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CIA-planted ‘evidence’ may force IAEA review of alleged Iranian nuclear arms program– report

RT | February 21, 2015

Doctored blueprints for nuclear weapon components supplied to Iran by the CIA 15 years ago could force the IAEA to review its conclusions on Iran’s atomic program, which was potentially based on misleading intelligence, Bloomberg reports.

The details of the Central Intelligence Agency operation back in 2000 were made public as part of a judicial hearing into a case involving Jeffrey Sterling, an agent convicted of leaking classified information on CIA spying against Iran.

“The goal is to plant this substantial piece of deception information on the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, sending them down blind alleys, wasting their time and money,” a May 1997 CIA cable submitted to the court reads.

The intelligence in question pertains to fake designs of atomic components that were transferred to Iran in February 2000.

Now it turns out the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could be forced to reassess their earlier conclusions regarding Iran’s atomic program, the publication quoted two anonymous Western diplomats as saying. Part of the IAEA’s suspicions about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program relies on information provided by multiple intelligence agencies.

“This story suggests a possibility that hostile intelligence agencies could decide to plant a ‘smoking gun’ in Iran for the IAEA to find,” Peter Jenkins, the UK’s former envoy to the Vienna-based agency told Bloomberg. “That looks like a big problem.”

In the latest quarterly report, the atomic watchdog said that the team of experts is still concerned about Iran’s nuclear intentions, prompting an immediate reaction from Israel.

“The agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” it reads.

Whether or not the revealed CIA secret will change this assessment remains to be seen, but Tehran has always insisted that its atomic energy program is peaceful.

“This revelation highlights the dangers of reliance by the IAEA upon evidence concerning Iran provided to it by third party states whose political agendas are antithetical to Iran,” Dan Joyner, a law professor at the University of Alabama told Bloomberg.

In response to the news, the IAEA told the publication that it conducts thorough assessments of the information it receives and uses. The CIA has so far failed to comment.

In 2013, Iran agreed to an interim deal with Russia, the United States, China, France, Great Britain and Germany under which Tehran would promise to flat-line its nuclear program, in exchange for a loosening of the severe banking and oil sanction earlier imposed by the West.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Belgian nuclear reactors riddled with 16,000 unexplained cracks

By Oliver Tickell | Ecologist | February 18, 2015

The discovery of over 16,000 cracks in two Belgian reactor vessels may have global implications for nuclear safety, says the country’s nuclear safety chief. He and independent experts are calling for the immediate checks of nuclear reactor vessels worldwide.

Thousands of cracks have been found in the steel reactor pressure vessels in nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in Belgium – vessels contain highly radioactive nuclear fuel cores.

The failure of these components can cause catastrophic nuclear accidents with massive release of radiation.

The pervasive – and entirely unexpected – cracking could be related to corrosion from normal operation, according to leading material scientists Professor Walter Bogaerts and Professor Digby MacDonald.

Speaking on Belgian TV, Professor MacDonald said:

“The consequences could be very severe … like fracturing the pressure vessel, loss of coolant accident. This would be a leak before break scenario, in which case before a fracture of a pipe occurred … you would see a jet of steam coming out through the insulation.

“My advice is that all reactor operators, under the guidance of the regulatory commissions should be required to do an ultrasonic survey of the pressure vessels. All of them.”

Professor Bogaerts added:

“If I had to estimate, I would really be surprised if it … had occurred nowhere else … I am afraid that the corrosion aspects have been underestimated.”

Jan Bens, Director-General of the Belgian nuclear regulator the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC),  has said that this could be a problem for the entire nuclear industry globally – and that the solution is to begin the careful inspection of 430 nuclear power plants worldwide.

An unexplained embrittlement

The problem was discovered in the summer of 2012. Both the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors have been shut down since March 24th, 2014 after additional tests revealed an unexplained advanced embrittlement of the steel of the test sample.

At the time the reactors’ operator, Electrabel, dismissed the cracks as being the result of manufacturing problems during construction in the late 1970’s in the Netherlands – but provided no supporting evidence.

FANC also stated that the most likely cause was manufacturing – but added that it could be due to other causes. Following the further tests FANC has now issued a statement confirming that the additional 2014 tests revealed 13,047 cracks in Doel 3 and 3,149 in Tihange 2.

