The imam of Florence has posted a picture of habit-wearing nuns splashing along the seashore on Facebook, calling for dialogue about burqini bans… but got his account blocked instead.
The post by Izzedin Elzir got some 2,700 shares, and came in response to the French southern cities – like Cannes and Nice – prohibiting the wearing of burqinis on the beach.
The day after the imam published his post, he awoke to find his account blocked.
“It’s incomprehensible. I have to send them an ID document to reactivate it. They wanted to make sure it’s my account – it’s a very strange procedure,” the indignant imam told La Repubblica.
On Friday, his account was back in, and the imam said he hopes it wasn’t blocked because of the picture, as it urges dialogue, and “we live in a society of law and freedom.”
He also noted that the burqini had only come into fashion among Muslim women over the past few years, and he expressed regret that “some politicians in France, instead of responding to the political and economic needs of their citizens, are focusing on how Muslims dress.”
Many online commenters tended to agree with the imam, saying that “The sea is for everyone,” and describing the ban as “a psychological tool against Muslims.”
However, others disagreed, “Don’t confuse the two different situations: these are women who have CHOSEN to religious life with the rules that it imposes, the ‘others’ are FORCED to dress even on the beach,” a comment read.
It’s not the first burqini-linked scandal this week. On Thursday, Austrian politician Ahmet Demir caused uproar after publishing a photo of two nuns and joking that they were “oppressed women” in burqas. Later, he took the post down and apologized, but defended his post saying that he was attempting to convey the message that “every woman should be able to wear what they want as long as they chose the clothes themselves.”
On Tuesday, Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told Corriere Della Serra that Italy wouldn’t follow France’s suit and ban the burqini, but will step up regulations of imams and mosques.
Two days later, Italian authorities expelled the Tunisian imam Khairredine Romdhane Ben Chedli. The 35-year-old imam was lately absolved of terrorism-related charges, but still deemed unfit to remain in his post, the ANSA news agency said.
A former CIA officer, now residing in Portugal, faces extradition to Italy after her alleged involvement in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, otherwise known as Abu Omar, in Milan 13 years ago, The Washington Post reported.
An Italian court convicted Sabrina De Sousa, 60, in absentia along with 26 other Americans, sentencing her to four years in prison. In 2009, De Sousa avoided potential imprisonment by leaving Italy before the trial started.
However, extradition talks began after De Sousa moved to Portugal last spring to be closer to her relatives.
Local police detained the former CIA agent on a European arrest warrant at the Lisbon airport in October.
A key development in the case happened this week, when Portugal’s highest court upheld the lower courts’ ruling that local authorities did not violate the constitution when detaining De Sousa. She is now scheduled to be extradited to Italy on May 4.
One of the conditions of the ruling is that De Sousa be given another trial and a chance to appeal her sentence in Italy since she was sentenced in absentia.
However, De Sousa is not sure that Italian authorities will grant her a new trial, and fears that she will simply be sent straight to jail to start serving her four-year sentence.
“It’s kind of a surreal situation,” De Sousa told The Washington Post. “I’ve spent years wanting to counter the charges against me. Right now, I want to know what happens, step by step, in Italy.”
Former CIA chief historian Benjamin Fischer described De Sousa’s case as “unprecedented,” according to the Post.
De Sousa holds dual Portuguese and American citizenship. She admitted that flying to Europe did leave her more vulnerable to arrest.
“If I was a natural-born US citizen and my entire family lived in Kansas, for example, then maybe I wouldn’t need to worry about going to Europe again,” De Sousa said.
Terror suspect Egyptian cleric Nasr was kidnapped from a Milan street in 2003. He was transported to Egypt by the CIA as part of their extraordinary rendition program, where he was allegedly tortured for seven months and eventually released.
It was only in 2005 when reports of Italian government investigating CIA agents involved in the kidnapping came to light.
Evidence discovered by Italian law enforcement reportedly embarrassed the CIA’s spy craft skills.
Meanwhile, De Sousa was unable to persuade her employer to grant her immunity and ended up resigning from the CIA in 2009.
De Sousa asserts she played only a minor role in the abduction of the cleric, translating for CIA officers in Italy in early 2002 before the kidnapping took place.
“But at that point, rendition was just a concept,” she said, adding that Nasr’s name was not even mentioned during the talks.
Regime change, the term hundreds of millions hear on the nightly news is rendered innocuous by the sheer repetitiveness. But regime change is almost always accompanied by death and destruction, and after effects that affect us all, no matter where in the world it occurs. The overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by an American president and co-conspirators is truly a case for an international tribunal. Here’s a starting lineup for an international war crimes double header.
