Introduced by Douglas Lummis
Hirose Takashi has written a whole shelf full of books, mostly on the nuclear power industry and the military-industrial complex. Probably his best known book is Nuclear Power Plants for Tokyo in which he took the logic of the nuke promoters to its logical conclusion: if you are so sure that they’re safe, why not build them in the center of the city, instead of hundreds of miles away where you lose half the electricity in the wires?
He did the TV interview that is partly translated below somewhat against his present impulses. I talked to him on the telephone today (March 22 , 2011) and he told me that while it made sense to oppose nuclear power back then, now that the disaster has begun he would just as soon remain silent, but the lies they are telling on the radio and TV are so gross that he cannot remain silent.
I have translated only about the first third of the interview (you can see the whole thing in Japanese on you-tube), the part that pertains particularly to what is happening at the Fukushima plants. In the latter part he talked about how dangerous radiation is in general, and also about the continuing danger of earthquakes.
After reading his account, you will wonder, why do they keep on sprinkling water on the reactors, rather than accept the sarcophagus solution [ie., entombing the reactors in concrete. Editors.] I think there are a couple of answers. One, those reactors were expensive, and they just can’t bear the idea of that huge a financial loss. But more importantly, accepting the sarcophagus solution means admitting that they were wrong, and that they couldn’t fix the things. On the one hand that’s too much guilt for a human being to bear. On the other, it means the defeat of the nuclear energy idea, an idea they hold to with almost religious devotion. And it means not just the loss of those six (or ten) reactors, it means shutting down all the others as well, a financial catastrophe. If they can only get them cooled down and running again they can say, See, nuclear power isn’t so dangerous after all. Fukushima is a drama with the whole world watching, that can end in the defeat or (in their frail, I think groundless, hope) victory for the nuclear industry. Hirose’s account can help us to understand what the drama is about. Douglas Lummis
Hirose Takashi: The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident and the State of the Media
Broadcast by Asahi NewStar, 17 March, 20:00
Interviewers: Yo and Maeda Mari
Yo: Today many people saw water being sprayed on the reactors from the air and from the ground, but is this effective?
Hirose: . . . If you want to cool a reactor down with water, you have to circulate the water inside and carry the heat away, otherwise it has no meaning. So the only solution is to reconnect the electricity. Otherwise it’s like pouring water on lava.
Yo: Reconnect the electricity – that’s to restart the cooling system?
Hirose: Yes. The accident was caused by the fact that the tsunami flooded the emergency generators and carried away their fuel tanks. If that isn’t fixed, there’s no way to recover from this accident.
Yo: Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, owner/operator of the nuclear plants] says they expect to bring in a high voltage line this evening.
Hirose: Yes, there’s a little bit of hope there. But what’s worrisome is that a nuclear reactor is not like what the schematic pictures show (shows a graphic picture of a reactor, like those used on TV). This is just a cartoon. Here’s what it looks like underneath a reactor container (shows a photograph). This is the butt end of the reactor. Take a look. It’s a forest of switch levers and wires and pipes. On television these pseudo-scholars come on and give us simple explanations, but they know nothing, those college professors. Only the engineers know. This is where water has been poured in. This maze of pipes is enough to make you dizzy. Its structure is too wildly complex for us to understand. For a week now they have been pouring water through there. And it’s salt water, right? You pour salt water on a hot kiln and what do you think happens? You get salt. The salt will get into all these valves and cause them to freeze. They won’t move. This will be happening everywhere. So I can’t believe that it’s just a simple matter of you reconnecting the electricity and the water will begin to circulate. I think any engineer with a little imagination can understand this. You take a system as unbelievably complex as this and then actually dump water on it from a helicopter – maybe they have some idea of how this could work, but I can’t understand it.
Yo: It will take 1300 tons of water to fill the pools that contain the spent fuel rods in reactors 3 and 4. This morning 30 tons. Then the Self Defense Forces are to hose in another 30 tons from five trucks. That’s nowhere near enough, they have to keep it up. Is this squirting of water from hoses going to change the situation?
