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US House panel passes bill to monitor Iran-Latin America ties

Press TV – March 1, 2012

The US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs subcommittee on terrorism has endorsed a bill obliging the State Department to brief the Congress on Iran’s activities in Latin America.

The bill, titled “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act” and approved on Thursday, had been sponsored by representatives of Republican and Democratic parties.

According to the bill, Iran has increased the number of its embassies in Latin America from five in 2005 to 11 in 2012.

If the whole Congress approves the bill, the State Department would have to inform it of Iran’s activities in Latin America within 180 days.

Iran has been seeking to expand relations with Latin American countries over the past few years, describing the endeavor as one of its major foreign policy strategies.

Major Latin American nations have also enhanced their diplomatic and trade ties with Iran in recent years while their relations with the United States have been downgraded amid popular demands for an end to dependence on Washington.

Iran’s rising popularity in Latin America has raised major concerns in Washington, which regards the region as its strategic backyard and traditional sphere of influence.

On January 6, the US warned Latin American states against expanding diplomatic and business ties with Iran, expressing concern over “Iran’s outreach to the Western Hemisphere.”

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on US House panel passes bill to monitor Iran-Latin America ties

Report: Army, Settlers, Carried Out 145 Attacks In February

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | March 01, 2012

The Wall and Settlements Information Center at the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Wall and Settlements, issued a report revealing that Israeli soldiers and settlers carried out 145 attacks against the Palestinian residents, their lands and homes, killing one and wounding several others.

Tal’at Ramia, 25, was killed on Friday February 24, during clashes with Israeli troops near the Qalanida terminal, north of occupied East Jerusalem; the residents were protesting attempts by extremist settlers to break into the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Center reported that soldiers demolished 42 structures in the West Bank; 22 homes and structures were leveled in Khirbit Ar-Rahwa, 3 in Ath-Tha’la area, and one home in Surif.

12 homes and structures were demolished in Nablus district, 12 homes and structures were demolished in Jerusalem and Tubas, four wells were demolished in Hebron, and one in Jenin.

Israel further served 88 notices against Palestinian homes and structures; this includes 2 mosques and one school in Hebron and Jenin, 24 orders against homes and structures in several areas in Hebron, 22 notices against structures in several areas in Jerusalem, 17 against structures in Bethlehem, 5 in Jenin, 8 in Salfit, and two in Qalqilia,

Furthermore, Israeli settlers carried out dozens of attacks, uprooting and bulldozing 4931 Dunams (1218.47 Acres) of Palestinian farmlands; 1825 Dunams in Jaloud – Nablus, Nahhalin and Al-Jab’a in Bethlehem, Yousouf and Sarta in Salfit, in addition to Beit Ola and Al-Himma in Hebron and Tubas. 1383 Dunams were bulldozed and uprooted, and owners of 1723 Dunams were prevented from entering their lands after extremist settlers planted them and are attempting to take them over. 1169 trees were uprooted in Surif, Beit Ummar, Tormos Ayya, Aqraba and Michmas.

The report further pointed out the escalating attacks carried out by Israeli soldiers and settlers against Jerusalem and its holy sites, by the sharp increase of home demolitions, escalating settlement activities, sharply increasing attacks against holy sites, and the recent plan to plan to build a temple on 400 square/meters west of the Al-Boraq Wall, and other plans including the so-called “Visitors Center” in Wadi Hilweh in Silwan, the taking-over of a parking lot in the Armenian neighborhood in order to build a settlement outpost despite the fact that the land is owned by the Armenian Monastery.

This is all happening while excavations continue under the Al-Aqsa mosque and several areas in occupied East Jerusalem. The information center further stated that Israel recently approved a law exempting taxes on donations that support settlement projects.

As for the non-violent resistance against the Wall and Settlements in Palestine, Israeli soldiers continued their violent attacks against these protests, shot and wounded more than 22 protestors, including international and Israeli peace activists, in addition to 5 reporters.

Furthermore, Israeli settlers carried out dozens of attacks against the residents and their property leading to the injury of 9 Palestinians, including 6 women, and set ablaze six Palestinian cars. They also tried to torch a mosque near Ramallah, and broke into a mosque near Hebron.

The Israeli government also approved the construction of 500 units for Jewish settlers in Shilo settlement, between Ramallah and Nablus, granted construction permits for 200 units planned to be built in Shvut Rachel near Nablus, in addition to a plan aims at constructing a new settlement east of Ramallah to replace the Migron illegal outpost the was evacuated by the army.