Every time I think of Barack Obama’s former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, images of her gloating and bragging over Libya flood into my mind’s eye. Then my mind races cognitively, to a culvert in a ditch near the town of Sirte, to a bruised and bloodied figure, staring up and fearful of his captors, just before they kicked and beat him, then riddled his body with bullets, Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al- Gaddafi’s life surely passed before his eyes. In the blink of a US drone electronic eye, the most powerful man in Africa was dethroned, and the Middle East was set on fire. History will inquire, “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Well I have history’s answer.
Exhibit A: A US President Misleads His People
On March 28th, 2011 the Obama White House issued this transcript of the American president’s address to the people he swore to lead and protect. Within this insulting and misleading address, there are many lies and reversals of fact, but there are also great truths as well. For instance, the nations complicit in the violent coup d’é·tat in Libya were named by Obama, they were: the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Qatar along with the United Arab Emirates. Each of these nation’s geo-political interests in Libya and Gaddafi can be traced directly to big business or US surrogacy, this is irrevocable and irreconcilable. The involvement of US, UK and European agents inside Libya, the levers put in place to unseat the standing Libyan government, are just now coming into the daylight. I’ll shine more light on these further on, but right now characterizing the unmitigated audacity of Barack Obama is important. Not only did the US president mislead the American people on March 28th, 2011, his character would not allow him to pass up the opportunity to brag about how swiftly and decisively he had acted. On the mandate for unseating Gaddafi, the president said:
“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.”
This statement is key for understanding the truth of not only Libya, but Syria, Ukraine, and even for policies as far back as the NATO agenda in Bosnia. In a caveat to this, Obama also frames a hidden strategy beneath by discussing what we now know as the larger European tragedy. The president claims “our interests” were served by preventing:
“A massacre (that) would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.”
Not only did Barack Obama and his administration sell this lie to the American people, he also committed one of his worst political mistakes ever.
“Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
This was 2011, take note of this. The Obama team now openly professed a US and coalition plan to take down Gaddafi, they foretold of a larger scheme, the Arab Spring and western expansionism that grips the world today. Violence on a horrific scale, instigated by the Bush and Obama administrations. The refugee crises, which are clearly “ordained” in the quotes above as “warnings”, these were in fact part of a regional plan of destabilization.
Exhibit B: Obama – the Little Big Man 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin is not often wrong, but his statement last week about Barack Obama being “strong” enough to admit the mistake of Libya, it’s dead wrong. Barack Obama is not at all strong. He’s a decent actor, and can read a teleprompter like nobody’s business. Being strong in the Putin sense, it means serving the people, and not the hidden masters of the policy universe. In a now famous interview with Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace, Obama admits not planning for the aftermath of the ousting of Gaddafi was his biggest mistake as president. Obama says (via the transcript) on being asked “Worst mistake?”, by Wallace:
“Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”
This is not the statement of a strong president, it is weak and pitiful in so many respects. The man cannot even come to grips with a truth, let alone take responsibility. “Probably”, the “right thing to do”, “think” – the whole snippet hints at lying or misdirect. Wallace never returns to the issue, the “central issue”, as it were, for America’s role in world terror and upheaval. The “facts” of Barack Obama’s regime change agenda contravene any suggestion Libya was simply an error. Most Americans are completely unaware of the battle in the US Congress to forestall this coup.
“Despite its failure to obtain legal approval from Congress, the Obama administration continued to provide the bulk of the military support for the NATO operation until the overthrow of Gadaffi in October. Before the official termination of Operation Unified Protector, US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder said that “the United States led in this operation… It led in the planning of the operation, it led in getting the mandate for the operation, and it led in the execution of the operation… the United States conducted more sorties than any other country in this operation, twenty six percent.”
Barack Obama, with the adamant support of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Neocons like Arizona’s Sen. John McCain, and military industrial complex lap dog, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, ousted Gaddafi circumvented the people of the United States of America. For those wondering at my vehemence here, General Dynamics and the US Navy will name a new destroyer after Levin, just in case any out there are reticent in disbelief of my assertions. The arrogance, the insolence of these people staggers the imagination, but I must frame another constituent’s part in America’s export of revolution. Obama was not owning up to a mistake in Libya, he was sliding past a question by a sellout Fox reporter. The only reason for him even answering the question was to insert a tenant of plausible deniability later on.
Accept Open Society or Else
No one reading this report will be surprised to hear George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is neck deep in this regime change. The man who essentially got Obama elected in the first place, he and his NGO have been implicated in many political machinations. This Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece casts a blistering light on John McCain, the aforementioned Levin, and a neocon system of levers most are aware of, but know not how to confront. I’ve not the space to go into McCain’s shady past here, but his face on crisis has been adequately established. It was the Soros connection to the defense spending champion that caught my eye.
