In self defense

How can a bunch of Europeans and Newyorkeres claim self defense while attacking Palestinians in Palestine? Actually they do not. The Israeli government states more or less bluntly, depending on the audience, that it is its sacred duty and right … Continue reading

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How can a bunch of Europeans and Newyorkeres claim self defense while attacking Palestinians in Palestine? Actually they do not. The Israeli government states more or less bluntly, depending on the audience, that it is its sacred duty and right to ethnic clean Palestine of Palestinians. It is apologetic outsiders that cry self defense.

The Times of Israel published and then removed from its site an essay by Yochanan Gordon that openly called for genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. A cached version is still on the internet as of this writing.

Gordon’s logic, if one wants to dignify it with that term, is that Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel, and therefore the only way to deal with them is to obliterate them entirely. He used the words “obliterate entirely.”

Nor is he alone. Israel nationalists have been arguing for war crimes at an alarming rate.

Hamas is a party-militia of the religious right. It does say it wants to see the Israeli government overthrown. Its leaders don’t, however, speak of committing genocide against Israelis. They say they want to recover their country, which was stolen from them by the Israelis in 1948. Colonial regimes always produce resistance movements.

The fact is that Hamas was supported by Israeli intelligence in the 1980s as a foil to the PLO, so Shin Bet and Mossad don’t seem to have been worried by the party charter.

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Gaza dream of a normal life

Routine counter insurgents patrol door to door

A spokesperson for the IDF defended the presence of troops in the home.
«The premises and its surrounding grounds house are frequently used by Palestinians to hurl rocks at a main road, route 60, that is located just a few meters away,» she told VICE News. «In May alone there were over nine instances of rock hurling that took place in the immediate vicinity. In light of the danger to commuters the forces acted in order to safeguard all drivers on the road and prevent such acts of violence from being carried out.»
It is not uncommon for Israeli soldiers to take over homes and other buildings in occupied Palestine.
«There’s a pattern whereby Israeli forces use civilian structures or privately-owned land for training or operational purposes, often leaving the area in shambles and riddled with unused weaponry,» Ivan Karakashian, an advocacy coordinator at Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine), told VICE News.

 


Gaza Under Assault

BY Noam Chomsky

An old man in Gaza held a placard that read: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”


The old man’s message provides the proper context for the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from their homes in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck Palestinians over the border for years after the official cease-fire.
The punishment took new forms when Israel conquered Gaza in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship (primarily Avi Raz’s The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War), we learn that the government’s goal was to drive the refugees into the Sinai Peninsula—and, if feasible, the rest of the population too.
Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council orders.
The reasons were made clear in internal discussions immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later prime minister, informed her Labor Party colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and others agreed.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol explained that those expelled could not be allowed to return because “we cannot increase the Arab population in Israel”—referring to the newly occupied territories, already considered part of Israel.
In accord with this conception, all of Israel’s maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders) —though publication of the maps was delayed to permit Abba Eban, an Israeli ambassador to the UN, to attain what he called a “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly by concealing Israel’s intentions.
The goals of expulsion may remain alive today, and might be a factor in contributing to Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the U.S.-backed Israeli siege.
The current upsurge of U.S.-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world.
Israel and the U.S. reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government—the routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.
Ignoring immediate offers from Hamas for a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, most of whom were civilians (a third were minors). According to UN reports, 2,879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza.
A short-lived truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December.
So matters have continued, while the United States and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement for a two-state solution in accord with the international consensus that the U.S. has blocked since 1976 when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.
This week, Washington devoted every effort to blocking a Palestinian initiative to upgrade its status at the UN but failed, in virtual international isolation as usual. The reasons were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court about Israel’s U.S.-backed crimes.
One element of the unremitting torture of Gaza is Israel’s “buffer zone” within Gaza, from which Palestinians are barred entry to almost half of Gaza’s limited arable land.
From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on November 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.
The full story is naturally more complex, and uglier.
The first act of Operation Pillar of Defense was to murder Ahmed Jabari. Aluf Benn, editor of the newspaper Haaretz, describes him as Israel’s “subcontractor” and “border guard” in Gaza, who enforced relative quiet there for more than five years.
The pretext for the assassination was that during these five years Jabari had been creating a Hamas military force, with missiles from Iran. A more credible reason was provided by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in direct negotiations with Jabari for years, including plans for the eventual release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Baskin reports that hours before he was assassinated, Jabari “received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.”
A truce was then in place, called by Hamas on November 12. Israel apparently exploited the truce, Reuters reports, directing attention to the Syrian border in the hope that Hamas leaders would relax their guard and be easier to assassinate.
Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air. On the eve of the latest attack, the WHO reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock.
In November, one of the first in a series of hideous photos sent from Gaza showed a doctor holding the charred corpse of a murdered child. That one had a personal resonance. The doctor is the director and head of surgery at Khan Yunis hospital, which I had visited a few weeks earlier.
In writing about the trip, I reported his passionate appeal for desperately needed medicine and surgical equipment. These are among the crimes of the U.S.-Israeli siege, and of Egyptian complicity.
The casualty rates from the November episode were about average: more than 160 Palestinian dead, including many children, and six Israelis.
Among the dead were three journalists. The official Israeli justification was that “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.” Reporting the “execution” in the New York Times, the reporter David Carr observed that “it has come to this: Killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as `relevance to terror activity.’ “
The massive destruction was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced U.S. military equipment and relied on U.S. diplomatic support, including the usual U.S. intervention efforts to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire.
With each such exploit, Israel’s global image erodes. The photos and videos of terror and devastation, and the character of the conflict, leave few remaining shreds of credibility to the self-declared “most moral army in the world,” at least among people whose eyes are open.
The pretexts for the assault were also the usual ones. We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington. But even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles. It’s a fair question, and there are straightforward answers.
One response would be to observe international law, which allows the use of force without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts, in accord with the U.N. Charter, Article 51.
Israel is well familiar with that Charter provision, which it invoked at the outbreak of the June 1967 war. But, of course, Israel’s appeal went nowhere when it was quickly ascertained that Israel had launched the attack. Israel did not follow this course in November, knowing what would be revealed in a Security Council debate.
Another narrow response would be to agree to a truce, as appeared quite possible before the operation was launched on November 14.
There are more far-reaching responses. By coincidence, one is discussed in the current issue of the journal National Interest. Asia scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen describe China’s reaction after rioting in western Xinjiang province, “in which mobs of Uighurs marched around the city beating hapless Han (Chinese) to death.”
Chinese president Hu Jintao quickly flew to the province to take charge; senior leaders in the security establishment were fired; and a wide range of development projects were undertaken to address underlying causes of the unrest.
In Gaza, too, a civilized reaction is possible. The United States and Israel could end the merciless, unremitting assault, open the borders and provide for reconstruction—and if it were imaginable, reparations for decades of violence and repression.
The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the cease-fire.”
There is no sign of steps in this direction. Nor is there any indication of a U.S.-Israeli willingness to rescind their separation of Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank that are designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades.
Someday, and it must be soon, the world will respond to the plea issued by the distinguished Gazan human-rights lawyer Raji Sourani while the bombs were once again raining down on defenseless civilians in Gaza: “We demand justice and accountability. We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.”


