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On the 100th Anniversary of World War 1, the Western powers are again sleepwalking into destructive conflict. Hegemonic ambition has Washington interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine, but developments seem to be moving beyond Washington’s control.
Regime change in Ukraine for a mere $5 billion dollars would be a bargain compared to the massive sums squandered in Iraq ($3,000 billion), Afghanistan ($3,000 billion), Somalia, and Libya, or the money Washington is wasting murdering people with drones in Pakistan and Yemen, or the money Washington has spent supporting al Qaeda in Syria, or the massive sums Washington has wasted surrounding Iran with 40 military bases and several fleets in the Persian Gulf in an effort to terrorize Iran into submission.
So far, in Washington’s attempt at regime change in Ukraine large numbers of Americans are not being killed and maimed. Only Ukrainians are dying, all the better for Washington as the deaths are blamed on the Ukrainian government that the US has targeted for overthrow.
The problem with Washington’s plot to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine and install its minions is twofold: The chosen US puppets have lost control of the protests to armed radical elements with historical links to nazism, and Russia regards an EU/NATO takeover of Ukraine as a strategic threat to Russian independence.
Washington overlooked that the financially viable part of today’s Ukraine consists of historical Russian provinces in the east and south that the Soviet leadership merged into Ukraine in order to dilute the fascist elements in western Ukraine that fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union. It is these ultra-nationalist elements with nazi roots, not Washington’s chosen puppets, who are now in charge of the armed rebellion in Western Ukraine.
If the democratically elected Ukraine government is overthrown, the eastern and southern parts would rejoin Russia. The western part would be looted by Western bankers and corporations, and the NATO Ukraine bases would be targeted by Russian Iskander missiles.
It would be a defeat for Washington and their gullible Ukrainian dupes to see half of the country return to Russia. To save face, Washington might provoke a great power confrontation, which could be the end of all of us.
My series of articles on the situation in Ukraine resulted in a number of interviews from Canada to Russia, with more scheduled. It also produced emotional rants from people of Ukrainian descent whose delusions are impenetrable by facts. Deranged Russophobes dismissed as propaganda the easily verifiable report of Assistant Secretary of State Nuland’s public address last December, in which she boasted that Washington had spent $5 billion preparing Ukraine to be aligned with Washington’s interests. Protest sympathizers claim that the intercepted telephone call between Nuland and the US Ambassador in Ukraine, in which the two US officials chose the government that would be installed following the coup, is a fake.
One person actually suggested that my position should be aligned with the “sincerity of the Kiev students,” not with the facts.
Some Trekkers and Trekkies were more concerned that I used an improper title for Spock than they were with the prospect of great power confrontation. The point of my article flew off into space and missed planet Earth.
Spock’s mental powers were the best weapon that Starship Enterprise had. Among my graduate school friends, Spock was known as Dr. Spock, because he was the cool, calm, and unemotional member of the crew who could diagnose the problem and save the situation.
There are no Spocks in the US or any Western government and certainly not among the Ukrainian protesters.
I have often wondered if Spock’s Vulcan ancestry was Gene Roddenberry’s way of underlining by contrast the fragility of human reason. In the context of modern military technology, is it possible for life to survive humanity’s penchant for emotion to trump reason and for self-delusion to prevail over factual reality?
Yemen researcher says he received a death threat after investigating deadly wedding-convoy attack.
Hyder Iftikhar Abbasi Last updated: 12 Feb 2014 14:17
A photo of alleged victims killed in a December 12, 2013 drone strike in central Yemen [Reprieve]
|The disturbing phone call came after Baraa Shiban investigated a drone strike on a wedding party that killed 12 people in central Yemen in December. A clear message was delivered to the human rights researcher over the phone after a major news network reported the story based on his research.
“The caller refused to identify himself and threatened my life if I continued my investigation of the strike,” Shiban told Al Jazeera, noting he conducted similar studies of US drone operations in the past, but had never before received death threats.
Shiban works for the UK-based human rights group Reprieve and interviewed survivors two days after the attack. His investigation ascertained that 12 people were killed after four missiles were fired at the convoy. There were also 14 victims with severe wounds; some lost limbs, others their eyes.
Along with the eyewitness testimony, Shiban gained access to video and still images of the alleged victims of the drone strike. Photos of the aftermath of drone attacks – whether in the tribal regions of Pakistan, or in the deserts of Yemen – are rarely captured. Most occur in obscure regions with hostile terrain, making access difficult for journalists and activists.
On December 12, 2013 , about 60 people were traveling in a convoy to attend the wedding near the city of Radda, in Yemen’s central province of al-Bayda. At about 4:30pm, the drivers halted the vehicles when they heard an aircraft approach.
“I was in the front car and I heard a huge explosion,” recalled victim Mohammed Abdullah al-Taisi. “I went out to see what happened and suddenly another two missiles hit the place. Everyone in the car behind us got killed.”
Equipped with the evidence Shiban went to the media, and a day later he received the call threatening his life.
“Just because the people were in a convoy of trucks, they were assumed to be militants and the decision was made to target them,” he said. “The people who died were shepherds and farmers. There was clearly a wedding party.”
Fear and anger
Drones piloted by the CIA and the Pentagon have operated in Yemen since 2002, killing hundreds of people – mostly members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but also dozens of civilians.
Peter Schaapveld is psychologist who traveled to Yemen to study the programme’s effects. He told British members of parliament in March 2013 that the constant presence of drones in the skies was causing a “psychological emergency” in the country.
