With the government shutdown, you have may have come across a variety of oddities involving various government agency websites that were completely taken offline. This seems strange. Yes, the government is shut down, but does that really mean they need to turn off their web servers as well, even the purely informational ones? I could see them just leaving them static without updating them, but to completely block them just seems… odd. Even odder is that not all websites are down and some, such as the FTC’s website appears to be fully up, including fully loading a page… only to then redirect you to a page that says it’s down. Julian Sanchez, over at Cato, explores the various oddities of government domains that are either up or down — or something in between.
For agencies that directly run their own Web sites on in-house servers, shutting down might make sense if the agency’s “essential” and “inessential” systems are suitably segregated. Running the site in those cases eats up electricity and bandwidth that the agency is paying for, not to mention the IT and security personnel who need to monitor the site for attacks and other problems. Fair enough in those cases. But those functions are, at least in the private sector, often outsourced and paid for up front: if you’ve contracted with an outside firm to host your site, shutting it down for a few days or weeks may not save any money at all. And that might indeed explain why some government sites remain operational, even though they don’t exactly seem “essential,” while others have been pulled down.
That doesn’t seem to account for some of the weird patterns we see, however. The main page at NASA.gov redirects to a page saying the site is unavailable, but lots of subdomains that, however cool, seem “inessential” remain up and running: the “Solar System Exploration” page at solarsystem.nasa.gov; the Climate Kids website at climatekids.nasa.gov; and the large photo archive at images.jsc.nasa.gov, to name a few. There are any number of good reasons some of those subdomains might be hosted separately, and therefore unaffected by the shutdown—but it seems odd they can keep all of these running without additional expenditures, yet aren’t able to redirect to a co-located mirror of the landing page.
He also takes on the issue of the FTC redirect, in which he notes that the redirect after loading the full page shows that they’re not saving any money at all this way, meaning it makes absolutely no sense at all.
Still weirder is the status of the Federal Trade Commission’s site. Browse to any of their pages and you’ll see, for a split second, the full content of the page you want—only to be redirected to a shutdown notice page also hosted at FTC.gov. But that means… their servers are still up and running and actually serving all the same content. In fact they’re serving more content: first the real page, then the shutdown notice page. If you’re using Firefox or Chrome and don’t mind browsing in HTML-cluttered text, you can even use this link to navigate to the FTC site map and navigate from page to page in source-code view without triggering the redirect. Again, it’s entirely possible I’m missing something, but if the full site is actually still running, it’s hard to see how a redirect after the real page is served could be avoiding any expenditures.
Sanchez tries to piece together why this might be happening, and points to a White House memo which explicitly says that agencies should shut stuff down even if it’s cheaper to keep them online:
The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services…
It’s difficult to see how this helps anyone at all. But it does yet a good job (yet again) of demonstrating that logic and bureaucracy don’t often go well together.
Climatologists now require 20 to 30 years to even consider any climatic trend: Is that really honest, or is it just very convenient?
So that’s it: the 15+ years period of no temperature increase is, according to the IPCC, a non-event, barely worth mentioning in the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). The explanation is simple: we are just witnessing short usual natural variations of the climate that are consistent with climate models. The question about whether those models had foreseen this so-called “hiatus” is just irrelevant: move along!
But let’s just imagine for a while that since around 2000, the world had seen a warming bigger than everything the IPCC had ever predicted. I mean a situation just opposite to what we have been experiencing until now with regard to model forecasts. What would have been the analysis proposed by the IPCC in its SPM report?
First possible analysis:
“The long-term climate model simulations show a trend in global-mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2012 that agrees with the observed trend (very high confidence). There are, however, differences between simulated and observed trends over periods as short as 10 to 15 years (e.g., 2000 to 2012). Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming over the past 12 years (2000–2012; 0.23 [+0.13 to +0.33] °C per decade), which begins after the effect of a strong El Niño disappeared, is bigger than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade).
The observed extra increase in surface warming trend over the period 2000–2012, as compared to the period 1951–2012, is due in roughly equal measure to an increased trend in radiative forcing and a warming contribution from internal variability, which includes a possible redistribution of heat within the ocean.”
