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Journal Archives

Noam Chomsky calls on Iran to release imprisoned journalist Marzieh Rasouli

American philosopher speaks out against sentence of 50 lashes given to Iranian journalist

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

theguardian.com, Friday 11 July 2014

The US philosopher Noam Chomsky has called on Iran to release the female journalist Marzieh Rasouli who was jailed last week to endure a sentence of 50 lashes and two years in prison.

Chomsky told the Guardian that the detention of Rasouli and at least three other female journalists in the past two months was "entirely unacceptable", urging Hassan Rouhani's administration to swiftly act for their release. Saba Azarpeik and Reyhaneh Tabatabaei are among other journalists arrested recently.

"I was surprised and distressed to learn of the detention and harsh treatment of Marzieh Rasouli and other women journalists in Iran," Chomsky told the Guardian. "Surely such actions are entirely unacceptable, and I hope and trust that they will quickly be released and compensated for their unjust punishment."

At the time Rouhani is improving relations with the west, Iran's judiciary, which is independent of his government, together with the country's intelligence and security apparatus have launched a new wave of arrests of journalists. Activists said another female reporter, Sajedeh Arabsorkhi, was also summoned to serve her one-year jail term.


B'Tselem info sheet: 52 Palestinians killed in bombings of homes in Gaza Strip, which are unlawful

A house bombed in Gaza. Photo: Muhammad Salem, reuters, 13 July 2014

According to B'Tselem's initial findings, from the start of Operation Protective Shield there were ten incidents in which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed when the Israeli military bombed homes. 52 people were killed in these incidents, of them 19 minors and 12 women. An additional incident, in which six members of the same family were killed was defined by the military as a targeted killing, and was therefore not included in this figure.

Official spokespeople state that it is enough for a person to be involved in military activity to render his home (and his neighbors' homes) legitimate military targets, without having to prove any connection between his activity and the house in which he and his family live. This interpretation is unfounded and illegal. It is not a coincidence that the number of uninvolved civilians killed or injured by these bombings is growing. The law is meant to protect civilians and, unsurprisingly, violating it has lethal consequences. Euphemisms such as "surgical strikes" or "operational infrastructure" cannot hide the facts: illegal attacks of homes, which constitute punitive home demolition from the air, come at a dreadful cost in human life.

Detailed discussion:

Is it legal for the military to bomb the homes of Hamas operatives?

From 8 July 2014, when the military launched Operation Protective Shield, to early Sunday 13 July, the military bombed dozens of houses in the Gaza Strip, according to media reports and statements by the IDF Spokesperson. According to the latter, these bombings are legal because the private homes of Hamas activists are "a legitimate military objective". Is that true?

What does the law say?

International humanitarian law defines a military target as follows:

" military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage." (Article 52 (2), Protocol I Additional to the Fourth Geneva Convention)

in full: http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20140713_palestinians_killed_in_illegal_attacks_on_houses

U.S. Demand for Deep Centrifuge Cut Is a Diplomatic Ploy Analysis by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, Jul 1 2014 (IPS) - With only a few weeks remaining before the Jul. 20 deadline, the Barack Obama administration issued a warning to Iran that it must accept deep cuts in the number of its centrifuges in order to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.

U.S. officials have argued that such cuts are necessary to increase the “breakout” time – the time it would take Iran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade level to build a single bomb – from what is said to be two to three months at present to as long as a year or even more.
Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.

Tehran has made it clear that it will not accept such a demand. Dismantling the vast majority of the centrifuges that Iran had installed is a highly symbolic issue, and the political cost of acceptance would be extremely high.

But a closer examination of the issues under negotiation suggests that the ostensible pressure on Iran is part of a strategy aimed at extracting concessions from Iran on the issue of its longer-term enrichment capability.


Khamenei Remarks Show Both Sides Maneuvre on Enrichment

WASHINGTON, Jul 12 2014 (IPS) - Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s comments on the nuclear talks Monday provided an unusual glimpse of diplomatic maneuvering by the U.S.-led coalition of five nuclear powers and Germany on the issue of enrichment capability to be allowed in a comprehensive agreement.

