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Syria crisis plan: Cessation of hostilities, humanitarian airdrops, peace talks laid out in Munich

RT | February 12, 2016

An ambitious plan to end hostilities in Syria with verifiable results within a week, revive the Geneva-3 peace talks, and immediately begin delivering humanitarian aid to civilians has been unveiled in Munich, Germany after talks including the US, Russia, and the UN.

Hostilities in Syria could come to a halt within a week after confirmation by the government of President Bashar Assad and the opposition, according to an official communiqué from the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting.

A mechanism to help resolve humanitarian issues in Syria has been developed, which includes the creation of a task force that will begin work on Friday.

A press conference was held after the meeting of the so-called Syria Support Group, with the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura. … continue

Riyadh Urges UN, Int’l Bodies to Leave Area of Military Operation in Yemen

Sputnik – 11.02.2016

Saudi Arabia has notified the United Nations and different international aid agencies operating in war-torn Yemen about the necessity to leave areas under rebels’ control in order to avoid bombings, media reported Thursday.

According to VICE News international information portal, some Saudi diplomatic missions abroad sent earlier in February notification letters to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other international organizations working in Yemen.

“[OCHA should] notify all the international organizations working in Yemen about the necessity of relocating their headquarters outside the military operations areas to be away from regions where the Houthi militias and the groups belonging to them are activating, in order for the Coalition forces to guarantee the safety,” a letter reads, as quoted by VICE News.

​According to the media outlet, OCHA Chief Stephen O’Brien responded that the humanitarian community would continue to deliver its life-saving assistance and urged Riyadh to adhere to the international law while conducting air operations in Yemen. … Full article

The Stories Behind the Government’s Newly Released Army Abuse Photos

By Eliza Relman | ACLU | February 11, 2016

Last week, in response to a long-running ACLU lawsuit, the Defense Department released 198 photos relating to prisoner abuse by U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. These photos are disturbing, but they are almost certainly less disturbing than the approximately 1,800 pictures the government is still keeping secret — and we’re still fighting for those in court under the Freedom of Information Act.

The photos we did get mostly show close-ups of body parts — arms, legs, and heads, many with injuries. There are also wider shots of prisoners, most of them bound or blindfolded. The government didn’t provide any information about the human beings depicted or the contexts in which they were photographed.

But with a little digging, we were able to learn about the stories behind them. Sixty of the 198 photos have legible Army criminal investigation file numbers printed on them. We used those numbers to search our Torture Database, which contains some 6,000 reports, investigations, emails, and other documents the government has been forced to release to us in the course of our 11-year-old FOIA suit.

We found 14 separate cases of alleged or proven detainee abuse relating to 42 of the photos. Here’s what we learned. … continue

Britain’s War Crimes Will Not Go Unpunished

By Martin Berger – New Eastern Outlook – 11.02.2016

One could hardly find a person both within the UK or outside it that would look positively at the steps that have been taken by David Cameron and his government if, of course, we’re not talking about members of the Conservative Party and certain military circles. The reasons are plenty, but the most obvious ones are the crimes against humanity committed by this government, along with a total disregard for the social needs of UK citizens and the revanchist policies it pursued in the Middle East and Africa.

It will suffice to note that Cameron’s government is going to cut its social spending to the lowest possible level to be able to carry on foreign military campaigns. … continue

Documents Point to US Base for Polluting Okinawa Water Supply

Sputnik – 11.02.2016

Documents obtained by Muckrock under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that chemical leaks at the US Kadena Air Base in Okinawa may be the culprit behind the contamination of local drinking water.

Not content with poisoning just their own citizens with contaminated water, it seems that an array of accidents and acts of “vandalism” at the US base over the past 15 years have deployed at least 21,000 liters of fire extinguishing agents — some of which are toxic.

The Okinawa Prefectural Enterprise Bureau announced last month that from February 2014 through November 2015, high levels of toxic Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) — an ingredient found in many fire extinguishing agents — was found in waterways that supply drinking water to seven municipalities. They reported finding levels of 80 nanograms per liter (ng/L) at its Chatan Purification Plant and 1,320 ng/L in the Dakujaku River.

PFOS have a half-life of up to nine years and is easily absorbed orally and accumulates in the blood, kidneys, and liver.

Last May, a drunk US Marine reportedly activated a fire fighting system, filling a hangar with 1,500 liters of JET-X 2.75 percent — a foam classified by the U.S. government as hazardous, the Japan Times reports. Despite the fact that the agent ran into waterways, officials mistakenly labeled the chemical as nontoxic and the military did not report the incident to residents or the Japanese government.

“Okinawa Prefecture and municipalities near the base should conduct an independent investigation into the leaks. Moreover the Japanese government should require the U.S. military to notify it of any potentially harmful leakage — regardless of the amount. To decide the significance of a leak should not be left up to the U.S. military,” Manabu Sato, a political science professor at Okinawa International University, told the Japan Times.