George Soros’ gift of $100 million dollars to Human Rights Watch did not make big news back in 2010. Human Rights Watch was thrilled though. A few months later, Human Rights Watch reported on the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging both Muammar Gaddafi, and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi with crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch’s position in this strategy was to validate and provide presidents for a tribunal, at least in my view. This quote from the report by HRW is telling:
“Should the court issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, it would not be the first warrant for a sitting head of state by an international court. In 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its first indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.”
Almost immediately after ICC head prosecutor Moreno Ocampo issued an arrest warrant for the Gaddafis on 7 June 2011, 30 nations recognized the Libyan rebels of the NTC as the legitimate government of the country. A key in understanding how collusion and influence parlay uprisings is in understanding how the Open Society Foundations grants and meetups operate. Central to the legitimacy of Gadaffi’s overthrow, was the notion he was a tyrant and a killer. Legitimacy for the White House agenda comes in many forms.
Legality: The Ultimate Lie
In December of 2005 the Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor was part of a Soros backed roundtable series, which was an initiative of OSI and the Security and Peace Initiative, which is a joint initiative of the Center for American Progress and an interesting think tank, The Century Foundation. The goals of these organizers, was ostensibly described in the title of published essays by these think tank elites, “Restoring American Leadership: 13 Steps to Improve Global Cooperation.” I believe it was the purpose of these meetings to establish Moreno Campo’s legitimacy and position within the greater scheme of things. After these meetings, and the associated United Nations meetups back then, the ICC played an ever-increasing and interesting role. Please remember, the Center for America Progress is funded by not only Soros, but Bill and Melinda Gates, huge corporations, and even the government of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE should ring bells for their part in the coalition to overthrow Gadaffi.
Subsequent Open Society Foundations rhetoric and policy showed us the ICC’s mission. First in Uganda, then in the crucial case of Sudan, the ICC allegedly became the tool of Soros and the people behind him. While I do not always agree with the controversial activist Lyndon LaRouche, there’s no denying his insight and investigations often bear fruit. In this report from 2008, the implications are black and white in this press release:
“The Soros organization also directly funded another agency at the Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which prosecuted and judicially murdered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.”
Yugoslavia rises from the mist once again. I’ve drummed on the notion of “templates” enacted by western leadership, on think tanks and their roles, and Yugoslavia in the Clinton era was a crucial turning point. The “legality” in all this, the big lie of democracy’s validity as a new quasi-religious crusade, this is where Soros funding, American leadership role playing, and regime-policy change meet globally. Gadaffi was essentially assassinated. His son is now under a death sentence in Libya, and the old school Cold War warriors want to install a king in his place. It’s all illegality made to look legal, Soros the Nazi sympathizer transformed into the philanthropist. It’s Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the biggest killer of innocent civilians since Idi Amin.
In conclusion, the question I began with remains; “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Why the very people swearing oaths to protect us, that’s who. The champions of industry, the philanthropist, their paid for brain trusts, the money has bought out the entire democratic system of governance. The world has the true war criminals by the scruff of the neck now. But the wrong men and women will die, just as sure as I am writing this. The mission of Soros, his NGO, and the elites in power in the west is the eradication of the idea of the sovereign state. Killing Gaddafi was central to this goal.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.
British troops may not be deployed to Libya after all because the head of the North African state’s new unity government turned down the offer of Western soldiers to help eliminate Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
The move may come as a shock to some in the British establishment who had expected a request for soldiers now that the war-ravaged state’s UN-brokered unity government has assembled in Tripoli.
A UK government source told the Times on Wednesday the request had not materialized. The source felt the force structure being floated – an Italian-led brigade of 6,000 with a 1,000-strong British component – would exacerbate internal divisions.
Its aims would have been to tackle people-trafficking and train Libyan forces to fight IS.
Another unnamed source, a British minister, told the Times it was thought the head of the unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, may wait until he is more established before requesting foreign military help.
Al-Sarraj and his government only arrived in the country a fortnight ago amid fears their entry would spark violence among the rival militias.
“The idea that the PM is yet able to give the green light to anything is premature, he needs to make sure he has the necessary support,” the minister told the Times.
“We are in a sensitive period. Nobody has drawn any firm conclusions. We’ve got a long way to go but there is a recognition things are extremely serious.”
European Council on Foreign Relations Libya specialist Mattia Toaldo told the paper that officials in the new administration are afraid of being seen as “foreign puppets” and hope “people in Europe will stop talking about this for a few weeks.”
Some military and political figures in the UK seem to have learned one tough lesson from the ill-fated campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, where US-appointed governments were treated with suspicion and substantial resistance ensued.
