Tag Archives: Syria

US upset about Iran-Iraq-Syria alliance-US meddling fuels violence in Syria

Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah confirms the Lebanese resistance movement has sent a drone deep into the Israeli airspace evading radar systems.

The operation code-named Hussein Ayub saw Hezbollah’s drone fly hundreds of kilometers into the Israeli airspace and getting very close to Dimona nuclear plant without being detected by advanced Israeli and US radars, Nasrallah said during a televised speech late on Thursday.

“This is only part of our capabilities,” he stressed, adding that Israelis have admitted to their security failure despite being provided with the latest technologies by Western powers.

 

 

Hezbollah secretary-general stated that Hezbollah’s drones are made in Iran but assembled by the resistance movement.

Hezbollah plans to send more drones over Israel in the future, he added, adding that the operation shows the resistance movement is ready to defend Lebanon.

The resistance leader further dismissed Western accusations of Hezbollah's intervention in the Syrian unrest, describing the allegation as "sheer lie."

"Hezbollah has not fought alongside Syrian forces.... It is not true that Hezbollah is going to take some land from Syria," Nasrallah stated.

Hezbollah's leader also rejected allegations that Abu Abbas was the movement's commander in Syria, and condemned insurgents in Syria for threatening Lebanon.

"Threatening Hezbollah is of no use," he emphasized.

MRS/SS

Lebanon President Michel Sleiman says Hezbollah’s ability to send a drone over Israel shows the need for a new national defense strategy that uses the party’s strength in safeguarding the country.

“The process of dispatching a drone over Israeli enemy territory shows a dire need to approve a defense strategy that would look into the benefits of managing and making use of the resistance’s capabilities,” Sleiman said in a statement on Friday.

He added that Hezbollah’s potential should be used to “safeguard Lebanon and establish a mechanism for issuing a decision to use these capabilities exclusively and under any circumstances in line with national interests [of Lebanon] and the military's defense plans and needs.”

Sleiman’s comments came shortly after Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that the Lebanese resistance movement has sent a drone deep into the Israeli airspace evading radar systems.

The operation code-named Hussein Ayub saw Hezbollah’s drone fly hundreds of kilometers into the Israeli airspace and getting very close to Dimona nuclear plant without being detected by advanced Israeli and US radars.

"This is only part of our capabilities," Nasrallah said on Thursday.

Sleiman noted that daily Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty was a matter “of continuous complaints” made by Lebanon to the UN Security Council.

Israel violates Lebanon's airspace on an almost daily basis, claiming the flights serve surveillance purposes.

Lebanon's government, the Hezbollah resistance movement, and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, have repeatedly condemned the overflights, saying they are in clear violation of UN Resolution 1701 and the country's sovereignty.

PG/JR/SS

A prominent military analyst says the United States is deeply concerned about the alliance among Iran, Iraq and Syria and their stand against Israel, Press TV reports.

“There are deep concerns within the US that a coalition between Iran, Iraq and Syria will stand against Israel and Turkey which frankly is their long-serving surrogate since Ottoman times,” Gordon Duff said in an interview with Press TV on Friday.

He further stressed that there needs to be a no-fly-zone over Turkey “since they seem to have difficulty following international convention.”

Turkey has beefed up military defenses on its border with Syria over the past weeks, stationing tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and additional troops in the area.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on October 9 that Turkey’s armed forces would not hesitate to strike back in response to any strike on Turkish soil after the Turkish parliament authorized cross-border military action against Syria “when deemed right” On October 4.

Tensions have been running high between Syria and Turkey, with Damascus accusing Turkey -- along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- of backing a deadly insurgency that has claimed the lives of many Syrians, including security and army personnel.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011.

Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factors behind the unrest and deadly violence, but the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in August that the country is engaged in a “crucial and heroic” battle that will determine the destiny of the nation.

TNP/JR

A prominent military analyst says the United States is deeply concerned about the alliance among Iran, Iraq and Syria and their stand against Israel, Press TV reports.

“There are deep concerns within the US that a coalition between Iran, Iraq and Syria will stand against Israel and Turkey which frankly is their long-serving surrogate since Ottoman times,” Gordon Duff said in an interview with Press TV on Friday.

He further stressed that there needs to be a no-fly-zone over Turkey “since they seem to have difficulty following international convention.”

Turkey has beefed up military defenses on its border with Syria over the past weeks, stationing tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and additional troops in the area.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on October 9 that Turkey’s armed forces would not hesitate to strike back in response to any strike on Turkish soil after the Turkish parliament authorized cross-border military action against Syria “when deemed right” On October 4.

 

Tensions have been running high between Syria and Turkey, with Damascus accusing Turkey -- along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- of backing a deadly insurgency that has claimed the lives of many Syrians, including security and army personnel.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011.

Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factors behind the unrest and deadly violence, but the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in August that the country is engaged in a “crucial and heroic” battle that will determine the destiny of the nation.

TNP/JR


Using Al-Qaeda in Syria like sending Gitmo inmates to fight – Putin

 

In an RT global exclusive premiere, President Putin gives his first post-inauguration interview, speaking in depth with RT’s Kevin Owen ahead of the APEC summit in Vladivostok.

VIDEO LINK

Touching upon a range of issues, he discusses topics from the Pussy Riot trial to the Julian Assange case, from the upcoming US elections to the situation in Syria.

RT: What I want to talk about first of all is the ongoing at the moment APEC summit. You’ll be going there very shortly – in Vladivostok because it’s the first time that Russia has held it, a prestigious event. But it always begs the question – what’s actually achieved at these events, events like that, like the G8, G20?

Now, though APEC is primarily an economic vessel, there’s a lot of politics involved as well. And of course a lot of the key players including you, including America, a lot of key players disagree on some very key issues. I’m thinking about Syria, I’m thinking about missile defense, I’m thinking about Iran. Is there a danger that the politics may stifle, get in the way of the big economic deals that the very same key players are hoping to sign at this summit or at least talk about signing?

President Putin: That is true. But in fact – and you’ve just said it yourself – APEC was originally conceived as a forum for discussing economic issues. And as this year’s host country, we also intend to focus on economic and socio-economic challenges.

APEC was originally established with the overall objective of liberalizing the global economy. And we intend to make this a key issue on the agenda in Vladivostok.

When I invited our counterparts, five years ago, to meet for this forum particularly in the Russian Federation, my rationale was to acknowledge the importance of this area for Russia, given that two-thirds of Russia’s territory are located in Asia, and yet the bulk of our foreign trade – more than 50 percent – is with Europe, whereas Asia only accounts for 24 percent. Meanwhile, Asia is developing rapidly and intensively. You and I know it, and everybody knows it. Therefore, we are planning to focus primarily on economic challenges, transport, global food security and the task of liberalizing the global economy. It’s a well-known fact that the past year has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people affected by starvation, which has grown by 200 million. This means that 1 billion people worldwide are currently suffering from food shortages or famine. I believe this is the kind of issue that will be the focus of attention, along with a number of other challenges that are highly sensitive and significant for millions of people.

As far as Syria and other hot spots are concerned – issues that are currently in the limelight – we will certainly address them in our deliberations at the forum, in bilateral discussions or otherwise. They won’t be overlooked.
Now Russia is full WTO member, APEC summit affects millions of people

RT: Do you think there should be more practical outcomes though? Is it too much of a talking show – events like APEC?

Putin: You know, I attended the G20 meeting in Mexico just recently. As a rule, such meetings are pre-arranged and pre-discussed by our aides and ministers and high-ranking experts, and still there are certain issues that eventually come into focus for the heads of states attending. And in fact, that’s how it was in Mexico. I was very interested to follow discussions and look at conflicting opinions, and I participated in some of those discussions. I think the coming forum will see just as many debates. But it’s only through this kind of meticulous, hard work – year after year and quarter after quarter, if not day-by-day, if you excuse my officialeese – that we can eventually arrive at acceptable solutions to sensitive issues such as, say, liberalizing trade. Because this is an issue that affects millions of people. You know the issues debated within the framework of the World Trade Organization, and the coming APEC summit are so immensely important for us, partly because Russia is now a full member of the WTO. We have also established a Customs Union and a Common Economic Space in the post-Soviet territory jointly with Belarus and Kazakhstan. And dialogue is very important for us, so that we can explain to our partners and help them realize how this kind of association in the post-Soviet area could be beneficial and helpful. Especially since the vehicles I’ve mentioned have been established based on WTO principles.
Concerned by Syrian hostilities, but also by consequences of certain decisions

RT: Ok, thanks for explaining that. We’re going to come back to APEC a little bit later if we may, but you touched on another big subject in headlines, the horrendous events that have been unfolding in Syria over the last 18 months now. Russia’ position has been steadfast all the way along the line. Here you’ve said there should be no foreign intervention and it should be the Syrian people who do the deciding and it should be done through diplomacy. However, that’s a great idea, but day in day out innocent lives are being lost on both sides. Is it time for something more than talking? Should Russia be reassessing its position maybe now?

