Thursday, July 31, 2008

NEW BOOK: '9/11 Unveiled'

New book coming in September. Watch for it here.

UN to renew Darfur peacekeeping mandate

The resolution makes it clear the council is ready to discuss suspending any future ICC genocide indictment of Bashir in the interest of peace in Darfur.

Poll: Netanyahu is public's preferred choice for next PM

Neocon flap highlights Jewish divide

Time columnist Joe Klein's accusations that Jewish neoconservatives, who played a particularly visible role in the drive to war in Iraq and have since pushed for military confrontation in Iran, sacrificed "US lives and make the world safe for Israel," have spurred angry charges of anti-Semitism and personal attacks from critics at such neoconservative strongholds as the Weekly Standard, National Review, and Commentary. . . .

The controversy began Jun. 24, when Klein argued in a Time blog post that the "fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives – people like [independent Democrat Sen.] Joe Lieberman and the crowd at Commentary – plumped for this war [in Iraq], and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Olmert announces resignation as Israeli prime minister

Olmert, who has been dogged by allegations of corruption, said he would give up his post when his ruling Kadima party chooses a new leader on September 17.

Turkey's governing party avoids being shut down for anti-secularism

Russia takes control of Turkmen (world?) gas

The United States has suffered a huge defeat in the race for Caspian gas. The question now is how much longer Washington could afford to keep Iran out of the energy market.

Gazprom, Russia's energy leviathan, signed two major agreements in Ashgabat on Friday outlining a new scheme for purchase of Turkmen gas. . . .

Nabucco, which would run from Turkey to Austria via Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary, was hoping to tap Turkmen gas by linking Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan via a pipeline across the Caspian Sea that would be connected to the pipeline networks through the Caucasus to Turkey already existing, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

. . . with access denied to Turkmen gas, Nabucco's viability becomes doubtful. And, without Nabucco, the entire US strategy of reducing Europe's dependence on Russian energy supplies makes no sense. Therefore, Washington is faced with Hobson's choice. Friday's agreements in Ashgabat mean that Nabucco's realization will now critically depend on gas supplies from the Middle East — Iran, in particular. Turkey is pursuing the idea of Iran supplying gas to Europe and has offered to mediate in the US-Iran standoff.

Gary McKinnon, British computer hacker, loses appeal over US extradition

A British man accused of the biggest military computer hack in history is facing extradition after losing his last-ditch appeal in the House of Lords today.

Gary McKinnon, 42, a systems analyst who allegedly broke into 97 US military computers from his bedroom in Wood Green, North London, now faces at least 10 years in prison in the Unites States - although some estimates put it much higher.

Mr McKinnon was accused of crashing the US Army’s Washington network of 2,000 computers for 24 hours, causing a significant disruption to Government functions.

Iraq on the edge

Despite the Optimism of the Neocons, which has pushed mainstream media coverage to be increasingly flowery about Iraq's political progress, in fact the country is poised to explode. . . .

There are at least three flashpoints for an explosion, any or all of which could blow up over the next couple of months. (Way to go, Surgin' Generals!) The first is the brewing crisis over Kirkuk, where the pushy Kurds are demanding control and Iraq's Arabs are resisting. The second is in the west, and Anbar, where the US-backed Sons of Iraq sahwa ("Awakening") movement is moving to take power against the Iraqi Islamic Party, a fundamentalist Sunni bloc. And third is the restive Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which is chafing at gains made by its Iranian-backed rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

CIA outlines Pakistan links with militants

The C.I.A. assessment specifically points to links between members of the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and the militant network led by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which American officials believe maintains close ties to senior figures of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Pakistani PM: No unilateral US attacks

After meeting with Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, Pakistan's prime minister rebuffed demands for unilateral U.S. action should terrorist leaders be found hiding in Pakistan, an approach Obama has suggested he would approve of as president.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WTO talks collapse amidst developing countries' reluctance to sacrifice food security

Despite trade ministers' hopes for a last-minute deal, World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations collapsed yet again today, and observers at the talks in Geneva say that the failure is not surprising, given the reluctance of India and other developing nations to sacrifice food security measures in the wake of the recent global spike in food prices.

End the occupation of Iraq — and Afghanistan

Obama favors leaving between 35,000 and 80,000 US occupation troops there indefinitely to train Iraqi security forces and carry out "counter-insurgency operations." That would not end the occupation. We must call for bringing home — not redeploying — all US troops and mercenaries, closing all US military bases and relinquishing all efforts to control Iraqi oil.

In light of stepped-up violence in Afghanistan and for political reasons — following Obama's lead — Bush will be moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Although the US invasion of Afghanistan was as illegal as the invasion of Iraq, many Americans see it as a justifiable response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, . . .

IMF sees no end in sight to credit crisis

Barak to Gates: Keep military option on table with Iran

Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the US government to tighten the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. In a meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Monday at the Pentagon, Barak urged his counterpart to "keep all options on the table."

The meeting comes after repeated statements made in recent weeks by Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, against the notion of a possible US military operation against Iranian nuclear facilitates.

Bush forced al-Maliki to back down on pullout in 2006

The context of al-Maliki's earlier advocacy of a timetable for withdrawal was the serious Iraqi effort to negotiate an agreement with seven major Sunni armed groups that had begun under his predecessor Ibrahim al-Jaafari in early 2006. The main Sunni demand in those talks had been for a timetable for full withdrawal of US troops.

Under the spur of those negotiations, al-Jaafari and Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaei had developed a plan for taking over security in all 18 provinces of Iraq from the United States by the end of 2007. During his first week as prime minister in late May, al-Maliki referred twice publicly to that plan.

At the same time al-Maliki began working on a draft "national reconciliation plan," which was in effect a road map to final agreement with the Sunni armed groups. The Sunday Times of London, which obtained a copy of the draft, reported Jun. 23, 2006 that it included the following language:

"We must agree on a time schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq, while at the same time building up the Iraqi forces that will guarantee Iraqi security, and this must be supported by a United Nations Security Council decision."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Obama doesn't sweat. He should

In swing-state Colorado, the Republican Secretary of State conducted the biggest purge of voters in history, dumping a fifth of all registrations. Guess their color.

In swing-state Florida, the state is refusing to accept about 85,000 new registrations from voter drives – overwhelming Black voters.

In swing state New Mexico, HALF of the Democrats of Mora, a dirt poor and overwhelmingly Hispanic county, found their registrations disappeared this year, courtesy of a Republican voting contractor.

In swing states Ohio and Nevada, new federal law is knocking out tens of thousands of voters who lost their homes to foreclosure.

My investigations partner spoke directly to Barack Obama about it.

Are you ready to face the facts about Israel?

I had given up on finding an American with a moral conscience and the courage to go with it and was on the verge of retiring my keyboard when I met the Rev. Thomas L. Are.

Rev. Are is a Presbyterian pastor who used to tell his Atlanta, Georgia, congregation: "I am a Zionist." Like most Americans, Rev. Are had been seduced by Israeli propaganda and helped to spread the propaganda among his congregation.

Around 1990 Rev. Are had an awakening for which he credits the Christian Canon of St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem and author Marc Ellis, co-editor of the book, Beyond Occupation.

House Judiciary Committee hold historic hearings on the case for impeachment

The hearing was billed as one on Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations. Although the title expressly did not include the word impeachment, several Democratic Congressmembers and witnesses used the opportunity to begin impeachment proceedings against the President and Vice President.

The last untouchable in Europe

Spate of suicide attacks in Iraq kill at least 51

Three women bombers blew themselves up on Monday in a crowd of Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, one of a string of attacks in Iraq that killed at least 51 people, undermining hopes of a drop in violence.

Scores of people were also wounded in the attacks, which follow a relative lull in the sectarian violence that has ravaged the country since February 2006, when insurgents blew up a Shiite mosque in the central city of Samarra.

Istanbul hit by deadly bombings

On Sunday night at least 17 people were killed and over 150 injured in 2 deadly bombings in Turkey's largest city Istanbul. The attacks took place in a residential district of western Istanbul. The bombings occurred as Turkey is in the midst of a political crisis involving the the ruling AKP Party.

Iran in the spotlight at Christian Zionist confab

The controversial Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee and thousands of supporters filled a convention center in downtown Washington this week for his Christians United for Israel (CUFI) organization's Washington-Israel Summit, where the "Iranian threat" was a recurrent theme.

Surge: the new loyalty test

Are we to believe that reducing the violence of an insurgency that our own government and its surrogates were content to deny until it absolutely, positively couldn’t be ignored any longer, down to the level it should have been in Spring 2003 when in military terms, we should have been doing things right already, neutralizes the fact that we blew apart a country, sent 4 million people from their homes, helped to create a brain drain in which there are hardly any doctors or teachers left in the cities and an unemployment rate that could reach 50 percent depending on who one talks to?

Dissident Northern Ireland republican threat 'higher than from Islamic extremists'

Dissident republicans from Northern Ireland are engaged in suspicious activity more than any other radical group in the UK including Islamic extremists, according to security sources.

Some claim that the Northern Irish terror threat is as significant now as it was during the time of the Omagh bombing 10 years ago and that up to 80 hardcore dissidents could be plotting attacks.

STRATCOM cancels controversial preemption strike plan

The U.S. military has canceled a controversial war plan designed to strike adversaries promptly — even preemptively — with conventional and nuclear weapons. The strike plan was known as Concept Plan (CONPLAN) 8022 and first entered into effect in the summer of 2004 to provide the president with a prompt, global strike capability against time-urgent and mobile targets.

CONPLAN 8022 was the first attempt to operationalize the “Global Strike” mission assigned to U.S. Strategic Command in January 2003. The mission was triggered by new White House guidance following the terrorist attacks in September 2001 and fear of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Israeli official: Ahmadinejad's claim likely false

Israeli officials have expressed doubt over claims by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday that his country now possesses 6,000 centrifuges. . . .

"Our assessment, based on the latest available information and recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, is that the figure of 6,000 centrifuges is unlikely," the official said. "We believe a figure of between 3,400 and 3,500 is more accurate."