On April 1, as Al-Sarraj arrived in Tripoli, Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chair Crispin Blunt MP warned that although the UK has a “moral obligation” to clean up the “mess” it had left in Libya, any UK troop deployment would look like an “invading force.”
On Monday, the former British Army Colonel who briefly led a mission to Libya in the wake of the 2011 war, which removed the old regime, warned that if anything could unify the competing militias it would be a foreign military intervention.
Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Wieloch also told the Telegraph he questioned the wisdom of involving Italy, a former colonial ruler, in any Libya operation.
As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods.
They kill us for their sport
— Edgar in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”
[The condemnation of Radovan Karadzic to forty years of imprisonment by the International Crime Tribunal-Yugoslavia occasions these reflections.]
They come; they see; people die. They laugh. Or say it was worth it. Their maps are not a territory inhabited by living beings; they are military targets. They bomb from safe altitudes, no lower than 15,000 feet (Yugoslavia, 1999, for example) to protect their own volunteer warriors. In 38,000 sorties and 22,000 tons of bombs in three months (Yugoslavia, 1999), they never lost a plane. They promise the people their bombs will not harm a hair on their heads; then, they bomb markets and bridges at noon, when people are at their thickest; the say they are as careful at noon as they are at midnight. They claim they have nothing against the people—only against their leaders; then they bomb water supplies, electrical grids, schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, museums. They hold civilians in their power, hostages to their air force, their cluster and phosphorus bombs. They poison the land with depleted uranium and raise whole crops of human cancers for generations. They send drones. They fund, train, and arm cutthroat armies. They terrorize civilians for their political ends. They are the humanitarians of the “international community,” and they have nothing to envy the conquistadores, the exterminators of native people, the enslavers, the imperialists of times gone by. They are the agents of collateral genocide.
They are the terror they claim to fight, and they dress it in noble words.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom” (9 March to 9 April 2003) claimed from 40,000 to 100,000 Iraqi military deaths. “Insurgent” deaths (April 2003 to January 2009) amounted to between 26, 320 and 27, 000. Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated from between 190,000 and one million. The death toll for “Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan” (2001-2014) adds up to 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. By contrast, the NATO British contingent in Afghanistan, a total of 134,780 troops, lost 447. At a conservative estimate the total deaths caused by the “war on terror” in these three war zones alone are 1.3 million (estimates from Iraqi Body Count, The Lancet, Physicians for Social Responsibility). But these estimates include only deaths resulting from violent conflict. They do not include deaths resulting from the aftermath of war—destroyed infrastructure and support institutions. From sanctions: the regime of sanction in Iraq, August 6th (Hiroshima Day) 1991 to 2003, claimed 1.7 million Iraqi lives, according to UN data.
How do they get away with it? By thwarting, strong-arming, co-opting, bribing, rewriting, and abusing international law: the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1976 amended Geneva Conventions (on the laws and customs of war, which the US did not sign), the Charter of the United Nations, and their own constitutions. They wage wars of aggression in the name of abstractions or noble causes—“the war on terror,” R2P, “human rights,” and the prize, “genocide,” debasing the term, if convenient, to a street rumble between two ethnic groups.
What if the United Nations issued a resolution banning wars on abstractions? The “wars on terror” would become illegal (and, no, they didn’t end with Obama; they just became the “humanitarian wars”). The Security Council could order a “global police action” to sweep up and “neutralize” the army of cutthroats. So far, only Russia has shown, with actions in Syria, that it is willing to act to remove the terrorist scourge, whose atrocities proliferate and extend from the Middle East, through the heart of Africa, to European capitals. As I write, the Syrian Army, backed by Russian airstrikes, has retaken Palmyra, a significant strategic victory, opening the way to liberation of Raqqa, the IS stronghold, in the east of Syria.
But, in fact, there is no need for such a resolution. The UN Charter forbids wars of aggression. It specifies that breaking the peace to wage a “war of choice” is the “supreme international crime.” The provisions of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) include jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes but exclude the “supreme international crime,” the crime of aggression. This exclusion resulted at the instigation of the US in 1998-99, just as it prepared to attack Serbia in the Kosovo War. The US signed (Clinton) and then unsigned (Bush) the statute, without ever intending to ratify it, but it meddled, bullied and coerced so as to make it clear who was in charge of writing and unwriting the laws, who had the right to impunity ad infinitum, based on its assumed altruistic morality of intervening to adjust the affairs of the world.
