov said it best: ““Double standards in human rights is unacceptable and Russia and the majority of the international community reject that”.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter also recently stated something worth repeating with regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “the U.S. Government’s policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
So there you go, another example of a double standard and complete hypocrisy from the only country in the world where its leader signs off on a daily kill list. Who shall we kill today?
The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own.
28 June 2012, 12:32
Human Rights Activists Attacked in Bahrain
Human Rights Activists Attacked in Bahrain
What we’ve seen lately is definitely an escalation of attacks on human rights’ defenders. There were protests in several different areas of the country and my colleague was hit by police. He wasn’t hurt too bad, but several people were injured and one person was critically injured. Most activists are getting arrested. The president of out Center is currently in prison as well.
This is John Robles, you’re listening to the interview with Maryam al-Khawaja, she’s the Acting President for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Can you give us a little bit of information about what’s going on down there in Bahrain with the activists?
What we’ve seen lately is definitely escalation of attacks on human rights’ defenders. There were protests in several different areas of the country and my colleague was hit by police. He wasn’t hurt too bad, but several people were injured and one person was critically injured. Most activists are getting arrested. The president of out Center is currently in prison as well.
Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your center?
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights was set up in 2002, basically it covers all kinds of human rights’ violations inside the country. So we were one of the first centers in the Gulf region. We also work on women’s rights. Recently it has been covering the violations committed by the Bahraini government.
I talked to your president, I guess it was about a year ago, regarding the US supplying the Bahraini government with weapons that they were using against civilians. How long has your president been in prison? What has he been charged with?
First he was arrested at the beginning of May on his way back from Lebanon to Bahrain. And he was kept in prison for about three weeks, then he was released and then at the beginning of June he was rearrested, he has been in prison since then. Mainly the charges against him are things that he writes on Twitter.
Have you had any similar problems yourself?
I don’t live in Bahrain at the moment and I can’t come back because I would be arrested. That’s why I was able to stay out of prison.
What’s going on with the activists right now that have been detained? What were they charged with?
You have activists who are being charged with illegal gatherings, you have those who are being charged for writing things on Twitter. For example, the former president of the Bahrain’s Center was arrested last year and tortured severely. He was actually charged with taking part in a terrorist organization and attempting to violently overthrow the government.
This was because of his activities with the Bahrain Center?
This was because he is a human rights’ activist. I think that in the Arab region, in the South African region today the worst threat to this regime is not political activists or people with guns, it is human rights’ activists, because either the government is doing the right thing or not, they don’t have any justification. So they are really going out for human rights’ defenders.
What’s going on now with the medical workers?
Of course, medical workers were arrested last year, they were tortured and got from one year to fifteen. There was a lot of international pressure, they actually sent for an appeal. The Court two weeks ago actually sentenced nine of them from one month to five years imprisonment. Governments considered the crime that they treated injured protestors.
What were they supposed to do? Just let these people die?
Yes. When it comes to people who speak out against the government these are not people who deserve to live and so either they kill them on the street or they injure them and force doctors not to treat them.
How many people have died in Bahrain since these crackdowns began?
At least seventy people have been killed in Bahrain from the beginning of uprisings. That’s a very huge number. If Bahrain had the same population as Egypt, 11 000 people would be killed. Bahrain also had the largest quota in what is called the Arab Spring, because almost 50% of the population took part in the protests. Again if to compare to Egypt, it’s like saying 40 million Egyptians came out on the streets.
Is there any possibility that the situation may change for the better? That there may be a regime change?
I think that as long as Bahraini government has immunity internationally just because their Western allies, I don’t think we will see any change soon. Western governments talk about human rights and democracy and their support for that, but they need to actually implement what they say. Right now they don’t. It’s not in their interests.
What do you think people internationally can do to help people there in Bahrain?
There’s more or less media blackout on the Bahraini situation. There are countries in the world where people vote smarter, like in Europe or other places. That’s really the population that convince their government that something needs to be done about Bahrain. People should convince their governments, they should say: if you don’t do anything about Bahrain, if you don’t stop your double standards, we will not vote for you’re the next term. I think that can make a change.
What’s the governmental system right now?
Bahrain is an absolute monarchy, basically the King is the head of all different authorities in the country. He is above the law, above the Constitution. People who work within the Bahraini regime are completely immune, which means that they can torture, they can kill and won’t be charged with that.
What would be a typical day for a Bahraini citizen?
Everyday there’re people put in the streets demanding human rights and democracy and dignity. Usually at night what happens – police go to different residential areas and teargas people for hours, even inside people’s homes. Actually they go up to the window, break it and shoot teargas inside the house. And there’re families who try to keep their children alive as they suffocate to death because of the teargas. This is happening almost every single night. This is more or less routine for Bahraini families.
Do you see change in the near future?
The Bahraini government right now isn’t going to change anything because they think they can continue to commit human rights’ violations and there won’t be any consequences. They don’t have reasons to create any change. And that’s why – as I said – without the right international pressure, nothing will change in Bahrain. The message that’s coming out of Bahrain right now is call for help. Because people lost hope in their government.
Is the UN, in any way, involved with your organization?
I’m in Geneva now and I’ve been attending sessions for human rights. Unfortunately we don’t have a similar institution that actually implements human rights for implementing human rights. Even the UN Human Rights Counsel is very much politicized. At the UN Counsel it’s very difficult to get anything on Bahrain done. And in Bahrain we even don’t have laws condemning human rights’ violations.
And you’re saying this is all because the Bahraini regime is pro-Western and is backed by the West?
Yes. Especially because it’s close to Saudi Arabia and it plays a huge role in keeping Bahrain protected from any kind of consequences internationally.
29 May 2012, 13:29
Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan Continue Unchecked
Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan Continue Unchecked
In Eastern Afghanistan on Saturday night NATO was involved in another “incident”, as NATO calls them, involving the deaths of large numbers of civilians. This time NATO forces killed a family of eight people, including six children, in the Paktia province.
In Eastern Afghanistan on Saturday night NATO was involved in another “incident”, as NATO calls them, involving the deaths of large numbers of civilians. This time NATO forces killed a family of eight people, including six children, in the Paktia province.
Many experts say the “incident” threatens to further strain the already tense relationship between President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers. Some analysts claimed Karzai’s recent trip to the NATO Summit in Washington served to slightly smooth the already tense relationship but this latest incident may cause another wave of violence in the country and force Karzai to have to take stronger steps against the “occupiers”.
According to a local government spokesperson in an interview with the AFP the eight people were killed in a NATO air strike and included a husband and wife and their six children.
The official, one Rohulla Samouni, stated that none of the members of the family had ties with the Taliban or other terrorist group. He said NATO aircraft bombed a house. A man named Mohammad Sahfi his wife and their six innocent children were brutally murdered.
— There have been many similar such cases in 2012 in Afghanistan. For example on February 17, 2012, six civilians, including a woman and a child were killed in a NATO night raid in Dewa Gul Valley, in the Chawki district of Kunar province.
—Then on February 8, seven children and a young adult were killed in a NATO airstrike in the village of Geyaba in the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa.
—March 11, 2012 saw at least 16 civilians, including women and children killed after a 'rogue' US serviceman entered their homes murdered them.
The War in Afghanistan has already lasted for more than 10 years (2001–present) and killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians directly as well as the deaths of tens of thousands more indirectly as a consequence of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war.
President Hamid Karzai has summoned foreign military commanders and made public statements to warn of the consequences of further Afghan civilian deaths many times.
—"We are not happy. We don't want any more Afghan civilian casualties." "This must not occur again." President Hamid Karzai, July 2002
—"I don’t think there is a big need for military activity in Afghanistan anymore." "Similarly, going into the Afghan homes – searching Afghan homes without the authorization of the Afghan government – is something that should stop now." President Hamid Karzai, September 2005
—In May 2006, Afghan President Hamid Karzai summoned the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, to demand an explanation for the deaths of at least 16 Afghan civilians during air strikes.
—In December 2006, a tearful President Hamid Karzai gave a heartfelt speech that brought audience members to tears, Karzai said the cruelty imposed on his people "is too much" and that Afghanistan cannot stop "the coalition from killing our children."
—"Five years on, it is very difficult for us to continue accepting civilian casualties. It is becoming heavy for us; it is not understandable anymore." "We are very sorry when the international coalition force and NATO soldiers lose their lives or are injured. It pains us. But Afghans are human beings, too." President Hamid Karzai, May 2, 2007
—In June 2007, after the deaths of more than 90 civilians in 10 days, President Hamid Karzai accused ISAF and the US-led military coalition in his country of "extreme" and "disproportionate" use of force.
—"Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as such." "Several times in the last year, the Afghan government tried to prevent civilian casualties, but our innocent people are becoming victims of careless operations of NATO and international forces." President Hamid Karzai, June 23, 2007
—On October 28, 2007, in an interview on 60 Minutes, Hamid Karzai stated that he had explicitly asked U.S. President George W. Bush to roll back the use of air strikes, which had killed more than 270 civilians in 17 air strikes to date in 2007 alone.
— In August 2008, President Hamid Karzai ordered a review of foreign troops in Afghanistan after 96 civilians were killed in an air strike in Herat.
—"The continuation of civilian casualties can seriously undermine the legitimacy of fighting terrorism and the credibility of the Afghan people's partnership with the international community." President Hamid Karzai, September 24, 2008
— On November 5, 2008, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to put an end to civilian casualties in Afghanistan after an air strike on a wedding party, killing 37 people, including 23 children and 10 women.
— In April 2009, American-led military forces killed 5 civilians, including two children and a nine-month-old baby, in a U.S. night raid in Khost province
—In March 2011, Karzai rejected American President Obama's and Gen. David Petraeus' apologies for the killing of 9 Afghan boys ages 7–13 who were collecting firewood. "The apology is not enough," Karzai said
— In May 2011, Karzai issued a "final warning" as more civilians were killed in NATO airstrikes. He said the Afghan people can no longer tolerate the attacks, and that the U.S.-led coalition risks being seen as an "occupying force".
The killings go on.
13 April 2012, 13:56
US coming to the Middle East
US coming to the Middle East
The U.S. is about to announce that they are going to advance their SM-3 missile systems in the Middle East and Asia Pacific region. John Robles spoke with Rick Rozoff , the Manager of the Stop NATO website and mailing list and the contributing writer to globalresearch.ca.
The U.S. is about to announce that they are going to advance their SM-3 missile systems in the Middle East and Asia Pacific region. John Robles spoke with Rick Rozoff, the Manager of the Stop NATO website and mailing list and the contributing writer to globalresearch.ca.
15 March 2012, 18:19
Afghan Killings: Will Justice Be Done?
Interview with Eugene Fidell, a teacher of military justice, a Senior Research Scholar and a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School.
We talked back in January about the Haditha ruling (http://english.ruvr.ru/2012/01/26/64690437.html). I believe nobody has done any time for anything that happened there. What can be done so this doesn’t continue to happen and what are your views on that?
I do think that we are probably at the time where an accounting can be made of the administration of justice in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Enough time has passed and enough individual cases have emerged that we can begin to draw some lessons. But, in order to draw lessons responsibly, a very careful study of each of the cases and the facts and outcomes in each of the cases has to be undertaken. It hasn’t happened yet but I think we are now at a point where it can happen. We’ve had enough of these things.
Do you see rulings, such as in the Haditha case, affecting new acts against civilians, for example that massacre that just occurred on Sunday and the burning of the Qurans – do you think, had there been a more serious penalty, would this have acted in a way to prevent soldiers from committing any more acts? Or do you think it doesn’t matter?
It’s very hard to draw conclusions, particularly about the current phase in Afghanistan, where we don’t even know the suspect’s name. That at least has to remain a question mark for another few days at least. However, I do feel that a hard look has to be taken at whether American troops have become so desensitized because of the amount of time they have to spend on multiple tours of duty that they have lost focus on the human dimension of military operations. Certainly, it is the case that any armed force in a bad and violent campaign can become brutalized and can lose their moral compass. And I think there’ve been times when that happened here. I’m very reluctant to pamphlet in a very broad Russian say that these views and habits are endemic within the US military. I think the Armed Force is a very law-abiding and is alert to interests and rights of other people. I’m very uncomfortable saying that this lack of sensitivity is to the rights of the people in Afghanistan and other countries, where we conduct any military operations, have been utterly disregarded. I think that armed forces are highly law-abiding and on the whole moral individuals. But it is a case that some of these instances that have come into the public eye are truly appalling. The business about body parts, for example, the business about urinating on corpses, these latest incidents in Afghanistan – these are truly disturbing cases. They have grabbed the conscience of Americans, they’ve obviously grabbed the conscience and anger of people in Afghanistan and we have got to grapple with this and do a very serious reveal and try to draw some broader lessons. And I think that is on the mind of administration. The administration is hardly toned up on these issues and I would expect that President Obama and the advisors would take steps particularly in the light of this last really awful incident.
There was also the case of the SS picture.
It was another one. I want to say one other thing. We have in the US military justice system a doctrine which regulates the exercise of unlawful command. In other words, the senior officials, whether uniformed or civilian, have to be very circumspective about what they say concerning pending cases because in theory we try to have independent and impartial judgments made by judges and jurors in the military justice system. So, there is a sense, in which the president is not as free as he might prefer to a speaker’s line, basically because we don’t want to prevent a fair trial, at which guilty people can be severely punished. So people elsewhere should bear that in mind. The president is not at liberty to tell it completely like it is and to fully express his outrage, which I’m sure he feels, because doing so might be create a legal issue that might prevent the administration of justice or to distort the administration of justice.
Remember, you are talking to a world-wide audience, sir. What is the reaction to incidents, especially this last one, by the American public, if you can give us your opinion?
People in the US are shocked. I can tell you that this story dominated news media of every stripe, newspapers of every political orientation, the internet, television and radio. This story is all over and people are truly aghast and concerned about it. It’s frustrating because we don’t have a lot of facts yet. But the facts that we do have are extremely disturbing.
What are the most serious consequences that this individual or individuals – we don’t know yet if there are other people involved – what are the most serious consequences they may face for the killing of these civilians.
It seems that they say “a single gunman,” so, as far as we know, it’s just one person and he is subject to the death penalty potentially. We haven’t executed anyone as a result of a military trial since 1961. However, I have to say that, given the awful circumstances that have come to light so far, this individual, unless he has an insanity defense or something like that, could well see the next death penalty.
Are you serious? This may be a death penalty ruling when this goes to court?
Yes, I think this case will be charged as a capital case and I think that a military jury could well return a death sentence. Whether that survives a reveal and a years-long process to complete the process… But I think this person is certainly warm as a candidate for the death sentence.
What do you think the reaction would be from the Afghani side if that were to happen, if there were a death sentence?
It’s not going to bring anybody back to life. Certainly, no country would let international political considerations drive the administration of justice. People in Afghanistan are very-very unhappy due to the accumulative effect of these various incidents and I actually don’t know what would allay their concerns because so many of these cases seem utterly inexplicable.
And it seems like justice is not done. From what I’ve heard about it, there was no justification possible for what this individual did.
I find it impossible to imagine but I don’t want to convict him on the radio. We’ll see as we learn more facts. But it’s really a shocking case.
8 February 2012, 15:26
Russia's Mediation Could "Save" Iran
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir – Middle East expert and a Professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
How are these new sanctions against Iran going to affect the Iranian economy internationally?
I believe it’s going to have a significant effect, because when you freeze all properties and other financial institutions that is going to impede Iran from conducting some significant financial transactions, and in conjunction with that these new sanctions also penalize any other banks that actually work with Iran Central Bank. Together the freezing and the sanctions against the Iranianian Central Bank will have a very strong effect on the Iranian economy.
Most of these banks operate and work with the United States and for them it becomes a toss up. If they want to continue to work with the United States financial institutions, then they’ll have to give up their working relations with Iranian financial institutions. And the toss up is that their business interests with the United States are much greater than that with Iran. And so they have to give up one or the other, and in this case it is likely that they choose not to give up the business with the United States. So, that’s really the calculations they thought.
Has this been been approved by the United Nations or is this the US unilateral move against Iran?
No, as a matter of fact this is within the authority of the President. This was issued by executive order, it didn’t even have to go through the Senate or the House. The President of the United States can issue an executive order that freezes all these activities and he does not need approval from other institutions.
Ok, what about Iran? How do you think Iran is going to react to this? They said that if anyone prevents their oil from reaching its markets, they will close down the Strait of Hormuz.
The truth of the matter John, Iran, you know, they talk quite a lot but they really have much more limited ability to act. If they decide to close the Strait of Hormuz - what that’s going to do to their own shipping of oil from which they need the revenue very badly. So, this is not something that they will do and even if they do that the United States Navy is on location and they are fully prepared to deal with that effectively.
I was told by certain sources here, close to the naval forces, that it will take no more than 24 hours to clear the Strait of Hormuz should the Iranians decide to blockade it. But it is not in their interests to blockade it in the first place because they still want to ship some oil. Specifically India and China both said that they will continue to purchase Iranian oil, and the Iranians are very interested in continuing to ship this oil to these two countries.
How do you think Iran is going to react to this? Do they have anything they can do to counter this move or is this pretty much useless?