U.S. war on terrorism loses ground in Pakistan

The Bush administration may leave the region the same way it found it, with Al Qaeda entrenched and U.S. intelligence officials frustrated.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Judge tosses Savage's suit against Islamic group

Savage sued the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, for copyright infringement . . .

In her ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said people who listen to a public broadcast are entitled to use excerpts for purposes of comment and criticism.

China doubts bus blasts are linked to separatists

Chinese authorities on Saturday discounted claims by a purported Uighur Muslim separatist group in which the group’s leader threatened the Olympic Games in Beijing and took responsibility for fatal bus explosions in the cities of Kunming and Shanghai.

South African named UN commissioner for human rights

South African judge Navanethem Pillay was named Thursday as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, culminating a remarkable ascent for a lawyer who was once barred from entering a judge's chamber during South Africa's apartheid era because of the color of her skin.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon nominated the Harvard-educated Pillay, 57, to serve a five-year term as the top U.N. advocate for human rights. She will replace Louise Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court justice, once her nomination is confirmed Monday by the General Assembly.

Arabs under siege as Israel tightens grip on Holy City

What is at issue now is what has been at stake since Israel's foundation and before: how can two peoples' claim on a city as the centre of their national ambitions ever be reconciled? Since the 'uniting' of Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967, when Israeli troops overran Jordanian positions on the east side of the city, Palestinians have largely watched, furious but impotent, as Israeli construction in Arab East Jerusalem has proceeded apace. Israeli flags dotted around Palestinian quarters bear defiant testimony to Jewish insistence on a unified city and capital.

29 die, 88 wounded as blasts hit western India

At least 29 people were killed and 88 wounded when a series of small explosions hit the western Indian city of Ahmadabad on Saturday, a top official said, a day after seven similar blasts struck a southern city. . . .

The latest attacks came a day after seven synchronized small bombs shook Bangalore, India's high-tech hub, killing two people and wounding at least five others. . . .

As in past bombings in India, suspicion for both sets of explosions quickly fell on Muslim militants . . .

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Joy at Karadzic arrest gives way to the realisation that he succeeded in ethnic carve-up of Bosnia

The jubilation of the people of Sarajevo at the capture of Radovan Karadzic, the man they blame for the bloody siege which pinned down their city for 44 months and cost 10,000 lives, has slowly evaporated during an extraordinary week of revelations. What was left yesterday was a coming to terms with the bitter fact that much of what the former Bosnian-Serb leader stood for has already come to pass.

Impeachment a hot topic at 'not Impeachment' hearing

Friday, July 25, 2008

McCaskill takes on military industrial complex

A scathing report accusing government auditors of corruption, issued by the government's top investigative body, prompted a freshman senator to call for firings "by nightfall" on Thursday.

In her first term, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), a former prosecutor and Missouri state auditor, has taken the lead in figuring out whether the US military gets what it pays for from contractors.

Revealed: Top secret database used in Bush spy program has published new details about a top secret government database that might be at the heart of the Bush administration’s domestic spying operations. The database is known as “Main Core.” It reportedly collects and stores vast amounts of personal and financial data about millions of Americans. Some former US officials believe that “Main Core” may have been used by the National Security Agency to determine who to spy on in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

You need Uncle Sam, Iraq told

Instead of moving toward accommodating the demand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for a timetable for United States military withdrawal, the George W Bush administration and the US military leadership are continuing to pressure their erstwhile client regime to bow to the US demand for a long-term military presence in the country.

The emergence of this defiant US posture toward the Iraqi withdrawal demand underlines just how important long-term access to military bases in Iraq has become to the US military and national security bureaucracy in general.

Secret memo shows harsh CIA tactics approved

That heavily censored memo, released Thursday, approved the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques method by method, but warned that if the circumstances changed, interrogators could be running afoul of anti-torture laws.

The Aug. 1, 2002, memo signed by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee was issued the same day he wrote a memo for then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales defining torture as only those "extreme acts" that cause pain similar in intensity to that caused by death or organ failure. That memo was never rescinded.

Former "Bush puppet" Iraqi PM calls for US withdrawal

Dr. Ayad Allawi, the former interim Iraqi prime minister previously referred to even by US Congress members as a "Bush puppet," voiced his strong support for a US withdrawal timeline during a Wednesday Congressional hearing.

During his term in office, from June 2004 to April 2005, Allawi endorsed the US's controversial bombings of Fallujah and echoed Bush's speeches almost word for word in many of his own statements; The Washington Post reported that Bush administration officials coached Allawi on the content of his public comments. Prior to his involvement in the US-backed, post-invasion Iraqi government, Allawi worked with the CIA.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bad days for newsrooms—and democracy

The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print. . . .

A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth. Take this away and a democracy dies. The fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind.

Tomgram: Why Cheney won't take down Iran

What almost any version of an air assault — Israeli, American, or a combination of the two — would be likely to do to the price of oil. When asked recently by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News about the effects of an Israeli attack on Iran, correspondent Richard Engel responded: "I asked an oil analyst that very question. He said, 'The price of a barrel of oil? Name your price: $300, $400 a barrel.'" Former CIA official Robert Baer suggested in Time Magazine that such an attack would translate into $12 gas at the pump.

A Turkish theater for World War III

Plan would use antiterror aid on Pakistani jets

The Bush administration plans to shift nearly $230 million in aid to Pakistan from counterterrorism programs to upgrading that country’s aging F-16 attack planes, which Pakistan prizes more for their contribution to its military rivalry with India than for fighting insurgents along its Afghan border.

Some members of Congress have greeted the proposal with dismay and anger, and may block the move. Lawmakers and their aides say that F-16s do not help the counterterrorism campaign and defy the administration’s urgings that Pakistan increase pressure on fighters of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in its tribal areas.

With Indian politics, the bad gets worse

There were backroom deals. There were wads of cash waved about as alleged evidence of bribery. There were six lawmakers on hand who had just been sprung from jail so they could cast their ballots.

So it went on the floor of India's Parliament this week during a historic vote on whether to back the government and its controversial nuclear deal with the United States.

Even by Indian standards, it was bad. Members of Parliament were throwing money on the floor, asserting they had been paid off by the ruling Congress party to support a measure of confidence in the government.

Israel reneges on settlement pledge

An Israeli ministerial committee has approved construction of new homes in a West Bank settlement despite a pledge to the US to stop building on the site, Israeli media reported today.

The committee has given the green light for 20 new homes at Maskiot. Ehud Barak, the defence minister, is expected to authorise construction soon, said Israel Radio. The plans were dropped by Israel in 2006 after pressure from the US.

Arctic has 90bn barrels of crude

The Arctic holds as much as 90bn barrels of undiscovered oil and has as much undiscovered gas as all the reserves known to exist in Russia, US government scientists have said in the first governmental assessment of the region’s resources.

The report is likely to add impetus to the race among polar nations, such as Russia, the US, Denmark, Norway and Canada, for control of the region.

The US Geological Survey believes the Arctic holds 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered oil, while 1,669,000bn cubic feet of natural gas is equivalent to 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered gas reserves.

Obama on the brink

Barack Obama is betraying his promise of change and is in danger of becoming just another political hack.

Yes, just like former maverick John McCain, who has refashioned himself as a mindless rubber stamp for the most inane policies of the miserably failed Bush administration. Both candidates are embracing, rather than challenging, the fundamental irrationality of Bush’s “war on terror,” which substitutes hysteria for rational analysis in appraising the dangers the country faces.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's behind the apparent change of U.S. strategy on Iran?

President Bush has likened direct diplomatic engagement with Iran to appeasement of Hitler.

Yet, while Israel continues to prod the U.S. to attack Iran, Washington has sent a top US diplomat to meet Iran's nuclear negotiators. There is also talk of an American diplomatic representation in Tehran.

What is behind this apparent change of strategy?

Watch Robert Baer — former Middle East specialist with the CIA — in a BBC HARDtalk interview with Stephen Sackur.

Islam subway ads cause stir in New York

Ads promoting Islam are to be placed on New York subway cars in September, but a U.S. congressman finds people sponsoring the messages unacceptable.

"I have no problem with the ad itself, but I have a very, very real problem with those behind it," Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said Tuesday. He is urging the Metropolitan Transit Authority to reject the ads.

The campaign is to feature ads on 1,000 of the subway system's roughly 6,200 cars. The main sponsor is a grass-roots organization, Islamic Circle of North America.

The Wisdom Fund, sponsor of this blog, placed Islam ads in Washington, DCs Metrorail, ten years ago, without incident.

Kurds object to Iraqi provincial election law

Provincial elections had been scheduled for October, but because of delays in reaching a compromise on the election law, they had already been set back to December. Now, the approved legislation is likely to be rejected by the Presidency Council, and with more work necessary to reach an agreement, it will be difficult to hold elections before next year, said Iraqi politicians from several parties.

Ex-advisers warn against threatening to attack Iran

"Don't talk about 'do we bomb them now or later?' " said Brent Scowcroft, adviser to presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush, during a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the negotiations between the United States and Iran.

Scowcroft added that by mentioning that threat, "we legitimize the use of force . . . and may tempt the Israelis" to carry out such a mission. He said he thinks that negotiations must continue and that sanctions have had an effect on Tehran, noting that even with elevated oil prices, Iran, alone among oil producers, is having a difficult time economically.

US elections: Obama's political straitjacket

When a US presidential candidate arrives in town, there is only one question on every Israeli's mind: how good a friend to Israel will this man be? Eager to answer this question, Barack Obama said: "Let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel's." That much is of course beyond dispute - his aides said he had intended to say the United States.

Indian governmentt, markets celebrate vote win

India's government Wednesday celebrated winning a parliamentary vote that clears the way for a controversial nuclear deal with the United States it says will help lift millions from poverty.

After two days of often chaotic debate , the Congress-led coalition of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late Tuesday survived a confidence vote in parliament, beating a challenge from the mainly left-wing and Hindu nationalist opposition. . . .