The US exercised every political muscle to subordinate the ICC to the authority of the Security Council, where it could exercise its veto power to deep-six any prosecution of crimes it opposed. It favored ad-hoc tribunals such as the International Tribunal for Crimes in Yugoslavia (ICTY), instituted by the Security Council in 1993, at the request of the US. A virtual kangaroo court, it abducted and tried Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague in a show trial for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—without any substantial evidence, limiting time for cross-examination by the defense, using pseudo-legal pretexts to harass and obstruct it, treating the defense contemptuously, and in every way demonstrating that the tribunal was politically motivated, a feature contrary to the spirit and purpose of criminal law. The tribunal refused to investigate credible evidence charging NATO with war crimes, though it was charged with investigating crimes committed by all parties in the tragic secession wars of Yugoslavia. An example will suffice to demonstrate the political bias of the tribunal: Milosevic was indicted, among other spurious charges, for murdering 374 people; NATO killed 500 civilians. Only one of the two was investigated.
Failing to secure impunity for aggression by placing the ICC under the authority of the Security Council, the US insisted on an amendment, preventing the court from exercising that jurisdiction, until seven eights of ratifying states agreed on a definition of aggression and the means by which it could be prosecuted. Until the angels stop dancing on the pin of that prevarication, the US and its junior partners in the “international community” can freely exercise their right to crimes of aggression. This is how the ICC lists the crimes of aggression it is prevented from prosecuting:
*Invasion or attack by armed forces against territory
*Military occupation of territory
*Annexation of territory
*Bombardment against territory
*Use of any weapons against territory
*Blockade of ports or coasts
*Attack on the land, sea. Or air forces or marine and air fleets
*The use of armed forces which are within the territory of another state by agreement, but in contravention of the conditions of the agreement
*Allowing territory to be used by another state to perpetrate an act of aggression against a third state
*Sending armed bands, groups, irregulars, or mercenaries to carry out acts of armed force
Tell me one crime of aggression the “international community,” the dogs of war, has not committed with impunity since the unfortunate downfall of the Soviet Union in their unopposed quest for recolonizing the world? Do you wonder that Putin is garnering so much global popularity for insisting on acting within the law? How many Security Council resolutions have authorized actions by the “international community” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen—not to mention actions in martyred Africa or the underhanded counter-reform chicaneries in Latin America? None. This is a period of American absolutism, which is wiping clean the rule of law off the face of the earth. The result is creeping barbarism. No one is safe from Timbuktu to Brussels. Anarchy is indeed loosed upon the world.
Take Libya: now that it is not even a functional state, does any law there even apply? Why do the cowards who destroyed it bother to twist themselves into knots, like serpents in a pit, to justify a second intervention? Why don’t they maraud right in—like ISIS does? Because cowards cannot admit to cowardice, much less submit to judgment–and because the tatters they made of the law are the last cover for these scoundrels’ moral nakedness. They drag others into their bolgia of deepening Hell. Right now, for NATO member Italy, it’s a question of complying with US request, already approved in late February, to use the military base at Sigonella, Sicily, to send drones to Libya to protect American Special Forces while they clear out ISIS. Since when have Special Forces required the assistance of a mechanical Mary Poppins? They’re supposed to be in dangerous situation, by definition. It’s not conscience that “makes cowards of [them] all.” It’s criminality. If Qaddafi had not been sadistically and illegally removed (check list of crimes of aggression above) there would be no ISIS in Libya.
Never mind: Sigonella will be used for American drone raids in Libya. Opposition in the Italian Parliament and public opinion are vocally against this use, so the Italian government is presenting the project as “defensive,” just as in 1999 the formula of “integrated defense” was deployed to justify the use of Italian Tornadoes bombing Yugoslavia. Drones in this case will not be “defensive.” Contrary to the idea of protecting Special Forces, drones depend on precisely those forces on the ground to furnish the exact coordinates of the target the drone must hit and destroy. Precision attacks will be launched from Sigonella not “integrated defense.”
And then what? Retaliation— Paris, Istanbul, Beirut, Brussels in Rome or Milan? State of siege in Italy? Suspension of civil liberties? Hecatombs of dead civilians? Well may the Italian government resent the publicity the United States has bestowed on the accord over the use of Sigonella. They would have preferred to keep the accord secret, hoping that ISIS wouldn’t notice Italy’s collaboration with US forces in Libya. Fat chance, but cowards and gangsters think like that—make it look like an accident or construct “plausible deniability.”
“Your wars; our dead” is a popular poster in protests against wars in Italy. It expresses the consciousness of the ultimate cowardice of these wars, and, indeed, of all aggressive wars.
Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at: email@example.com
In an interview with Sputnik, military expert Antonio Mazzeo described Rome’s decision to allow armed US drones to fly from the Sigonella military base in Sicily to Libya as a gross violation of the Italian Constitution.
According to him, the move will further add to the militarization of the Sigonella base.