Israel denies European Parliament delegation access to Gaza

MEMO | February 11, 2016

A delegation from the European Parliament was blocked by the Israeli authorities from entering Gaza on Tuesday, the EU said in a statement.

The lawmakers, who are part of the working group of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Palestine, arrived in Jerusalem on Monday and was due to visit Gaza to assess the destruction caused in the 2014 conflict and the reconstruction efforts funded by the European Union.

According to the statement, a copy of which was sent to MEMO’s reporter in Gaza, no justification was given to explain the refusal.

Delegation Chair Irish MEP Martina Anderson stated: “The systematic denial by Israel of access to Gaza to European Parliament delegations is unacceptable. The European Parliament has not been able to access Gaza since 2011.”

Anderson added: “This raises questions: what does the Israeli government aim to hide? We shall not give up on the Gazan people.” … Full article

Israeli forces shoot, injure 3 youths during West Bank clashes

Ma’an | February 11, 2016

BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces on Thursday shot and injured three Palestinian youths in the central West Bank village of Beit Duqqu, northwest of Jerusalem, locals told Ma’an.

The three youths were shot and injured in their lower extremities and evacuated to a nearby hospital in moderate condition, locals said.

In addition to the three injured, three others were detained, two of whom were identified as Naji Bassam Daoud and Muhammad Ismail Rayyan, both 17 years old. […]

Locals said Israeli forces raided the village and ransacked several homes.

During the raid, clashes broke out and Israeli forces opened fire with live bullets and heavy tear gas. … Full article

Netanyahu’s Zoomorphic Bigotry: A Retrospective

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | February 10, 2016

“Anyone who approaches the Zionist problem in a moral aspect is not a Zionist.” – Moshe Dayan, quoting David Ben-Gurion

Ha’aretz correspondent Barak Ravid reported yesterday:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a tour to the construction site of a barrier on the eastern border on Tuesday that he wishes to surround the country with fences and barriers “to defend ourselves against wild beasts” that surround Israel.

Dehumanization of one’s real or perceived adversaries, often in the form of animalization, has long been a hallmark of propaganda. As Netanyahu reinforces Israel’s garrison mentality, he continues building a literal fortress by extending the apartheid wall further around the Zionist state, promising more division, segregation, discrimination, and violence.

“For most human beings, it takes an awful lot to allow them to kill another human being,” Anthony Pratkanis, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told ABC News back in 2003, as the United States was gearing up to invade Iraq. “The only way to do it is to justify the killing, to make the enemy look as evil as possible.”

The report also quoted Hayward communications professor James Forsher, an expert on propaganda films. “The secret in propaganda is that when you demonize, you dehumanize,” Forsher explained. “When you dehumanize, it allows you to kill your enemy and no longer feel guilty about it. That is why during World War II, a lot of caricatures became animals… You can kill a monkey a lot more easily than you can kill a neighbor.” … continue

What US Congress Researchers Reveal About Washington’s Designs on Syria

Seeing the government in Damascus as too far to the left, Washington has been trying to orchestrate a regime change in Syria since at least 2003

By Stephen Gowans | what’s left |February 9, 2016

Documents prepared by US Congress researchers as early as 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels is based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it is simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers made clear that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference is for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.) [1] The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering free-market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration.

The researchers revealed further that an invasion of Syria by US forces was contemplated following the US-led aggression against Iraq in 2003, but that the unanticipated heavy burden of pacifying Iraq militated against an additional expenditure of blood and treasure in Syria. [2] As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Damascus through sanctions and support for the internal Syrian opposition.

The documents also revealed that nearly a decade before the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra that the US government recognized that Islamic fundamentalists were the main opposition to the secular Assad government and worried about the re-emergence of an Islamist insurgency that could lead Sunni fundamentalists to power in Damascus. A more recent document from the Congress’s researchers describes a US strategy that seeks to eclipse an Islamist take-over by forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria in which the policing, military, judicial and administrative functions of the Syrian state are preserved, while Assad and his fellow Arab nationalists are forced to leave office. The likelihood is that if this scenario plays out that Assad and his colleagues will be replaced by biddable US surrogates willing to facilitate the achievement of US goals. … continue

Obama regime seeks to roll back human rights conditions on aid to Egypt

RT | February 11, 2016

Despite reports that state repression in Egypt is taking place on a greater scale than it has been for generations, the Obama administration is seeking to roll back human rights conditions Congress had placed on foreign aid to Egypt’s military.

The request, which was tucked into the Obama administration’s 182-page budget proposal, seeks foreign aid to Egypt’s military regime and “the sale of crowd control weapons to ‘emerging democracies.’” The discovery was made by The Intercept.

If the new proposal, which was released on Tuesday, is adopted, it would end a Congressional restriction stipulating “that 15 percent of aid to Egypt is subject to being withheld based on human rights conditions.”