The truth of the matter is that I don’t think they will take overt, violent action or retaliation because the United States will respond to that immediately. The only thing they can do, and honestly I think it’s diplomatically, they have an opportunity now to sit down again with the representatives of the IAEA and show greater cooperation with this agency. And I think this is one way to diffuse the tension between Iran and the United States and the West is by Iran cooperating more with the agency. If they want to lift the sanctions they better cooperate with the international agency.
Recently, I think, there were 6 IAEA inspectors there and they did not visit one site. Now, if Iran allows them to visit these sites, will Obama rescind this order?
I think the President here and the House and the Senate were quite clear, they want the IAEA to go there and do the inspection, unfettered inspection and for the Iranian authorities to answer the questions the inspectors have. If the inspection is done and they are satisfied and they can come out and report that Iran is coming clean, I think this can be extremely helpful. If they want to lift the sanctions – that is the only avenue they have. If they start causing problems, well then the United States is prepared for that and that’s not going to make sense from my perspective.
Again, you know John, I want to mention to you one thing here. I think Russia in this respect can play a very important role. The Russians have a good relationship with Iran and Russia as being part of the IAEA should basically tell them look cooperate to the fullest extent, as you can. And if that is not going to happen, then things, you know, can get only worse.
So, Russia, unlike the United States or any of the European countries, enjoys the confidence and the trust of the Iranians. And if Russia goes there and tries to mediate a solution to this crisis – it will not only lift the embargo and lift the sanction but could considerably prevent a military attack that may take place. And so, that’s why I’m concerned about it and I think this is where Russia could have played significant role in trying to diffuse the tension between; specifically Iran and Israel, and Iran and the United States.
Do you think the Russian Federation would have enough of an advanced warning of a military attack to try to intervene?
I doubt it if there is anyone, either Israel or the United States that is going to inform Russia in advance. I doubt that very much indeed. Israel may not even inform the United States for that matter if Israel decides to act. That’s been the tradition. If they inform them, it would be like, maybe five minutes before the attack. So, there is nothing anyone can do about it.
So, time is of the essence, that’s why I keep emphasizing Russia's important role here, because Russia is one of the very few countries, in fact I can’t think of another that enjoys more influence and more prestige and trust in Iran than Russia, and that is why I think Russia could save the day if they go in and make real efforts to try to explain to the Iranians that the West is determined, the United States are determined not to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons period. And that’s in the interests of Russia to intervene, because Russia has also significant investment in Iran and I don’t think Russia wants to see its investments in Iran go up in smoke as a result of this horrible potential development.
16 January 2012, 15:17
Time is Running Out for Iran
Time is Running Out for Iran
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, Middle East expert, a professor from the Center of the Global Affairs at New York University
Hello, Dr. Meir, it’s a pleasure to be speaking with you. Can you give us the latest on the Iranian situation?
The Iranians called that they were ready to negotiate but the United States and the E.U. still have certain requirements. They want to negotiate on the condition that this is going to give some results but not negotiate for the sake of negotiations. But the truth of the matter is to defuse the tension between two sides. The best thing to do is to negotiate and establish timeframe. If there is no agreement, then the parties can do what they want to do. That is the first step and that unfortunately has not taken a place. As a result, of course, the rhetoric is escalating, threats are escalating. The United States sent the secret message to Ayatollah, direct message, that should he attempt to cross the Strait oh Hormuz, this will be the red line the United States will not tolerate. But the truth of the matter is that Iran is based on reports that came from international atomic energy, that Iran is pursuing the nuclear weapons. This is what they are saying. So, on that basis this is the United States and other countries that are acting trying to delay the progress that the Iranians are making in their nuclear program. This is what has taken place. The assassination of the scientist should be condemned in a very strong way, the effort to raise the threats that we hear – all of that is actually in a way trying to prevent attacking Iran rather than a preparation for foreign attacks.
You don’t think it’s a provocation?
I take it somewhat differently. My feeling is that the two things that Iranians will insist and want to achieve are: one is that they really want to have the technology to produce nuclear weapon, not necessarily having the weapon but certainly they need the technology to produce one in a short notice. That is what they are absolutely committed to. The second thing they are committed to is that they want to keep the regime the way it is. Now, the most important thing is that this government wants to stay in power. If they feel that the nuclear program could undermine them to stay in power, they will give it up. And the only way they will give it up is if the sanctions are serious and they are really biting. And that is only from that perspective I support the sanctions. Because we would like to see no war and no attack on Iran and Iran will not be persuaded to stop this nuclear program unless it feels attack may be imminent. I mean this is a different approach but that’s how I believe.
Can you give us a little insight into the situation in Iran? You’ve just mentioned political considerations they might have. Can you also mention or feel us in on the fact that last week it was reported that they got uranium enriched up to 20% and they are going to start sharing this technology with other countries.
I have spoken to some Iranians. I believe they know, at least, more than ordinary people on the street, and, on the one hand, they insist that they are not producing a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, they insist that they are right to enrich uranium to 20% or even more as long as they are not in the direction of building a nuclear weapon. But the problem is for the United States, for Israel and for others is that once you get to that point, it is much easier to purify uranium from 20% to 90% in order to have sufficient fuel to create a nuclear weapon. And that is the concern. They are not coming clean and that has been a pattern, the Iranian pattern all along from day one. They have never allowed themselves to come clean and be able to demonstrate without any equivocation that they are actually intending to do and pursue only a peaceful nuclear program.
We know the statements they’ve made about destroying Israel, for example. Do you think this is a real threat?
The truth is this: if Iran has a nuclear weapon will it actually attack Israel? I don’t believe that’s the case. Iran has neighbors with the nuclear weapons like Pakistan, and India, and others. Iran has major concern in its all neighborhood. Unfortunately, their threat to Israel is not taken lightly by the Israelis and that is the problem. The Iranians simply do not understand the Israeli mindset, Israeli psychology. If they understood that, they would not have threatened Israel existentially, because the Jews simply do not take this kind of threat lightly having experienced what they have experienced in World War II. That is the problem that there is a disconnect in trying to understand the psychological implications of the conflict, and Iranians have demonstrated truly utter stupidity in not understanding that you don’t threaten people who have already gone through one Holocaust.
What about this nuclear scientist who was murdered? What’s your insight on that?
What we hear is who has interests in eliminating or disrupting Iranian nuclear program and you can count these people probably on one hand. Israel would be one, the United States will be one, some European community will be other. So, it does not take a genius to figure out that possibly one of the three have committed that but, on the other hand, we must not throw out the possibility that Iranians themselves may eliminate such an individual, not because they hate him or dislike him, but in order to create the kind of attention they want to create and it is entirely possible. So we can’t throw out this possibility.
Wouldn’t that be a way too put an end to all of this without going to war, which I believe you said the U.S. does not want to have?
I don’t believe the United States wants that and I don’t believe that Israel wants that. But I honestly must say not because I am talking to you being in Russia, that I truly and honestly believe that Russia in particular can play a very significant positive role here in trying to encourage the resumption of the negotiation, because Russia’s relation with Iran is a good relationship, Russia’s built up and Iranian nuclear facilities, Russia has a sway and a say in Iran for many different reasons. And Russia today is needed more than any other time in my view to try to mediate and perhaps along with Turkey to try to work something out as soon as possible because I am afraid time is running out.
19 January 2012, 12:25
"The price of war with Iran would be enormous"
"The price of war with Iran would be enormous"
Doctor Gary G. Sick
Doctor Gary G. Sick
Interview with Dr. Gary G. Sick, the senior research scholar and the adjunct professor of the International Affairs at Columbia University. Mr. Sick has also served on the U.S. National Security Council under presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan and is one of the world’s imminent Iranian specialists.
I’d like you ask you some questions regarding the Iranian situation as things seem to be escalating more and more each day. Can you give us some insight into what the current situation is down there?
The situation is, I would say, extremely complicated right now. The U.S. Congress has passed new sanctions, Iran has indicated that it regards these sanctions, especially if they interfere with Iran’s ability to sell its oil, they would regard that as an act of war. And they have carried out exercises in the Strait of Hormuz and then if their oil is interfered with, they will take action to see that other people pay for it as well.
In reality how ready is the U.S. right now to begin a military campaign in the region against Iran?
Probably the very last thing that president Obama wants to have at this point is a war with Iran. He has had two wars that he is winding down, he has some rather severe budgetary problems on his hands, he’s got an economy that’s in trouble, he is cutting back on the military and he is running for office. And the combination of all those things makes it very unlikely that he wants to start a war at this point. So, I personally think that president Obama is going to do whatever he can to avoid getting into a situation, which is actually counter-productive for everybody. It would not just be bad for Iran or for the United States. It would be bad for everybody in the region and the price would be simply enormous. I think he wants to avoid that.
What would your advice be to the president right now?
I think his path is actually pretty clear. The president has 6 months until those intense sanctions go into effect, that would interfere with the oil sales in Iran, and I think 6 months should be used for negotiations of some form to try to get a start on a resolution to the nuclear problem.
Now they are enriching uranium up to 20%. How big of a threat do you see that, towards nuclear proliferation?
In December, when Secretary of Defense Panetta, who also was the head of the CIA until fairly recently, he was asked, on I think "Face the Nation", a point blank question: “Is Iran building a nuclear weapon?” His answer was very clear – “No”.
He said "no"?
He said no. He went on to say that Iran was developing a capability, where it could produce a nuclear weapon, but it was not actually doing it now. And I think that it is something that tends to get overlooked in almost everybody’s take on this thing. Now the 20% issue: Iran. Ah, we proposed a swap of uranium, which Iran would send out 1,200 kilograms of the low-enriched uranium, and we would provide fuel plates, which are enriched to 20% for their research reactor in Tehran, which produces medical isotopes. That was something that Iran, tentatively greed with that, but at that point the United States said “no”.
Basically the United States was deeply involved in getting a new round of sanctions adopted, they had put a lot of effort into it and they were afraid that actually getting an agreement would interfere with the sanctions. And I am sorry to say that sanctions became more important than getting an agreement.
Can you tell us anything you might know about the threat made to Khomeini?
I think that was during those conversations in Turkey in Istanbul. The United States apparently delivered a message to the Iranian government, which I fully expect was in fact a warning that if they close to the Strait of Hormuz, the United States would regard that as a redline. That’s very clear. On the other hand, I am sure what the Iranian said was, “Look, first of all, we are prepared to talk to you, and we are prepared to defuse this crisis and, secondly, we are not going to interfere with the Strait of Hormuz unless our oil is cut off. If you cut off our oil, you can’t expect everybody else to be able to go ahead with their oil as if nothing has happened”.
What about the dead Iranian scientist? Can you fill us in, is there anything you could tell us about that?
There are a lot of theories being kicked around, but as far as I’m concerned, as far as I can tell from the evidence, there really is no great doubt that it was the Israelis who carried it out, it was their standard operating procedure, they’ve done this on occasions in the past. This is the, what, 5th or 6th attempt at least in Tehran to get a nuclear scientist. I think that represents (that basically is Israel’ s take on this situation) that the United States was in contact with Turkey and in contact with Iran about restoring the negotiations, and just as they were meeting somebody assassinated a scientist in Iran. That was not helpful for the process, and I think the fact that the U.S. Secretary of State denounced it in very unequivocal terms was a clear signal that the U.S. was quite annoyed by the timing of this operation. But I think that represents Israel’s position, it clearly is unhelpful again in terms of getting to any kind of negotiation.
I see. There were some people saying that this might have been an internal Iranian operation.
That's just propaganda.
You don’t think that’s true?
I don’t think there is any truth to that whatsoever. This guy was the deputy director of their Natanz centrifuge site. They did not have to kill him. They could have fired him. The people who would like to deflect attention from Israel especially when the United States is condemning the action very strongly, that’s when this rumour suddenly appeared “Oh, maybe it was the Iranians who did it?”
So, this is a real unequivocal condemnation by the U.S. government towards Israel, this would be one of the first. This is not just a wink of the eye and a; “You shouldn’t have done it”.
It’s not. The fact is that we have done that on any of the 5 previous attempts. This is a significant change in U.S. position.
Thank you sir.
21 December 2011, 14:18
Middle East tensions: Forecast for 2012
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir , a Middle East expert and a professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
I’d like to get your predictions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The effort of the Quartet is continuing but the truth is I don’t expect any major breakthrough in 2012. There’s an election in the US. There will be an election in Israel. The situation is rather tense between the settlers and the government, the settlers and Palestinians. Things are not quite down yet. And, given that there is an election in both the US and Israel, I don’t think the government will be implying that Israel should make any serious concession and the US won’t be in a position to press Israel too much. I think it’s going to be a year punctuated with some violence here or there. But probably not much is going to happen.
My next question was about settlement activity. You don’t think it will stop then?
I think what we are witnessing now is exactly a byproduct of the policy of Netanyahu government over the last three years. We were talking about these possibilities, we were saying that the settlers’ movement had been able to accumulate a tremendous amount of political and muscle power and have been pretty much dictating the agenda as far as the West Bank is concerned. The warnings hadn’t been heeded by the government and that’s most unfortunate. Now the government realized that, when settlers attacked military base, this is a significant red line they’ve crossed. I think the Netanyahu government may now wake up and decide to do something about it. But the movement now is so strong, when they have nearly 550,000 settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This represents about 7% of the Israeli population. This is a very significant number and that is going to be very, very difficult to settle. But there is no dramatic shift of power as far as the government’s connection with the Palestinians is concerned and the decision is made to actually sit down and negotiate and make the necessary concessions. The situation is going to get only worse and that’s exactly, as I say, the byproduct of what the government has been going over the last three years.
And the Palestinian UN bid, where do you think it’s going?
That really isn’t going to go through, as it hasn’t gone too far at this point. The only option that the Palestinians have left at this juncture is to go to the General Assembly, where they have an assured majority, to vote for an observer state status. Observer status isn’t exactly a member state, but it will give the Palestinians an opportunity to raise their profile, to be able to join other UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court and some other agencies. But the truth of the matter is that that in itself isn’t going to change much on the ground. The Israeli government basically told the Palestinian Authority “you’d better work with us, negotiate,” and to go to the United Nations’ General Assembly at this point is going to even further sour any prospect of sitting and negotiating in the coming year.” So, if they do go this is not going to change much on the ground and if they didn’t go the situation is going to remain pretty much the same anyway. So, in my view, it’s going to be a tossup. They are going to see how things evolve in the region on a more general scale and they are probably going to make a decision based on that.
What about the Iranian situation and the Iranian nuclear program? Do you think Israel or the West may launch some sort of a military attack on Iran in the coming years?
My position is that the worst thing that can happen is that they launch an attack on Iran. However, to avoid that the US ought to be prepared to do that. What I’m saying is Iran will never give up its nuclear program through negotiations. That’s simply not going to happen. They are not going to negotiate that away. To persuade them that it’s not acceptable that they will be building a nuclear weapon, the only way in that it could be deterred is that they believed that the US would attack. Before that, the US and the European community with the support of Russia are to institute even harsher sanctions to persuade the Iranians to chance course. I think it’d be terrible to have an attack on Iran. But to prevent it and to persuade them you need to have really crippling sanctions or a credible threat of the use of force. And that is simply not the case. The Iranians have already called the Americans a bluff. They don’t believe the US is capable or willing to institute such crippling sanctions and certainly not to attack Iran at this point. What is needed is to start serious negotiations. But if you don’t institute these sanctions and this threat is not serious Iran is going to acquire a nuclear weapon. And I believe it’s only a question of time.
What’s our prediction for Afghanistan and the possibility of rebuilding the country? Where do you think the Taliban will be at the end of 2012?
The truth is that the only solution to Afghanistan is negotiations with the Taliban. There is no other solution. The US has made a horrendous mistake going there. Russia learnt its lesson quickly and I think they were wise enough, when they went to Afghanistan, to cut their losses and leave. The US has not learnt that lesson from Russia. They should have. They should cut their losses and leave. We have no business going to Afghanistan to engage into building a country. Afghanistan has been this way for thousands of years. They don’t need the US or anybody. So what they have to do is pretty much what happened in Iraq: to get them to come to the negotiating table. And the best you can hope is for the Taliban to never allow al-Qaeda to enter Afghanistan again and perhaps to adhere to some basic human rights. That’s all the US can achieve and I do not believe the US will remain beyond 2014 at this point.
23 December 2011, 15:52
Arab World: Forecast for 2012
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir , a Middle East expert and a professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
What will the situation be like in 2012 in Iraq? Will it improve?
Unfortunately, Prime Minister Maliki is becoming more and more not an elected prime minister but more of a dictator. He is accumulating more and more power in his hands and the violence is continuing. Iraq is going to be a stable, peaceful democratic country. I don’t hold my breath. It’s going to take a long while. People just tend to confuse the alliance between Iran and Iraq, thinking that the Shiite bond is very strong between the two countries. I think the Shiite bond is strong at this point because the majority government and many leaders in Iraq today are in a tremendous debt to Iran for having given them a refuge during the Saddam era. Once these leaders are all gone you are going to see Iraqi nationalism on the rise again and that is going to be in 5-6 years from now, maybe a little less or a little more. The relationship between the Iran and Iraq is going to continue the way it used to be – there will be intense rivalry between the two, because Iraq’s nationalism will always trump Shiite affinity.
As for the situation with the Kurds in Turkey, where do you think that’ll go?
