TEHRAN — Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has proposed that observers from a contact group on Syria comprising Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey be dispatched to the crisis-hit country and announced that Tehran is ready to host a meeting of the group.
According to a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday, Salehi made the remarks during a foreign ministerial meeting of the group that was held in Cairo on the same day.
The meeting in Cairo was described as the quartet meeting of the foreign ministers of Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, but neither Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal nor any other Saudi Arabian official attended the meeting.
Egyptian presidential spokesman Yasser Ali and an unidentified Arab League official said that Faisal did not attend the meeting for health reasons, but Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr stated that Faisal’s absence was due to previously arranged engagements, Reuters reported on Monday.
After the meeting in Cairo, the Egyptian foreign minister announced that the contact group would meet again on the sidelines of the 67th regular session of the United Nations General Assembly, which opened at the UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday and closes on September 30.
Following is the translation of the Iranian Foreign Ministry statement:
Foreign Minister Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi put forward the approach and the road map proposed by the Islamic Republic of Iran to find a way out of the Syrian crisis at the quartet meeting of the foreign ministers of Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
Within this framework, on Monday… our country’s foreign minister proposed (the following points) for discussion at the Cairo meeting:
1) Announcing a halt to the conflict and the violence by both sides simultaneously;
2) Emphasizing the peaceful settlement of the crisis without foreign intervention;
3) Ending any kind of financial, military, and training support to armed groups;
4) Launching talks between the Syrian government and the opposition;
5) Establishing a national reconciliation committee with the participation of all movements and groups;
6) Dispatching observers from the four countries to supervise the process of ending the violence and holding negotiations;
7) Emphasizing the necessity of maintaining Syria’s cohesion, national unity, and territorial integrity;
8) Contributing to the process of fundamental reforms;
9) Realizing a Syrian-Syrian democratic approach.
Dr. Salehi also pointed to the fact that the suffering of the Syrian people, (and) particularly the sanctions and economic punishments, necessitate that Muslim countries, including the four known regional powers (scheduled to be) present at the meeting, intensify and pool their efforts to ship economic and humanitarian aid and proposed that a committee be established to end the suffering of the Syrian people for the realization of this goal.
The foreign minister emphasized that the Syrian people should determine their (own) destiny themselves and within the framework of maintenance of territorial integrity, independence, sovereignty, and national unity, and said, “Regional countries should ensure the accomplishment of this process through utilization of all resources and the current potential and constant consultation.”
He emphasized, “While emphasizing the necessity of the implementation of fundamental reforms, the Islamic Republic of Iran, throughout the Syrian developments, has proposed feasible and practical solutions to help end the violence by both sides and initiate a dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition… (at) the Tehran Consultative Meeting on Syria, which was held with the participation of 30 countries (on August 9), and also… (at) the Mecca summit (on August 14 and 15) and… the recent meeting of the Non-Aligned (Movement) countries in Tehran (from August 26 to 31).”
Salehi emphasized that most regional countries are concerned about the repercussions of the armed presence of extremist movements on regional security and stability, and said, “We believe that the complete failure of political solutions can pave the way for fitna (sedition) in various forms and its spread to neighboring countries and the entire region.”
He added, “Unfortunately, most Western countries, which are in a quandary (due to their failure to) perceive the realities and the mission of regional nations’ uprisings, have closed their eyes to the realities of the region by prioritizing the interests of the Zionist regime and are preventing the realization and the implementation of true reforms in Syria and the region through providing comprehensive financial and military support to unknown armed groups.”
In addition, our country’s foreign minister pointed to the good potential of the Non-Aligned Movement to play an effective role in regional and global developments after the holding of the summit of the heads of state (and government) of the Non-Aligned (Movement) in Tehran and described the participation of Iran and Egypt of the NAM troika in the Cairo meeting as beneficial and called for the inclusion of Venezuela, as a member of the troika of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Iraq, as the rotating president of the Arab League, to the present group so that the current constructive process will come to fruition.
Salehi pointed to the necessity of the continuation of consultation between the participants of the Cairo meeting and active movements and groups in Syria, and added, “Such consultations can offer new prospects, not only in regard to Syrian developments but also in regard to current and future crises, and, according to this perspective, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to host the next round of the meeting (of the contact group) in Tehran.”
At the beginning of his speech, the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran thanked the Egyptian government for hosting the quartet meeting and also the deputy (foreign ministers) meeting (on September 10) and said that this illustrates the prevalence of collective wisdom in the region.
While the international media might trumpet “Somalia’s First Free and Fair Elections in 50 Years” reality on the ground in Mogadishu reveals a truly grand farce of an “election” process.