“What I saw in Yemen was deeply disturbing,” Schaapveld said . “Entire communities – including young children who are the next generation of Yemenis – are being traumatised and re-traumatised by drones. Not only is this having truly awful immediate effects, but the psychological damage done will outlast any counter programme and surely outweigh any possible benefits.”
Reports of the missile strike, on a seemingly innocent wedding party, have infuriated nearly every sphere of Yemeni society, including many of the country’s top politicians.
“The fact that the Yemeni parliament has just passed a resolution banning drones in Yemeni airspace, and that the National Dialogue has criminalised the use of drones for extrajudicial killing, demonstrates that a national consensus has been reached that these brutal and unlawful attacks are unacceptable,” Shiban said.
Reprieve said the US government is now investigating the strike in Radda following Shiban’s work. The human rights group said the Defense Department was targeting Shawqi Ali Ahmed al-Badani , whom the White House accused of organising a bomb plot that led to 19 US embassies being closed last year.
‘US values and policy’
Caitlan Hayden, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, noted that Yemen’s government had stated the targets of the operation were “dangerous” senior al-Qaeda figures. She said she couldn’t comment on this specific attack.
“We take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with US values and policy … And when we believe that civilians may have been killed, we investigate thoroughly,” Hayden told Al Jazeera .
But one survivor of the December drone attack, Salam al-Taisi, insisted no one from the wedding party was involved in terrorism. “None of the victims had anything to do with al-Qaeda or any other group. They were all from the area and all were poor villagers,” he said.
The deaths in Baydah have more resonance considering President Barrack Obama’s announcement upholding the “highest standard” when conducting operations using unmanned aerial vehicles.
“Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013.
Yemen’s security forces have also scrutinised Shiban’s work on the US drone programme. But it’s not just the Yemeni police that have shown interest in him.
On September 23 last year, he arrived in the United Kingdom with the intention of speaking at a conference at Chatham House . But at Gatwick Airport he was stopped by police and questioned under Schedule 7 of the British government’s Terrorism Act 2000.
“I was asked about my investigation of the covert US drone attacks in Yemen. When I asked why the question was relevant, I was threatened with further detention,” Shiban said.
Apparent attempts to suppress any kind of criticism of US covert operations are not new.
In Pakistan, an anti-drone campaigner set to testify before European parliaments has gone missing in the city of Rawalpindi. Kareem Khan , whose brother and teenage son were killed in a drone attack in December 2009, was picked up at his home by security forces in the early hours of February 5, his lawyer said. He hasn’t been heard from since.
Shiban said he is also well aware that the path he’s on now could lead to the same fate of Yemen-based journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye .
On December 17, 2009, the Yemeni military announced it had successfully destroyed an al-Qaeda camp in al-Majala in Abyan province. But after travelling to the town, Shaye discovered it wasn’t at all an operation carried out by his government, but in fact a US cruise missile strike. And he discovered the people who died weren’t al-Qaeda fighters but innocent civilians. Among the 41 people killed, more than two-thirds were women and children.
Shaye was arrested on August 6, 2010 by Yemeni security forces and charged that October with aiding al-Qaeda by recruiting new operatives for the group. By January 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.
International human rights groups condemned his trial as a sham , which couldn’t provide any credible evidence of his alleged al-Qaeda associations. Shaye was being punished for exposing a US covert operation that resulted in a massacre.
After being incarcerated for nearly three years, Shaye was pardoned in July 2013 but one of the conditions of his release is he must not leave the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, for two years.
Asked about Shaye’s case, and the threats he’s received to his own life, Shiban said he’s determined to carry on highlighting the impact of drone strikes.
“This is an issue of vital importance to Yemen’s future, and I and other human rights activists will continue to defend the basic rights and democratic wishes of the Yemeni people,” he said.
From the Associated Press:
“An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.”
Notice those words: “legally” and “policy.” No longer does U.S. media make a distinction between the two. Under George W. Bush, detention without trial, torture, murder, warrantless spying, and secret missile strikes were illegal. Under Obama they are policy. And policy makes them “legal” under the modified Nixonian understanding that if the President does it as a policy then it is legal.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the nations in which drone murders take place, treaties to which the U.S. is party, international law, and U.S. statutory law, murdering people remains illegal, despite being policy, just as it was illegal under the less strict policy of some months back. The policy was made stricter in order to bring it into closer compliance with the law, of course — though it comes nowhere close — and yet the previous policy remains somehow “legal,” too, despite having not been strict enough.
Under that previous policy, thousands of people, including at least four U.S. citizens, have been blown to bits with missiles. President Obama gave a speech last year in which he attempted to justify one of those four U.S. deaths on the basis of evidence he claimed to have but would not reveal. He made no attempt to justify the other three.
The new policy remains that the president can murder anyone, anywhere, along with whoever is near them, but must express angst if the person targeted is a U.S. citizen.
The idea that such lunacy can have anything to do with law is facilitated by human rights groups’ and the United Nations’ and international lawyers’ deference to the White House, which has been carried to the extreme of establishing a consensus that we cannot know whether a drone murder was legal or not unless the president reveals his reasoning, intention, motivation, and the details of the particular murder.
No other possible criminal receives this treatment. When the police read you your rights, you are not entitled to object: “Put those handcuffs away, sir! I have a written policy justifying everything I did, and I refuse to show it to you. Therefore you have no grounds to know for certain that my justification is as insane and twisted as you might imagine it to be based merely on what I’ve done! Away with you, sir!”
The loss of a coherent conception of law is a grievous one, but that’s not all that’s at stake here.