I think Turkey has deviated dramatically from the course it has taken a few years ago. Erdogan was wise enough to create openings for the Kurds, allowing them to use their language, allowing them to have their own TV, their own schools and then started to back-slide again. That was a terrible, tragic mistake. The Kurds in Turkey, by and large, don’t want to have a separate state, a separate entity. What they want to do is they want to have their freedom to live their life as they see fit. I think it’s time for the Erdogan government to sit down and write a new constitution to allow any ethnic group of any kind to live their life as they see fit. This will only strengthen the Turkish social fabric and not weaken it. Now it’s time for them to sit down and negotiate and let the Kurds live as they see fit.
What’s your prediction for Turkey?
Erdogan says he is going to ask the Parliament to deal with this issue, but the truth of the matter is that the Parliament in Turkey is a rubber stamp. He has to be very clear about this and ask the Parliament to actually get on legislation and new laws to allow all ethnic groups, including Kurds, to have equal rights to any Turk in any respect. Will he do that? I have a certain doubt. He has to sit down and start negotiating with the PKK. He cannot solve the problem with Kurds unless he acknowledges that there is the PKK, that it’s an organized group and they want to establish their right. As long as he continues to ignore that, he is not going to solve the Kurdish problem.
Where do you think Bahrain is going and what’s the human rights situation there?
In Bahrain, we aren’t going to see the end of the story there. They had a commission. The commission came up with a report. Everybody agreed they had used excessive force. Detention is continuing and arresting people out of trial is continuing. That has to stop. The problem there, as you well know, is the conflict between the Shiite and the Sunni. And this is going to go away. It is the majority of Shiites ruled by the minority of Sunnis and the king there is not going to give them equal rights. This would be extremely difficult. So what we suggest to them is to begin reforms, whereby there will be a really elected Parliament with a prime minister to focus on domestic issues like education, healthcare, infrastructure, economic development and that the king became the commander of the military forces, as well as the final decision-maker on major foreign policy issues. That’s the way all of these kingdoms have to go. The King of Bahrain and the other Gulf emirs, including the kings of Jordan and Morocco, should begin this kind of reforms as soon as possible in order to quell the uprisings. Otherwise this is going to be continuing for a long while.
As for Libya, do you think there is going to be peace in Libya or is it going to deteriorate into a state of anarchy?
No. I think before we see stability in Libya we are going to see more bloodshed, more conflict, more instability. They are forcing the Libyan people to start from scratch. Also, Libya is a tribal society. They simply don’t see eye to eye. Many of the militia continues to retain their weapons. They don’t want to surrender them to the central government at this point. But what we are going to see is a continuing struggle in Libya for some time to come. My feeling is that they have to decide on a transitional government to allow wounds to heal and only then go to an election. But the West is making this terrible mistake, as always, pushing them to go to the election quickly. And I think it’s not going to produce the kind of results as we want in order to generate the stability that is needed. So, Libya will experience much more havoc before it becomes stable.
What do you think will happen with Assad and Syria?
I honestly think that, whether Assad lasts another year or for six months, he is finished. The reason for this is not the sectarian war, the civil war. When you have this many defectors in the military, when you have this many protesters going out day in and day out, more than 5,000 have been killed, this is not something where he is going to simply say “OK, let’s start reform, have a fake election and solve the problem.” He had an opportunity. He missed it. And this is unfortunate. So, Syria is going to go through a tremendous amount of bloodshed, a tremendous amount of violence but, in the end, he is going to be forced out. My advice is that he found refuge as soon as he can before he gets indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and then he’ll have no place to go.
What are your predictions regarding international terrorism?
The Arab spring is going to go on for years to come. Every single Arab country will be affected. The Arab world will never be the same again. The changes are going to be dramatic in some places: some will be quick, some will be very slow. As to terrorism and Islamic extremism, I think it’s off the wind. I don’t think we can say terrorism is over, but al-Qaeda and many extremist groups have suffered a tremendous setback in the past 5-6 years. It’s going to be very, very hard for extremist groups to regroup again and terrorize other countries. So, I think terrorism is off the wind and they are going to get weaker and weaker over time.
12 December 2011, 14:13
From Sanctions to Negotiations: US Strategy
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
There’s been a lot of news coming out of Iran lately, with the drone that was captured amongst other things. Israel is calling for stricter sanctions. Can you give our listeners an update?
Since the report from IAEA came out, it clearly indicated that Iran is moving rapidly towards acquiring some kind of a nuclear weapon. That is basically the conclusion that has been drawn by the US, Israel and many others. To that end, of course, there is an effort by the US, the EU and Israel to try to stiffen the sanctions against Iran in the hope that if and when the sanctions get to the point of crippling sanctions Iran may relent and decide to sit down and negotiate in earnest a peaceful solution. I personally believe that Iran will not relent, unless it’s facing absolutely crippling sanctions and unless it feels that an imminent attack may very well take place. My feeling is that to avoid an attack on Iran by any party the best thing to do is to make Iran understand that an attack can happen if there is no peaceful solution. But every means has to be exhausted first.
What can you tell our listeners about the drone? Statements were coming out of Iran that they won’t return the drone to the US as if the US has requested that it be returned. Clearly, this was not a standard procedure.
I think you know that everything that comes out of Iran in terms of rhetorics is aimed in the main at their own public. They are not telling the truth about a number of things. First of all, they did not shoot down the drone. In fact, the drone had technical problems and fell on its own. There are many, many versions to the story of the drone. Moreover, the US never asked for it and they do not expect I back even if they did, not under these circumstances. How much in fact they can dessert about the technology is still an open-ended question because it’s not something they can decipher over a day or two.
Could this be used as a reason to precipitate some sort of military invasion into Iran to get this drone back?
Honestly, I don’t think so. I don’t think this is something that the US or anyone else needs to create in order to justify an attack. This in itself doesn’t justify an attack. I think all options should be first exhausted before anyone can think of attacking Iran.
There was a conference that ended on Sunday in Austria. Ehud Barak said Israel is calling for more prompt and crippling sanctions.
With or without such a request – or demand you might want to say – coming from Israel the US and the West know too well – and I think even the Russian recognize that – Iran will not sit down and negotiate in earnest unless the sanction becomes crippling. If a peaceful solution to be found this has to be the way to go about it. And I think Russia can play a significant role in diffusing all of this because your foreign minister has come up with an idea of quid pro quo – if the Iranians negotiate in earnest, the sanctions can be eased up. I think Russia can take the lead now and create negotiating rules of engagement to see to this kind of resolution. But otherwise the US and the West are left with no option but to continue as best as they can to escalate sanctions in order to make them seriously bite the regime in Iran.
How do you see Russia’s role, say Russia does begin to play a more pronounced role as a mediator? Can Russia do that without inflicting economic injury on itself regarding peaceful nuclear programs that are currently ongoing?
Again, I think the opposite is true. The best way for Russia to protect its interests in Iran is to find a peaceful solution. Russia has been with the Iranian peaceful nuclear program involved since day one. They have a much better relationship and a much better opportunity to talk directly to the Iranians and make them understand that the US and Israel mean business. If the Russians don’t believe the US means business they won’t do it. I think Russia ought to believe that, at one point or another, the US and/or Israel would have to do something more. I think that can be avoided provided Russia can take the lead now and start talking seriously with them and tell them, look, time has come that we found a real solution. Iran never said it was seeking a nuclear weapon, so it has already built a way out. All they have to do now is sit down and negotiate in earnest. Russia’s best interests can be served now by working closely with the P5+1. It’s part of that. It’s part of the Security Council. The negotiations are being conducted with Russia and not without Russia. But I’m saying now that Russia has been given a greater opportunity to play an even more significant role, instead of merely protecting Iran – and that’s not helping with the situation – that is to go to Iran and say we really want to protect Iran, we really want to protect what you are doing, but you have to sit down and negotiate. I don’t believe that Iran would give up on its nuclear program unless it feels that, as I said before, that either the negotiations will be crippling or an imminent attack will take place.
IAEA resolution on Iran: questions remain
Interview with Alon Ben-Meir, one of the leading US experts on the Middle East and a professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University in the US.
’d like to ask you some questions on the IAEA resolution on Iran. They are calling for an intensification of dialogue with Iran to bring about an "urgent" resolution to all outstanding issues.”
I think the urgency emanates from the fact that the report the IAEA came up with last week was clear and in fact alarming on a number of fronts. Number one, from the report we discern that Iran has been experimenting with triggers for a nuclear weapon. It has built a chamber to experiment with nuclear explosives. It has been adjusting missiles to place on them a cone that is only suitable for nuclear delivery. The evidence is clear from their perspective that Iran has moved towards acquiring the technology to produce a nuclear weapon, hence the call for an urgent dialogue. And I think you might say, John, that this is quite consistent with what even the Russian foreign minister has been saying all along – that the solution to the Iranian nuclear problem arose with continuing negotiations, and we should establish some kind of quid pro quo: the Iranians answer all the questions, allow unfettered inspections any time IAEA wishes and begin to fully cooperate, then, against this type of steps, the West would begin to ease their sanctions against Iran. I think it’s a very reasonable approach on the part of Russia, except that Russia itself, in particular, more than any other country, needs to make sure that this kind of give-and-take approach takes place with real sincerity, real credibility. Now they are merely talking about it. So, I think that is the urgency. Russia is in a perfect position because it was Russia that built nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes in Iran and Russian scientists are in Iran helping Iranians with their peaceful nuclear program. But the Russians are in a much stronger position to play a bigger role in trying to bring about a constructive dialogue.
Last time we spoke you said they were going to present some really concrete evidence. What was that? Was it released?
It was released. The report is quite clear that the evidence that was presented – I mentioned some of it to you – has been gathered from a number of sources and has been verified accordingly, which means that when you have such evidence coming from one sources, you want to make sure it is actually credible and true, so you will look for other sources. And when you have two or more collaborating sources that attest to the same evidence, then you know it is credible and you know it is real. And this is what I think IAEA has done at this point. The Director General of this organization is a cautious man. He is not making this type of accusations without any evidence. And I think it should be taken quite seriously.
How is this resolution by IAEA going to affect Israel’s position?
When you speak about Israel and anything it says or does, that has to be understood in the context of the history of the Jews, specifically in the wake of WWII. I know I talk too much about it, but I think it’s a unique situation because the Israelis have this fear of being extinguished by some sort of enemy. In WWII, it was the Nazi Germany. Now Iran has been occasionally talking about its desire to extinguish Israel altogether. So the Israelis take this type of threats seriously. Having said that, I do not believe that Israel will act unilaterally unless other pieces fall into place. There are three in my view. Number one is that the sanctions are not slowing any of Iran’s programs. Number two - that the US has basically ruled out the use of force. And three - that Iran has in fact reached the point of no return, as the Israelis call it. If the Israelis conclude that these three pieces are in place I dare say that it will take unilateral action.
Is this a truly sincere intended diplomatic solution by IAEA?
I must honestly tell you, since their report came out, I spoke to a number of people from a number of states involved in 35, a number of Europeans – in fact, the last one took place the day before yesterday – and they don’t have a doubt about the fact that the IAEA report is by and large very accurate, that Iran has been hiding its nuclear program and that it has to come out clean. We aren’t suggesting however that Iran is intending to use such a weapon against Israel and wipe Israel off the map. What we are saying is Iran having a nuclear weapon, from the assessment made by different countries outside the regions, could create serious repercussions, because Iran is ambitious and wants to become a regional hegemony. With a nuclear weapon it could assert itself differently. This is not something that only Israel will not tolerate. The senior Arab states, in particular the Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and others, will not tolerate that. So this is not just an Israeli issue, it is a Middle Eastern issue. That is why the Israelis show a great deal o concern. This is going to get out of control and nuclear arms race will begin in earnest. At that point in time, everything could be up in the air. Russia has a tremendous amount to gain by playing a significant role in bringing about serious negotiations and allowing Iran to come out clean. That is an open situation and I think it should be taken advantage of.
It seemed by some of the reports that IAEA is now the tail wagging the dog.
In this case people write all kind of stuff, but I don’t think they understand how the mechanism really works. Only the nations involved can take action.
"No one wants another war in the Middle East"
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a Middle East Expert and a Professor from the Center For Global Affairs at New York University.
I’d like to ask you a few questions today regarding the IAEA report which is to be released on Wednesday.
It is not information that has been, from the Iranian and Russian perspective, credible.
Is it possible that this is a build up to an Iranian invasion?
The talk today is mostly focused on the possibility, not the probability, but the possibility that is my take unilateral action against Iran. The Israeli officials are not suggesting that, as they are saying, its option is on the table but we always prefer a negotiated arrangement. I spoke to one Israeli official today who said to me that truth is that this campaign should be led by the United States, not Israel, and this is only the last option; the last thing we want to have is another war in the Middle East. The report that is to come out on Wednesday has already a number of important points that have been leaked. And these issues, these points are very consistent with previous information gathered from the multiple sources as well as very credible and this is what I mentioned to you. A couple of these points, for example, are clear evidence that Iran has high explosive and Nutrient physics experiments, clear evidence that it revamped the ballistic missile cone to accommodate a nuclear weapon. That is going to be in the report. They also coordinated effort to process Uranium for military-oriented activity. This also would be in the report. And they have been very hard at work on researching and developing a nuclear bomb triggers and the last thing they also have that Iran has actually built a large container for the purpose of carrying out a test of exclusive applicable to nuclear weapon. So they have a lot of this information. Now one thing they mention is of course that much of this information has come also from the United States intelligence, Israeliintelligence but also from a file that was actually smuggled from Iran, a computer, by the wife of significant scientist.
A computer file?
Yes, and it is called “Laptop of Death” file. And in it there are scores and scores of information that again entered and explained by the Iranian expert. So, there is no question from the IAEA perspective that Iran is trying to acquire the knowledge for producing the nuclear weapon, which does not necessarily mean that it has one or acquired one at this juncture.
Is there anything pointing to a Russian connection?
Obviously, Russia is concerned. Russia does not want this report to be published now because the Russian authority including the foreign minister suggested strongly that the solution to Iran (and it agreed actually, that the West has concern and this concern should be addressed) that Iran should be more comprised in trying to answer the question but the solution continue to rest on continuing negotiations.
Russia stopped delivering, even defensive technology to Iran, at the request of the West and its very unbelievable to think that Russia was at the same time providing them with nuclear weapons technology. I find that very hard to believe!
No, no one is really saying that Russia is delivering the technology. We are talking about that one nuclear center from the Soviet scientist Danilenko. It is a different story. But the problem we have today is that as the result of this publication of this report there will be an effort to try to rush it up more sanctions against Iran. The question is whether Russia will be disposed to considering that or not. Based on the information that it is going to be Russia, too, that is going to receive [the report] from the IAEA, it is going to be disposed. Further concern is whether Israel itself is going to use this information to say “see, we told you so”, that Iran is pursuing with the nuclear weapon and it is only a question of time when they will master the technology completely to be able to fire the system and to have also a delivery system. For Israel it will constitute an existential threat. The matter of act, I would like to remind you, that a little 9 or 10 months ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to see your President Medvedev and he provided him with information about Iranian nuclear technology. This incidentally was one of the reasons that Russia agreed after some negotiation with the United States not to supply Iran with S300 air defense system. So Russian authorities actually are aware that something is not right about the program, but they also believe that they really don’t have anything to do with it and nobody is actually accusing Russia to have direct involvement. The solution lies in negotiations with Russia rather than with the U.S. military force. But I think, I had a conversation today when I knew we were going to talk about this with someone from the States department and I can’t mention him but, you know, he said, cooperation with Russia is always needed and necessary. They are really not pointing fingers at Russia. I have not heard one person saying that. The cooperation is needed and necessary. There is one thing happened that has also been received by very fresh intelligence as recent as few two or three weeks ago that further confirmed with extreme credibility that actually Iran has gone a little beyond that, for example, they have conducted the computer modeling of a nuclear weapon for all intents and purposes and they also mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon.
Where is the evidence of that?
They are going to produce it with the report. It is not just being said.
I think it would be great for everybody involved, on both sides of this, to finally see some really hard, concrete evidence.
I’m sure, as the report has not been released yet, these are all leaks that we have received from the report. Russia will be probably one of the first one to see it. And then, from my perspective, to be honest with you, I think very strongly that Russia has played and continues to play important role now to try to defuse the tension with Iran. It is a significant player. It can be extremely positive - it is positive player. And I really think, that this might, if nothing else happens, at least produce a new momentum to try to reach an agreement with Iran rather than create a new crisis and I think, Russia in this respect, in my view, can play a significant role in creating that new momentum in a positive way perhaps to move toward some kind of solution.
Well, let’s hope so.
This is the way I see it.
10 November 2011, 17:22
Iraq 2003/Iran 2011: Parallel Can't Be Missed
Interview with Rick Rozoff, the manager of the Stop NATO website and mailing list and a contributing writer to Global Research.ca.
You’ve read the IAEA report on Iran. Can you give us your quick overview?
Yes. It’s a very lengthy, involved, detailed, technical document. It actually has 65 different sections, 23 pages on the online edition. IAEA claimed to give an authoritative interpretation of the document. But there are certain points that stick out repeatedly on several occasions. For example, the report mentions that Iran may have been working on an alleged military component to its nuclear energy policy prior to 2003 – and I’m roughly paraphrasing the report – and may still be doing so. So, there are several qualifiers, the word ‘maybe’ being the chief one. Additionally, sources of information about the current situation with the enrichment of uranium, with the development of the industry as a whole and also with alleged military components like detonators and so forth, the report cites information provided by ten member states, but on several occasions by one member state. The member states are never identified. My supposition would be that the US is the first and the remaining nine are NATO allies and perhaps Israel.
