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Journal Archives

War on Isis: Flood of jihadi volunteers to Syria is 'unstoppable', warns Turkish Prime Minister

Patrick Cockburn

January 21, 2015

The tide of foreign volunteers crossing from Turkey into Syria to fight for Isis cannot be stopped, the Turkish Prime Minister has warned, with authorities unable to close the porous 510-mile border between the two countries.

Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government has been accused of not doing enough to stop jihadi fighters from Britain and other countries crossing into Syria, told The Independent that Turkey could not put “soldiers everywhere on the border”. He added: “In any case, there isn’t any state on the other side .”

Turkey plays a crucial role in the Syrian crisis because of its long border with the country, part of which is now controlled by Isis. Mr Davutoglu described how Turkey’s close relations with Bashar al-Assad – “I visited there 62 times in 10 years” – soured in 2011 when “Assad started to kill his own people”.

Mr Davutoglu said Isis was the creation of the war in Iraq and the US occupation after 2003. And Turkey – which is home to 1.5 million refugees who fled President Assad, and a further 500,000 who fled from Isis in Syria and Iraq – had nothing to do with the rise of Isis.


Military steps up use of live 0.22 inch bullets against Palestinian stone-throwers

January 18, 2015

West Bank military commander recently confirmed shift to use of live fire instead of crowd control weapons

Recent months have seen a dramatic rise in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch caliber bullets (Ruger rifle bullets, also known by the nickname Two-Two) in clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank. The firing of this ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of protests and clashes. Most of those injured have been young Palestinians, including minors. Yet, in the last two months, one Palestinian woman, at least three photographers, and a foreign national who was taking part in a demonstration were also hit by these bullets. B’Tselem does not have the full data on the number of people wounded this type of ammunition.

Two-Twos are live ammunition whose impact is less severe than that of “ordinary” bullets (5.56 mm caliber), yet even so they can be lethal and inflict serious injuries. Two-Twos are fired with a 10/22 Ruger rifle, which is often equipped with an integral suppressor, or from a specially converted M4 rifle (“a shortened M16”). Use of this weapon has elicited controversy even within the Israeli military: in 2001, the head of the security department in the Operations Directorate wrote that the Ruger cannot be considered a non-lethal weapon and may be used only in circumstances that justify live fire. In view of the large number of people hit and even killed by 0.22 bullets early in the second intifada, use of this ammunition was suspended from 2001 to 2008. In the time since use of this ammunition was renewed, B’Tselem has documented the deaths of at least two people from these bullets; however, the real number may be higher, as it is difficult to establish whether a person was killed by these bullets or “ordinary” live ammunition, which is very similar in caliber.

In recent weeks, B’Tselem has documented the use of 0.22 bullets in clashes in various locations in the northern West Bank. In these instances shots were fired contrary to the strict open-fire regulations that, as a rule, prohibit live fire against stone-throwers. The only exception to this rule cited in the regulations is immediate, mortal danger. Moreover, in several cases, the soldiers intentionally engaged with stone-throwers in order to fire 0.22 bullets at them. In one instance, which was documented, the soldiers initiated action to provoke Palestinian youths into throwing stones, so that they could respond with 0.22 fire. In one documented case, soldiers took action designed to provoke youths to throw stones, ultimately enabling the soldiers to respond with gunfire, wounding the youths. In another case, a sniper armed with a Ruger rifle waited for a procession of demonstrators even before any stone was thrown.

The most striking of these incidents occurred in the village of a-Nabi Saleh on 5 December 2014. At the end of the weekly demonstration, a handful of village youths threw stones at soldiers. The military had stationed a sniper armed with a Ruger rifle together with a captain in an open area some distance from the village homes. The youths withdrew to a distance some 140 meters away, beyond the effective range of 0.22 bullets, thereby essentially ending the confrontation. Yet, about half an hour later, the captain and sniper walked some 200 meters into the built-up part of the village, for no apparent reason other than provoking the youths into renewing the stone-throwing, as indeed then transpired. The sniper responded by shooting at a Palestinian youth, who was hit in the thigh. The youth, whose injury was termed light, was taken to hospital in Ramallah. At no point were the troops in mortal danger and in any case, the confrontation was intentionally renewed by the soldiers’ who entered the village, apparently on orders from above.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20150118_use_of_live_ammunition_in_wb

If all right-thinking people are united against terrorism, where are the 'Je suis Nigeria' banners?