Israel also announced a plan to build a religious Jewish school and a temple near Itamar settlement, near Nablus with an estimated cost of 9 Million NIS.

Two new outposts were installed on Palestinian lands in Tal Romeida and Al-Karmel in Hebron, while the Israeli government approved a plan to build a settlement that is handicap-friendly in the place of a former military camp that was evacuated by the army in the Bethlehem district; it will be part of the Gush Etzion settlement block. Settlers also installed 18 mobile homes in a number of illegal outposts in the districts of Nablus and Ramallah.

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Soldiers raiding Palestinian homes: ‘We want peace’

By Haggai Matar | +972 | February 28 2012

A new video from Nabi Saleh shows a night-time raid on the home of activist Bilal Tamimi, during which soldiers claim they just want peace – as they take all the children out from their beds.

Nightly raids on the homes of Palestinian activists in the popular struggle are nothing new. The people of each and every village where demonstrations take place on a regular basis know that at one point or another – their houses are likely to get raided in the dead of night, at times turned upside down, at times leading to arrests, but often just for the sake of intrusion and intimidation. In certain villages, like Bil’in, soldiers would just roam the streets at night, throwing around stun and tear gas grenades into front yards. As Noam Sheizaf recently wrote – it’s just another part of the routine of occupation.

The video documentation of these raids, taken on by the villagers themselves, gives a unique look into the way soldiers think and work while parading through civilians homes in large groups, armed from head to toe. In the latest video, shot by Bilal Tamimi in his own home during a raid that took place between Sunday and Monday night, the soldiers are seen entering the house and asking that all residents be concentrated in one room. When asked why they are doing this, the officer leading the operation gives the amazing answer: “Of course. Because we want peace, and you are always throwing stones on our roads,” and later adds that they just came “for a  visit.”

As the recording proceeds the soldiers enter the house, ask to wake all the children up and put them all in one room. Confronted with the fact that some of the children are but 5 years old, the officer insists they are all to stay in one place. While performing a short search of the house the soldiers are glad to find empty tear standard tear gas canisters, shot by the army at demonstrators and often kept by activists as memorabilia. In the past, Bil’in’s Abdallah Abu-Rahme was actually charged with illegal possession of weapons for holding such a stash – worthless as an actual weapon, of course.

By the end of the video the officer is also seen questioning two of the children if they have “anything that is prohibited,” going through a school bag, and leaving with a “good night” greeting to the family. When entering another house, where a woman tells them that she is alone and that this is the twentieth time they’ve come to her house, some of the soldiers stop Tamimi from filming.

The most amazing thing about this short peep into the raids’ routine is the soldiers’ apparent complete lack of self-awareness. Standing there inside a family’s house, in the dead of night, pointing guns at civilians young and old, they try to act natural and even nice, and of course – all in the name of their genuine intent for peace.

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Comments Off on Soldiers raiding Palestinian homes: ‘We want peace’

How the Media Got the Parchin Access Story Wrong

By Gareth Porter | Dissident Voice | March 1st, 2012

News media reported last week that Iran had flatly refused the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its Parchin military test facility, based on a statement to reporters by IAEA Deputy Director General, Herman Nackaerts, that “We could not get access”.

Now, however, explicit statements on the issue by the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA and the language of the new IAEA report indicate that Iran did not reject an IAEA visit to the base per se but was only refusing access as long as no agreement had been reached with the IAEA governing the modalities of cooperation.

That new and clarifying information confirms what I reported February 23. Based on the history of Iranian negotiations with the IAEA and its agreement to allow two separate IAEA visits to Parchin in 2005, the Parchin access issue is a bargaining chip that Iran is using to get the IAEA to moderate its demands on Iran in forging an agreement on how to resolve the years-long IAEA investigation into the “Possible Military Dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program.

In an email to me and in interviews with Russia Today, Reuters, and the Fars News Agency, the Iranian Permanent Representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Iran told the high-level IAEA mission that it would allow access to Parchin once modalities of Iran-IAEA cooperation had been agreed on.

“We declared that, upon finalization of the modality, we will give access [to Parchin],” Soltanieh wrote in an email to me.

In the Russia Today interview on February 27, reported by Israel’s Haaretz and The Hindu in India but not by western news media, Soltanieh referred to two IAEA inspection visits to Parchin in January and November 2005 and said Iran needs to have “assurances” that it would not “repeat the same bitter experience, when they just come and ask for the access.” There should be a “modality” and a “frame of reference, of what exactly they are looking for, they have to provide the documents and exactly where they want [to go],” he said.