Do you think that the internal US political situation has anything to do with the release of this report at this time?
It may well have everything to do with the release of the report at this time. There was an unsigned editorial in Global Times in China, which is a publication of the ruling party, the Communist Party of China, which suggests exactly: the economic crisis unparallel, one could argue, in the US and in Europe, is such that this would give rise to adventurous and even ‘catastrophic’, to use the word of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, ‘catastrophic’ actions in the Middle East, meaning strikes against Iran. In fact, that has been mentioned by several Russian diplomats, by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently, by Deputy Minister Gennady Gotilov, I believe today, where he suggests that one of the major purposes of the release and of the details and the media representation of it in the west is to prepare the ground for, in his own words, ‘change of the regime in Iran.’ So, there is a transparent political motive. Other, much more frightening statement, of course, is that of President of Israel Shimon Peres over the past weekend that the military option is quickly overriding diplomatic ones in dealing with Iran over its nuclear program.
It seems pretty obvious, I think, to a lot of people that rhetoric is being built up in order to launch an invasion. A lot of people believe this would really destabilize the entire Middle East even further. What do you think?
It’s an interesting use of the word ‘rhetoric’. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has recently sounded the alarm about what he termed ‘militarist rhetoric' in the Middle East and warned about potentially catastrophic consequences as a result of that. Yes, you are correct. A script that would have been rejected by even a third-rate Hollywood studio about an alleged assassination plot comes within weeks of the release of the IAEA report on Iran’s civilian nuclear power plant program. So, all the pieces seem to be falling into place. And the statement here, in Chicago, on November 9 by the Russian Foreign Ministry that the release of the report and the political interpretation placed on the IAEA report is, not in my own words, frighteningly reminiscent of what was does in the UN Security Council in the early 2003, when the US made a similar claim about Iraq at that time developing weapons of mass destruction. A parallel could hardly be missed.
What is the view by the men in the street in the US? Are they buying it this time?
I’m not in a position to comment. I haven’t read polls, which I don’t think have been conducted. There is healthy skepticism among the general population, even in relation to the recently concluded war in Libya, where polls – I’m sure your listeners are familiar with them –showed the majority of Americans not supporting the military action. So, military strikes against Iran – one could assume – would meet with the similar response amongst the general population in the US. However, we have to keep in mind how fairly disenfranchised the average American, including myself, is in the political process.
What I see as a parallel, also that nobody is talking about, with Iraq and Iran was that Iran is, I think, attempting and trying to cooperate actively with the IAEA. But the IAEA seems not to want to listen to them and come to their own conclusion. Do you think it is a fair assessment?
That is exactly what’s happening – and again, in the words of a Russian diplomat within the last day or two – that the content of the report has been ‘twisted’ and placed in the service of political agenda. Political agenda, as he alluded to earlier, may very well have to do with domestic policies in the US, both related to the presidential election of next year and with congressional and senatorial elections. But also, because of the economic crisis, American people… Let me just share one anecdote with you very quickly. I am a native of Johnston, Iowa. The lead story in the local newspaper, the Johnston Vindicator, says that Johnston currently has the highest poverty rate in the US – 49.1%. There are 250 people applying for every job, for the most part a minimum-wage part-time job. And when you have almost half of the total city living in poverty, then self-serving and unprincipled politicians are going to point people’s animosity and hostility elsewhere they are going to do it overseas. And Iran appears to be the lightning rod that is slated to receive that animosity. Johnston is particularly concerned– as I know a lot of people around the world are –about the prospect of military strikes against Iran. I needn’t tell anyone what the consequences would be. This will involve a general conflagration in the area and perhaps even globally. Whereas in the past attacks against nuclear reactors in other countries, such as that in Iraq in 1983 and recently by Israel in Syria against an alleged nuclear reactor, have been contained or limited in their scope, a massive series of strikes against the Bushehr power plant in Iran would be nothing of that sort. It’s be something of an entirely differ magnitude. And the fact that the Russian foreign minister, two deputy foreign ministers, the Foreign Ministry collectively and so forth have issued some of statements in past few days suggesting this is a much graver situation then what we have faced over the last ten years of repeated speculation about or even threats of military strikes against Iran.
19 October 2011, 16:49
Justice Will Prevail
Deacon Youssef Hanna
Interview with Youssef Hanna, a Deacon with the Coptic Church of Florida.
Can you give our listeners a quick overview of the Coptic-Christian faith?
Well, the Coptic-Christian faith dates back to the first century.
And the Coptic-Orthodox Church was established in Alexandria by Saint Mark the Evangelist, precisely in 45 AD and it has been surviving until this date.
Now, for hundreds of years Coptic Christians have lived in Egypt rather peacefully, I believe. What can you tell us about the recent violence? There is a report, says it's been sanctioned by the Government. Have you heard anything about that?
I don't know about the report by the Government but all what I know is that our Church or the Coptic Church or Christianity in general - it's a church of persecution. So, we know all this is expected. And, as we know, it is expected, and even the Coptic year it is, I've been about the Coptic calendar, I'm sorry, it's the calendar of the barters.
When you say that the year we revive here in 1728, you see, is after martyrdom, you know. So, that's the Coptic calendar. So, martyrdom has been known since the beginning of Christianity. And about the above situation in Egypt, actually the Copts, basically everyone who lives in Egypt of any religion or any sect should be called Coptic because the word "Coptic" itself is a nationality. Coptic means Egyptian, you could call the Christian Coptic as well, the Muslim could also be called Coptic, but to differentiate here I have to say Christian or Muslim, that's the difference. But all of them are Coptic and they mingled they mixed, so many, many Copts or Muslims are of Coptic origin or many Christians are from Muslim origin. So, it had been going on for the past centuries and everything was fine and actually the Muslims with the Christians, they've been living in peace but sometimes you get those people who are fanatic or who is serving certain objective and would like to stir a kind of, you know, misunderstanding or a storm, you know, between parties. So what do they say? They come and they play on both sides, you know, just to let the Muslim conflict with the Christian, but all this God is watching over us all whether we are Muslim or whether we are Christian. And you will never allow, you know, evil to get its way. So, at the end the truth will be known and I hope and I believe that in appearing year everything would be settled in Egypt.
What connections or what is your Church doing or are you doing anything to support the Christians in Egypt?
Well, we do of course. We send a lot of monetary help whenever we can. I mean supporting with subs the Church as the Church, we do a lot, it's up like cheer supporting. This is individual effort. Are we paying our ties? So everyone is free to pay whoever you want, sometimes I can put my ties for the construction of new church or sometimes I can write my check and say this is for the poor in Egypt, so it's oft like an organized thing, you know. Everyone, every member of the congregation is free to direct his finances to whatever you want. So, more than that, I can assure you this is exactly what's happening and this is what I know. But of course the best help that you are doing is that you are praying for them and we are quite sure God will listen to our prayers and will restore the peace in Egypt and I'm saying peace between everyone, I'm sure and very optimistic because there're so many of the good, moderate Muslims who would like to live in peace. Actually they are backing the Christians and even we will stand, all the Christians will also stand by the Muslims if they have to face any kind of trouble. Between these people there are some fanatics, as I said earlier, and those people, they would like to create some conflicts and it's happening in all the world.
Can you say anything about the churches now, apparently two churches were destroyed. What can you tell us about the churches?
I haven't heard about this news. I only heard that there was a church in Southern Asia that was burnt or destroyed. It was done illegally.
And the only problem there is why would people themselves, they would do that with their own hands and why they would not let proper authorities to intervene, that's the whole issue.
Oh, there are a lot of issues here because I have, apparently, the reports of a scene, that the churches there were actually two and they had been there for a very long time and this was apparently...
Yeah, I heard that the church had been there for a long time, but I don't know exactly about the sanctions, I don't know about the Government's decision about that, because you asked me and I never heard of that.
What connections are between the Orthodox Church, for example of Russia, and the Coptic Church?
It's exactly the same, the same rights, the same rituals and whether it's Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian Orthodox, we call all of them "brothers of faith". And all the people of Egypt including the Muslims, the good people, the good Muslims they want to live in peace. And, let me tell you, many of them are there. And justice will prevail. No one will intervene except God in this kind of conflict.
22 October 2011, 11:42
Gaddafi Assassination: A Brutal Gratuitous Slaying
Gaddafi Assassination: A Brutal Gratuitous Slaying
How are you today, Mr. Rozoff?
Rather distressed by the news of this morning or yesterday morning, in your case.
Ok, what is your first impression?
It was a brutal gratuitous slaying of an almost 70-year-old man. You know, killed after being captured. And if, you know, the intent of 216 days of NATO bombing was to kill him in the first place which is you know clearly the case, the multiple bombings of his compound in Tripoli, you know the one, which killed his son and two grandchildren, you know it is clearly targeting for killing and I suppose NATO can now claim success. It has got what it wanted.
President Barack Obama said that there is going to be pulling out of Libya very soon so in your mind does that mean the objective has been met?
Yes, it has entirely. Regime change, take over the Africa largest oil reserves, the incorporation of Libya which hitherto had been the only Northern African country that was not incorporated into NATO’s so called Mediterranean dialogue is now according to Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen been slated for the military partnership with the North Atlantic Alliance, so in every sense their objective has been accomplished. It certainly nothing that it’s going to benefit the Libyan people.
You don’t see this as being justice for the oppressed Libyan people? I mean there are people saying that Gaddafi was a terrible guy. He killed thousands so he deserved to die.
You know, there is so much just, what term do I want to use? Low taste, gratuitous, reveling in the murder of this man, who was born 70 years ago in the very city he was murdered in on the 216th day of NATO bombing of his country. He was born under Italian fascists’ occupation and he died under NATO occupation. I think, you know, the parallel there can’t be missed, including the fact that Italy supplied some of the warplanes that have devastated his country, since the middle of March, since March 19th . If he was the monster they’ve portrayed him as being and you know I invite your listeners to go to the NATO website and see some of the crude caricatures they’ve had over the last few days of Gaddafi, and, you know, wall graffiti and so forth, portraying him in a demeaning and belittling way, to further dehumanize him preparatory to murdering him.
Alright, I saw some television coverage of his naked body being thrown around like a piece of meat, I am sorry for the expression.
Yes, after they brought him to Misrata. You know, this sickening, barbaric and worse than barbaric treatment and, you know, it’s a long line of this going on, this is true with Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq. You know that a leader of the country that doesn’t cow-tow entirely. And I am not putting all these people in the same basket, it’s not in my capacity. Let’s rephrase that. Any leader whose time has come according to the United States and NATO can expect death. You know, Hussein was hanged, Gaddafi was captured. You know, whereas he was considered to be, he was only nominally so, but he was considered to be the head of the state and even the head of the military. In the bombing of his private residences, in the name of, under the guise of being command and control centers suggests that he was considered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to be in charge of the Libyan Military so when he was captured on that Thursday, his treatment was governed by the Geneva Conventions, but instead he was shot through the head and murdered. This is the new regime that is being implanted in Libya and for all West’s talk of the rule of Law and humanitarian concerns and so forth this is a graphic image just like the death of Slobodan Milosevic in a veritable dungeon in the Netherlands because he was denied proper medical treatment in Russia and the grotesque hanging of Saddam Hussein. You know, this is the image of a new world order, a world order and all its transparent barbarism.
What do you mean he was denied medical treatment in Russia?
Russia offered to make a deal with the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to bring Slobodan Milosevic to Moscow for medical treatment but he was denied that and he died shortly thereafter. Even more foul play but the message is very clear.
Do you see a pattern, I am sorry to interrupt you there. Do you see a pattern here, I am sure you do, between Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and now Gaddafi? I mean, we have countries, for example, Hussein and Gaddafi, they pretty much stopped their weapons’ programs. They cooperated with the CIA, in this case from what I’ve heard, and it’s pretty much a given, Gaddafi was assisting the war on terror fight by the United States by allowing rendition flights to Libya. He stopped his weapons programs. Do you see a pattern here?
Yes, that’s a very clear pattern. That’s the United States and NATO Alliance use somebody whatever purpose they want to and then get rid of them and kill them afterwards. You know, Slobodan Milosevic had political risk to himself inside, you know, at that time the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but played a role in negotiating an end to the armed hostilities in Bosnia and in gratitude for which his country was bombed for 78 days in 1999 by the United States and its NATO allies and subsequently he was left to die in prison.
He had a deal with the CIA, I think, it came out, and I think that it’s pretty much a part of the public record that he believed that he was going to be protected.
I don’t know the details about that but at the end of the day what we see there is a lot of corpses and we see corpses of heads of state. You know, we have to recall that again even though he was a titular a nominal head of state, Muammar Gaddafi was the longest reigning leader in the world. He is the one personal link since Fidel Castro, the president of Cuba, retired, he was the last link between the post-World War II, national liberation struggles and the emergence of new nations, and he is also the last link between the cold war era and the post-cold war era that is issued in NATO an International Military strike forth that can topple governments. You know, NATO boasts on its website as of today of flying over 26,000 air missions over a country of 6 million people well over 9,000 of those combat sorties. So this monster has been unleashed over the last 20 years and Libya will not be the last country. That you can be assured of.
What do you think is going to happen next?
I don’t know if Libya is able to be put back together again. The Western powers incited regional and tribal differences in order to topple the former Gaddafi government and believing you can put that Genie back in the bottle along with the commander of the National Transitional Council, who is somebody the United States captured and incarcerated in Guantanamo. Former fighter in Afghanistan and in so called Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, you have Al Qaeda elements, tribal separatists – they’ve created real Pandemonium here and now they claim that they want to stabilize Libya. I don’t see it happening. At the end of the day, the so called no-flight zone and Humanitarian intervention, NATO has transparently waged a war on the government on behalf of insurgents, period. This was clearly the intent from the beginning and now, you know, it’s successful.
23 October 2011, 10:32
Gaddafi: The End of the Era
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with Alon Ben-Meir, US expert on the Middle East and the professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
Since the revolution started, I think, two messages have been received from rebellions and from the Gaddafi government. Both were sort of committed to see this conflict to the end. And in fact they did exactly that. They have seen it to the end. The rebellions insisted on keeping the momentum and they’ve been able to capture one city after another in the aim of preventing the capturing of Gaddafi and his family and then they had been able to do so. Gaddafi himself said he will fight till the very bitter end and he actually did the same and now he was captured and killed and that is really theoretically will put an end to rebellions in Libya.
Ok, he was captured and killed. That’s kind of a problem because he should have been captured and tried.
They didn’t want to make Gaddafi’s murder. The decision to bury him in some unknown place – it’s probably better to put an end to the Gaddafi era.
Do you think there is some problem with him being killed like this? Do you think there are things he might have said the West doesn’t want coming out?
The truth is that he himself in his various broadcasts when he was able to broadcast by TV and subsequently through the radio constantly encouraged his followers to kill whoever is against him and I think at this juncture it’s an estimate of a more than 50 thousands we don’t know exactly the number but at least 50 thousands died in this rebelliousness in part because he used a brutal force in order to fuel the rebellion. So from their perspective it is due to him and his execution was exactly what he deserved. That’s how the Libyans see that.
Countries cannot commit extrajudicial executions whenever someone’s a really bad guy, no matter how horrible they are.
We are talking about rebels, tens of thousands of them died in this campaign and from their perspective justice has been served, they did not need to prove anything. From the very beginning there are the United States as well as the French and the British that have committed themselves to see this campaign to the end.
So this was the end they wanted, wasn’t it?
Not just by themselves, but with the support of several Arab states especially Qatar and Arabs that have come there. So this wasn’t the question only of the Western desire to end the Gaddafi regime.
So would you agree with me that this was the end they wanted? I mean from the beginning this was not about protecting the civilian population but it was about getting and killing Muammar Gaddafi?
I think the idea was to protect the civilian population. And if this meant to kill Gaddafi in the process, so be it. I think that’s the approach that has been taken.
Had Gaddafi gone on trial what things do you think he might have been able to shad light on that the West may have not wanted to come out?
You know, at one point going back in number of years when he agreed to give up his program of weapons of mass destruction, when he agreed to cooperate on the question of international terrorism, it was actually subsequently received by Western countries. There is no question. But when rebellions started and he demonstrated his ruthlessness and willingness to kill anyone who opposed him. That’s when the time has changed against him, by the way. So I think it is quite understandable. My concern here is – certainly Libya is probably not exactly an example that can emulated elsewhere. Let’s talk for example about Syria. Assad is using also brutal force but the United State or Britain or France haven’t yet even implied they will be willing to use any force against Bashar al-Assad. This is where we have sort of double standard in terms of selecting where they can actually interfere or not interfere.
Ok, why in your opinion is there double standard? What’s a standard?
The reason is – for example, Syria occupies by far more pivotal space and role in the Middle East.
You don’t see a pattern here with Hussein, he was killed, Osama Bin Laden, he was killed, I mean these people could have been captured. Hussein, ok, he was put through some sort of a trial but in the end he was killed, he was not allowed, I think, to say a lot of things he could have said. You don’t see a pattern here?
I really don’t think so. I think if you watch his videos and if you watch his radio broadcast, he was very clear, he gave order to kill the men and destroy anyone who was opposing his regime. So he himself indicted himself directly by his own orders to kill without mercy anyone who opposed him. That is why I think the world and the Libyan people see him he received what is due to him.