Hirose: In principle, it can’t. Because even when a reactor is in good shape, it requires constant control to keep the temperature down to where it is barely safe. Now it’s a complete mess inside, and when I think of the 50 remaining operators, it brings tears to my eyes. I assume they have been exposed to very large amounts of radiation, and that they have accepted that they face death by staying there. And how long can they last? I mean, physically. That’s what the situation has come to now. When I see these accounts on television, I want to tell them, “If that’s what you say, then go there and do it yourself!” Really, they talk this nonsense, trying to reassure everyone, trying to avoid panic. What we need now is a proper panic. Because the situation has come to the point where the danger is real.
If I were Prime Minister Kan, I would order them to do what the Soviet Union did when the Chernobyl reactor blew up, the sarcophagus solution, bury the whole thing under cement, put every cement company in Japan to work, and dump cement over it from the sky. Because you have to assume the worst case. Why? Because in Fukushima there is the Daiichi Plant with six reactors and the Daini Plant with four for a total of ten reactors. If even one of them develops the worst case, then the workers there must either evacuate the site or stay on and collapse. So if, for example, one of the reactors at Daiichi goes down, the other five are only a matter of time. We can’t know in what order they will go, but certainly all of them will go. And if that happens, Daini isn’t so far away, so probably the reactors there will also go down. Because I assume that workers will not be able to stay there.
I’m speaking of the worst case, but the probability is not low. This is the danger that the world is watching. Only in Japan is it being hidden. As you know, of the six reactors at Daiichi, four are in a crisis state. So even if at one everything goes well and water circulation is restored, the other three could still go down. Four are in crisis, and for all four to be 100 per cent repaired, I hate to say it, but I am pessimistic. If so, then to save the people, we have to think about some way to reduce the radiation leakage to the lowest level possible. Not by spraying water from hoses, like sprinkling water on a desert. We have to think of all six going down, and the possibility of that happening is not low. Everyone knows how long it takes a typhoon to pass over Japan; it generally takes about a week. That is, with a wind speed of two meters per second, it could take about five days for all of Japan to be covered with radiation. We’re not talking about distances of 20 kilometers or 30 kilometers or 100 kilometers. It means of course Tokyo, Osaka. That’s how fast a radioactive cloud could spread. Of course it would depend on the weather; we can’t know in advance how the radiation would be distributed. It would be nice if the wind would blow toward the sea, but it doesn’t always do that. Two days ago, on the 15th, it was blowing toward Tokyo. That’s how it is. . . .
Yo: Every day the local government is measuring the radioactivity. All the television stations are saying that while radiation is rising, it is still not high enough to be a danger to health. They compare it to a stomach x-ray, or if it goes up, to a CT scan. What is the truth of the matter?
Hirose: For example, yesterday. Around Fukushima Daiichi Station they measured 400 millisieverts – that’s per hour. With this measurement (Chief Cabinet Secretary) Edano admitted for the first time that there was a danger to health, but he didn’t explain what this means. All of the information media are at fault here I think. They are saying stupid things like, why, we are exposed to radiation all the time in our daily life, we get radiation from outer space. But that’s one millisievert per year. A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760. Multiply the 400 millisieverts by that, you get 3,500,000 the normal dose. You call that safe? And what media have reported this? None. They compare it to a CT scan, which is over in an instant; that has nothing to do with it. The reason radioactivity can be measured is that radioactive material is escaping. What is dangerous is when that material enters your body and irradiates it from inside. These industry-mouthpiece scholars come on TV and what to they say? They say as you move away the radiation is reduced in inverse ratio to the square of the distance. I want to say the reverse. Internal irradiation happens when radioactive material is ingested into the body. What happens? Say there is a nuclear particle one meter away from you. You breathe it in, it sticks inside your body; the distance between you and it is now at the micron level. One meter is 1000 millimeters, one micron is one thousandth of a millimeter. That’s a thousand times a thousand squared. That’s the real meaning of “inverse ratio of the square of the distance.” Radiation exposure is increased by a factor of a trillion. Inhaling even the tiniest particle, that’s the danger.
Yo: So making comparisons with X-rays and CT scans has no meaning. Because you can breathe in radioactive material.
Hirose: That’s right. When it enters your body, there’s no telling where it will go. The biggest danger is women, especially pregnant women, and little children. Now they’re talking about iodine and cesium, but that’s only part of it, they’re not using the proper detection instruments. What they call monitoring means only measuring the amount of radiation in the air. Their instruments don’t eat. What they measure has no connection with the amount of radioactive material. . . .