Putin: How come Russia is the only one who’s expected to revise its stance? Don’t you think our counterparts in negotiations ought to revise theirs as well? Because if we look back at the events in the past few years, we’ll see that quite a few of our counterparts’ initiatives have not played out the way they were intended to.

Take the examples of the numerous countries ridden by escalating internal conflict. The US and its allies went into Afghanistan, and now they’re all thinking about how to get out of there. If there’s anything on the table, it’s the issue of assisting them in withdrawing their troops and hardware from Afghanistan through our transit routes.

Now, are you sure that the situation there will be stable for decades to come? So far, no one is confident about it.

And look at what’s going on in Arab countries. There have been notable developments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, etc. Would you say that order and prosperity have been totally ensured for these nations? And what’s going on in Iraq?

In Libya, there are armed clashes still raging among the country’s various tribes. I won’t even mention the way the country had its regime changed: this is a separate topic. What concerns us, and I want to emphasize this once again, is the current hostilities in Syria. But at the same time, we are just as concerned about the possible consequences of certain decisions, should they be taken.

In our opinion, the most important task today is, ending the violence. We must urge all the warring parties, including the government and the so-called rebels, the armed opposition, to sit down at the negotiating table and decide on a future that would guarantee security for all stakeholders in Syria. Only then should they get down to any practical measures regarding the country’s future governance system. We realize that this country needs a change, but this doesn’t mean that change should come with bloodshed.
We should stop trying to impose unacceptable, dead-end solutions to Syrian crisis

RT: OK, well, given the facts regarding Syria that you see on the table now, what is the next step? What do you realistically think is going to happen next?

Putin: We told our partners we would like to sit down together at the negotiating table in Geneva. And when we did, together we charted a roadmap for further action that would help bring peace to Syria and channel developments down a more constructive path. We received almost unanimous support and shared the talks’ results with the Syrian government. But then the rebels actually refused to recognize those decisions; and many of the negotiating parties have also quietly backed down.

I believe that the first thing to do is to stop shipping arms into the warzone, which is still going on. We should stop trying to impose unacceptable solutions on either side, because it is a dead-end. That’s what we should do. It is that simple.

Luckily, we generally enjoy friendly relations with the Arab world, but we would like to stay away from Islamic sectarian conflict, or interfere in a showdown involving the Sunnis, the Shia, theAlawis and so on. We treat everyone with equal respect. We also get on well with Saudi Arabia and other countries; I have cultivated a warm personal relationship with the custodian of two Islamic shrines. The only underlying motive behind our stance is the desire to create a favorable environment for the situation to develop positively in years to come.

RT: What are your thoughts about the United Nations and the way the United Nations has reacted particularly in Syria. There’s been criticism that it’s failed to deliver a unified front if you like and has become more of a figurehead organization. Do you share that view?

Putin: Quite the contrary, I would say. My take on the issue is the absolute opposite of what you have just said. If the United Nations and the Security Council had indeed turned into a mere rubberstamping tool for any one of the member states, it would have ceased to exist, just like the League of Nations did. But the reality is that the Security Council and the UN are meant to be a tool for compromise. Seeking to achieve it is a long and complex process, but only hard work can yield us fruit.

Using Al-Qaeda to fight in Syria perilous, one may as well give guns to Gitmo inmates

RT: Understood. Mr. President, another question I’d like to ask you – a number of Western and Arab nations have been covertly … with supporting the FSA, the Free Syrian Army – indeed, some of them are doing it openly now. Of course the catch here is that the FSA is suspected of hiring known Al-Qaeda fighters amongst their ranks. So the twist in this tale is that a lot of those countries are actually sponsoring terrorism, if you like, in Syria, countries that have suffered from terrible terrorism themselves. Is that a fair assessment?

Putin: You know, when someone aspires to attain an end they see as optimal, any means will do. As a rule, they will try and do that by hook or by crook – and hardly ever think of the consequences. That was the case during the war in Afghanistan, when the Soviet Union invaded in 1979. At that time, our present partners supported a rebel movement there and basically gave rise to Al Qaeda, which later backfired on the United States itself.

Today some want to use militants from Al Qaeda or some other organizations with equally radical views to accomplish their goals in Syria. This policy is dangerous and very short-sighted. In that case, one should unlock Guantanamo, arm all of its inmates and bring them to Syria to do the fighting – it’s practically the same kind of people. But what we should bear in mind is that one day these people will get back at their former captors. On the other hand, these same people should bear in mind that they will eventually end up in a new prison, very much like the one off the Cuban shore.

I would like to emphasize that this policy is very short-sighted and is fraught with dire consequences.

Too early to say if Arab Spring is a blessing or a curse

RT: I’d like to broaden that a little bit now, a little bit wider from Syria. You touched upon Syria. Syria is in the middle of a civil war, we’re seeing conflicts in Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia. Ok, things are a bit calmer in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, you mentioned it just now. But standing back from it overall, all the troubles that we’ve seen in the Middle East, all the turmoil there – has it been at all for the good or for the bad, where does it put that region now?

Putin: You know, we can discuss this into the small hours and still run out of time. For me, it’s a clear that these events have a historic logic. The leaders of these countries have obviously overlooked the need for change and missed ongoing trends at home and abroad, so they failed to produce the reforms which would have saved the day. All these events simply logically stem from this background. Whether this is a blessing or a curse with many negative implications, is now too early to say. In any case, the lack of a civilized approach, the high level of violence has so far stood in the way of any sustainable political structures which would help solve economic and social problems in societies hit by those events. This is what causes a lot of concern for the future. Because the people in these countries, who have had enough of their previous regimes, clearly expect the new governments to begin with tackling their social and economic problems in a competent way. But with no political stability, these problems cannot be solved.

Russia, US reliable partners and allies for each other

RT: Let’s turn now to the United States, the upcoming election there, which we are all looking forward to very much. Of course now the re-set button with Russia was firmly pushed by Barack Obama over the last 4 years, but its saw its ups and downs, and there’s still that missile defense shield that’s a headache for Russia in the East of Europe. If Obama does win a second term, what’s going to define the next chapter of Russia and America’s relations and is it chapter you can do business with?

Putin: I believe that over the last four years Presidents Obama and Medvedev have made a lot of progress in strengthening Russia-US relations. We have signed the new START treaty. Backed by the US, Russia has become a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization. There have been more reasons to be optimistic about our bilateral relations: our strengthened cooperation in combating terrorism and organized crime, in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction and others. In other words, we have accumulated quite a lot of positive experience.

But the issue you mentioned – the US missile defense system – is surely one of the key issues on today’s agenda because it involves Russia’s vital interests. Scholars and experts understand that a unilateral solution will not enhance global stability. In essence, the intention is to upset the strategic balance, which is a very dangerous thing to do, as any involved party will always strive to maintain its defensive capabilities, and the entire thing could simply trigger off an arms race. Is it possible to find a solution to the problem, if president Obama is re-elected for a second term? In principle, yes, it is. But this isn’t just about president Obama. For all I know, his desire to work out a solution is quite sincere.

I met him recently on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico where we had a chance to talk. And though we talked mostly about Syria, I had the chance to feel the mood of my counterpart. My feeling is that he is a sincere man and that he sincerely wants to implement positive change. But can he do it, will they let him do it? I mean that there is also the military lobby, and the Department of State, which is quite conservative. By the way it is fairly similar to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. They are run by a number of professional clans who have been working there for decades. The thing is that in order to solve the missile defense issue, we both need to accept as an axiom that ‘yes, we are reliable partners and allies for each other’. Let’s imagine for a second we have the solution – that means that from now on we jointly assess missile threats and control this defense system together. This is a highly sensitive area of national defense. I am not sure that our partners are ready for this kind of cooperation.