Ok, you think justice has been done for the Libyan people?
I think from the Libyan perspective justice has been done.
What about the Libyan people who supported Gaddafi because I mean there were still really despite the fact that the West might not want to hear this, there was millions of people who actually loved Muammar Gaddafi?
I am not sure there were millions but there were certainly some who benefited directly from him. I think the bigger issue today is not what will happen with this particular group but what will happen to Libya – if the death of Gaddafi is going to actually usher in a new era of freedom and democracy in Libya or we are going to see a country that is going to evolve into a new conflict between the various tribes, various groups of interests. We don’t know that. Right now everybody is celebrating the end of an era but no one can suggest that Libya is going to move smoothly toward freedom and democracy and stability.
What do you think as our expert? What’s your opinion – where is Libya going?
I think the order there is extremely challenging, extremely complicated, I think the rivalry between the various groups continues to exist. I wish that that was not the case but it is the case and I am hoping Libyan people may decide, and it is only a small possibility, that now they will have the opportunity to build a new society and look for a new future and a new dawn. But again this is a very factional society and I think the other head is still extremely dangerous and challenging and we may still see significant conflict before we see any signs of real stability.
27 October 2011, 19:05
"Gaddafi was fighting till his last minute."
Interview with Omar Turbi, a Libyan expert and an advisor to the National Transitional Council of Libya.
What do you see as the future holding for Libya now that Gaddafi is gone? Do you see this as the end to an era or the beginning of a new era?
It’s a transition. Definitely, we’ve gone through many-many different transitions in the last 8-9 months. This particular one is very important because it closes a chapter on Gaddafi’s regime. And I may add that it didn’t end in a way that conveys to the world the level of civility as far as capturing and dealing with Gaddafi. I’m one of those people who really wanted to try him and give him a fair trial. And the Council in particular called for catching him alive and trying him. But the world doesn’t recognize that the Council can only do so much in making different councils around the country do what they want them to do, because there is no elected body yet. And the country is moving forward as best as it can. When you have lived over 40 years with a regime that was so brutal to people and deep in crime and corruption to an unbelievable level, you can help to say that when you live by the sword like Gaddafi had you die by the sword. In other words, right till the last second of his life, he was fighting. He has a gun on him, he had people around him that fought for him. He had many opportunities to escape the country or go to some places in Africa, but he chose to stay.
You don’t agree with the way he was killed?
Not at all. I don’t think a good number of people in Libya, at least civilized ones, in the NTC or in the interim government that didn’t like the way he was finally captured and killed.
So that was not ordered by the Council? The Council had nothing to do with it? It’s terrible to think that a fair and just democracy could be started with such an act of barbarism, in my opinion.
You know you are right. I think the world is looking at Libya and says: what are you guys doing? You are trying to take a dictator from brutal dictatorship and replace him with another one that imprisons people and kills people. But I mean you can for a moment excuse the accident that has taken place because you can consider them acts of war, because when you have two warring parties. Even under the Geneva Convention, you can detain people, you can treat them right. Nobody stops you from killing your enemy that holds a high level of animosity against you and wants to kill you. That’s where I’m getting at. But if you are civilized and you are trying people, I think, because we don’t live alone – you know, we have neighbors around us, we have the world community, we want the world to trust us and trust our judgment, trust our character – the thing that was out of character is to hold Gaddafi in the freezer for several days and let people look and look at him, because in the Arabic tradition you bury the body as quickly as possible. Those are mistakes and those are things that I do strongly believe were beyond the control of the NTC. They didn’t really announce that and didn’t talk about that simply because they were in a really precarious situation. They can’t tell the public: hey, you know, you shouldn’t have done that, because everybody is happy, because they finally got the man that was after them and killing them for the last several months.
Have you talked to the council recently?
Yes, I talk to them on a regular basis.
This has frightened many people – the statement that Sharia law will be implemented in the country and not only Sharia law but a very strict form of Sharia law. What can you say about that?
First of all, Libya is a Muslim country – Sunni, Maliki. So the religious aspect of Libya cannot be taken away from Libyan. But I think that Libyan people are very progressive. They are not isolated from the world around them. There is a constitution that has been largely adopted, except for a couple of articles in it, that dictates rule of law, that dictates judicial system, that dictates that elections must be implemented. Although Islam is a very important component of Libya and the Libyan people, most definitely Sharia law is not going to be applied in its strictest fashion.
You say it’s not going to be?
No, I can’t say yes or no, because it remains to be seen who are the members of the parliament, who is going to be the prime minister. All I can establish is – and that is very important – they usually apply their way of thinking in the process. I can’t say it’s not going to, but, from understanding the psyche of the Libyan society, I don’t believe that this will be the case. So, taking a word out of the context of Abdul-Jalilm would not be a good thing.
So what he said is not the council’s official stand?
No, definitely not the council’s, as not of many people. if this guy remains in power and remains someone who hands down decisions, then we are in big trouble.
Who are we talking again? What’s his first name?
You are saying he won’t be in power. So, those are his own, personal statements. That’s not the position of the council.
Let’s hope. We’ve had enough – I mean we’ve had a share of people handing down decisions without the consensus of the people, without due democratic process. God, we’ve had a lot of that in the Middle East.
That’s why I used the world “dictatorship.” Do you see a position for yourself in the new Libya? Would you like to return when things stabilize in the country?
I don’t know, to be honest with you, because when you’ve lived in the West, lived in the US for a long time, based on studies and statistics and experiences, these people say that people who have lived outside the country are not proper rulers. People who are inside should. I mean we will be allowed to stay around to help them out. If they ask me to take a role or provide a public service I’ll have to do that and I will do that. But you know, there is a definite misunderstanding with the definition of “public service” in the Middle East and North Africa, even in Libya, for sure. A public service is an opportunity to bring in your relatives, friends and everybody you know and an opportunity for you to make money. You are really hired to service people in the proper way, you can’t view a public service as an opportunity to make money. Right now there are just people who are clamoring to take the position within the new regime. But they may see that as being an opportunity to personally and financially grow.
I don’t think you would do that, would you?
Of course, not.
Gaddafi was Main Target of US Libyan Operation
Interview with J.M. Berger of INTELWIRE.com and the author of the book Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam.
The Libyan situation has changed drastically in the last few weeks. Where do you think the country is headed?
It’s very difficult to say right now. From a western perspective. We really don’t know a lot about the rebels. We don’t know what kind of plans they have for a political transition. This is all being decided now. We did have the announcement this week that the new government will be based on Sharia law and whether that means it is going to be a full-fledged Islamist government or something more in the model of Iraq, where the constitution is based on Sharia but there is still a strong democratic elements. So we are in a waiting mode to see what happens with this. Depending on if they are going to take a parliamentary route or not. But clearly it’s going to be more Islamist than it currently is.
How do you think it’s going to play out with the US in the region?
What we lack right now is a really clear political consensus in this country on what our position is regarding Islamist states and whether they are conducive to our national security and our foreign relations. We are seeing the emergence of a lot of different kinds of Islamist movements, which are more moderate than some of the Islamic governments we’ve seen in the past. But there is really no consensus in our political process about what kind of end states we’d like to see for these Arab spring countries, other than very idealistic, pie-in-the-sky dream of democracy everywhere. No one is really prepared to have that kind of conversation here and I think it’s going to be a while before anybody can really approach the subject this way in the country. One of the problems with our foreign policy is that we don’t have clear reasons why we intervene in one place and we don’t in another. The situation in Syria is certainly very bad for the people of Syria. I don’t want to hazard a guess as to whether Assad can survive this.
It seems to me and to a lot of people around the world that the whole operation was just to get and kill Gaddafi. What do you think about that?
I think that was clearly the goal of the operation. I mean Gaddafi’s presence in the country as a threat to his population was the stated reason for this. So, with Gaddafi gone and no visible loyalists stepping up to take his place, it is appropriate, within the context of the rationale that was given, that we are leaving.
What do you think about the way he was killed?
I think it was pretty unfortunate. I think a trial would have been better. It was pretty ugly thing. But that’s not something we could control and the leadership of the rebels couldn’t stop that either – there was a lot of pent-up emotion that came out. But it was certainly not in keeping with the international standards and really not an ideal resolution for this. A trial would have been better.
I don’t know if you can counteract or speak to the statements made by John McCain – I’m sure you’ve heard of them – threatening other world leaders.
John McCain is not in the position to make decisions about the foreign policy in this country, nor is he going to be.
I hope not either.
Sure not. He is not a player in the current presidential election, you know. He is expressing his view but he is not going to decide anything.
You don’t think he’ll end up in the White House next time?
He is not even running. It’s too late in the process for him to jump in.
The thing I found strange was: Obama comes out – he makes statements about victory, McCain comes out – he makes threats, and the White House says nothing. They didn’t say anything about it. So, basically, in the minds of many, they are supporting what he said. How could they claim the death of Gaddafi as their own victory if apparently it was carried out by independent rebels in the street?
I think it is important actually to the US that this not be seen as the US having taken out Gaddafi. We provided support to the population and they did the work. We just provided air cover. And even the United States relative to Europe, had a relatively lower role in this. So, I think it was important in the minds of the people crafting this policy that, whatever change happened in Libya, it would be owned and operated by the Libyan people.
It just seemed to be: we took him out, we’re going to take you out if you don’t follow our line. And that’s what it came across as with McCain and all his statements about victory and “We did it!” and everything else.
I don’t think that reflects the Obama administration’s view on foreign policy. Based on what the Republicans are saying, I don’t think that there is any thirst for that kind of foreign policy either. I think that America has certainly learnt from what’s happened in Iraq and what happened in Afghanistan and I don’t think we are looking to pick fights. But certainly the Obama administration has outlined what it has called its responsibility to protect the policy and it’s going to lead to more interventions. I think the idea is that it’s going to be more limited and they are going to be focussed on taking out specific bad actors.
Again, taking out actors. You don’t have a problem with that?
I wouldn’t say that I endorse that policy. I’m just saying what this policy looks like. But what I think is that I would like to see a public dialogue in this country that better defines how and where we use legal force in the world. I am open to different approaches to using our military strength. But I don’t think that we’ve seen a clear statement of principles that would guide how that strength is used. And I think that’s a real problem for us. And I think that’s not just a foreign policy problem. I think, generally speaking, US policy in the recent years has been very ad hoc. It’s just pretty much opportunistic taking action for the sake of taking action. I am not seeing a scheme of thoughts that goes behind this and allows us as Americans and the rest of the world to understand how the US is going to act in any given situation.
Like a bunch of builders, building a building, without an architect.
Right. Something like that. Since September 11 we’ve had a very reactionary set of policies and we’ve seen this within our country in terms of how we handled the banking crisis, for instance. And we’ve seen it in our foreign policy. What I think we would benefit from is for the president to come out and outline in very clear terms what we feel our scope of authority to act outside of the country is.
19 October 2011, 15:58
Are US Accusations Against Iran Reasonable?
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Download audio file
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
20 September 2011, 14:39
US Weapons Used Against Protesters in Bahrain
Nabil Rajab President Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Interview with Nabil Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Deputy Secretary General for the International Federation of Human Rights.
Can you detail some of the human rights violations of the Bahrain government for our listeners?
We have a culture of human rights violation and of crime, committed against humanity in Bahrain, especially in the past 6-7 months, since the Arab uprising – and, as you know, we started our uprising on January 11. Since then, there was a bloody crackdown, where thousands of people were detained and tortures. At least two people for every thousand citizens were in detention, thousands of people sacked from their jobs, expelled from their schools, their universities. There were systematic tortures, hospitals were taken by the military and patients were abused and tortured in the hospitals. Many people fled the country as people died or were tortured to death. We have a bad human rights record, especially the one we have since last March.
There have been a lot of reports about US weapons being used to suppress democracy demonstrations in Bahrain. Can you give us some details on that?
First of all, the American political position on Bahrain was totally different from their foreign policy towards other revolutions and other uprisings that were calling for democracy and human rights. The Americans and some other western countries were very silent on Bahrain. And not only that. Their weapons were used against protesters and human rights defenders in Bahrain, especially tear gas. At least ten people died in the past ten days because of the tear gas that was used by the special forces and riot police. And this tear gas is made in Pennsylvania, in the US. Unfortunately, human rights record is not a standard to the Americans when they sell weapons to Bahrain. Bahrain has a very bad human rights record, and it was very disappointing for the people of Bahrain, for human rights activists and for democracy fighters that the US did not only take their side in the uprising but was supplying the repressive regime with weapons in the region. That has a very poor human rights record. The people of Bahrain look at the US very differently than they did before February 13, especially when they saw our revolution, our uprising, which was calling for democracy and human rights, being banned, punished – and they still gave them aid and they still supplied them with weapons and tear gas that was used against the protesters and democracy activists.
The US base in Bahrain, does that have any relationship for the US supporting government?
I think the US base is the policy-maker in Bahrain, rather than the Embassy and the State Department of the US in Bahrain. The US naval base has more power than the Embassy, and I think that was the main reason why the American government has taken the side of the Bahraini regime – because they see that their benefits and interests lie with the dictators and the repressive regime, not with any future democracy. People thought that the presidents of America and Bahrain would help them struggle for democracy and human rights. That’s what they thought in the past. But now it’s very clear: their president was very negative and helped the regime and the repressive ruler more than the people of the country.
So we see a complete double standard?
We are a victim of the American double-standard foreign policy, we are a victim of the American interests, we are a victim of the American military presence in Bahrain. For that reason, as well as due to the complication of US’s foreign relations with Iran and other countries, we have to pay the price, because the US government’ still sees its interests lie with the dictators in the Gulf Region. That’s why they have reacted very negatively in the Gulf region, totally different to how they had reacted in Syria, Libya, Iran and Egypt. You could see that when the US president in his speech, where Saudi Arabia wasn’t mentioned at all, although Saudi Arabia is known to have the most oppressive regime in the region, spoke about most of the Arab countries but not those countries, because I think the flow of the oil has more importance than human rights of the people here.
How many people have been killed, in your estimation, by the government of Bahrain?
At least 40 people were killed in the past months. Thousands of people detained and systematically tortured. Those numbers are very high percentage wise, if you take into consideration the population of Bahrain, which is around half a million people only. It is more than in Tunisia, it is more than in Egypt. But, unfortunately, we have seen complete silence from the US, because of their interests, because of their military presence, because of the arms sales, because of the oil sales. I think the US is creating people who don’t support it in the region. They have lost the hearts and minds of the people in that part of the region. Since my country gained independence, the army has been used only once – against peaceful protesters that were calling for democracy and human rights. It’s the only time that the Bahraini army has been deployed. Not only that, the Bahraini government did worse than any other country, because they killed their own people with their own army, but they invited other troops, from Saudi Arabia, from UAE, to take part in the bloody crackdown against the people of Bahrain.
You say, people are arrested, tortured and disappear, they lose jobs, they are kicked out of universities. On what basis could this happen?
Unfortunately, the crackdown has targeted people mostly in the sectarian basis, because the majority of protesters were calling for equality – they come from the indigenous Shiite population. The government targets them, targets their businesses, targets them at schools, at universities. Many people lost their sight because they were shot in the eyes.
Would you characterize human rights violations in Bahrain as crimes against humanity?
What happened in Bahrain is a crime against humanity.
15 September 2011, 18:02
Israel and Turkey: Tensions Escalate
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Unfortunately, we have some more distressing matters to discuss. Can you fill us in on the situation between Turkey and Israel? In particular statements regarding supporting the Kurds by certain elements in Israel?
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
Unfortunately, we have some more distressing matters to discuss. Can you fill us in on the situation between Turkey and Israel? In particular statements regarding supporting the Kurds by certain elements in Israel?
I think it is unfortunate that both sides have engaged in heated rhetoric and that is certainly not going to be helpful, because when you make statements such as this ‑ be that supporting the Kurds on the part of Israel or escorting naval forces from Turkey – sooner or later they need to back up what they say and if they do not, they will lose some of their credibility. I can tell you that from what I know probably none of this will happen but, nevertheless, this type of statements is extremely unhelpful and could further deteriorate the relationship between the two countries.
Are there any internal political reasons that this is happening at the current time? Are there elections going on?
There is no doubt. In Israel, of course, this is a coalition government that includes various parties of the coalition, specifically Israel Beiteinu led by Lieberman and Barak with Independence Party, of course, Likud, and so on. They do not necessarily see eye to eye on many issues and let me give you an example – for the last few months we have been making a supreme effort to get some kind of a qualified Israeli apology in order to smooth the relationship between the two sides. Whereas Netanyahu agreed in principal, Lieberman resisted that he would never agree to an apology because Israeli soldiers behaved in a manner that they should have behaved; the same thing happened with Barak. So, when we have a discord within the government, it is very difficult to come up with a cohesive approach which is necessary, specifically when you have this kind of problem, this kind of tension. The same thing happened with Turkey; Erdogan have just come out of the election, he feels emboldened by the vote – he is now elected for the third time – and he feels that this is an opportunity now to assert himself in a regional scale. I think again they two were having some serious assessments as to how far you can go without seriously damaging the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Some of the press reported that the Foreign Minister Lieberman stated that Israel might possibly arm the PKK, as well as supporting the Armenian anti-Turkey lobby in the United States? How much credence would you give to that statement? Do you think he really said that?