“In carrying out tests related to theme 2 during the spring of 2014, a fracture toughness test revealed unexpected results, which suggested that the mechanical properties of the material were more strongly influenced by radiation than experts had expected. As a precaution both reactors were immediately shut down again.”

As nuclear reactors age, radiation causes pressure vessel damage, or embrittlement, of the steel mostly as a result of the constant irradiation by neutrons which gradually destroys the metal atom by atom – inducing radioactivity and transmutation into other elements.

Another problem is that hydrogen from cooling water can migrate into reactor vessel cracks. “The phenomenon is like a road in winter where water trickles into tiny cracks, freezes, and expands, breaking up the road”, says Greenpeace Belgium energy campaigner Eloi Glorieux.

“It appears that hydrogen from the water within the vessel that cools the reactor core is getting inside the steel, reacting, and destroying the pressure vessel from within.”

He adds that the findings mean that “the safety of every nuclear reactor on the planet could be significantly compromised … What we are seeing in Belgium is potentially devastating for nuclear reactors globally due to the increased risk of a catastrophic failure.”

Immediate action needed to prevent another catastrophe

On February 15th the nuclear reactor operator, Electrabel (GDF / Suez parent company) announced that it would be prepared to “sacrifice” one of its reactors to conduct further destructive tests of the reactor pressure vessel in order to study this poorly understood and extremely concerning damage phenomenon.

Electrabel’s findings will be submitted to FANC which will organize a new meeting of the international panel of experts to obtain their advice on the results of the new material tests and on the new data.

According to Electrabel, the findings constitute a “Level 1 occurrence on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES)” but the company emphasises that the event “has no impact whatsoever on the wellbeing or health of the employees, the local residents, or the surrounding area.”

But Glorieux dismisses such complacency: “As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima-daiichi nuclear disaster, evidence has emerged that demands immediate action to prevent another catastrophe. Thousands of previously unknown cracks in critical components of two reactors point to a potentially endemic and significant safety problem for reactors globally.

“Nuclear regulators worldwide must require reactor inspections as soon as possible, and no later than the next scheduled maintenance shutdown. If damage is discovered, the reactors must remain shut down until and unless safety and pressure vessel integrity can be guaranteed. Anything less would be insane given the risk of a severe nuclear accident”

There are 435 commercial nuclear reactors worldwide, with an average age of 28.5 years in mid 2014. Of these, 170 reactors (44 percent of the total) have been operating for 30 years or more and 39 reactors have operated for over 40 years. As of 2015, Doel 3 has been operating for 33 years; Tihange 2 for 32 years.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , | 2 Comments

Iran Halts New Sensitive Nuclear Centrifuge Tests: IAEA

Al-Akhbar | February 20, 2015

Iran has refrained from expanding tests of more efficient models of a centrifuge used to refine uranium under a nuclear agreement with six world powers, a UN report showed, allaying concerns it might be violating the accord.

An interim accord in 2013 between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia stipulated Tehran could continue its “current enrichment R&D (research and development) practices,” implying they should not be stepped up.

But a UN nuclear agency report in November said Iran had been feeding one of several new models under development, the so-called IR-5 centrifuge, with uranium gas, prompting a debate among analysts on whether this may have been a violation.

A confidential document by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), distributed among its member states on Thursday and obtained by Reuters, showed the IR-5 had been disconnected.

“The disconnection reflects Iran addressing concerns about its enrichment (of uranium),” said the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which closely tracks Iran’s nuclear program.

“The disconnection provides additional confidence that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action,” it said, referring to the 2013 agreement.

International talks have been resumed in Geneva on Friday with the aim of narrowing remaining gaps in negotiations to end Iran’s 12-year standoff with the six powers.

Washington suspects Iran’s nuclear program is designed to develop nuclear weapons; Iran denies this, saying it is for peaceful purposes.

The deal sought by the powers would have Iran accept limits to its uranium enrichment capacity and open up to unfettered IAEA inspections.

In return, Iran would see a lifting of international trade and financial sanctions that hobbled its oil-based economy.

The IAEA document about the UN inquiry, which has run parallel to the big power talks, was issued to IAEA member states only weeks before a deadline in late March for a framework agreement between Iran and the powers.

