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Britain, France vow to strengthen cooperation in defense, nuclear energy

Xinhua | January 31, 2014

LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande agreed Friday to beef up the two countries’ cooperation in defense, nuclear energy and climate policy.

Britain and France inked the cooperation deals at the UK-France Summit 2014 held in British royal air force station RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire of southeast England.

The two countries issued a communique setting out plans for joint investment in the procurement of defense equipment, joint training of armed forces and continued development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, an Anglo-French joint military training and operation program.

“Britain and France are natural partners for defense cooperation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said, adding that the agreements reached at the summit would enhance the “interoperability” of British and French forces.

According to the agreements, the two countries are set to launch a two-year-long joint feasibility study program with an investment of 120 million pounds (about 197.4 million U.S. dollars) for a future Anglo-French combat air system.

Britain and France also agreed to invest in Britain’s major nuclear weapons base, the Atomic Weapons Establishment, to carry out safe testing of British and French stockpiles and achieve greater sharing of technical and scientific data for joint research.

The two nations pledged to join hands in tackling security issues, such as terrorism and drug and arms trafficking, in north and west Africa, as well as building on international peacekeeping missions in Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

In addition, the two sides declared their commitment to developing safe nuclear energy, collaborating on new nuclear power stations, combating climate change and pushing for European Commission’s domestic emissions reduction agenda.

“We reiterated our resolve to work together towards achieving an ambitious and legally-binding agreement at the next COP (UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change) in Paris in 2015,” said Edward Davey, British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.


See also: Britain, France sign nuclear energy agreement

February 1, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

France to expand military presence in Africa

Press TV – January 25, 2014

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the country is to expand its military presence in Africa’s Sahel region.

“This redeployment will cover about 3000 troops which we are about to reorganize and re-deploy all over the area,” Le Drian said in an address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

The Sahel spans 5,400 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east.

“I wanted to say all this to you because we think that the intervention in Mali is not enough. We have to go beyond,” he added.

France began a major military intervention in its former colony in January, citing concerns about the growing influence of militants in northern Mali and a rebellion by Tuareg separatists that threatened the French-backed Malian government.

“We have to protect ourselves against different risks, new risks and especially, tomorrow, against the risk of a Libyan chaos,” said the French minister.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

France may permanently station soldiers in Mali

RT – March 27, 2013

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has suggested the creation of a peacekeeping force in Mali that would include West African troops already operating in the country. He also said that a “parallel force” must be built to confront Islamist threats.

“Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the UN mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,” Ban wrote in his report on Mali.

Such a force could be built on the French troops already active in Mali, some diplomats say.

Once the African nations’ soldiers become a UN peacekeeping force, most of their troops and police would operate in northern Mali, while there would be a “light presence” based in the country’s capital, Bamako, Ban suggested.

“The force would operate under robust rules of engagement, with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians,” he said.

The parallel force proposed by Ban Ki-moon would specifically target Islamist extremists, and could be based in Mali or elsewhere in West Africa. Diplomats expressed hope that the UN Security Council will vote on the peacekeeping proposal in mid-April.

France launched its military intervention in Mali in January to combat Islamist groups that had taken over the north of the country a year ago. The French army succeeded in driving the Islamists out Mali’s main northern cities and into desert and mountain hideouts. Still, Ban’s report said Mali suffered from a “crisis of governance” marked by “endemic corruption,” and a lack of state authority.

The 11,200 African troops converted into peacekeepers could only cover the main towns “assessed to be at highest risk,” Ban explained. The bulk of the contingent would come from a West African force known as AFISMA (African-led International Support Mission to Mali), comprised of armed forces from many African nations and already operational in Mali.

France said it would start withdrawing 4,000 of its troops in late April as part of a handover to the UN-backed African force. French President Francois Hollande has repeatedly vowed that the troops will remain in the region only until a legitimate government can take over.