But his remarks also suggested that Iran was responding with its own diplomatic maneuvre on the issue. Both sides appear to have put forward demands that they knew were non-starters with the intention of moderating their demands substantially in return for major concessions from the other side.

Khamenei described the United States and the P5+1 as demanding initially that Iran’s annual enrichment capability be cut to the equivalent of as few as 500 to 1,000 centrifuges – as little as 2.6 percent percent of its present level of 19,000 centrifuges.

But he also suggested they were now aiming at getting Iran to accept a capability equivalent to the annual production of 10,000 centrifuges on the condition that it would be the final level for the duration of the agreement.


How Washington protects itself

By Noam Chomsky

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs. In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons. First, the US is unmatched in its global significance and impact. Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it. Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the US - and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices. The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a "received standard version", common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse. It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the US and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine. One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989? Answer: everything continued much as before.

The US immediately invaded Panama, killing probably thousands of people and installing a client regime. This was routine practice in US-dominated domains - but in this case not quite as routine. For first time, a major foreign policy act was not justified by an alleged Russian threat.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-04-030714.html

Egypt's Copts may soon regret supporting Sisi

Most Coptic Christians will tell you that anything is better than the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the unequivocal support for current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi among Copts was no surprise. But now with the devastating curb of freedom of expression and the widespread crackdown on journalists and activists, the Coptic Orthodox Church’s support for the government’s post-June 30 Revolution policies may prove to be a grave miscalculation.

As the church is finding out, Copts, too, are not safe from the new government’s oppressive measures. Two weeks ago, a 23-year-old Coptic teacher was sentenced to prison for six months for insulting Islam. On June 23, a Christian convert reporter was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly reporting false information about discrimination against Copts. The following day, a 29-year-old Copt from Upper Egypt was given a five-year prison sentence for liking a Facebook page put up by a group of Christian converts — so much for the secular utopia we conjured in our imagination.

The Coptic push for a secular Egypt stemmed largely from the fear of Islamists. The failed Mohammed Morsi administration may have not taken direct action toward minority groups, but for many Copts their policies and statements suggested that it was only a matter of time before wide-scale, concrete laws were put into place. The empowerment of radical religious leaders and fundamentalist groups after Morsi’s election in June 2012 provoked fear among Egypt’s 10 million Copts, who felt more threatened than at any time in recent history.

The debilitating fears were well-justified: Marginalization of Copts from political life was expected to increase, sectarian clashes were already on the rise and hate speech grew rife at the time. Most of all, the unprecedented infiltration of religion into every aspect of political and public life caused the alienation of Copts on a scale unseen since the banishment of Pope Shenouda III by Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Then the June 30 Revolution happened and suddenly Copts were emancipated from the foreboding Islamist rule. For nearly all Copts I know, June 30 had a bigger significance than the Muslim Brotherhood detractors and liberals alike. It was a renewal of hope, a promise of a secular Egypt where political Islam will never have a say again. The then-Field Marshall Sisi was no mere military leader; he was the great savior.

A month and a half later, all hope was dashed to pieces. On Aug. 14, 2013, and for the next couple of days, approximately 1,000 people were killed in police raids on Brotherhood protesters.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/egypt-coptic-christians-sisi-secular-islamist.html#ixzz36jIBbld1

Analysis Article - Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) - Financial Services Annex


Memorandum on Leaked TISA Financial Services Text
by Professor Jane Kelsey, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand

This memorandum provides a preliminary analysis of the leaked financial services chapter of the Trade in Services Agreement dated 14 April 2014. It makes the following points:

The secrecy of negotiating documents exceeds even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness.
The TISA is being promoted by the same governments that installed the failed model of financial (de)regulation in the WTO and which has been blamed for helping to fuel the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
The same states shut down moves by other WTO Members to critically debate these rules following the GFC with a view to reform.
They want to expand and deepen the existing regime through TISA, bypassing the stalled Doha round at the WTO and creating a new template for future free trade agreements and ultimately for the WTO.
TISA is designed for and in close consultation with the global finance industry, whose greed and recklessness has been blamed for successive crises and who continue to capture rulemaking in global institutions.
A sample of provisions from this leaked text show that governments signing on to TISA will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalisation; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorise potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis.