Yo: So damage from radioactive rays and damage from radioactive material are not the same.
Hirose: If you ask, are any radioactive rays from the Fukushima Nuclear Station here in this studio, the answer will be no. But radioactive particles are carried here by the air. When the core begins to melt down, elements inside like iodine turn to gas. It rises to the top, so if there is any crevice it escapes outside.
Yo: Is there any way to detect this?
Hirose: I was told by a newspaper reporter that now Tepco is not in shape even to do regular monitoring. They just take an occasional measurement, and that becomes the basis of Edano’s statements. You have to take constant measurements, but they are not able to do that. And you need to investigate just what is escaping, and how much. That requires very sophisticated measuring instruments. You can’t do it just by keeping a monitoring post. It’s no good just to measure the level of radiation in the air. Whiz in by car, take a measurement, it’s high, it’s low – that’s not the point. We need to know what kind of radioactive materials are escaping, and where they are going – they don’t have a system in place for doing that now.
Dirar Abu Sisi, the Palestinian engineer abducted from the Ukraine by Israeli Mossad agents last month gave an account of the incident in which he was arrested to a lawyer from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) earlier this week, the NGO reported on Monday.
On Sunday, Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court partially removed a publication ban and confirmed that Abu Sisi was being held at the Shikma Prison in Ashkelon.
PCHR said that Abu Sisi told the lawyer that on February 19 he was traveling by train from Kharkov to Kiev to meet with his brother Yousef when three persons, two in military uniforms, entered his room on the train. They asked him to show his passport but he refused. Then they threatened him and forcefully took his passport. They forced him to get off the train at the nearby station of Poltava.
Abu Sisi said that he was handcuffed, hooded and transported in a car to Kiev. Once in Kiev he was held in an apartment where there were another six persons who introduced themselves to be members of the Mossad. Abu Sisi said that the Mossad members immediately questioned him.
The Palestinian engineer said he was then put on a flight that lasted between four and five hours before landing in a place unknown to him. Approximately thirty minutes later, they took off again and the flight lasted for approximately one hour. Upon landing Abu Sisi found himself in “Israel”.
Abu Sisi told the PCHR lawyer that he was denied contact with a lawyer for fourteen days. This denial was extended for another eleven days. He said that he was placed under intensive interrogations and that he was denied his legal rights.
After speaking with Abu Sisi, PCHR expressed doubts about previous reports that Ukrainian authorities had colluded in the abduction. He was not legally arrested by Ukrainian authorities and made no appearances in Ukrainian courts.
The human rights organization expressed concerns with Abu Sis’s physical and mental health and called for his immediate release.
Abu Sisi is the manager of the only power plant in the Gaza Strip. He is not known to have any direct ties with Hamas or other organizations, although it is likely that his senior position was the result of political affiliation.
In interviews to foreign reporters, Abu Sisi’s wife Veronica, blamed the kidnapping on the Mossad, saying they did it to sabotage the Gazan power plant.
RAMALLAH — Sources at Voice of Palestine Radio told Ma’an that the station’s director of programming was detained by Israeli forces in the village of Awarta, after the village was locked down under a military curfew.
Kamal Sharab’s home was searched during a raid, and soldiers detained him and two of his sons – Fadi, 17, and Ra’fat, 16.
Earlier in the week, Sharab’s brother was also detained, in a round up that saw 40 men and youth from Awarta taken by Israeli forces.
The sources told Ma’an that Israeli forces detained Kamal’s brother a few days ago.
The Palestinian Journalist Syndicate condemned the detention of journalists and called for his immediate release.
Israeli forces re-entered Awarta at sunrise Tuesday, announcing via loudspeaker that the community was under curfew the for a second time this month.
The village had been under a military curfew from March 12-16 as Israeli police, military and intelligence forces searched the area for evidence relating to the murder of five settlers in the adjacent illegal settlement Itamar.
An as yet unknown attacker or attackers stabbed five members of the Fogel family, including two children and a baby. Israeli leaders immediately blamed Palestinian militant groups, and put a total gag order on the investigation for the Israeli press.
A military spokeswoman confirmed that there was a curfew in place, but said she could not disclose how long it would remain on the village. She said the search was in relation on the ongoing investigation into the Itamar murders, and that troops were trying not to disrupt normal life in the village.