They have set themselves a deadline for a final deal at the end of June. Two deadlines for a permanent agreement have already been missed since the November 2013 interim deal.

Negotiators are now working toward reaching a political framework by March 31, with the final technical details to be laid out in a comprehensive accord by June 30.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed that his country would resist global sanctions imposed over its nuclear program, saying that Iran might respond to international pressure by cutting back gas exports.

“If sanctions are to be the way, the Iranian nation can also do it. A big collection of the world’s oil and gas is in Iran, so Iran if necessary can hold back on the gas that Europe and the world is so dependent on,” Khamenei said.

Disagreements in the talks between Iran and P5+1 center on the extent of nuclear activities Iran would be allowed to continue and the timetable for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear efforts.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Defending Ukraine From Russian Imperialism?

By Jason Hirthler | CounterPunch | February 20, 2015

In Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy, the philosopher delivered his summarization of the writings of Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas thusly, “Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.”

American foreign policy is determined in much the same fashion. Valuable objects are desired. Noble justifications are manufactured. Trusting populations are deceived. War is made. Empires do their special pleading on a global scale. For instance, the U.S. and its allies know precisely how they want to portray the Ukrainian conflict to their deluded Western populations. They need only apply the false flags and fashion the nefarious motives—like so many brush strokes—to the canvas of geopolitics.

Both the government and their corporate media vassals know their conclusions in advance. They are simple: Russia is the aggressor; America is the defender of freedom; and NATO is a gallant security force that must counter Moscow’s bellicosity. As the chief pleader in the construction of this fable, the Obama administration has compiled a litany of lies about the conflict that it disseminates almost daily to its press flacks.

One lie is that Putin has a feverishly expansionist foreign policy. No evidence exists for this claim, repeated ad nauseum in the West. The annexation of Crimea hardly seems like an example of such a policy. Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine. Russia was quite content with its long-term agreements with Kiev over the stationing of its Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol. It was the Kiev putsch that forced its hand.

There are plenty of signals that Putin has sent a stream of conscripts across the border to battle alongside the besieged “rebel separatists” in the East of Ukraine. But is this a crime of imperialism, sending soldiers to defend communities of ethnic peers under attack? Seems a difficult argument to make.

Moreover, Moscow has long stated that it wouldn’t permit NATO bases on its border—a purely defensive stance. The West knows this, but that is precisely its plan. It also surely knew that by capsizing Kiev and installing a few Westernized technocrats, it would provoke Russia into taking Crimea rather than sacrifice its Black Sea outpost. This cynical baiting permitted Washington to frame its aggression as self-defense, and Moscow’s self-defense as aggression. For context, consider how the U.S. might react if China suddenly toppled Mexico City using local drug lords with the aim of stationing hypersonic glide missiles in Tijuana. For once, Washington’s contempt for diplomacy would be justified.

Another lie is that we know Russia was behind the downing of MH17. Obama repeated this outlandish claim in the pulpit of the United Nations, no less. No proof exists, but plenty of circumstantial evidence seriously undermines the charge—missing air traffic controller (ATC) transcripts, the absence of satellite evidence of Buk anti-aircraft missile launchers in rebel territory, shelling traces on cockpit material, and Ukrainian ATC worker tweets pointing the finger at Kiev, and so on. Yet within hours of the crash, Barack Obama had told the world that Russian-backed separatists were responsible, and that Moscow must be punished. Nobody owns the narrative better than the USA.

A third lie is that the toppling of Viktor Yanukovych was a democratic uprising. Interesting how these always seem to occur wherever America has “strategic interests” in peril. Only then does the fever for representative government seize upon the minds of the rabble. Setting fantasy aside, the most reasonable conclusion, judging not least by admissions from Victoria Nuland and Obama himself, is that the U.S. engineered a coup using fascist thugs in the vanguard, and false flag shootings to drive Yanukovych into hurried exile. Odd how it all occurred when Yanukovych, after prevaricating for a time, discarded his association agreement with the EU for a better Russian offer. (Note likewise how Syria erupted in violence immediately following Bashar al-Assad’s decision to reject a Western-backed Qatari pipeline deal in favor of an Iranian one. In both cases, the inciting incidents were examples of an imperial province defying the diktats of Rome.)