He said that even the deployment of unarmed Global Hawk drones to Sicily nine years ago, was not quite in line with the nation’s constitutional provisions limiting the use of Italian military facilities to self-defense, given that their task is to detect targets for bombers.
“Even if they do not carry missiles, they can be called a weapon of attack, destruction, and the first strike,” Mazzeo said. Article 11 of the 1948 Italian Constitution states that “Italy repudiates war as an instrument offending the liberty of the peoples and as a means for settling international disputes.”
His remarks came after Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti confirmed earlier this week that the United States had been given permission to use the Sigonella base to carry out drone strikes on Daesh targets in Libya.
According to prominent Italian publication L’Espresso, more than 160 Italian academics came out in support of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The petition, reportedly the first large-scale BDS effort from Italian academia, said it was “a response to the known and well-documented complicity of Israeli academic institutions with Israeli state violence and the total lack of serious condemnation on their part since the foundation of the State of Israel.”
The BDS campaign specifically targeted Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa, for its prominent role in the Israeli military-industrial complex, and called on Italian universities to sever ties with the institution.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed the move on Saturday, saying the petition “illustrates the increasing state of isolation the occupation suffers as a result of its crimes.”
Israel has been struggling to tackle a growing Palestinian-led boycott campaign which has had a number of high-profile successes abroad in both academic and artistic fields.
The BDS movement aims to exert political and economic pressure over Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in a bid to repeat the success of the campaign which ended apartheid in South Africa.
In recent years, some 1,200 academics in Spain, 343 British professors and lecturers and more than 200 South African academics have publicly come out in support of BDS.
There was an underwhelming sense when Pentagon boss Ashton Carter met this week in Paris with other members of the US-led military coalition supposedly fighting the ISIL terror group.
The US-led coalition was set up at the end of 2014 and in theory comprises 60 nations. The main military operation of the alliance is an aerial bombing campaign against terrorist units of IS (also known as ISIL, ISIS or Daesh).
At the Paris meeting this week, Secretary of Defense Carter was joined by counterparts from just six countries: France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Australia. Where were the other 54 nations of the coalition?
Carter and French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian patted themselves on the back about “momentum”in their campaign against the terrorist network. However, platitudes aside, there was a noticeable crestfallen atmosphere at the meeting of the shrunken US-led coalition.
One telling point was Carter exhorting Arab countries to contribute more. As a headline in the Financial Times put it: “US urges Arab nations to boost ISIS fight”.
Carter didn’t mention specific names but it was clear he was referring to Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Persian Gulf Arab states, including Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
When the US initiated the anti-IS coalition in 2014, fighter jets from the Sunni Arab states participated in the aerial campaign. They quickly fell away from the operation and instead directed their military forces to Yemen, where the Saudi-led Arab coalition has been bombing that country non-stop since March 2015 to thwart an uprising by Houthi revolutionaries.
But there is an even deeper, more disturbing reason for the lack of Arab support for the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. That is because Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni monarchies are implicated in funding and arming the very terrorists that Washington’s coalition is supposedly combating.
Several senior US officials have at various times admitted this. Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton labelled Saudi Arabia as the main sponsor of “Sunni extremist groups”in diplomatic cables when she was Secretary of State back in 2009, as disclosed by Wikileaks.
Vice President Joe Biden, while addressing a Harvard University forum in late 2014, also spilled the beans on the Persian Gulf states and Turkey being behind the rise of terror groups in the Middle East.
So there is substantial reason why the US-led anti-terror coalition in Iraq and Syria has not delivered decisive results. It is the same reason why Carter was joined by only six other countries in Paris this week and why there was a glaring absence of Saudi Arabia and other Arab members. These despotic regimes –whom Washington claims as “allies”–are part of the terrorist problem.
Not that the US or its Western allies are blameless. Far from it. It was Washington after all that master-minded the regime-change operations in Iraq and Syria, which spawned the terror groups.
In fact, we can go further and point to evidence, such as the testimony of Lt General Michael Flynn of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which shows that the US enlisted the terror brigades as proxies to do its dirty work in Syria for regime change.
The US and its Western allies conceal this collusion by claiming that they are supporting “moderate rebels”–not extremists. But the so-called moderates have ended up joining the terrorists and sharing their US-supplied weapons. The distinction between these groups is thus meaningless, leaving the baleful conclusion that Washington, London and Paris are simply colluding with terrorism.
US Republican presidential contenders and media pundits berate the Obama administration for not doing enough militarily to defeat IS. Or as Donald Trump’s backer Sarah Palin would say to “kick ass”.
