The eastern Ukrainian militias have stopped all military action in accordance with the Minsk peace deal. They will suppress any provocations that may be organized by Kiev forces, said Aleksandr Zakharchenko, head of Donetsk People’s Republic.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered troops to cease fire at Sunday midnight local time (22:00 GMT) in line with the Thursday Minsk agreement. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page that “all National Guard and Interior Ministry units will halt fire at midnight.”
Meanwhile, Defense Ministry spokesman of Donetsk People’s Republic, Eduard Basurin, has ordered that all eastern Ukrainian militia units halt fighting “on the entire line of contact,” RIA Novosti reports. A similar statement has come out of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, saying that local militia are to stop all combat actions at midnight.
Earlier, leaders of the restive Ukrainian republics said their regions have ratified the peace deal.
The militias will stop all military action outside the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Zakharchenko said. However, he said that the self-defense forces will reply to any provocative actions by the Kiev troops, including assaults and precision fire.
The DPR leader also said that rebels won’t release a large group of Ukrainian troops, who have been entrapped near the village of Debaltsevo since early February.
“Their every attempt to break out will be suppressed,” Zakharchenko is cited by RIA-Novosti news agency.
The rebels’ leader reminded that “there wasn’t a word mentioning Debaltsevo in the agreements” signed in Minsk on February 12, which means that “Ukraine simply betrayed the 5,000 people trapped in the Debaltsevo ‘cauldron’.”
Earlier, Basurin said that the Ukrainian troops near Debaltsevo won’t be shelled, but won’t be released as well, with surrender being the only option.
Zakharchenko has put his signature under a decree, which foresees the beginning of the ceasefire at 01:00 AM local time on Sunday – midnight for Kiev and 2200 GMT.
The DPR head also said that the Donetsk People’s Republic won’t grant control over its border with Russia to Ukrainian border guards: “Today an order will be issued to create the border guard service. Not a single Ukrainian soldier will enter our territory.”
Poroshenko warns of martial law
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has once again warned that if the Minsk agreements fail, “martial law will be implemented not only in Donetsk and Lugansk, but in the whole country”.
Moscow has expressed hopes Kiev and the rebels, as well as all the sides, which supported the Minsk peace deal, including France and Germany, “will do everything for the signed agreements to be scrupulously implemented,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“Ukraine’s official representatives… as well as those of several Western countries, the US in particular, have essentially expressed solidarity with the opinion of radical nationalists in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) and have began distorting the contents of the Minsk agreements,” the ministry said.
On Saturday, Poroshenko spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the phone, with the three heads of state stressing that all sides must fulfill the obligations they’ve taken according to Minsk agreements, first of all, those concerning the ceasefire.
The Ukrainian president also had a telephone conversation with US president Barack Obama, during which the two leaders “agreed on the further coordination of efforts in the event of an escalation” in Ukraine’s southeast.
Poroshenko and Obama “discussed the situation in Donbass and expressed concerns about the situation in Debaltsevo,” according to the Ukrainian president’s website.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, also discussed the situation in southeastern Ukraine on the phone, and stressed “the importance of strict implementation of the ceasefire regime by the conflicting sides.”
Lavrov also emphasized that the Minsk peace deal “also includes obligations by Kiev to remove the financial and economic blockade of the [Ukrainian] southeast; to provide an amnesty; to stage a constitutional reform by the end of the year and adopt legislation on the special status of Donbass,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on its Facebook page.
The contact group, which includes representatives from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, held video consultations on Saturday, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said.
According to the OSCE, all parties agreed to take necessary measures to establish the agreed truce and de-escalation of the conflict, including in the areas of Debaltsevo and Mariupol.
The contact group will continue holding consultations on a regular basis to ensure the implementation of the Minsk agreements, a statement from the watchdog added.
The Minsk agreement provides for a security zone separating the Kiev forces and the rebels, a ceasefire beginning on Sunday and a heavy weapons pullout to be completed in 14 days. The deal was signed by the contact group, which includes the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, a representative of the OSCE, Ukraine’s former president Leonid Kuchma, and the Russian ambassador to Ukraine,
A separate declaration supporting the deal was agreed upon by the so-called “Normandy Four” leaders – French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who also gathered in Belarusian capital.