Second possible analysis:
“The rapid increase in surface warming during the last period of more than 12 years is a clear sign that, although climate models have gained in precision in their description of climate behavior, several factors had been under-estimated by the scientific community in the AR4. There is strong evidence that both lower and upper limits of the former estimation of transient climate response should be risen by as much as 1°C (very high confidence).
Projections for annual mean surface temperatures for the period 2081-2100 have therefore been reviewed to take into consideration the change in observed trend over the last period of 12 years. All different scenarios now show a very likely increase of global mean surface temperatures of more than 1.5°C by the end of the century, relative to 1985-2005, and up to 6°C in the RCP8.5 scenario.”
Let’s be honest: does anybody believe the IPCC would have chosen to write anything close to the first analysis?
California’s Rim fire, expected to be fully “contained” by October after igniting in Yosemite National Park on August 17, will ultimately benefit the forests it has passed through. While media accounts sensationalize such large wildfires as “catastrophic” and “disastrous,” science demonstrates that, to the contrary, fire is a vital component of western forest ecosystems.
Journalists mischaracterize the ecological function of wildfire as “devastation” or refer to forests that have experienced fire as a “barren wasteland,” exploiting emotions to sell newspapers. Yet media is only an accomplice to one of the masterminds ultimately responsible for fanning the flames of wildfire hysteria: the biomass energy industry.
Ignoring sound science and common sense, the biomass industry insists that cutting more backcountry forests, including native forests, will somehow prevent wildfires and protect people.
In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the siphoning of even more taxpayer dollars to log and burn forests for energy under the guise of “reduc[ing] the risks of catastrophic wildfires.” In this most recent taxpayer handout to the biomass industry, $1.1 million in grants will be diverted to encourage more biomass incineration in California, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Alaska.
The biomass boosters’ well-worn talking points are laid out perfectly by Julia Levin, director of the Bioenergy Association of California, in a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. Without citing a single scientific study, Levin boldly claims that hacking apart forests to burn for energy would “prevent more Rim Fires,” asserting that keeping chainsaws out a forest is the same thing as letting it go “up in smoke.”
George Wuerthner, ecologist and editor of Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, explains that instead of stopping fires, logging “typically has little effect on the spread of wildfires.” Contrary to industry and media spin, large fires such as the Rim fire are a product of “high winds, high temperatures, low humidity and severe drought.” These bigger fires are “unstoppable and go out only when the weather changes — not because of a lack of fuels” in a logged forest.
Wuerthner contends that logging or “thinning” can actually “increase wildfires’ spread and severity by increasing the fine fuels on the ground (slash) and by opening the forest to greater wind and solar penetration, drying fuels faster than in unlogged forests.”
Biomass proponent Levin warns in her op-ed that wildfires have “enormous impacts on public health from the smoke, soot and other emissions.” Yet Levin sees no disconnect in building biomass incinerators that would spew deadly particulate matter into low-income communities twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, at higher levels than most coal plants.
Wildfire can “threaten lives, homes and businesses,” Levin states truthfully, particularly as more forests in the fire plain are opened to development. Yet the industry mouthpiece doesn’t once mention the only action that can actually protect structures from wildfire: maintaining “defensible space” 100-200 feet around a building. Instead, she offers more backcountry logging as the solution.
Levin claims to fret about the impact on climate change from an occasional wildfire, while pushing hard for more biomass incinerators that would pump out more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than some of the dirtiest coal plants in the country.
Recent science demonstrates that big blazes have been typical in western forests for hundreds of years. “If you go back even to the turn of the century, you will find that tens of millions of acres burned annually,” according to Wuerthner. “One researcher in California recently estimated that prior to 1850, an average of 5 million to 6 million acres burned annually in California alone.”
Yet biomass opportunists such as Levin cling to the outdated belief that “wildfires are increasing dramatically in frequency and severity as the result of climate change and overgrown forests.”