I really do not think that Israel will act on either of these two fronts. I believe also that Israeli ongoing effort, even as we speak, to try to calm down and reduce the level of rhetoric because this is going to be very important. Some Israelis say, for example, that Erdogan has not really major successes in other foreign policy initiatives. For example, the relation with Armenia is not great, the relation with Greek is not going to a resolution towards the Cyprus, the bilateral relations with Syria have collapsed, bilateral relations with Iran are based on mutual suspicion, and with Iraq they are not necessarily great either. So, Turkey in spite of the effort to have no problems in its neighborhood they have not really made significant foreign relation achievement.
Do you think these tensions right now are a flash-in-the-pan or will things seriously deteriorate and tensions escalate?
No, I think this is quite serious and the only way to stop the escalation is by turning down the rhetoric and to begin making serious efforts to try to mend the relationship, because I honestly believe that Turkey understands fully well that regional stability depends on full cooperation between Turkey and Israel and if they do not make an effort to reconstitute these bilateral relations,there is no way that Turkey can achieve its objective, specifically in dealing so much in the Arab and the Muslim world.
You said “its objective”. What exactly is Turkey’s objective?
I think Turkey and specifically Erdogan is seeking to become a leader in the Muslim and the Arab world, but many of the Arab states still remember the Ottoman period and whereas the Arab street may be cheering Ankara, but the Arab government does not necessarily follow the Arab street – and this is where Turkey may be making a mistake.
Turkey just agreed to host NATO anti-ballistic missile elements on its territory. Does this have any relationship to Turkey’s loud statements in the past few days?
No, this is just another example whereas they would like to have good bilateral relations with Iran but by hosting that Iran is bitterly complaining because it knows that this missile is basically aimed against it. You know, what has started as the Arab Spring is going to be a long and a cruel winter and we have to keep that in mind.
So, you see this escalating?
I see no resolution to many of these protests in Yemen, in Syria, in many other countries; this ongoing crisis is going to take sometime, years, until we see that some of these things will set up. So, let us not think that matters will settle very quickly; the Arab spring is over and now we are going to enter a long winter.
2 September 2011, 14:07
Iran and US at Impasse Over Uranium Enrichment
Professor Gary G. Sick
Tehran has recently announced they can enrich uranium to up to 20% and that their production exceeds the country’s demand. Iran’s atomic chief also stated Iran will no longer negotiate a nuclear fuel swap with some of the world powers.
Tehran has recently announced they can enrich uranium to up to 20% and that their production exceeds the country’s demand. Iran’s atomic chief also stated Iran will no longer negotiate a nuclear fuel swap with some of the world powers. Gary G. Sick, Senior Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at Columbia University, who also served on the US National Security Council under presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, believes that Iran wants to have the capacity to build nuclear weapon – that is they want to be able within a certain amount of time to actually produce nuclear weapon if they need too and Iran has already done a number of table-top experiments in this field that would permit them to do that. The West, in particular the US, has insisted that Iran return to a position of zero enrichment. However, the reality is that, after 10 years of enriching uranium and paying a very high political price for it, Iran is not prepared to go back to zero, which makes it a hopeless cause. Thus, Iran’s secrecy about their nuclear program on one side and the West’s insisting on zero enrichment on the other has postponed any chance of a realistic outcome.
I’d like to ask you a few questions about the situation in Iran. My first question is what condition Iran’s nuclear program is currently in, in your opinion, and how realistic do you think is the possibility that they are developing nuclear weapons?
I think there is no absolute answer. I think you have to start with the fact that every senior Iranian, from the supreme leader down to the lowest level official, says that Iran has no intention or even desire to build nuclear weapons. For a theocratic government to say that it’s contrary to Islam to build nuclear weapons is actually putting a huge obstacle in their own path for no particular reason. It doesn’t serve any useful purpose for them. Let me just give you my own, personal estimation of what I think Iran is doing. My own view is Tehran wants to have the capacity to build a nuclear weapon. Back when the shah was in power he made it clear that that was his policy. As far as I’m concerned, Iran has done a certain amount of research that would permit them to build a nuclear weapon, even if they don’t intend to do it now.
Iran has recently announced their production exceeds their demand and that they will no longer discuss any nuclear fuel swap deals. What does this tell you about the current situation there on the ground?
I think both sides share a lot of blame. I think Iran has been unduly secretive. The US in particular and the West in general has insisted that Iran return to a position of zero enrichment. Iran is entitled to enrich uranium, if it wants to.
You said they have been overly secretive. Why are they doing that? It seems like it’s damaging any chance they have of coming to a peaceful resolution.
They have made, I think, very serious mistakes. And a lot of the problems that they have are their own doing. Let’s assume that I’m correct and that Iran really intends to develop a capacity to build a nuclear weapon, let’s say, six months, that it would aim to have the ability to build a nuclear weapon that quickly. The chances are they are not going to want to publicize that. To me the big question is: are they actually building a weapon? Everything that we’ve seen in the last 30 years actually has said no, they are not. If you look at it, the country like Pakistan, which has almost no industrial capability, created a bomb in about 12 years. Iran has had a nuclear program since at least 1985 and they still don’t have a bomb. Is it because Iran is stupid? No. It’s because they are not trying to produce a nuclear weapon as fast as possible.
You’ve said everything you’ve seen in the last 30 years says they are not producing a nuclear bomb.
If they really were determined to have a nuclear device, they would have one by now.
Where do you see Iranian-Russian relations headed?
I don’t think that Iran ever really trusted Russia very much. It’s very pragmatic. It needs certain things and I think Russia has been able to provide those things. That included some defense equipment. It certainly included building the nuclear plant at Bushehr and so on. I don’t think they are going to turn around and walk away from Russia. But I think, whatever want there was in that relationship, it’s really gone, at least for the moment. And that’s just a fact of life.
How does China fit into all this?
China is also a very pragmatic power. They need a lot of oil: energy demands are going up dramatically. And Iran is one possible source of that oil. They are looking wherever they can. I don’t think that means they will do everything Iran wants them to do. I think it’s going to be again a relationship in which each side has to give something to get something. It depends a lot on Iran and whether they are really willing to cooperate with China over the long term. The US is going to be bringing pressure all the time on China to be hard on Iran and I think the Chinese are in a very difficult spot. And I think Iran is going to have to be willing to give China something in order to keep China on its side. This is a revolutionary society and it’s quite dogmatic, and whether they will in fact cooperate with China in a way that will work to their benefit – I don’t know.
Do you see a win-win solution for Iran? They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot.
I can outline a program that would put Iran into a really strong position. It would take me about two minutes to come up with a solution. Bu the reality is that Iran won’t do that. They are extremely proud. They have a strong internal dispute about where their policy should go, they can’t agree on anything, any gesture that they make towards the international community is viewed as a gesture of weakness and whoever did it is going to be punished for it. It’s very, very hard. And, to talk about shooting themselves in the foot, there is no question that, on the sanctions for instance, there were many oil companies that were prepared to break the sanctions, western oil companies – Shell, BP and others – and Iran was unwilling to even go halfway with these companies to make sure that if they are going to break the sanctions you should at least, if you are an Iranian, offer them a profit. And the Iranians, instead, tried to bargain them down to the point where there was no profit. It just wasn’t worth it to them. So, if you want to look at who is responsible for making these sanctions work, you have to start out by saying that Iran played a role. That’s a pretty good indicator of the fact that Iran has a very, very difficult time making policies that have anything to do with the western world, because it’s all seen as a weakness and contrary to their own revolution. And that dominates their thinking to a degree that I think is self-defeating.
31 August 2011, 18:23
Libya: Another Country for NATO
Interview with Rick Rozoff, the manager of the Stop NATO website and mailing list and a contributing writer to Global Research.ca. Can you shed a little light on the situation in Libya, in particular with NATO? As you know, I’m in Chicago, not in Tripoli, so I’m observing events from afar.
Interview with Rick Rozoff, the manager of the Stop NATO website and mailing list and a contributing writer to Global Research.ca.
Can you shed a little light on the situation in Libya, in particular with NATO?
As you know, I’m in Chicago, not in Tripoli, so I’m observing events from afar. Yet there is an old roman expression which says “The game is best viewed by the spectator.” So, what I have to say I think is trying to situate developments in Libya, whatever they are on the ground, within both original and even international context. And, within that network, we know today that the African Union has refused recognition to the so-called Transitional National Council, comprised of what by all accounts is a fairly motley, heterogeneous grouping of anti-government forces in Libya, aided and abetted by major NATO powers like France, Britain, the US and Italy and also by Persian Gulf monarchies like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. So, the fact that the continent, on which Libya, has located has collectively refused recognition to the new rebel regime I think is significant, as is the fact that Russian Foreign Ministry has voiced its concerns and its opposition to any plans that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization may entertain for either placing troops on the ground in Libya, ostensively under the guise of peacekeeping or stabilization force, but also I think more prominently voiced some concern about the prospect of NATO military facilities and the opposed Gaddafi.
Would you characterize everything that you heard and seen as a true revolution of the people or is it some sort of a western-backed insurgency in your opinion?
I think, by universal accord, those people are celebrating the apparent overthrow of the government in Libya as a triumph of a people’s power democracy or however they choose to phrase it. What is unquestionable is in fact that, whatever the nature of the rebel coalition is, it would never succeed in consolidating support outside of Libya, much less moving into the capital, if it had not been for over 20,000 NATO air missions since March 31 and almost 8,000 combat air sorties in the same period of time. Additionally, more and more information is emanating from sources in Britain, newspapers in Britain and elsewhere that special operations troops, special forces from several major NATO countries, including I believe the CIA that is acting on the streets of Tripoli.
Are they hunting Gaddafi or providing air support for the rebels?
There is no question about that. The attempt, or rather the intent of the United Nations Resolution 1973 adopted in March to “use all means necessary to protect Libyan civilians” was being extended and in essence violated by France, Britain, Italy, the US, Canada and other major NATO nations to wage what can only be characterized as a war against the incumbent government in Libya and this includes, according to the NATO’s own statistics, over 2,000 air missions flown over Libya since March 31, of which almost 8,000 are combat sorties. And what is documented even in western news sources, western newspapers for example, is that as recently as today Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown has been attacked by NATO warplanes and earlier, a couple of days ago, the major governmental compound in Tripoli was attacked by as many as 64 missiles. These attacks are coordinated with the military activities of rebel groupings, so that NATO basically bombs them into areas, including the capital and including other cities in Libya. So, the coordination of NATO’s aerial and naval blockade of Libya with the rebel forces is unquestionably an act of participation on behalf of one of the belligerent forces against the other – the government of Libya. And in that sense it’s a perfect parallel to what happened in Yugoslavia in 1999, where NATO bombed the country mercilessly for 78 days in coordination and in conjunction with the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army.
You mentioned that some people from Global Research.ca are in Libya, in Tripoli, and they are trapped in a hotel there.
Actually, the international press corps is there. But there are particular concerns about Canadian-based journalist Mahdi Nazemroaya and also French journalist Thierry Meyssan, who have voiced concerns about their well-being. Their position is very well-known as not parroting the official line of the western countries and that information I’m sure has been passed on by establishment western journalists within the hotel to rebel forces in Tripoli. And there is concern by the two journalists I’ve mentioned that their lives may be in danger.
What do you see as NATO’s role in Libya after Gaddafi is gone?
Time will tell. But assuming that this is a scenario, we have a lot to go on. I mean we have the fact that the Turkish Foreign Minister announced yesterday that NATO’s role will continue in Libya after the installation of the rebel government, the so-called Transitional National Council. And similar soundings have emanated from major figures and NATO countries that suggest that, far from NATO’s role ending, it may in a certain sense just be beginning. And that parallels almost identically what happened in Yugoslavia in 1999 and what has happened in Afghanistan in the past decade, where bombs itself into a country and sets up military bases and doesn’t leave. The US still has Camp Bondsteel in the current Serbian province of Kosovo, which is a large, expensive base, by some accounts the largest overseas military base built by the US since the war in Vietnam. And that remains there over 20 years after the end of the 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Similarly, the US has upgraded pretty substantially airbases in Afghanistan, including those near Central Asia and close to the Iranian border, and there is no indication they are ever going to abandon them, as they are not going to abandon military bases in Iraq and other places. It’s a lot easier to bring NATO into one’s country or have them coming than to get them out.
NATO Involvement in Libya: "Now we own it"
Professor Marjorie Cohn
Interview with Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School in San Diego and the editor of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse . I’d like to ask you a few questions about the situation in Libya. What are your views on the future of Gaddafi? What do you think will happen with him?
Interview with Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School in San Diego and the editor of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse.
I’d like to ask you a few questions about the situation in Libya. What are your views on the future of Gaddafi? What do you think will happen with him? And what is NATO’s role in the region legally? Do you think they’ve overstepped their mandate?
Yes, the Security Council Resolution 1973 does not authorize regime change. And yet everything that NATO and certainly the US have done is moving in that direction. In fact, some months ago, shortly after the invasion of Libya by NATO, President Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron – all wrote an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune that said that NATO force would fight in Libya until Gaddafi is gone, even though this resolution does not sanction regime change. And now the rebels are saying that allowing Gaddafi’s family to stay in Algeria is, what they call, an ’act of aggression’. So, they are clearly out to get Gaddafi and his family.
The rebels made a statement today that they want to capture Gaddafi, try him and execute him.
Yes, when you put somebody on trial you don’t pronounce the sentence until the trial is over. Their saying they want to try and execute him sounds like a kangaroo court to me. Gaddafi, if at all, should be tried by an international tribunal that is objective and is not going to engage in reprisals. Certainly, Gaddafi is not a great guy but there are massacres of civilians documented by NATO, in other words, NATO has conducted massacres, including one earlier this month in Majer, Libya, where family members, eye-witnesses and Libyan government officials said that NATO’s air strikes at Majer killed 85 people, including 33 children, 32 women and 20 men. Reporters and visitors saw 30 of the bodies at a local morgue, including a mother and two children. We don’t know how many civilians have been killed by the NATO bombs, even though the stated purpose of the NATO intervention was to protect civilians.
What can the international community or people in general do to see that justice is done?
I think that publicizing what is really happening is the most important thing – and that’s what you and I are doing right now. The Daily Beast publication in the US came out with a piece today by John Barry, saying that the US military is conducting a secret war in Libya and has helped NATO with everything from munitions to surveillance aircraft, that the US military has spent $1 billion and played a far larger role in Libya than it has acknowledged and that there is an emerging covert intervention strategy, deploying far more forces than the Obama Administration wants to advertize. I think it’s important to get at why the US and its NATO allies are so intent on getting rid of Gaddafi. Libya played an important role in financing the African Bank, which allowed African nations to avoid dealing with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Libya also financed an African Telecommunications System that saved African countries hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing them to bypass western-controlled networks. He also raised the standard of living. I’m not saying he is a great guy, but Libya is the largest oil producer in Africa, the twelfth largest in the world, and its oil resources are very important for NATO’s European allies. The manager of the rebel-controlled Arabian Gulf Oil Company, Libya’s largest oil producer, said: “We don’t have a problem with western countries. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil, because those last three countries are not involved in the NATO mission in Libya.” And a British official told The Economist that NATO’s involvement in Libya means that: "Now we own it." So, there is going to be a lot of instability because of this organization that NATO has recognized, the National Transitional Council, which evidently doesn’t necessarily support the rebels in Libya. I think you are going to see a lot of chaos with a lot of covert, behind-the-scenes choreographing of what’s going to happen in Libya. And, quite frankly, I’d be surprised if they do actually find Gaddafi, if not just to kill him the way they killed Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. If you look at the events leading up to the NATO invasion, they talked about relying on this responsibility to protect doctrine. It’s not enshrined in any international treaty, it’s not part of customary international law. But it says that the international community through the United Nations has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means in accordance with Chapters 6 and 8 of the UN Charter to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Chapter 6 of the UN Charter requires parties to seek a solution peacefully by negotiation. And yet they did not do that. Instead of pursuing an immediate ceasefire, immediate military action was taken. And the military force being used by NATO exceeds the bounds of “all necessary measures”, authorization and this resolution 1973. After the passage of the resolution Libya immediately offered to accept international monitors and Gaddafi offered to step down and leave Libya, but those offers were immediately rejected. And another thing that is very interesting is the double standard in the use of military force to protect civilians in Bahrain, where NATO force was being used to quell anti-government protest because that’s where the US Fifth Fleet is stationed. And The Asia Times reported that before the invasion of Libya the US made a deal with Saudi Arabia where the Saudis would invade Bahrain to help put down the anti-democracy protesters and Saudi Arabia would enlist the support of the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya. The Arab League support for a no-fly zone effectively neutralized opposition from China and Russia to Security Council Resolution 1973. But, as I said, NATO has gone far beyond a no-fly zone.
On New US Installed Libyan Authorities
Interview with Omar Turbi, a Libyan expert and an advisor to the National Transitional Council in Libya. My first question – and I’m sure this is a question everyone wants to know as the eyes of the world are right now on Libya – what exactly is going on in Libya at the present time?
Interview with Omar Turbi, a Libyan expert and an advisor to the National Transitional Council in Libya.
My first question – and I’m sure this is a question everyone wants to know as the eyes of the world are right now on Libya – what exactly is going on in Libya at the present time?
As you know, today marks about 187-189 days since the birth of the Libyan revolution and, six months in the making, Tripoli has fallen in the hands of freedom fighters, so-called ‘rebels’ by many people. In my opinion, that’s not the right designation.