A fourth lie is that Western sanctions against Russia are merited, since they are based on Russian aggression. However, a State Department run by his rhetorical eminence, Secretary of State John Kerry, would never phrase it so bluntly. Instead, we were informed that Russia was being chastened for “violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” and because it had worked to, “undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.” One can just imagine the media flacks in speechless submission as this decree was sonorously recited from on high. None of this puffery removes the fact that the coup was a contemptuous move to bring NATO to the edges of Russia.

Bootlickers Anonymous

My, how the media lemmings fall in line with the official rhetoric. Dutiful to a fault, Western corporate media have performed their servile tasks with aplomb this month. A Thursday Times edition earlier in the month led with the headline, “U.S. and Europe working to end Ukraine fighting.” Saturday morning’s edition led with “U.S. faults Russia as combat spikes in East Ukraine.” A lead in the Economist put it rather more bluntly, “Putin’s war on the West.” Beneath the headline was a Photoshopped image of the Russian President, looking resolute, hand extended with puppet strings dangling from each digit. The op-ed pages of the Washington Post teemed with vitriol, continuing efforts to portray Obama as a latter-day Neville Chamberlain, arch appeaser of transparent tyrants. The “alarmingly passive” White House should be more concerned about how “to keep Vladimir Putin in line.”

This isn’t nuanced propaganda. It isn’t hedging or garden variety bias. It’s flat-out mendacity. Surely these publications have, as none of the rest of us does, the resources to know that the United States, trailed by its milquetoast EU lackeys, is trying to provoke a conflict between nuclear powers in eastern Ukraine. It either wants Russia to quit backing eastern rebels and permit NATO to establish bases on its border, or allow itself to be drawn into a resource-sapping proxy war. The end goal of the former is to divide Moscow from Europe. The goal of the latter is to vastly diminish the federation’s capacity to support its Shiite and Alawite allies in the Middle East, all of who stand in the way of Washington’s feverish dream of regional hegemony. Neither option holds much hope for residents of Donetsk, Luhansk and the surrounding oblasts, or provinces.

Yet the Times leads the Western world in disseminating, in every Starbuck’s in America, the folderol that our high-minded, hand-wringing, and munificent leaders are pursuing peace. This despite the unquenchable imperial ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will not cease his provocations until he has resurrected the former glory of the Soviet Union, circa the Stalin era. How soon before the term “Hun” starts circulating? We’ve already got warmongering Senators releasing fake photos and cantankerously arguing that Obama is weak in the face of a world-historical threat.

Howitzers for Peace

Despite hysterical claims that Obama is a dove and tremulous fears that Putin will roll unopposed across the European mainland, the U.S. Congress approved new sanctions on Russia just before Christmas. The Orwellian, “Ukraine Freedom and Support Act” was intended to make sure that Vladimir Putin, “pays for his assault on freedom and security in Europe,” according to co-author of the bill, Senator Larry Corker, the Republican who will soon chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But what are sanctions without a little lethal aid thrown in? The bill also provided $350 million in such aid to Kiev. That means “anti-tank and anti-armor weapons, crew weapons and ammunition, counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries, fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment, tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment.”

Now President Obama, tired of the pretense of diplomacy, is said to be weighing a recommendation from the always-helpful Brookings Institute to speed some $3 billion more in military aid to Kiev, including missiles, drones and armored Humvees. Look at this stern-faced collection of the pale and pious, spines erect as they advocate more slaughter in East Ukraine, where the U.N. has condemn both sides of the conflict—Western-backed Ukrainian government and the Russian-supported Novorossiya Army in the East—of indiscriminate shelling, which no doubt accounts for the hundreds of civilian deaths in just the last few weeks. A million have already fled to Russia as shelling from their own nation’s army has destroyed power and medical infrastructure, one of the first steps toward the impoverishment of a region. Couple that physical distress with the economic stress being implemented through Kiev’s agreement with the European Union.

The U.S. has also promised energy aid to Kiev to counter—as the media generally puts it—Russian threats to cut gas supplies. It is rarely noted that Kiev has refused to pay or even schedule payments on its $2 billion past-due invoice on previous deliveries. This is no doubt a Western prescription or precondition of assistance.