Interestingly, Congress was able to temporarily waive those restrictions in a foreign aid bill in June of 2015, arguing it was in the national security interest of the United Station, according to Al-Monitor. … continue

’27 more bodies retrieved from building in Sirnak, eastern Turkey’

Today’s Zaman | February 10, 2016

ISTANBUL – A deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) says the bodies of 27 more people purportedly killed in a Turkish military operation have been retrieved from the basement of a building in Sirnak’s Cizre district, which has been under curfew for close to two months.

HDP Sirnak deputy Faysal Sariyildiz alleged on Tuesday that the bodies, located in the basement of a building in Cudi neighbourhood, were taken to the morgue of Cizre State Hospital. The bodies of 11 other people were taken from the same building on Monday.

There have been intense clashes between Turkish security forces and the terrorist [sic] Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the district, which, along with curfews, have paralyzed the daily lives of the locals and led to the killing of many.

On Monday the state-run TRT Haber TV channel reported that at least 60 PKK members had been killed in a recent operation in Cizre. However, the Turkish General Staff announced that 10 PKK militants were killed in the operation in Cizre. While Turkish authorities say it was the PKK terrorists who were killed in Cizre, pro-Kurdish sources say it was civilians who took refuge in the basements of buildings.

HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas said on Tuesday that between 70 and 90 people, many of whom are injured, have been forced to remain in the basements of a number of buildings in Cizre’s Cudi neighborhood for 20 days. Many are either locals or university students who came to Cizre to show solidarity. Demirtas said the security forces believe there are PKK terrorists among those holding out in the basements, which is why they have not been allowed to leave the basements, and security forces have fired shells at the buildings regardless of the presence of civilians. … Full article

Turkey’s Revival of a Dirty ‘Deep State’

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | February 10, 2016

Turkey’s embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is resurrecting the “deep state” alliance of secret intelligence operatives and extreme rightists that he so notably challenged just a few years ago while putting hundreds of military officers and other opponents on trial for conspiring against Turkish democracy. In a remarkable about-face, Erdogan is now emulating the ruthless tactics of previous authoritarian rulers at the expense of Turkey’s evolution as a liberal state. … continue

New US Spy Satellite Lifts Off as Obama Criticizes N. Korean Launch

Sputnik – 11.02.2016

Days after criticizing North Korea for launching a satellite into space, the United States sent its own, brand new military satellite into orbit Wednesday morning.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is the agency in charge of the United States’ fleet of spy satellites, and early Wednesday morning, the NRO sent its latest above stratosphere. The NROL-45 satellite was sent into space on the back of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The NRO already has three additional launches scheduled for the upcoming year. Two will lift off in May and June, both from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The third will launch from Vandenberg in December.

The NRO will not say, specifically, what kind of operations these satellites will be conducting. Its payload remains classified, and a statement on the ULA’s website vaguely describes NROL-45 as being necessary for the “support of national defense.”

The timing of this launch is surprising given Washington’s condemnation of a North Korean satellite launch on Sunday. … continue

Petition calls for Obama to be tried for ‘war crimes’ in The Hague

RT | February 10, 2016

A petition accusing Barack Obama of war crimes and demanding he be prosecuted has been published on the White House website. It has already gained about 4,000 signatures.

“We demand conviction of a war criminal Barack Obama and trial in the International Criminal Court in [The] Hague. He is guilty of crimes not only against the USA citizens, but against the whole world,” the petition states. … continue

White House pushes ahead with plan to slash pensions for up to one million retirees

By Andre Damon  | WSWS | February 2016

The Obama administration is pushing ahead with its plans to slash pension benefits for up to one million participants in “underfunded” multi-employer pension funds as part of its drive to make defined-benefit pensions a thing of the past for all US workers.

The White House campaign, carried out in a conspiracy with the major trade unions and multinational corporations, takes place in the wake of the 2013–2014 bankruptcy of Detroit, which set a precedent for slashing the legally protected pension benefits of retirees.

Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s appointee to oversee the pension cuts, held a hearing on behalf of the Treasury Department in Detroit Monday to hear objections to the plan to slash the pension benefits of some 270,000 retired truck drivers, package handlers and other members of the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.

The hearing, which took place at Wayne State University, drew an overflow crowd at a 500-seat lecture hall, with up to 1,000 people participating in total. With the exception of the World Socialist Web Site, the media ignored the event, with no US video crews present.