Numerous top U.S. officials routinely admit that our drone wars in the Middle East and Africa are creating more enemies than they kill. General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan said in June 2010 that “for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.” Veterans of U.S. kill teams in Iraq and Afghanistan interviewed in Jeremy Scahill’s book and film Dirty Wars said that whenever they worked their way through a list of people to kill, they were handed a larger list; the list grew as a result of working their way through it. The wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the abuses of prisoners during them, became major recruiting tools for anti-U.S. terrorism. In 2006, U.S. intelligence agencies produced a National Intelligence Estimate that reached just that conclusion.
We are shredding the very concept of the rule of law in order to pursue a policy that endangers us, even as it helps to justify the erosion of our civil liberties, to damage the natural environment, and toimpoverish us, as it kills many innocent people. Maybe they’ve secretly got drones doing the thinking as well as the killing.
“The greatest crime since World War II has been U.S. foreign policy.” (Former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, b 1927.)
As outlined by Felicity Arbuthnot in this incisive historical review, the US is now providing weapons to the Maliki government to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant (AQIL). In a bitter irony, they are also supplying AQIL with weapons to fight the US puppet regime.
This article carefully documents the role of war crimes in feeding the military industrial complex. “War is Good for Business” and so are war crimes. Russia is tacitly complicit in selling weapons to the Iraqi “government” which constitutes a US proxy regime.
The not so hidden objective is twofold: to feed multibillion dollar contracts to the US weapons producers while also contributing to the ongoing destruction of Iraq as a nation state. (GR Editor. M.Ch.)
Iraq War Preparations Behind Closed Door
On February 10th 2003, German Green MP Joschka Fischer, then Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor, stunned an international security conference, in Munich’s opulent 19th century Bayerischer Hof hotel discussing the proposed invasion of Iraq, by banging on the table, switching to English to guarantee Donald Rumsfeld understood and shouted of the US arguments for war: ” … I am not convinced.” As he spoke, he gazed at the then US Defence Secretary over his silver, half framed spectacles, concluding: “That is my problem, I cannot go to the public and say, ‘these are the reasons’, because I don’t believe in them.”
The astute Herr Fischer recognized a pack of lies when he heard them and saved Germany from enjoining a war of aggression – Nuremberg’s “supreme international crime” – against a country which posed no threat and had no way of defending itself against the world’s most devastating and destructive weapons, whose poisonous residual pollution will continue to maim and kill generations to come for all time.
Tony and George W.
Both Tony “I’d do it again” Blair and George W. Bush face a citizen’s arrest whenever they appear in public, with Blair also reiterating with others responsible for bombing Iraq back to a pre-industrial age (again) that the country is a better place without Saddam, “a tyrant who killed his own people.”
In Kurdistan, where the people in the Iran border are were terribly caught in the crossfire from the weapons used by both devastated sides (and sold to both sides by the US) Saddam Hussein was firmly in the firing line for the terrible deaths at Halabja. However a meticulous 1990 US War College Report threw doubt on the facts of even that horror, stating: “Iraq was blamed for the Halabja attack, even though it was subsequently brought out that Iran too had used chemicals in this operation, and it seemed likely that it was the Iranian bombardment that had actually killed the Kurds.” (i)
Further, according to a 2008 study (ii) George W. Bush: “and seven top officials – including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, made 935 false statements about Iraq” during the two years following 11th September 2001.
However, the US and UK are seemingly remarkably selective when it comes to tyrants who “kill their own people”, and not only have failed to censure their tyrannical Iraqi puppet, Nuri al-Maliki, but are arming him to the teeth with the same weapons which are linked to the horrific birth defects, and cancers throughout Iraq, which he is now using on “his own people.” Moreover, if allegations from very well informed sources that he holds an Iranian passport are correct, to say that US-UK’s despot of choice appears in a whole new political light would be to massively understate.
“Counterterrorism” is “Good for Business”
To facilitate Al-Maliki’s assault on Iraq’s citizens, the US “rushed” seventy five Hellfire missiles to Baghdad in mid-December. On 23rd January Iraq requested a further five hundred Hellfires, costing $82 million – small change compared to the $14 Billion in weapons provided by America since 2005.
The AGM-114R Hellfire II (image below), nauseatingly named “Romeo”, clocked in at: $94,000 each – in 2012. Such spending on weaponry in a country where electricity, clean water, education and health services have all but collapsed since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Last week an “American cargo jet loaded with weapons” including 2,400 rockets to arm Iraqi attack helicopters also arrived in Baghdad.(iii)
This week a contract was agreed to sell a further twenty four AH-64E attack helicopters (image below) to Iraq “along with spare parts and maintenance, in a massive $6.2 Billion deal.” With them comes the reinvasion of Iraq, with: “hundreds of Americans” to be shipped out “to oversee the training and fielding of equipment”, some are “US government employees”, read military, plus a plethora of “contractors”, read mercenaries. (iv)
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, on November 15th 2013 Iraq also took delivery of: ” its first shipment of highly advanced Mi-35 attack helicopters as part of a $4.3 Billion arms purchase from Russia”, of an order of: “about 40 Mi-35 and 40 Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters.”
“Defeating Al Qaeda”, “Saving the Lives of Civilians”
The all to “attack his own people” in the guise of defeating “Al Qaeda” in Anbar province and elsewhere where the people have been peacefully protesting a near one man regime of torture, sectarianism, kangaroo courts which sentence victims who have also had confessions extracted under torture.
The chilling death penalty regime, lead the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay to comment, with considerable understatement: “Weaknesses in the criminal justice system means that the death sentence is often handed down under questionable circumstances in Iraq.”