Note the staggering disparities here. Kiev owes Russia $2 billion in back payments. Vice President Joe Biden promises $50 million in energy relief, none of which will make it to Moscow. Then the president weighs in with $350 million in military aid and contemplates a staggering $3 billion more. He also offers a piddling $7 million for humanitarian purposes alongside some 46 million in the same bill for border security and the like.

That’s some $3.35 billion to further destroy a fractured Ukrainian society and $57 million to help repair it. Forgive me for being obtuse, but how is this peacemaking? Yet Secretary of State Kerry, Senator John McCain and others in Congress have continuously cast the conflict in defensive terms, producing all manner of fabrication to support the conceit. In the next sound byte, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance wants to double its Response Force to some 30,000 troops. France’s Hollande has called for Ukrainian entry into NATO.

Peace Before the Thaw?

Amid all this belligerent posturing, cameras crisply flashed when Angela Merkel and Francoise Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko concluded a second Minsk ceasefire agreement last week, implemented Sunday. It was perhaps a last ditch effort by a temporizing EU to prevent a vicious proxy war, or possibly more insincere diplomatic posturing to provide cover for Western aggression. In any event, Washington was notably absent, but surely it loomed large over the meetings. The core points of the accord include a withdrawal of heavy weapons behind the nominal buffer zone; amnesty for prisoners; withdrawal of foreign militias and disarming of illegal groups; decentralization of areas controlled by Novorossiya Armed Forces, supposedly in the form of constitutional reform; but also Ukrainian control of the Russian border by year’s end. Despite the agreement, the battle for city of Debaltseve continued, with the rebels—or “terrorists” in Kiev parlance—finally emerging victorious yesterday and driving the Ukrainian Army into retreat.

Betting on peace isn’t a smart call in this circumstance. Already radical voices have flared up in Kiev and also in rebel circles declaring their contempt for the agreement. None of the contracting parties in Minsk seem to have control over these groups. Poroshenko himself said he agreed to the first Minsk agreement to let his troops regroup, and he has evidently refused the stipulation of constitutional reform this time around. Nor has Washington shown any serious interest in implementing a peace plan. In fact, the financial outlay by the White House suggests this is no token conflict, but part of a larger imperial strategy that many pundits claim doesn’t exist.

But it does. Look at Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s strategic master plan, laid out in his book The Grand Chessboard, among others. Then see how that plan found its apostles in the neoconservative movement, re-articulated in Paul Wolfowitz’s 1992 Defense Planning Guidance for the Clinton administration, and later in the Bush administration’s madcap blueprint for reshaping the Middle East. As ever, the objective is full-spectrum dominance, an arcadia or nightmare, depending on which side of the imperial fence you find yourself.

Jason Hirthler can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

NATO invents Russian threats in the Baltic

By Oliver Tickel  |  The Ecologist |  February 19, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin will “launch a campaign of undercover attacks to destabilise the Baltic states on Nato’s eastern flank”, the Telegraph reports today – along with all other mainstream news media.

How do we know this? Because the UK’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said so. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia watch out – the Russian peril is fast coming your way.

“There are lots of worries”, Fallon told the newspaper. “I’m worried about Putin. There’s no effective control of the border, I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing NATO, the submarines and aircraft … They are modernising their conventional forces, they are modernising their nuclear forces and they are testing NATO, so we need to respond.”

Covert attack by Russia on the Baltic states is “a very real and present danger”, Fallon insisted. Now where did we hear that before? Ah yes. On 16th December 1998 President Bill Clinton said that that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein presented a clear and present dangerto the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere.

We all know where that led: the Iraq war followed a few years later. We also know that the claim was a monstrous untruth: Saddam had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. So why should we believe Fallon now? Where is his evidence? He has none. When you already know the truth, who needs evidence?

Fallon – and NATO – should keep their eyes on the ball

But while Fallon’s attention is focused on the imaginary threat to the Baltic states, there is another country that really could be ‘at risk’ – and not because of cyber-attack, invasion by ‘green men’ or a campaign of destabilisation emanating from the Kremlin.