RT: Is there anything that Russia can do to try and meet in the middle, to give a better ground?

Putin: We did what we could. We said, let’s do it together. Our partners are so far refusing to go along. What else can we do? We can maintain dialogue. That’s exactly what we will be doing, but naturally, as our American partners proceed with developing their own missile defense we shall have to think of how we can defend ourselves and preserve the strategic balance. By the way, America’s European allies (who also happen to be Russia’s partners) have nothing to do with it. I believe that as a European national, you should understand it. This is a purely American missile defense system, and a strategic one at that, with its European elements pushed to the periphery. You see, Europe, just like Russia, is not allowed to take part in either assessing missile threats or controlling the system. Our original proposal was to develop it as a three-party solution, but our partners have not agreed to it.

Romney effectively aiming US missile shield at Russia already

RT: Ok. So, we think you can work with Barack Obama if he gets in. What about if Mitt Romney gets in? Look, I’ve got some quotes here from just a month or two ago. This is the man that if he makes it to the White House said, “Russia is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst” and he went on to say “Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage.” Could you work with him, sir?

Putin: Yes, we can. We’ll work with whichever president is elected by the American people. But our effort will only be as efficient as our partners will want it to be.

As for Mr. Romney’s position, we understand that this is to a certain extent motivated by election campaign rhetoric, but I also think that he was obviously wrong, because such behavior on the international arena is the same as using nationalism and segregation as tools of US domestic policy. Its effect on the international arena is the same, when a politician, a person who aspires to lead a nation, especially a great country like the U.S., declares someone to be an enemy a priori. And by the way, this brings something else to mind.

When we talk about the missile defense system, our American partners keep telling us, “This is not directed against you.” But what happens if Mr. Romney, who believes us to be America’s number one foe, is elected as president of the United States? In that case, the missile defence system will definitely be directed against Russia as it is technologically configured exactly for this purpose.

And you also have to think about its strategic character, it’s built not for a year or even a decade, and the chances that a man with Romney’s views could come to power are quite high. So what are we supposed to do to ensure our security?

Magnitsky death used by some to make an enemy of Russia

RT: I’d like to talk about the latest developments in the Magnitsky case for a moment now, both the US and Britain, Britain most recently are working on this list of Russian officials, Russian citizens that they say are responsible for his death. He was a high ranking finance lawyer who died in a Russian jail, I’ll just explain for our viewers. Why is there still such a perception abroad that this wasn’t dealt with here in Russia, that the people responsible hadn’t been dealt with properly. Why does this keep rumbling on?

Putin: You see… there are people who need an enemy, they are looking for an opponent to fight against. Do you know how many people die while in prison in those countries which have condemned Russia? The numbers are huge! Look at the U.S. that came up with the so-called Magnitsky list. As you know, there is no death penalty in Russia while the U.S. still keeps it on the books. Anyone, including women can be executed. At the same time, all civilized societies know that judicial errors can occur in capital punishment cases, even when people plead guilty. It turns out later on that the convict did not commit the crime.

But that’s one thing. More importantly, I think only God has the right to take life away. But I don’t want to go too much into it right now – there’s a lot of philosophy in it. But with that in mind, we could have come up with our own black list, and more than one, of people who use the death penalty in other countries. But we choose not to do it.

As for Mr. Magnitsky, it is certainly a great tragedy that he died in prison. And there certainly must be a thorough investigation. If someone is guilty, they must be punished. But what I want to emphasize is that there is absolutely no political context to this case. It is a tragedy, but it only has to do with crime and legal procedure, not politics. No more than that.

Still, someone’s looking to spoil relations with Russia. They have banned some Russian officials that are allegedly involved in the death of Mr. Magnitsky from entering their country. Of course, I do regret his death and offer my condolences to his family.

But what should Russia do in such cases? Take appropriate steps and similarly list officials of the country that introduces such measures against Russia. Like that…

RT:And to make it perfectly clear, this case won’t be re-examined by Russia?

Putin: Which case? What needs to be re-tried? We must only find out whether someone’s guilty of his death or not. And if someone’s guilty and responsible for the death in some way, that person should be held accountable. That’s it. Again, there is no politics behind it. It’s the job of the law enforcement professionals to look into it.

And of course, the Russian authorities are going to do that. The Prosecutor’s Office is working on it now.

I try to stay as far away from PussyRiot case as possible

RT: Ok and now I’d like to talk about the trial and jailing of Pussy Riot, that punk group band. There’s been much criticism that the sentence handed down was too strong, too much and that the whole case was too big a deal off and that it actually back fired and has brought more people to their cause with the publicity. With hind sight , always a beautiful thing, but with hindsight do you think the case could have been handled differently?

Putin: You’ve been working in Russia for a while now and maybe know some Russian. Could you please translate the name of the band into Russian?

RT: Pussy Riot the punk band,I don’t know what you would call them in Russian Sir, but may be you could tell me!

Putin: Can you translate the first word into Russian? Or maybe it would sound too obscene? Yes, I think you wouldn’t do it because it sounds too obscene, even in English.

RT: I actually thought it was referring to a cat, but I’m getting your point here. Do you think the case was handled wrongly in any way, could some lesson have been learned?

Putin: I know you understand it perfectly well, you don’t need to pretend you don’t get it. It’s just because these people made everyone say their band’s name too many times. It’s obscene – but forget it.

Here’s what I would like to say. I have always felt that punishment should be proportionate to the offence. I am not in a position now and would not like, anyway, to comment on the decision of a Russian court, but I would rather talk about the moral side of the story.

First, in case you never heard of it, a couple of years ago one of the band’s members put up three effigies in one of Moscow’s big supermarkets, with a sign saying that Jews, gays and migrant workers should be driven out of Moscow. I think the authorities should have looked into their activities back then. After that, they staged an orgy in a public place. Of course, people are allowed to do whatever they want to do, as long as it’s legal, but this kind of conduct in a public place should not go unnoticed by the authorities. Then they uploaded the video of that orgy on the internet. You know some fans of group sex say it’s better than one-on-one because, like in any team, you don’t need to hit the ball all the time.

Again, it’s okay if you do what you like privately, but I wouldn’t be that certain about uploading your acts on the internet. It could be the subject of legal assessment, too.

Then they turned up at Yelokhovo Cathedral, here in Moscow, causing unholy mayhem, and went to another cathedral and caused mayhem there, too.

You know, Russians still have painful memories of the early years of Soviet rule, when thousands of Orthodox, Muslim, as well as clergy of other religions were persecuted. Soviet authorities brutally repressed the clergy. Many churches were destroyed. The attacks had a devastating effect on all our traditional religions. And so in general I think the state has to protect the feelings of believers.

I will not comment on whether the verdict is well-grounded and the sentence proportionate to the offence. These girls must have lawyers who defend their interests in court. They have the right to file an appeal and demand a new hearing. But it’s up to them, it’s just a legal issue.

RT: Is it realistic at all they will get some sort of early release?

Putin: I don’t know whether their lawyers have filed an appeal or not. I don’t follow the case that closely. If they appeal, a higher court is empowered to take any decision. To be honest, I try to stay as far away from the case as possible. I know the details but I do not want to get into it.

RT: There’s concern here and abroad that Russia has been suffering a clamp down on the opposition since you returned as President. There’s tighter defamation law, upping the fines for defamation, internet censorship laws brought into protect children. All these introduced under your watch. What’s the balance do you think between a healthy opposition and maintaining law and order? what’s your view?

Putin: So is it true then that other countries don’t have laws that ban child pornography, including online?

RT: Indeed they do.

Putin: So they do? Well, we didn’t, until recently. And if we began to protect our society and our children from these offences…

I just do what I think is right for Russia and Russians

RT: May be it was the timing of the introduction? It may have seemed a bit heavy handed as you came back to power again.

Putin: You know, I try not to think about it. I just do what I think is right for this country and for its people. And that’s how I will work in the future. Of course, I am aware of how my steps resonate globally, but this cannot dictate my policies. Any steps we take are in the interests of the Russian people, and our children need this kind of protection. No-one is going to use this as a tool to restrict the Internet or online freedoms, but we have the right to protect our children.