On 22nd January it was reported that thirty eight people had been executed in the previous four days.(v) In 2013 Iraq had the third highest executions in the world, according to Amnesty International.
So now Al-Maliki is to unleash weapons of mass destruction on any who oppose his reign of terror. Hellfire missiles, also used by the US forces in Fallujah are described as “Thermobaric Hellfire Missiles”(vi) “Their effective performance in Fallujah led to major production contracts in 2005.”
“Thermobaric weapons use high temperature/high pressure explosives as anti-personnel incendiary weapons. They char or vaporise victims in the immediate target location, or suffocate and collapse internal organs with their extended blast/vacuum effects.”
“These weapons use a new generation of reactive metal explosives, some of which are suspected of using Uranium for the high temperature and increased kinetic blast effects. If Uranium enhanced warheads were used in Fallujah these may have contained between ten and one hundred kgs of Uranium per warhead, depending on weapon type.” Ongoing.
They also contain a fuel air explosive (fae) of which:
“The (blast) kill mechanism against living targets is unique and unpleasant … What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction (vacuum) which ruptures the lungs ... If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate,victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common fae fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide are highly toxic, undetonated fae should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents”, according to the US Defence Intelligence Agency. Syria watchers please note. (Emphasis mine.)
The temperature within the detonation can reach 4,500 to 5,400 °F (2,500 to 3,000 °C). Outside the cloud, the blast wave travels at over two miles per second (3.2 km/s) – 7200 mph.
There are also reports of white phosphorous or napalm having being used by Maliki’s forces in Falluja. Certainly if one two minute video is authentic, as it appears to be, a tell tale inflammatory weapon which cannot be extinquished is well apparent. (vii – in Arabic, but the visual speaks for itself.)
On 28th January World Bulletin recorded: “Some 650 people have been killed or injured and 140,000 displaced by indiscriminate army shelling in Iraq’s western city of Fallujah” according to Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi.
The people of Samarra, whose eye wateringly beautiful, golden domed Al-Askari Mosque was blown up in 2006, offered their homes and hospitality to the people fleeing Fallujah and Anbar province, but Maliki’s security warned Samarra residents not to accept any displaced Fallujah and Anbar families. They were given twenty four hours to leave Samarra, writes a friend in Iraq, adding: “Can you believe such criminality? Forcing the kicking out the refugees who left their houses due to heavy bombing by Maliki’s criminal forces?”
On Thursday 30th January a source with contacts in Fallujah gave the names behind the statistics of just a few of the injured arriving at Fallujah General Hospital:
Iman Mohammed Abdul Razzaq 40 years old (female)
Isaac Saleh Mohammed 4 years (Male)
Abeer Mohammed Saleh 18 years old (female)
Shorooq Borhan Ali 7 years (female)
Ashoaq Mohammed Jassim, 25 years old (female)
Sarah Mohammed Odeh, 13 years old (female)
Fatima Mohammed Odeh, 15 years old (female)
Saleh Mohammed Abdul Razzaq 45 years old (male)
Nobel Peace Laureate Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron’s regimes are as culpable for their continuing support and facilitating of Al-Maliki’s crimes against humanity as were Bush and Blair in the lies that delivered Iraq’s ongoing death and destruction.
But they would do well to note that the escalation of the unrest in Fallujah began on the 30th of December, the anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s execution – by a man who was also called Al-Maliki.
The puppet Iraqi Prime Minister further enraged a justifiably angry population last week with a speech on TV talking of the interference of other countries and their support for terrorist groups. The response was to point out his apparent amnesia over the fact that he entered Iraq on the back of the American tanks in an illegal invasion – and there is still the question of that alleged Iranian passport.
Given the Iraqi’s record of running out of patience with imposed despots, he should watch out. The last imposed Prime Minister called Nuri (al-Said) who ignored, as Wiki puts it: “poverty and social injustice, became a symbol of a regime that failed to address these issues, choosing a course of repression, to protect the privileged”, met a very unpleasant end.
As mentioned before, Iraq’s history repeats in uncanny ways.
What are the biggest political risks for 2014?
There are plenty of potential crises to keep us up at night in 2014. There are tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea and elite-level executions in North Korea. Violence continues to worsen in the Middle East with a resurgence of a more localized Al Qaeda, a deteriorating security environment in Iraq, and 2014’s biggest geopolitical pivot point: the make-or-break Iran nuclear agreement. If the P5+1 and Iran strike a deal, it would be a huge boon for the Obama administration, but it would leave Iran economically emboldened and looking to backstop Shia initiatives across the region, putting it even more at odds with Saudi Arabia. A deal is, on balance, more likely than not. But if it falls through, it means a spike in oil prices, in addition to the likelihood that Israel strikes Iran before it can sprint to nuclear-breakout capacity. All of these geopolitical concerns are front and center for the coming year.
But above all, two essential questions best categorize the major political risks of 2014. For many of the world’s predominant emerging markets, it’s an internally focused question: How will key developing countries adapt to upcoming elections or implement ambitious agendas—and what does it mean for their behavior beyond their borders? For the United States, the question is externally focused. The international community perceives America’s foreign-policy behavior as increasingly unpredictable. Is the United States disengaging internationally? How will policymakers define the role that the US should play in the world? Much depends on these concerns, as America’s relationships with its allies become increasingly fraught.
When you add these two questions to the more conventional geopolitical security uncertainties, there is one clear answer: the erosion of global leadership and coordination will become more apparent and pronounced in 2014.