The agreement, unveiled in 2005, will allow the United States to sell nuclear plants and related technology to India once it has separated its civil and military programmes and accepted a certain level of UN inspections.

Bagram is 'the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia'

How can a government that maintains more than 800 military facilities in more than 140 different foreign countries be anything other than an imperial power? The hundreds of thousands of troops who operate those bases and conduct operations from them, not to mention the approximately 125,000 sailors and Marines aboard the U.S. warships that cruise the oceans, are not going door to door selling Girl Scout cookies. United States of America is the name; intimidation is the game.

Of course, the kingpins who control this massive machinery of coercion never describe it in such terms. In their lexis, American motives and actions are invariably noble. . . .

Yet, from time to time, a U.S. leader lets slip an expression so revealing that it warrants a thousand times greater weight . . . In seeking funds in 2007 for construction of a $62 million ammunition storage facility at Bagram Air Base, Admiral William J. Fallon, then the commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), referred to Bagram as "the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

History of India: The Goan Inquisition

The Goan Inquisition began in 1560, lasted until 1812. . . .

But before anyone could be burned, the necessary confession often took torture to extract. The Inquisition had a forty-one point manual for this. There was flogging, whipping, scalding, pressing. Fingernails were pulled out, eyelids sliced off. Fingers and toes were removed one by one. The ears, the nose, the lipss were all cut off. Legs and arms were amputated joint by joint until nothing was left but the torso, and the living head. Then the slow dismemberment began. Jews who had fled the Inquisition in Spain discovered that the Inquisition had come to India and found them. — Tony D’Souza, “The Konkans,” Harcourt (February 1, 2008), p292

Airport scanners see through clothes

Travelers, be aware: Your full-blown image — private parts and all — could soon be visible to a security officer, on-screen, at an airport near you.

Miami International Airport is one of a dozen airports nationwide that have begun pilot-testing whole-body imaging machines, which reveal weapons and explosives concealed under layers of clothing.

Mideast sees more of the same if Obama is elected

For what feels like forever, Israelis and their Arab neighbors have been hopelessly deadlocked on how to resolve the Palestinian crisis. But there is one point they may now agree on: If elected president, Senator Barack Obama will not fundamentally recalibrate America’s relationship with Israel, or the Arab world.

From the religious center of Jerusalem to the rolling hills of Amman to the crowded streets of Cairo, dozens of interviews revealed a similar sentiment: the United States will ultimately support Israel over the Palestinians, no matter who the president is.

Gandhi jeered during Indian nuclear debate

Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent of India's ruling political dynasty, was barracked and heckled as he attempted to woo wavering MPs in a knife-edge vote of confidence in the Indian government.

Opposition MPs who support Kumari Mayawati, the "untouchable" leader, refused to let Gandhi, a member of the Congress party-led coalition government, continue to speak, alleging they had been threatened by security services with fraudulent criminal charges.

Indian govt hit by bribery claims ahead of confidence vote

India's government was hit Tuesday by furious allegations that it was bribing MPs as it faced a confidence vote which could spark early polls and end a controversial nuclear energy deal with the US.

The main opposition party demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after three of its deputies waved bundles of cash worth 30 million rupees (715,000 dollars) they said they had been paid for their votes.

Unilateral action by U.S. a growing fear in Pakistan

Strong suggestions by the United States that it could resort to unilateral intervention against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan are generating increasing anxiety in the Pakistani press and among government officials, who warn that such an action could backfire.

Over the last week, the Pakistani press has been filled with commentaries warning that American attacks without Pakistan’s permission would further inflame anti-American sentiment, drive more people into the camp of the militants and fatally undermine the already fragile civilian government. Privately, one senior government official said American strikes would produce “chaos.”

Israel fears scathing U.S. report on its West Bank policies

The United States security coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, retired general James Jones, is preparing an extremely critical report of Israel's policies in the territories and its attitude toward the Palestinian Authority's security services.

A few copies of the report's executive summary (or, according to some sources, a draft of it) have been given to senior Bush Administration officials, and it is reportedly arousing considerable discomfort. In recent weeks, the administration has been debating whether to allow Jones to publish his full report, or whether to tell him to shelve it and make do with the summary, given the approaching end of President George Bush's term.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bosnian Serb leader, top war crimes suspect, arrested

Bosnia’s Serb wartime president, Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, has been arrested, Serbian President Boris Tadic’s office said on

Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, said in a statement late Monday that Mr. Karadzic would be transferred to The Hague, . . .

Der Spiegel proves al-Maliki story correct

As is usual with news it does not like, the Bush administration attempted to muddy the waters this weekend regarding the interview of PM Nuri al-Maliki with Der Spiegel in which he expressed approval of Barack Obama's plan to get US troops out of Iraq within 16 months of next January. Al-Maliki told Der Spiegel in response to a question about how long US troops would be in his country, . . .

Ali al-Dabbagh, who is usually described as al-Maliki's spokesman but actually seems to work for the CENTCOM or Pentagon Middle East command, was trotted out to make vague statements about Der Spiegel's having mistranslated or misinterpreted what al-Maliki said. . . .

It turns out that the translator involved works for al-Maliki, not for Der Spiegel, and so presumably knew what the prime minister's words meant in Arabic.

Indians want Kashmiris to decide own fate: poll

The poll found that people in both India and Pakistan have expressed a readiness to have the Kashmiri people decide their own fate, adding that if the Kashmiris chose independence, a majority of Indians and Pakistanis would find it tolerable. In India, the opinion poll was conducted by reputed agency C-Voter, while in Pakistan, AC Nielson gathered views on behalf of the polling site.

The poll revealed that more than half of the population of India and Pakistan were open to a range of possible outcomes for Kashmir. It found no strong majority opposition on either side to Kashmir becoming an independent country or to dividing the state between Pakistan and India.

Mideast facing choice between crops and water

For decades nations in this region have drained aquifers, sucked the salt from seawater and diverted the mighty Nile to make the deserts bloom. But those projects were so costly and used so much water that it remained far more practical to import food than to produce it. Today, some countries import 90 percent or more of their staples.

Now, the worldwide food crisis is making many countries in this politically volatile region rethink that math.

Bin Laden's driver is in the dock, but America's war on terror is on trial

Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's personal driver, will enter a specially built courtroom in Guantanamo Bay tomorrow for the first full trial of any of the hundreds of detainees to have been sent to America's infamous prison camp since the 9/11 attacks nearly seven years ago.

Instead of one of al-Qa'ida's top leaders in captivity – such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the accused in the first US military tribunal since the Second World War is a 39-year-old Yemeni, whose lawyers say he belongs on a psychiatric ward rather than in jail. . . .

Even the US does not claim that the driver and sometime mechanic, who earned a mere $200 (£100) a month, was a major terror figure.

Indian MPs hold key nuclear debate

The future of India's coalition government and a controversial nuclear deal with the United States were hanging in the balance Monday as parliament opened debate ahead of a key confidence vote.

The Indian government will collapse and early elections will be called if the coalition of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh loses a vote on Tuesday, and TV projections showed the outcome could go either way by just a few ballots.

Singh stirred up anger among his left-wing and communist allies by pushing ahead a nuclear accord with Washington . . .

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The dark side of paradise

Russia's energy drive leaves US reeling

Russian giant Gazprom, the largest extractor of natural gas in the world, has announced plans to build a pipeline across the Mediterranean to pump Libyan gas to Europe. This is the final lap of a Kremlin strategy that involves Gazprom handling the entire output of Libya's gas, oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) designated for export to Europe and the US. . . .

And Gazprom seeks to buy exploration licenses in Nigeria and proposes to build a pipeline from there to Algeria, and with Algeria, Gazprom is developing a proposal on "joint" marketing of gas in Europe. US officials have gone ballistic.

When spies don’t play well with their allies

Most C.I.A. veterans agree that no relationship between the spy agency and a foreign intelligence service is quite as byzantine, or as maddening, as that between the C.I.A. and Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or I.S.I. . . .

Without the I.S.I.’s help, American spies in Pakistan would be incapable of carrying out their primary mission in the country: hunting Islamic militants, including top members of Al Qaeda. Without the millions of covert American dollars sent annually to Pakistan, the I.S.I. would have trouble competing with the spy service of its archrival, India.

But the relationship is complicated by a web of competing interests. First off, the top American goal in the region is to shore up Afghanistan’s government and security services to better fight the I.S.I.’s traditional proxies, the Taliban, there.

Coalition 'bombs Afghan police'

At least 13 Afghan police and civilians have died in two incidents involving international forces, officials say.

Four Afghan police and five civilians died in an apparently mistaken air strike by international coalition forces in Farah province.

Separately, the Nato-led Isaf said it had "accidentally" killed at least four civilians in Paktika province.

Brown plans to withdraw troops as he backs Obama over 'war on

Gordon Brown prepared the ground for a historic realignment in the "war on terror" yesterday by setting out a four-point plan for withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

Although he is refusing to set a detailed timetable for withdrawal, it is clear Mr Brown is in agreement with the US presidential candidate Barack Obama on the need for military action in Afghanistan to take priority. Both appear to be working to a 16-month timetable.

The 20-year-old at heart of web's most anarchic and influential site

A bad couple of years, or a bad decade?

Afghans call for new strategy as Obama visits

"I don't think decreasing or increasing troop numbers is going to yield a long-term stability here or peace," Matt Waldman, policy adviser to Oxfam International, one of the largest development agencies in Afghanistan, told Reuters.

"I think there are other factors which are more important than that," he said. . . .

More than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban for refusing to give up al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, attacks, there are few signs the insurgency against the Afghan government and foreign troops is weakening.

Iran given two-week deadline to end the nuclear impasse

After a day of inconclusive talks in Geneva, a six-nation negotiating team warned the Iranian delegation that it had run out of patience and demanded a 'yes or no' answer to a proposal it put forward five weeks ago.