Although retirees had initially been told that the cuts to their benefits would average less than 30 percent, nearly all of those who spoke at the hearing said they had been notified over the Christmas holiday that they would lose between 50 and 80 percent of their pension benefits. … continue

Indian Point tritium leak 80% worse than originally reported

RT – February 10, 2016

New measurements at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in upstate New York show levels of radioactive tritium 80 percent higher than reported last week. Plant operator insists the spill is not dangerous, as state officials call for a safety probe. […]

Though it has never reported a reactor problem, the Indian Point facility has been plagued by issues with transformers, cooling systems, and other electrical components over the years. It currently operates two reactors, both brought on-line in the 1970s. […]

The tritium leak at Indian Point most likely took place in January, during the preparations to shut down Reactor 2 for refueling, according to Entergy. Water containing high levels of the hydrogen isotope reportedly overfilled the drains and spilled into the ground. … Full article

Army kills 16-year-old Palestinian in Hebron

Ma’an – February 10, 2016

omarjawabraHEBRON – A report from an autopsy performed on a 16-year-old Palestinian killed when clashes broke out during an Israeli military raid Tuesday revealed the teen died from a bullet to the chest.

Hebron’s District Attorney Alaa al-Tamimi told Ma’an Wednesday that Omar Yousef Madi al-Jawabreh died after being hit by a single bullet that entered his body from the right side of his chest. […]

The autopsy report comes as Israel has faced mounting criticism for implementing a “shoot-to-kill” policy on Palestinians, leading to unnecessary deaths of individuals who did not pose sufficient threat for the use of lethal force at the time of their death.

Al-Jawabreh was one of around 170 Palestinians to be killed by Israeli forces or settlers since an escalation in violence spread across the occupied Palestinian in October, including 19-year-old Khalid Mahmoud al-Jawabreh who was shot in al-Arrub in November. … Full article

Netanyahu plans to encircle Israel with fences to protect it from ‘wild beasts’

MEMO – February 10, 2016

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he wanted to encircle Israel with fences to protect it from “wild beasts” in the Middle East, Safa news agency reported on Tuesday.

While touring the route of a fence being built along Israel’s eastern border with Jordan, Netanyahu said: “We are preparing a multi-year plan to surround the entire State of Israel with security fences to protect ourselves in the current Middle East.”

About the costs, he said: “This thing costs many billions and we’re working on a multi-year plan of prioritization so it would be spread out over years in order to gradually build it, but to complete it to defend the State of Israel.” … Full article

Pentagon asks $146 million for Israel missiles, other programs

Press TV – February 10, 2016

The US Defense Department has requested $145.8 million to fund Israel’s missile systems and other military programs in fiscal year 2017.

Pentagon documents, released on Tuesday, show that the United States will continue to support Israel’s Iron Dome system, a short-range missile interceptor, and help fund David’s Sling, designed to defeat medium-range missiles, as well as the Arrow ballistic missile system.

The requests for new funding are tucked in the Defense Department’s $583 billion budget for 2017, which was submitted by the Pentagon chief, Ashton Carter, on Tuesday. … Full article

Egypt’s Foreign Minister defends mass imprisonment on US visit

Reprieve – February 10, 2016

The Egyptian Foreign Minister has defended his government’s mass imprisonment of political activists, and the use of lengthy pre-trial detention periods, during a visit to Washington DC to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry among other officials.

In an interview with NPR that aired today, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry defended the detention without trial of activists and others arrested at protests in 2013, saying that arrests only took place where protestors didn’t have ‘permits’. Asked why many protestors were still imprisoned and awaiting trial two years later, he said: “It is a long time, but I believe justice has to be given the opportunity, within the impartiality of the judicial system, to ascertain all of the facts and to pass a verdict”.

Mr Shoukry added that “no country” has a perfect human rights record, and that “there will always be ups and downs.” He said that “it is our intention to do everything possible to live up to those [human rights] standards and provide the rights of all individuals.”

Since taking power in July 2013, the Sisi government has overseen thousands of arrests of protestors, journalists and others, many of whom have been put through mass trials that fail to meet international standards. International human rights group Reprieve, which assists several prisoners in Egypt, recently established that between 2014 and the end of 2015, nearly 600 death sentences were handed down, the majority in relation to political charges. … continue

Russia Backs Baghdad’s Demands for Turkish Troops Removal From Iraq’s North

Sputnik – 10.02.2016

BAGHDAD – Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin supports Baghdad’s demands that Turkey withdraw its troops from Iran’s northern regions, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday.

Bogdanov said that Rogozin was personally met at the airport in Baghdad by Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari where they discussed the issue.

“In this context, the issue of the illegal presence of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil was discussed and support was expressed of the official position of the Iraqi government that is based on the need to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq,” Bogdanov told journalists in Baghdad.

In early December, the Turkish government sent a battalion of 25 tanks and about 150 troops into northern Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi government.

Ankara said its forces were there with the assent of the Iraqi government, and were sent in response to security concerns in northern Iraq, where its forces help to train Iraqi militia battling Daesh in northern Iraq.

British jets already flying Libya missions, preempting political agreement

RT | February 10, 2016

British military aircraft are already operating over Libya, preempting any formal decision by a national unity government on a repeat of 2011’s foreign intervention, it has emerged.