How will emerging markets respond to internal challenges?
This year, we will see domestic distractions in emerging markets, from election cycles to unprecedented reform agendas; do not expect them to play a significant role internationally that does not cohere with their more pressing priorities at home. We are in the midst of a new era of political challenges for emerging markets, as slowing growth, sputtering economic models, and rising demands from newly enfranchised middle classes create heightened uncertainty. As recent protests in Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Colombia, Ukraine and Russia have shown, new middle classes have new demands—and are willing to take to the streets if they go unmet.
It is in this context that six of the world’s largest emerging markets—Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey—will hold national elections in 2014. In all six countries, the incumbent party will have ruled for a decade or more, but since coming to power, few of them will have faced an electoral cycle quite like this. Political, social, and economic dynamics in each of these countries vary immensely, but elections raise the risk of prevote populist policymaking in all of them. As emerging-market growth wanes, many of these countries need to implement economic reforms in order to enhance productivity and continue enriching their citizens. But as elections loom, the fears of politicians grow, and substantive reform of pensions, privatization, labor markets, and taxation will stall. Nor will the outlook improve substantially post-elections. We are likely to see second mandates of weaker leaderships—a political environment that is by no means ideal for big-bang reforms.
While these six emerging markets are the most important players for the global economic community, the emerging market elections story extends much further. A total of forty-four democratic emerging-market countries accounting for 36 percent of the world’s population will hold national elections this year. Growing middle classes across the emerging market space are expecting more and better services precisely as governments’ capacity to deliver (economically and politically) is diminishing. That leaves emerging market governments with their hands full at home.
Among emerging markets, Turkey is especially vulnerable in 2014. The country faces spillover effects from the civil war in Syria and a re-emergence of the Kurdish insurgency. More worryingly, Prime Minister Erdogan’s increasingly aggressive behavior is a huge variable at a time when he is likely to become president. Expect uncertainty and conflict over the division of powers between him and the prime minister.
China, by far the most important emerging market in the world, certainly does not face electoral pressure; in fact, the new leadership under Xi Jinping has consolidated power quickly and efficiently since the leadership transition in late 2012. But China will face demands from its constituents and domestic distractions all the same, as its economy is now undergoing a dramatic shift. The new leadership has embraced far-reaching reform to a greater degree over president Xi Jinping’s first year than we’ve seen in the past two decades. Beijing will prioritize reform over more rapid economic growth in 2014, likely focusing on reforms that address public concerns to bolster its political strength and popular legitimacy. Expect social-policy reform at the forefront, with energy policy as another priority. We could also see financial reform moving more quickly than current consensus would indicate.
These reforms constitute a huge potential positive for China’s investment climate and potential integration into the world economy. Beijing must, however, tread carefully: there are many dangerous moving pieces attached to the reform agenda. There will be losers in the reform process as industries go out of business, officials get purged, and firms come under heavy regulatory scrutiny. If reforms move too quickly, they could destabilize the ruling party from within, as these key stakeholders push back to protect their vested interests. To protect against public and bureaucratic backlash, the leadership is using anti-corruption and reeducation efforts to intimidate reform opponents within the party while using new technologies to mitigate public dissent. But if the reforms fail or are widely perceived to be moving too slowly, political instability and popular protest could grow. That is only magnified by the fact that Beijing is doing this in the context of a fundamentally changed information environment, where the proliferation of information leaves the ruling party more beholden to the demands of its citizens—and where rapid shifts in popular sentiment can arise quickly and unexpectedly. Missteps could undermine the broader reform process and the leadership itself.
If— or perhaps, when— there are bumps in the road, Beijing will try to divert public anger toward foreign targets. Xi Jinping’s first substantial foreign-policy move was to announce an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea; that caters to widespread anti-Japanese sentiment within China. Should trouble emerge domestically, the Xi government might be willing to deflect attention by playing up this antagonism. On the other hand, in the longer run, if China implements its reform agenda successfully, it could empower the regime to project its regional influence still further.
Russia is one emerging market where, under President Putin’s rule, there is a great willingness to intervene on the international stage—but often in unpredictable ways. Putin remains the single most powerful individual in the world, but two worrying trends are converging: his popularity has slipped, and after a decade of rising expectations, Russia’s economy is stagnating. This makes Russia under Putin, a leader unusually capable of getting big things done quickly, far less predictable at home and abroad.
Is the United States disengaging internationally?
As Putin injects uncertainty by intervening abroad, the United States is doing so as well—but predominantly by disengaging.
Some of this decline in consistent US foreign-policy engagement is determined by structural international changes. First, there are too many increasingly influential countries that need to be at the table for a negotiation to have global impact, making it more difficult to coordinate effectively at the multilateral level. On top of this, a distracted German-led Europe is focusing inward on economic prerogatives of repairing the eurozone and restoring competitiveness; for foreign-policy engagement, the United States would much prefer the more geopolitically aligned UK and France driving European affairs. Emerging markets, particularly Russia and China, are more willing to challenge US preferences abroad.