First of all, the so called “Members of Parliament”, most of whom flew in from their foreign homes for the “election” (the newly “elected” President is camped out in a hotel where he escaped assassination just days after his inauguration) were not elected by anyone, rather appointed by a panel chosen by the previously western installed puppet regime.
That’s right, no one in Somalia actually voted for anyone who chose the new President of Somalia, though the position is little more than Mayor of the foreign army occupied former capital of Somalia, Mogadishu.
Secondly, it was the African Union army occupying Mogadishu and its immediate surrounds that had to provide security for the “election” for even the most trusted of the so called Somali Army and Police are apparently incapable of protecting the fly by night “Members of Parliament” who participated in this dog and pony show.
Insecurity was so rife that all of the foreign big wigs present were wearing bullet proof vests even in the supposedly secure environs of the election hall.
The outgoing government, headed by one Sheik Sharif was too corrupt to be tolerated by the gathered assembly with the truth challenged UN Monitoring Group for Somalia leaking the “secret” portion of its report on how he and his cronies have stolen hundreds of million$ of aid supposedly meant to feed the millions of starving Somalis suffering from the worst drought in 60 years.
The defeated “President” Sharif began his rise to infamy as titular head of the Union of Islamic Courts, the nationalist, Islamic organization that brought peace to Mogadishu in 2006 and was driven from power by the USA instigated Ethiopian invasion that year.
After being forced from power by the Ethiopians Sheik Sharif was listed by the USA as an “Al Queda linked terrorist” and was on a most wanted list of international criminals. Then the world went to sleep one night with Sheik Sharif a terrorist and woke up the next morning to the announcement that he was now the “democratically elected President of Somalia”, elected in Djibouti that is by a hand picked mob of “Members of Parliament” under the watchful eye of the CIA and the US Army in Djibouti’s Camp Lemmoniere.
Apparently the irony that Sheik Sharif was once an “Al Queda linked terrorist” unfit to hold office in Somalia and then overnight transformed into the “democratically elected President of Somalia” was cause for the sort of selective amnesia the international media practices when it comes to the Horn of Africa and Somalia in particular.
Today its back to business as usual as the new Somali “MP’s” begin boarding planes to return to their homes abroad, the 20,000 strong African Union army occupying Mogadishu goes about its business of trying to defend itself from the guerilla attacks of the Al Shabab lead Somali resistance and the world will once again forget about the fact that millions of Somalis live in utter destitution, most of which has been directly caused by the very AU “peacekeepers” supposedly meant to protect them.
Thomas C. Mountain’s interviews on Somalia can be seen on RTTV and PressTV. He can be reached at thomascmountain at yahoo dot com.
Let the Wealthy Pay for Their Crisis
With the November elections right around the corner, the millions of unemployed and under-employed have little reason to care. Aside from some sparse rhetoric, neither Democrats nor Republicans have offered a solution to job creation. Most politicians seem purposefully myopic about the jobs crisis, as if a healthy dose of denial might get them through the electoral season unscathed.
In reality, the jobs crisis continues unaddressed, and threatens to get worse after the election. The post-election “fiscal cliff” of social cuts — “triggered” by Obama’s debt commission —will pull the economy below the current treading-water phase, drowning millions more workers in America in unemployment and hopelessness. In addition, two million more long-term unemployed — those lucky enough to still receive benefits — face the very likely possibility of having their benefits ended due to the trigger cuts.
But this is all part of the plan. The current jobs crisis is not accidental; there are public policies that could be implemented — such as a federal jobs program — that would stop unemployment in its tracks. Both parties agree that this cannot be done for the same reason: high unemployment is desirable since it acts as a sledgehammer against wages, lowering them with the intent of boosting profitability for corporations. Creating this nationwide “new normal” takes time.
Until corporations have an ideal environment to make super profits — aside from the short-term money printing of the Federal Reserve — unemployment will remain purposefully high. The Feds massive money-printing program — called Quantitative Easing (QE) — is a desperate move that risks super inflation, yet is deemed necessary until politicians implement the economic new normal for workers in America.
This policy is referred to as an “adjustment” period by some economists. Corporations and their puppet politicians have used the recession to start implementing the new normal of lower wages, reduced benefits, and fewer social programs on a city, state, and federal basis. In order to complete this national adjustment, expectations for working people must be drastically lowered, so that they’ll be less likely to be angry and fight against this onslaught.