Under that offer, sponsored jointly by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, Iran would not expand its uranium enrichment programme, while the international community refrained from imposing further sanctions. This phase would last six weeks, possibly paving the way for suspension of enrichment and more comprehensive talks.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Leading article: Islam and the pluralist state

It would be easy to criticise the Government's plan to fund a new independent board of Islamic theologians to advise the Muslim community about the tricky issues faith provokes in a modern pluralist society. Hardline secularists yesterday trotted out familiar arguments about the separation of church and state while, at the other extreme, Muslims such as Azzam Tamimi — who has sought to justify suicide bombings — were accusing ministers of trying to create state-sponsored Islam.

Obamania grips Europe ahead of visit by 'John Kennedy of our time'

A veil closes France’s door to citizenship

When Faiza Silmi applied for French citizenship, she worried that her French was not quite good enough or that her Moroccan upbringing would pose a problem.

“I would never have imagined that they would turn me down because of what I choose to wear,” Ms. Silmi said, her hazel eyes looking out of the narrow slit in her niqab, an Islamic facial veil that is among three flowing layers of turquoise, blue and black that cover her body from head to toe.

But last month, France’s highest administrative court upheld a decision to deny citizenship to Ms. Silmi, 32, on the ground that her “radical” practice of Islam was incompatible with French values like equality of the sexes.

Premier of India stakes career on U.S. nuclear pact

As prime minister, the blue-turbaned Sikh is fighting the biggest political battle of his career as he tries to implement another radical initiative, one that he hopes will transform India in the 21st century: the historic nuclear energy agreement with the United States.

The agreement would give India access to nuclear fuel and technology, even though it has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. . . .

Last week, a coalition of communist parties withdrew its support from the government to protest the deal. The withdrawal precipitated a political crisis, and the government now faces a confidence vote in Parliament on Tuesday. Singh's party is scrambling to cobble together support from smaller, regional parties and independent lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the communist leaders are holding nationwide rallies calling Singh a stooge of the United States.

Quit operations, Taliban warlord warns Pakistan regional leaders

Pakistan's Taliban militants have threatened to attack the provincial government in the troubled north-west unless it halts operations, escalating the country's security crisis.

Iran, EU and US begin nuclear talks in Geneva

The EU's diplomatic chief Javier Solana posed for the cameras with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva before beginning talks along with US Under-secretary of State William Burns.

It is the first time that Washington has directly taken part in face-to-face talks with the Iranians on the nuclear issue.

Memo to Obama, McCain: No one wins in a war

BARACK OBAMA and John McCain continue to argue about war. McCain says to keep the troops in Iraq until we "win" and supports sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obama says to withdraw some (not all) troops from Iraq and send them to fight and "win" in Afghanistan.

For someone like myself, who fought in World War II, and since then has protested against war, I must ask: Have our political leaders gone mad? Have they learned nothing from recent history? Have they not learned that no one "wins" in a war, but that hundreds of thousands of humans die, most of them civilians, many of them children?

For first time, Bush agrees to 'time horizon' for Iraq pullout

The United States and Iraq have agreed to a "general time horizon" for further reductions of U.S. combat troops in Iraq, the White House said Friday, the first time the Bush administration has agreed to set any kind of timeline for troop withdrawals.

The agreement appears to be a political favor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, but the White House said it wasn't a reversal of President Bush's long opposition to any fixed schedule for troop reductions, including the veto of bills that included timetables for withdrawal.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Condi's coup: how the neo-cons lost the argument over Iran

Condoleezza Rice was George Bush's handmaiden for the war in Iraq but she is now emerging as the best hope for avoiding a military conflict between the United States and Iran. . . .

Mr Bush's decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department's sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest's section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It takes a school, not missiles

Since 9/11, Westerners have tried two approaches to fight terrorism in Pakistan, President Bush’s and Greg Mortenson’s.

Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion . . . the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.

Mr. Mortenson, a frumpy, genial man from Montana, takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.

Sarkozy lauds Islam at Louvre ceremony with Saudi prince

"This will be an opportunity for the French and all visitors to the Louvre to see that Islam is progress, science, finesse, modernity, and that fanaticism in the name of Islam is a corruption of Islam," Sarkozy said at the ceremony.

Four Madrid bomb convicts cleared

Spain's Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of four people found guilty of involvement in the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

The four were among 21 people convicted last year over the attacks, which killed 191 people.

The court also upheld the acquittal of an Egyptian suspected of masterminding the attacks, because he had already been convicted of the offence in Italy.

However it convicted and jailed one of those originally found not guilty.

Development: US fails to measure up on 'human index'

Despite spending $230m (£115m) an hour on healthcare, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed country. And while it has the second-highest income per head in the world, the United States ranks 42nd in terms of life expectancy.

These are some of the startling conclusions from a major new report which attempts to explain why the world's number-one economy has slipped to 12th place - from 2nd in 1990- in terms of human development.

. . . the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut."

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals' ominous decision

Led by conservative judges, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has just affirmed the Bush administration’s “enemy combatant” doctrine, a doctrine that allows President Bush and his military forces to designate anyone anywhere in the world as an “enemy combatant” in the so-called war on terrorism and treat him accordingly. While the case that the Court was deciding involved a foreigner, Ali al-Marri, the Court’s reasoning applies to American citizens as well. . . .

When will ordinary Americans finally start fighting back? When will they finally begin defending their own fundamental rights and liberties?

Iraq eyes full security control by year-end

US plans to station diplomats in Iran for first time since 1979

The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section - a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'Denounce war on terror' urge Catholic Workers

The Catholic Worker Movement in the United States has called on the country's bishops to denounce the American-led war on terror while urging the Church and American citizens to repent for "our affronts to God" fed by violence and materialism.

Amory Lovins: Expanding nuclear power makes climate change worse

What nuclear would do is displace coal, our most abundant domestic fuel. And this sounds good for climate, but actually, expanding nuclear makes climate change worse, for a very simple reason. Nuclear is incredibly expensive. The costs have just stood up on end lately. Wall Street Journal recently reported that they’re about two to four times the cost that the industry was talking about just a year ago. And the result of that is that if you buy more nuclear plants, you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar, and you’ll get it about twenty to forty times slower, than if you buy instead the cheaper, faster stuff that is walloping nuclear and coal and gas, all kinds of central plans, in the marketplace. And those competitors are efficient use of electricity and what’s called micropower, which is both renewables, except big hydro, and making electricity and heat together, in fact, recent buildings, which takes about half of the money, fuel and carbon of making them separately, as we normally do.

The next big wave is breaking

The scale of the latest wave to hit, the collapse of confidence in the two government-sponsored entities, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, is a harbinger of worse to come in what will be the most devastating financial and economic catastrophe in United States history. The impact will be felt globally.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), one of the largest financial institutions in the European Union, has warned its clients that "a very nasty period is soon to be upon us — be prepared". RBS expects the S&P-500 index of US stocks, one of the broadest stock indices in Wall Street used by hedge funds, banks and pension funds, could lose almost 23% by September as, in the bank's phrase, "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the US-led securitization revolution that took hold after the bubble burst and then Fed chairman Alan Greenspan lowered US interest rates to levels not sustained since the 1930's Great Depression.

US troops abandon Afghan outpost

US and Afghan troops have abandoned a remote village in eastern Afghanistan where militants killed nine US soldiers and wounded a dozen more on Sunday.

Israel targets Hamas philanthropy

Shopping malls. Schools. Medical centers. Charities. Orphanages. Soup kitchens. These are the latest targets in the campaign the Israeli military is waging against Hamas in the West Bank.

Israeli military officials have identified Hamas' civilian infrastructure in the West Bank as a major source of the Islamic group's popularity, and have begun raiding and shutting down these institutions in cities like Hebron, Nablus, and Qalqilyah.

Last week, troops focused their efforts in Nablus, raiding the city hall and confiscating computers. They also stormed into a shopping mall and posted closure notices on the shop windows. A girls' school and a medical center were shut down in the city, and a charitable association had its computers impounded and documents seized.

Naomi Klein rexamines 'The Shock Doctrine'

Not only have companies like BP and Texaco been offered these no-bid contracts, but what’s strange about it is that they’re service contracts, and these are not oil service companies. So what’s significant about these contracts is that they appear to be giving these oil companies the right of first refusal on future, more significant contracts. So, one week after these smaller service agreements were announced, the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that they also will be handing out longer-term management agreements, which will give oil companies the ability to manage existing fields in Iraq and hold onto 75 percent of the worth of those contracts and leave only 25 percent for Iraqis, which is absolutely unheard of in the region, where 51 percent for the country is the baseline for new exploration, for new fields. These are existing fields. They’re already working. The technology is already there. And these foreign companies are going to be taking 75 percent of the worth of those existing fields in Iraq. So it’s daylight robbery. It’s armed robbery,

First al-Bashir, next ... Bush?

While there is little chance Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, will ever be brought to trial following his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the charges brought against him nevertheless offer hope for anyone concerned about human rights around the world.

For Americans, however, the ICC indictment should offer a moment of sombre reflection not merely for our relative inaction with regard to years of mass murder in Sudan.

It is equally disturbing that much of the al-Bashir indictment could just as easily be applied to George Bush, the US president.

Oil reserves may raise false US hopes

No one knows the extent of US oil and natural gas reserves in the offshore and Arctic areas that are off-limits to drilling. The last time they were surveyed was in the 1980s and the technology then used is no longer considered accurate, say industry experts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A phony crisis — and a real one

Though the ex-head of Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, says Iran may be one year away from a bomb — and will use it on Israel — according to the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003. . . .

A Democratic House that came to power denouncing the rush to war on Iraq is about to vote to demand that Bush commit an act of war against Iran.

The front men for 362 are liberal Gary Ackerman of New York and conservative Mike Pence of Indiana. But the juice behind them is that of the Israeli lobby AIPAC, which is marching in step with Israel.

Last week, Mossad’s chief, Meir Dagan, was here to make the case for war on Iran. This week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak visits Dick Cheney and maybe Bush. Next week, it is the head of Israel’s armed forces.

Israel and its Fifth Column in this city seek to stampede us into war with Iran.