Some of this new American foreign policy tack derives from tectonic shifts in the US domestic picture. In the 2012 election, just 5 percent of voters ranked foreign policy as their priority, and widening income inequality is persuading many Americans that they do not share the benefits of US engagement abroad. With a reactive, risk-averse approach to foreign policy along with a weaker second-term foreign-policy team, the Obama administration’s preferences and recent actions have magnified the issue considerably. The White House has made a handful of important missteps in the last year, even if many were at least partially the product of circumstance. The NSA scandal in the wake of the Snowden revelations has undermined the United States around the world. The need for attention at home amidst congressional infighting, a government shutdown, and the Obamacare rollout fiasco has come with significant foreign-policy opportunity cost—perhaps most importantly, Obama’s need to miss the APEC summit. Obama’s vacillation on whether to strike Syria undermined US credibility, and when the chance for a chemical-weapons agreement arose (thanks to an internationally engaged Vladimir Putin…), Obama jumped at the chance to take the deal and chalk it up as a justification for Washington remaining a spectator to the broader civil war.
Add all of these factors together and it seems that a perfect storm of US foreign policy decline is brewing. A poorly defined, more risk-averse US role in the world has allies frustrated with and uncertain about Washington’s longstanding policy preferences and commitments. They are actively questioning some American security guarantees and worrying about Washington’s reluctance to deploy military, economic, and diplomatic capital.
This new period of uncertainty for American foreign policy will impact US relations with countries around the world—but by no means equally. Despite their consternation, America’s closest allies don’t have viable alternatives. Mexico and Canada are far too economically integrated with the US to effectively hedge the relationship with outreach to other major powers. For Japan, Israel and the UK—the United States’ preeminent ally in each of their respective regions—the same is true strategically. As a result, they are particularly exposed in an increasingly leaderless world order.
That’s not the case, though, for the US’s second-tier allies, who have flexibility in structuring their strategic partnerships. This a much larger group, including Germany, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Brazil, and Indonesia. All have governments that consider it unwise to bet too fully on the US, and they are preparing to hedge their position by shifting their international orientation accordingly.
The prime example is the deterioration in US-Saudi relations. In recent months, the Saudi leadership has rejected a seat on the UN Security Council and penned forceful op-eds in Western publications, explaining Saudi consternation with American policy in the Middle East—the Iran nuclear deal in particular—and the need for Saudi Arabia to “go it alone.” The Brazilians and Germans have been particularly vocal in their opposition to NSA practices in the wake of the discovery that their leaders’ personal emails had been monitored by US intelligence.
The implications of these shifting alliances will be stark. US corporations are primed for new challenges. Post-Snowden, American firms that rely on collecting or sharing information, such as telecoms, banks and credit-card companies, may encounter a more hostile regulatory environment in countries like France, Germany and Brazil. US defense companies selling into countries such as Turkey and the Gulf states could also find themselves on the losing end of a tilt away from the United States. And expect Washington’s multilateral agenda to suffer, as “coalitions of the willing” become harder to establish and important trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership lose some momentum. Confusion over US commitments will complicate choices for countries balancing security and economic interests between the US and China; some Asian governments may align more closely with Beijing. And as the US is no longer perceived as a credible driver of the single global marketplace, a weakening of international standards is likely in the years to come. We might see faster fragmentation of the Internet, more disjointed financial regulation, a weaker NATO, and an even more fragmented global environment.
But despite its waning foreign-policy engagement, the US is not in economic decline.Investors continue to look past America’s many challenges and bet heavily on the US economy.In fact, driven by an energy revolution, game-changing technologies in diverse sectors, favorable demographics, and strong underlying political and social stability, the American economic story remains among the most dynamic and exciting in the world.The United States may be hamstrung by issues such as its yawning gap between rich and poor and its increasingly ineffectual secondary-education system, but for now at least, corporate investment and international support for the US dollar remain robust. So despite Washington’s inconsistencies on the international stage, America’s allies—and the international community—are set to struggle with it most.
In 2014, as emerging markets look inward and American foreign policy goes wayward, the only certainty is that international coordination is eroding. That will generate a more volatile global landscape and unforeseen crises.
Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group, global research professor at New York University and a contributing editor at The National Interest.
Image: Flickr/Beverly Goodwin. CC BY 2.0.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda [AP]
|Turkish fighter jets have hit a convoy belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Syria, according to a local media report quoting a statement from the Turkish military.A report on Turkey’s Todays Zaman website said that Turkish F-16s struck a number of ISIL vehicles “after militants opened fire on a military outpost” on the Turkey-Syria border on Wednesday.
Broadcaster NTV said Turkish troops opened fire on the ISIL positions after a mortar shell fired from Syria landed in Turkish territory during clashes between ISIL and the Free Syrian Army.
The broadcaster said a pickup truck, a lorry and a bus were destroyed in the Turkish retaliation, but there were no reports of casualties.
Contradicting Todays Zaman, NTV said the attack occured on Tuesday evening,
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said the report, if true, would represent “a considerable and significant escalation” in tensions between Ankara and such groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish media have cited a two-day escalation in hostilities between the sides, but until now the Turkish military had only retaliated with tanks and artillery fire, our correspondent noted.
“These are fighters who on many occasions Turkey has turned a blind eye to,” said McNaught. “…Turkey is now fighting against the people [who] they have allowed to pass into Syria.”
Media Spin Machine in High Gear: Top Three Media Lies About the Syrian Peace Talks | Global Research
The media spin machine is again kicking into high gear, perfectly timed to accompany the “Geneva II” Syria peace talks. The lies are necessary to give the Obama administration an upper hand in the peace negotiations, which are not being used to pursue peace, but instead, to accomplish the Obama administration’s longstanding goal of Syrian regime change. Here are the top three Western media lies about the Syrian peace talks.
1) The removal of Syrian Bashar al-Assad was an agreed upon “precondition” for the Geneva II peace talks.