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 18 January 2015

President Obama is being criticised for not joining the 40 other world leaders at the mass march in Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. But, by playing down rather than playing up the terrorist killings, Obama may have shown a surer instinct about how to deal with such attacks, however horrific, than those leaders who did turn up.

It is understandable that governments and people want to show solidarity against terrorism. But in many respects, the gargantuan size and overblown rhetoric of those responding to the murders of 17 people by three terrorists, treating the episode as if it was Pearl Harbour or 9/11, plays straight into the hands of al-Qaeda and its clones.

The three terrorists, Chérif and Said Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, were rather pathetic figures before 7 January, but have now achieved demonic status. Their actions on that day have sent millions of people into the streets, brought the leaders of much of the world to Paris, and led to the mobilisation of tens of thousands of soldiers and police. The three men would have been proud to have provoked such a response by committing what, by Middle East and North African standards, was a fairly run-of-the-mill terrorist attack.

This overreaction and the wall-to-wall media coverage may prove counterproductive. The reasons for this are eloquently identified by the Israeli commentator Uri Avnery, who writes: “For other potential Islamic terrorists throughout Europe and America, this must look like a huge achievement. It is an invitation for individuals and tiny groups to do the same again, everywhere.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/if-all-rightthinking-people-are-united-against-terrorism-where-are-the-je-suis-nigeria-banners-9985589.html

Four Ways the West Got the Iran Nuclear Issue Wrong

Tuesday, 13 January 2015 10:23 By Gareth Porter, Middle East Eye | Op-Ed

For more than three decades, the United States and its European allies have committed one fundamental error after another in the process of creating a commonly held narrative that Iran was secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. The story of how suspicions of the Iranian programme hardened into convictions is a cautionary tale of political and institutional interests systematically distorting the judgments of both policymakers and intelligence analysts.

Too many of these basic errors have been committed along the way to cover them all in a single article. But four major failures of policymaking and intelligence represent the broad outlines of this systematic problem.

1. Denial of Iranian rights, followed by denial of the truth

The first failure, which set in train all the others, involved the US trying to strangle the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic in its cradle and then blithely acting as though it bore no responsibility for the resulting shift in Iranian nuclear policy. It all started with a decision by the Reagan administration early in the Iran-Iraq war in 1983 to put diplomatic pressure on its allies to stop all nuclear cooperation with Iran. France was pressed to forbid a French-based multilateral consortium from providing the nuclear fuel that Iran had counted on for its lone nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

The US State Department acknowledged at the time that it had no evidence that Iran was working on or even wanted nuclear weapons. That US effort to choke off any nuclear assistance to Iran thus represented an extremely serious violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which guaranteed Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology.

in full: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28506-four-ways-the-west-got-the-iran-nuclear-issue-wrong

Paris attacks: Don't blame these atrocities on security failures

World View: The causes of last week's carnage are political, a blowback from wars in the Middle East

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 11 January 2015

Did the massacre at Charlie Hebdo succeed, in terms of furthering the interests of extreme jihadi al-Qaeda-type Islamic movements? The incident itself is over with the deaths of the murderers, but the degree of their success will only become clear when we see how far French political leaders are lured into an over-reaction.

It was worrying to see Le Monde's banner headline: "Le 11 Septembre Français." First, it simply is not true: there were 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks and 17 victims in last week's shootings in Paris. The shock was far greater in the United States than in France because of the visual impact of aircraft crashing into the twin towers, and their spectacular collapse. It is important to keep a sense of proportion about such atrocities, because the perpetrators, whether linked to Islamic State (Isis), al-Qaeda or freelance jihadis, select targets that will guarantee maximum publicity. "The media is half jihad" is a slogan sometime seen on jihadi websites.