Without the full TISA text, any analysis is necessarily tentative. The draft TISA text and the background documents need to be released to enable informed analysis and decision-making.

Unprecedented Secrecy Reverses WTO Trend of Disclosure

The cover sheet records that the draft text will not be declassified until 5 years after the TISA comes into force or the negotiations are otherwise closed. Presumably this also applies to other documents aside from the final text. This exceeds the 4 years in the super-secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)! It also contradicts the hard-won transparency at the WTO, which has published documents relating to negotiations online for a number of years.1

in full: https://wikileaks.org/tisa-financial/analysis.html

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

By Scott Horton

In the June issue, Harper’s Magazine has published the eyewitness account of a military policeman describing the events of the night of June 9, 2006, at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, when three prisoners died under mysterious circumstances that the U.S. government has sought to pass off as a series of synchronized suicides. The account is one of a group of previously unnoted documents, uncovered by researchers at Seton Hall Law School, that collectively demonstrate that the government’s own investigation did not support its claims about the deaths. They are the subject of a new report, Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta. I put six questions to Professor Mark Denbeaux about the report:

1. Among other things, Seton Hall’s new report focuses on a bombshell document that Harper’s has reproduced in the current issue. How was this document discovered?

Finding needles in haystacks is what my Seton Hall students do best. Working with senior fellows at the Center for Policy and Research, they discovered this document in the summer of 2010. In a sense, it is not “new,” because it has been lying in a mountain of documents released by FOIA. But there are many more documents released through FOIA than anyone can review. Except for us. We read them.

Our 2009 report, Death in Camp Delta, proved that the conclusions of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were wrong. We knew the claim that the men were found dead hanging in their cells was untrue. The question was whether the NCIS had been incompetent or had covered up the cause and manner of the deaths. We began to investigate how it could have been so wrong, while giving the government the benefit of all doubt.


Iran and America in Iraq: a Great Rapprochement, or Hot Air?

RUSI Analysis, 17 Jun 2014 By Shashank Joshi, Research Fellow

The crisis in Iraq appear to have united the US and Iran against the jihadists of ISIS. But claims of a historic rapprochement, let alone collaboration, are wildly overblown.

The crisis in Iraq has given rise to widespread anticipation that the US and Iran, both fearful of further gains by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), will work together. The Guardian reported that bilateral talks in Vienna constituted ‘the first time the two nations have collaborated over a common security interest in more than a decade’, the Independent breathlessly spoke of a ‘historic rapprochement’, and the Times’ headline read ‘US turns to Iran’.

These claims are wildly overblown. They reflect the unrealistic aspirations of those who would wish to see a new order in the Middle East – a resurrection of the purportedly missed ‘grand bargain’ between the US and Iran in 2003 – and the fears of those who oppose such realignment. In truth, US-Iran interaction in the coming weeks and months is likely to be more prosaic.

Ironically, the US last meaningfully cooperated with the Islamic Republic in 2010, when both sides worked towards the installation of Nuri al-Maliki as Iraqi Prime Minister, the man whose policies lie at the heart of Iraq’s disintegration. The two sides collaborated more substantively before that in 2001, when Iranian officials shared intelligence on the Taliban and took the remarkable step of offering to work under US command in rebuilding the Afghan army.