Head of the Awarta village council Qays Awwad told Ma’an that a large number of Israeli forces entered the town and set up checkpoints at all of its entrances.
Villagers were told they were prohibited to leave their homes and enter the streets.
“So far, we have not been informed about the motive behind the incursion,” the Awwad said.
The last closure of the village prevented patients in need of medical treatment from getting to hospital. Villagers reported that at least two children suffered bites from sniffer dogs. Teenagers sustained broken bones after attempting to stave off an attack by settlers who marched into the village and threw rocks and bottles at homes.
Although militant groups in the West Bank have denied involvement in the murders, accusations by Israeli officials sparked a string of settler attacks against Palestinian civilians.
On Monday, one settler in the southern West Bank opened fire on a funeral procession in Beit Ummar, injuring one man critically and hospitalizing a second with a gunshot wound to the thigh.
Further south, a settler from the Ma’on outpost stabbed a Palestinian man on a donkey en route to a local clinic for treatment.
Two Palestinians were stabbed earlier in the week as they went to work in the industrial area of the Shilo settlement.
Dozens of acts of vandalism and harassment have also been reported.
In Egypt, a people’s uprising has succeeded in removing Hosni Mubarak from power. The main battle, however, lies ahead. Will there be a substantive transformation of Egyptian society, or will the economic and political system remain essentially unchanged, with only a new face occupying the presidential office? There are powerful forces that are determined to steer events in the latter direction.
While many in the Egyptian middle class, fed up with the corrupt rule of Mubarak, may be content to see the establishment of formal electoral democracy, the poor of Egypt hope for genuine economic and political change. Their grievances are many.
Mubarak’s adoption of the Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Program in 1991, at the urging of the IMF and World Bank, had predictable consequences. Off to a relatively slow start, privatization of state enterprises began to accelerate ten years into the program. Social benefits were cut in accordance with neoliberal principles. Passage of the Unified Labor Law in 2003 targeted unions and the rights of workers. It permitted workers to be hired on temporary contracts that could be renewed at will by management. The advantage for employers is that a worker on temporary contract is not allowed to join a union or vote in union elections. The law did away with the practice of granting permanent employment to workers once they passed a probationary period. Limits were also placed on collective bargaining and the right to strike. (1)
As has been the case elsewhere in the world, privatization of state-owned enterprises resulted in mass layoffs. For example, more than 65 percent of the workforce was eliminated at the six ESCO textile mills. And at the Assiut Cement Company, about 77 percent of workers lost their jobs. Special Economic Zones were established, offering tax and legal concessions to investors. At many factories located in these zones, workers are required to sign undated resignation letters as a condition of employment, allowing companies to swiftly and easily dismiss workers involved in union activities. (2)
The net effect of the Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Program and the Unified Labor Law has been to concentrate ever more wealth in the hands of the few, while driving great numbers of people into poverty. According to World Bank figures, 44 percent of Egypt’s population survive on less than $320 a year. (3)
U.S. corporations have a strong interest in maintaining the status quo in Egypt. That nation ranks as the second largest market for foreign direction investment in Africa, and the United States is its primary foreign direct investor. Egypt is an attractive destination for foreign investment, as its textile workers earn less than half the pay of their counterparts in Tunisia, and about a third of the pay of those in Morocco and Turkey. (4)
For the last several years, workers have responded with strikes and protests, helping to build the momentum that eventually toppled Mubarak from power. They aim to achieve some measure of economic justice. Can they succeed in that goal? Not if U.S. imperial interests have their way. In a revealing comment, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said, “We have an enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide models for the kind of democracy that we want to see.”(5) Note the language she used: the kind of democracy that U.S. elites want to see, rather than what the Egyptian people want.
For the Obama Administration, the model it hopes to see Egypt adopt is that of the Philippines, where a people’s moved drove Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986, or Indonesia, where a similar mass movement removed Suharto from office in 1998. Men like Marcos, Suharto and Mubarak were warmly embraced as close U.S. allies, but Western support for them vanished once it became clear that their continued rule was no longer a viable option. U.S. allegiance shifted abruptly, with an eye on the continuation of fundamental economic interests, based on the concept that rulers are expendable. Profits are forever.