In accordance with the deal, on Saturday the eastern Ukrainian republics also proposed amendments to the constitution. One of the key demands is to grant certain regions the right to define and form the structure of local governments themselves, Denis Pushilin, DPR representative at the Minsk talks, said.
The rebels also want the official status for the Russian language and other minority languages, spoken in Ukraine’s central regions, he said. Another proposed amendment foresees the decentralization of fiscal and tax systems, “up to the possibility of creating in free economic zones and other special economic regimes on certain territories,” Pushilin is cited by TASS news agency.
While the Minsk deal is hoped to secure an end to the bloody and devastating internal conflict that has taken the lives of over 5,300 people in the UN’s estimates since last April, shelling in Donetsk was reported throughout the whole of Saturday.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has flatly rejected the idea of granting a broad autonomy to the eastern Donbas region, and of making Ukraine a federation.
“Ukraine was, is and will remain a unitary state. Federalization is not an option,” President Poroshenko wrote on his Facebook page in the immediate wake of the four-sided talks on ending the yearlong conflict, which wrapped up in Minsk on Thursday.
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany met for 16 hours trying to thrash out a peace roadmap that would ease tensions in Ukraine’s war-torn east.
After the talks it was announced that before this year is out Ukraine would change its constitution to include a clause on decentralization and a special status for the Donbas region.
On Wednesday President Poroshenko said the proposed decentralization program his government was working on had absolutely nothing to do with making Ukraine a federative state.
MOSCOW – Ukrainian specialists have not observed any military activity on the part of Russian army units in the course of an inspection that was held in the southern Rostov region from February 9 to February 12, the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s department for observance of agreements, Sergey Ryzhkov said on Thursday.
He said the ministry had complied with the provisions of the 2011 Vienna Document and had ensured inspection on an area of about 15,000 sq km that had been selected by the Ukrainian side.
“Ukrainian representatives said they hadn’t noticed any military activities on the part of units of the Russian Armed Forces in the area chosen for the inspection,” Ryzhkov said. “They pointed out precise observance of the Vienna document by the officials who had escorted them.”
‘They move like ghosts through these canyons and caves. One minute we think we have their position on a hill side and moments later they’re firing on us from the opposite direction.’ This is how a senior Yemeni Army officer described what it was like to fight the Houthis when I visited the northwestern governorate of Hajjah in 2009, which was then the scene of a brutal war between the Houthis and the Yemeni government. By 2010 the Houthis had largely defeated both the Yemeni Armed Forces and elements of the Saudi Armed Forces that were sent across the Yemeni border. They showed themselves to be tenacious masters of guerrilla warfare. Since 2011, the Houthis have proved themselves to be just as adept at navigating Yemen’s labyrinthine politics.
The Houthis coalesced as a movement in the early 1990’s and were initially dedicated to reviving and defending the Zaidi sect of Shi’a Islam to which roughly thirty-percent of Yemenis belong. By 2004, the Houthis were at war with the Yemeni government, a conflict which would persist until 2011 when popular anti-government protests began. From their spiritual, martial, and political heartland in the governorate of Sa’da, the once fringe movement has determinedly and methodically expanded its power base and its territory. The capstone of the Houthis’ expansionist campaign was their largely uncontested seizure of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in September of 2014. Fast forward to 2015 and the Houthis are responsible for the resignation of Yemen’s president and his government. The Houthis are now first among Yemen’s power brokers.
How did a fringe movement come to control a significant percentage of northern Yemen and neuter the Yemeni government? In short, the answer is by applying what they learned during their prolonged war with the Yemeni government. First and foremost, the Houthis are a well-organized and capable fighting force, one that now has access to an abundance of heavy weaponry thanks to the effective dissolution of the Yemeni Army in late 2014. The Houthi leadership understands that the key to political success in Yemen, or at least in northern Yemen, is to make sure that you have the biggest stick. They have shown that the key to maintaining power and influence is to use the stick as carefully and as little as possible, something that former president Saleh forgot. To this end, the Houthi leadership has worked assiduously to build relationships with the leadership of many of Yemen’s northern based tribes.
The Houthis have also demonstrated that they can provide a measure of security and stability in the areas that they control. Houthi controlled governorates like Sa’da and al-Jawf, once the most restive governorate in Yemen, enjoy relative security. In the case of al-Jawf, the Houthis have largely eradicated al-Qaeda and are working to diffuse the blood feuds that were one of the primary sources of instability in the governorate. Via a growing and relatively sophisticated media network, the Houthis routinely highlight these successes.