There is a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza, and Palestinians will never have decent living conditions unless the blockade is lifted, Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, told RT.

­RT: Your agency has hit back at Israeli allegations that it allows its facilities in the Gaza Strip to be used by Hamas to launch rockets towards Israel. Have your schools and hospitals been used for this? Do Hamas fighters hide behind so-called «human shields?»

CG: As far as our facilities are concerned, absolutely no credible evidence at all has been produced to substantiate any allegations – at all. Now, on the question of whether Hamas hides behind our installations, you must understand: we’re humanitarian agency and we do not patrol the streets outside our facilities. We don’t have a police force, we don’t have an intelligence service. So it’s very hard for us to say what’s happening outside our facilities. We are, however, responsible for what happens inside our facilities. And although during the last fighting in Gaza in 2008-2009 there were indeed accusations that there were militants inside our compound and in our installations, these were never ever substantiated.

RT: Why would Israel make these allegations, though?

CG: You’d need to ask the Israelis that.

RT: How would you describe the humanitarian situation in Gaza now, and how long will it take for Gaza to recover from these latest attacks?

CG: Well, even before the current upsurge in fighting, there was a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza. There was a crisis of education; we’re in the process of building a hundred new schools, because there is acute overcrowding in schools in Gaza. There is a crisis of public health, because, for example, 90% of all water in Gaza is undrinkable. Millions of liters of raw sewage are flowing into the sea every day because the sewage system is not functional. And the list goes on: there’s a crisis, as I say, in nearly every aspect of life. The economic conditions are not good – the United Nations recently produced the report Gaza 2020, which showed that there would be 500,000 new human beings in Gaza [by the year 2020], and all of the, you know, burdens of that increase on the public services.

RT: 2020 was the deadline in this UN report, by which the place will no longer be habitable. Has what’s happened in the last eight to nine days brought that day forward?

CG: Well, it’s hard for me to say anything meaningful about that, but I can tell you that a humanitarian crisis has been made more acute, because, obviously, buildings have been destroyed – not on the scale I’d venture to say as we saw during 2008-2009. UNRWA has begun an assessment of the damages, and it’s going to take us a long time. But already as far as our beneficiaries are concerned, and there 1.2 million beneficiaries of UNRWA in Gaza. We’ve started to give rental subsidies to people whose homes were completely destroyed, to give out subsidies for people so they can repair their homes. And that’s why we’ve launched an appeal for $12.7 million for the mediate recovery period – that’s for food and non-food items – and we hope that our donors will respond generously. Individuals can go to www.unrwa.org and give also.

RT: Hamas claims that Israel has made some concessions for the people of Gaza. We have heard that the blockade may be eased to allow the flow of people and goods. What’s your understanding of this – will it help the humanitarian mess in Gaza?

CG: Well, we have to see what is going to happen as far the blockade regime is concerned. We have always called for the blockade to be lifted. We’ve said that it’s a collective punishment of 1.7 million people. It has to end and we have to see what kind of new arrangement has been decided in relation to the blockade. We hope it’s good news for the people of Gaza.


People in Gaza and southern Israel are starting to return to normal life following Wednesday’s ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

A number of rockets were fired from Gaza in the first few hours of the truce, but Israel did not respond.

However, Israeli schools close to the Gaza Strip were kept closed on Thursday as a precaution.

Overnight, Israeli security forces arrested 55 people in the West Bank who it said were «terror operatives».

The arrests come after a series of angry protests in the Palestinian territory over Israel’s operation in Gaza. Two protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the arrested people were all affiliated with terror groups and included a number of «senior level operatives».

The arrests, including 13 in Hebron, were part of efforts to «restore calm» to the area, said the IDF.

The Israeli military said three rockets were fired from Gaza shortly after the ceasefire came into effect, one of which was shot down by the Iron Dome defence system. It said there had been no fire in either direction since midnight.


Iran has supplied military assistance to Hamas in Gaza, including technology needed to build long-range Fajr-5 rockets used to target Tel Aviv, a military leader from the Islamic republic said.

«Gaza is under siege, so we cannot help them. The Fajr-5 missiles have not been shipped from Iran. Its technology has been transferred and (the missiles are) being produced quickly,» the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on Wednesday.

Israel has long accused Iran of supplying Hamas with its Fajr 5 missile, which has been used to target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) ongoing military operation in Gaza was launched one week ago.

Iranian lawmaker Ali Larijani said on Wednesday his country was “proud” to defend the people of Palestine and Hamas according to remarks published on the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary website.

Larijani stressed the assistance had been both “financial and military.» On Tuesday, Larijani lauded the Palestinian missile capability, saying it had given them a “strategic [source] of power.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadhan Abdallah Shalah also told Al-Jazeera TV on Tuesday: “the weapons that are fighting the Israeli aggression and arrogance in Palestine come mainly from Iran, as the entire world knows. This is no secret. These are either Iranian weapons or weapons financed by Iran.”