Although people’s movements in the Philippines and Indonesia successfully ousted brutally repressive rulers, daily lives for most people remained otherwise unchanged. Wealth remained in the hands of the few, corruption persisted, and the majority of people continued to struggle in desperate poverty under neoliberal policies. That is the model the U.S. wants Egypt to follow.
And U.S. leaders are not shy about pushing that goal. Even before the fall of Mubarak, the Center for International Private Enterprise received money from the National Endowment for Democracy to strengthen the ability of civil society organizations in Egypt “to advocate for free market legislative reform, and to build consensus on needed changes to the Egyptian legal environment to remove impediments to competition in a free market.” (6)
Mubarak enthusiastically embraced the neoliberal economic model, but U.S. and Western European elites sense an opportunity to accelerate that process and remake Egypt in their own image. Already Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John McCain are preparing legislation to establish what they term the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund and the Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund. The Egyptian fund would be initially seeded with at least $50 million. The senators indicated that they hope these funds will attract private investment to Egypt, and said that their legislation is being modeled on the “hugely successful” efforts of a similar nature in Eastern Europe after the fall of socialism. (7) Those efforts were a huge success – for Western investors, with Eastern European economies retooled to become sources of cheap labor, and dominated by Western corporate penetration. The process was less pleasing for workers in the region, with precipitous drops in GDP, growing unemployment, poverty, and slashing of pay, pensions, and social benefits.
Senator Kerry said the bill he is co-sponsoring with Lieberman and McCain is based on “the belief that the United States has an historic opportunity to help these two countries, to transform the Arab awakening…into a lasting rebirth that brings prosperity and democracy.”(8) In Kerry’s eyes, it is the mission of the U.S. to guide events in the Arab world. Prosperity, as always, translates as increased profits for corporate interests, and democracy is little more than a euphemism for the free market. “These new enterprise funds,” Kerry continued, “will allow us to do what Egypt and Tunisia are calling for – provide investment in their entrepreneurs and private businesses so their economies can stabilize, prosper and create the crucial jobs.” (9) Oh really? Is that what the Egyptian and Tunisian people are calling for: support for private businesses, whose interests, as always, come at the expense of working people?
To remove all doubt about whose interests will be served, a statement by the bill’s sponsors says, “The funds will be designed to improve the overall business environment in the two countries and strengthen local capital markets. By relying on U.S. financial managers and other private-sector experts, the funds will concentrate on making profitable investments.” (10)
Not to be outdone, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Egypt, bringing along Elizabeth Littlefield, CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), to discuss with the interim Egyptian government support for business. “We want to see a very specific commitment by OPIC and by the U.S. Export-Import Bank to provide letters of credit, to encourage private sector investments, because the long-term economic growth of Egypt depends not on government jobs but on private sector jobs,” Clinton announced. “So the more foreign direct investment that we can help to encourage and support, we think will be beneficial for Egyptian people.” (11) And not so incidentally increase profits for Western investors.
Clinton took the occasion to announce a $2 billion aid package for North Africa, to be provided through OPIC, in order to “encourage foreign direct investment.” (12) OPIC head Elizabeth Littlefield talked of “partnership” between U.S. and Arab businesses, and said that OPIC “hopes to bolster the private sector’s role in helping to transform the region.” In a business-friendly direction, it scarcely needs adding. According to an OPIC press release, the organization “will identify and encourage private businesses, especially U.S. businesses, to invest in the region by providing direct loans, guarantees and political risk insurance.” (13) In other words, this so-called “aid” to Egypt is in reality designed to benefit U.S. corporations.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), in which the U.S. is the largest shareholder, plans to discuss “aid” to North Africa at its upcoming annual meeting in May. “The EBRD was created in 1991 to promote democracy and market economy and the historic developments in Egypt strike a deep chord at this bank,” stresses the bank’s president, Thomas Mirow. (14) In a recent speech, Mirow noted that the bank stands ready to take up the task. “We have the ability to deliver the development of the private sector.” If called upon to do so, the bank stands “ready to act,” Mirow chirps, “championing the values that we hold dear.” (15)