In ’06 bomb plot trial, a question of imminence

As the three-month trial of eight defendants draws to a close, prosecutors indeed have presented evidence of meticulous planning, with experiments on a new kind of bomb, research into plane schedules, videos threatening martyrdom, an apartment purchased for more than $270,000 in cash and a mysterious outsider with strong ties to Pakistan.

But the testimony has shown little evidence that the suspects were prepared to strike immediately, or of any link to Al Qaeda . . .

In cross-examination, Mr. Ritchie, the government scientist, testified that making the liquid bomb required lengthy research, and that the preparation and transportation of liquid explosive materials would be extremely hazardous.

China may veto attempt to arrest Sudanese president on genocide charges

China expressed "grave concerns" today at moves to arrest the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, on charges of genocide in Darfur and refused to rule out blocking the attempt at the UN.

What's NOT in the IAEA Iran reports

On July 6, 2008, Zimmerman published an opinion piece in the Boston Globe entitled "Time for Iran to Face More Sanctions," a screed that badly misuses the International Atomic Energy Agency's May 2008 report on its monitoring of Iran's nuclear power activities. In his piece, which was later republished in the International Herald Tribune, Zimmerman blatantly tries to terrify Americans about an Iranian nuclear menace that does not exist, may never exist, and poses no realistic threat whatsoever to the United States in any case. His commentary is also solid evidence that the New York Times, which owns both the Globe and the Tribune, is intent on once again disseminating the same sort of nonsense that facilitated a "case" for the Iraq invasion.

Iraqis demand end to ‘occupation’

Iraqi opposition and resistance groups have renewed their demands for an end to all negotiations with the United States while US troops remain on Iraqi soil.

“We reject any kind of agreement that prolongs the occupation for so much as a day,” said Shamil Rassam, chairman of the Iraqi Popular Forces, an anti-occupation group with offices in Syria. “The occupation must be ended immediately and there can be no compromises until the last American soldier has left the country.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Musharraf vacillates while the enemy is at Peshawar's gates

The Taliban are working on two fronts. One is to oppose American and NATO forces in Afghanistan; the other is to intimidate the population in urban areas of Pakistan, particularly in frontier areas. Most of the suicide bombings have been directed against government functionaries and even ordinary citizens. And almost all of them, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, can be traced to Taliban-al-Qaeda axis operations out of the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Sudan head accused of war crimes

Sudan's president has been accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo told judges at The Hague that Omar al-Bashir bore criminal responsibility for alleged atrocities committed over the past five years.

The three-judge panel must now decide whether there are reasonable grounds for an arrest warrant to be issued.

Dozens charged with Turkish coup plot

Turkey's chief prosecutor today announced charges against 86 people accused of plotting to topple the government.

Aykut Cengiz Engin said the group, including at least one former general, journalists, academicians and businessmen, was charged either with forming or belonging to a terrorist organisation, or of provoking an armed uprising with the aim of bringing down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A court must now decide within two weeks whether to open a case against them.

Hundreds stormed US Afghan base in brutal raid

Hundreds of militants stormed a remote military outpost in Afghanistan and briefly entered the base in a ferocious attack that left nine US soldiers dead, officials said Monday.

Dozens of insurgents were also killed in hours of fighting sparked after Sunday's dawn assault on a newly-built NATO and Afghan army post in the mountainous northeastern province of Kunar, the NATO-led force said.

Time for US to leave Iraq? Not so fast, say analysts

US President George W. Bush long has vowed that the United States would leave Iraq if asked by Baghdad's leadership, but now that the request has been made, Bush is in no hurry to exit, analysts say.

Iraqi leaders have pressed for a withdrawal timetable as part of negotiations over the US military role beyond December 31, when the UN mandate which provides the legal basis for a foreign troop presence in Iraq expires.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dalai Lama defends Islam as peaceful religion

Nuke-armed paranoids

The death of Reaganomics

This is the third time in 100 years that support for taken-for-granted economic ideas has crumbled. The Great Depression discredited the radical laissez-faire doctrines of the Coolidge era. Stagflation in the 1970s and early ’80s undermined New Deal ideas and called forth a rebirth of radical free-market notions. What’s becoming the Panic of 2008 will mean an end to the latest Capital Rules era.

President George W Bush backs Israeli plan for strike on Iran

President George W Bush has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down, according to a senior Pentagon official.

Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread scepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an “amber light” to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, the official told The Sunday Times.

China 'is fuelling war in Darfur'

The BBC has found the first evidence that China is currently helping Sudan's government militarily in Darfur.

The Panorama TV programme tracked down Chinese army lorries in the Sudanese province that came from a batch exported from China to Sudan in 2005.

The BBC was also told that China was training fighter pilots who fly Chinese A5 Fantan fighter jets in Darfur.

U.S., Iraq scale down negotiations over forces

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency, according to senior U.S. officials, effectively leaving talks over an extended U.S. military presence there to the next administration.

In place of the formal status-of-forces agreement negotiators had hoped to complete by July 31, the two governments are now working on a "bridge" document, more limited in both time and scope, that would allow basic U.S. military operations to continue beyond the expiration of a U.N. mandate at the end of the year.

British government ‘to pull troops out of Iraq by mid-2009’

The government is aiming to pull the vast majority of British troops out of Iraq by the middle of next year, defence sources have revealed.

While there are no plans to withdraw before George W Bush hands over to the new American president at the turn of the year, the decision is now expected to be made “in the first half of 2009”.

Only troops training Iraqi military or police and special forces are likely to stay, unless there is a sharp change for the worse.

Nouri al-Maliki ready to oust US from Iraq green zone

The green zone of Baghdad, a highly fortified slice of American suburbia on the banks of the Tigris river, may soon be handed over to Iraqi control if the increasingly assertive government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, gets its way.

A senior Iraqi government official said this weekend the enclave should revert to Iraqi control by the end of the year. “We think that by the end of 2008 all the zones in Baghdad should be integrated into the city,” said Ali Dabbagh, the government’s spokesman.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The inside story of how the war on terror turned into a war on American ideals

Since embarking upon its global war on terror, the United States has blatantly disregarded the Geneva Conventions. It has imprisoned suspects, including U.S. citizens, without charge, holding them indefinitely and denying them due process. It has created an American gulag in which thousands of detainees, including many innocent of any wrongdoing, have been subjected to ritual abuse and humiliation. It has delivered suspected terrorists into the hands of foreign torturers.

Under the guise of "enhanced interrogation techniques," it has succeeded, in Mayer's words, in "making torture the official law of the land in all but name." Further, it has done all these things as a direct result of policy decisions made at the highest levels of government.

To dismiss these as wild, anti-American ravings will not do. They are facts, which Mayer substantiates in persuasive detail, citing the testimony not of noted liberals like Noam Chomsky or Keith Olbermann but of military officers, intelligence professionals, "hard-line law-and-order stalwarts in the criminal justice system" and impeccably conservative Bush appointees who resisted the conspiracy from within the administration.

Is the fourth estate a fifth column?

Our media institutions, deeply embedded in the power structures of society, are not providing the information that we need to make our democracy work. To put it another way, corporate media consolidation is a corrosive social force. It robs people of their voice in public affairs and pollutes the political culture. And it turns the debates about profound issues into a shouting match of polarized views promulgated by partisan apologists who trivialize democracy while refusing to speak the truth about how our country is being plundered. . . .

Democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent at the same time that it enhances the power of the state and the privileged interests that the state protects. And nothing characterizes corporate media today more than its disdain toward the fragile nature of modern life and its indifference toward the complex social debate required of a free and self-governing people.

Key US mortgage lender goes bust

One of the largest US mortgage lenders, the California-based IndyMac Bank, has collapsed amid a growing credit crisis.

Federal regulators seized the bank's assets, fearing it might not be able to meet withdrawals by depositors.

It is the second-largest financial institution to fail in US history, regulators say.

Bush blamed for Merkel opposition to Brandenburg date for Obama

Despite furious denials, suspicion is growing that President George Bush has put pressure on the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to block a proposed speech by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at the Brandenburg Gate this month. . . .

Germany is already in a swoon over Mr Obama and near-constant comparisons are made between him and President John F Kennedy, who is still revered, especially in Berlin.

China and Russia veto Zimbabwe sanctions

African body warns world court over Sudan prosecutions

The African Union said Saturday that plans by the International Criminal Court to prosecute Sudanese government officials for alleged warcrimes risked jeopardizing peace efforts in Darfur.

How Britain wages war

"At the heart of the US and UK project," says Shiner, "is a desire to avoid accountability for what they want to do. Guantánamo Bay and extraordinary renditions are part of the same struggle to avoid accountability through jurisdiction." British soldiers, he says, use the same torture techniques as the Americans and deny that the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on Torture apply to them. And British torture is "commonplace": so much so, that "the routine nature of this ill-treatment helps to explain why, despite the abuse of the soldiers and cries of the detainees being clearly audible, nobody, particularly in authority, took any notice."

Iran's missiles are just for show

Experts disagree on the merits of the Shahab-3 - a copy of the North Korean Nodong; for some it's not that less erratic than a glorified Scud. But most experts agree Iran is nowhere close to being capable of weaponizing any kind of nuclear device it may still take years to make. . . .

Predictably, the US government dubbed the test "a threat" . . .

Hezbollah gains veto power in new Lebanon Cabinet

Hezbollah and its allies solidified their hold on Lebanon's government Friday with the formation of a national unity Cabinet that gives them veto power over government decisions.

Still, the Western-backed parliamentary majority managed to deny the Hezbollah-led opposition any of the most important Cabinet positions, except for the one it had already held — foreign affairs.

They defeated the Soviets with Washington’s help, but now they attack Americans as the new occupiers

"You could almost describe the insurgency as having two branches," says a senior U.S. military official here. "It's the Taliban in the south and a 'rainbow coalition' in the east."

Indeed, along with a smattering of Afghan tribal groups, Pakistani extremists, and drug kingpins, two of the most dangerous players are violent Afghan Islamists named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, according to U.S. officials. In recent weeks, Hekmatyar has called upon Pakistani militants to attack U.S. targets, while the Haqqani network is blamed for three large vehicle bombings, along with the attempted assassination of Karzai in April.