This was Bill Clinton’s intention when he told the Democratic National Convention, “The old economy isn’t coming back.” Most people in America have yet to realize this, but the economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans reflect a conscious plan to push wages down and shred the safety net to fit the “new economy” standards sought by corporate America.
Because corporations only hire workers in order to make profit, businesses today are sitting on trillions of cash, waiting for a sunnier day to invest in labor. The lower the wages of workers in America, the brighter the skies for corporations’ bottom line. It is this basic economic interest driving the jobs crisis, as politicians only offer solutions that “encourage businesses to invest” rather than creating immediate solutions for working people.
But millions of people are waiting for sunnier days too. A large number are seeking to wait out the recession by returning to school and are now graduating; a record 30 percent have bachelor degrees, a number that is expected to rise. The increasing number of graduates will drive up unemployment, while those lucky enough to find jobs aren’t finding one capable of paying off their massive student loans. The trillion-dollar student loan business is yet another example of wealth transference from bottom to top: students borrow money from the wealthy, and pay them back with interest, sometimes exorbitant interest.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are 12.5 million people who are officially unemployed but an additional9.5 million who are “unofficially” unemployed — those who are not actively looking for work, “discouraged workers,” part-time workers who want full-time work, etc. The number is almost certainly higher. These workers are not counted in the “official” unemployment numbers, and this unofficial number is getting worse. In August 2012, 368,000 more workers joined this illustrious group by dropping out of the labor force, i.e., they gave up looking for a job and thus are no longer counted as unemployed, in this way giving Obama “positive news” since the unemployment numbers actually improved!
These workers are often referred to as “unemployable,” meaning that they are usually over fifty years of age or under 30 and are tarnished with a lack of job experience or an excess of it. Corporations can now have an abundance of workers to choose from, and are being extra picky on whom they hire, if anybody.
The new “private sector” jobs that Obama constantly brags about are much lower paying than the jobs they are replacing. According to a study performed by the National Employment Law Project, 58 percent of all new post-recession jobs come with wages below $14.00 an hour, i.e. a not a living wage.
For those millions unable to find jobs, their future lies in either dependence on family or the state, or a risky life in the informal economy, which implies the possibility of imprisonment.
The reason that many labor and community groups have not fully explained the above facts — nor protested against them — is because they are “embarrassing” to the Democrats. Labor unions have gone into pre-election hibernation, ignoring reality as they push their members to campaign for the president who is overseeing this economic “new normal.”
The still-sputtering economy is expected to grind to a halt post-election, with average working people again footing the bill. But millions of Americans are experiencing the politics of the 1%, and drawing conclusions; ever since the recession government policy has been aimed at benefiting the wealthy and corporations, while working people have only experienced layoffs, lower wages and benefits, and slashed public services. To stop this dynamic of austerity working people must unite and protest in massive numbers, like the working people of Europe.
In Portland, Oregon, such a demonstration is being planned, pre-election, by a coalition of community groups to “stop the cuts,” for debt relief, and against the above national policy of austerity for working people. By highlighting the bi-partisan nature of the attack against working people, the community organizers in Portland hope to educate the community to take action, so that working people are prioritized. Let the wealthy pay for their crisis.
If a Million People March for Catalan Independence in Barcelona, Do They Make Noise?
Last Tuesday, over a million people took to the streets in a European city that has, in recent years, become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the world.
And as anyone who was there to witness the run-up to the event in recent weeks and months knows, this was no routine exercise in blowing off steam.
No, this was a march in which nearly one fifth of the population of the Catalonian Autonomous Region —led by a who’s who of its long-cautious and decidedly non-radical political class—took to the streets to show support for the idea of seceding from the rest of Spain.
Most well-informed Europeans and Americans are aware that a sizable part of the population of the Basque Country–which straddles the Spanish-French border on the Atlantic end of the Pyrenees—do not consider themselves Spanish or French and would thus be quite content to have a state of their own.
What most of these same people don’t know, however, is that in Catalonia, which straddles the same Spanish-French mountain border on its Mediterranean extreme, the population’s sense of belonging to a society that is quite distinct from that of the rest of Spain–in language, in culture and, yes, basic modes of social comportment—is probably just as widely subscribed as it is in the Basque Country.
The big difference in this game of perception is the role that strident rhetoric, and with it, carefully planned acts of violence, have played within each nation’s drive for greater political power.
Since the late 1950s, a small but important faction of the Basque nationalist movement has spoken openly about independence and how one is justified in using violence to achieve that end. Though most of these same groups have now renounced the use of force, their half-century record of bombings and assassinations are hard to overlook, especially for a media establishment that craves blood-soaked story lines.