During a session of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the situation in Libya held Tuesday, Tory Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood said missions are already being flown.

Ellwood declined to say how many operations had taken place – or if they involved drones. … Full article

Saudi airstrike kills family of five in Yemen’s Sana’a

Press TV | February 10, 2016

Five members of a family have been killed in an airstrike carried out by Saudi warplanes on Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

Saudi jets targeted a house in Sana’a on Wednesday, with reports saying that rescue workers pulled out the bodies of the family’s mother and young girl. The bodies of the father and two of his children are still under the rubble.

Neighbors identified the father as Mounir al-Hakimi, who was a program director at Yemen Today television channel. It was not immediately clear whether any other people were in the house when it was bombed.

A nearby school and a car repair garage were also damaged in the attack.
Yemenis stand at a site following a Saudi airstrike on the center of the capital, Sana’a, on January 29, 2016. (AFP photo)

Yemen’s al-Masirah TV news channel also said that at least two people were killed after Saudi bombs hit a truck carrying food supplies in Sa’ada Province. … Full article

Canada announces expanded military intervention in northern Iraq

Introduction by New Cold War | February 9, 2016

During the October 19, 2015 federal election campaign in Canada, the opposition Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau pledged to withdraw Canada’s six, CF18 fighter aircraft from the U.S.-led aerial bombings in northern Iraq and Syria. That pledge was one of the reasons why the Liberals won a strong election victory. After more than ten years of fruitless and destructive Canadian military intervention in Afghanistan, again following the lead of the big brother to the south, the majority of the Canadian population has become war weary.

It took four months to act on the election pledge. Yesterday, Prime Minister Trudeau and the responsible ministers of his government announced the jets will be withdrawn from active combat as of February 22. But this hardly means that Canadian military intervention in the region will end. On the contrary. In announcing withdrawal of jets, the Trudeau government announced a forthcoming increase in ground troops. Prime Minister Trudeau calls it an expanded military role in Iraq. The number of Canadian soldiers in northern Iraq will more than triple, to some 200. On top of that are hundreds of Canadian soldiers, pilots and support personnel, along with aircraft and naval vessels, playing the required support role to the ground intervention in Iraq. … continue

Wicked Games: US ‘Uses Terrorism as Main Mechanism of Its Foreign Policy’

Sputnik – February 10, 2016

In an interview with RT, Russian military analyst Alexander Zhilin said that US media allegations that Russia is pursuing its own interests in Syria are “absolute nonsense”, given that Moscow “cooperates there with the legitimately elected president.”

He also pointed to Washington’s hypocritical statements about the necessity of fighting terrorism, saying they came as the White House continued to use terrorism as a major mechanism of its foreign policy.

“Just think about it: if a country with a military budget exceeding  the consolidated budget of all the countries in the world uses terrorism as the main instrument of its foreign policy, fighting terrorism is almost impossible”, Zhilin said.

He also lashed out at US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“My question is: who are you to make such calls? It means Obama who bombed out half the world’s territory must not step down, while Assad must step down, right? It is the wrong approach,” he said. … continue

Will Geneva talks lead right back to Assad’s 2011 reforms?

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | February 10, 2016

Syrian peace talks have already stalled. The opposition refused to be in the same room as the government delegation, while the latter blamed opposition ‘preconditions’ and the organizers’ inability to produce a ‘list of designated terrorists’.

The UN’s special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has now promised talks will reconvene on February 25, but how will he achieve this?

So much has shifted on the global political stage and in the Syrian military theater since this negotiation process first began gaining steam.

In just the past few weeks, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have recaptured key areas in Latakia, Idlib, Daraa, Homs and Aleppo, and are making their way up to the Turkish border, cutting off supply lines and exits for opposition militants along the way.

While analysts and politicians on both sides of the fence have warned that a ‘military solution’ to the Syrian crisis is not feasible, the SAA’s gains are starting to look very much like one. And with each subsequent victory, the ability for the opposition to raise demands looks to be diminished. … continue

JEREMY SALT ON ANTI SYRIA PROPAGANDA ESCALATION

thewallwillfall | February 9, 2016

Comment from geopolitical analyst Jeremy Salt on the appalling propaganda piece in the Guardian entitled: UN report: Syrian Government actions amount to extermination

Note holocaust association already introduced by Samantha Powers… continue

Militants attack Red Cross aid convoy near Damascus

Press TV – February 10, 2016

Foreign-backed militants have attacked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) vehicles carrying humanitarian aid to an area near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Militants opened fire on convoys from the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) trying to enter al-Mazaya district in Damascus on Wednesday, Lebanon’s al-Ahed news website reported.

A number of aid workers were injured in the incident and three of them are reportedly in a critical condition. … continue

Russia has offered US ‘concrete plan’ to end Syrian crisis – Lavrov

RT | February 10, 2016

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has revealed the US is studying Moscow’s “concrete” plan to end the war in Syria, while expressing concerns that rhetoric over the humanitarian issue is hindering efforts to resolve the crisis in the Arab country.

“During our contacts with Washington, we have proposed an absolutely concrete plan which they are now studying… I hope the simple proposals the plan contains will not take too much time for Washington to consider,” Lavrov told the Russian daily MK in an interview, while stressing that he could not elaborate on the details of the plan.

The interview, which comes ahead of Diplomat Day in Russia, largely dealt with the “information war” Russia has been embroiled in, according to Lavrov. Russia’s top diplomat said the stand-off goes beyond Eastern Europe, with the settlement of the Syrian crisis seemingly falling prey to it as well.

“They’ve tried to turn the humanitarian situation in Syria into almost a measure of the ability to take further steps towards reaching a political settlement [of the crisis], making its resolution a preliminary precondition for starting any meaningful talks between the Syrians,” Lavrov said, adding that Moscow is now increasingly being accused of aggravating the situation by conducting its air campaign against terrorist groups in the Arab country. … continue

USAID to Spend $952Mln to Counter Russia in Former Soviet States

Sputnik – 09.02.2016

WASHINGTON — The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will spend nearly $1 billion in energy, economic, defense and civil society programs to counter Russian actions in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Central Asia, a US Department of State official said on Tuesday.

“The countering Russian aggression total is $952 million dollars, and this expands resources in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, but also for other countries in Central Asia,” the official stated. “Programs that we are supporting with these funds are… enhancing energy security, supporting financial reforms, trade and economic diversification and increasing some defense capabilities.” … Full article

‘Paz Colombia’: the Latest US Attempt to Control Colombia?

By Justin Podur – teleSUR – February 8, 2016

​The U.S. has announced funding for a new Plan Colombia as the country moves towards a resolution to its civil war. What is its real purpose?

Colombia’s peace process has entered its final phase. Agreements have been reached on land reform, political participation, and the rights of victims. The discussions are now focused on ending the conflict and implementation and verification of the accords. The deadline for a final agreement is March 23, and it might be met.

In this last phase of negotiations, Colombia’s president reached out to the US for aid. On February 4, a new initiative was unveiled in Washington by presidents Santos and Obama: the new version of Plan Colombia, which they called “Paz Colombia”. Obama began by commemorating the success of Plan Colombia, a plan that brought military helicopters and escalated aerial fumigation to the country. “We were proud to support Colombia and its people as you strengthened your security forces, as you reformed land laws, and bolstered democratic institutions,” he said. “And after 15 years of sacrifice and determination, a tipping point has been reached. The tide has turned.”

Santos elaborated on the successes since Plan Colombia was rolled out in 2000: “Today we can say without a doubt that the goals that we had in 2000 — such as fighting the drug war, strengthening institutions, and imposing the rule of law, and to take social programs to great parts of remote Colombian territory — those objectives have been met.”

The history of Plan Colombia is slightly different than that presented by Obama and Santos. … continue

Indigenous Central Americans Seek Apology From Pope Francis for Genocide

Sputnik – 09.02.2016

Ahead of a February 12 visit by Pope Francis to Mexico, around 30 indigenous communities in Michoacan, Mexico, have released a statement demanding that he apologize for killings of some 24 million aboriginal inhabitants, committed with the complicity of the Catholic Church during the colonization of the Americas.

The Supreme Indigenous Council of Michoacan, Mexico, accused the Catholic Church of being involved in mass genocide, which started with the Spaniards’ arrival to the Central American region in the 16th century.

The statement noted that, by the beginning of the 17th century, there were less than 700,000 native inhabitants left alive, from an original population of about 25.2 million… continue

Falk reprimands Ban Ki-Moon over truth about Israel’s crimes

‘The politics of deflection’ (shoot the messenger, ignore the message) exposed

By Stuart Littlewood | American Herald Tribune | February 8, 2016

With obvious relish Richard Falk, former professor of international law at Princeton and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Occupied Palestine, has issued a well deserved slap on the wrist to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his naivety. It follows Israel’s furious reaction to Ban’s remark to the Security Council that “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half-century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process”.

The usually timid Ban, suddenly emboldened, also called Israel’s illegal settlement building “an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community”. He added: “Security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.” Whereupon Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu, fresh from approving another 150 squatter homes on stolen Palestinian land, accused the Secretary General of giving a “tailwind to terror”.