The unsettling truth is that the US cannot do more to defeat terrorism in the Middle East because Washington and its allies are the source of terrorism in the region. Through their meddling and machinations, Washington and its cohorts have created a veritable Frankenstein monster.
The “coalition”that is actually inflicting serious damage to IS and its various terror franchises is that of Russia working in strategic cooperation with the Syrian Arab Army of President Bashar al-Assad. Since Russia began its aerial bombing campaign nearly four months ago, we have seen a near collapse of the terror network’s oil and weapons smuggling rackets and hundreds of their bases destroyed.
Yet Ashton Carter this week accused Russia of impeding the fight against terrorism in Syria because of its support for the Assad government. Talk about double think!
If we strip away the false rhetoric and mainstream media misinformation, Washington’s “anti-terror”coalition can be seen as not merely incompetently leading from behind.
The US, its Western allies and regional client regimes are in the front ranks of the terror problem.
The European Union should impose sanctions on Turkey and Saudi Arabia for financing the Islamic State (IS or Daesh in Arabic) jihadist group, instead of extending its anti-Russia sanctions, the leader of Italy’s Eurosceptic Lega Nord party, Matteo Salvini, told Sputnik Wednesday.
A UN Security Council Resolution to counter the financing of terrorism, targeting in particular Daesh, an organization outlawed in a number of states including Russia, was adopted Thursday. The resolution specifies that Daesh derives its main source of income from smuggled oil and obliges all states to oppose this illicit oil trade in the strongest terms. Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said that Turkish companies found to be involved in this illicit oil trade might be sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
“Europe needs to impose sanctions against Turkey and Saudi Arabia instead of extending sanctions against Russia,” Salvini said.
Salvini added that his party does not believe that the Islamic coalition against extremists that was announced by Saudi Arabia earlier this week “will serve its alleged goals because it is the state that supports terrorism.”
Daesh controls large swathes of land in oil-rich Syria, Iraq and Libya. Earlier this month, the Russian Defense Ministry presented evidence showing that Daesh has been smuggling oil across the porous Syria-Turkey border in large volumes.
Salvini is currently in Moscow and is set to meet on Friday with the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament’s International Committee, Alexei Pushkov, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Andrey Klimov, as well as with the representatives of the United Russia Party.
The military alliance’s largest exercises in over a decade involving over 36,000 troops from 30 NATO members and partner countries, Trident Juncture moved into an active phase across southwestern Europe in mid-October.
“We are against NATO, against war, against the enormous costs that go to the upkeep of military bases,” Chiara Paladino, one of the protest organizers, told RIA Novosti.
Paladino said around 1,000 people demonstrated in Marsala, south of the Vincenzo Florio Airport used as a NATO forward operating base. Anti-NATO protesters gathered from across the province of Trapani, including large Sicilian cities of Palermo, Catania, Messina and Ragusa, she said.
A similar anti-Trident Juncture and anti-NATO rally took place in the major Sicilian city of Palermo late on Friday.
The first phase of the Trident Juncture drills began October 3, running for two weeks in Canada, Norway, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The second phase, which ends on November 6, is taking place in southern Europe – Spain, Italy, and Portugal – as well as in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Spanish and Portuguese demonstrators staged protests against NATO this month.
Germany, the largest and most industrialized economy in the EU, projected as a key member of the continent’s economic, political, and defense organizations, is set to remain within the tight grip of the US, as Washington fears becoming isolated in the international arena amid the rise of the BRICS countries, according to a Russian Colonel General.
Germany, Europe’s most industrialized and populous country, famed for its technological achievements, is prohibited from acquiring its own nuclear weapons. It renounced the nuclear option in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968.
However, it is among the nations with the dubious distinction of hosting US nuclear weapons, along with Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
The removal of the US nuclear warheads from Germany is a long-term aim of the country’s government. However, the weapons remain in place.
Germany has 3,396 metric tons of gold: its vast reserves rank second worldwide. However, 45% of its gold, worth roughly $635 billion, is kept at the US Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Last year, Berlin announced that it wouldn’t repatriate its gold reserves from the US; instead the Bundesbank issued an official statement underscoring its “trust” in its American partners.
According to Bloomberg, Germany gave up after repatriating just 5 metric tons of gold, though earlier it was told that it would get all the German gold back by 2020.
Russian Colonel General Leonid Ivashov has therefore explained why Berlin is so dependent on the US and is set to remain in its tenacious arms.
“The US is cautious that by acquiring its own nuclear weapons, Germany would become militarily and politically independent. Such attempts have been undertaken by then-chancellors Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder,” he told Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week), a television program on the Russian TV channel Rossiya-1.
“Germany, France and Belgium attempted to create their own militarily-political block, but those attempts have been suppressed by the Americans,” he added.