During the same period, neither the rhetoric of independence nor the mythology and practice of armed struggle were ever major parts of the of the Catalan nationalist movement.
True to their deeply ingrained tradition (forged during their thousand year experience as traders all across the Mediterranean basin) of resolving social conflicts through negotiation rather than violence, the Catalans have always sought to pursue their national interests through pacts with the national government in Madrid.
This, despite the fact that Madrid has never shown much reticence about using violence to quash Catalan national aspirations whenever it felt the need to do so, as was the case in 1714, 1923, and most recently, during the nearly four decades of the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975).
To put it simply, if the Basques are the wild children of the Iberian mix of nationalities, then the Catalans are the prudent uncles, always careful to choose their words and avoid the possibility of unnecessarily inflaming tensions with the rest of Spain.
In this sense, we can speak of Jordi Pujol, the man who led the Catalan Autonomous government from its inception in 1980 until 2003, as being an emblematic figure within the country. A doctor by training and a banker by vocation before entering politics, this Catholic father of seven is admired for building the region’s (but in his view, his nation’s) modern political and cultural infrastructure.
His long tenure in office was marked, to the frequent chagrin of his critics in both Catalonia and Madrid, by endless triangulations and obfuscations regarding the once and future role of Catalonia within the Spanish state.
Needless to say, he never came close to speaking about independence during those more than two decades in power.
Well, guess who proudly and prominently marched in last Tuesday’s million-person demonstration in Barcelona?
You guessed it, Jordi Pujol.
And almost all of the significant figures from across today’s Catalan political spectrum were right there with him.
After watching Walter Cronkite editorialize on the futility of the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson is said to have exclaimed to his assembled aides, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America”.
Well, Spain is now having its Cronkite moment with Catalonia.
During the last few months, I have talked with hundreds of Catalans (a number of whom are quite prominent members of the academic, journalistic and policy-making sectors of the society) about their relationship with Spain. In these conversations, I have heard people who as recently as two years ago would never have dreamed of supporting independence, now saying in clear and matter-of-fact-tones, that it is the only truly sensible destiny for Catalonia.
A big story right?
I can see the headlines now.
“Millions in Spain’s Richest Region March for Independence”
Or if you prefer the personal interest approach,
“Many in Mild-mannered Country Can No Longer Take It. Set to Ask for Divorce after Years of Neglect and Abuse”
Well, that’s not exactly how it played out.
The evening news on the Spain’s publicly-funded national network (widely seen as being a plaything of the deeply centralist, conservative ruling party) put the story at 22-minute mark of a thirty-minute broadcast!
And Madrid’s El País, which likes to think of itself as the Spanish-speaking world’s New York Times (and has the smugness and cozy relationships with officialdom prove it), gave the march and its many important related stories the minimalist treatment.
Seeing the way its journalistic cousins in Spain dealt with the event, the New York Times dutifully followed suit, publishing short reports that studiously avoided explaining any of the historical backdrop to the present Catalan dissatisfaction. Rather, they sought to frame—as did the ruling PP Party and the state TV it controls–as an annoying, but largely insignificant sideshow within Spain’s larger financial crisis.
And as we all know, if the New York Times decides that something overseas is really not news, seldom will anyone in the US journalistic establishment ever dare try and prove the contrary.
That would take actual work and, perhaps more significantly, it would expose those pursing this contrary path to the possibility of being seen as an outlier, the ultimate stigma for “journalists” on the make in today’s America.
The million or so Catalans marched through Barcelona the other day know what they did, and why they did it. It seems, however, that the rest of the world, taking its cue from big media, is bent on pretending it didn’t really happen, or that if it happened, it really wasn’t that significant.
It will be interesting to see who has the last word in this struggle to control the world’s perceptions of Catalonia’s shouts for freedom.
Thomas S. Harrington teaches in the Department of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College.
The newly-elected separatist party in Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec takes down the Canadian flag from parliament, vowing independence of the eastern province.
The flag which had been there for the past nine years was removed on Monday as 54 Party Quebecois (PQ) members took office in the ornate old upper chamber, known as the Red Room.
Meanwhile, the new parliament members could not escape the oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the second, which is a prerequisite to take office under Canadian law.
Some PQ members expressed their discontent on Twitter, saying it was a shame to be forced to swear an oath to the Crown.
The separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) leader, Pauline Marois who won provincial elections on September 5, also suggested that the election of a PQ government would pave the way for restoring Quebecers’ pride.
“When a people rediscovers its pride and its confidence nothing, absolutely nothing, becomes impossible for it,” said Marois on Monday.