Ironically, these two warlords—currently at the top of America's list of most wanted men in Afghanistan—were once among America's most valued allies.

'Lob bombs' new biggest worry for US in Baghdad

The 107 mm rockets that are used in the improvised bombs — which some call an airborne version of the roadside bombs that through the course of the war have been the leading killer of U.S. troops — are manufactured in Iran, officials said. But some officers cautioned against assuming Iran is directly involved.

The weapons are launched from small trucks and are fired in multiples of four to nine rockets at a time. The detonation is sometimes triggered by a signal from a cell phone, other times by a washing machine timer.

Arab state tells Israel it would not oppose Iran strike

Official representatives of an Arab country have hinted in meetings with Israeli officials that they would not oppose an Israeli military operation against Iran, sources in Jerusalem said this week.

According to the sources, the representatives of the Arab country said they are worried by Iran's growing influence in the region, primarily among Shi'ite communities in Arab states.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at risk of default

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shares fell again Friday — and the broader stock market followed suit — as concern mounted that the government will be forced to take over the beleaguered mortgage finance companies, which some investors fear are at risk of default.

Kucinich impeach bill charges Bush 'fabricated threats'; Pelosi hints at possible hearing

Concerned that the 35 articles of impeachment he introduced a month ago might be too much for members of the House Judiciary Committee to handle all at once, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) simplified things Thursday.

The former Democratic presidential candidate introduced a single article to impeach President Bush, accusing him of deceiving Congress to convince lawmakers to authorize his invasion of Iraq more than five years ago.

FCC chief says Comcast violated Internet rules

The potentially precedent-setting move stems from a complaint against Comcast Corp. that the company had blocked Internet traffic among users of a certain type of "file sharing" software that allows them to exchange large amounts of data.

"The commission has adopted a set of principles that protects consumers access to the Internet," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told The Associated Press late Thursday. "We found that Comcast's actions in this instance violated our principles."

Martin said Comcast has "arbitrarily" blocked Internet access, regardless of the level of traffic, and failed to disclose to consumers that it was doing so.

India's unlikely Obama

For a few months, a small team of political strategists, computer specialists and management graduates in New Delhi has been studying Obama's speeches and slogans, Web site, campus outreach and rhetoric of change.

"About 100 million first-time voters will enter the election landscape next year. That is a staggering number of young people. And the Indian youth is impatient for change," said Sudheendra Kulkarni, who heads up strategy for the campaign.

His candidate is L.K. Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, a nationalist group that hopes to upset the ruling Congress party in elections next May.

US 'killed 47 Afghan civilians'

A US air strike in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed 47 civilians, 39 of them women and children, an Afghan government investigating team says.

Brown blunders in pledge to secure Nigeria oil

Gordon Brown is being accused of preparing for a military adventure in Africa after he pledged to provide backing to the Nigerian security forces. His announcement prompted the collapse of a ceasefire in the oil-rich Niger Delta and helped to drive up crude oil prices on world markets.

The Prime Minister's offer to help "tackle lawlessness" in the world's eighth largest oil producer was immediately condemned by the main militant group in the Delta, which abandoned a two-week-old ceasefire and accused Britain of backing what it calls Nigeria's "illegal government".

International court likely to seek arrest of Sudan's president for war crimes in Darfur

Israeli jets using Iraq's airspace

The US has allowed Israeli jets to use US airbases and fly over Iraqi air space for a likely attack against Iran, Iraqi media say. It is more than a month that some Israeli planes belonging to Israeli air force use the US military bases in Iraq to land and take off, Iraqi Nahrainnet news network said Wednesday, quoting informed sources close to Iraq's Defense Ministry.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Election 2008: An easy choice in November

It's easy to decide who to vote for on November 4, 2008.

It would be logical to vote for the candidate who has the better vision for America, and whose values are those that have served America best through the ages.

It would be logical to vote for the candidate with the better character -- one who is honest, just, wise, courageous, ...

It would be logical to vote for the candidate whose position on the issues is better for us, individually, and/or for America.

It would be logical to vote for the candidate who has experience in domestic and global affairs, who has measurable accomplishments in positions of leadership, ...

Therein lies the problem.

U.S. troops in Iraq face a powerful new weapon

Suspected Shiite militiamen have begun using powerful rocket-propelled bombs to attack U.S. military outposts in recent months, broadening the array of weapons used against American troops.

Iran test-fires missiles for second day

Iran today test-fired missiles in the Gulf for a second consecutive day, Iranian state media reported.

The tests are likely to infuriate Israel and the US, who called on Iran to refrain from further tests after yesterday's war games.

Total chief says too risky to invest in Iran

The head of French energy giant Total said in an interview published Thursday that it is too politically risky to invest in Iran, dealing a serious blow to the Islamic republic's key energy sector.

Reality bites back: Why the US won't attack Iran

When asked recently by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News about the effects of an Israeli attack on Iran, correspondent Richard Engel responded: "I asked an oil analyst that very question. He said, 'The price of a barrel of oil? Name your price: $300, $400 a barrel.'" Former CIA official Robert Baer suggested in Time Magazine that such an attack would translate into $12 gas at the pump.

Former Pakistan army chief says Iran and Pakistan under siege of western conspiracies

Former Pakistan Army Chief General ''Retd'' Mirza Aslam Baig on Tuesday said that Iran and Pakistan are under siege of western conspiracies.

He said that intelligence agencies of allied forces are very active in Afghanistan and working against the interests of Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia.

Pakistan rejects foreign troops

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's comments during a U.N. Security Council session on Afghanistan's future could deal a blow to the United States' efforts to kill or capture al-Qaida leaders.

"Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against other countries. However, no foreign troops will be allowed to operate inside Pakistan," Qureshi told the 15-nation council. "The new democratic government in Pakistan cannot but be sensitive to the sentiments of our people."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Israel prods Americans into war with Iran

Resolution 362 is, thus, a supposedly innocent way on the part of America of provoking hostility by necessitating the imposition of a blockade on all ships "entering and departing Iran… [and] prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products".

While a naval blockade may be seen as acceptable to US politicians, it constitutes an act of war for Iran and will lawfully justify a response from Tehran.

India caught in the Taliban myth

It is necessary to draw a line while presenting what happened as a kind of morality play of good versus evil. . . .

The Taliban are a highly motivated movement. They are not in the business of exhibitionism. Their actions are invariably pinpointed, conveying some distinguishable political message or the other.

Nuclear 'scare' against Iran exposed

The revival of that issue in 2008 appears to reflect political pressure on the IAEA from the United States and its allies. . . .

The timing of the IAEA's decision in early 2008 to highlight the uranium metal document, after having previously indicated that it was resolved, suggests that it was the result of new political pressures on the agency. The new IAEA hard line on the issue came after Iran had provided new information that resolved the entire list of issues about the history of its nuclear program on which the IAEA had been raising doubts since 2003.

Russia threatens military response to US missile defence deal

Russia threatened to retaliate by military means after a deal with the Czech Republic brought the US missile defence system in Europe a step closer.

The threat followed quickly on from the announcement that Condoleezza Rice signed a formal agreement with the Czech Republic to host the radar for the controversial project.

Moscow argues that the missile shield would severely undermine the balance of European security and regards the proposed missile shield based in two former Communist countries as a hostile move.

India left hits out at government

Former communist allies have attacked India's government over a controversial civilian nuclear deal with the US.

Earlier, they formally withdrew support for the government after it vowed to press ahead with the agreement.

Communists say the accord could open Indian foreign policy to too much US influence. The government says it is needed to meet soaring energy demands.

Six die in US consulate attack in Istanbul

Iraq wants withdrawal timetable In U.S. pact

Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday that his government would not sign an agreement governing the future role of U.S. troops in Iraq unless it includes a timetable for their withdrawal.

The statement was the strongest demand yet by a senior Iraqi official for the two governments to set specific dates for the departure of U.S. forces. Speaking to reporters in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said his government was "impatiently waiting" for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Defiant Iran angers US with missile test

Iran on Wednesday test-fired a missile it said is capable of reaching Israel, angering the United States amid growing fears that the standoff over the contested Iranian nuclear drive could lead to war.

. . . the missiles test-fired by the elite Revolutionary Guards included a "Shahab-3 with a conventional warhead weighing one tonne and a 2,000-kilometre (1,240-mile) range."

Report urges overhaul of the war powers law

Two former secretaries of state, concluding that a 1973 measure limiting the president’s ability to wage war unilaterally had never worked as intended, proposed on Tuesday a new system of closer consultation between the White House and Congress before American forces go into battle.

Judge tells Bush administration: 'Time has come' to make Guantanamo Bay cases top priority

A federal judge overseeing Guantanamo Bay lawsuits ordered the Justice Department to put other cases aside and make it clear throughout the Bush administration that, after nearly seven years of detention, the detainees must have their day in court.

One-sixth of Iraq's residents displaced — UN

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Swiss to hold referendum on Muslim minaret ban

Swiss nationalists have collected enough signatures to force a vote on the ban, the Interior Ministry said. . . .

If it is approved, the Swiss parliament must pass a law enshrining a construction ban in the constitution. . . .

President Pascal Couchepin said the government will recommend that voters reject the proposed ban.

Iraq insists on withdrawal timetable for US troops

Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday his country will not accept any security deal with the United States unless it contains specific dates for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces.

The comments by Mouwaffak al-Rubaie were the strongest yet by an Iraqi official about the deal now under negotiation with U.S. officials. It came a day after Iraq's prime minister first said publicly that he expects the pending troop deal with the United States to have some type of timetable for withdrawal.

President Bush has said he opposes a timetable.

Iran in warning to US and Israel

Iran will strike Israel and the US navy in the Gulf if it is attacked over its nuclear programme, a senior Iranian official has warned.

"The first US shot on Iran would set the United States' vital interests in the world on fire," said Ali Shirazi, an aide to Iran's supreme leader.