However, the Houthis’ may benefit most from the sheer desperation of many Yemenis who have endured years of insecurity and declining standards of living. ‘The Yemeni people are exhausted. The economy is a disaster. More people than ever go hungry. With conditions like these, even some of those opposed to the Houthis are ready to give them a chance,’ says a Yemeni MP. ‘What choice do we have? There is no government and there is no army. Who’s going to stop the Houthis?’
In his speeches, Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi has emphasized that the Houthis do not want to rule Yemen. Given the moves on the ground this may be somewhat disingenuous, but Abdul Malik al-Houthi is an astute strategist who realizes that officially taking up the reins of power in Sana’a could well be ruinous for the Houthis. While the Houthis have broadened their power base to include many Sunni tribal leaders and politicians, both in the north and the south, they are still viewed by most Yemenis as a Shi’a organization. A Houthi led government would be viewed as a return to the Zaidi dominated imamate that ruled north Yemen up until the 1962 revolution, and, as such, it would be deeply unpopular with the majority of Yemeni who are Sunni. While senior Houthi leadership undoubtedly recognizes the dangers of officially leading some kind of future government, Hadi’s resignation and the power vacuum in the nation’s capital may leave the Houthis with no choice.
So what would a Houthi led government look like? It might be surprisingly diverse. The Houthi leadership has cultivated relations with segments of Yemen’s southern leadership, with youth groups, and of course with those power blocs associated with the Saleh regime. While the Houthis have never clearly articulated their political agenda, the leadership does back the strong federalization of Yemen. The federalization of Yemen has been demanded by southerners for nearly twenty years and is likely the only viable solution for keeping south and north Yemen together. One of the Houthis’ demands issued to the government of President Hadi was for the government to include more representatives from the south as well as more Houthi representation.
The Houthis’ journey from a poorly equipped and at times desperate band of guerrilla fighters to a group that now governs large swaths of north Yemen, has produced a leadership that is cautious and methodical. It would be a mistake to underestimate the Houthis’ political and martial acumen. It would also be a mistake to assume that the Houthis will only add to the chaos that threatens to engulf Yemen. Regardless, the international community and the West in particular will have to engage with what, for now at least, is the best organized and most cohesive power bloc in Yemen.
Michael Horton is a Yemen analyst with a decade of experience. I have written extensively on Yemen for numerous publications including: Jane’s Intelligence Review, The Economist, Intelligence Digest, and the Christian Science Monitor.
Extreme right-wing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (C) holding the Torah stolen from Iraq on January 22, 2015
Recently, Israel stole one of the symbols of Iraqi Jewish heritage, a rare ancient copy of the Torah. The incident went smoothly and quietly, with blatant collusion between Israel, the United States, the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, and the Jordanian authorities, amid suspicious silence from the Iraqi federal authorities and the Iraqi cultural scene, save for a few objections.
The Torah manuscript in question, known as the Iraqi Old Testament Scroll, was written using concentrated pomegranate juice on deer-skin parchments. The manuscript was seized by US forces, among other Iraqi antiquities, which survived the systematic destruction by the illegal Anglo-American invasion and occupation.At the time, it was said that many Iraqi archaeological treasures and large amounts of documents from the Iraqi state’s secret archives were transferred to Israel, ostensibly for restoration and preservation. In truth, however, this was the deliberate looting of Iraqi heritage.
At a ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israeli authorities publicly displayed that major Iraqi artifact, thus admitting that they had pirated part of Iraq’s heritage. The Israeli Foreign Minister explicitly admitted that the manuscript had been obtained from Kurdistan via Baghdad and Amman, and that it is now being used in daily prayer in the Foreign Ministry synagogue.
According to The Times of Israel, “After it was repaired and prepared for ritual use by a Jerusalem-based scribe, the scroll was placed in a case from Aleppo, Syria and brought over to the ministry.” Avigdor Lieberman, the extremist foreign minister of Israel, did not let the occasion go without repeating old Zionist cliches, saying that “the scroll’s journey from Kurdistan to Baghdad to Amman to Jerusalem was reminiscent of the destiny of the Jewish nation.”