No, the EU, the European Central Bank, the IMF and European finance ministers have already been doing all the destabilisation that’s needed – forcing Greece into a deep programme of austerity that has seen the economy shrink by 25% over five years, the closure of vital public services, mass unemployment and the forced sell-off of public assets.

And now the Greeks – and their newly elected Syriza government – have had enough. This week the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras flatly refused to renew the €240 billion ‘bailout’ package, which comes with all the austerity strings, and he today advanced proposals for a ‘six-month assistance package’ free of harsh conditions to give Greece time to renegotiate its debt.

The standoff continues, and will be decided tomorrow by EU finance ministers. It’s not looking good: Germany has already stated that the Greek proposal “does not meet the conditions”. But if the finance minsters don’t agree, then what?

You guessed it: Tsipras will turn to Russia. Earlier this month Tsipras and Putin agreed on a range of bilateral ties, including the construction of a pipeline that would carry Russian natural gas from the Turkish border across Greece to the other countries of southern Europe.

This follows the re-routing of the ‘South Stream’ pipeline, which had been due to cross Bulgaria but was effectively blocked by the EU’s retrospective application of energy market rules, under heavy pressure from the USA. Last November and December Putin negotiated the pipeline’s realignment across Turkey with Turkish President Erdogan – right up to the Greek border.

Following the agreement between Putin and Tsipras, which came complete with an invitation to Moscow on Victory over the Nazis day, 9th May, the pipeline link to the major countries of southern Europe is now complete, at least on paper. And once it’s built, Greece will effectively control – and profit from – that gas supply, and take a strategic position in Europe’s energy landscape.

But Greece is a NATO member!

Greece’s increasingly warm relationship with Russia is already causing concern among other EU and NATO countries. German Defense Minister Ursula von Der Leyen has said that Greece was “putting at risk its position in the NATO alliance with its approach to Russia.”

This provoked a fierce retort from Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos who branded the attack as “unacceptable and extortionate” – noting that “Greece was always on the side of the Allies when they pushed back German occupation troops.”

“Statements that replace the EU and NATO’s institutional bodies are unacceptable as blackmailing”, he added. “They undermine the European institutions except if Germany’s aim is to dissolve the European Union and the NATO.”

So if Tsipras’s refinancing proposal is refused tomorrow will Greece quit NATO and the EU, to join the Eurasian Union? Not if Mr Putin gets his way: Greece is worth much more to Russia as an ally within the EU and NATO than outside – where it can veto more trade sanctions against Russia, block the TTIP and CETA trade deals with the USA and Canada, and oppose NATO’s increasing belligerence from within.

But we could see Greece simply renouncing its manifestly unpayable and unjust €320 billion national debt, and quitting the Eurozone straitjacket – while receiving an emergency liquidity package from Russia to support the launch of the New Drachma.

In fact, we could see a re-run of important elements of the Ukraine play of December 2013, when Russia offered a support package under which it would buy $15 billion in bonds from Ukraine, supporting its collapsing currency, and supply it with deeply discounted gas – £268 per cubic metre rather than the maarket price of $400.

A $15 billion purchase of New Drachma denominated Greek bonds would be a superb launch for Greece’s new currency, and would firmly cement Greece’s long term alliance with Russia, providing it with a valuable long term bridgehead into both the EU and NATO.

This move would also give inspiration and confidence to progressive political movements across Europe that take inspiration from Syriza’s fight for economic justice – in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, the UK and beyond – and bear the powerful message: there is an alternative.

And while NATO, the EU, the USA and their loyal servants, among them the UK’s Michael Fallon, deliberately whip up a fictitious threat in the Baltic, ignoring the real danger they face to the south, the masterly Mr Putin would once again make fools of them all.

 

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel to sue Meshaal for closing Ben-Gurion Airport

MEMO | February 20, 2015

The Shurat Hadin legal centre has announced its intention to prosecute the Head of Hamas’s Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, as well as other Hamas officials on charges of obstructing air travel at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport during the most recent Israeli attack on Gaza.

Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the centre, which specialises in filing lawsuits against Israel’s opponents in American and Canadian courts, has called on all Americans harmed by the obstructed air travel due to the rockets fired at the airport by the Al-Qassam Brigades to contact the centre in order for a lawsuit to be filed in their names.