The Mali intervention has cost France more than 100 million euros so far.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

French troops to stay in Mali until July: Officials

Press TV – March 1, 2013

French officials say the country’s forces will remain in Mali until at least July amid reports of a serious humanitarian crisis in the northern areas of the country caused by the French-led war in the West African nation.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, made the announcement on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week, an unnamed French diplomat also said that it is unlikely that “the French presence will be over in six months.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on February 6 that the country would begin the withdrawal of its troops from Mali in March.

“We will continue to act in the north… I think that from March, if everything goes according to plan, the number of French troops should decrease,” Fabius said.

France launched its war on Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters in the country. The war has left thousands of Malians homeless.

The French-led war in Mali has also displaced thousands of people, who now live in deplorable conditions.

On February 1, Amnesty International said “serious human rights breaches” — including the killing of children — were occurring in the French war in Mali.

The rights organization said there was “evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike” carried out by French forces against the local fighters.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 6 Comments

‘Mali war will cost the French dearly’

PressTVGlobalNews

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Video | , , | Leave a comment

US general urges Pentagon to boost its African spying missions by 15-fold

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Press TV – February 15, 2013

A US general nominated to lead the American military’s Africa Command has called for a 15-fold surge in US spying missions in Africa amid reports of Pentagon’s plans to further expand its growing military presence in the continent.

Army General David Rodriguez estimated in a written statement submitted to the US Senate Arms Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the American military needs to boost its “intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” The Washington Post reports Friday.

“I believe additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are necessary to protect American interests and assist our close allies and partners,” said the four-star general who has previously commanded US-led intervention forces in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The recent crises in North Africa demonstrate the volatility of the African security environment,” he added.

Rodrigues further emphasized during the hearing that Africa Command requires additional drones, other spying aircraft and more satellite imagery, adding that the US command currently gets only half of its “stated need” for North Africa and just seven percent of its total “requirements” for the entire continent, the report says.

The surging US military involvement in Africa has emerged despite earlier instructions by the Obama administration for the Pentagon to “pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia,” the daily underlines.

The development comes as the American military has intervened over the past two years in internal conflicts in African nations of Somalia, Libya and Mali, as well as central Africa.

This is while the US Air Force is building its fourth assassination and spying drone base in the poor African state of Niger as American Navy warships are expanding their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa, according to the report.

Despite insistence by US military authorities that they did not have plans to establish bases or move troops to Africa when they created the Africa Command in 2007, the Pentagon has since built a network of “staging bases,” including assassination drone facilities in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, and “a forward operating base for special operations forces in Kenya,” the report notes.

It further adds that the Pentagon has also expanded its military operations and construction at “the only permanent US base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which serves as a hub for ‘counterterrorism missions’ in Somalia and Yemen.”

Now, the daily emphasizes, there is a growing pressure to add even more bases in North and West Africa as the US military is set to build an assassination drone base in the West African country of Niger, which borders Mali, Libya and Nigeria, all nations that the Obama administration claims are threatened by an increasing influx of ‘al-Qaeda-linked’ Muslim militants.

The US Africa Command has been based in Stuttgart, Germany since it was established in 2007. Efforts to move the headquarters to an African country faced hurdles as numerous nations “expressed concern that the Pentagon was seeking to militarize US policy or infringe on their sovereignty,” according to the report.

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Mali, Forces Backed by UN, France, and Obama Slaughter Civilians

By  Alex Newman | New American | January 28, 2013

Summary executions and mass human rights abuses targeting innocent civilians in Mali are being perpetrated by soldiers loyal to the dubious Malian regime in a campaign supported by the United Nations, the new socialist French government, and the Obama administration. According to human rights groups and witnesses on the ground, the atrocities are increasing as the number of murdered victims continues to rise — eerily reminiscent of similar tragic interventions in Libya, Syria, and the Ivory Coast.

The regime ruling southern Mali out of the capital city of Bamako, which seized power in a military coup last year led by a U.S. government-trained officer, is currently attempting to recapture the northern regions of the country. The vast swath of territory in the north was declared independent last year by a group of historically oppressed nomadic Tuareg rebels armed with weapons obtained from the recent Western-backed war on Libya.