If we talk of what some call a clamp-down … We should clarify what we’re talking about. If we understand it as a simple requirement that everyone, including the opposition, complies with Russian law, then this requirement will be consistently enforced.

You might also remember the mass riots that shocked the UK some year ago. A lot of people were injured and lot of property damaged. Is it better to let things deteriorate to that state and then spend a year tracking down people and locking them up? I think it’s best not to let things go this far? That’s my first point.

Now to my second point. Let me now get down to the hard facts. You must know that a year ago I backed reform that will see Russian governors elected, and not appointed, as previously, through secret ballot. But I also took the next step. After taking office, I introduced a new bill on elections to the Upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament. These specific steps will pave the way for a more democratic Russia, and it’s true both for its people and its state. There have been other proposals initiated too, including changes in the law-making process.

The State Duma is now considering using public initiatives on major national issues submitted via the Internet as a source of new legislation. If a draft bill is supported by 100,000 web votes, it will then be discussed in the State Duma. Right now we are looking into how to put this idea into practice. There are other major proposals as well. We seek to make our society more advanced and more democratic and we intend to be consistent in following this path.

RT: We started off our talk by talking about the forthcoming APEC summit which you are off to very shortly. When you are there you’ll be meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. You won’t be meeting Barak Obama because he’s not there, Hilary Clinton will be. Is that a sign of how he regards APEC? We know he’s busy but is it a sign of how he regards it? And is it a sign that China is increasingly becoming a bigger geopolitical and commercial partner for you?

Putin: China is indeed becoming a global economic and political hub. This is part of a global trend, with new centers emerging on the political and economic landscape. This is an obvious fact for everyone; the question is the pace of change. China has taken up this new leading role not only in Russia’s eyes, but also in the eyes of the whole world. What makes us rather special, however, is that Russia and China are neighbors, and our special relations took thousands of years to evolve to where we are now. We have been through times of sunshine which were very beneficial for both countries. We have also been through periods of gloom and conflict. Presently, Russia-China relations are at an unprecedented high, and we share mutual trust both in politically and economically. Over the coming years we are bound to achieve a 100 bln dollar turnover rate. To put this in perspective, currently Europe makes up 51% of Russia’s foreign trade, which amounts to over 200 bln dollars. That will be a serious push forward.

Our American partners told us long ago that Barack Obama will not attend the summit. The reason is the election race in the U.S., we think it’s okay. The U.S. will still be represented at a high level. So, yes, we’ve known that for several months now, and we fully understand the reasons. Anyway, this will be a great summit, with top officials coming from twenty countries – heads of states and governments. Of course, it’s a pity that the U.S. president cannot come this time, but nothing doing. I think if he really had the opportunity, he would not miss it, because it’s a good event for the U.S. to talk not only with us but also with other Asia-Pacific partners.

Anyway, I met Barack Obama earlier, as I said, in Mexico, and had a chance to discuss our bilateral ties and exchange opinions on the major global issues. So we do continue our dialogue.

Fight against corruption complicated, but we carry on

RT:Domestically again I’d like to talk about corruption. It’s a word that comes up time and time again here in Russia. You have talked about it before but most notably the previous president was really putting it at the top of his list of thing to sort out. However when Dmitry Medvedev left office as president he reported modest success at tackling it. How serious a problem do you think corruption is here in Russia in 2012 and what are you going to do about it?

Putin: Corruption is a problem for any country. And by the way you will find it in any country, be it in Europe or in the United States. They have legalized many things. Let’s take the private corporate lobby – what is it, is it corruption or not? It’s legalized and so formally is okay, within the law. But that depends on how you look at it. Therefore I will repeat that this problem is an issue for many countries.

More important is the level and scope of corruption. In our case, they are quite high. But this is typical of transition economies. The reason is that while new economic models are evolving many things are not yet adjusted or aligned, and the state is not always in control. There are also value issues, especially when we move from a socialist mindset and planned economy values to eternal values. This is a complicated process, especially if the new market facilitates rapid wealth acquisition for some particular circles or groups of people. This is something that is perceived painfully and with reprehension. The average person then starts thinking: if it is okay for those people to earn billions in a couple of years, why is it not okay for me to do this or that even if it isn’t exactly in sync with the law and moral values?

All this undermines the very foundation of the campaign against corruption. This is a very difficult process. But undoubtedly this is an essential part of our agenda, and we shall continue our efforts in this area.

RT: There are a big list of causes you have cited where do you begin to go about tackling it, and when is there going to be some sort of sea change, when will it get better if you like?

Putin: What we need to start with is to make our entire society detest the very notion of corruption. Corruption is a two-way process, with two sides to it, the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker, and it often happens that bribe-givers are even more active than the bribe-takers. Therefore it is a matter of supporting moral values; it is also a matter of making our law enforcement agencies more efficient and developing a legal framework that minimizes opportunities for corruption. This is a multi-dimensional task, very sensitive and difficult. And we shall work on every aspect of it.

RT: One of the practical ways you are going about it is the new draft law that prevents government officials from opening bank accounts and holding property abroad. I don’t know what you think about that law, but isn’t it possible for someone to use someone else’s account. How are you going to enforce it?

Putin: Of course you could. This bill has not been passed yet, it’s being reviewed by the State Duma. This naturally implies certain limitations for officials, because current legislation allows any Russian citizen to have a foreign bank account or property. Yet, limitations may be introduced for some officials, especially at a high-level. I don’t see anything extraordinary about this, especially in view of today’s realities. But the State Duma will have to present the rationale for their proposal and develop it into a detailed draft law. Overall, I believe this law has value and would assist the fight against corruption to a certain extent. Of course it will, because those people who are willing to commit themselves to serving their country and their people should be willing to agree to such terms – that if they want to have a bank account, it’ll have to be a Russian bank account, or a Russian branch of a bank. Why not? Many overseas banks have branches in Russia. One can keep their accounts here. Why go to Austria or the United States to open an account? If you connect your fate to this country be so kind as to make public your interests here, including financial interests, do not hide your money anywhere.

Assange case a definite example of double standards

RT: While we’ve got you with us sir.. I’d like to get your thoughts on the ongoing Julian Assange case in Britain, his legal battle with Britain and with a number of other countries as well but equally his attempts to get asylum in Equador which he’s now got and he’s holed-up in the Ecuadorean embassy. What’s your opinion on Britain’s stance, at one point they were talking about revoking the embassies diplomatic immunity so they could actually go in and get him. That sounds a bit odd when you think that Russia has a number of suspects it would like to talk to there, it’s a kind of topsy turvy situation, but they are given safe harbor in Britain.

Putin: This certainly is an unsettling factor in our relations with the UK. I used to tell my previous counterparts and friends in the British government – not those holding office at the moment – that Britain happens to be harboring certain individuals who have blood on their hands, having waged a real war on Russian territory and slaughtered people. I told them, “Just imagine what it would be like if Russia were to harbour militants from, say, the Irish Republican Army – not those negotiating and pursuing a compromise with the government these days (those are perfectly sane and sensible people), but those with a radical agenda.” You know what I was told in response? “But that’s exactly what the Soviet Union used to do, aiding people like that.”

First of all, I’m a former Soviet secret service operative myself. I don’t know whether the USSR used to aid this sort of people or not, simply because I never had anything to do with it. But even if we assume that it did, that was back in the Cold War era. There has been a cardinal change in the settings, the Soviet Union is history, and what we have today is a new Russia. How can we allow ourselves to be dominated by our old phobias and outdated perceptions of international relations and the kind of relations between our nations? Let them go at last.

We are constantly lectured on how independent Britain’s judiciary is. It makes its own decisions, and no one can influence that. What about Julian Assange? They have ruled to have him extradited. What is it if not an evident example of a double standard? I won’t make a definitive statement, but as far as I know, Ecuador has requested guarantees from the Swedish government that Sweden wouldn’t hand over Assange to the United States. No guarantees have so far been provided. At the very least, this suggests that we are looking at a politically motivated trial.

RT: Ok we’ll be following the developments there…We talked about some of the problems Russia faces, one of the long term problems Russia has been facing is the drugs trade, the import of drugs from Afghanistan. It’s increased many fold since NATO went in a decade ago, now the troops are due out in 2014 what then. Does Russia have any hope you can curb this huge drugs problem?