"Tel Aviv and the US fleet in the Persian Gulf would be the targets that would be set on fire," he said. . . .

"The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and US shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned in Iran's crushing response," Mr Shirazi was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies.

The Big Question: Why is tension rising in Turkey, and is the country turning Islamist?

For Turkey's more radical secularists, there is a war going on between the defenders of Kemalism – the mix of authoritarian secularism, statism and nationalism that is still Turkey's official ideology – and a government intent on imposing Islam on the country. The AKP government insists the struggle is between democrats and defenders of an outdated authoritarian political vision. Cynics see a battle between two sides linked by their obsession with controlling the state apparatus and their cavalier attitude to democracy.

US cluster bomb plans meaningless, say campaigners

US plans to respond to international pressure over the use of cluster bombs by phasing out the amount of unexploded bomblets they contain, were today branded as "meaningless" by campaigners.

A three-page Pentagon memo pledges that after 2018, more than 99% of the explosives in cluster bombs must detonate on impact.

King set to lead rare interfaith talks in Spain

King Abdullah's initiative – a three-day meeting starting July 16 that will include Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clerics, as well as representatives of Eastern religions – stands out among interfaith gatherings that have become commonplace in the post-9/11 world.

Not only is Saudi Arabia the birthplace of Islam, but it also is the wellspring of an austere, exclusivist version of Sunni Islam. Sometimes called Wahhabism, it bans the open practice of other faiths in the kingdom and tends to reject inter-religious dialogue with non-Muslim "infidels."

India’s left quits coalition over nuclear deal

The communist parties that have provided the Indian government with a parliamentary majority for four years said on Tuesday they were withdrawing their support to protest a civilian nuclear deal with the United States.

The communist parties had said they would withdraw if the government formally went ahead with the deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday that move would come ”very soon.”

It was the final straw for the left.

Iraq raises prospect of US withdrawal timetable

In a rebuff to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Pentagon said Monday that any timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq would depend on conditions on the ground there.

Maliki told Arab ambassadors on Monday he was pressing for such a timetable in negotiations with Washington on an agreement on the status of US forces in Iraq beyond 2008.

Asked about the prime minister's comments, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters: "With respect to timetables I would say the same thing I would say as respects to the security situation — it is dependent on conditions on the ground."

Put war powers back where they belong

A bipartisan group that we led, the National War Powers Commission, has unanimously concluded after a year of study that the law purporting to govern the decision to engage in war — the 1973 War Powers Resolution — should be replaced by a new law that would, except for emergencies, require the president and Congressional leaders to discuss the matter before going to war. Seventy years of polls show that most Americans expect Congress and the president to talk before making that decision, and in most cases, they have done so.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Congress refuses to hear AT&T technician with inside information on illegal wiretapping as Senate prepares to vote to amend FISA

The Senate is expected to vote on a controversial measure to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act tomorrow. The legislation would rewrite the nation’s surveillance laws and authorize the National Security Agency’s secret program of warrantless wiretapping. We speak with Mark Klein, a technician with AT&T for over twenty-two years. In 2006 Klein leaked internal AT&T documents that revealed the company had set up a secret room in its San Francisco office to give the National Security Agency access to its fiber optic internet cables.

Iraq says may agree timetable for U.S. withdrawal

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

It was the first time the U.S.-backed Shi'ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would give militant groups an advantage.

Egypt's Coptic Christians are choosing isolation

Under pressure from fundamentalist forms of Islam and bursts of sectarian violence, the most populous Christian community in the Middle East is seeking safety by turning inward, cutting day-to-day social ties that have bound Muslim to Christian in Egypt for centuries, members of both communities say.

Relative calm in Iraq ends as attacks take 16 lives

A wave of attacks in Baghdad and areas north of the capital Sunday shattered a relative lull in violence, killing 16 people and injuring 15 a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Iraq's government had defeated terrorism.

Bomb rocks India embassy in Kabul

A suicide bomber has rammed a car full of explosives into the gates of the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital, killing 41 people and injuring 141.

Five embassy personnel were killed — India's defence attache, a senior diplomat and two security guards — as well as an Afghan man.

Five Afghans died at Indonesia's embassy nearby.

No-one has admitted being behind the attack, one of the deadliest in Kabul since the Taleban overthrow in 2001.

Indian party pushes for confidence vote

India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) is clamouring for the dissolution of the government as fraught discussions continue within the fragile ruling coalition over a nuclear energy pact with the US.

Iraqi shiite party rises as Sadr falls

At a teeming rally in this holy city last Thursday, thousands of Iraqi Shiites made an election pledge.

"We are at your beck and call, Hakim," they shouted in unison to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), arguably now the country's most influential and best organized Shiite religious political party.

. . . Mr. Sadr's partisans and members of his Mahdi Army militia believe that ISCI and its affiliate party, the Badr Organization – previously known as the Badr Brigade and ISCI's armed wing – instigated the recent US-Iraqi military operations against the Mahdi Army in southern Iraq and Baghdad. They allege it was part of an ISCI/Badr plot to dismantle Sadr's organization ahead of elections.

No proxy war with Iran

President Bush telegraphed this dangerous diplomatic gambit to the media Wednesday when he was asked about the recent spate of reports that military action against Iran, by either Israel or the U.S. and before the end of Bush's term, is under discussion. First he repeated his long-standing position that while “all options” are on the table, his "first option" to solve the problem of Iran's nuclear programs would be through diplomacy. But Bush then dodged the question "Would you strongly discourage Israel from going after Iran militarily?" The unmistakable signal is that Bush not only won't discourage Israel from striking at Iranian nuclear targets but would support Israel should Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decide to bomb.

The military reality is that Israel cannot effectively attack Iran without Bush's acquiescence because Israeli jets would need to cross Iraqi airspace that is currently controlled by the U.S.

Iraqis consider alternative deal for U.S. presence

The United States and Iraq have held protracted and contentious negotiations in recent months over the conditions for the continued American military presence in Iraq.

The aim was to work out what's called a "status of forces" agreement, or SOFA. But NPR has learned that Iraqi negotiators are now looking at alternatives.

Several Iraqi politicians say a status of forces agreement between Iraq and the United States looks increasingly unlikely.

Afghan strike 'hit wedding party'

At least 20 people have been killed in a missile strike by coalition forces in Afghan's eastern Nangarhar province.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Iraqi parties, after meetings in Finland, agree on principles to guide further talks

The Helsinki agreement, which was hammered out over meetings in September and April, was signed by 33 politicians from Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish, Turkmen, Communist and other parties.

The document consists of 17 principles, as well as strategies to ensure compliance with those goals. The principles included a commitment to eventually limit arms possession to the government, respect for minority rights and opposition to international and regional influence in Iraq’s internal affairs.

The agreement also included a pledge to integrate the so-called Awakening Councils, and others who have fought against extremists, into state institutions.

Disagreements were clearly, if modestly, noted in the text of the document.

Turkish coup plot awakens fear of violent nationalism

In a recent declaration, Turkish nationalists identified what they described as the 'six arrows' of the country's proper identity: nationalism, secularism, statism, republicanism, populism and revolutionism. Judging by the events of last week, it is the last arrow - revolution - that has preoccupied the more radical in recent months.

In an extraordinary raid which led to the arrests of 21 people allegedly tied to Ergenekon, a shadowy nationalist grouping, police uncovered documents that revealed plans for a sustained campaign of terror and intimidation against the Islamist government due to begin this week.

Another nail in the NPT coffin

Arguably, the United States is the most flagrant violator of NPT commitments, frequently intervening to prevent other NPT signatories from exercising their "inalienable rights" affirmed under the NPT to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, "without discrimination." . . .

they attempted to get the NPT, itself, revised, eliminating all that pesky language requiring us to disarm, to facilitate the acquisition by NPT Parties (like Iran) of nuclear energy and prohibits our attacking NPT Parties (like Iran).

Condi also sent Stephen Rademaker to instruct the conferees about the need to replace the NPT – if not so "revised" – with President Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative.

You probably never heard of Rademaker until he publicly "admitted" last year that the so-called U.S.-India Nuclear Deal he and Condi negotiated was really all about coercing India into voting "our way" on the IAEA Board against Iran.

You see, it is that U.S.-India Nuclear Deal which may well have the most serious long-term and disastrous consequences for the NPT nuke proliferation-prevention regime.

Condi had whizzed down to New Delhi to prevent India's finalizing technical and commercial contracts for a $4.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India natural-gas pipeline that will provide Iranian natural gas mostly to India.

Karzai orders probe after US raids kill 16

Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered authorities yesterday to investigate the alleged killing of 16 civilians in an air raid by US-led forces battling insurgents in northeast Afghanistan.

US Pentagon doubts Israeli intelligence over Iran's nuclear programme

American commanders worry that Israel will feel compelled to act within the next 12 months with no guarantee that they can do more than slow Iran's development of a weapon capable of destroying the Jewish state.

Gaps in the intelligence on the precise location and vulnerabilities of Iran's facilities emerged during recent talks between Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Israeli generals, according to an official familiar with the discussions who has briefed Iran experts in Washington and London.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

No evidence needed under terror profiling plan

The Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups.

Currently, FBI agents need reasons — such as evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated — to investigate citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials say, would let agents open terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, are deemed suspicious.

Despair drives suicide attacks by Iraqi women

A revival of tribal tradition to help repair Darfur

As foreign diplomacy fails to resolve the Darfur conflict, some Sudanese academics and activists are advocating a return to the cast-off tribal potentates to help repair this riven society. Thus the three-day festival was revived — a kind of soul-searching pep rally aimed, organizers said, at reawakening a sense of purpose among the beleaguered leaders.

Strike and we'll strike you back, warns Tehran

Iran has handed over its long-awaited response to the West's offer of incentives to halt its suspected nuclear weapons programme, after a warning by one of its top military leaders that any strike against it would trigger war. . . .