Instead, Ivashov said, the US is sending more weapons and servicemen to the country.
“The Americans fear ending up alone at the end of the day. Thus, they are trying to tie up Europe, weakening it through Ukraine and anti-Russian sanctions. They flood it with arms, troops and military equipment in order to stop its efforts to break free from America’s grip.”
Fifty countries on Monday signed the articles of agreement for the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the first major global financial instrument independent from the Bretton Woods system.
Seven remaining countries out of the 57 that have applied to be founding members, Denmark, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Holland, South Africa and Thailand, are awaiting domestic approval.
“This will be a significant event. The constitution will lay a solid foundation for the establishment and operation of the AIIB,” said Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei.
The AIIB will have an authorized capital of $100 billion, divided into shares that have a value of $100,000.
BRICS members China, India and Russia are the three largest shareholders, with a voting share of 26.06 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 5.92 per cent, respectively.
Following the signing of the bank’s charter, the agreement on the $100 billion AIIB will now have to be ratified by the parliaments of the founding members.
Asian countries will contribute up to 75 per cent of the total capital and be allocated a share of the quota based on their economic size.
Chinese Vice Finance Minister Shi Yaobin said China’s initial stake and voting share are “natural results” of current rules, and may be diluted as more members join.
Australia was first to sign the agreement in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday, state media reports said.
The Bank will base its headquarters in Beijing.
The Chinese Finance Ministry said the new lender will start operations by the end of 2015 under two preconditions: At least 10 prospective members ratify the agreement, and the initial subscribed capital is no less than 50 per cent of the authorized capital.
The AIIB will extend China’s financial reach and compete not only with the World Bank, but also with the Asian Development Bank, which is heavily dominated by Japan.
China and other emerging economies, including BRICS, have long protested against their limited voice at other multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
China is grouped in the ‘Category II’ voting bloc at the World Bank while at the Asian Development Bank, China with a 5.5 per cent share is far outdone by America’s 15.7 per cent and Japan’s 15.6 per cent share.
The ADB has estimated that in the next decade Asian countries will need $8 trillion in infrastructure investments to maintain the current economic growth rate.
China scholar Asit Biswas at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, says Washington’s criticism of the China-led Bank is “childish”.
“Some critics argue that the AIIB will reduce the environmental, social and procurement standards in a race to the bottom. This is a childish criticism, especially because China has invited other governments to help with funding and governance,” he writes.
The US and Japan have not applied for the membership in the AIIB.
However, despite US pressures on its allies not to join the bank, Britain, France, Germany, Italy among others have signed on as founding members of the China-led Bank.
Meanwhile, New Zealand and Australia have already announced that they will invest $87.27 million and $718 million respectively as paid-in capital to the AIIB.
The new lender will finance infrastructure projects like the construction of roads, railways, and airports in the Asia-Pacific Region.
Iran, 49 states sign Asia bank charter
Iran on Monday joined 49 countries in signing up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), bringing Asia’s largest financial lender a step closer to existence.
Finance and Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia put Iran’s signature to the bank’s articles of association at a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, which capped six months of intense negotiations.
In April, China accepted Iran as a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank being seen as a rival to the US-led World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank.
With the signing which amounted to the creation of AIIB’s legal framework, China’s Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said he was confident the bank could start functioning before the end of the year.
Seven more founding members would ink the articles after approval by their respective governments.
The bank will have a capital of $100 billion in the form of shares, each worth $100,000, distributed among the members. Beijing will be by far the largest shareholder at about 30%, followed by India at 8.4% and Russia at 6.5%.
China will also have 26% of the votes which are not enough to give it a veto on decision-making, while smaller members will have larger voice.
Singapore’s Senior Minister for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo said the bank will provide new opportunities for its members’ businesses and promote sustainable growth in Asia.
Seventy-five percent of AIIB’s shares are distributed within the Asian region while the rest is assigned among countries beyond it.
Germany, France and Brazil are among the non-Asian members of the bank despite US efforts to dissuade allies from joining it. Another US ally joining AIIB is Australia but Japan has stayed away from it.
Countries beyond the region can expand their share but the portion cannot be bigger than 30%. Public procurement of the AIIB will be open to all countries around the world.
But the president of the bank will have to be chosen from the Asian region for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.
The bank will be headquartered in Beijing and its lean structure will be overseen by an unpaid, non-resident board of directors which, architects say, would save it money and friction in decision-making.
Earlier this month, former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke rebuked US lawmakers for allowing China to found the new bank, which threatens to upend Washington’s domination over the world economic order.
He said lawmakers were to blame because they refused to agree 2010 reforms that would have given greater clout to China and other emerging powers in the International Monetary Fund.