Islamic fighters with various loyalties joined the fight against the corrupt central government, too — providing a half-baked excuse for the UN, the French government, Obama, and various African despots to enter the fray on behalf of the illegitimate regime in the south. After the UN Security Council purported to “authorize” an international invasion on behalf of the coup-installed regime, forces from France openly began their military campaign earlier this month under the guise of fighting “Islamic extremism.”

Obama, the U.K. government, and a motley assortment of African tyrants — most of whom continue to be propped up with Western taxpayer money — quickly joined the battle as well. But within days of the military operation to crush rebels in the north, disturbing reports of gross human rights violations perpetrated by Western-backed forces began to emerge from across the region.

“This series of grave abuses confirms the concerns that we have been expressing for several weeks,” said President Souhayr Belhassen with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), a Paris-based umbrella group representing more than 160 organizations around the world. “These acts of revenge together with the extreme tensions that exists between the communities constitute an explosive cocktail leading us to fear that the worst could happen, especially in the context of the reconquering the North.”

According to FIDH, which said it is “very alarmed by the increasing number of summary executions and other human rights violations committed by Malian soldiers,” an immediate investigation is needed. The umbrella organization said an independent commission should be established to assess the scope of the crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. The group said it had already confirmed dozens of reports of extrajudicial murders in various towns, and that other reported atrocities were still being investigated.

Even in Bamako, where the corrupt regime styling itself the “government” of Mali is based, ethnic Tuaregs who have nothing to do with the secession movement in the north are being brutalized. According to reports, their homes are being invaded and plundered. Simply failing to produce valid identification documents is apparently justification enough to brutalize or even murder the victims.

“These abuses undermine the legitimacy of the operation to restore territorial integrity and must be prosecuted by the national justice, and if required, by the International Criminal Court which opened an investigation on the situation in Mali on 16 January,” FIDH Honorary President Sidiki Kaba said in a statement, urging French and Malian authorities to investigate the lawlessness and criminal terrorization of victims. [...]

While the press has been largely barred from conflict areas by the French government, even establishment journalists have documented the slaughter by UN-backed forces. A Reuters reporter, for example, “saw at least six bodies in two areas of the Walirdi district of Sevare. Three of them were lying, partly covered in sand, near a bus station and showed signs of having been burned. Three more had been thrown into a nearby well.”

Witnesses who spoke to the Associated Press but asked to remain anonymous gave vivid accounts of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Malian regime, which, again, has the full force of the Obama administration, the UN, and the socialist government in France behind it. According to the sources, Malian soldiers were massacring anyone suspected of having ties to the rebels in the north.

“They gathered all the people who didn’t have national identity cards and the people they suspected of being close to the Islamists to execute them and put them in two different wells near the bus station,” one of the witnesses was quoted as saying by the AP. After being dumped in the wells, Malian troops poured gasoline on the bodies and set them ablaze, probably to conceal the evidence of their crimes.

The coup regime in Bamako has denied the accusations, saying it ordered its officers to “respect human rights.” However, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, when asked about whether he knew of the abuses being perpetrated by the “government” his forces are supporting in Mali, said: “There’s a risk” that the atrocities are occurring, but that it was up to the Malian regime to stop it. … Full article

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Civilian casualties from French air strikes mounting in Mali

January 27, 2013

Human rights groups and journalists have complained that they have not been permitted access to Malian war zones. They have also not been given information on civilian and military casualties. After being contacted by Press TV, France’s Ministry of Defense said that there have been no civilian casualties, thanks to the precision of their air strikes. This claim of military perfection has been trumpeted since the beginning of the invasion. But the mayor of the Malian town of Konna recently declared that 11 civilians died as a result of French air strikes, including women and children. No one knows if there have been similar deaths in other areas of conflict, because since the war started Mali’s government has not issued a single figure about the war’s human casualties. Malian soldiers have been accused of summarily executing dozens of people, some only because of their ethnicity or for lacking identity papers.