It would be unfair to suggest that Levin completely ignores forest ecology in her op-ed. She doesn’t. She just makes up her own version of it to suit industry’s desire to get out the cut, swearing that more intensive logging won’t harm forests, but magically “increase forest ecosystem health.”
That’s just dead wrong, according to ecologist Chad Hanson, director of the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute in California. Hanson explains that burned forests “support levels of native biodiversity and total wildlife abundance” equal to or greater than any forest type, including old growth. Burned forests are also the rarest kind of forest, and therefore among the most ecologically important.
Black-backed woodpeckers drill their burrows in standing dead snags, according to Hanson, eventually providing homes for other cavity-nesting species of birds and mammals. Native flowering shrubs thriving in the wake of wildfire attract insects, which feeds species of birds and bats. Shrubs and downed logs provide habitat for small mammals, which become food for raptors like the California spotted owl and northern goshawk. Deer live off the tender new tree growth, bears gorge themselves on the resulting berries and grubs, and Pacific fisher hunt the rodents, while the decaying organic material rejuvenates soils for swiftly regenerating seedlings.
Levin and the biomass industry’s “cure” for our “sick” western forests includes a recent bill passed by the California legislature requiring the Public Utilities Commission to generate up to 50 megawatts of biomass power, which Levin says would be extracted from 300,000 acres of forests over a ten year period.
The director of the Bioenergy Association of California specifically advocates for the construction of the 2.2 megawatt Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility in Placer County, California. This proposed facility is currently under legal challenge from Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental organization alleging that the Environmental Impact Report “does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.”
- Ecologist: Thinning won’t stop fires (mtexpress.com)
By Chad Hanson | John Muir Project
Photo: Doug Bevington
Since the Rim fire began in the central Sierra Nevada on August 17, there has been a steady stream of fearful, hyperbolic, and misinformed reporting in much of the media. The fire, which is currently 188,000 acres in size and covers portions of the Stanislaus National Forest and the northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park, has been consistently described as “catastrophic”, “destructive”, and “devastating.” One story featured a quote from a local man who said he expected “nothing to be left”. However, if we can, for a moment, set aside the fear, the panic, and the decades of misunderstanding about wildland fires in our forests, it turns out that the facts differ dramatically from the popular misconceptions. The Rim fire is a good thing for the health of the forest ecosystem. It is not devastation, or loss. It is ecological restoration.
What relatively few people in the general public understand at present is that large, intense fires have always been a natural part of fire regimes in Sierra Nevada forests. Patches of high-intensity fire, wherein most or all trees are killed, creates “snag forest habitat,” which is the rarest, and one of the most ecologically important, forest habitat types in the entire Sierra Nevada. Contrary to common myths, even when forest fires burn hottest, only a tiny proportion of the aboveground biomass is actually consumed (typically less than 3 percent). Habitat is not lost. Far from it. Instead, mature forest is transformed into “snag forest”, which is abundant in standing fire-killed trees, or “snags,” patches of native fire-following shrubs, downed logs, colorful flowers, and dense pockets of natural conifer regeneration.
This forest rejuvenation begins in the first spring after the fire. Native wood-boring beetles rapidly colonize burn areas, detecting the fires from dozens of miles away through infrared receptors that these species have evolved over millennia, in a long relationship with fire. The beetles bore under the bark of standing snags and lay their eggs, and the larvae feed and develop there. Woodpecker species, such as the rare and imperiled black-backed woodpecker (currently proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act), depend upon snag forest habitat and wood-boring beetles for survival.
One black-backed woodpecker eats about 13,500 beetle larvae every year — and that generally requires at least 100 to 200 standing dead trees per acre. Black-backed woodpeckers, which are naturally camouflaged against the charred bark of a fire-killed tree, are a keystone species, and they excavate a new nest cavity every year, even when they stay in the same territory. This creates homes for numerous secondary cavity-nesting species, like the mountain bluebird (and, occasionally, squirrels and even martens), that cannot excavate their own nest cavities. The native flowering shrubs that germinate after fire attract many species of flying insects, which provide food for flycatchers and bats; and the shrubs, new conifer growth, and downed logs provide excellent habitat for small mammals. This, in turn, attracts raptors, like the California spotted owl and northern goshawk, which nest and roost mainly in the low/moderate-intensity fire areas, or in adjacent unburned forest, but actively forage in the snag forest habitat patches created by high-intensity fire — a sort of “bedroom and kitchen” effect. Deer thrive on the new growth, black bears forage happily on the rich source of berries, grubs, and small mammals in snag forest habitat, and even rare carnivores like the Pacific fisher actively hunt for small mammals in this post-fire habitat.