Some like Iraqi writer Akil al-Azraki, one of the rare voices who commented on the affair, believe that the Israeli announcement exposed the lies of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government had claimed the manuscript was sent along with other Iraqi artifacts to the United States for restoration.
Azraqi, citing information revealed by The Times of Israel, said, “The claim about the Torah scroll having been sent to the United States for restoration is a lie. The scroll was revealed not to have travelled to the United States, but to the Israeli embassy in Amman from that time until 2011. After the attack by Egyptian protesters on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, the manuscript was sent to Israel.”
After the Israelis celebrated their successful piracy, official Iraqi authorities were oddly silent. There was no immediate response to the reports, even in the Iraqi media and cultural scene, save for a few voices.
Recall here that the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities in Iraq Adel Shershab had said on January 19, 2015, “The Jewish archive should have been returned to Iraq since 2005, after it was removed on the grounds of restoring it,” stressing that this was part of Iraqi heritage and that his government would continue efforts to retrieve it.
However, the minister did not say anything in response to the Israeli theft. In turn, the Iraqi Ministry of Culture fell completely silent following the incident, although it had announced on May 13, 2010, that an agreement was conducted between Iraq and the United States, whereby the Iraqi Jewish archive and millions of documents that the US army removed from Baghdad following the US-led invasion in 2003 would be returned to Iraq. These include the archive of the dissolved Baath Party and many Iraqi historical artifacts.
A few days after the report on the Israeli theft, the media published remarks by a member of the Culture Committee in the Iraqi parliament calling on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to issue a complaint to Washington over the matter.
The news agency that first published the remarks, which is owned by Fakhri Karim, a businessman and senior adviser to former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, tried to promote another account of what happened.
The news agency said the way the manuscript reached Israel was a “mystery,” describing what happened as “the loss of parts of the manuscript,” even though the Israeli foreign ministry had said in its ceremony that the scroll had come from Baghdad via Kurdistan, Jordan, and then Tel Aviv. Fakhri Karim, however, is known for his pro-Israel attitudes. Karim visited the headquarters of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington, as reported by renowned Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef, in a story Al-Akhbar reported in August 2013 (in Arabic).
On the day Al-Mada reported the story, one of its most famous staff writers, Sarmad al-Tai, wrote a strongly-worded criticism of those who protested the theft of the Iraqi Torah scroll, accusing them of folly. He suggested that the Jews who were expelled by the Iraqis from their country in various ways had only retrieved their Torah.
Tai’s article is often quoted by the Israeli media, though some Iraqi Jews who live in Israel and beyond dispute such analysis. Refer, for example, to what Sasson Somekh wrote in his books, and novels by Jewish Iraqi writer Samir Naqqash, who wrote all his novels in Arabic and refused to write anything in Hebrew, considering himself an Iraqi until the last day of his cruel life in Israel. The article received strong responses, though they were few in number, on social media.
The article’s absurd and sinister logic is meant to exonerate the occupation and its allies in the Iraqi federal government, the KRG, and Israel, for the crime of stealing important Iraqi artifacts, produced in Iraq hundreds of years before the creation of the Zionist entity.
Extrapolated further, the same skewed skewed logic can be used to justify an artificial entity, built on injustice, aggression, and warmongering, which has killed, maimed, and displaced people by the millions amid global silence.
The official Iraqi position was not stated publicly until days after the incident. The Iraqi minister of tourism released a statement calling on Washington to return the manuscript to Iraq, and said what happened was unlawful confiscation of a part of Iraqi heritage.
However, the minister repeated previous claims purporting the manuscript had been in Washington. These claims were invalidated by remarks made by Israeli Labor MP Mordechai Ben-Porat, who has Iraqi Jewish ancestry. Ben-Porat said that it was Iraqi government officials who gifted Israel a number of precious historical manuscripts.
Ben-Porat’s account cannot be completely dismissed. It is indeed possible that insiders colluded with this theft and piracy. Recall that Lieberman said that the manuscript was moved from Baghdad to Kurdistan, Jordan, then Tel Aviv.
The theft of Iraqi antiquities is not unprecedented. Many Western powers, led by France, Britain, Germany, and the United States, have its looted artifacts in the last century and before.