Ramin Mazaheri, Press TV, Paris

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January 28, 2013 Posted by | Video, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

France’s Mali Debacle

By BARRY LANDO | CounterPunch | January 18, 2013

Paris – Within the next few days, France will have deployed some 2,500 troops to Mali. That’s as large a commitment as France made to what became a profoundly unpopular war in Afghanistan. No one knows how long the troops will be there, but the price tag will surely be tens if not hundreds of millions [or billions rather] of Euros, this to born by a French economy already in woeful shape.

The danger is that President Francois Holland and the French state, may shortly find themselves in the disastrous situation of the hapless coyote in the cartoon, Roadrunner, so intent on chasing his prey that he scurries right over a cliff and suddenly finds himself flailing in mid air, about to plunge to the desert below.

President Holland said the menace of a radical Islamic takeover was so imminent that he had no choice but to intervene—to save not just Mali, but all of Western Africa, and, the French now imply, Europe as well.

Strange thing though, despite the supposed urgency of the situation, France has had precious little luck so far in convincing its European partners to contribute their own troops to the intervention. Indeed, the last thing those countries want, after the traumatic experience of Iraq, Libya and the Afghan crusade, is to become enmeshed in what risks to be an open-ended conflict, on behalf of an unelected Malian government, against a vague assortment of ethnic rebels and jihadis in the desert wilds of North Africa. Thus, so far there have been a lot of pats on the back from France’s allies, offers of logistic support, intelligence, a few troop transports, drones, but that’s it.

“You say, ‘We’ll give you nurses and you go get yourselves killed,’” said French deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit, railing at his fellow deputies in the European Parliament. “We [Europe] will only be credible if French soldiers are not the only ones getting killed.”

Actually, it was surprising to learn that France, still considered a major military power, doesn’t have the capability to transport a couple of thousand troops and their equipment to North Africa. France even had to rely on an offer from the Italians for tankers to handle in-flight refueling of French fighter jets.

Despite the tepid response from France’s allies, French government spokesman are still reassuring the public that French troops are not going to play the major combat role in the coming ground battles.

The fact is, that even if they wanted to play a major role, there are nowhere near enough French boots on the ground. It’s instructive to speculate on France’s combat strength, using what is known as the “tooth to tail” ratio, that is, the number of support troops in the rear needed to support each combat soldier at the front. For the U.S. military that ratio is about three to one. If we use the same figure for France, that means that out of 2500 French troops deployed to Mali, probably about 600-700—a thousand at best–would actually see front-line combat.

And Mali, don’t forget, is twice the size of France, or Afghanistan or Texas.

The actual down-and-dirty fighting, we are told, is to be done by troops from West Africa, some of whom have finally begun arriving in Mali. But all the reports about those contingents indicate a woeful lack of equipment, morale, and training, particularly in being able to fight a guerrilla war in the desert reaches of the Sahel.

After months of discussion, this week—in the wake of the hostage crisis in Algeria– France’s European allies finally agreed to dispatch 250 troops to help train the Malian army and perhaps other African units. But—unless the fallout from the Algerian disaster changes things–it’s already determined that those European trainers are to be non- combatants. They will not even be advising the Malian soldiers in battle. As one senior EU official made very clear. “We will not go north. We will stay in the training areas,”

By the way, one thing I can never figure out—whether it be Mali or Afghanistan–we‘re always hearing about how the forces being backed by the U.S. and its allies, like France in this case, invariably seem to be poorly trained and equipped and demoralized, despite hundreds of millions of dollars and years of training. [Think Afghanistan where only one out of 23 battalions is able to function independently of U.S. support.]

Meanwhile, the ragtag rebels they’re combating, usually from those same third world countries, like the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Tuareg in Mali are portrayed as dedicated, fierce, battle-hardened warriors, who wreak havoc on their opponents with often the most primitive improvised weapons or suicide bombs. Reports are that it will take many weeks, probably months, before the various African troops will be ready to do any serious fighting. And there are other problems to deal with apart from training and equipment: the danger, for instance, of unleashing Christian soldiers from Nigeria to suppress Islamic rebels in Northern Mali.

Ironically, as I’ve pointed out in a previous blog, while France’s allies are hanging back, the Chinese, who have huge economic interests and construction projects underway in every one of Mali’s neighbors, continue to go about their business, apparently still content to leave the police work to France and Europe and the West African states.