Misleading analogies between 7/1 in France and 9/11 in the US should create a sense of foreboding. The most important victory of Osama bin Laden did not come on the day the 19 mainly Saudi hijackers took command of the planes, but in the months and years which followed as President Bush led the US into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which American troops fought Muslims. As the US resorted to rendition, the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, expanded security agencies and limited civil rights for its own people it delegitimised itself and acted as recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda and its clones. If bin Laden had been hiding in the attic of the White House giving instructions to those in the rest of the building he could not have devised a cocktail of measures more likely to aid his cause.

Somehow the degree of failure of the "war on terror" launched by Bush and supported by Britain has never led to those who launched it being held culpable. Fail it demonstrably did, since in 2001 al-Qaeda had a few hundred activists confined to a few camps and towns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fourteen years later, after vast expenditure on anti-terrorism by the US and its allies, al-Qaeda-type movements control large areas of Iraq and Syria and dominate the Sunni Arab armed opposition in both countries. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, is a growing power as the shock troops of the Sunni community. On the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, some 36 police cadets were killed in the Yemeni capital Sanaa by an al-Qaeda suicide bomber.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/paris-attacks-dont-blame-these-atrocities-on-security-failures-9970228.html

The Gaza Strip, December 2015: Life amidst the ruins

The following photographs were taken by Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the northern Gaza Strip. This is his account of the story behind the images: “The fighting during Operation Protective Edge made it practically impossible to get around Gaza to document events as they unfolded. It would have meant risking life and limb. For the past three months, B’Tselem’s three field researchers in Gaza – Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, Muhammad Sa’id and I – have been carefully going through the Gaza Strip, following up on reports one neighborhood at a time, one house at a time. We take pictures of formerly vibrant, densely populated neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble. We meet people living amidst the ruins. They have nothing. They tell of their efforts to take shelter from the elements, to ward off the cold and the rain. They tell of their despair and helplessness. The extent of devastation defies the imagination. It is nightmarish. The only ray of hope is the sight of children playing, playing in the rubble.”


EU Deflation Arrives and the Troika Continues to Fiddle While the EU Burns

Posted on January 8, 2015

By William K. Black

The troika (the EU Commission, the ECB, and the IMF) are flirting with throwing the entire eurozone back into a third Great Recession and much of the periphery into the continuation of the Troika Depression. For nations like Greece, the current Great Depression is now more severe and longer lasting than the Great Depression of the 1930s. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal’s journalistic malpractice in covering the troika’s gratuitous infliction of misery upon the people of Europe has been the perfect side dish to complement the troika’s toxic economic malpractice.

Both papers are aflutter today with news that the Eurozone fell into deflation. We have been trying for months to explain that there is nothing magic about the harm caused by deflation (as opposed to very low levels of inflation). We have also been trying to explain for years that the steadily declining rate of (already inadequate) eurozone inflation is most important as a symptom rather than a cause of the harm resulting from the troika’s infliction of austerity.

The key fact to understand, which the troika, the WSJ, and the NYT have obscured for six years, is that if inflation were to rise from one percent to four percent in the course of a recovery from a recession that would be excellent economic news because it would spur growth. If inflation were to fall from one percent to one-half percent that would be terrible economic news. Well before the inflation rate becomes negative (deflation), material falls in the (already too low) inflation rate indicate that demand is seriously inadequate and that the economic recovery can be improved by fiscal stimulus. The fall in inflation is one of the symptoms that the demand is inadequate. The fall in inflation is also a problem – long before deflation – because it can further weaken the already inadequate demand for goods and services.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/01/eu-deflation-arrives-troika-continues-fiddle-eu-burns.html

Charlie Hebdo attack:Taking the heat out of the conflict with Assad may help to turn the jihadi tide

It was naïve to imagine that sparks from the war would not spread violence to Western Europe

Patrick Cockburn

Wednesday 07 January 2015

There is a feeling of inevitability about the attack in Paris.

The likelihood must be that the killers were Islamic fanatics, the murder of the journalists and police underlining the degree to which the ferocious religious war being waged in Iraq and Syria now affects all of the world. Regardless of whether or not those who attacked the Charlie Hebdo office have any direct connection with this conflict, it has provided an ideal seedbed for Islamic extremism.