On Thursday two Fajr rockets struck on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, marking the first time the metropolitan area had been targeted with missiles since the Gulf War. Two more Fajr-5 missiles launched towards the city were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system on Saturday, while another pair of rockets exploded on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Two more errant rockets targeting Jerusalem landed in the West Bank on Tuesday. No casualties have been reported from any of the strikes.

The Iranian produced Fajr-5 missile has an approximate range of 75 kilometers, which far exceeds the more mobile Palestinian-made Qassam rockets which came into use following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2001.

The introduction of long-range missiles into Hamas’ arsenal came as a surprise to the Israeli military, who had initially viewed Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as out of play in the run up to Operation Pillar of Defense.

The IDF was forced to revise infographics enumerating the Hamas rocket threat following the introduction of the Fajr rockets into the conflict. Israel’s Iron Dome system has mostly neutralized this Hamas’ newly acquired threat, however, with the periodic air raid sirens having more of a psychological impact than a material one.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was highly critical of other Muslim states for not standing behind Gaza during the week-long Israeli military operation that has seen at least 140 Palestinians killed following a thousand-plus IDF airstrikes.

«Some of them sufficed with words, and some others did not condemn [Israel],» the official Islamic Republic News Agency cites Khamenei as saying.


Top Ten Myths about Israeli Attack on Gaza

Posted on 11/17/2012 by Juan Cole

1. Israeli hawks represent themselves as engaged in a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians in which Hamas refuses to join. In fact, Israel has refused to cease colonizing and stealing Palestinian land long enough to engage in fruitful negotiations with them. Tel Aviv routinely announces new, unilateral house-building on the Palestinian West Bank. There is no peace process. It is an Israeli and American sham. Talking about a peace process is giving cover to Israeli nationalists who are determined to grab everything the Palestinians have and reduce them to penniless refugees (again).

2. Actions such as the assault on Gaza can achieve no genuine long-term strategic purpose. They are being launched to ensure that Jewish-Israelis are the first to exploit key resources. Rattling sabers at the Palestinians creates a pretext for further land-grabs and colonies on Palestinian land. That is, the military action against the people of Gaza is a diversion tactic; the real goal is Greater Israel, an assertion of Israeli sovereignty over all the territory once held by the British Mandate of Palestine.

3. Israeli hawks represent their war of aggression as in ‘self-defense.’ But the UK Israeli chief rabbi admitted on camera that that the Gaza attack actually ‘had something to do with Iran.’

4. Israeli hawks demonize the Palestinians of Gaza as “bad neighbors” who don’t accept Israel. But 40% of the people in Gaza are refugees, mostly living in refugee camps, from families in pre-1948 Palestine that had lived there for millennia.
They were expelled from what is now Israel in the 1948 Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign. Israelis are now living in their homes and farming their land, and they were never paid any reparations for the crimes done to them. [pdf] “Israel’s failure to provide reparations to Palestinian refugees over the past six decades is in blatant violation of international law.” Israel does not accept Palestine’s right to exist, even though it is constantly demanding that everyone, including the displaced and occupied Palestinians, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

5. Israeli hawks and their American clones depict Gaza as a foreign, hostile state with which Israel is at war. In fact, the Gaza strip is a small territory of 1.7 million people militarily occupied by Israel (something in which the UN and other international bodies concur). Israelis do not allow it to have a port or airport, nor to export most of what it produces. Palestinians cannot work about a third of its land, which is reserved by Israel as a security buffer. As an occupied territory, it is covered by the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied populations by their military occupier. Indiscriminate bombing of occupied territories by the occupier is clearly illegal in international law.

6. Israeli hawks see themselves as innocent victims of bewildering Palestinian rage from Gaza. But Israel not only has kept Palestinians of Gaza in the world’s largest outdoor penitentiary, they have them under an illegal blockade that for some years aimed at limiting their nutrition without altogether starving them to death. I wrote earlier:

“The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition. A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers. “

If any foreign power surrounded Israel, destroyed Haifa port and Tel Aviv airport, and prevented Israeli exports from being exported, what do you think Israelis would do? Oh, that’s right, it is rude to see both Palestinians and Israelis as equal human beings.

7. Israeli hawks demonize the Palestinian residents of Gaza as followers of Hamas, a party-militia of the Muslim religious right. But half of Palestinians in Gaza are minors, who never voted for Hamas and cannot be held collectively responsible for that party.

8. Israeli hawks justify their aggression on the Palestinians on grounds of self-defense. But Israel is a country of 7.5 million people with tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, helicopter gunships and F-16s and F-18s, plus 400 nuclear warheads. Gaza is a small occupied territory of 1.7 million which has no heavy weaponry, just some old guns and some largely ineffectual rockets. (Israelis cite hundreds of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza in 2012; but until Israel’s recent attack they had killed not a single Israeli, though they did wound a few last March when fighting between Palestinians and Israelis escalated.) Gaza is a threat to Israel the way the Transkei Bantustan was a threat to Apartheid South Africa. As for genuine asymmetrical threats from Gaza to Israel, they could be dealt with by giving the Palestinians a state and ceasing the blockade imposed on them, or in the worst case scenario counter-terrorism targeted at terrorists rather than indiscriminate bombing campaigns.

9. Israeli hawks maintain that they were provoked into the attack. But actually Ahmad Jabari, the Hamas leader the Israelis assassinated earlier this week, had been engaged in talks with the Israelis about a truce. Assassinations achieved by the ruse of openness to peace talks are guarantees of no further peace talks.

10. Although most American media is a cheering section for the Likud Party, in fact the world is increasingly done out with Israel’s aggressiveness. Boycotts and sanctions will likely grow over time, leaving Israeli hawks with a deficit…


Gaza’s Health Crisis and Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity

Israeli air strikes for the past 6 days have killed over 100 Palestinians in Gaza, many of them women and children; one strike deliberately targeted a media building that Israeli government knew to house journalists. Medics announced Monday that they are running out of key medicines (Gaza is under Israeli blockade). Military strikes are also interfering in the delivery of medical and other aid by international organizations in the Strip.

This Arabic-language report says that Israeli warplanes targeted the Jordanian field hospital late on Monday. I have not been able to find confirmation for this report, but if it is true, and deliberate, it would be a war crime.