The French, for the record, insist that the groups they are battling in Mali –and now in Algeria–are all lumped together as “terrorists”, linked to al-Qaeda. There is no recognition of the fact that most of the different rebel groups, are mostly driven by strong ethnic and nationalist aspirations, as much as by religion–not that different perhaps, from the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In that case, it’s obvious that the only way this conflict will ultimately be settled is not by somehow eradicating the “terrorists”, but by sitting down to negotiate a deal, as will probably be the case in Afghanistan.

In Mali, such a deal may not be that different from the kind of settlement that was offered the Tuareg years ago after a series of rebellions, but which the Malian government ultimately reneged on.

So, how do the French feel about this?

Estimates are that anywhere from 400,000 to one million French took to the streets of Paris last weekend. A counter-protest, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of other militant French, is now being organized. Tempers are flaring.

What’s the issue?

Mali?

Well, actually, no. It’s whether the French government should legalize gay marriage.

As for the intervention in Mali, at first the French, from all ends of the political spectrum, seemed to be solidly behind their government and their fighting men.

That consensus is already unraveling, and it’s certain that as the intervention drags on, the casualties and costs mount, and France’s European allies still drag their heels, the patriotic surge will flag

Which bring us back to the Roadrunner. At some point the French may suddenly look down to find that their president has taken them over a precipice, and they’re suspended there, gazing in horror at the chasm below.

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

UK terror hypocrisy: Mali vs. Algeria

Press TV – January 19, 2013

British Prime Minister David Cameron called off his long-awaited speech on the relations with the European Union on Friday to deal with the hostage-taking in Algeria as his country actively assisted France in its military intervention in Algeria’s neighbor Mali.

Cameron was outraged by, what he described in an address to the MPs on Thursday, as the Algerian government’s “all guns blazing” tactic against the “terrorist” kidnappers at BP’s In Amenas gas plant because it could endanger British and other western lives.

“I won’t hide, of course I was… we were disappointed not to be informed of the assault in advance,” Cameron told the MPs.

In effect, Cameron was telling Algeria that they are not supposed to be fighting “terrorists” at the cost of British lives while he and his French allies were – and are — exactly killing innocent Malians for the alleged ‘greater good’ they tend to name fighting terrorism.

There are no precise figures on the number of Malian civilians killed in the French Britain-assisted airstrikes near the country’s borders with Algeria but Human Rights Watch said on the second day of the attacks last Sunday that 10 civilians including three children, were killed during airstrikes.

The situation has also been grave enough for international organizations to call for restraint.

“Forces involved in armed attacks should avoid indiscriminate shelling at all costs, and do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s Africa deputy director.

However, there has been no such restr aint to the point that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Melissa Fleming warned on Friday “that in the near future there could be up to 300,000 people additionally displaced inside Mali, and over 400,000 additionally displaced in the neighboring countries” many of them escaping indiscriminate attacks on Malian rebels and civilians.

Nor has Cameron advised French president Francois Hollande to hold back attacks to avoid collateral damage to women and children probably because their skins are not as white as the British hostages in Algeria.

This comes as Hollande said on Friday that the attack and hostage crisis in the remote desert gas plant show the French military intervention in Mali was justified.

However, one comes to think that matters are exactly the other way round, especially after the hostage-takers said their move was in response to the French intervention in Mali.

One should also note a report by Amnesty International on brutality on the part of the ally of Britain and France, the Malian government, against the Tuareg ethnic minority where rebels are rooted.

When the conflict originally exploded, Tuaregs were arrested, tortured, bombed and killed by the security forces, “apparently only on ethnic grounds”, Amnesty said in a report on December 21.

Meanwhile, last July, 80 inmates arrested by the Malian army were stripped to their underwear, jammed into a 5 sqm cell and cigarettes were burnt into their bodies.

Also, back in September 2012, 16 Muslim clerics were rounded up at a checkpoint and summarily executed by the Malian army, which is now Britain’s ally.

Indeed, Britain could apparently pat itself on the back for setting the stage for the kidnapping of its own nationals in Algeria by helping the Malian government.