But Soltanieh also indicated that such an inspection visit is conditional on agreement about the broader framework for cooperation on clearing up suspicions of a past nuclear weapons program. “[I]n principle we have already accepted that when this text is concluded we will take these steps,” Soltanieh said.

The actual text of the IAEA report, dated February 24, provides crucial information about the Iranian position in the talks that is consistent with what Soltanieh is saying.

In its account of the first round of talks in late January on what the IAEA is calling a “structured approach to the clarification of all outstanding issues”, the report states: “The Agency requested access to the Parchin site, but Iran did not grant access to the site at that time [emphasis added].” That wording obviously implies that Iran was willing to grant access to Parchin if certain conditions were met.

On the February 20-21 meetings, the agency said that Iran “stated that it was still not able to grant access to that site.” There was likely a more complex negotiating situation behind the lack of agreement on a Parchin visit than had been suggested by Nackaerts and reported in western news media.

But not a single major news media report has reported the significant difference between initial media coverage on the Parchin access issue and the information now available from the initial IAEA report and Soltanieh. None have reported the language of the report indicating that Iran’s refusal to approve a Parchin visit in January was qualified by “at that time”.

Only AFP and Reuters quoted Soltanieh at all. Reuters, which actually interviewed Soltanieh, quoted him saying, “It was assumed that after we agreed on the modality, then access would be given.” But that quote only appears in the very last sentence of the article, several paragraphs after the reiteration of the charge that Iran “refused to grant [the IAEA] access” to Parchin.

The day after that story was published, Reuters ran another story focusing on the IAEA report without referring either to its language on Parchin or to Soltanieh’s clarification.

The Los Angeles Times ignored the new information and simply repeated the charge that Iran “refused to allow IAEA inspectors to visit Parchin military base”. Then it added its own broad interpretation that Iran “has refused to answer key questions about its nuclear development program”. Iran’s repeated assertions that the documents used to pose questions to it are fabricated and were thus dismissed as non-qualified answers.

The Parchin access story entered a new phase today with a Reuters story quoting Deputy Director General Nackaerts in a briefing for diplomats that there “may be some ongoing activities at Parchin which add urgency to why we want to go”. Nackaerts attributed that idea to an unnamed “Member State”, which is apparently suggesting that the site in question is being “cleaned up”.

The identity of that “Member State”, which the IAEA continues to go out of its way to conceal, is important, because if it is Israel, it reflects an obvious interest in convincing the world that Iran is working on nuclear weapons. As former IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei recounts on p. 291 of his memoirs, “In the late summer of 2009, the Israelis provided the IAEA with documents of their own, purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapon studies until at least 2007.”

The news media should be including cautionary language any time information from an unnamed “Member State” is cited as the source for allegations about covert Iranian nuclear weapons work. It could very likely be coming from a State with a political agenda. But the unwritten guidelines for news media coverage of the IAEA and Iran, as we have seen in recent days, are obviously very different.

~

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Comments Off on How the Media Got the Parchin Access Story Wrong

Clinton Advocates Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline Vs Iran-Pakistan Alternative

Trend | March 1, 2012

The United States strongly supports the idea of construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. At the same time, Washington strongly opposes meeting of Pakistan’s needs in energy resources by constructing pipeline to purchase “blue fuel” from Iran, ITAR-TASS quotes U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying on Wednesday.

Speaking at hearings in one of the subcommittees of Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, she assured that Obama administration recognizes Islamabad’s “essential energy needs”. However, construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan, either as a separate project of Tehran, or as a joint venture of the two sides would mean a “violation of our (that is, the U.S.) legislation on sanctions” against the Islamic Republic, Clinton said.

“We all know what would be the consequences of this. And it would have particularly devastating effect on Pakistan, because its economy is already fragile. Additional pressure to which the United States would have been forced to resort, would undermine their (that is Pakistanis) economic situation even more,” Clinton added.

She said the U.S. “clearly” stated its position on this issue to Pakistan. “We urge Pakistan to seek alternatives (to purchasing natural gas from Iran),” Clinton added.

From her point of view, it is “a little inexplicable” why Pakistan now “tries to negotiate (with Iran) on the construction of the pipeline,” knowing that Washington is trying hard to “increase pressure” on Tehran in connection with its refusal to clarify nature of nuclear activities. “And there is an alternative, which we strongly support – Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India the gas pipeline. We believe that this is a better alternative in terms of both predictability and avoid doing business with Iran,” U.S. Secretary of State said.

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Clinton Advocates Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline Vs Iran-Pakistan Alternative