Dr Mahmoud al-Saied al-Doghim, Research Associate, Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of London, wrote a paper titled, “One Hundred and Ten Years of US Theft of Iraqi Heritage.” The paper says that entire wings of the Louvre Museum, the Berlin Museum, and the British Museum would have to close down entirely, if they returned all the artifacts stolen from Iraq (and elsewhere).
Doghim estimates the number of stolen artifacts at more than one million. A single US university, the University of Pennsylvania, as he wrote, “Acquired more than 50,000 palettes and other artifacts shedding light on the history of Mesopotamia, and discrediting many of the biblical claims promoted by the Zionists.”
The American occupation forces hit the mother-lode following the invasion of 2003. The US forces seized a large part of the contents of Iraq’s 33 museums.
In effect, the astounding rich history of Iraq and its wealth of ancient historical artifacts is not the subject of dispute. However, it might be very surprising when one examines the numbers.
According to a statement made in March 2003 by former head of Iraqi antiquities Jaber Khalil Ibrahim, archaeologists believe that there are 500,000 archaeological sites in Iraq that remain undiscovered and unstudied, along with ten thousand registered and discovered sites. The sites include at least 25,000 highly important ones.
Only 15 percent of the sites in Iraq have been excavated, most of them located between the Euphrates and the Tigris. This area is considered the cradle of humanity, and from six thousand years ago, it was home to civilizations like the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, all the way to the Abbasids.
The US occupation of Iraq was a disaster for the country’s material heritage.
Israel hit Lebanon with a number of rockets after an anti-tank missile was fired at an Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) convoy near the Lebanon border on Wednesday.
The Israeli army said on its Twitter feed that an “initial reports indicate a military vehicle was hit, apparently by an anti-tank missile in the area of Har Dov,” using Israel’s term for the Shebaa Farms which is also close to the ceasefire line with Syria.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement claimed the attack.
“At 11:25 (0925 GMT) this morning, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles which was transporting several Zionist soldiers and officers,” Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast on the group’s Al-Manar television channel
Al-Manar said nine Israeli vehicles were targeted in the attack. Al-Mayadeen news channel’s Director Ghassan Ben Jeddo, said at least 15 Israeli soldiers have been killed.
There were conflicting reports on whether an Israeli soldier was abducted during the attack. Al-Akhbar English could not independently confirm the information at this time.
The Shebaa Farms area is a mountainous, narrow sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometers (10 square miles). It has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.
An Israeli security source, meanwhile, said a number of people were wounded in the incident after their vehicles came under “very heavy fire at close range,” saying the incident was still ongoing.
He said it was not clear whether the vehicles had been hit by an anti-tank missile, a rocket or a mortar, but said Israeli forces had returned fire, hitting targets across the border.
Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post said the Israeli army fired at the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Shouba.
Two sources told AFP that more than a dozen shells had been fired on Lebanese border villages and that Israeli warplanes were flying over the area.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the Lebanese-Israeli border, reported that one of its soldiers, a Spanish citizen, was killed after sustaining serious wounds by Israeli shelling in the border village of Abbasieh.
“At least 15 shells have been fired against five villages in the south,” one security source said, adding that the village of Majidiyeh was hardest hit.
Another security source said the Israeli army was firing a new shell into the area about every two minutes, and was also firing artillery.
The Lebanese army is deployed in all five villages that were shelled, but it was unclear whether Hezbollah had a presence there.
Al-Mayadeen said the Israeli strikes were ongoing.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that mortar shells had hit the village of Ghajar, which straddles the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Images broadcast from the scene showed large plumes of white smoke billowing across the area and police sealed off several roads close to the border in northern Israel.
Commenting on the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to act “with force” following the border attack.
Referring to the bloody Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip this summer, Netanyahu added: “I suggest that all those who are challenging us on our northern border, look at what happened in Gaza, not far from the city of Sderot.”
“Hamas suffered the most serious blow since it was founded this past summer and the [IOF] is prepared to act on every front.”
Retaliation for Israeli attacks in Syria
The attack came hours after Israeli aircraft struck alleged Syrian army artillery positions early on Wednesday, and one day after rockets were launched at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
On January 18, an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian city of Quneitra killed six fighters of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah, including a commander and the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi.