Putin: So far, it is not being solved. We are constantly engaged in dialogue with our partners, including those nations who have troops deployed in Afghanistan. And yet the situation has not improved – instead, it has deteriorated. The amount of drugs produced in Afghanistan has increased by 60 percent in the past year. By the way, I’m not sure about the exact figures, but some 90 percent of heroin peddled in the UK comes from Afghanistan. This is a common challenge and a common threat for us. For Russia, this is a very serious threat to our national security that cannot be overstated. More than 20 percent of the overall drug traffic coming from Afghanistan is marketed inside Russia. That makes up 70 tons of heroin and roughly 56 tons of crude opium as of last year, which is an immense amount, and it definitely qualifies as a threat to our national security.

RT: Could you explain to our viewers what the correlation was, why did this problem increase when NATO troops were there? Was there any connection? Why was that happening?

Putin: There is an apparent link. I won’t bring up any criminal schemes right now, but none of the nations who are currently committing their troops to Afghanistan want to make matters worse for themselves by combatting drugs in Afghanistan, because drugs are Afghanistan’s way of making a living. Nine percent of that country’s GDP comes from drug trafficking. If you want to replace this 9 percent, you’ll have to pay – but no one wants to. And you cannot get anywhere with mere statements about how you are planning to make up for those drug revenues with some other kinds of income. Talk is not enough – what you need is substantive economic policies and financial assistance. Nobody seems willing to provide that, to begin with. And no one wants to complicate matters for themselves by taking on drug trafficking, because if you take away drug revenues from those people, you effectively compel them to starvation, and that means making even more enemies in Afghanistan: if you go after drugs, people will go after you. That’s all there is to it. Drugs are closely related to terrorism and organized crime, but that is something everybody is aware of already. Everyone knows that drug revenues are partly used to finance terrorism. But even this awareness and the realization that Europe is being flooded with Afghan-made drugs are not enough to encourage our partners to seriously tackle this issue. And this is very sad.

Russia better prepared for second wave of global economic crisis

RT: A final thought from you Mr President. While you’ll be talking money and finances at the forthcoming APEC summit that you are going to. Looking at the world economy from where you are generally. Do you think we are heading for a second global slump and if we do is Russia as well prepared to bat it off as it did last time. It did pretty well last time but is it as well prepared this time?

Putin: I believe we are even better prepared because we’ve already experienced the first wave of the crisis, and we have an understanding of what’s to be done about it and how we should do it. And we have the instruments for crisis management. Moreover, I tasked Russia’s previous Cabinet as early as last year with upgrading the already tried and tested instruments, drafting new laws and adjusting our regulations. We requested parliament to assign 200 bln rubles to a government reserve fund – and parliament agreed. Therefore, we are generally equipped for managing a crisis. On top of that, as you know, we have enjoyed fairly strong economic growth, a rate of 4.2 percent, which is highest among the world’s largest economies next to China and India. The euro zone’s average growth rate has been 3.9 percent, while ours was 4.2. By the way, both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are predicting negative growth at minus 0.3 percent for the euro zone next year. This year, we are still counting on positive growth ranging between 4 and 5 percent. That’s precisely why, even if Russia should face economic difficulties, it will have plenty of instruments at hand to deal with the challenge.

We have reinforced our gold and currency reserves, almost bringing them back up to pre-crisis levels. We presently rate third worldwide next to China and Japan with upwards of $500 bln in gold and currency reserves. Parallel to that, the government is rebuilding its own reserves. We have two government reserve funds: the $80-billion National Wealth Fund, and the Reserve Fund with roughly $60 bln, to finance a budget deficit, should we suffer one. But so far, we don’t have a deficit: next year’s budget registers a surplus, slight as it may be. Our unemployment rates are the lowest possible. While unemployment averages 11.2 percent in the euro zone and reaches 25—26 percent in economies such as Spain, topping 70 percent among youth, we maintain an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent, which is even below pre-crisis indices. But this doesn’t make us careless and complacent. We are fully aware that the tricky aspect of the global economy is unpredictability, and you can almost never be sure as to where the greatest challenges and threats will emerge from next. That is why we closely follow everything that’s going on in neighboring economies and our partner economies.

We wish them success, and we are honestly willing to assist them as good partners. Because any kind of economic mishap in the euro zone, for instance, is bound to have painful ramifications for us. The euro zone is our major sales market. Should it shrink, our own production will immediately decrease. Therefore, our interest is in seeing the euro zone survive and our main partner-economies get back on track. We need Europe’s leading economies such as Germany, France and Britain to be in good shape. This is something that we’ll always keep an eye on. And this will be a primary topic for discussion at the Vladivostok APEC Summit.

RT: Well we wish you all the very best. President Vladimir Putin, thank you for talking to RT.

Putin: Thank you very much.

Source: http://rt.com/news/vladimir-putin-exclusive-interview-481/

 


Iran and Syria's Nerve Gas is Made in Europe

 

yria threatens to use chemical weapons, including lethal gas and germs, against “external forces”. And the unthinkable becomes much more concrete in Israel.

The gas mask distribution centers have increased their activities in the last few days. Health authorities may start inoculation of soldiers and emergency care personnel against smallpox. Family drug kits, including antibiotics against anthrax, may be delivered door-to-door. The Education Ministry will prepare material for all students instructing them on the ABC’s of chemical and biological warfare. The message is clear: Israel should be prepared for the worst.

The Germans used chlorine gas against the Allies in World War I; in 1937, they developed nerve gas, the most deadly of all. Mustard gas was used by the Egyptians in the war with Yemen. But by far the worst were the Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq war, when nerve gas killed untold numbers. Saddam Hussein was also responsible for the gassing of thousands of Kurdish civilians in 1988.

The sarin gas attacks by the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan in 1994-1995, the anthrax attack in the United States in October 2001 and the chlorine attacks by al-Qaida in Iraq in 2006-2007 are a few examples that serve to remind us that the use of weapons of mass destruction can be a reality in today’s Middle East.

Already in May 2011, then US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned about the possibility that Hizbullah is armed with chemical warheads. Syria’s stockpiles could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda, which is involved in the fighting, a military faction, or a post-Assad regime controlled by Islamists.
It’s the worst kind of nightmare.

A four milligram droplet of VX kills in under an hour. The first symptoms include drooling, sweating, difficulty breathing and the constriction of pupils to zombie pinpoints. Then come gastrointestinal spasms, vomiting, convulsions and asphyxiation. Unlike other nerve gases, such as sarin, VX evaporates slowly so winds can’t blow it away. And unlike sarin, VX penetrates the skin.

What very few people know is that European companies and scientists gave Iran, Syria, Libya and Iraq the material to attempt to kill the Jews, again.

In 1992 a 100-page report, prepared by the Paris-based Middle East Defence News, listed about 300 European firms which the centre said it believed had “played a significant role in the unconventional weapons programmes in Iran, Syria and Libya”.

Germany topped the list of suppliers with 100, the report said, then 29 French, 22 British, 13 Italian and 13 Swiss.

German companies have played a crucial role in helping Iran to build a chemical weapons industry, and have illegally supplied nerve gas precursor chemicals,” the report said. It said France had played a “crucial role…in helping Syria to develop both a chemical weapons and a biological weapons capability”.

The West German firm Degussa supplied of chemicals to Libya used to manufacture poison gas. This company also owned a 42.5 per cent share in the Degesch company, which supplied the Zyklon B gas used in the death camps. Degesch is the acronym for “Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Schaedlingsbekaempfung”, a company for the extermination of vermin.

It developed the method of using hydrogen cyanide, Zyklon B, as an ingredient in its fumigation gas for buildings and ships. The gas it supplied to Auschwitz was used in the killing of two million Jews.

“For years, Iraqi officers had asked us how it had been with the gassing of the Jews.” said Maj. Gen. Karl-Heinz Nagler, former head of the East German Army’s chemical service, who had trained the Iraqi Army in chemical warfare for 15 years.

The manufacturing of di-fluoro – from which nerve gas is obtained – requires resistant glass components. Two German companies gave these to the Syrians.

French scientific institutes also played a role, through scientific exchanges.