A WHO spokesman reported Monday that injured individuals showing up at Gaza hospitals had “dramatically increased in the last 24 hours”. Some 700 have come to hospital, 252 of them children. Nurses at Shifa Hospital, who work 12-hour shifts, say that the injuries they are seeing are unprecedented. One said, “It’s very hard now, with many injured people coming every hour. Women and children outnumbered men, especially with the new wave [of attacks] targeting houses and civilian buildings.”

A recent World Health Organization Report worries that in just 8 years, in 2020, if current Israeli policies continue, Gaza will be virtually uninhabitable. Israel as the occupying power since 1967 is directly responsible in international law for the well-being of its occupied populations, and is in severe violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of the occupied. Moreover, since Israeli policies of Apartheid, discrimination, exile, restriction of movement and infliction of harm on Palestinians in Gaza are long-standing, deliberate and systematic, Israeli leaders are guilty in this regard of crimes against humanity.
The WHO report:

“Ms. [Jean] Gough [of UNICEF] said that demand for drinking water was projected to increase by 60 per cent while damage to the aquifer, the major water source, would become irreversible without remedial action now. Mr.[Robert] Turner [of UNRWA] added that more than 440 additional schools, 800 hospital beds and more than 1,000 doctors would be needed by 2020.”

Israeli airstrikes are exacerbating what had already been a parlous health care situation for Palestinians in Gaza.


When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End?

By Robert Wright
Nov 19 2012, 7:42 PM ET

President Obama and Bibi Netanyahu are on the same page when it comes to the justification for Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Netanyahu : «No country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat.» Obama: «There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.«

It’s true that if, say, Canada were lobbing missiles into the US, the US wouldn’t tolerate it. But here’s another thing the US wouldn’t tolerate: If Canada imposed a crippling economic blockade, denying America the import of essential goods and hugely restricting American exports. That would be taken as an act of war, and America would if necessary respond with force–by, perhaps, lobbing missiles into Canada.

This is the situation Gaza has faced for years: a crippling economic blockade imposed by Israel. Under international pressure, Israel has relaxed the import restrictions, but even so such basic things as cement, gravel, and steel are prohibited from entering Gaza. The rationale is that these items are «dual use» and could be put to military ends. But this logic doesn’t explain the most devastating part of the blockade–the severe restrictions on Gaza’s exports.

Gazans can’t export anything to anyone by sea or air, and there are extensive constraints on what they can export by land. They can’t even sell things to their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank. According to the Israeli NGO Gisha, the number of truckloads of goods that leave Gaza each month is two percent of what it was before the blockade was imposed. (A black market trade via tunnels to Egypt has taken up some, but by no means all, of the slack.)

No wonder Gaza’s unemployment rate has risen to 28 percent. No wonder 70 percent of Gazans receive humanitarian aid. No wonder there’s a shortage of schools–it’s hard to build them without construction materials.

If you mention the blockade to the average reasonably well-informed American or Israeli, you’ll likely get a reply such as: Well, if the Gazans don’t like economic strangulation, Hamas should quit firing missiles at Israel; or Hamas should recognize the state of Israel; or Hamas should do something else Israel wants it to do.

So, over the past couple of days, I tried to find out exactly what actions on the part of Hamas would suffice to end the blockade. And, after contacting various experts by email, I discovered that the answer is: nothing would suffice. At least, nothing we know of. Apparently Israel hasn’t articulated clear conditions under which the blockade would end.

As law professor Noura Erakat has written in a journal article:

Despite claims of self-defense, Israel has not defined a definitive purpose for the blockade, the achievement of which would indicate its end. Official Israeli goals have ranged from limiting Hamas’s access to weapons, to seeking retribution for the pain caused to Israeli civilians, and to compelling the Palestinian population to overthrow the Hamas government…


A decisive conclusion is necessary

By GILAD SHARON

Anyone who thinks Hamas is going to beg for a cease-fire, that Operation Pillar of Defense will draw to a close and quiet will reign in the South because we hit targets in the Gaza Strip, needs to think again.

With the elimination of a murderous terrorist and the destruction of Hamas’s long-range missile stockpile, the operation was off to an auspicious start, but what now? This must not be allowed to end as did Operation Cast Lead: We bomb them, they fire missiles at us, and then a cease-fire, followed by “showers” – namely sporadic missile fire and isolated incidents along the fence. Life under such a rain of death is no life at all, and we cannot allow ourselves to become resigned to it.

A strong opening isn’t enough, you also have to know how to finish – and finish decisively. If it isn’t clear whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not, the goal isn’t decisive. The ball needs to hit the net, visible to all. What does a decisive victory sound like? A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated.

To accomplish this, you need to achieve what the other side can’t bear, can’t live with, and our initial bombing campaign isn’t it.

THE DESIRE to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.

The Gaza Strip functions as a state – it has a government and conducts foreign relations, there are schools, medical facilities, there are armed forces and all the other trappings of statehood. We have no territorial conflict with “Gaza State,” and it is not under Israeli siege – it shares a border with Egypt. Despite this, it fires on our citizens without restraint.

Why do our citizens have to live with rocket fire from Gaza while we fight with our hands tied? Why are the citizens of Gaza immune? If the Syrians were to open fire on our towns, would we not attack Damascus? If the Cubans were to fire at Miami, wouldn’t Havana suffer the consequences? That’s what’s called “deterrence” – if you shoot at me, I’ll shoot at you. There is no justification for the State of Gaza being able to shoot at our towns with impunity. We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.

Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared.

IF THE government isn’t prepared to go all the way on this, it will mean reoccupying the entire Gaza Strip. Not a few neighborhoods in the suburbs, as with Cast Lead, but the entire Strip, like in Defensive Shield, so that rockets can no longer be fired.

There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.


Israel’s intensifying its barrage of Gaza on the fourth day of hostilities, and stepping up preparations for a ground invasion. Militants are firing back with unguided rockets that mostly fall off target, while Israeli precision strikes are leading to a rising number of civilian deaths. Film-maker and activist Harry Fear has been in Gaza since the first bombs fell. He says Israel has the capability to avoid collateral damage – but has instead chosen to attack indiscriminately.