This lie has been repeated over and over by government and media alike. It has zero basis. The Obama administration claims that this precondition was expressed in the “Geneva communiqué,” which was a road map agreement meant to guide the Geneva II peace talks, agreed upon by some of the major parties of the negotiations, including Russia.
The communiqué does indeed call for a negotiated political transition, but nowhere does it state that such a transition cannot include President Assad. Such a condition would have been outright rejected by Russia.
In fact, the Geneva communiqué includes this crucial statement:
“[a transition government] could include members of the present [Syrian] government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.” Nowhere does it specifically mention or imply President Assad.
The Los Angeles Times recently stepped out of line and exposed this lie:
“[John] Kerry regularly cites the “Geneva communiqué,” a kind of peace road map hammered out in June 2012 during a United Nations-organized summit. But the document does not explicitly call for Assad’s ouster.”
The Obama administration’s constant repeating of this lie only causes divisions in the peace process, undermining the chances that the peace process will succeed.
The Obama administration is especially adamant about this “Assad must go” pre-condition because it knows that, if free and fair elections were held tomorrow in Syria — as part of a UN-backed “transitional process”— President Assad would likely win. This is the result of the ethnic and religious minorities in Syria that have rallied behind President Assad, since they’ve witnessed the consistent religious sectarian atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed rebels (which the U.S. media loves to ignore or minimize).
Assad would probably win an election since there is also simply no one else on the government side or the opposition side with his name recognition or popularity. The U.S.-backed rebel war in Syria has vastly strengthened Assad’s political hand, but you wouldn’t know it from the Western, anti-Syrian media.
Demanding Assad’s ouster also does not reflect the situation on the ground. The U.S.-backed rebels have never controlled more than one Syrian city, namely Raqaa, which is dominated by al-Qaeda and is governed under a Taliban-style interpretation of Islamic law, which includes a strict ban on music. Thus, the rebels don’t have the ground power that would even enable them to make the demand that “Assad must go”.
2) The U.S.-backed rebel militias are “moderate” Islamic groups.
The fact that this lie can even be uttered publicly without encountering ridicule is a major success of Western media propaganda. The media narrative paints the U.S.-backed “good” rebels fighting both the Syrian government and the “bad” al-Qaeda linked rebels.
But the “good” rebels in the U.S.-backed Islamic Front share the same vision for Syria’s future as the al-Qaeda rebels: a fundamentalist version of Sharia law, where women live in virtual house arrest and where religious minorities are second class citizens (non-Sunni Muslims would simply be butchered, as they are on a regular basis in Syria, which is again minimized or ignored in the Western media.)
The “moderate rebel” lie was further exposed recently when a top leader in the most powerful militia, Ahrar al Sham, within the Islamic Front declared Ahrar al Sham to be the “real” representative of al-Qaeda in Syria, as opposed to the rival al-Qaeda faction that the Islamic Front had recently begun fighting.
Ahrar al Sham has long been known to be an al-Qaeda type Islamist extremist group; the Western media simply chose to ignore it. But when it was recently made official, the U.S. media chose to continue its ignoring stance, since actually reporting on it would destroy their “moderate rebel” lie. The Western media also continues to ignore the fact that the “moderate” U.S.-backed Islamic Front issued a joint statement that aligned itself to the extremist views of Ahrar al Sham, the “real” al-Qaeda.
3) New Evidence of Syrian government “industrial scale” torture.
The Western media recently blasted the “breaking news” of brand new evidence showing massive “NAZI-like” torture and murder by the Syrian government, released at the beginning of the Syrian peace talks. This may or may not be true, but the lie here is that the Western media promoted the “evidence” as being unquestionably true, when the story doesn’t reach first base when it comes to evidence-based journalism.
All we really know is that there are hundreds of pictures of dead people that a “trusted source” says were killed by the Syrian government. The trusted source was designated as such by pro-Western intellectuals, who have earned professional “credibility” by helping convict war criminals in the International Criminal Court [ICC]. But as author Diane Johnstone pointed out in her excellent book “Fools Crusade,” about the war against Yugoslavia — as well as in other articles — the ICC has long been used by western powers as a tool to create a pretext for war, or a tool to justify a war after the fact.
The evidence of the “NAZI-like” atrocities was written in a study paid for by the government of Qatar, which has long funneled cash, guns, and Jihadis to Syria in aid of the anti-government rebels.
Again, we don’t know if the story is true or not. But such an important investigation should be conducted by the UN or another more objective institution. The same biased dynamic occurred in relation to the infamous chemical weapons attack, where no real evidence was provided, though an unending string of “experts” were quoted in the Western media, testifying to the guilt of the Syrian Government. But when Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the Obama administration lied about the rebels not having the capacity to perform such an attack, the Western media simply ignored the legend of journalism. The wrench in the propaganda machine was simply dislodged.
How do these lies become such permanent fixtures in the Western media? An excellent article in the Guardian newspaper recently discussed in depth the principal sources the Western media has used to understand the Syrian conflict.
The article exposed the incredible bias of some of the most important Western media sources on Syria, which is why they were handpicked in the first place to be “expert” sources: they had political agendas that were aligned with the U.S. government’s foreign policy decisions. The other side of the conflict was completely ignored, except when it was targeted for ridicule. Thus, Americans and Europeans have a completely one-sided, if not fantasy-based perspective of what is happening in Syria. This has been systematic since the beginning of the conflict, as happened with the Yugoslav, Afghan, Iraq, and Libya wars.