Before the response, however, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohammed Jafari, was quoted by the Iranian state news agency as saying: "Iran's response to any military action will make the invaders regret their decision and action." Mr Jafari had already warned that if attacked, Iran would launch a barrage of missiles at Israel and close the Strait of Hormuz, the outlet for oil tankers leaving the Persian Gulf.

India edges towards early election

Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, is near the end of a stand-off with leftwing allies that support his delicate United Progressive Alliance coalition government. The endgame of a 10-month stalemate could mean early elections, political realignment for the Congress party-led coalition or the anti-climactic end to an elaborate game of chicken. A decision on the future of the government could come before Monday’s summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations.

The main issue is a pact with the US to boost nuclear energy in India. Congress’s leftist allies oppose the deal because they believe it compromises India’s foreign policy.

One thing the United States doesn't get about guerrilla warfare: It's not over until the guerrillas win

Mao set out the guerrilla's viewpoint 80 years ago: "The enemy wants to fight a short war, but we simply will not let him." The longer the guerrillas stay in the game, the sicker the occupying army gets. Sooner or later, they'll go home -- because they can. It's that simple, and it works. So anyone who tells you it's over is just plain ignorant. That's one thing you can rule out instantly.

McCain wants much larger U.S. military

The Bush administration has begun expanding the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to create a combined strength of around 750,000 active duty troops -- a process backed by McCain's Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

But McCain believes an Army and Marine Corps with a combined strength of up to 900,000 troops is necessary, . . .

Military action 'would destabilise Iraq'

Iraq will be plunged into a new war if Israel or the US launches an attack on Iran, Iraqi leaders have warned. Iranian retaliation would take place in Iraq, said Dr Mahmoud Othman, the influential Iraqi MP.

The Iraqi government's main allies are the US and Iran, whose governments openly detest each other. The Iraqi government may be militarily dependent on the 140,000 US troops in the country, but its Shia and Kurdish leaders have long been allied to Iran. Iraqi leaders have to continually perform a balancing act in which they seek to avoid alienating either country.

Shiite clergy want referendum over US troop presence

Iraq's Shiite leadership indicated Friday that it will press the Baghdad government to hold a national referendum on the issue of a further stationing of US forces in the country.

Imam Sadreddin al Kabandji said at the Friday prayers in the Shiite holy city of Najaf: 'The Iraqi nation regards with concern the Iraqi-American treaty whose contents are not exactly known.'

Iraqi Shiites denounce security pact with US

Large crowds of Shiites on Friday denounced the security pact Baghdad is negotiating with Washington for a long-term US military presence in violence-wracked Iraq.

In Baghdad's Sadr City, the bastion of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Shiite men, women and children shouted anti-American slogans as they demonstrated against the security deal after the weekly Friday prayers.

Friday, July 4, 2008

French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt rescued

The Colombian government has released video footage of the daring raid that freed 15 rebel-held hostages, including politician Ingrid Betancourt. . . .

Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos denied reports that $20m had been paid to some Farc members to assist the operation. . . .

He also denied reports that Israeli and US agents had been involved in the operation, saying it had been "100% Colombian". . . .

Ms Betancourt was campaigning for the presidency against current incumbent Alvaro Uribe when she was kidnapped by Farc guerrillas six years ago.

After her release she thanked Mr Uribe and said she still aspired "to serve Colombia as president".

Obama pledges to expand aid to religious charities

Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to expand a controversial White House program that funnels federal money to religious charities, embracing a core piece of President Bush's legacy as he tries to win over Republican-leaning evangelical voters.

The presumed Democratic presidential nominee said he would make it easier for churches and small community groups to win grants and would spend $500 million to help schools and churches run summer reading programs.

Deoband first: A fatwa against terror

Saturday’s fatwa, signed by Darul-Uloom’s grand mufti Habibur Rehman, asserts that "Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form".

Citing the "sinister campaign" to malign "Islamic linking terrorism with Islam and distorting the meanings of Quranic Verses and Prophet traditions", Mahmood Asad Madani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, had wanted Deoband to spell out the stand of Islam on world peace.

U.S. admiral: Iran strike on Israel 'likely'


Iran is likely to launch ballistic missiles against Israel and the United States and the NATO alliance should prepare for it, was the warning issued earlier this week by Admiral James Winnefeld, commander of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. In recent years, the missile boats of the Sixth Fleet practiced intercepting Shahab-3 missiles from Iran aimed at Israel, along with the Arrow batteries of the air force and U.S. and Israeli batteries of Patriot missiles.

Sharia law SHOULD be used in Britain, says UK's top judge

The most senior judge in England yesterday gave his blessing to the use of sharia law to resolve disputes among Muslims.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said that Islamic legal principles could be employed to deal with family and marital arguments and to regulate finance.

He declared: 'Those entering into a contractual agreement can agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law.'

In his speech at an East London mosque, Lord Phillips signalled approval of sharia principles as long as punishments — and divorce rulings — complied with the law of the land.

Direct China-Taiwan flights begin

The first regular, direct flight from mainland China to Taiwan for nearly 60 years has landed at Taipei's airport.

China's top official on Taiwan affairs said the flight was "a new start" in exchanges between Taipei and Beijing.

The two sides have been ruled by separate governments since 1949, forcing travellers to fly via a third destination.

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises.

Rise of Awakening groups sets off a struggle for power among Sunnis

It is an outgrowth of the Awakening Councils — launched by tribal leaders and backed by the United States — that have fought extremists and become a key to stability in many areas.

Awakening leaders are planning to compete as a political force in provincial elections scheduled for the fall, when Iraqis will choose governing councils in Iraq's 18 provinces. The leaders likely will challenge established Sunni groups, including the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political party, which is led by non-tribal Sunnis who mainly lived in exile during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Admiral Mike Mullen warns the West over military strike against Iran

There are two ways of interpreting this week's warning by America's top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, that opening a new front in the Middle East by launching air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities would be "extremely stressful".

Either the United States, with the help of its favoured Middle Eastern proxy, Israel, is already preparing to take out Iran's main nuclear facilities, and is simply preparing public opinion for the likely consequences of such action.

Or America's top brass, who already have their work cut out prosecuting two major military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, are trying to pre-empt any thoughts President George W. Bush, the nation's commander-in-chief, might have about ordering his armed forces into action against the mullahs.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Indian PM moves to seal nuclear accord with the U.S.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made a very calculated political — and potentially dangerous — move to seal the much-delayed civilian nuclear accord with the United States. The deal, though, is only one piece on the chessboard of India's global ambitions that includes the key players of Pakistan, Iran and the United States. But it's the weather that could decide Manmohan's and the chess game's fate.

Committee questions State Dept. role in Iraq oil deal

Bush administration officials knew that a Texas oil company with close ties to President Bush was planning to sign an oil deal with the regional Kurdistan government that ran counter to American policy and undercut Iraq’s central government, a Congressional committee has concluded.

Congress's 'virtual Iran war resolution'

H.J. Res 362 [listed as H. Con. Res 362 online] is a virtual war resolution. . . .

"This demands that the President impose stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran, and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials."

This is unbelievable! This is closing down Iran. Where do we have this authority? Where do we get the moral authority? Where do we get the international legality for this? Where do we get the Constitutional authority for this? This is what we did for ten years before we went into Iraq.

CIA given green light to bomb Osama bin Laden

he CIA has been given the green light by Pakistan to attack Osama bin Laden with unmanned aircraft armed with ground attack missiles if they can find the terror godfather, it has been revealed.

Iraq hints at delay in U.S. security deal

Declaring that there will not be “another colonization of Iraq,” Iraq’s foreign minister raised the possibility on Wednesday that a full security agreement with the United States might not be reached this year, and that if one was, it would be a short-term pact.

American officials, speaking anonymously because of the delicate state of negotiations, said they were no longer optimistic that a complete security agreement could be reached by the year’s end.

Official says Iran accepts P5+1 talks proposal

A senior Iranian official reportedly told members of the Iranian parliament Monday that Iran has agreed to freeze its enrichment program for six weeks and begin negotiations with the P5+1 group of states as early as next week, according to reports of that decision by the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) and by a Farsi-language website in Iran. . . .

The P5+1 consists of the permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — and Germany.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Firefight: A gripping account of the courage and humanity of firefighters at the Pentagon on 9/11, marred by flawed account of Flight 77

A book review by Enver Masud

"Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11" is about the courage and humanity of firefighters called to duty at the Pentagon on 9/11, and it does an admirable job of chronicling that. However, Creed and Newman seem unaware of the vast amount of research that contradicts theirs, and the government’s, version of what struck the Pentagon on 9/11. A simple Google search of “what really happened at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001” would have given them rich material for their book.

For example the authors write: "The airplane's tail, 45 feet tall, was still attached to the plane as it plowed into the Pentagon." This is contradicted by several photographs that show that the hole in the Pentagon wall, prior to the collapse of the roof, was far too small to accommodate a Boeing 757.

They write that the Boeing 757 was blown into tiny pieces so that no fuselage, wings, or tail section remained identifiable, while, miraculously, the body of the hijacker remained. How was the hijacker identfied? Where did they get his DNA? Creed and Newman provide no answer. Moreover, there are no Arab names on the only passenger lists available to the public.

Creed and Newman choose the testimony of witnesses who support their version of events, and omit the testimony of those who contradict them, such as CNN’s senior correspondent Jamie McIntyre on September 11, 2001, and Arlington County fire chief Ed Plaugher at the official Pentagon briefing on September 12, 2001.

Creed and Newman write: "FBI photographer Jennifer Combs (formerly Jennifer Farmer) went far out of her way to pull hundreds of photographs from archives and narrate all of them".

How did the authors get access to these photographs, when others have Freedom of Information Act requests pending for these photographs and Pentagon videos? Did they get special privileges because they support the government’s version of events?

To this day, Bin Laden is not wanted for 9/11 at the FBI's Most Wanted, and the only evidence offered by the government to substantiate their claim of Flight 77 having struck the Pentagon is a fuzzy video that proves nothing — indeed the flight recorder data released by the government shows that a plane flew about 400 feet above the Pentagon.