The Party Quebecois (PQ) lawmakers officially take office on Wednesday, when separatist leader Pauline Marois will introduce her cabinet members.
Obama administration touts cybersecurity while conducting cyber warfare
While routinely touting the necessity for tighter controls over the Internet in the name of cybersecurity, the U.S. government has again been caught creating computer viruses to wage cyber warfare in the Middle East.
Researchers working for both Kaspersky and Symantec have separately discovered that the United States is almost certainly responsible for three new viruses that are being used in Lebanon and Iran to conduct espionage, having already been identified as the culprits behind the 2010 Stuxnet virus and this year’s closely related Flame virus.
Kaspersky and Symantec experts are still unsure as to what the newly discovered viruses are designed to do, but have confirmed that they are operating in the Middle East, including Iran and Lebanon, and that the, “approach to uploading packages and downloading data fits the profile of military and/or intelligence operations.”
The new viruses, programs code-named SP, SPE and IP, use malware packages that try to “communicate with command and control servers.” The new viruses could be offshoots of the Flame virus or completely different pieces of software.
“The findings are likely to bolster a growing view that the U.S. government is using cyber technology more widely than previously believed to further its interests in the Middle East,” reports Haaretz.
“The United States has already been linked to the Stuxnet Trojan that attacked Iran’s nuclear program in 2010 and the sophisticated Flame cyber surveillance tool that was uncovered in May.”
As the Washington Post reported earlier this year, the United States and Israel were also responsible for jointly developing the Flame virus, a huge malware assault that monitored Iran’s computer networks.
Despite months of inaccurate speculation blaming Russia or China for the outbreak of the 2010 Stuxnet virus, it was eventually admitted by the New York Times that, “US and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop a destructive computer worm to sabotage Iran’s efforts to make a nuclear bomb.”
The U.S. government’s continual efforts to develop computer viruses as a tool of cyber warfare might be more palatable were it not for the constant push by the executive and legislative branches to censor and regulate the Internet domestically in the name of cybersecurity.
Urging President Obama last month to pass an executive order that critics have denounced as another federal power grab over the Internet, Senator Jay Rockefeller justified the EO by claiming it was needed “to protect this country from the cyber threat,” even as the U.S. simultaneously launches aggressive cyber warfare campaigns against other countries.
Indeed, viruses created by the United States and Israel have even been cited as proof that restrictive cyber security legislation needs to be rubber stamped – by the very same government allied with the intelligence networks creating the viruses.
As we reported back in 2011, despite initial evidence clearly indicating the U.S. and Israel were behind the Stuxnet attack, a fact that was subsequently confirmed, major news websites still parroted the official narrative that Russia or China were to blame, even going to the lengths of ridiculing anyone who suggested otherwise as paranoid conspiracy theorists.
While claiming that it needs more power over the world wide web to prevent the spread of hostile computer viruses that could cripple U.S. infrastructure and sensitive networks, the U.S. government itself is creating those very same computer viruses to spy on and attack infrastructure and sensitive networks in other countries.
- Stuxnet, Flame…Gauss: New spy virus found in Middle East (alethonews.wordpress.com)
An independent UN panel confirmed on Monday that an increasing number of foreign elements including what it calls “jihadists” are now operating in Syria.
In its first report to say that outside terrorists have joined the fight in Syria, the investigative panel appointed by the Human Rights Council says some of these forces are joining armed anti-government groups while others are operating on their own.
“Such elements tend to push anti-government fighters towards more radical positions.” the head of the panel, Brazilian diplomat and professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, told diplomats.
He referred to the foreigners as terrorists, though the word did not appear in the written report.
The panel accused government forces along with armed groups of war crimes including murder, extrajudicial execution and torture.
Pinheiro said that the human rights situation has “deteriorated to such a degree that it is difficult to describe justly in such a few words. Gross violations of human rights have grown in number, in pace and in scale.”
He said the frequency of these “egregious violations” were so enormous that his panel could no longer investigate them all.
“Civilians, many of them children, are bearing the brunt of the spiraling violence,” he said.
For his part, the Syrian U.N. Ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui contested the report’s overall accuracy and objectivity. But he appeared to agree with Pinheiro on the presence of outside elements, telling the council that “many international parties are working on increasing the crisis in Syria.”
- Syria FM Moallem: US Major Player in Syria Crisis, Other Countries Instruments (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Syria accuses Turkey of allowing al-Qaida transit (dailystar.com.lb)
- UK to give Syria rebels extra £5m (bbc.co.uk)