The American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt sees itself as having “a role to play.” The organization’s president, M. Gamal Moharam, notes that the nation is “at the dawn of a new era,” and the “private sector should strive to smooth any disruptions to normal economic activity caused by labor actions.” Keep those pesky workers down. Furthermore, “it’s also more important than ever to reassure both foreign investors and tourists that Egypt is an attractive destination.” The private sector, he feels, “should cooperate closely with the government to communicate these messages to the international community, highlighting that Egypt is once again open for business.” (16)
The U.S. is working closely with the interim government led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. According to the New York Times, “Pentagon officials remain in daily contact with the new military rulers.” (17) That contact is already paying dividends, as Egypt has begun shipping arms to anti-government rebels in Libya. According to Libyan businessman Hani Souflakis, who acts as liaison between Libyan rebel forces and the Egyptian government, “Americans have given the green light to the Egyptians to help.” (18) In fact, U.S. officials quite likely did more than merely give a green light. It is known that the U.S. made a direct request to Saudi Arabia to ship arms to Libyan rebels, and surely the same request was made to Egyptian officials. (19)
In a populous capitalist nation such as Egypt, it takes money – and lots of it – to run a political campaign. New political parties will have had little time to form, let alone campaign, by the time a new election takes place in Egypt. And working-class parties will simply be incapable of mustering sufficient funds to run a national political campaign. It remains to be seen whether entrenched interests in Egypt, backed by the West, prevail, or if the Egyptian people can grab the reins and determine their own destiny. U.S. government and non-governmental organizations are going to provide funding and training to political candidates supporting the neoliberal agenda, giving them a clear advantage.
As political commentator Stephen Gowans points out, “Sure, Egyptians are free to elect anyone they want, but modern elections are major marketing campaigns. Without strong financial backing, you haven’t a chance.” (20) U.S. leaders are once again on a civilizing mission, in which the “natives” are to have their fate chosen for them. If the U.S. has its way, Egypt has only more of the same to look forward to: more privatization, more poverty and economic dislocation, and more subservience to the West. The Egyptian people have not asked for this Western “help,” and fighting off Western meddling and diktat is likely to prove a far more difficult battle for the Egyptian people than the removal of Hosni Mubarak from power.
Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Korea Truth Commission. He is the author of the book Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit.
(1) Joel Benin, “Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt,” Solidarity Center, February 2010.
(2) Joel Beinin.
(3) Joel Beinin.
(4) Joel Beinin.
(5) Testimony, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Statement before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, “FY 2012 Budget Request,” U.S. Department of State, March 10, 2011.
(6) Egypt, National Endowment for Democracy.
(7) Theo Emery, “Kerry Bill will Aid Egyptian and Tunisian Entrepreneurs,” Boston Globe, March 10, 2011.
“US Senators Unveil Investment Aid to Egypt, Tunisia,” Agence France-Presse, March 11, 2011
(8) US Senators Unveil Investment Aid to Egypt, Tunisia.”
(9) “Kerry Legislation will Support Economic Stability and Democracy in Egypt and Tunisia,” U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, March 10, 2011.
(10) “Kerry Legislation will Support Economic Stability and Democracy in Egypt and Tunisia.”
(11) Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Araby,” U.S. Department of State, March 15, 2011.
(12) Nicole Gaouette, “Clinton Announces $2 Billion of New Egypt Aid in Cairo,” U.S. Department of State, March 15, 2011.
(13) Press Release, “OPIC to Provide Up to $2 Billion for Investment in Middle East and North Africa,” Overseas Private Investment Corporation, March 17, 2011.
(14) Sebastian Tong, “EBRD Aims to Complete Egypt Inclusion Study by Spring,” Reuters, February 14, 2011.
(15) Speech, Thomas Mirow, Oxford International Relations Society, February 23, 2011.
(16) M. Gamal Moharam, “Moving Egypt Forward,” AmCham Egypt Business Monthly, March 11, 2011.
(17) Elisabeth Bumiller, “Pentagon Places its Bet on a General in Egypt,” New York Times, March 10, 2011.
(18) Charles Levinson and Matthew Rosenberg, “Egypt Said to Arm Libya Rebels,” Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2011.
(19) Robert Fisk, “America’s Secret Plan to Arm Libya’s Rebels,” The Independent (London), March 7, 2011.