The result of this media-led ignorance could result in yet more unnecessary deaths in a country that now has millions of refugees and over a 100,000 dead. Obama seems like he intends to exploit these peace talks with the intention of blaming the Syrian government for their failure. Having failed to defeat Assad on the battlefield in a proxy war, the Obama administration is trying to win the propaganda war. And once peace talks have failed, talk of war will resume, since “all other options have failed.”
In a recently released and conveniently timed report, complete with references to Nazi Germany and concentration camps, efforts to ramp up support for a “tough line” against Syria at the upcoming Geneva II conference and even possible military intervention, are once again moving into high gear. The report, compiled by three British war crime prosecutors and three “forensic experts” claims that it has demonstrable proof that the Assad government is guilty of torturing and killing over ten thousand people.
The report (accessed here) claims to show evidence of physical torture, murder, and starvation.
Of course, the Syrian government denies the veracity of the claims of the report and Western media outlets repeat the claims as incontrovertible proof.
A Syrian military police photographer has supplied “clear evidence” showing the systematic torture and killing of about 11,000 detainees in circumstances that evoked Nazi death camps, former war crimes prosecutors said.
Syrian officials could face war crimes charges as a result of the evidence provided by the photographer, who has defected, the three prosecutors said.
One of the prosecutors said the evidence documented “industrial scale killing” that was reminiscent of the World War II concentration camps of Belsen and Auschwitz.
The trove of harrowing photographs ratchets up the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who the United States and its Western allies say has committed war crimes against his own people during the civil war.
55,000 images provided by the photographer, who fled Syria after passing the pictures to Assad’s opponents, show emaciated and mutilated corpses.
Bearing signs of torture, some of the corpses had no eyes. Others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution.
“There is clear evidence, capable of being believed by a tribunal of fact in a court of law, of systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government,” the three prosecutors said in the 31-page report.
“Such evidence would support findings of crimes against humanity against the current Syrian regime. Such evidence could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime,” they said.
However, while the final determination of whether or not these claims are accurate is yet to be made, there exist ample reasons to question the assertions made in the report.
1. The Gulf State Feudal Monarchy Qatar is the sponsor of the report. Qatar is, of course, one of the major sponsors of the Syrian invasion (aka the Syrian “rebels”) and has played a massively important role in financing, training, arming, and directing the death squads currently being mopped up by the Assad government.
2. The source of the report. One would be justified in questioning the nature of the report since the sole source of the material comes by virtue of an allegedly “defected Syrian military police officer” who was apparently fine with photographing thousands of dead victims for over a year until now. Regardless of the possibility for such a “moral” conversion, taking information from a “defected” member of government forces once again returns us to the realm of the “activists say” school of journalism – a notorious method used by Western media outlets to promote the side of the death squads and only the side of the death squads as fact in popular reports.
3. Past claims of Assad’s “Crimes Against Humanity.” It is important to remember past experiences with Western claims against Assad for alleged “crimes against humanity,” all of which turned out to have been committed by the death squads, not the Syrian government. From theHoula massacre to the Ghouta chemical weapons attacks, the Syrian government has been exonerated by all credible evidence. The death squads, however, have been proven guilty by virtue of their own video tapes and Youtube accounts, guilty of some of the most horrific acts imaginable. While many innocent people have no doubt been killed in the crossfire between the military and the death squads, the Western media has done everything in its power to place the blood of each and every death inside Syria in the hands of the government.
Let us also not forget the other famous Codename, “Curveball,” that played a major role in the initiation of a previous and still ongoing conflict that was later admitted to be a fabrication. Being fooled by the same type of propaganda twice in ten years is indeed a humiliation too great for a country to bear.
4.) Possibility that the death squads could have killed the victims shown in the report. The victims shown in the report have clearly been abused and starved. However, before jumping to conclusions about just how these unfortunate individuals met their fate, perhaps it would be a good idea to look back at the context of the victims. As mentioned earlier, the death squads operating in Syria are no strangers to crimes against humanity, murder, and torture. In fact, they have been both the initiators of such depravity and overwhelmingly the largest proprietors of it.
Furthermore, the fact that the victims were starved does not necessarily mean that they were starved by the government. Indeed, it is important to remember that, due to the siege of a number of cities by both the military and the death squads as well as due to death squad cruelty and attempted cordoning off of specific areas, food shortage has been a serious concern in some areas for some time. There is also plentiful evidence of death squad groups killing innocent people and shipping their bodies to the places where cameras are set up, waiting for the recording of the propaganda piece. The Ghouta chemical attack is just one instance in which innocent civilians were captured and killed by the death squads and used as stage props for propaganda purposes.
Indeed, it is also important to remember that the death squads themselves are quite adept at keeping prisoners in atrocious conditions. Only a few months back, it was reported that the Syrian military was able to free a number of captive Syrian women from the hands of the death squads who had kept them in captivity in underground tunnels for months on end for the purposes of using them as sex slaves.
5.) The report was conveniently released just two days before the Geneva II Peace Conference meeting on Syria. After the retraction of an invitation to Iran to attend the peace conference, the Qatari-funded report was released just two days before the peace conference was scheduled to take place. With such evidence being studied and analyzed and a report being compiled, to believe that it was only a coincidence that the information was released two days before the conference is absurd. If this evidence was real and of such grave importance why are world leaders only learning of it now? If world leaders knew, why are we only learning of it now?
Considering all of the information provided in this article, taken in conjunction with the “convenient” timing of the release of the reports (convenient, at least, for the enemies of Syria), such reports should be taken with a large grain of salt.
The Western media has not only been wrong, but has lied on so many occasions in the past, that it cannot be expected to tell the truth now.
Recently from Brandon Turbeville:
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.