In fact, every scientific study that has been conducted in large, intense fires in the Sierra Nevada has found that the big patches of snag forest habitat support levels of native biodiversity and total wildlife abundance that are equal to or (in most cases) higher than old-growth forest. This has been found in the Donner fire of 1960, the Manter and Storrie fires of 2000, the McNally fire of 2002, and the Moonlight fire of 2007, to name a few. Wildlife abundance in snag forest increases up to about 25 or 30 years after fire, and then declines as snag forest is replaced by a new stand of forest (increasing again, several decades later, after the new stand becomes old forest). The woodpeckers, like the black-backed woodpecker, thrive for 7 to 10 years after fire generally, and then must move on to find a new fire, as their beetle larvae prey begins to dwindle. Flycatchers and other birds increase after 10 years post-fire, and continue to increase for another two decades. Thus, snag forest habitat is ephemeral, and native biodiversity in the Sierra Nevada depends upon a constantly replenished supply of new fires.
It would surprise most people to learn that snag forest habitat is far rarer in the Sierra Nevada than old-growth forest. There are about 1.2 million acres of old-growth forest in the Sierra, but less than 400,000 acres of snag forest habitat, even after including the Rim fire to date. This is due to fire suppression, which has, over decades, substantially reduced the average annual amount of high-intensity fire relative to historic levels, according to multiple studies. Because of this, and the combined impact of extensive post-fire commercial logging on national forest lands and private lands, we have far less snag forest habitat now than we had in the early twentieth century, and before. This has put numerous wildlife species at risk. These are species that have evolved to depend upon the many habitat features in snag forest — habitat that cannot be created by any other means. Further, high-intensity fire is not increasing currently, according to most studies (and contrary to widespread assumptions), and our forests are getting wetter, not drier (according to every study that has empirically investigated this question), so we cannot afford to be cavalier and assume that there will be more fire in the future, despite fire suppression efforts. We will need to purposefully allow more fires to burn, especially in the more remote forests.
The black-backed woodpecker, for example, has been reduced to a mere several hundred pairs in the Sierra Nevada due to fire suppression, post-fire logging, and commercial thinning of forests, creating a significant risk of future extinction unless forest management policies change, and unless forest plans on our national forests include protections (which they currently do not). This species is a “management indicator species”, or bellwether, for the entire group of species associated with snag forest habitat. As the black-backed woodpecker goes, so too do many other species, including some that we probably don’t yet know are in trouble. The Rim fire has created valuable snag forest habitat in the area in which it was needed most in the Sierra Nevada: the western slope of the central portion of the range. Even the Forest Service’s own scientists have acknowledged that the levels of high-intensity fire in this area are unnaturally low, and need to be increased. In fact, the last moderately significant fires in this area occurred about a decade ago, and there was a substantial risk that a 200-mile gap in black-backed woodpeckers populations was about to develop, which is not a good sign from a conservation biology standpoint. The Rim fire has helped this situation, but we still have far too little snag forest habitat in the Sierra Nevada, and no protections from the ecological devastation of post-fire logging.
Recent scientific studies have caused scientists to substantially revise previous assumptions about historic fire regimes and forest structure. We now know that Sierra Nevada forests, including ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests, were not homogenously “open and parklike” with only low-intensity fire. Instead, many lines of evidence, and many published studies, show that these areas were often very dense, and were dominated by mixed-intensity fire, with high-intensity fire proportions ranging generally from 15 percent to more than 50 percent, depending upon the fire and area. Numerous historic sources, and reconstructions, document that large high-intensity fire patches did in fact occur prior to fire suppression and logging. Often these patches were hundreds of acres in size, and occasionally they were thousands — even tens of thousands — of acres. So, there is no ecological reason to fear or lament fires like the Rim fire, especially in an era of ongoing fire deficit.