In 1988, the Wall Street Journal revealed that German companies sold Saddam what he needed to perfect new types of poison gas, including manufacturing equipment for hydrogen cyanide, the active ingredient of Zyklon B, the gas used in Hitler’s crematoriums.

In 1990, members of the German parliament demanded a confidential briefing from Economics Minister Helmut Haussmann. What they heard surpassed their worst fears. Haussmann read off a list of companies believed to have supplied Iraq and Syria with the means to manufacture arms.

A German company was the chief supplier for six plants in Samarra, Iraq, that make nerve and mustard gases, gases already used against the Kurds and the Iranians. We know that some of Saddam’s chemical weapons have been moved to Syria.

In 1996, the weekly ‘Stern’ revealed the German involvement in a toxic gas facility in Aleppo, similar to that of Tarhuna in Libya.

According to Raul Hilberg, the use of pesticides in the Final Solution was no accident. In German propaganda Jews had frequently been portrayed as insects. Hans Frank, Head of the German Occupation Government in Poland, and Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, had stated that the Jews were parasites who had to be exterminated like vermin.

Today, again, Jews are described by Islamists as sub-humans, with expressions like “pig,” “cancer,” “filth”, “microbes” or “vermin”.

Without the European chemical companies, there would be no Syrian and Iranian germs and gas’ threat to Israel.

We can be partners in the Jewish struggle against the new apocalypse. Or we can be part of it. The European companies and scientists have made their choice.

Let’s hope that one day we will not have to judge these Europeans responsible for another catastrophe, like the one facilitated with Degesch’s Zyklon B.
Source

 


Draft U.N. arms trade treaty full of holes, activists say

 

(Reuters) – The first draft of a U.N. treaty to regulate the $60 billion global arms trade was slammed on Tuesday by activists as having “more holes than a leaky bucket” as negotiators scramble to reach a consensus by Friday.

One person every minute dies from armed violence around the world, and arms control activists say a convention is needed to prevent illicitly traded guns from pouring into conflict zones and fuelling wars and atrocities. Conflicts in Syria and elsewhere show a treaty is necessary, they add.
“Our concern with this text is that at the moment it has more holes than a leaky bucket,” Anna Macdonald, head of arms control at Oxfam, told reporters. “And if these holes are not closed we won’t end up with a treaty that saves lives.”

After losing the first week of the month-long negotiations to procedural wrangling, delegations from around the world now only have three days left to work on the delayed draft text before a possible vote. The treaty must be approved unanimously, so any one country can effectively veto a deal.

But if a consensus cannot be reached, the treaty may not be doomed. Activists have said nations supporting a stronger pact could then bring a treaty to the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly and adopt it with a two-thirds majority vote.

“The text that leaves this conference must not be the text with these loopholes. It’s got to be a decent text even if it goes back to the General Assembly,” said Brian Wood, arms control and human rights manager at Amnesty International.

The draft treaty currently says that it would only come into effect after it has been ratified by 65 countries, which some activists say could take up to 10 years. Arms control campaigners say only 30 ratifications should be needed.

“Every major element … has major loopholes,” said Peter Herby, head of the International Committee for the Red Cross arms unit. “There is a very high risk this treaty will simply ratify the status quo, rather than changing the status quo.”

“Rather than producing the highest possible international standards for the transfer of all conventional weapons, it would allow many countries to simply continue doing what they’re doing,” Herby said.

“BUSINESS AS USUAL”

While most U.N. member states favour a strong treaty, activists said they were at times being drowned out in negotiations by objections and disruptions from a minority of states including Syria, North Korea, Iran, Egypt and Algeria.

There are divisions on key issues, such as whether human rights should be a mandatory criterion for determining whether governments should permit weapons exports to specific countries.

Herby said the draft references to humanitarian law were “unlikely to make a great deal of difference in practice.”

Macdonald listed several criticisms. He said the range of weapons in the draft treaty needed to be expanded, particularly to include ammunition; the rules governing risk assessments that countries must do before authorizing an arms sale needed to be tightened; and the whole treaty needed to be broadened to cover the entire global arms trade and not just illicit transactions.

The Conflict Awareness Project said that when it came to regulating arms brokers the draft treaty was “so weak and watered down it will give comfort to illicit gun runners.”

“The feeble treaty language means business as usual for traffickers who are filling the arsenals of the world’s worst human rights abusers,” said Kathi Lynn Austin of the Conflict Awareness Project.

The negotiations on the treaty in New York were delayed for the first week by a dispute over Palestinian participation, which was eventually resolved by allowing the delegation to sit at the front of the negotiating hall but without the right to participate as states with voting rights.

Such procedural bickering was typical of the arms trade talks, diplomats say, as countries that would prefer not to have a strong treaty tried to prevent the negotiations from moving forward. In February, preparatory talks on the rules nearly collapsed due to procedural wrangling and other disagreements.

One of the reasons this month’s negotiations are taking place is that the United States, the world’s biggest arms trader accounting for over 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers, reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Barack Obama became president and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

But U.S. officials say Washington insisted in February on having the ability to veto a weak treaty.

“We have been making clear throughout our red lines (limits), including that we will not accept any treaty that infringes on Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” a U.S. official who did not want to be identified said on Tuesday, referring to U.S. domestic rights to bear arms — a sensitive issue in the United States.

The other five top arms suppliers are Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

 


Rights Group Maps Out Syrian Government’s ‘Archipelago Of Torture Centers’- pdf in russian-

 

With a growing civil war in Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s notorious police state only increases repression and human rights violations against its own people.

A new report from New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) demonstrates just how prolific these violations of basic human rights have become in Syria. The group interviewed more than 200 Syrians and used the information to identify at least 27 detention centers where torture is used. The “archipelago of torture centers,” said HRW, “clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.”

Syria’s four intelligence agencies, known together as the mukhabarat, employed a variety of torture methods against civilians and anti-government actors. One 31-year-old described the methods used against him:

They forced me to undress. Then they started squeezing my fingers with pliers. They put staples in my fingers, chest and ears. I was only allowed to take them out if I spoke. The staples in the ears were the most painful. They used two wires hooked up to a car battery to give me electric shocks. They used electric stun-guns on my genitals twice.

HRW detailed the methods and published sketches depicting their use. The group also published diagrams showing that, based on the interviews, Syrian authorities were putting up to 70 people in cells that European standards for detention would limit to five occupants.

When two or more interviewees identified a detention center, HRW added the location to an interactive map. Here’s a screen capture of the map showing the ten detention centers HRW identified in the capital Damascus (click here for the full interactive map):

HRW Emergencies researcher Ole Solvang said in a release: “By publishing their locations, describing the torture methods, and identifying those in charge we are putting those responsible on notice that they will have to answer for these horrific crimes.”

The group said that because Syria is not party to the Rome Statute, International Criminal Court proceedings against officials ordering and carrying out the torture would need to be mandated by the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China have so far blocked such measures. Clearly aiming to pressure Russia — Assad’s top international backer — HRW published its findings and recommendations (PDF) in Russian.

 


8 Stories Buried By the Corporate Media That You Need to Know About

 

December 15, 2011 |

 

As 2011 comes to a close, we will see lists of the year’s most memorable events and most important people, as is the pattern every year. But not all stories are created equal. When the corporate media bury significant developments in the back pages of the paper or the second to last paragraph of an article, it’s easy for stories to go unnoticed.

As usual, this year was packed with critical, newsworthy and insufficiently covered stories that should have, but didn’t, make the front page. Below are eight explosive must-read stories of 2011 that you may have missed.

1) Our Planet Saw the Largest Increase in Carbon Emissions Since the Industrial Revolution

Global emissions of carbon dioxide increased 5.9 percent in 2010, the largest increase on record, according to Global Carbon Project, an international group of scientists tracking the numbers. This increase, reports the New York Times, is “almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.”

Another study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, traces an estimated three-quarters of the planet’s warming since 1950 to human activities. On top of that, the World Meteorological Organization warned that 10 of the hottest years ever recorded have occurred in the last 15 years, with temperatures this year registering as the 10th highest on record.

It’s obvious that the world is getting warmer at an accelerating rate and it’s our fault. What are world leaders going to do about it? Wait another eight years to cut emissions.

These statistics were released before last week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, which ended with an agreement to kick the can down the road – they will negotiate a new climate treaty by 2015, which would postpone emission cuts until 2020.

To avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, we must limit the earth’s warming to 2°C. For that to happen, emission volumes cannot exceed 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. Since emissions have already reached 390 ppm, higher than any other time in recorded history, the International Energy Agency warns that action cannot be delayed past 2017. Based on the Durbin agreement, emissions won’t be cut until 2020.

Unless something drastic pushes our leaders to change the destructive path we’re on, 2011 may go down in the history books as the year that humans irreversibly screwed themselves and the planet.

2) Widespread Trafficking Of Iraqi Women And Girls Thanks To The Iraq War

Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed and another 4.4 million displaced, leaving many women and girls widowed or orphaned.

As a result of the conflict more than 50,000 Iraqi women find themselves trapped in sexual servitude in Syria and Jordan, giving rise to a lucrative and growing sex industry that feeds off the chaos from the Iraq war.

Women and girls inside Iraq fare no better, often working in brothels run by female pimps. In an interview with the Inter Press Service, Rania, a former trafficker who now works as an undercover researcher for a women’s support group in Iraq, detailed a visit to “a house in Baghdad’s Al-Jihad district, where girls as young as 16 were held to cater exclusively to the U.S. military. The brothel’s owner told Rania that an Iraqi interpreter employed by the Americans served as the go-between, transporting girls to and from the U.S. airport base.”

Although human trafficking is illegal in Iraq, the country lacks a robust criminal justice system to enforce the law. Sadly, the victims of trafficking and prostitution are often the ones who are punished.

3) More Iraq Veterans Committed Suicide Last Year Than Active-Duty Troops Died In Combat

In 2010, 468 active duty and reserve troops committed suicide while 462 died in combat, marking the second year in a row that more US soldiers killed themselves than died at war, according to Congressional Quarterly’s John Donnelly.

Over the past decade, over 2,000 soldiers have taken their own lives, yet they receive little attention in our corporate media. In August the New York Times ran a story with the celebratory headline, “Iraq War Marks First Month With No U.S. Military Deaths.” That same month, the Department of Defense reported19 possible suicides among active-duty soldiers. In July, that number reached a record high of 32. America’s decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan leave troops with deep emotional scars that can be just as dangerous as a combat wound. Perhaps it’s time we gave them the attention they deserve.

4) Drone Strikes Kill Innocent Civilians, Not Just ‘Militants’

After Jon Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, claimed in June that no civilians had been killed in US drone attacks in nearly a year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 US attacks during that period.

Overall, drone strikes in Pakistan have killed 780 civilians, including 175 children. The bureau documents 309 CIA drone strikes carried out since 2004 that have killed as many as 2,997 people. Over 85 percent were launched by the Obama administration, an average of one strike every four days. Yet the casualties of the US drone war rarely receive mention in the corporate media, except when described as “Islamic militants” or “suspected terrorists.” This is challenged not only by the bureau’s data, but also by gruesome photographs of drone victims taken by local journalists.

The Guardian described the images captured by Noor Behram, a journalist from the North Waziristan region of Pakistan, whose work appeared in an exhibition at London’s Beaconsfield gallery in August:

The photographs make for difficult viewing and leave no doubt about the destructive power of the Hellfire missiles unleashed: a boy with the top of his head missing, a severed hand, flattened houses, the parents of children killed in a strike. The chassis is all that remains of a car in one photo, another shows the funeral of a seven-year-old child. There are pictures, too, of the cheap rubber flip-flops worn by children and adults, which often survive: signs that life once existed there. A 10-year-old boy’s body, prepared for burial, shows lipstick on him and flowers in his hair – a mother’s last loving touch.

Spencer Ackerman recently featured a number of Behram’s disturbing photographs at Wired, which can be seen here.

5) Record Number Of US Kids Face Hunger and Homelessness

A report released by National Center on Family Homelessness finds that one in 45 US children (1.6 million) are homeless, the majority under the age of seven. The Christian Science Monitor reports, “The number of homeless children in 2010 exceeded even the total in 2006, when thousands of families displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita produced a historic spike in homelessness.”

It doesn’t stop there. According to recent figures released by the USDA, 17.2 million American households (14.5 percent) are “food insecure,” one of the highest recorded rates since surveys were first conducted in 1995. As a result, 16.2 million American children – one in five– face the threat of hunger. According to emergency room doctors in cities around the country, this is leading to a dramatic spike in malnourishment in babies.

Over the summer, the Boston Globe reported on shocking levels of infant malnourishment in Massachusetts. Doctors at the Boston Medical Center (BMC) reported seeing “more hungry and dangerously thin young children in the emergency room than at any time in more than a decade of surveying families.” Pediatricians in other large cities, including Baltimore, Little Rock, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, have also seen a rise in infant and child malnourishment since 2008.

BMC doctors also warn that “rising chronic hunger threatens to leave scores of infants and toddlers with lasting learning and developmental problems.”

The Globe likened child malnourishment and hunger among Boston’s poor to levels seen in the “developing world.”

6) Prisoners Are People Too

This summer, more than 6,000 California prison inmates went on a month-long hunger strike in solidarity with those held in solitary confinement at the Secure Housing Unit in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. Pelican Bay is notorious for holding nearly half of its 1,111 prisoners in solitary confinement for longer than 10 years. The strike was suspended in July when inmates entered negotiations with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). They expected change, but prisoners who organized and participated in the strike were instead retaliated against by prison guards.

By September 26, the strike was back on, with 12,000 inmates throughout California and out-of-state facilities participating. But those numbers quickly dwindled as the CDCR disciplined those involved by limiting access to visiting family members and isolating participants from other prisoners. A string of prisoner suicides committed by inmates who participated in the hunger strikes followed. Colorlines’ Julianne Hing reported:

In recent months Alex Machado and Johnny Owens Vick, who were both housed in Pelican Bay’s notorious solitary confinement Security Housing Unit, and Hozel Alanzo Blanchard, who was incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison’s Administrative Segregation Unit, all committed suicide. Prisoner advocates say all three participated in a statewide hunger strike this summer to protest, among other things, prison discipline policies intended to identify prison gang members which punish innocent, unaffiliated inmates with decades of confinement to segregated units.

7) US Deports 46,000 Parents, Kids Left Behind In Foster Care

Under the Obama administration, deportations of immigrants have skyrocketed, with a record 397,000 people removed in 2011 alone and families torn apart as a result. According to an investigation carried out by Colorlines, the United States deported over 46,000 parents whose children were U.S. citizens between January and June of this year. With their parents detained or deported, at least 5,100 children have been placed in foster care, and many may never see their parents again. Our draconian immigration system is creating orphans. Investigative reporter Seth Freed Wessler writes:

These children, many of whom should never have been separated from their parents in the first place, face often insurmountable obstacles to reunifying with their mothers and fathers. Though child welfare departments are required by federal law to reunify children with any parents who are able to provide for the basic safety of their children, detention makes this all but impossible. Then, once parents are deported, families are often separated for long periods. Ultimately, child welfare departments and juvenile courts too often move to terminate the parental rights of deportees and put children up for adoption, rather than attempt to unify the family as they would in other circumstances.

8) FBI Teaches Agents That Muslims Are Violent Radicals

In September, Spencer Ackerman reported some disturbing findings about the FBI’s counterterrorism training materials. He revealed, among other things, that the FBI’s Training Division depicts all Muslims as potential terrorists. Ackerman writes:

The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “mainstream” American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a ‘funding mechanism for combat.

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

Ackerman also came upon an alarming description of Sunni Muslims, which is included in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces mandatory online orientation material:

Sunni Muslims have been prolific in spawning numerous and varied fundamentalist extremist terrorist organizations. Sunni core doctrine and end state have remained the same and they continue to strive for Sunni Islamic domination of the world to prove a key Quranic assertion that no system of government or religion on earth can match the Quran’s purity and effectiveness for paving the road to God.

The FBI immediately apologized for the derogatory training materials, promising to comprehensively review all training materials. But it turns out that the FBI’s counterterrorism culture is soaked in Islamophobia, as demonstrated by the inclusion of books by Islamophobic authors Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes in the FBI Quantico library.