Today, Israeli forces attacked two media buildings in Gaza, drawing round condemnations and notes of caution from media accuracy groups. Reuters reported that the Israeli government justified the attacks by explaining they were targeting «Hamas communications devices» atop the buildings. Nonetheless, eight journalists were injured in the attacks. The Associated Press released a video of smoke pouring from one of the buildings’ roofs in the aftermath of the attack.

Bomb The Press

by Ali Gharib Nov 18, 2012 2:30 PM EST

«Journalists are civilians and are protected under international law in military conflict,» Robert Mahoney, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a release. «Israel knows this and should cease targeting facilities housing media organizations and journalists immediately.» Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was even more harsh, outright condemning the attacks. In a statement, RSF head Christophe Deloire said: «Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks. We call for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of these air strikes. Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified.»

Israel’s media strategy centers on demonstrating that it’s pursuing Hamas targets like missile stockpiles and military officials in the Islamist organization, all the while, apparently, expanding operations in response to each subsequent Hamas escalation. The short-sightedness of the tack mirrors that of the larger strategy, or lack thereof: the Israeli failure to realize that Hamas is here to stay, in large part due to the fact that its curriculum vitae contains more than just its role as an eliminationist terror group. Just as Hamas must end its morally bankrupt targeting of (or, for the more credulous, disregard for) Israeli civilians, so too must Israel acknowledge that it cannot at will hit Hamas «devices» that make up its non-military power structure in Gaza. That’s precisely why there is no military solution to the Israel-Hamas conflict.


(Reuters) – Some of the Palestinian rockets fired far into Israel during the Gaza flare-up have lacked powerful warheads because they were stripped down to increase range and spread alarm over a wider population, Israeli security sources said on Sunday.

«Our assessment is that the prestige of setting off alarms deep in Israel, and being perceived as fighting on, is as important to them now as spilling our blood,» said an Israeli official briefed on security cabinet decisions.

The official and two other sources who spoke to Reuters on the matter did not specify how many of the almost 900 rockets and mortars fired since fighting erupted on Wednesday had been deliberately sapped.

The official said «not a few» of the rockets reaching Tel Aviv and cities closer to Gaza were designed for much shorter ranges but had been shorn of their weighty warheads so that they flew further.

«They’re pipes, basically,» said the official, who declined to be identified.

Hamas, the militant Islamist movement governing Gaza, had no immediate comment. The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), another outgunned Palestinian faction taking part in the five days of clashes, dismissed the Israeli allegations.

«Israeli leaders are trying to assure their terrified public that those rockets are not dangerous, to minimize their fear. They will never succeed, and time will tell they lied to their people,» PRC spokesman Abu Mujahed said.

Israeli air force and artillery strikes on Gaza, a small, densely populated enclave, have killed some 56 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians and wounded dozens of others in Israel since Wednesday, driving entire populations into bomb shelters.

Tel Aviv has become a target from the air for the first time since 1991, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel’s biggest city. A rocket also crashed near Jerusalem for the first time in four decades.

BOOSTERISM?

The enemies have hotly disputed the condition of Gaza’s most potent rockets, with Israel saying its air force has destroyed the bulk of them on the ground and the Palestinians insisting they were continuing to strike at the heart of the Jewish state.

For the fourth time in as many days, rockets were launched at Tel Aviv, some 70 km (44 miles) from Gaza, on Sunday. The salvo, claimed by Hamas, set off sirens in Israel’s coastal commercial hub and suburbs. The Iron Dome interceptor shot down two rockets.

A third source who receives regular briefings from Israel’s air defense corps said some of the furthest-reaching Palestinian rockets had warheads that were lighter than they were designed to have.

«Yes, this was to increase range, but we have no indication of rockets without warheads being used,» the third source said.

Israel’s military and police declined comment.

The discrepancy between the Israeli disclosures could be due to the difficulty of studying rocket debris left over from Iron Dome interceptions, or the possibility that not all of the sources were privy to intelligence data on Palestinian tactics.

Hamas said the rockets it has fired at Tel Aviv were Iranian-designed Fajr-5s, with ranges of 75 km (46 miles) and 175 kg (385 lb) warheads that can shear through buildings.

But there has been no word of direct impacts in Tel Aviv. The rockets were either blown out of the sky by Iron Dome or, according to some witnesses, fell harmlessly into the sea.

If any did land in unpopulated areas, the locations were not disclosed by Israeli authorities, in order to deprive the rocket crews of any information that could help them adjust their aim. Iron Dome is designed to intercept any rocket or mortar on course to hit a populated area.

Hamas also launched, on Friday, a rocket that it dubbed a homemade «Qassam M-75» at Jerusalem, which has no Iron Dome shield. That launch set off sirens throughout the holy city and some witnesses reported hearing an explosion to the south.

Police have not published extensive details on the incident.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Douglas Hamilton)

The suffering impinged on the Palestinian people feel truly hopeless. Those, in both the West and the Arab world, who most self-righteously denounced Assad in Syria, have closed their eyes to the ever-repeating tragedy in Gaza; The shallowness of their human rights rhetoric exposed.

(Reuters) – Ten Palestinian civilians were killed on Sunday in an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza, Palestinian medics said, the highest civilian death toll in a single incident during five days of fighting.

An Israeli military spokesman said he was checking the report.

Medics said three women, six children and one man were killed in the attack on the three-storey building. Rescue workers were still at the site searching for people who might be buried under the rubble.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Crispian Balmer)


Nov. 18, 13:00 GMT: President Obama says «We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself'», discussing Gaza crisis during his Thailand visit. The US President also says will know in the next 36 to 48 hours whether progress can be made in halting Gaza crisis.

Israeli airstrikes killed four children
and wounded several others in Gaza on Sunday. At least nine children have been killed since Operation Pillar of Defense began. That number could potentially rise if Israel launches a ground operation on Gaza.

Eighteen-month-old Iyyad Abu Khusa was killed in a strike east of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. His brothers, aged four and five, were seriously wounded in the raid, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

Hours earlier, two toddlers were killed by strikes in the towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya. The children were identified as three-year-old Tamer Abu Saeyfan and his one-year-old sister, Jumana Abu Saeyfan.

Thirteen-year-old Tasneem Nahal was also among the children killed. She died of massive shrapnel wounds to the head after an Israeli strike hit a refugee camp in Gaza City.

Several women could be heard screaming and weeping after she was killed, AFP reported.

The tragic deaths of Gazan children killed in Israeli air strikes have angered the Arab and Islamic world.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that sooner or later, Israel would be held accountable for the “massacre.”

The child death toll is expected to rise unless the two sides enter negotiations soon.

“The Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation. The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place…the Israel Defense Forces have attacked more than 1,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and it continues its operation in this very moment,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting.

On Friday, Israel called up 75,000 army reservists to prepare for a possible ground operation against Gaza.

«We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water,” Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, as quoted by Yeshiva World News.

The chief of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has ordered the increase of sorties against militants in Gaza.

However, many world leaders believe a ceasefire could be foreseeable in the near future.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is set to hold talks with Israeli authorities and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas during a one-day trip to the region.

He is expected “to call on all the parties to stop the escalation and offer France’s help to reach an immediate ceasefire,” his ministry said in a statement.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is expected to arrive in Israel on Monday, to attempt to advance a ceasefire.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is pushing for a truce, too.

“There are some indications that there could be a ceasefire soon…but there are no guarantees,” he said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet with Morsi and other officials in Egypt on Monday, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

The Arab League has called an emergency meeting on the conflict in Cairo. Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo is in Egypt for the talks, which aren’t expected to take place before Monday.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) killed Jabari in an airstrike on his car in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Israel’s TV Channel 2 says his son also died in the missile attack.


Assassinating The Chance For Calm
by Gershon Baskin Nov 15, 2012 10:45 AM EST

Shortly after the return of Gilad Shalit, I drafted a proposal to the Government of Israel and Hamas to enter into a long term ceasefire arrangement based on the assumption that, for the time being, neither side was interested in engaging in renewed warfare. The assumption was well founded and based on the experience that I gained directly in helping to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza after the terrorist attack across the Sinai border in August 2011, while the Shalit negotiations were taking place.

Repeated rounds of rocket fire over the following year yielded the same results with both sides seeking a ladder to step down and avoid full escalation, which would not bring any political or military gains. Since that time, with the exception of the last round of violence two weeks ago, the rocket fire from Gaza was launched after a pre-emptive Israeli strike against terror cells. Based on Israeli intelligence information, pre-emptive strikes were conducted primarily against cells from the Islamic Jihad and the popular resistance committees. Hamas almost always sat on the sidelines and allowed the other factions in Gaza to shoot their rockets until the price in human life became too high. At that point, Hamas urged the Egyptians to intervene to secure a return to calm. In the last rounds, Hamas, under pressure from its public, joined in the shooting of rockets—but it almost always aimed its rockets at open spaces in Israel and their damage was minimal. It was clear to all involved that Hamas was not interested in escalating the situation and for its own reasons and agreed to impose the ceasefire on all of the other factions, and on itself.

The key actor on the Hamas side was Ahmed Jaabari, the commander of Ezedin al Qassam, the military wing of Hamas. When he was convinced that Israel was ready to stand down as well, Jaabari was always ready to take the orders to force the ceasefire on all of the other factions and on Hamas.

Both Israel and Hamas had decided months ago not to take action on my proposed ceasefire option, which included within it a mechanism that would prevent Israeli pre-emptive actions and would enable Hamas to prove that it was prepared to prevent terror attacks against Israel. Both sides responded very seriously to the proposal, but without any signal that there was an openness on the other side, neither was willing to advance the possibility for testing it.

Several weeks ago, I decided to try once again and, through my counterpart in Hamas, we both began speaking to high level officials on both sides. A few days ago I met my counterpart in Cairo and we agreed that he would draft a new proposal based on our common understanding of what was required to make it work.

Yesterday morning, hours before Israel assassinated Ahmed Jaabari, my counterpart in Hamas presented the draft to Jaabari and to other Hamas leaders. Senior Hamas leaders on the outside had already seen it and had instructed him to check the reactions to it in Gaza. I was supposed to receive the draft yesterday evening to present to Israeli officials who were waiting for me to send it to them.

That option is now off the table. Jaabari is dead and so is the chance for a mutually beneficial long term ceasefire understanding. Why did Benjamin Netanyahu do it? The cynical answer already offered by Aluf Benn in Haaretz is elections consideration. Cast Lead was also conducted before elections. Hitting Jaabari, according to Netanyahu’s thinking, would help him in the upcoming Israeli elections. Perhaps this is true, perhaps not.

It seems to me that some of the commanders of the Israeli army have been very frustrated that the previous agreements to return to calm left Israel in a weaker position, with Hamas calling the shots. They have been calling to rebuild Israel’s deterrence. Let them in Gaza feel the pain of a serious Israeli attack and then they will think seven times before shooting more rockets, is what they proposed. In the last days there has been a lot of talk from politicians, military experts and officers to return to the policy of “targeted killings.” This, they claim, would make the Hamas leaders hide for their lives and stop shooting at us. These military geniuses failed to realize that what never worked in the past will not work now either.

Now millions of Israelis and Palestinians are living under the terror of attack. Many more Gazans will be killed than Israelis, but is this a worthy achievement that we can be proud of and that will guarantee our long term security? I don’t think so.

I can only imagine that the assassination of Jaabari has bought us the entry card to Cast Lead II. This time, the experts say, “Let’s finish them off. Let’s do the job that we didn’t do last time. Let’s do a regime change.” Well, I ask: what then? Do we really want to reoccupy Gaza, because that will be the consequence of a regime change. I don’t believe that Netanyahu wants re-occupation. So if that is not what he wants, he must be aware that, on the morning after, we will still be living next to Gaza, which still be run by Hamas. They are not going away and the people of Gaza are not going away.

The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire. Netanyahu has acted with extreme irresponsibility. He has endangered the people of Israel and struck a real blow against the few important more pragmatic elements within Hamas. He has given another victory to those who seek our destruction, rather than strengthen those who are seeking to find a possibility to live side-by-side, not in peace, but in quiet.



Routine counter insurgents patrol door to door

A spokesperson for the IDF defended the presence of troops in the home.
"The premises and its surrounding grounds house are frequently used by Palestinians to hurl rocks at a main road, route 60, that is located just a few meters away," she told VICE News. "In May alone there were over nine instances of rock hurling that took place in the immediate vicinity. In light of the danger to commuters the forces acted in order to safeguard all drivers on the road and prevent such acts of violence from being carried out."
It is not uncommon for Israeli soldiers to take over homes and other buildings in occupied Palestine.
"There's a pattern whereby Israeli forces use civilian structures or privately-owned land for training or operational purposes, often leaving the area in shambles and riddled with unused weaponry," Ivan Karakashian, an advocacy coordinator at Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine), told VICE News.

 







Gaza Under Assault


BY Noam Chomsky

An old man in Gaza held a placard that read: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”


The old man's message provides the proper context for the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from their homes in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck Palestinians over the border for years after the official cease-fire.
The punishment took new forms when Israel conquered Gaza in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship (primarily Avi Raz’s The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War), we learn that the government's goal was to drive the refugees into the Sinai Peninsula—and, if feasible, the rest of the population too.
Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council orders.
The reasons were made clear in internal discussions immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later prime minister, informed her Labor Party colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and others agreed.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol explained that those expelled could not be allowed to return because “we cannot increase the Arab population in Israel”—referring to the newly occupied territories, already considered part of Israel.
In accord with this conception, all of Israel's maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders) —though publication of the maps was delayed to permit Abba Eban, an Israeli ambassador to the UN, to attain what he called a “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly by concealing Israel's intentions.
The goals of expulsion may remain alive today, and might be a factor in contributing to Egypt's reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the U.S.-backed Israeli siege.
The current upsurge of U.S.-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world.
Israel and the U.S. reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government—the routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.
Ignoring immediate offers from Hamas for a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, most of whom were civilians (a third were minors). According to UN reports, 2,879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza.
A short-lived truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December.
So matters have continued, while the United States and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement for a two-state solution in accord with the international consensus that the U.S. has blocked since 1976 when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.
This week, Washington devoted every effort to blocking a Palestinian initiative to upgrade its status at the UN but failed, in virtual international isolation as usual. The reasons were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court about Israel's U.S.-backed crimes.
One element of the unremitting torture of Gaza is Israel's “buffer zone” within Gaza, from which Palestinians are barred entry to almost half of Gaza's limited arable land.
From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on November 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.
The full story is naturally more complex, and uglier.
The first act of Operation Pillar of Defense was to murder Ahmed Jabari. Aluf Benn, editor of the newspaper Haaretz, describes him as Israel's “subcontractor” and “border guard” in Gaza, who enforced relative quiet there for more than five years.
The pretext for the assassination was that during these five years Jabari had been creating a Hamas military force, with missiles from Iran. A more credible reason was provided by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in direct negotiations with Jabari for years, including plans for the eventual release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Baskin reports that hours before he was assassinated, Jabari “received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.”
A truce was then in place, called by Hamas on November 12. Israel apparently exploited the truce, Reuters reports, directing attention to the Syrian border in the hope that Hamas leaders would relax their guard and be easier to assassinate.
Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air. On the eve of the latest attack, the WHO reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock.
In November, one of the first in a series of hideous photos sent from Gaza showed a doctor holding the charred corpse of a murdered child. That one had a personal resonance. The doctor is the director and head of surgery at Khan Yunis hospital, which I had visited a few weeks earlier.
In writing about the trip, I reported his passionate appeal for desperately needed medicine and surgical equipment. These are among the crimes of the U.S.-Israeli siege, and of Egyptian complicity.
The casualty rates from the November episode were about average: more than 160 Palestinian dead, including many children, and six Israelis.
Among the dead were three journalists. The official Israeli justification was that “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.” Reporting the “execution” in the New York Times, the reporter David Carr observed that “it has come to this: Killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as `relevance to terror activity.' “
The massive destruction was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced U.S. military equipment and relied on U.S. diplomatic support, including the usual U.S. intervention efforts to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire.
With each such exploit, Israel's global image erodes. The photos and videos of terror and devastation, and the character of the conflict, leave few remaining shreds of credibility to the self-declared “most moral army in the world,” at least among people whose eyes are open.
The pretexts for the assault were also the usual ones. We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington. But even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles. It's a fair question, and there are straightforward answers.
One response would be to observe international law, which allows the use of force without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts, in accord with the U.N. Charter, Article 51.
Israel is well familiar with that Charter provision, which it invoked at the outbreak of the June 1967 war. But, of course, Israel's appeal went nowhere when it was quickly ascertained that Israel had launched the attack. Israel did not follow this course in November, knowing what would be revealed in a Security Council debate.
Another narrow response would be to agree to a truce, as appeared quite possible before the operation was launched on November 14.
There are more far-reaching responses. By coincidence, one is discussed in the current issue of the journal National Interest. Asia scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen describe China's reaction after rioting in western Xinjiang province, “in which mobs of Uighurs marched around the city beating hapless Han (Chinese) to death.”
Chinese president Hu Jintao quickly flew to the province to take charge; senior leaders in the security establishment were fired; and a wide range of development projects were undertaken to address underlying causes of the unrest.
In Gaza, too, a civilized reaction is possible. The United States and Israel could end the merciless, unremitting assault, open the borders and provide for reconstruction—and if it were imaginable, reparations for decades of violence and repression.
The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the cease-fire.”
There is no sign of steps in this direction. Nor is there any indication of a U.S.-Israeli willingness to rescind their separation of Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank that are designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades.
Someday, and it must be soon, the world will respond to the plea issued by the distinguished Gazan human-rights lawyer Raji Sourani while the bombs were once again raining down on defenseless civilians in Gaza: “We demand justice and accountability. We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.”




There is a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza, and Palestinians will never have decent living conditions unless the blockade is lifted, Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, told RT.