Most fires, of course, are much smaller, and less intense than the Rim fire, including the other fires occurring this year. Over the past quarter-century fires in the Sierra Nevada have been dominated on average by low/moderate-intensity effects, including in the areas that have not burned in several decades. But, after decades of fear-inducing, taxpayer-subsidized, anti-fire propaganda from the US Forest Service, it is relatively easier for many to accept smaller, less intense fires, and more challenging to appreciate big fires like the Rim fire. However, if we are to manage forests for ecological integrity, and maintain the full range of native wildlife species on the landscape, it is a challenge that we must embrace.
Encouragingly, the previous assumption about a tension between the restoration of more fire in our forests and home protection has proven to be false. Every study that has investigated this issue has found that the only way to effectively protect homes is to reduce combustible brush in “defensible space” within 100 to 200 feet of individual homes. Current forest management policy on national forest lands, unfortunately, remains heavily focused not only on suppressing fires in remote wildlands far from homes, but also on intensive mechanical “thinning” projects — which typically involve the commercial removal of upwards of 80 percent of the trees, including mature trees and often old-growth trees —that are mostly a long distance from homes. This not only diverts scarce resources away from home protection, but also gives homeowners a false sense of security because a federal agency has implied, incorrectly, that they are now protected from fire — a context that puts homes further at risk.
The new scientific data is telling us that we need not fear fire in our forests. Fire is doing important and beneficial ecological work, and we need more of it, including the occasional large, intense fires. Nor do we need to balance home protection with the restoration of fire’s role in our forests. The two are not in conflict. We do, however, need to muster the courage to transcend our fears and outdated assumptions about fire. Our forest ecosystems will be better for it.
Chad Hanson, the director of the John Muir Project (JMP) of Earth Island Institute, has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California at Davis, and focuses his research on forest and fire ecology in the Sierra Nevada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit JMP’s website at www.johnmuirproject.org for more information, and for citations to specific studies pertaining to the points made in this article.
Source: Earth Justice Network
Since when does a human rights organization take to arguing the case for a military attack that will kill scores of innocent civilians? If you are Human Rights Watch, it’s all in a day’s work. The US regime’s favorite “human rights ” organization, which once praised the Obama Administration’s continuation of its predecessor’s torturous CIA “extraordinary rendition” program, pulled out all stops to bolster Obama’s claims that the Syrian government was responsible for the August 21st chemical attack near Damascus.
As Obama was ready to teach Syria a lesson via Tomahawk cruise missiles, Human Rights Watch stood virtually alone in the world on the president’s side. The human rights group was not busy trying to help the victims or promote international diplomatic efforts to end the crisis. They were instead feverishly engaged in a convoluted effort to prove that the missiles that purportedly carried the poison gas could only have come from Syrian government positions. They had no investigators on the ground, yet they determined independent of facts that the Syrian government must have been responsible. This is the job for a human rights group? To help a president make the case for war?
Human Rights Watch even repeated the lie that the UN inspectors’ report on the August 21 incident “points clearly to Syrian government responsibility for the attack.” It does no such thing, and in fact the UN had no mandate to determine responsibility for the incident. But this was the US administration’s line and HRW was determined to repeat it — even as the rest of the world gasped in disbelief.
When the Russian effort to head off a US attack on Syria — which would no doubt have killed far more than it was claimed were killed by poison gas on August 21 — was finalized by a UN resolution providing for the destruction of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons and facilities, one would think a human rights group would cheer that diplomacy triumphed over war. Not so Human Rights Watch. The organization’s UN representative Philippe Bolopion blasted the agreement, stating that it “fails to ensure justice.”
At that point, even President Obama was happy to have avoided a military conflict in Syria. Not Human Rights Watch.