This level of cooperation will not be repeated. US officials have already ruled out ‘military coordination or strategic determinations about Iraq’s future over the heads of the Iraqi people’. Although Iran’s political and security leadership appears to be slightly more divided on the issue, Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), has argued that ‘such suggestions are untrue and amount to psychological warfare’ and that assistance to Iraq ‘will be bilateral and will not involve a third country’. Those expecting intelligence sharing, or even nothing more than regular contact between Iran’s reportedly 200-strong contingent of Revolutionary Guard in Baghdad and the US’ existing Office of Security Cooperation or its newly-arrived Marines will be disappointed.

US and Iranian views of Iraq:
in full: https://www.rusi.org/analysis/commentary/ref:C53A0274764986/#.U6CNlLFA2zL

The Kerry Initiative: The Next Round

Norman Finkelstein

snip* You predicted that the negotiations process led by Secretary of State Kerry would culminate in an agreement ending the conflict. In fact, talks have broken down. What happened?

The Kerry initiative was launched out of the blue in July 2013, and in retrospect made perfect sense. Previous rounds of negotiations had come to naught largely because the Palestinians had refused to sign on to an agreement granting Israel’s bottom line demands: the annexation of its major settlement blocs on some 10 percent of the West Bank and the nullification of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. But Kerry and President Barack Obama spied an opportunity. The Palestinian leadership was now completely in thrall to the U.S. and lacked even the residue of nationalist principle that had been possessed by Yasser Arafat, while for various reasons the Palestinians were politically the weakest they’d ever been since the occupation began in 1967. The Kerry initiative was an attempt by Kerry and Obama to exploit Palestinians’ unprecedented weakness to foist on them Israel’s bottom line demands and in that way to end the conflict. I thought that Kerry is a shrewd political actor who has been in politics for a long time and who has some pretty good advisors, and so the prospects were, I estimated, better than 50-50 that he would succeed.

But I entered in a qualification that is worth remembering, not just to protect myself but also in order to anticipate where things are heading. I did think it was going to take time for international pressures to knock Israel into the realisation that it has to resolve the conflict. Even when compelling motives for a settlement exist, agreements do not necessarily ensue. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin drove the U.S. delegation to distraction during negotiations leading to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, while Arafat did the same during the various stages of the Oslo negotiations. The treaties look inevitable only in hindsight; politics is a delicate business, and in any such complex undertaking, with so many moving parts, negotiations can easily fly apart. I said that one of the smart things Kerry did was to begin early, giving himself two full years to line up all the ducks. In the event Kerry apparently thought he could pull it off much more quickly than I had thought possible.

My error was this: I thought that if Kerry presented Israel with an agreement that incorporated Israel’s own bottom line demands, then Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not put up quite as much resistance as he did. I figured he would kick and scream—the usual Israeli theatrics—but that he would come around fairly quickly. As it happened, Netanyahu simply felt no sense of urgency. Israel reached an accord with Egypt because it had suffered a major military setback in the 1973 war, and feared the outcome of a second round. It signed on to the Oslo accord with Palestinians because it had suffered a major public relations debacle during the first intifada, and worried about the army’s fighting ability if it got bogged down in policing the occupied territories. No comparable motive for ending the conflict existed this time around. Netanyahu, it’s clear, reached the conclusion that since the status quo is so comfortable, why sign an agreement? What’s the rush? Netanyahu is constitutionally a centre-right to far-right type of politician. That's his natural milieu. And so while he theoretically could have formed a centre-left government to push through a settlement, he wasn’t prepared to risk his preferred and existing coalition for a battle that could easily be deferred to his successors. He figured, ‘we’ve got what we wanted. The U.S. has endorsed our bottom line demands, from which there is now no going back: Abbas has conceded them, the U.S. has them more or less in writing, and there’s no way the U.S. will accept anything less from the Palestinians going forward. So, now that we have that in our back pocket to pull out whenever we so desire, why not continue for now with the status quo? Why do I have to be the one to implement the withdrawal?’ Calculating that he had nothing to lose—Palestinian concessions could not be rescinded—and something to gain—preserving his coalition from extreme rightwing defections—Netanyahu refused to budge.

in full: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_kerry_initiative_the_next_round
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