Falk penned an open letter to Ban reminding him of his earlier attempts to get Falk dismissed from his UN job for speaking the same truths. “Having read of the vicious attacks on you for venturing some moderate, incontestable criticisms of Israel’s behaviour, I understand well the discomfort you clearly feel. What intrigues and appals me is that while I was Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine during the period 2008-2014, you chose to attack me personally in public on several occasions, joining with US and Israel diplomats calling for my dismissal and doing the utmost to undermine my credibility while discharging this unpaid UN job under difficult conditions. … continue

Israel’s International Conspiracy

Nearly every western country has an Israel lobby

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • February 9, 2016

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom recently suggested an inquiry into a surge in Israel’s reported extra-judicial killing of Palestinian demonstrators after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a harsh response and told his police and soldiers that those opposed to the continued occupation of the West Bank were “terrorists.” Almost immediately, the Israeli government denounced Wallstrom as engaging in “political stupidity,” banning her from travel to Israel, while one newspaper close to the government suggested that she might be assassinated, as fellow Swede Count Folke Bernadotte was by Jewish militants in 1948, because anti-Semitism appears to be in the Swedish DNA.

All of that outrage and personal ridicule is pro forma for an Israeli government that reflexively smears and denigrates any and all critics, but the more interesting epilogue was the unanticipated discovery by the Swedish and international media that Wallstrom has not been paying the full rent on the subsidized government apartment that she occupies. The revelation follows a familiar pattern, where critics of Israel suddenly find themselves being discredited for something completely unrelated to the Middle East. President George H. W. Bush (the good Bush) suffered a similar come to Jesus moment in 1991 when he went on national television to denounce the pressure tactics of the Israel lobby. The Israeli government was demanding U.S. Treasury backed loans to construct illegal settlements. President Bush, who was running for reelection and far ahead in the opinion polls, suddenly was confronted by a well-funded and organized opposition raising doubts about him and his record. And President Bush was not reelected, presumably learning along the way that one does not trifle with the Israel Lobby, to be replaced by the enthusiastically Zionist Bill Clinton.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also wondering about Israel’s alleged commitment to peace. On Tuesday he said “it was human nature to react to occupation,” following up with a comment on Wednesday regarding Israel’s “stifling” occupation of Palestine. Netanyahu reacted with his usual over the top rhetoric, stating that Ban “was encouraging terror.” One might also anticipate, as in the case of Wallstrom, a well-orchestrated media blitz questioning Ban’s motives or explaining how he has always been a closet anti-Semite. It is par for the course and fully expected when one criticizes Israel.

Indeed, it is a global phenomenon. … continue

New law allows Netanyahu to oust Arab parliamentarians

MEMO | February 9, 2016

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has given overwhelming support to a new law proposed by the Likud-led coalition government which will allow Arab Knesset members (MKs) to be ousted, Anadolu reported on Monday.

The law was first suggested by the right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a punishment for the Arab parliamentarians who visited families of the victims of Israeli security forces. The visits were made at the request of a civil society organisation to see if the MKs could help to have the bodies of those killed released by the authorities for burial.

According to Netanyahu and Jewish Knesset members, Israeli media claimed, the visits were “incitement” by the Arab MKs. “We have to keep limits and basic rules of behaviour so that democracy will not turn into a suicide pact,” insisted the Israeli prime minister. “Democracy must protect itself and defend itself.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Chairman of the High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, Mohamed Barakeh, a former MK himself, described the proposal as a plot to bring “racial purity” to the Knesset. He hinted that Israeli Arabs may consider boycotting the political process: “If someone wants it, we may consider contributing to that racial purity.”

Intimidating military patrol of Palestinian market

International Solidarity Movement | February 9, 2016

IMG_1022-600x450Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Tuesday, February 9, Israeli forces patrolled the Palestinian market in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), harassing and intimidating residents.

A group of soldiers marched through the souq, the main Palestinian market since the closure of Shuhada Street for Palestinians after the Ibrahimi mosque massacre in 1994. Any male adult or youth was stopped on their way to work and forced by the Israeli soldiers to lift up their shirts and trouser-pants, as well as throw their IDs on the ground. After throwing their IDs on the ground Israeli soldiers ordered the men to move back, so they could pick up the IDs from a ‘safe distance’. Most Palestinians were dismissed after this humiliating procedure, whereas some of them were detained for minutes or violently body-searched.

International human rights defenders documenting the Israeli forces violations of basic human rights of Palestinians, were intimidated and harassed by the Israeli soldiers in an attempt to prevent them from documenting. Soldiers took photos of the internationals with their private phones held right in the volunteers faces and as an intmidation tactic ID-checked them.

During the more than one hour patrol Israeli forces repeatedly pointed their assault rifles at the internationals as well as Palestinians. … continue

Gaza: Reconstruction of 12,000 displaced families’ homes yet to begin

MEMO | February 9, 2016

Around 90,000 Palestinians remain displaced in the Gaza Strip, almost 18 months after the ceasefire that ended Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ offensive in 2014. Furthermore, the reconstruction or repair of homes of 74 percent of displaced families is yet to even start.

According to UN OCHA, living conditions for the more than 16,000 displaced families are characterised by “overcrowding, limited access to basic services, lack of privacy, tensions with host communities, risks due to unexploded ordnance and exposure to adverse weather.”