The Hezbollah brigade which carried out the attack, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance, was named in reference to the deadly strike in Quneitra, indicating that Wednesday’s attack was in retaliation for the killing of its members.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had previously warned Israel against any “stupid” moves in Lebanon and Syria, vowing to retaliate and make sure Israel pays the price for any aggression against the neighboring countries.
Israeli airstrikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis,” Nasrallah said in reference to Syria, Iran and his government, who are sworn enemies of Israel.
“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he said, adding the “axis is capable of responding” anytime.
Since the airstrike, troops and civilians in northern Israeli-occupied territories of Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights have been on heightened alert and Israel has deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor unit near the Syrian border.
The last Israeli war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
Nasrallah is expected to deliver a speech on January 30 regarding the Israeli strikes.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)
Argentina’s president has described the country’s intelligence agency as a “national debt” and has announced plans to disband it.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner made the remarks in a Monday TV address, saying she would prepare a draft legislation to set up an alternative body.
“I have prepared a bill to reform the intelligence service,” said Fernandez, insisting that she wanted the idea discussed at an urgent session of the nation’s Congress.
She further stated that her plan “is to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat and create a Federal Intelligence Agency” and added that a new leadership for the intelligence agency should be picked by a president and confirmed by the South American country’s Senate.
Fernandez further argued that the intelligence services maintained the same structure they had during the US-backed military government that ended in 1983.
“Combating impunity has been a priority of my government,” she emphasized.
She made the decision following the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman hours before he was reportedly due to testify against senior government authorities.
Nisman had been probing the bombing of a Jewish center in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires in 1994 which killed 85 people.
He was found dead on January 18 in his apartment in Buenos Aires.
Investigators initially said they believed he had committed suicide, but later clarified that homicide or “induced suicide” could not be ruled out.
President Fernandez has emphasized that she does not believe Nisman’s death was a suicide.
The latest we know, as of this Sunday morning, is that the day before his death and just before asking his work colleague Lagomarsino to lend him his pistol (the 100% confirmed weapon of death), Alberto Nisman also asked one of the police officers on protection duty around his apartment building to lend him his gun, which the officer refused to do. Nisman again used the same line, that he wanted one to carry in his car for a few days until he bought a gun for himself.
Which again nudges the evidence towards suicide, though I want to make plain as I did yesterday that there’s no proof of this yet and we’re talking possibles versus probables, not black versus white certainties. We shouldn’t discard any hypothesis yet. But as suicide now seems more likely than it did just a few days ago when the world was quick to shout and scream and accuse the CFK government of killing an enemy, consider this:
- There was some sort of emergency that got him to cut short his vacation with his daughter in Europe, hand over her charge to his ex-wife and bring him quickly back to Argentina in the days before his death.
- He was due to give evidence to support his accusations against the CFK government the day after his death, but his dossier had already been deposed and opened to authorities and judiciary (its contents are now being revealed, striptease-style, to the general public). As soon as it was available (three or four days before his death) there was immediate push back from both pro-government and (relatively) neutral bodies who spotted false information and obvious contradictions in his version of events. One that’s been widely reported is how Nisman claimed he had been given key evidence about supposed intelligence officers, but in fact (and in proven fact now) those people are not and have never been members of the intelligence services.
- So, let us imagine you have a less than perfect personal life. Let’s also imagine you’ve been working under great pressure, in terms of workload and of psychological pressure from government enemies, for two years on a case you think shows major corruption in your current government (up to and including the President of your country). Let’s imagine that things come to a head, you complete your work, you’re satisfied with your job done, you hand in this national-level important case file…and then suddenly the whole thing blows up in your face because one of the most basic elements on which you based your argument is shown, with very little room for error, to be false. That, ladies and gentlemen, is years of work down the drain.
- And on top of that, in one day’s time you have to go to the nation’s Congress, stand up and defend your case and reiterate your accusations when you already know that the ground has been taken from under your feet and when the opponents ask you about the contradictions, you’re going to flounder and fail in front of them. And your personal life is a mess.
Anyway, that’s the basic thesis for suicide here and I’m fully aware it doesn’t cover all angles. For example why is there no suicide note (as either one hasn’t been found as yet, or if it has we haven’t been told about it)? No idea, but as suicide of this type is a wholly selfish and egocentric act, people in that mental position feel no obligation to anyone else and there doesn’t have to be a note, not even to your most loved ones. I’m not saying the above is the answer to the whole thing, not at all. But it is addressed to those who say “he can’t have killed himself”. It’s a logical and cogent possibility, like it or not.