Channel 2 also quoted Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat Hadin, saying: “We are trying to find a way to put Khaled Meshaal on trial in the US. The war crimes that he conducted against Israel and its citizens can be heard also in other courts aside from the criminal court in the Hague.” She said that the suit is made possible by the fact that Meshaal holds Jordanian citizenship, and also because the Palestinian Authority (PA) has requested to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Darshan-Leitner noted that she is basing her argument on the American law that prohibits attacking American citizens when they are in international airports.

She added: “After we have all these figures we will turn to the American attorney general and demand that he put on trial Meshaal and those who were responsible for the rocket fire from Hamas.”

Stressing that this task should not be difficult because Hamas divided Gaza into regions and placed commanders in charge of each one, meaning it would be easy to determine who is responsible for the regions from which rockets were fired.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 1 Comment

New testimonies from Palestinian children subjected to torture in Israeli prisons

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IMEMC News & Agencies | February 19, 2015

New testimonies from Palestinian minors have made their way out of Israeli prisons, speaking of the brutal beating and torture of youngsters conducted by Israeli soldiers and investigators.

Hiba Masalha, lawyer of the Palestinian Detainees Committee, who visited a number of children in HaSharon Israeli prison, said that the prisoners suffered incredibly savage treatment and brutality.

According to the PNN, 16-year-old prisoner Mohammed Zidani, from Silwan village, who was detained on the 10th of November, last year, and sentenced to 16 months of prison on January 19 of this year, said that he underwent electric shocks during his detention, for “confessions”.

Ziadni told Masalha that he was driven away from his home at 2 AM by private units and soldiers after they overwhelmingly raided his home, then dragged him to the Mascoubiya detention center, “room number 4”. The child said that, before they reached their destination, they stopped the military jeep bearing them, took him down to the street and started beating him so hard he suffered bruises and contusions all over his body.

In Mascoubiya room number 4, Mohammed said that he was forced to kneel and put his head between the legs, with his hands cuffed to his back and his eyes blindfolded. He was kept in this position for 4 hours. The investigation carried on for about 12 hours. He was given no food and was not allowed to go to bathroom.

Zidani said that during the investigation sessions that used to carry on until after midnight, the investigators beat him on his face and stomach.

During one of the sessions, Mohammed said, the investigator had “a stick shaped machine,” put it on his foot and pressed a button. Mohammed then felt the electric shock invading his body, and had unbearable pain in his foot. The investigator repeated the process three times in a row to “pull confessions out of him.” He started shouting of pain.

The testimony of another child prisoner, Kathem Annous (15) further demonstrates the torture children receive in Israeli jails.

Kathem, from Ras Al-Amoud, in occupied East Jerusalem, has been detained since November 3 of last year, in Hasharom prison. Similar to Mohammed Zidani’s case, he was driven from his home by Israeli soldiers and intelligence, and driven to a nearby settlement handcuffed and blindfolded, and kept for hours in the cold.

One soldier, using his iron-soled shoe, slammed Kathem’s foot, causing him contusions. He was then driven to Mascoubiya detention center.

During the investigation, Kathem was forced to kneel and point his head towards the wall, handcuffed. The investigation took 3 hours, in which Kathem was constantly beaten on his stomach and slapped on the face. He was kept in Mascoubiya for 12 days.

Annous said that he was also beaten by the Nahshon forces on his way to the court, and his handcuffs were very tightened. He mentioned that one time,a Nahshon member attacked him in the waiting room, and started violently knocking his head against the wall, for no reason whatsoever.

Anemic 14-year-old prisoner, Khaled Al-Sheikh, has been imprisoned for 55 days now, and hasnt been allowed to see his parents since then.

Child abuse in Israeli prisons is on the increase. According to Ahrar Center, there are about 300 children detained in Israeli prisons.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 4 Comments

Egypt seizes assets of 30 opposition figures

MEMO | February 20, 2015

The Egyptian authorities have confiscated the assets of 30 members of the revolutionary council; an opposition coalition founded by members living in exile.

Mohammed Yasser Abu El-Fotouh, the secretary-general of the government panel tasked with managing the Muslim Brotherhood’s seized funds, said yesterday that the committee headed by first assistant justice minister, Ezzat Khamis, decided to confiscate all the funds and property belonging to the 30 members of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council.