It was culpably naïve to imagine that sparks from the Iraq-Syrian civil war, now in its fourth year, would not spread explosive violence to Western Europe. With thousands of young Sunni Muslims making the difficult journey to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis, it has always been probable that some of them would choose to give a demonstration of their religious faith by attacking targets they deem anti-Islamic closer to home.

One way of measuring the spread of al-Qaeda-type groups is to look at suicide bombings over the last week. Several of them have inflicted heavier casualties than at Charlie Hebdo. For instance, in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, today, a suicide bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives killed 33 police cadets. On Tuesday, another suicide bomber killed 23 Iraqi soldiers and pro-government Sunni tribesmen in a town in Anbar province north-west of Baghdad.

The day before, gunfire and a suicide bombing killed the general heading the Saudi border control force and two others on the Saudi-Iraq frontier. A week earlier, on 30 December, a suicide bomb blew up outside the internationally recognised anti-jihadi Libyan government building in Tobruk.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/charlie-hebdo-attack-a-ceasefire-with-syrias-president-assad-may-help-to-turn-the-jihadi-tide-9963863.html

Time for serious Palestinian leadership

January 3, 2015

The move by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join the International Criminal Court and give it jurisdiction to investigate allegations of Israeli and other war crimes in Palestine should be seen as a positive development that brings international law to play in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Yet I find it difficult to be enthusiastic or optimistic about this move, due to the personalized, uninstitutionalized and erratic manner in which Abbas and the current Palestinian leadership go about the business of managing statehood.

We have just witnessed the sad spectacle of Abbas deciding to take the issue of Palestinian statehood to the U.N. Security Council, and in the end discovering that he was unable to secure the nine votes needed to pass the resolution (which would have been vetoed by the U.S. in any case). The failure at the Security Council is symptomatic of the wider problem that has bedeviled the rump Palestinian leadership that remains in place under Abbas, while many Palestinians have abandoned his drifting ship and joined Hamas and other political groups.

That problem is simply that Abbas and his few advisers have consistently failed to undertake the hard work needed to succeed in political and diplomatic action, and to mobilize those assets Palestinians enjoy in the region and the world.

The hard work I am talking about is nothing magical or exotic. It is simply the hard work of spending days and weeks undertaking the basic tasks of mobilizing, consulting, negotiating, threatening, enticing and other such activities that are necessary for the success of any political campaign. This can apply to running for a judgeship in a small town in Arkansas or the presidency of France, or seeking passage of a resolution at the United Nations or any other international forum.

in full: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2015/Jan-03/282897-time-for-serious-palestinian-leadership.ashx?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=Newsletter

Individual Contribution Limit in U.S. Elections Raised to $4.9 Million

TRNN reporter Thomas Hedges takes a look at two new provisions in the 2015 spending bill that drastically increase individual limits and prohibit President Obama from using executive action to shed light on dark money in campaigns.

January 5,

Transcript: THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN PRODUCER: On December 16, President Obama signed the omnibus spending bill for 2015 into law, representatives immediately decried key provisions within the bill, including one provision that serves as an insurance policy for Wall Street derivatives trading.

ELIZABETH WARREN, U.S. SENATOR (D-MA): The original bill that is being incorporated into the House's spending legislation today was literally written by Citigroup lobbyists, who, quote, redrafted the legislation.

HEDGES: But one measure that didn't get as much attention was a change to individual campaign financing rules.

JAY RIESTENBERG, RESEARCH ANALYST, COMMON CAUSE: It's supposed to be in confusing, and it's inherently confusing, so people don't understand it. And that's why it was tucked away in the fourth of the last page of the sixteen hundred bill, and it was done in the middle of the night in what some people are calling a cigar-filled bathroom. And it took a while for anyone to own up to who actually wrote it, and we still actually don't know.

HEDGES: Jay Riestenberg is a research analyst at Common Cause, which is a nonpartisan government watchdog organization. It used to be that individual contributions to party organizations in any given election cycle were limited to $259,000. Now that amount is 500 percent more, standing at $1.5 million.

in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12922

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