Britain should also answer whether the “botched” Algerian operation to free hundreds of hostages that left a few western hostages killed would have been also botched if the hostages were not white westerners, or if the scenario was one of British forces and its allies pounding Malian targets with huge civilians casualties on people with darker skins.

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mauritanian Consensus Against French Intervention in Mali

By Al-Mokhtar Ould Mohammad | Al Akhbar | January 18, 2013

Nouakchott – In light of widespread discontent among Mauritanians over the French military intervention in neighboring Mali, the French embassy is taking strict security measures to protect its citizens living in Mauritania.

There is a wide consensus among Mauritanians, regardless of political leanings, against French involvement in Mali, which many view as a return to colonialism.

This sentiment found expression in a fatwa, or religious edict, issued by 39 clerics and imams forbidding the Mauritanian government and people from cooperating with the invading countries.

The fatwa said that France’s real objective is to occupy northern Mali and that the intervention is “the continuation of an ongoing colonial campaign that has targeted many Muslim countries, from Palestine to Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Somalia.”

Most of the country’s political parties agree with the clergy’s position, including the ruling Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal.

One of its leading members, Mohammad Ould Mham, denounced the French war, saying that it would have been better for Paris “to gather all the Malian parties around the negotiating table – only dialogue can avert a war in Mali and the region.”

Opposition party leaders such as Ahmed Ould Daddah also rejected French intervention in Mali, warning that Mauritanian participation in the war will have dangerous consequences for the country’s military. He added that Mali and Mauritania have historical and religious ties, as well as common interests which “the government has frittered away.”

Leftist opposition leader Mohammad Ould Mawloud also rejected the war against Mali, expressing concern that “Mauritania will be exposed to danger, particularly the eastern and southern provinces.”

The Mauritanian Party of Union and Change claimed that it was French colonialism that created the problem in northern Mali in the first place and now it has returned to ignite a war, the consequences of which no one can predict.

Two socialist-leaning opposition parties singled out France’s ruling Socialist Party for criticism, accusing it of being under the influence of Zionism.

In a joint statement, the parties pointed out French President François Hollande’s contradictory policies of supporting radical Islamist groups in Syria – not to mention allying Paris with the reactionary Islamist regimes of the Gulf – while at the same time waging war against them in Mali.

January 18, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preplanned Mali invasion reveals France’s neo-colonialistic agenda

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | January 14, 2013

The speed and extent with which French warplanes have been deployed over the weekend in the West African country, Mali, point to a well-honed plan for intervention by the former colonial power.

Indeed, such is the careful choreography of this salient military development that one could say that the French have finally given themselves a green light to execute a plan they had been pushing over several months. That plan is nothing less than the neocolonial re-conquest of its former colony in the strategically important West African region.

Within hours of the Malian government requesting military support to counter an advance by rebels from the northern territory, French warplanes began carrying out air strikes on Friday. The attack sorties have reportedly been conducted for at least three consecutive days. Media reports said that French Mirage and Rafale fighter jets had struck across a wide belt of the remote Sahelian country, from Gao and Kidal in the northeast, near the border with Algeria, to the western town of Lere, close to Mauritania.

The warplanes were dispatched from France and also reportedly from Chad. The French government claimed that it had been granted over-flight permission by Algeria. Both North African neighboring countries are also former French colonies.

The air strikes by the French jets on at least six widely dispersed target areas within Mali cover an operational distance of nearly 2,000 kilometers, from east to west. This level of co-ordination indicates several weeks of planning and belies the appearance that the French government was responding in an impromptu fashion to a sudden call for assistance from the Paris-aligned Malian authorities.

In addition, over the weekend some 500 French troops arrived in the southern Malian capital of Bamako and the strategic town of Mopti, which is situated near the rebel-held northern territory.

The dramatic French intervention has all the hallmarks of a meticulous plan that was on a hair-trigger for action. The taking over by rebels last Thursday of the town of Konna, 45 kilometers from Mopti, near the de facto north-south frontier, and the subsequent alarm call from the Malian government in Bamako can therefore be seen as merely a green light for the detailed French plan to swing into action.