Reuters quoted a source in the committee as saying that “the revolutionary council’s members met in Turkey three months ago mainly with members of the Muslim Brotherhood international organisation with the aim of supporting the group”.

The same source added that the list of members whose assets will be confiscated include, advisor, Walid Sharabi, a spokesman for the judges for Egypt movement, Amr Darraj, and journalist Ayat Orabi, advisor Imad Abuhashim, as well as Osama Rushdie, Ali Khalifa, Maha Azzam and others.

The committee announced on January 22 that it had confiscated the assets of more than 1,000 charities and 532 companies, and dozens of schools owned by members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, only one day after the issuance of a court ruling invalidating the decisions to withhold the money.

In August last year, Egyptian politicians, academics and intellectuals representing different spectrums of the political forces which oppose the current authorities in Egypt launched the Egyptian Revolutionary Council in Istanbul, to be “an entity that represents Egyptians abroad who maintain the principles of the January 25 2011 Revolution”.

The council expressed concern two days ago over the sale of French Rafale fighter jets to Egypt, saying the country does not need the fighter jets at this time and does not have the financial capacity to pay for them.

The council said in a statement that it had sent a message to the French president and the French Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs stressing it rejection of the deal specially “since the current regime does not represent the Egyptian people” and explaining that “this agreement will not be financially or politically binding for the Egyptian people after the coup falls”.

The committee chairman, Ezzat Khamis said in previous statements that the committee has confiscated the assets of 901 members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood while lifted the confiscation orders for five members” adding that “the committee considers the confiscation of assets for 166 new people.

Khamis declined to disclose the confiscated assets total value citing “confidentiality”.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

Yemeni Opposing Factions Agree on New “Transitional Council”

Al-Akhbar | February 20, 2015

Yemen’s feuding parties agreed on a “people’s transitional council” to help govern the country and guide it out of a political crisis, UN mediator Jamal Benomar announced on Friday.

The move followed the takeover of power by the Houthi militia, which led to the resignation of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi last month and the paralysis of many of Yemen’s state institutions.

“This progress is not a (final) agreement, but an important breakthrough that paves the way towards a comprehensive agreement,” Benomar said in a statement.

As part of the new formula, Yemen’s old 301-member house of representatives, made up overwhelmingly of MPs from the former ruling party of deposed strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, thought to be sympathetic to the Houthis, would stay in place.

Instead of the traditional upper house, a new transitional council — whose numbers were not specified — would consist of traditionally unrepresented sectors among Yemen’s formerly independent South, women and young people.

Together the two bodies would make legislation guiding Yemen’s transition.

Arrangements for the vacated presidency and ministries along with security required further dialogue, Benomar added.

There was no immediate comment by the Houthis or the main Islamist and socialist opposition parties.

Security in Yemen has been steadily deteriorating since the Houthis invaded the capital Sanaa in September and began imposing their writ on the government.

On January 22, Hadi and his Prime Minister Khaled Bahah tendered their resignation due to the takeover of capital Sanaa.

Following their resignation, Hadi and Bahah have been held under the house arrest and Mohammed Ali al-Houthi — head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Council — has been considered as the de facto person in power.

On February 6, the Houthis issued a “constitutional declaration” dissolving Yemen’s parliament and launching a 551-member “transitional council.”

Yemen has fallen into turmoil since a 2012 uprising forced out autocratic president Saleh, who had been in power for 33 years, after a year of unrest. Following Saleh’s overthrow, the Houthis, al-Qaeda, separatists from the former independent South Yemen, and tribesmen have been fighting each other to gain power and territory in the fragile state.

The latest crisis in the Arab world’s poorest country threatens to allow al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to expand across the peninsula.The turmoil has also cast doubt over the future of a key partnership for Washington in the fight against AQAP.

The US has conducted at least four drone strikes in the country since US President Barack Obama vowed on January 25 not to let up in Washington’s campaign against militant Islamist organizations in Yemen despite the country’s political turmoil.

Human rights organizations have raised deep concerns about US drone strikes in Yemen. Critics have denounced the impact the attacks have had on Yemeni civilians, who have been killed or seen their homes destroyed.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment