RAMALLAH – A student bloc of the Hamas movement on Wednesday came out on top in the closely-followed elections at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
Following debates between factions vying for the student vote, the pro-Hamas al-Wafaa Islamic bloc claimed victory after gaining 25 seats, with the Yasser Arafat bloc of the Fatah movement trailing behind with 21 seats.
The bloc representing Leftist movement Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine for its part came out with five seats, while other leftist parties including the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People’s Party did not receive enough votes to garner a seat.
Voter turnout was reported as 76 percent of the student body.
The Islamic bloc last year won elections for the first time since 2007 at the historically staunchly pro-Fatah campus, taking observers by surprise.
As this year marked ten years since the last national elections, university elections are seen as important indicators of public opinion by political commentators in Palestine and Birzeit is considered to be the most important campus in the yearly political contests.
The Hamas movement congratulated the Islamic bloc for its win at Birzeit and said the victory was an indicator that the movement still had strong sway among the Palestinian public.
The Gaza-based movement said the win came despite efforts by both the Israeli authorities and Palestinian Authority to suppress the Hamas vote, citing the detention of Student Council President Saif al-Islam Daghlas and other students.
Human Rights Watch last year slammed the PA for detaining Palestinian university students across the West Bank after elections “for no apparent reason other than their connection to Hamas or their opinions.”
Hamas’ victory over Fatah comes as the rival factions have shown continued failure to follow through on with attempts to form a unity government since April 2014, after being on cold terms since 2006 when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.
In the following year, violent clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the occupied West Bank.
Factional disputes between Palestinian factions have been on the rise since a wave of unrest erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory in October.
Hamas and PFLP in particular have lambasted the PA’s ongoing security coordination with Israel as an alleged attempt to quash resistance against the Israeli occupation, while Hamas last summer accused the PA of attempting to eradicate the movement from the West Bank.
Elections haven’t been held in the occupied Palestinian territory for ten years and the public has grown increasingly disillusioned with Palestinian political parties.
Frustration has grown among the youth in particular, with growing numbers showing preference for participating in demonstrations or resistance that are not affiliated with any political party.
Caracas – Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature passed a constitutional amendment in first discussion this Wednesday. If approved by popular referendum, the reform will cut short the terms of mayors, governors, and even the current president, triggering presidential elections later this year.
The proposed amendment seeks to modify articles 160, 174, 230, and 233 of the constitution, reducing gubernatorial, mayoral, and presidential terms from six to four years and prohibiting more than one consecutive reelection.
Supporters are billing the reform as a check on executive powers, but detractors have derided it as a ruse to force the country’s current leftist president from office before his term is up.
Controversially, the bill’s authors propose that the amendment would not only affect future elected terms, but retroactively be applied to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s current 2013-2019 term in office. The approved reform would see Maduro’s presidency come to an end on January 10, 2017.
The proposal is now awaiting final approval by the National Assembly, which would trigger a popular vote on the reforms within 30 days.
In line with the country’s constitution, all amendments to the Magna Carta must first be approved by a nation-wide referendum before coming into effect.
If the Venezuelan electorate approves the reform, the legislation would force presidential elections to choose Maduro’s successor before December 11th this year.
The amendment would also alter the transition procedure in the event that the president is recalled, impeached, or resigns, naming the National Assembly president and not the vice-president as president in the interim period. In such a situation, Venezuela would see veteran right-wing opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup take the reins over the country.
The amendment has however been met with sharp criticism by members of the minority socialist parliamentary bloc, who denounced the measure as unconstitutional.
“[The proposed amendment] violates articles 340, 341, and 342 of the constitution, according to which, an amendment is only a simple modification of one or various articles without altering the spirit of the document,” declared socialist party (PSUV) legislator Edwin Rojas.
“Amendments are not designed to reduce or revoke an elected mandate because the recall referendum already exists for that purpose,” he added, describing the move as a thinly veiled attempt to oust the country’s democratically-elected leftist president.
The pro-Maduro minority bloc also took aim at the Organic Referendum Law that was approved in second discussion on Wednesday.
According to its backers, the legislation seeks to streamline the process for convening recall referenda, shortening the time necessary for the procedure from eight months to five.
The right-wing parliamentary majority has accused the National Electoral Council (CNE) of obstructing its efforts to convene a recall referendum against President Maduro by allegedly stalling in turning over the official sheets for signature collection.
However, members of the leftist parliamentary coalition likewise condemned the proposed law as unconstitutional, as well as an attempt to override the country’s legally recognised electoral monitoring body, the CNE (National Electoral Council).
“The Referendum Law is an initiative of the opposition that is full of vices given that the Venezuelan Constitution clearly establishes that the electoral arena is the exclusive responsibility of the electoral authority [CNE],” argued the young PSUV lawmaker Jorge Perez.
Constitutional scholars have also raised doubts over whether the opposition-controlled chamber can pass the legislation given that the Venezuelan Constitution specifies that organic laws must be approved by a two-thirds super majority.
“We should realize the foolishness of the powerless opposition majority in the National Assembly promoting a law that it won’t be able to approve unless it miraculously convinces three Chavista legislators in order to reach the 112 required votes,” writes constitutional lawyer Jesus Silva on Aporrea.
If the law is approved without three-fourths backing, it will remain merely “symbolic” only to be subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court, he continued.
Although the rightwing Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition initially gained the 112 seats needed for a super-majority, three of their lawmakers and one Chavista were temporarily suspended following reports of vote-rigging.
Parliamentary Bloc Launches Offensive
Together the amendment and the recall referendum form part of a “roadmap” for ousting President Maduro announced by right-wing MUD coalition in March.
The simultaneous set of strategies also includes plans for street mobilizations to demand the resignation of the leftist president as well as a constituent assembly to rewrite the 1999 Constitution.
Critics have nevertheless held up the plan as an indication of the opposition’s sharp internal divisions, evidencing their failure to unite around a single strategy.
The lower house of Brazil’s parliament on Sunday supported the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, with those seeking her ouster securing the support of two-thirds of votes.
The divide among the Brazilian people was demonstrated on Sunday by thousands of pro- and anti-impeachment protesters outside the Congress building where the vote was taking place.
As the votes trickled in favouring the impeachment bid, the ruling Workers Party conceded defeat.
“The fight is now in the courts, the street and the senate. We lost because the coup-mongers were stronger,” Jose Guimarães, the leader of the Workers party in the lower house, said.
While she has not been accused of corruption, the popularity of Rousseff’s government has plummeted owing to a graft scandal at state oil company Petrobras and the investment strike targeting Rousseff’s downfall.
The issue of impeachment will now be put forth in the upper house of parliament for the consideration of the senate. If over 50 per cent of senators support it, Rousseff will leave her post for 180 days, during which Brazilian lawmakers will consider her case.
During that period, the country will be led by Vice President Michel Temer. If senators disagree with the arguments of presidential impeachment initiators, Rousseff will return to her post. If Rousseff is found guilty, Temer will remain acting president until the 2018 elections.
Rousseff has accused her critics of mounting a coup. She released a speech on social media over the weekend stressing that “the sovereign will of the people is at stake. Social achievements and the rights of Brazilians are at stake.”
A Guardian report listed the corruption-tainted deputies who voted for the impeachment bid on Sunday condemning the Brazilian President.
Business lobbies have openly thrown their weight behind the ouster of Rousseff, as they look to Vice President and centre-right leader Temer to restore business confidence and growth.
According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, Temer, watched the impeachment proceedings alongwith bigwigs of his party, including Senator Romero Juca, with whom he is reported to have been planning his next move.
Rousseff watched the vote from the Alvorada Palace, the official presidential residence, together with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other allies.
Caracas – Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), announced Tuesday it will not participate in the new Truth Commission established by the national government to investigate 2014’s violent anti-government protests known as the guarimbas.
The commission is a response on the part of the administration of President Nicolas Maduro to an amnesty law passed by the country’s right wing-controlled parliament, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (TSJ) Monday on the grounds that it would sanction impunity by freeing those convicted of violent crimes provided that they were committed “with a political end”.
Denouncing the TSJ ruling as politicized judicial activism, the MUD broadcast its refusal to participate in the Truth Commission, questioning its impartiality despite the presence of UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper as well as ex-presidents from Panama, Spain, and the Dominican Republic.
“We’re not going to fall for their booby trap of offering to release a few political prisoners who have every right to be free in the context of some truth commission handpicked by the government and announced on television,” said National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup.
In particular, the Democratic Action leader took aim at Samper, who he accused of “partiality” towards the government in refusing to take a stance on the Amnesty Law and the TSJ decision.
Samper, for his part, dismissed the criticisms, citing UNASUR’s commitment to non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states.
The former Colombian president praised the commission as “one of peace, not of war” that will “offer Venezuelans the possibility to find a path of sincere dialogue.”
In addition to the UNASUR chief, the commission will include Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Martin Torrijos, and Leonal Fernandez, the former presidents of Spain, Panama, and Dominican Republic, respectively.
The commission was officially opened on Tuesday. According to Vice-President Aristobolo Isturiz, it will be tasked with “visibilizing and hearing [the testimony of] people affected by the violent acts that occurred in the country [in 2014],” in which 43 people were killed and over 800 injured.
On Sunday, Vice President and CEO of Fosun Group, Liang Xinjun, signed an agreement to purchase Ahava with Executive Director of Gaon Holdings Guy Regev. The deal amounted to $77 million.
The ceremony took place in the presence of high-ranking Israeli officials at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem and was witnessed by Israeli government officials and representatives of both companies.
Under the terms of the agreement, Fosun will acquire the holdings from all Ahava’s shareholders including Gaon Holdings, Shamrock Israel Growth Fund Advisors, Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, and Kibbutz Kalia.
Vice-President of Fosun, Liang Xinjun, said he was pleased with the results of agreement and hopes to bring Ahava into the Chinese market.
Chinese companies and corporations have been active in the Israeli market over the last few years. In 2011, China National Chemical Corporation acquired Adama, which produces pesticides, for a price of $2.4 billion and in 2015 the Chinese company Bright Food acquired a controlling stake in Israel’s largest producer Tnuva, which is heavily involved in dairy goods.
In addition, China is already the world’s largest importer of cosmetics and health products based on minerals from the Dead Sea.
Experts believe that China’s geopolitical presence in Israel will only continue to grow. In particular, due to the construction of the state-owned China Harbor seaport of Ashdod on the Mediterranean Sea.
The country’s first private port will not appear before 2021. The project cost is estimated at over one billion dollars. The purpose of the project is to connect Ashdod with the southern Israeli city of Eilat and transport goods to Europe, bypassing the Suez Canal.
A transport solicitation found on a federal website reveals the US government keeps shipping weapons to Al-Qaeda and other belligerent groups in Syria.
According to the British military information agency Jane’s, two transport solicitations were found on a US government website FedBizGov.org (Federal Business Opportunities), that looked for shipping companies to transport explosive material from Constanta, Romania, to the port of Aqaba in Jordan on behalf of the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command.
“The cargo listed in the document included AK-47 rifles, PKM general-purpose machine guns, DShK heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and 9K111M Faktoria anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) systems,” says Jane’s.
The solicitation was released in November, 2015. One ship with nearly one thousand tons of weapons and ammo left Constanta in Romania on December. It sailed to Agalar in Turkey which is a military pier and then to Aqaba in Jordan. Another ship with more than two-thousand tons of weapons and ammo left in late March, followed the same route and was last recorded on its way to Aqaba on April 4.
According to Zero Hedge, such cargo weight equals millions of rifles, machine-guns and mortar shots, as well as thousands of new light and heavy weapons and hundreds of new anti-tank missiles.
Neither Turkey nor Jordan use such weapons designed in the USSR. This hints these weapons are going to Syria where, as has been reported for years by multiple independent sources, half of them go directly to al-Qaeda which operates in Syria under the alias Jabhat al-Nusra.
Russia has rejected a US claim that the sales of Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to Iran were prohibited under a United Nation Security Council resolution.
On Tuesday, the US Department of State Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon said Washington would use its veto power in the Security Council to block the possible sales of the fighter jets to Iran.
“The sale of Su-30 fighter aircraft is prohibited under UNSCR 2231 without the approval of the UN Security Council and we would block the approval of any sale of fighter aircraft under the restrictions,” Shannon said, referring to the UN resolution.
Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for non-proliferation and arms control, Mikhail Ulyanov, dismissed the claim.
“Such deliveries are not prohibited, they are allowed, and this follows from the text of the resolution,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
Resolution 2231, adopted by the Security Council on July 20, 2015, endorsed a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group, comprising Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany.
Shannon claimed that under the resolution, such weapon deliveries “require the submission of relevant notification to the Security Council and this notification’s endorsement by the Security Council.”
Ulyanov said Moscow has not forwarded such a notification to the Security Council so far.
Political analysts say Resolution 2231 does not prohibit Iran from buying fighter jets, and its language is not legally binding and cannot be enforced with punitive measures.
Su-30 is a multirole advanced fighter aircraft for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.
Iran and the P5+1 finalized the nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria, in July last year. They started to implement the JCPOA on January 16, 2016.
On Tuesday, a senior Russian diplomat also said Moscow would begin the first shipment of its S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran in the coming days.
“I don’t know if this will happen today, but they (S-300 missiles) will be loaded (for shipment to Iran),” Interfax quoted Zamir Kabulov, a department chief at the Foreign Ministry, as saying.
Brazil’s attorney general has slammed impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff as illegal, saying such a bid is nothing more than an attempted coup d’état.
Jose Eduardo Cardozo, the government’s main legal advisor, defended Rousseff before the impeachment committee of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, dismissing the allegations leveled against the embattled president.
Opposition lawmakers, who are seeking to remove Rousseff, accuse her of taking out unauthorized government loans to hide a growing budget deficit.
Cardozo told the 65-member committee that such claims, even if true, could not be dealt with as an impeachment case, saying the “process was compromised from the start and as such it is invalid.”
“As such, impeaching her would be a coup, a violation of the constitution, an affront to the rule of law, without any need to resort to bayonets,” he added.
The hearing was the final plea by Rousseff’s administration against the impeachment. The committee will likely issue its recommendation this week.
If the impeachment passes the lower house, the president would be suspended for up to six months while facing trial in the Senate. Meantime, Vice President Michel Temer would replace her as acting president.
Rousseff, however, vowed that she would stand firm and would not bow to the pressure to bring her down. Her predecessor and ally Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has also pledged to support Rousseff.
The impeachment process began last December after lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha accepted the opposition request for such a move.
Cardozo said Cunha’s decision was motivated by his desire for political revenge against Rousseff, his bitter political rival.
The political crisis has brought Brazil to the brink of economic collapse as it is entangled in a deep recession and corruption allegations.
With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics just four months away, the Latin American country has been the scene of counter rallies in and against the government over the last few weeks, some of which even turned violent.
In the latest of such rallies, anti-government protesters took to the streets on Monday, denouncing the officials for not having decided over the impeachment bid.
In the first of a four-part series, Dan Glazebrook and Sukant Chandan look at the recent spate of revelations about the involvement of British security services in facilitating the flow of fighters into Syria.
Over 13 years ago, in March 2003, Britain and the US led an illegal and unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq, a fellow UN member state. Such a war is deemed to be, in the judgment of the Nuremberg trials that followed World War Two, “not only an international crime” but “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
The mainstream narrative surrounding this war, and the endless catastrophes it bequeathed to Iraq, is that it was the result of a series of unfortunate ‘intelligence failures’: the British government had been led to believe that Iraq posed what Tony Blair called a “clear and present danger” to international security by intelligence that subsequently turned out to be false.
Blair told us that the Iraqi government had an active nuclear weapons program, had acquired uranium from Niger, had mobile chemical weapons factories that could evade UN weapons inspectors, and had stocks of chemical weapons able to hit British troops in Cyprus within 45 minutes.
All of these claims were false, and all were blamed on ‘intelligence failings’, creating an image of an intelligence service totally incapable of distinguishing between credible information and the deluding ravings of crackpots and fantasists, such as the notorious Curveball, the source of many of the various made-up claims later repeated in such grave and reverent tones by the likes of Tony Blair and Colin Powell.
In fact, we now know that sources such as Curveball had already been written off as delusional, compulsive liars by multiple intelligence agencies long before Blair and co got their hands on their outpourings – and the British government was fully aware of this.
The truth is, there were no intelligence failings over the Iraq war. In fact, the intelligence services had been carrying out their job perfectly: on the one hand, making correct assessments of unreliable information, and on the other, providing the government with everything necessary to facilitate its war of aggression. The Iraq war, then, represented a supreme example not of intelligence failure, but intelligence success.
Fast forward to today, and we are again hearing talk of ‘intelligence failings’ and the supposed incompetence of the security services to explain a debilitating Western-sponsored war in the Middle East: this time in Syria.
Earlier this year, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond admitted that 800 British citizens had gone to join the anti-government terrorist movement in Syria, with at least 50 known to have been killed fighting for Al-Qaeda or Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). The British security and intelligence community, we are to believe, were simply unable to stop them.
Opportunist political opponents blame such shocking statistics on incompetence, while the government and its supporters increasingly weave them into an argument for greater powers and resources for the security services. Both are wrong; and a closer look at some of these so-called ‘intelligence failings’ makes this very clear.
In December 2013, it emerged that MI5 had tried to recruit Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby, just a few weeks before Rigby’s murder. Adebalajo had been on the radar of both MI5 and MI6 for over 10 years. He had been under surveillance in no less than five separate MI5 investigations, including one set up specifically to watch him. He was known to have been in contact with the senior leadership of Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, based in Yemen, and he had been arrested in Kenya on a speedboat on the way to Somalia with five other youths, where he was suspected of hoping to join Al Shabaab.
The Kenyans were furious when they handed him over to the Brits only for him to be turned loose, presumably to continue with his recruitment activities.
The following month, 17-year-old Aseel Muthana left his family home in Cardiff to join rebel fighters in Syria. His brother Nasser had left three months earlier, and his family were worried that Aseel would try to join him. So they confiscated his passport, and informed the police of their concerns. The police kept the family under close scrutiny. They even arrived at his house at 5pm the day he left for Syria, to be told he hadn’t been seen since the night before. He boarded a flight at 8.35pm that night, using alternative travel documents issued by the Foreign Office. His family were horrified that he had been allowed to travel, without a passport, despite all their warnings.
A similar case occurred in June 2015, when three sisters from Bradford traveled to Syria – it is thought to join IS – taking their nine young children with them. Again, the family had been under intense scrutiny from the police ever since their brother went to join IS in Syria earlier that year. And far from being unaware of the risk of their being recruited, counter-terrorist police were, it appears, deeply complicit in their recruitment.
A letter from the family’s lawyers said they were “alarmed” by the police allegedly having been actively promoting and encouraging contact with the brother believed to be fighting in Syria: “It would appear that there has been a reckless disregard as to the consequences of any such contact [with] the families of those whom we represent,” the lawyers said, and continued: “Plainly, by the NECTU [North East Counter Terrorism Unit] allowing this contact they have been complicit in the grooming and radicalizing of the women.”
October 2014 saw the trial of Moazzam Begg, for various terrorism-related offences. Begg had admitted to training British recruits in Syria – but in his defense, he made the incendiary claim that MI5 had explicitly given him the green light for his frequent visits in a meeting they had arranged with him. MI5 admitted it was true, and the trial collapsed.
Six months later, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an interview with Aimen Dean, a founding member of Al-Qaeda who was subsequently recruited by MI6 as a spy. Part of his work for MI6, he said, involved encouraging young impressionable Muslims to go and join the ranks of Al-Qaeda.
Then in June 2015, Abu Muntasir, known as the godfather of British jihadists, thought to have recruited “thousands” of British Muslims to fight in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Burma, Bosnia and Chechnya, gave an interview to the Guardian, repenting his actions. He explained that he came back from fighting in Afghanistan to “create the link and clear the paths. I came back [from war] and opened the door and the trickle turned to a flood. I inspired and recruited, I raised funds and bought weapons, not just a one-off but for 15 to 20 years. Why I have never been arrested I don’t know.”
That same month, a second trial collapsed, for much the same reasons as Begg’s. Bherlin Gildo was arrested in October 2014 on his way from Copenhagen to Manila. He was accused of attending a terrorist training camp and receiving weapons training as well as possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist. The Guardian reported that the prosecution “collapsed at the Old Bailey after it became clear Britain’s security and intelligence agencies would have been deeply embarrassed had a trial gone ahead.”
In January 2016, it was revealed that Siddhartha Dhar traveled to Syria in September 2014 while on police bail for terrorism offences – the sixth time he had been arrested for terror-related offences, and not long after MI5 had reportedly tried to recruit him. Police had demanded he hand in his passport, but did not follow it up; this was despite the fact that he had revealed – live on BBC morning television no less – that he would “love to live in the Islamic State.” He later posted pictures of himself posing with guns in Raqqa, and is suspected of being the so-called ‘new Jihadi John’, appearing in an IS video executing suspected spies. The original ‘Jihadi John’ – British-Kuwaiti Mohammed Emwazi – had also been well known to the British security services, having – just as Adebolajo and Dhar – apparently been offered a job by MI5.
Is this all just a ‘catalogue of blunders’, more ‘intelligence failings’ on a massive scale?
These cases demonstrate a couple of irrefutable points. Firstly, the claim that the security services would have needed more power and resources to have prevented the absconding is clearly not true.
Since 1995, the Home Office has operated what it calls a ‘Warnings Index’: a list of people ‘of interest’ to any branch of government, who will then be ‘flagged up’ should they attempt to leave the country. Given that every single one of these cases was well known to the authorities, the Home Office had, for whatever reason, decided either not to put them on the Warnings Index, or to ignore their attempts to leave the country when they were duly flagged up. That is, the government decided not to use the powers already at its disposal to prevent those at the most extreme risk of joining the Syrian insurgency from doing so.