This comes on top of a troubling pattern in counterterrorism law enforcement training — the use of Islamophobic ”terrorism consultants” to school agents on the Islamic faith. According to the Washington Monthly, this “growing profession” of consultants rakes in taxpayer cash to educate our cops about evils of Islam. One example is Walid Shoebat, who reportedly told an audience at a counterterrorism conference last year that the way to solve the threat of Islamic extremism is to “kill them…including the children.” Shoebat’s extreme denunciations of Islam helped fuel the paranoia of right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik, who massacred some 90 people in Norway earlier this year. According to the American Prospect, Shoebat is cited in Breivik’s manifesto 15 times.

 

Source

 


Children’s rights and the death penalty in the Arab States- the documentation

 

By Professor Kamel FI L AL I
Vice Chairman of the United Nations CRC.

On the 24th of January 2008, the Arab Charter of human rights entered into force in conformity with its article 49(b) which provides that:” the present Charter shall enter into effect two months after the date on which the seventh instrument of ratification is deposited with the secretariat of the League of Arab States”. Algeria ,Bahrein , Jordan Occupied Palestinian Territories ,Syrian Arab Republic , United Arab Emirates are the seven ratifying States.
On 30 January 2008 The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights issued a Statement in which reference was made to the incompatibility of some of the provisions of the Arab Charter (there after the Charter ) with international norms and standards .These concerns included among others the approach of death penalty for children.
In the following an attempt will be made in order to understand the issue of death penalty in the Arab States, the specific legal and cultural difficulties which slow the path of harmonisation. In a second part of this statement the author of this note will concentrate on Children’s rights, their protection and the death penalty according to international standards.
I- New trends towards death penalty in the Arab world.

Today, it can be said that few Arab States have abandoned the death penalty opting for a system of sanctions taken from the western world. It is nevertheless true that some others continue to practice and enforce the death penalty as part of Islamic law in serious cases such as adultery, theft, homicide, apostasy, witch crafting etc…
The death penalty is a sanction which still appears in legislations of Arab States in general and is part of their penal system of sanctions. This constitutes the main obstacle to change and explains why very few have ratified or acceded to the second Protocol to the International Covenant on civil and political rights dealing with the abolition of the death penalty.
Attempts have been made in Jordan for example towards a limited enforcement of the death penalty by reducing the number of crimes for which it would apply, a draft for that purpose has been established but met with swift resistance from people, intellectuals and members of the Jordanian Bar Association .The denunciation of such Project was made on the base that the western influence was presiding the action which in turn was declared unacceptable .They added that the death penalty in its very nature belongs to sharia law and as such should remain in the corpus of sanctions as provided for in Islamic law ,the latter being unchangeable.
Sudan is another case which illustrates the difficulties met by Arab States to introduce amendments to the death penalty in their penal law, since this State suspended all executions of these sentences in 1985 , but resumed this old practice after the political changes that occurred in the county. A new criminal law was enacted in 1991.
Algeria seems to be joining the path of abolitionist since it considers today that there is a “de facto abolition” of the death penalty and although some judicial decisions emanating from criminal court continue to apply article 50 of the penal code providing for the death penalty. It has nevertheless suspended all executions since 1993. In 2004 the Algerian Minister of justice declared that the death penalty should be abolished. Algeria progresses in this matter are important since it already abolished the death penalty for economic crimes.
It can be said also that the difficulties met by Arab States are pertaining to the mere existence of intangible rules in some constitutions which impose the application of sharia law or in some other cases the Constitutions provide that Islam is the religion of the State , thus placing the sharia law among the main source of law and consequently imposing a hierarchy of norms and an obligation to enact legislations within the context and principles taken from sharia law.
It can be said that the existing trend generates serious preoccupations since death penalty and executions for example of adults remain a real fact and in a regrettable high number.
II- Children and the death penalty.
Article 7 of the Arab Charter stipulates that:
(a) Sentence of death shall not be imposed on persons under 18 years of age, unless otherwise stipulated in the laws in force at the time of the commission of the crime.
(b) The death penalty shall not be inflicted on a pregnant woman prior to her delivery or on a nursing mother within two years from the date of her delivery; in all cases, the best interests of the infant shall be the primary consideration.
Article 7 of the Charter seems to suggest that the general rule is that a child as defined in article 1 of the Convention on the rights of the child, (…every human being below the age of eighteen years) cannot be sentenced to the death. Then article 7 operates by a transfer of the matter related to the death penalty to the discretion of the State who can impose it or not according to its national legislation.
Moreover, the second part of article 7 (a) which stipulates:“….In force of the time of the commission of the crime” seems to be rejecting the full protection given to the child by the United nations Convention . According to this international instrument, it is prohibited to render a sentence using the death penalty on a person under eighteen at the time of the crime, suspend execution and enforce it once the person reaches majority. The Committee on the rights of the child (there after the Committee) has always recommended that a person should not be executed for a crime committed when she was under eighteen years old , for example in one of its Concluding observations it observed that : “”The Committee remains concerned that national legislation appears to allow children between the age of 16 and 18 to be sentenced to death with a two years suspension of execution .It is the opinion of the Committee that the imposition of suspended death on children constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment .It is the Committee view that the aforementioned provisions of national law are incompatible with the principles and provisions of the Convention ,notably those of its article 37(a)
(CRC/C/15/Add.56para.21) .This directly implies that there is a tangible risk and a possibility that children can face such a grave measure if national laws provide for such sanction. The fact that this penalty can only be pronounced for some serious and grave crimes doesn’t reduce the concern. It is important to stress here on the fact that article 7 is not compatible with the principles put forward by article 37(a) of the Convention. This provision (art.37) prohibits the death penalty for persons below eighteen .The Committee reiterates this in its general comment n°10 on children’s rights in Juvenile justice (CRC/C/GC/10). It is also noted under article 6 of the Covenant on civil and political rights which states that : “sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons under eighteen years of age and shall not be carried on pregnant women” .
The Committee has raised the issue with a number of States party for example: “The Committee takes note of the information that no child is sentenced to death and that capital punishment is not passed to persons who commit a crime before they reach the year of majority (in general 18 years ). Nevertheless it deeply concerned that judges have the discretionary power which is often exercised when presiding over criminal cases involving children to decide that a child has reached majority at an earlier age and as a consequence capital punishment is imposed for offence by persons before they have reached the age of eighteen .The Committee is deeply alarmed that this is a serious violation of the fundamental right under article 37 of the convention” (CRC/C/SAU/CO/para32and33).
Experts from United Nations treaty bodies have expressed their worries as regard to the harmony of the Charter with international norms and standards while contributing to the preparatory work in Cairo ; the wording of article 7 suggest that for the drafters of the Charter “ Specificities “have prevailed over” universalism”.
It is also important to remind that even if in the practice the execution of children do occur in rare cases the concern will continue to be there until the full withdrawal of the controversial legislation from positive law at both level national and international. Again the wording of article 7 of the Charter suggest a situation of no harmony with international conventions related to human rights and it is very legitimate to consider it as a departure from the clear prohibition of the death penalty referred to in Article 37 (a) of the Convention which provides that “…neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without a possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years old”.
The interpretation of article 7 should be read in light with article 43 of the same Charter which read: Nothing in this Charter may be construed or interpreted as impairing the rights and freedoms protected by the domestic laws of the States parties or those set forth in the international and regional human rights instruments which the States parties have adopted or ratified, including the rights of women, the rights of the child and the rights of persons belonging to minorities.
The protected rights to which article 43 of the Charter refers are those which are common to the Charter and the Convention and were there are no conflict. The death penalty is a matter were views are not convergent and the understanding is today at least in some Arab States to suspend execution but to keep it in the legislation or even declaring before the Treaty bodies that a national debate has been engaged with all actors of society and that the States are about producing a draft bill prohibiting the death penalty on persons less than eighteen years of age. The Committee on the rights of the child raised the issue with a number of States parties and emphasized that it is not enough that the death penalty is not applied to children. Its prohibition regarding children must be confirmed in legislation. Finally it can be said that article 43 of the Charter does not address the subject of the death penalty.
All the Arab States have ratified the Convention on the rights of the Child with no reservations to article 37 and most of then have ratified the Covenant on civil and political rights. The ratification creates obligation for them not to sentence or enforce the death penalty on children in their territory. If conflict arises between the Charter and the Convention the latter should prevail according to article 30 of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties of 1969.