(20) Stephen Gowans, “In Egypt, a New Guard,” What’s Left, March 11, 2011. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/in-egypt-a-new-guard/
Interview with Zayd al-Isa, a Middle East expert in London
Democratic protesters in Yemen now seem to be gaining the advantage against a dictator that is losing political and military support. Press TV talks with Zayd al-Isa, a Middle East expert in London on the latest developments in Yemen and about where President Saleh can turn for additional support.
Press TV: How do you see the situation in Yemen? We have Yemeni ambassadors in Europe, the Arab League, the UN and in China all stepping down and calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. This presumably would leave him more isolated. How much do you think this would pressure Saleh to step down?
Zayd al-Isa: Saleh is becoming increasingly isolated, beleaguered and embattled. Support is waning away from him and he is under unprecedented pressure. The massacre that his forces have perpetrated has piled on the pressure for him to resign and step down. People have hardened their rhetoric ad toughened their language against him. They want him to be ousted and not only that, but to stand trial for crimes committed against unarmed peaceful civilians.
This has followed the massacre by Saudi forces on the people of Bahrain and we can say that Saleh too is following the green light given by the US. Saudi Arabia considers Yemen to be its backyard garden – both Yemen and Bahrain. Americans have given them a license to kill in those two countries.
Saleh’s policy of shooting to kill the protesters has backfired and we are witnessing the backlash from the tribe’s people, which is highly significant because Yemen is a tribal nation. These tribes are now standing against him and most importantly we now see the army, high ranking Generals, pull the rug from under his feet turning against him.
Without warning some of the army’s troops have been ordered on the ground, tanks included, to come to the defense of the innocent people of Yemen.
We have seen support come from the defense minister who has pledged his loyalty and called Saleh a constitutional president. This is all a critical and highly dangerous development that may show divisions within the high ranks of the military, which is something different to what occurred in Egypt, which was stable and united. We also saw a different situation in Tunisia where the army stood firmly against Ben Ali and remained as a stable unit.
The situation in Yemen has deteriorated further with Saleh becoming isolated amid an unprecedented number of diplomats defecting. This highlights the beginning of a new phase where the protesters are gaining the upper hand and the movement is gathering momentum.
This is to the contrary of what Saleh had expected. Protesters have flouted the imposed curfew and numbers have substantially escalated, spreading to all parts of Yemen. Saleh is now in a terrible position and I believe he now has to step down. France has said that the fall of Saleh has become unavoidable. We haven’t heard such noises coming from the US as Saleh is again considered one of the key allies of the US.
I think Saleh depends on three important pillars: the support of the tribes, the support of the US and aid that is allocated to military; and finally the backing and support of the Saudi regime. Saleh has been a loyal and obedient defender of the Saudi Monarchy.
Press TV: Regarding the three pillars of Saleh’s ability to stay in power that you mentioned, President Saleh’s own tribe has called upon him to step down.
Zayd al-Isa: That’s right and support of that tribe is absolutely crucial. Using a policy of divide and conquer he heavily relied on this tribe in the earlier war against the Houthis, which was backed by Saudi Arabia. That tribal support now is waning.
The aid from the US goes to Saleh’s military in order to fight al-Qaeda, which we know the Saudi regime has been a major factor in the supporting and the flourishing of al-Qaeda. Al Qaeda has flourished during those dictatorships and the oppression forced on the people of those countries, in Yemen, and of course in Saudi Arabia, which is the mother of all dictatorships.
Press TV: Let’s talk about the support of Saudi Arabia for Saleh – Do you think there will be Saudi troops deployed to Yemen as they were deployed to Bahrain?
Zayd al-Isa: I wouldn’t call it a deployment of forces. What you have in Bahrain is a clear cut occupation; an outright invasion of a sovereign country.
Yemen though is a huge massive country with a very difficult terrain. And we’ve seen Saudi Arabia actually try to invade Yemen before to impose its own will on the Houthis and to actually commit genocide against them; committing crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing against them. They used their superior military ground forces and supremacy in the air – advanced equipment supplied to them by the US.
They picked on the Houthis, a simple militia and now we see them once again taking on a tiny country (Bahrain) which is ruled by a ruthless dictator the so-called king of Bahrain who is no king (by definition). He was never elected and has subjected his people to intolerable discrimination. He has tried to change the makeup of the country by luring thousands of mercenaries giving them citizenship if they commit crimes against his own people.