Is this actually a revolution or is this some sort of western-backed insurgency?
Definitely not western-backed insurgency. It’s a mistake to call them ‘rebels’: ‘rebels’ is usually a designation for ‘rebellion’ – people that have rebelled and took up arms or have had arms and rebelled against the authority. The Libyan history and the Libyan revolution took a completely different beginning, emerged and unfolded in different ways.
You are an advisor to the National Transitional Council. What I’ve seen is that they are extremely disorganized right now. What do you see as their future now that it’s pretty clear Gaddafi is out? What do you see happening in Libya in the next six months, in the near future?
Let me make something clear. First of all, I’m an unofficial advisor to the Council. But I can be very objective and I can tell you the truth: it’s extremely difficult to manage the warfront, to manage foreign affairs, to have lack of resources and continue to do what they’ve done, and reach the point of success that has been reached. But I must tell you that the impression that you might have or some people around the world have about the Transitional National Council as being in disarray or disorganized is not the case. Most people don’t think of the details of what they deal with. They dealt with and managed bureaucratic requirements within the eastern part of the country, which represents more than a half of the country, not only the execution of the war or procuring weapons and supplies, and fuel. They had to deal with a large number of Libyan refugees that left Ajdabiya or were coming from the neighbouring towns because of the Gaddafi war machine.
What do you think is going to happen to Gaddafi if he falls into their hands?
There was a rumour just a few minutes ago that he is in some armored vehicle crossing the border. Nobody can confirm that but that might be the case.
He was crossing the border into where?
Possibly Algeria, in the western part of Libya.
Can I ask you one question about oil and oil production in Libya? A lot of people have said this was all someway for the West to get their hands on Libyan oil? What would you say to that?
If you want the truth, the world community has become smaller and smaller over the past nine years that I have frequented Libya. I’m originally from Libya, I grew up in Benghazi, I was absent from Libya for over 25 years, because I was outside as a human rights activist, fighting for Libyan people’s rights, when I was able to get in and work from the inside. The last nine years that I spent as a student and a scholar in Libya I resisted temptations to make money there. I was offered positions within the Libyan government – I declined them. But it was very, very exciting for me to spend time on the inside and learn everything that was going on. And to answer your question with respect to oil, the Libyan people and the Libyan government needed oil companies substantially more than oil companies needed to be in Libya. It’s a mistake and it’s really wrong to think that these oil companies, oil giants – and I don’t care if they are French, or American oil giants, or any of the oil companies around the world – are clamoring to get into Libya.
What’s your opinion about NATO bases being installed in Libya after this all is over? Will the Libyan people welcome them?
That’s not going to happen. It’s never been part of the agreement.
You say your interests are only in the liberation of the Libyan people?
My interest– and it’s something that’s known about me – I’ve spent a large portion of my life advocating human rights and democracy in Libya. I engaged the Libyan regime in 2000 against the wishes of many of my Libyan friends that were members of the opposition outside. I negotiated with the Libyan regime the release of 413 political prisoners. One of them – my own brother, Dr. Turbi, – was in Gaddafi’s jail for 18 years. When I met with Gaddafi – I met with numbers of the Libyan regime – my mission was to ask for allowing Libyans from outside into the country and work in their own country. In my opinion they worked very well.
You met Gaddafi personally?
What kind of a person was he? What was your impression?
Very tall. Most people didn’t’ know he was a smoker. And the most interesting part about meeting him was that I had a feeling I was talking to someone who was not from this age, not from this era. He seemed to me to be from the era of 800-900 years ago. I mean in the course of the meeting I had with him there was a focus on what it is that can be done for him: can you take my kids and introduce them to members of Congress in the United States?
There was a point where the relations between the West and Gaddafi softened for a while.
Sometimes governments like the US pursue engagement for what they classify as ‘national interest’. As long as a regime like the dictatorial regime of Gaddafi provided it with intelligence on terrorist activities. And if there were people like at Guantanamo – people that the US didn’t want to deal with – they sent them off to Egypt, and to Syria, and to Libya for an execution – they didn’t even want to deal with that. So, that was a period where the West felt a sense of coziness with the Libyan regime.
Assad Easier to Manipulate Than Gaddafi
Dr. Mansour El-Kikhia
Interview with Dr. Mansour El-Kikhia, Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Texas in St. Antonio in the United States . My first question is regarding Libya: what do you see as the outcome of the situation in Libya? Where do you see Libya in the next month, two months, half a year?
Interview with Dr. Mansour El-Kikhia, Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Texas in St. Antonio in the United States.
My first question is regarding Libya: what do you see as the outcome of the situation in Libya? Where do you see Libya in the next month, two months, half a year?
In the next year, maybe two years, Libya will be so struggling with the post-Gaddafi system. We know that Gaddafi left a system, which has no institutions to depend on. They have to reconstruct everything from scratch and that’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be very, very difficult indeed, with issues like that of legitimacy of the Council, which has promised to hold elections in nine months, although I don’t think it’s going to happen in nine months. But there are going to be many problems ahead.
How do you see the situation in Libya? Some have said it was a US-backed insurgency, others said it was a true revolution. In your opinion, what was the real situation there?
The truth is that it was really a popular insurgency against the regime that has denied Libyans their freedom for many years. I assure you the US could do without the Libyan revolution and it was getting along splendidly with Gaddafi. But Libyans were not. And it was about time that they had done it.
Yes, that was a curious thing, because even a year ago it seemed like relations had normalized, the US, I think, removed Libya from the terrorist list. I thought everything was going well. And then all of this happened. What information do you have on the current situation?
Just this morning I talked to some people in Libya and they tried to claim that Gaddafi’s forces are still down, that there is still some fighting going on. His forces still hold up in the city ofSchertz and they think that Gaddafi might even be there too.
So you have no problems with the bombings, with the air strikes, with support for the insurgency in Libya. I mean that was not really part of the resolution. The resolution was to enforce a no-fly zone.
The resolution was on protection of civilians.
Backing up a little bit. At the beginning of the interview you said – I think everybody would agree with this – that the US had very good relations with Gaddafi until the insurgency. Why wasn’t the West interested in a regime change before that?
This is the same question I asked them. I don’t particularly have much faith and trust in Berlusconi. The only person perhaps who was a little bit more sincere about this whole issue is Sarkozy and, to some extent, even more perhaps Obama. But Obama’s hands are tied by Congress. Sarkozy is less tied by the Parliament in France. But the Europeans look for the interest, and Gaddafi was part of their interest. Now they saw the regime toppling and they were smart enough to jump on the wagon. Ultimately, you and I know – and de Gaulle said it very clearly – that there are no friends in international systems, there are only interests.
That’s kind of cynical. But what about the protection of civilians, the will of the Libyan people and all that? That’s not important when there is interest involved?
In this case you need to be Machiavellian. In this case, as long as it protects the lives of civilians, it doesn’t matter what you call it.
On Syria – in a repeat of the Libyan situation – and also on the subject of interests, what are the interests of the West in Syria?
Quite honestly, Russia and the Soviet Union in the past were a very good friend of Syria’s. They have in fact helped Syria a great deal, they helped Arabs a great deal. And I think the time for this type of regime is over. Ultimately, we know that Israel plays a very important role in all of this. They much prefer to have the 40-year peace that they had with Assad than to have a new regime that perhaps might emerge as an anti-Israeli regime. So, the regime might emerge as anti-Israeli. There is no doubt about that. And so the US is basically trying as much as it can to influence events within Syria itself to ensure that the new regime that emerges will not be anti-Israeli. I don’t know how successful they will be.
So you are saying that a very important part of the US foreign policy on Syria is the interests of Israel?
I’ve always said that when we look at foreign policy in the Middle East, the North Africa – Egypt, Libya, or Syria – it’s really not determined by the US. It has never been. It’s determined in Jerusalem, not in Washington. And I don’t think the regime change in Syria will be any different.
So all of the policies in the Middle East are dictated by Israel? Very interesting. My last question is regarding the resolution to the situation in Syria. Should there be more pressure put on Assad or should there be more pressure put on both sides to enter a substantial dialogue?
I think in this case Russia should in fact play a leading role and it should do it with the US, and they should all actually tell Assad it was about time he either got out or changed the system fundamentally to allow for greater participation. And that’s where you can assure at least that a democratic system might emerge in Syria, which would be beneficial not only for Syria, but also for the US and Russia as well.
So you are basically saying more pressure for dialogue and for the opposing sides to be able to participate in the process?
No, I mean more pressure for opening up the system, I’m talking about pressure to allow for a greater transparency, for a greater participation, to end oppression – all this Russia can do and play an important role in all this. It’s what the world is saying – disintegrate power, because a huge power is still a hegemon in its own right.
I know that. What I am saying is that not just a dialogue but a meaningful dialogue and changes that are actually going to happen. You think that’s more important than just putting pressure on Assad?
I think so, as long as he is amenable to that. Gaddafi was not. Gaddafi was not willing to do anything. You know, he thought he could just stay in power. Assad seems to be more amenable to dialogue and constructive changes.
July 31, 2011
Egypt On Fire Again
Dr. Alon Ben Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Centre for Global Affairs at New York University. I have some questions today regarding the situation in Egypt. Why have tensions escalated again? There is general dissatisfaction with the way things have been developing since Mubarak’s departure.
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Centre for Global Affairs at New York University.
I have some questions today regarding the situation in Egypt. Why have tensions escalated again?
There is general dissatisfaction with the way things have been developing since Mubarak’s departure. There is still a great deal of corruption going on, there is still little progress made on the economic level. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with progress on any kind of reforms that the military government was supposed to institute. So the people are not seeing a great deal of difference and they are demanding a much more accelerated evolutionary process in all of these areas, namely social, political and specifically economical.
Mohsen el-Fangari, the spokesperson for the military leadership there, said that the Military Council is not going to abdicate its rule soon.
I’m not in the least surprised. Although there is going to be an election some time, although I wish it was delayed a little bit to give secular parties a better chance to organize themselves, but no one should have expected that the military will abdicate their role. The military remains the most stable institution, the best developed one, and ultimately they guarantee the national security of the state. So it’s not likely that will relinquish anything. They will be pretty much watching how any civilian government will operate in the future. And I won’t be surprise if they interfere, should they feel that the new Egyptian government is not going in the right direction, as they see it.
What do you think about the military using tribunals to prosecute civilians?
It’s not common and it should not be common in Egypt as well, even though there is a military government. There are still civilian courts available, there are still civilian judges available, and that’s how it really should be. I understand the US attempted to make a very strong case with the Egyptian government to try to prevent this kind o things from happening, because that basically means that the military government by nature is going to be less concerned with following the normal procedure in terms of prosecution etc. And that’s why it would be best for the Egyptian government to leave these things and to prosecute civilians in a civilian court.
What do you think – I think it as in the news this morning – that the Egyptian government has ordered 125 Abrams tanks from the US at a cost of 1.3 billion dollars?
I think it’s most outrageous in that sense. The truth is that Egypt doesn’t need more Abram tanks or any kind of tanks for that matter. Egypt is not being threatened by anyone, including Israel, and it has no neighbors that can threaten Egypt in any manner, shape or form. This money should be spent on economic development rather than continuing to build up the military for absolutely no use. These tanks, at worst, will be used against civilians and, at best, they will be put in warehouses to rot.
Do you see any movement towards the Libyan situation in Egypt? Do you think it could explode into that kind of situation?
Not really. The main concern that Egypt should have and has had for some time is influx of refugees from Libya. But that doesn’t constitute a national threat for Egypt. Libya ahs never been a foe of Egypt and it doesn’t have the military capacity, by any stretch of imagination, to confront Egypt. And moreover, they don’t have any conflict that you can trace. So there is absolutely no need for any kind of such serious military equipment for Egypt when in fact it’s in dire need of economic development.
You’ve recently written an article, which was published in Jerusalem Post, regarding psychological dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that I think was very interesting. Could you highlight for the listeners the main points you made in the article?
Very briefly, the parties including the US and other quartet countries that met yesterday were focusing mostly on dealing with issues, like territories, refugees, borders, security. All of that is very important, but in fact the underlying concern that had impeded progress in the past is other issues like the psychological damage of the conflict, like the religious damage of the conflict. So we need to address these issues. For example, why the Israelis feel the way they feel. It’s a result of their experience during the World War II and the Holocaust. And the Palestinians feel the way they feel due to what they call the Nakba, a catastrophe of 1948 when hundreds of thousands ended up being refugees. There was very little discussion and understanding between the Palestinians and the Israelis to deal with the psychosocial damage of this kind of conflict. They both dismiss each other’s concern in this regard, and that is one of the biggest impediments to peace. Another, by the way of example, is the future of Jerusalem. There is an affinity of the Jewish to East Jerusalem, just as much as there is affinity to East Jerusalem of the Muslims. There you have to do with such religious friction. You can’t have this matter resolved by just politicians. You have to have religious leaders from both sides sitting down and finding a solution, while being guided by the fact that the two peoples coexist in one way or another and Jerusalem has become a microcosm of that coexistence. But this is basically more of a religious issue. If you have religious leaders on both sides agreeing on the formula, it will have a tremendous impact on public opinion, as well as provide the government with political colours they need.
So you think the real solution of the problem should be found through a religious root?
In connection with Jerusalem, yes. In connection with other issues like borders and security, you have to deal with another psychological dimension of the conflict. There is zero trust between the two parties. And how do you deal with it when the two sides keep to the old narrative that doesn’t do anything but deepen the conflict, like the Palestinians insisting on the right of return. But that’s not going to happen. Israel is insisting on maintaining residual forces along the West Bank. That too will not happen. They need to sit down and discuss how to rebuild the trust instead of taking about the logistical matters, which should come later, rather than first.
14 July 2011, 13:02
Middle East Still Far from Stability
Dr. Alon Ben Meir
Dr. Alon Ben Meir
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Centre for Global Affairs at New York University. There is no shortage of goods in Gaza, right? Absolutely not. And I want to emphasize that even Hamas will tell you that there are no shortages of medicine or food in Gaza.
Interview with Dr. Alon Ben Meir, a Middle East expert and a professor from the Centre for Global Affairs at New York University.
There is no shortage of goods in Gaza, right?
Absolutely not. And I want to emphasize that even Hamas will tell you that there are no shortages of medicine or food in Gaza. And they began even to export some of their products through Israel. So that is really not the question anymore. Through the UN Israel is also allowing a tremendous amount of supplies of building materials as well, as log as materials are supervised and used for building housing and clinics and things like this, rather than bunkers. That’s the situation as of today.
I was leading up to the Freedom Flotilla 2. What do you think it was all about? Was it just a provocation?
I think it was a political statement. I don’t think it was necessarily meant to deliver any needed food, because Israel was very clear: whatever you want us to deliver, we will take it from the ships and deliver it through the crossing, as long as it is not weapons, and missiles, and ammunition. We are happy to deliver anything you want to deliver, including some building materials. And Israelis do not restrict the materials that go in, as long as it is not weapons.
Israelis are very fair in that regard. They would deliver anything. It would just have to go through the proper route and the proper channels.
Yes, to some extent. I wouldn’t say anything, because a blockade is a blockade. If you need permission to get anything imported, it’s an impediment. Nevertheless, we have to deal with a larger issue: how to reconcile Israel and Hamas. The two parties have to understand that they have to deal with one another comehellorhigh water. They cannot wish the other party away. Hamas will never be able to destroy Israel, and Israel will never be able to do away with Hamas. So the international community – Russia, Turkey, others – should be able to sit down with these two groups and say you cannot get rid of one another, you have to start talking. And that’s the only way you can resolve the blockade issue.
Do you think Freedom Flotilla was a provocation, or it was some sort of political move?
Yes, I think it was sort of provocation, because, as I said earlier, there are no shortages of food. That is basically trying to undermine the blockade, which is incidentally being supported by the US and the EU. It’s not like it was totally illegal, because Hamas has demonstrated – they had been firing rockets into Israel before the intrusion of Israel into Gaza – 6,000-7,000 rockets into Israel. Israelis don’t want to see repeat of that. They are trying to prevent Hamas from continuing the importing this type of weapons.
You’ve mentioned Turkey, and you’ve written an article on Israeli-Turkish relations recently.
My fear is that, considering the uprisings in the Arab world, the so-called Arab Spring, and considering the fact that the entire region is terribly unstable, these two countries are stable, and they have a common interest to try to deal with some instability around them. Take just on example – Syria. It borders Turkey, and Turkey has tremendous concern about the influx of refugees from Syria. They wanted to provoke Israel to do something in order to distract their attention from its own problems. Here, for example, Turkey and Israel would collaborate to prevent such a development from taking place. Turkey can play a significant role in dealing with Hamas and Fatah and try to dissuade Hamas from continuing to seek Israel’s destruction, which is only delaying the peace process, delaying any progress on the peace front. These countries can work together to reconcile their differences. And the sooner the better.
Do you see any double standard on the part of the US when it comes to Syria and Libya?
The US has been quite clear in the Libyan case. They said it clearly that Gaddafi has to leave, they also supported the no-fly zone and even going beyond that.
That’s the problem. They are going way beyond that. And that’s kind of a problem.
It could cause some problem. Right now, the EU determined that Gaddafi needs to go: he has been killing his people. People could disagree with the extent of the EU interference. But the US position is fairly clear in terms of Gaddafi.