The organization has not let up, however. A recent report by Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross and her Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights painstakingly refutes much of the photographic evidence presented of the attack. Being on the ground in Syria, she has also interviewed scores of victims of the insurgents’ attacks. Her organization’s report raises serious questions about whether the YouTube videos presented by the US government as the main US evidence of Syria government responsibility for the attack was manipulated or even entirely faked. Mother Agnes Mariam, dubbed by the BBC as “Syria’s Detective Nun,” finds her work attacked in a recent BBC article by… you guessed it, Human Rights Watch!
Peter Bouckaert, “emergencies director” of Human Rights Watch, who is not on the ground in Syria, brushes off Mother Agnes Mariam’s work, stating flatly that “there’s just no basis for the claims.” He continues that, “she is not a professional video forensic analyst.” Of course she never claimed to be. What she claimed is to have working eyes, which noticed — among other anomalies – that several of the purported victims of the attack were seen at several different locations at supposedly the same time and that it does not take a “professional video forensic analyst” to recognize that is impossible.
Human Rights Watch is a protected, pro-US regime NGO. They want to be the only voice on human rights issues and thanks to their favored status and enormous budget they have much weight on these issues. But how many times can they promote torture and war before people stop listening to their lies?
- Human Rights Watch is a propaganda agency for the US government (paulcraigroberts.org)
The United States would have invented Israel if it did not exist already, said US Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, highlighting the depth of Israel’s influence on the American political system.
Biden made the remark during a speech at a pro-Israel lobbying organization called J Street in Washington D.C. He also pointed out several times to President Barack Obama’s commitment to Israel.
There’s a moral connection between the US and Israel, Biden said, but there also are clear national security interests.
“If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved,” Biden said. “America’s support for Israel’s security is unshakable, period, period, period.”
He added, “The president and I are absolutely devoted to the survival of Israel.”
The vice president claimed that Iran’s nuclear energy program is a threat to Israel’s existence and said we can’t accept such a threat to global peace and security. Iran has repeatedly rejected such allegations saying its nuclear program has peaceful purposes only.
Biden’s speech comes as Israel reportedly possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads.
On Monday, President Obama repeated his threats of military action against Iran after a meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized Obama for his taking such a position, saying Obama is being “disrespectful of a nation.”
Pro-Israel pressure groups like J Street and AIPAC actively work to steer US foreign policy in favor of Israel.
The United States provides $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel every year even as America is struggling with domestic economic issues.
Western governments are considering allowing Iran to continue some uranium enrichment, as part of a possible deal to resolve a decade-old dispute that Tehran says it wants to reach within six months, a senior EU diplomat said.
The new stance – a reaction to President Hassan Rohani’s overtures to the West – would mean easing a long-standing demand that Iran suspend all enrichment, due to concerns Tehran could be developing nuclear weapons.
In an interview with Reuters, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said: “I believe part of the game is that if the Iranians prove that whatever they are doing is peaceful, it will, as I understand, be possible for them to conduct it.”
“It’s conditional. It is not a done deal, but nevertheless it is a possibility to explore,” he said. “Thanks to this rapprochement. How it will look, we don’t know.”
Lithuania holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of this year, giving Linkevicius a closer insight into many internal policy debates.
A series of UN Security Council resolutions call on Iran to halt enrichment. One of them demands “full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.”
Iran has refused to comply, saying its membership of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) gives it the right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology. That refusal has drawn several rounds of UN and Western sanctions.
Rohani, a moderate elected in June, has reiterated Iran’s insistence that it does not seek nuclear weapons, but has promised to clear up international concerns, hoping for an easing of sanctions that have hit its ability to export oil.
Western diplomats are cautious about the rapprochement, saying Iran has yet to offer any concrete proposals.
But, privately, many acknowledge that Tehran would likely need to be allowed to keep some lower-level enrichment activity as part of a broader political settlement, as long as UN inspectors were allowed sufficient oversight powers.
Israel, which claims the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to its existence, is insistent that nothing short of an end to enrichment is acceptable.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a UN summit Tuesday that the Jewish state was ready to act alone to halt Iranian efforts to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.
“Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,” Netanyahu said in an attack on overtures made by Rohani.
Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear weapons arsenal. It is the only country in the Middle East that hasn’t signed the NPT treaty.
Iran’s top general on Wednesday rejected Israel’s threat of military strikes.
“Today the choice of military option is rusted, old and blunt. It is put on a broken table that lacks stability,” said armed forces chief-of-staff Hassan Firouzabadi, quoted by Fars news agency.
“Such remarks stem out of desperation,” he said, slamming Netanyahu as a “warmonger.”
In a series of negotiations since April last year, six world powers have told Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity – a level that closes an important technological gap towards making weapons-grade material.
That demand will not change, diplomats say. But, in theory, Iran could be allowed to continue lower-level enrichment, up to 5 percent, to produce fuel suitable for nuclear power plants.
The next round of the talks between Iran and the six world powers, will be held in Geneva on October 15 and 16.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said Tuesday that the way the US acts regarding Iran’s nuclear issue would determine the possibility of holding further talks between the two sides, according to IRNA.
Commenting on recent talks held between Iranian and US officials in New York last week, Afkham said the talks were “limited to Iran’s nuclear issue.”
“No talks have been held on Iran-US ties,” the spokeswoman stressed during her weekly press briefing.
She added Iran’s nuclear issue was the main topic of discussion between Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his US counterpart John Kerry.
Referring to the phone conversation between the presidents of Iran and US made at the end of President Hasan Rouhani’s visit to New York, Afkham said the conversations focused on “Iran’s interaction with the P5+1” as well as finding a solution to the nuclear issue.ˈ
Asked if it was possible that the next round of talks between Iran and Group 5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) would be held at the level of heads of state, Afkham said “It is too soon to talk about that.”
“We are at the beginning of a long road which is full of ups and downs,” she stressed.
Referring to a report about President Rouhani’s possible visit to Saudi Arabia, Afkham said, “No official invitation has been received yet from the Saudi side through diplomatic channels in this connection.”
The furore over the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria has overshadowed disturbing events to the south, as Egypt’s generals wage a quiet war of attrition against the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
Hamas has found itself increasingly isolated, politically and geographically, since the Egyptian army ousted the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in early July.
Hamas is paying the price for its close ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic movement that briefly took power through the ballot box following the revolutionary protests that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Since the army launched its coup three months ago, jailing the Brotherhood’s leadership and last week outlawing the movement’s activities and freezing its assets, Hamas has become a convenient scapegoat for all signs of unrest.
Hamas is blamed for the rise of militant Islamic groups in the Sinai, many drawn from disgruntled local Bedouin tribes, which have been attacking soldiers, government institutions and shipping through the Suez canal. The army claims a third of the Islamists it has killed in recent operations originated from Gaza.
At an army press conference last month, several Palestinians “confessed” to smuggling arms from Gaza into Sinai, while an Egyptian commander, Ahmed Mohammed Ali, accused Hamas of “targeting the Egyptian army through ambushes.”
The Egyptian media have even tied Hamas to a car bombing in Cairo last month which nearly claimed the life of the new interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim.
Lurking in the shadows is the army’s fear that, should the suppressed Muslim Brotherhood choose the path of violence, it may find a useful ally in a strong Hamas.
A crackdown on the Palestinian Islamic movement has been all but inevitable, and on a scale even Mr Mubarak would have shrunk from. The Egyptian army has intensified the blockade along Egypt’s single short border with Gaza, replicating that imposed by Israel along the other three.
Over the past weeks, the army has destroyed hundreds of tunnels through which Palestinians smuggle fuel and other necessities in short supply because of Israel’s siege.
Egypt has bulldozed homes on its side to establish a “buffer zone”, as Israel did inside Gaza a decade ago when it still occupied the enclave directly, to prevent more tunnels being dug.
That has plunged Gaza’s population into hardship, and dealt a harsh blow to the tax revenues Hamas raises on the tunnel trade. Unemployment is rocketing and severe fuel shortages mean even longer power cuts.