Secondly, these cases show that British intelligence and security clearly prioritize recruitment of violent so-called Islamists over disruption of their activities. The question is – what exactly are they recruiting them for?
At his trial, Bherlin Gildo’s lawyers provided detailed evidence that the British government itself had been arming and training the very groups that Gildo was being prosecuted for supporting. Indeed, Britain has been one of the most active and vocal supporters of the anti-government insurgency in Syria since its inception, support which continued undiminished even after the sectarian leadership and direction of the insurgency was privately admitted by Western intelligence agencies in 2012. Even today, with IS clearly the main beneficiaries of the country’s destabilization, and Al-Qaeda increasingly hegemonic over the other anti-government forces, David Cameron continues to openly ally himself with the insurgency.
Is it really such a far-fetched idea that the British state, openly supporting a sectarian war against the Ba’athist government in Syria, might also be willfully facilitating the flow of British fighters to join this war? Britain’s history of collusion with sectarian paramilitaries as a tool of foreign policy certainly suggests this may be so. This history, in Ireland, Afghanistan and the Arab peninsula, and its role in shaping British policy today, will be the subject of the articles to follow.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
Moscow has submitted data on Turkey’s illegal arms and military hardware supply to Islamic State in Syria to the UN Security Council. Supplies are supervised by the Turkish intelligence service, Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said as cited by Russian media.
“The main supplier of weapons and military equipment to ISIL fighters is Turkey, which is doing so through non-governmental organizations. Work in this area is overseen by the National Intelligence Organization of Turkey,” Churkin wrote.
According to the envoy, transportation “mainly involves vehicles, including as part of humanitarian aid convoys.”
The letter mentioned several NGOs, which are funded from Turkish and foreign sources, which sent different cargo, including military equipment, to Syria last year.
“The Besar foundation (President — D. Şanlı) is most actively engaged in pursuing these objectives and, in 2015, formed around 50 convoys to the Turkmen areas of Bayırbucak and Kızıltepe (260 km north of Damascus),” Churkin stressed, adding that Iyilikder Foundation and The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms were also involved.
In total, the terrorists were delivered 2.5 thousand tons of ammonium nitrate (worth around $788,700), 456 tons of potassium nitrate ($468,700), 75 tons of aluminum powder ($496,500), sodium nitrate ($19,400), glycerin ($102,500) and nitric acid ($34,000 thousand) via Turkey in 2015, Churkin wrote.
The Colombian government announced the launch of formal peace talks on Wednesday with the country’s second-largest rebel group the National Liberation Army or ELN. The announcement takes place after the guerrilla group freed two hostages to meet a government condition for the start of formal peace talks.
During a joint press conference Wednesday, the Colombian government’s top delegate for the ongoing FARC peace talks, Frank Pearl, outlined the key aspects of negotiation between the ELN and the Colombian government, which will include six major points: participation of society, peace through democracy, transformations necessary for peace, victims rights, the end of the armed conflict, and the implementation and signature of the agreement.
Pearl also confirmed that Cuba, Norway, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil and Ecuador will act as guarantor countries.
Meanwhile, moving forward, the ELN commander Antonio Garcia promised to communicate on all future progress made during the talks and vowed “to create a favorable environment for peace.”
Shortly after the press conference, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos delievered a statmenent in which he emphasized the importance of the peace talks with the ELN, stating, “We have to finish this conflict in order to construct peace in our country.”
During his speech, the Colombian President likened the talks to the ongoing negations between the government and the FARC, saying that, “the objective is the same, which is to eliminate violence.”
The announcement marks a new stage in peace negotiations as the government also closes in on a deal with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
Leading up to the joint press conference, ELN officials thanked the Venezuelan government via Twitter for their role in the Colombian peace process.
“We would like to thank the Venezuelan people for their unconditional support in helping us get to this point.”
Meanwhile, the regional integration bloc, UNASUR, also issued its support in a statement saying, “The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR ) welcomes this agreement, which was made possible in part due to the participation of several regional governments.”
The Foreign Ministry of Ecuador also praised the news, expressing its “profound satisfaction” regarding the recent announcement.
The government and the ELN had been in preliminary talks for more than two years, but had failed to begin formal negotiations until today.
Colombia has seen armed conflict between the state, paramilitaries, crime syndicates and revolutionary left-wing groups such as the FARC and the Marxist-Leninist ELN since the 1960s.