Syrian opposition groups on Monday began four days of talks on how to end the near four-year conflict, with representatives of the Syrian government set to join them but the main exiled opposition alliance boycotting the event.
The closed-door talks opened as planned at 11 am Moscow time (0800 GMT), a Russian diplomatic source told RIA Novosti. The talks are set to run until Thursday.
“Around 25 (members of the Syrian opposition) have arrived. I think there will be up to 30,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.
But the western-backed exiled opposition alliance, the National Coalition, is not attending the Moscow talks although five of its members are there in a personal capacity along with members of opposition groups tolerated by the Damascus.
“Any talks should be held in a neutral country and overseen by the United Nations,” a source in the coalition said earlier.
The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, will head the government team, which will join the talks on Wednesday, a Syrian newspaper reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week he hoped there would be “chemistry” at the meetings that will help the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, organize a new peace conference to negotiate a way out of the crisis.
Lavrov may meet members of opposition groups on Wednesday “if there is a constructive mood”, Bogdanov said.
Two previous rounds of talks in Geneva ended without success.
Argentina says rogue agents from its own intelligence services were behind the death of the prosecutor of the 1994 AMIA bombing case.
Alberto Nisman, the lead investigator into the 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Argentina in 1994, was found dead in his apartment late on January 18.
The initial police report said Nisman had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, however, said in a statement posted on her Facebook page on Thursday that the prosecutor’s death was not a suicide.
Nisman’s death happened hours before he was to testify before Congress on Monday about his allegation that President Fernandez conspired to derail his investigation of the attack.
The government claims the prosecutor’s allegations and his death were linked to a power struggle at the Latin American country’s intelligence agency and agents who had recently been fired.
“When he was alive they needed him to present the charges against the president. Then, undoubtedly, it was useful to have him dead,” the president’s chief of staff, Anibal Fernandez, said Friday.
Under intense political pressure imposed by Israel, Argentina formerly accused Iran of having carried out the 1994 bombing attack on the AMIA building. AMIA stands for the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina or the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association.
Iran has categorically and consistently denied any involvement in the terrorist bombing.
In January 2013, Tehran and Buenos Aires signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly probe the 1994 bombing.
In an interview published in Jewish News this week, the leader of the opposition acknowledged unhappiness among the pro-Israel Jewish community about his party’s Middle East policies, but emphasised “the things that unite us.”
intolerance of those who question the existence of the State of Israel, intolerance of boycotts and total intolerance of anti-Semitism. Those are the strands that unite us and I think those strands are very important.
Miliband said he would be “intolerant of those who question Israel’s right to exist” and “those who attack Israel in various ways”, but declared himself “a great supporter of meaningful negotiations.”
The paper also reported on remarks Miliband made at a recent public meeting in Hendon, where he defended his criticism of Israel’s assault on Gaza, saying: “I don’t believe that kind of action enhances the long-term security of Israel.”
The Houthis have outlined four conditions to end Yemen’s political crisis, the Anadolu Agency reported the group’s leader as saying.
In a televised speech broadcasted by Yemen’s Al-Maseera satellite channel yesterday, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi called for a speedy reformation of the National Supervisory Authority which was tasked with overseeing the results of the National Dialogue Conference and which ceased to be active in January 2014.
He also called for amendments to the country’s draft constitution to be expedited, the implementation of the peace and partnership agreement and to conduct comprehensive security reform.
Al-Houthi accused Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi of “protecting corruption and lack of seriousness in implementing the peace and partnership agreement, which brought the country to the current situation”.
He also accused him of supporting Al-Qaeda and supplying it with weapons. “President Hadi refused to allow the army to fight Al-Qaeda and gave the group the opportunity to rob banks,” he said.
The Yemeni capital Sanaa was been rocked by violent clashes for the second consecutive day on yesterday between presidential guards and Al-Houthi militants who are said to have seized the presidential palace with Prime Minister Khaled Bahah inside.
Al-Houthi said: “There is a conspiracy against Yemen and its people that is led by forces targeting the entire region. Yemen in on the verge of political, security and economic collapse. The Yemeni leadership is mired in corruption” he said.”
The Houthis seized control of Sanaa in September.