Furthermore, the French government has received swift support from other European countries and the United States. Britain has sent RAF CI7 cargo planes from a base in East England to Paris in order to help with French supply of troops, helicopters, trucks other heavy equipment. Washington has said it will provide logistics and communications. Both American and French surveillance drones have been operational in Mali and adjacent countries for months now.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was quick to hail the weekend air strikes a success in halting Malian “terrorists.” Fabius said the French military involvement would be for a “matter of weeks.” However, the extensive mobilization of troops and warplanes and the geopolitical backdrop to the development suggest otherwise. Perhaps mindful of this, Fabius was keen to emphasize that the Mali intervention would not turn out to be “another Afghanistan.”

Officially, Paris, London and Washington have up to now been pushing for an African-led intervention force to take the military lead in assisting the Malian government to quash a separatist rebellion in the northern half of the country. The northern region was taken over last April by Tuareg rebels in league with Islamist militia belonging to Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. The rebels have managed to consolidate their control over the vast and largely desert region around the main city of Timbuktu. Northern Mali covers an area the size of France and is sparsely populated with less than two million people.

West African states, including Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger, are charged with assembling an intervention force at the behest of the Western powers. Last month, the United Nations Security Council gave final approval for the West African military mission to shore up the shaky government that is based in Bamako in the far south of the country, thousands of kilometers from the upper northern region.

Following the Security Council vote, diplomats at the UN and in West African capitals were talking about the combined African mission of some 3,500 troops being deployed much later this year, in September at the earliest. This was a view held by Romano Prodi, the UN’s top envoy to Mali, which was reported only days before the French military intervention.

The abrupt side-stepping of the African forces points up the real agenda of the Western powers and France in particular. What we are seeing now, with the rapid, large-scale French deployment, is the true neocolonial nature of this agenda. All the previous talk by Paris, London and Washington on the importance of intervention having “an African face” can be seen as cynical cover for direct Western action.

Only three months ago, President Francois Hollande vowed to French media that there would be “no French boots on the ground” in Mali. Evidently, official calculations have changed.

France and its Western allies have been assiduously taking up the international security threat allegedly posed by the rebels in Mali. Much is being made of alleged links between the Islamist militants and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. President Hollande has repeatedly warned that French and European security is at risk if the rebels in Mali strengthen their control.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said at the weekend: “Both leaders [Cameron and Hollande] agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security given the terrorist activity there.”

American politicians, military chiefs and media have also been waxing lyrical for months on how Mali represents the globe’s new “terror central” and that Western governments must act decisively to defeat the danger.

However, the precise nature of this “Islamist threat” from Mali is never spelled out or evidenced. We are expected to accept the word of Paris, London and Washington – the rogue states that have and are conducting illegal wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

What we do know, however, is that the half century post-colonial borders of Mali are an alien imposition on nomadic peoples in the northern region – cultures that date backed thousands of years. Their rebellion against a remote and up to now indifferent colonialist-appointed administration in Bamako is probably a just cause. The French and its Western allies are therefore maligning an internal dispute within Mali with another specious “war on terror” narrative and in that way these powers are giving themselves a mandate to meddle in that country.

France being the former colonial master and with decades of covert military assets in the region is the “natural” choice among the Western powers to lead a neo-imperialist adventure in this strategically important region.

Mali has abundant riches in natural resources of metals and minerals. It is a major source of gold and uranium, as well as iron, copper, tin and manganese, and also versatile minerals such as phosphates, salt and limestone.

Moreover, the West Africa region has awesome potential for agriculture and oil. The Gulf of Guinea off Ghana and Nigeria is earmarked to become a leading oil and gas supply region to world markets in the coming years.

Military intervention by France and the other Western powers in Mali – under the guise of “defeating terrorism” – is a bridgehead for Western capital and corporations, not only into a resource-rich country, but into a large chunk of the entire African continent. In 2011, NATO’s bombardment of Libya and French subversion of elections in Cote D’Ivoire marked a new beginning of Western neo-imperialism in Africa.

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

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