By the end of January 2016, only 15 percent of displaced families had been able to return to repaired or reconstructed homes. The repair and reconstruction of an additional 2,000 homes is ongoing, with many of these homes nearing completion.

Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in July-August 2014 destroyed 11,000 homes and severely damaged or rendered uninhabitable an additional 6,800 homes.

Iowa Peace Activist Facing Felony Charges for Breaking Northrup Grumman Windows

By Fran Quigley | Dissident Voice | February 9, 2016

tumblr_inline_o19v0wowQ61r8ik8k_500Jessica Reznicek, 34, an Iowa peace activist, was arraigned yesterday and charged with two felonies for breaking three windows with a sledgehammer at the Northrup Grumman facility outside the Omaha Nebraska Strategic Air Command at Offut Air Force base.  After her court appearance she was returned to the Sarpy County Jail where she has remained on $100,000 bond since her action on December 27.  Reznicek, who has no plans to post a cash bond, is facing up to twenty years in prison if convicted on both counts. Her trial is set for May 24.

Writing from her jail cell, Reznicek, who has lived and worked at the Des Moines Catholic Worker for years, said she broke the windows as an act of conscience “in an effort to expose the details of the defense contracts currently held by Northrup Grumman with U.S. Strategic Air Command (STRATCOM) at Offutt Air Force Base. Over the years, billions of taxpayer dollars are pouring into the hands of these money-hungry, bomb-building, and computer geek space war criminals.”

Her letter continued, “Yes, glass did shatter. It shattered like the illusion that Northrop Grumman holds human life in any way in its best interest. It shattered like the illusion Iraq ever possessed weapons of mass destruction. It shattered like the illusion Iraqis were involved in 9/11. It shattered like the lie that perpetual war will ever bring peace. Glass shattered in the name of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives taken when Northrop Grumman/STRATCOM’s direct bombs from space rained down upon them from space. I destroyed two windows and a door, yes! STRATCOM with its cooperate partner Northrop Grumman destroys life in the tens of thousands.” … continue

UN initiative to protect schools in war zones vetoed by Britain

RT | February 9, 2016

Britain has refused to sign up to a UN agreement on protecting schools in wartime, which has been signed by 51 states, despite the fact it was drawn up by a former UK military officer.

The agreement was championed by the UN children’s fund UNICEF to protect schools from attack during conflicts. It aimed to set out a “safe schools declaration” and provide guidelines for military forces.

However, it was reported on Tuesday by the Telegraph newspaper that Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond had effectively vetoed the move after having opposed it as head of two government departments. … continue

French Media Uses Russian Footage to Show ‘Success’ of US Strikes in Syria

Sputnik – February 9, 2016

TV Channel France 2 showed footage of Russian airstrikes in Syria as the work of the US-led international coalition in a fight against Daesh (Islamic State).

While covering news from Syria and reporting about airstrikes against Daesh militants, France 2 showed footage first released by the Russian Defense Ministry.

According to Russian blogger Timofei Vasiliev, the news story said that Russian airstrikes hit civilian targets, as the Russians allegedly don’t use precision bombs, instead indiscriminately bombing everything in the area. Unlike the Russians, the French Air Force, which works as part of the US-led coalition, “successfully” bombed Daesh targets, France 2 said.

The French TV channel, however, couldn’t find any footage to prove their point, so it just used footage of Russian airstrikes to demonstrate the precision of Western missiles. No big deal, right?

First, the channel claimed the Russians were off target, while the Western coalition bombed the terrorists; then France 2 showed footage filmed by the Russian Air Force as the work of the US-led coalition. Awkward.

The use of the Russian Defense Ministry’s videos wasn’t a mistake as one might think, but a deliberate lie — the Russian text underneath the footage was deleted, while the video itself is identical to that of Russian airstrikes. … continue

Merkel Wants to Deploy NATO Forces to Turkish Coast

Sputnik – February 9, 2016

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to send NATO troops to the Turkish coast in order to support Turkey in the fight against illegal trafficking. However, it is unclear whether the increased military presence is connected to the escalation of conflict in Syria, German newspaper Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (DWN) reported.

Germany and Turkey will seek NATO’s mobilization in the fight against illegal trafficking on the Aegean coast, the newspaper wrote.

At the meeting of NATO defense ministers this week, they are planning to discuss “the extent to which NATO can be helpful in monitoring the situation at the sea and support the work of Frontex and the Turkish Coast Guard,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday after consultations with her Turkish colleague Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara.

Merkel also announced plans to carry out joint operations of German and Turkish police against “illegal border crossing” in Turkey. The operations will among others be aimed at examining how the work of the Turkish Coast Guard and the EU border agency Frontex can be better coordinated.

According to the newspaper, the real purpose of the new initiative and NATO’s stronger presence in the region, however, remains unclear. … continue

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