Similarly, Gaza’s border crossing with Egypt at Rafah – the only access to the outside for most students, medical patients and business people – is now rarely opened, even to the Hamas leadership.
And the Egyptian navy has been hounding Palestinians trying to fish off Gaza’s coast, in a zone already tightly delimited by Israel. Egypt has been firing at boats and arresting crews close to its territorial waters, citing security.
Fittingly, a recent cartoon in a Hamas newspaper showed Gaza squeezed between pincers – one arm Israel, the other Egypt. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesperson, was recently quoted saying Egypt was “trying to outmatch the Israelis in tormenting and starving our people”.
Hamas is short of regional allies. Its leader Khaled Meshal fled his Syrian base early in the civil war, alienating Iran in the process. Other recent supporters, such as Turkey and Qatar, are also keeping their distance.
Hamas fears mounting discontent in Gaza, and particularly a demonstration planned for November modelled on this summer’s mass protests in Egypt that helped to bring down Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas’ political rival, Fatah – and the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank – are reported to be behind the new protest movement.
The prolonged efforts by Fatah and Hamas to strike a unity deal are now a distant memory. In late August the PA annnounced it would soon be taking “painful decisions” about Hamas, assumed to be a reference to declaring it a “rogue entity” and thereby cutting off funding.
The PA sees in Hamas’ isolation and its own renewed ties to the Egyptian leadership a chance to take back Gaza.
As ever, Israel is far from an innocent bystander.
After the unsettling period of Muslim Brotherhood rule, the Egyptian and Israeli armies – their strategic interests always closely aligned – have restored security cooperation. According to media reports, Israel even lobbied Washington following the July coup to ensure Egypt continued to receive generous US aid handouts – as with Israel, mostly in the form of military assistance.
Israel has turned a blind eye to Egypt pouring troops, as well as tanks and helicopters, into Sinai in violation of the 1979 peace treaty. Israel would rather Egypt mop up the Islamist threat on their shared doorstep.
The destruction of the tunnels, meanwhile, has sealed off the main conduit by which Hamas armed itself against future Israeli attacks.
Israel is also delighted to see Fatah and Hamas sapping their energies in manoeuvring against each other. Political unity would have strengthened the Palestinians’ case with the international community; divided, they can be easily played off against the other.
That cynical game is in full swing. A week ago Israel agreed for the first time in six years to allow building materials into Gaza for private construction, and to let in more fuel. A newly approved pipe will double the water supply to Gaza.
These measures are designed to bolster the PA’s image in Gaza, as payback for returning to the current futile negotiations, and undermine support for Hamas.
With Egypt joining the blockade, Israel now has much firmer control over what goes in and out, allowing it to punish Hamas while improving its image abroad by being generous with “humanitarian” items for the wider population.
Gaza is dependent again on Israel’s good favour. But even Israeli analysts admit the situation is far from stable. Sooner or later, something must give. And Hamas may not be the only ones caught in the storm.
Huwwara, Occupied Palestine – In the early hours of 1st October settlers from the settlement of Bracha set fire to two cars parked outside the house of Edrees Shehadeh in Huwwara. This attack forms part of a sustained campaign of intimidation against the village, which includes the 2002 murder of Adnan Shehadeh-Howwara, the 21 year old son of Edrees Shehadeh. Adnan was shot to death by a settler as he was standing on the roof of his family’s house.
The family was woken at 2 a.m. by the noise of settlers setting fire to their car, parked among olive trees next to their house. The perpetrators ran away up the hill upon discovery and the residents managed to put out the fire. The other car, a white Fiat, was completely destroyed.
A plastic bottle containing gas and a box of Israeli branded matches was found on the ground next to the car that was saved. This car was parked next to the children’s room, and the smoke from the fire could have harmed them if it had not been put out so quickly. In recent years 12 cars belonging to the family have been set alight.
Other recent settler attacks to this village include stone-throwing at a house situated even closer to the settlement. Additionally more than 30 olive trees growing on the hill were damaged with axes, killing many of them and resulting in loss of livelihood for the owners.