Saudi now has its trigger happy forces inside Bahrain to quash the revolutionary forces of democracy also and with utter silence from the US. The US has condemned the situation in Bahrain, but has not lifted a finger to help prevent the occupation of Bahrain. We can see through this discussion that what they have done in Bahrain they cannot duplicate in Yemen.
Press TV: We have reports that Houthi fighters are now in control of Yemen’s Northern provinces. This raises a question of – What are the chances of Yemen falling into a civil war?
Zayd al-Isa: The situation is incredibly volatile and there are so many tribes. And what makes it even more dangerous is the division (potential) between the army generals and this could lead to civil war unless the army sits down and unites, that is, a united front against Saleh. He has the loyalty of the Defense Minister, but I do believe that Saleh is running out of allies and supporters; he is relying now on the backing and support of Saudi Arabia. That’s why he has sent his foreign minister to Saudi Arabia to get whole hearted support and the king of Saudi Arabia has emphatically supported the dictators in the region. He gave shelter to Ben Ali to live in his country and he tried to influence Egypt into allowing Mubarak to remain in power and oversee a transition. They have been the bastion of dictatorship.
An Israeli campaign to target Palestinian community leaders and organizations in Jerusalem seems to be underway.
From the unjustified closure of over 25 community centres to the interrogation and arrests of numerous political and community leaders, Palestinians in East Jerusalem say that the Israeli authorities are trying to limit the impact of Palestinian civil society groups in the city.
GAZA CITY — A child, teenager and three adults were killed and ten others injured by Israeli aritllery fire which hit a home east of Gaza City on Tuesday afternoon, the second shelling and third hit of the day.
Earlier, two were injured in the same area in separate incidents involving artillery fire and a drone strike.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said investigations into the most recent incident were ongoing.
Medics collected bodies from a home on An-Nazzaz Street in the eastern part of the Ash-Shaja’iya neighborhood in Gaza City.
Adham Abu Salmiya, spokesman of the higher committee of ambulance and emergency services, said members of the Al-Hilu family were playing football outside of their home when the shell hit.
Eyewitnesses said ambulances took the injured to Ash-Shifa hospital in Gaza city.
Medics identified the dead as:
Muhammad Jihad Al-Hilu, 11
Yasser Ahed Al-Hilu, 16
Muhammad Saber Harara, 20
Yasser Hamer Al-Hilu, 50
A fifth remains unidentified.
Shortly before 10 a.m. artillery fire injured one man in the Ash-Shuja’iyya neighborhood, just after witnesses reported Israeli vehicles penetrating the Gaza Strip in the area.
The injured man was identified as a 21-year-old Gaza resident. Medics did not say if he was a civilian or member of resistance factions which have recently been engaged in ramped-up activity near the border against Israeli forces operating there.
In a second incident that took place before noon, a man was critically injured by a drone strike in the same area.
An Israeli military statement said the fire was aimed at a group “of terrorists preparing to launch an anti-tank missile at an adjacent force, and thwarted the attempt by firing towards it, confirming a hit.”
The statement said the Israeli military would “respond with determination to any firing or other terrorist activities emanating from the Gaza Strip, and will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. The IDF warns Hamas not to continue its aggression.”
Shortly before midnight the day before, a series of Israeli air strikes injured 18, including women and children.
Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh has reportedly requested asylum from Saudi Arabia after announcing he will step down by the end of the year.
On Monday night, Saleh told Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz during a telephone conversation that he will be forced to give up power and requested him and his family’s asylum to Saudi Arabia, nahrainnet reported.
Earlier Tuesday, Saleh had expressed his willingness to step down by the year’s end to prepare a peaceful transfer of power in the impoverished Arab nation.
The announcement came as a reversal of Saleh’s recent comments in which he had said he would remain in power until the end of his term in 2013.
During talks with the Saudi officials, Saleh discussed the defection of senior military officials to the opposition and the resignation of many other officials from their posts.
A senior Saudi official is expected to visit Sana’a in the next 24 hours to plan Saleh and his family’s departure to Riyadh.
Saleh has been in office for more than three decades, with several opposition members arguing that his long-promised reforms have not materialized.
Protests began to sweep Yemen in January. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds more have been injured in a brutal crackdown by security forces.
Some 40 percent of Yemen’s population lives on under $2 a day or less, and a third is wrestling with chronic hunger, reports say.