Some people were saying Assad was killing his people, and that Mubarak was killing his people.
Bashar Assad is pretty much doing the same thing as Gaddafi has. The US hasn’t asked for his departure, because they are concerned about what will happen if Bashar Assad is forced out, how stable Syria will remain. That is the concern the US has in Syria. Moreover, Syria is in a much more sensitive area. There’s a problem with Iran, a problem with Israel, a problem with Lebanon, a problem with Turkey. Unlike Libya, which is isolated, Syria is a pivotal player in the Middle East and has to be dealt with somewhat differently.
So Syria could cause the whole region to explode?
Exactly, because the collapse of Assad’s regime could have serious repercussions. I’m not suggesting necessarily that he should stay in power, but there got to be a way by which to ease him out of power without necessarily a prosecution. You can’t just offer him that. He has all this support that he has, and one of the reasons he is unable to do so is that the people who surround him do not allow him to do that, especially internal security forces ad the military.
You say they are not allowing him to step down?
Absolutely not, because they will end up on the street as well. That’s the concern they have.
20 July 2011, 17:45
Afghanistan: "It’s going to get worse"
Interview with Ivan Eland, the Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty. I’d like to ask you a few questions today regarding the transfer of power to the Afghani forces in Afghanistan. The Bamyan Province has been handed over to Afghan control.
Interview with Ivan Eland, the Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty.
I’d like to ask you a few questions today regarding the transfer of power to the Afghani forces in Afghanistan. The Bamyan Province has been handed over to Afghan control. Some of the experts are saying that they might as well have just handed the territory to the Taliban, since, in many experts’ opinion, the Afghan security forces are not ready to provide full security in the country. What’s your opinion on the readiness of the Afghan troops?
Of course, the Afghan forces after almost ten years of training still have a problem with corruption, education, lack of training, discipline and that sort of thing. So they are not very effective fighting force. And I think this is not their choice. I mean this is the best case scenario, so I am not surprised they are turning over the provinces. But I think it’s going to get worse as we go on.
Do you think the Taliban will take over, gain more power, as NATO and US forces withdraw from the country?
Definitely, I think the Afghan security forces are not ready to be on their own and that’s after almost ten years of training by the US, there are problems with corruption, discipline and education. And, of course, they have been infiltrated to some extent by the Taliban themselves. I think the key question is not whether the U.S. can clear provinces, even having problems such as Khandahar and the Helmand Province in the south – because, yes, the US has simply outgunned the Talban with the best military in the world – the problem is who we will turn it over to. And that is the problem, and it is going to be a problem until the US withdraws and even after the US withdraws it’s going to be a problem even worse. So, I think that the real problem in Afghanistan, is that after ten years we don’t have anybody to turn it over to.
Do you think that Obama’s plan to withdraw forces was premature?
You know, we had ten years or thereabouts and they are not winning it, and the military never said they could win it. They were just trying to change the battelfield equation, so that the Taliban would negotiate. Of course, that hasn’t worked. It didn’t work in Vietnam. And the problem is that the Taliban, like the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong, were fighting for their own country and in their own country. And so is the Taliban, therefore the time horizon that they have, they are willing to wait a lot longer to get rid of the United States. And of course, the Afghans could then go on fighting for decades, such as the Vietnamese were fighting for decades. So I think the strategy, if you are a guerilla is to just out-wait the opponent, and if you are not losing or winning, because eventually your opponent is going to go away, and I think announcing it is probably foolish. But, nevertheless, I think Obama’s policy of getting out is the right one, because I don’t think they’re going to win that if they announce it or not. it’s time to leave.
Commanders there, on the ground, are saying it’s too early, and any advances that were made are just going to, basically, go out of the window. Would you agree with that statement?
I think, well, I don’t think it’s too early, because military people will always tell you, “Oh, we’ve got to stay, because we have all this invested.” But of course if its perishable, as it is, because the Afghan security forces are not very good, despite, one: more Americans got killed, more Afghans get killed, and we reach the same result, which is what happened in Vietnam, and I think what you need to do is cut your losses and get out of there. And, you know, “They lose credibility arguments” and that sort of thing just as they did in Vietnam – but US credibility would have been higher if they had gotten out earlier in Vietnam than staying around. And I think the US, if they ride the sinking ship down, it’s going to experience the same thing that happened in Vietnam. So, I think we have to concentrate on what’s important – and that’s fighting terrorism, not doing nation building in Afghanistan.
I was going to ask you if you thought that, in your opinion: Has the US won in any way in Afghanistan? You keep mentioning Vietnam. I think that kind of answers that question. In your opinion, what advances have been made in Afghanistan, if any?
There have been advances, I think, in rural education and some infrastructure. But the problem is that it’s very perishable and I think that’s always been a problem, you can pour racks of money into a country but if it’s not sustainable after you leave. Then worse. It’s a waste of time, at best it’s a waste of time, worse you’ve created a lot of infrastructure to help the future Taliban government, which is probably not going to be that kind to the United States. I doubt that it’s going to come out very well for the US.
I ask most of the experts I speak with this question, if we are talking about Afghanistan, and nobody has been able to give me a definitive answer: Why is the US in Afghanistan?
That’s probably because there is not a big definitive answer to give. Originally of course they had wanted to overthrow the Taliban government, because they had harbored al-Qaeda. But of course, once doing that, you know, the United States probably should have left. And just said, “Listen, we don’t care who rules Afghanistan, but if anybody harbors al-Qaeda and attacks the US we’re going to be back with a vengeance.” But the US chose to try a new model, rebuild the Afghan nation, and build a democracy, which the country is culturally contrary to. And also they are trying to build a centralized government when in recent history Afghanistan is very decentralized. So, we undertook this nation-building program and we are not really fighting al-Qaeda, which is what we were supposed to be doing. Al-Qaeda is in Pakistan and we are doing drone attacks. But that has nothing to do with Afghanistan.
You mentioned Vietnam several times. Would you characterize Afghanistan as being the US’s second Vietnam?
Yes, it could certainly be, because, I think, the fact is we are moving that way, the Taliban is not negotiating, we also said we are going to pull out. And therefore, it’s down to; either the Taliban will have a voice in post-US government or the Taliban will take over. And I think that’s what people on the ground, like human rights workers etc, are expecting. Contrary to the optimistic and praising, I should say cautiously optimistic, things we are hearing from the military. The military has to be “cautiously optimistic” because, if they don’t, morale of the soldiers goes down and also I think the public opinion will sink even further in the US about this war – and it’s pretty low already. So, they have no choice but to keep up an optimistic view. But I think people on the ground, international observers and even American aid workers and human rights workers are sort of expecting the Taliban to increase its influence as the US withdraws.
July 06, 2011
Who Benefits from the Midddle East Wars?
Professor Anita Dancs
I’m speaking with Prof. Anita Dancs , a Professor of Economics at Western New England University and contributed to the Costs of War study, recently released by Brown University. In your study you went into the costs of war.
I’m speaking with Prof. Anita Dancs, a Professor of Economics at Western New England University and contributed to the Costs of War study, recently released by Brown University.
In your study you went into the costs of war. Are there any economic benefits from the war that might offset, in the long run or in the short term, the outlays for the wars, such as reconstruction contracts, cheaper oil, etc?
Certainly, every time the government spends money, it contributes to what economists call aggregate demand and increases GDP. The problem with looking at that rather simple economic analysis is that there are opportunity costs of that money. All of the money being spent to wage war in Afghanistan, Iraq or whatever could have been spent on other types of economic activities, for example education or renewable energy to replace the oil, which we increasingly import. One of the contributors did a study showing that when you spend on these other types of economic activities, such as education or renewable energy, you actually can create more jobs than you can through military spending. So, in reality, economic benefit from waging war is what economists call a “broken window policy”. Yes, if you break the window it increases GDP, but really wouldn’t it be better to spend that money on other things that have more substantial long-run benefits to our economy?
$4 trillion. That’s a lot of money. Most of us can’t imagine that much. Can you give our listeners a bit of an idea of, if that was spent on creating jobs, hiring teachers or something, how much could $4 trillion buy to help the American public?
Certainly, if we just look at what was spent on military prosecution in Iraq and Afghanistan, we see that millions more jobs could have been created, if we had spent the money on something else, on education, on health care, on the smart grid, on mass transit, what have you. You can see those figures for yourself if you come to the website CostsOf War.org.
As an economist, have you seen any change in Obama’s policies as opposed to those of former president George Bush?
I don’t see a great change. But I think there is some prospect for a change. But, certainly, the Obama Administration began certain policies and reversed certain policies with respect to the war on terror. So, I think the future is still open-ended. I think we, as Americans, still have a chance to change our future and change our destiny as far as the so-called war on terror. But I have to say that the Obama Administration hasn’t changed the policies that much from the Bush Administration.
I’ve recently spoken with counterterrorism experts and some other experts. And they all said about the same thing – they don’t know why the US is in the Afghanistan, for example. Economically, do you see any reason why the US is in Afghanistan?
Well, no. Certainly, the economic benefit of the US waging the war in Afghanistan is really nothing, because, again, if we could spend these amounts of money in other ways that would be more beneficial to our economy. Certainly, from an economic perspective there is no gain to the war in Afghanistan.
No reconstruction contracts, or cheaper oil? Nothing like that?
The war in Afghanistan isn’t going to lead to cheaper oil. It’s not clear if any war is going to lead to cheaper oil. I think the long-run prospect is to reduce the oil dependency through changing our policy, not through waging war. And I think from a moral standpoint, not even from an economic standpoint, but both from an economic and moral standpoint, it’s ridiculous to think that we should wage war in order to secure cheaper oil. But certainly, the economics don’t really make sense. We could build up an infrastructure in the US that’s better for our economy, that reduces our dependency on oil. So, no, I don’t think there are real economic benefits to be had.
The reason of your study was to get the government to be a little bit more open on the actual costs being spent. Do you think many of the war on terror costs have been hidden under the blanket of security? And who is taking advantage of this – if anyone?
Yes, I think there’s been an amazing amount of propaganda around security, and the war of terror, if anything, has undermined our security and created more hostility towards the US around the world. It’s widely perceived by Muslims as a crusade. So, I think, clearly, it hasn’t added to American security. And at the same time it has undermined, I would argue, our economy.
Did you have any obstacles in doing your study? Did you run up into any brick walls of areas, where you couldn’t get information?
I think the biggest issue with doing a study like this is that it’ an ongoing project, a project that many more researchers need to work on. We’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg, as far as showing what these costs are and measuring them in quantitative ways. I think there’s just a lot more of work to be done to come up with quality estimates around what the real costs are, whether they are human costs, social costs, economic costs. I just think there’s more work to be done.
Again, who is profiting from these wars – if anyone?
I think one of the side effects of the war on terror has been to create a new industry. We’ve always had defence contractors. But I think we’ve created this whole new industry around war profiteering. And I think that’s a problem. I think they are politically powerful, they are going to be part of our economic infrastructure in the future and they are going to weigh in on policy in ways that are really detrimental to the average American. So, yes, there is this whole new set of businesses all set up around the war on terror. That’s really problematic, and we are going to have to take that on and deal with that.
Why Americans Go on Jihad Against US
Why Americans Go on Jihad Against US
Interview with J.M. Berger, the editor of INTELWIRE.COM and the author of the book Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam . My first question for you is regarding the new counter-terrorism strategy of the US. What does the new strategy entail for the Middle East and the US overall?Interview with J.M. Berger, the editor of INTELWIRE.COM and the author of the book Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam . My first question for you is regarding the new counter-terrorism strategy of the US. What does the new strategy entail for the Middle East and the US overall?
Interview with J.M. Berger, the editor of INTELWIRE.COM and the author of the book Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam.
My first question for you is regarding the new counter-terrorism strategy of the US. What does the new strategy entail for the Middle East and the US overall?
The new strategy is in some way more of the same. But in other way there are some interesting shifts. The new focus of our counter-terrorism strategy is now on the homeland as opposed to the war on more broad war on terrorism terminology that has been used before. And specifically it is targeting al-Qaeda, as it was said at the conference, at which it was announced that this is the war on al-Qaeda, it’s not a war on terrorism. That said, the strategy is unveiled as some very broad definitions of what is al-Qaeda, and its affiliates, and its adherents. So, there is a lot of latitude for the US government, and they are going to go after that under this policy.
What condition is al-Qaeda currently in?
Al-Qaeda is somewhat weakened at the moment, relatively for the last couple of years, since the death of bin Laden. Exactly how much is not clear, and it will not be clear for some time. For some time, obviously, since September 11, al-Qaeda is fractured into a number of organizations that have presence in countries that it did not have strong presence in previously, though there is no one-to-one comparison. The Core al-Qaeda, the actual al-Qaeda that carried out September 11 attack is certainly under a heavy pressure right now. But it’s definitely unraveling in a lot of places, including in Yemen, where the civil War is providing them a lot of room to operate and to increase their support.
There were reports that, for example, in Libya there were al-Qaeda affiliated mercenaries that were actually being supported by the US government and, I believe, NATO. Can you say anything about that?
There are elements within the Libyan opposition that have historical links to al-Qaeda. The question is what happening there now. The Libyan Islamic fighting group has largely been defunct prior to the revolution, and some of the people involved with that group, which is closely linked to al-Qaeda, now have a role in what’s going on. We are also hearing reports – and it’s very hard to verify these – that al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, in North Africa is taking advantage of the chaos to arm itself and siphon off weapons and supplies from the legitimate opposition in Libya itself.
What changes can we expect for example in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East overall with the new changes in strategy? Is there anything we are going to see in the near future because of that?
The new strategy does have a very wide definition of groups that are affiliated with al-Qaeda and that the state is reserving the right to strike against, and that probably had the most bearing on pact stand. There are a lot of Jihadist groups in Pakistan – some of which are very loosely connected to al-Qaeda – that could be considered part of al-Qaeda under this strategy. And it’s not clear in terms of where we are going to be headed in terms of dealing with these groups or taking action in Pakistan and in the border region along Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Are there going to be internal changes in the country?
Nothing visible. There is certainly an increase focused on homegrown extremism. We’ve had a lot of cases very recently, in which American citizens have taken up arms and are carrying out terrorist attacks with little links to al-Qaeda overseas. That’s the big concern right now, and there’s a big focus on that. However, so far, US law enforcement has been very effective against these guys. The FBI have been very aggressive in moving on them. They have very good relationships in the community and people come forward and report when they hear someone is planning violence. And basically, if you have four guys in the room talking about Jihad, one of them is an FBI informant.
I’ve read the term “the lone wolf terrorist” on the net – someone who is being indoctrinated or driven by somebody online, al-Qaeda or something. Is that a real threat for America?
It’s a concern. This hasn’t occurred so far, but, I tell you, there is a movement towards “lone wolf terrorist”, which something called individual Jihad or vigorous Jihad. Al-Qaeda has been pushing for some time. It’s been trying to get people step up and take action with no contact to al-Qaeda at all. This hasn’t been dramatically successful. This principle is based on something that happened in White Supremacy’s communities in this country some years back. It offered rigorous resistance in the 1980s and was a real failure.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I think this policy is pretty broad, and I think we need to start nailing down what the parameters of a war on terrorism are, because it’s not clear to me where we draw the line, how far we are willing not to go in fighting al-Qaeda.
I think it’s been brought from the very beginning that technically terrorism is a method – it’s not a group or an individual.
The difference now is that it’s officially very broad. The definition for al-Qaeda affiliates in this strategy is really extraordinarily broad. At the same time we are refocusing on homeland. We are also widening the arch of targeting people we consider to be terrorists. I’d like to see more precision in how we talk about this issue, and I don’t think the new strategy does that.
Why do you think it’s so broad? Could it be that they don’t know who they are fighting against?
You have to give some credit to the nature of terrorist network. Terrorist networks are by design shadowy and difficult to evaluate. So, I think they are ok with dealing the death mission abroad. But it’s really not just a government problem. The trick of working on a project about this right now is that there are really no two people talking about al-Qaeda necessarily mean the same thing when they say al-Qaeda. And I think that it’s something that we – the media, academics, journalists, scholars and government –need to come together and really agree on what we are talking about.
What would cause an American to go on a Jihad against America?
There are a lot of reasons. They are a very diverse group. There is no single profile for them, but the one thing that almost everybody who takes part in it shares – is the belief that Islam is under attack. People, doing the attack, change over the years. It was the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Serbs in 1990s, and today it’s perceived to be the US. Rightly or wrongly, these guys believe that Islam and Muslims are under deliberate attack. And they are responding to that.
Middle East perspectives
Dr. Alon Ben Meir
Our guest is Dr. Alon Ben Meir , a Middle East Expert and Professor from the Center for Global Affairs at the New York University. We’re discussing the situation in the entire Middle East and particularly in Afghanistan.
Our guest is Dr. Alon Ben Meir, a Middle East Expert and Professor from the Center for Global Affairs at the New York University. We’re discussing the situation in the entire Middle East and particularly in Afghanistan.
US Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Professor Thomas Johnson
Prof. Thomas Johnson , the Director of the Program for Culture and Conflict Studies at the Naval Postgraduate Institute in Monterey, California, and the topic is the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan that was announced last week by President Obama.
Our today’s guest is Prof. Thomas Johnson, the Director of the Program for Culture and Conflict Studies at the Naval Postgraduate Institute in Monterey, California, and the topic is the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan that was announced last week by President Obama.