­RT: Your agency has hit back at Israeli allegations that it allows its facilities in the Gaza Strip to be used by Hamas to launch rockets towards Israel. Have your schools and hospitals been used for this? Do Hamas fighters hide behind so-called "human shields?"

CG: As far as our facilities are concerned, absolutely no credible evidence at all has been produced to substantiate any allegations – at all. Now, on the question of whether Hamas hides behind our installations, you must understand: we’re humanitarian agency and we do not patrol the streets outside our facilities. We don’t have a police force, we don’t have an intelligence service. So it’s very hard for us to say what’s happening outside our facilities. We are, however, responsible for what happens inside our facilities. And although during the last fighting in Gaza in 2008-2009 there were indeed accusations that there were militants inside our compound and in our installations, these were never ever substantiated.

RT: Why would Israel make these allegations, though?

CG: You’d need to ask the Israelis that.

RT: How would you describe the humanitarian situation in Gaza now, and how long will it take for Gaza to recover from these latest attacks?

CG: Well, even before the current upsurge in fighting, there was a crisis in almost every aspect of life in Gaza. There was a crisis of education; we’re in the process of building a hundred new schools, because there is acute overcrowding in schools in Gaza. There is a crisis of public health, because, for example, 90% of all water in Gaza is undrinkable. Millions of liters of raw sewage are flowing into the sea every day because the sewage system is not functional. And the list goes on: there’s a crisis, as I say, in nearly every aspect of life. The economic conditions are not good – the United Nations recently produced the report Gaza 2020, which showed that there would be 500,000 new human beings in Gaza [by the year 2020], and all of the, you know, burdens of that increase on the public services.

RT: 2020 was the deadline in this UN report, by which the place will no longer be habitable. Has what’s happened in the last eight to nine days brought that day forward?

CG: Well, it’s hard for me to say anything meaningful about that, but I can tell you that a humanitarian crisis has been made more acute, because, obviously, buildings have been destroyed – not on the scale I’d venture to say as we saw during 2008-2009. UNRWA has begun an assessment of the damages, and it’s going to take us a long time. But already as far as our beneficiaries are concerned, and there 1.2 million beneficiaries of UNRWA in Gaza. We’ve started to give rental subsidies to people whose homes were completely destroyed, to give out subsidies for people so they can repair their homes. And that’s why we’ve launched an appeal for $12.7 million for the mediate recovery period – that’s for food and non-food items – and we hope that our donors will respond generously. Individuals can go to www.unrwa.org and give also.

RT: Hamas claims that Israel has made some concessions for the people of Gaza. We have heard that the blockade may be eased to allow the flow of people and goods. What's your understanding of this – will it help the humanitarian mess in Gaza?

CG: Well, we have to see what is going to happen as far the blockade regime is concerned. We have always called for the blockade to be lifted. We’ve said that it’s a collective punishment of 1.7 million people. It has to end and we have to see what kind of new arrangement has been decided in relation to the blockade. We hope it’s good news for the people of Gaza.




People in Gaza and southern Israel are starting to return to normal life following Wednesday's ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

A number of rockets were fired from Gaza in the first few hours of the truce, but Israel did not respond.

However, Israeli schools close to the Gaza Strip were kept closed on Thursday as a precaution.

Overnight, Israeli security forces arrested 55 people in the West Bank who it said were "terror operatives".

The arrests come after a series of angry protests in the Palestinian territory over Israel's operation in Gaza. Two protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the arrested people were all affiliated with terror groups and included a number of "senior level operatives".

The arrests, including 13 in Hebron, were part of efforts to "restore calm" to the area, said the IDF.

The Israeli military said three rockets were fired from Gaza shortly after the ceasefire came into effect, one of which was shot down by the Iron Dome defence system. It said there had been no fire in either direction since midnight.


Iran has supplied military assistance to Hamas in Gaza, including technology needed to build long-range Fajr-5 rockets used to target Tel Aviv, a military leader from the Islamic republic said.

"Gaza is under siege, so we cannot help them. The Fajr-5 missiles have not been shipped from Iran. Its technology has been transferred and (the missiles are) being produced quickly," the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on Wednesday.

Israel has long accused Iran of supplying Hamas with its Fajr 5 missile, which has been used to target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since the Israeli Defense Force's (IDF) ongoing military operation in Gaza was launched one week ago.

Iranian lawmaker Ali Larijani said on Wednesday his country was “proud” to defend the people of Palestine and Hamas according to remarks published on the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary website.

Larijani stressed the assistance had been both “financial and military." On Tuesday, Larijani lauded the Palestinian missile capability, saying it had given them a “strategic [source] of power.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadhan Abdallah Shalah also told Al-Jazeera TV on Tuesday: “the weapons that are fighting the Israeli aggression and arrogance in Palestine come mainly from Iran, as the entire world knows. This is no secret. These are either Iranian weapons or weapons financed by Iran.”

On Thursday two Fajr rockets struck on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, marking the first time the metropolitan area had been targeted with missiles since the Gulf War. Two more Fajr-5 missiles launched towards the city were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system on Saturday, while another pair of rockets exploded on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Two more errant rockets targeting Jerusalem landed in the West Bank on Tuesday. No casualties have been reported from any of the strikes.

The Iranian produced Fajr-5 missile has an approximate range of 75 kilometers, which far exceeds the more mobile Palestinian-made Qassam rockets which came into use following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2001.

The introduction of long-range missiles into Hamas’ arsenal came as a surprise to the Israeli military, who had initially viewed Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as out of play in the run up to Operation Pillar of Defense.

The IDF was forced to revise infographics enumerating the Hamas rocket threat following the introduction of the Fajr rockets into the conflict. Israel’s Iron Dome system has mostly neutralized this Hamas’ newly acquired threat, however, with the periodic air raid sirens having more of a psychological impact than a material one.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was highly critical of other Muslim states for not standing behind Gaza during the week-long Israeli military operation that has seen at least 140 Palestinians killed following a thousand-plus IDF airstrikes.

"Some of them sufficed with words, and some others did not condemn [Israel]," the official Islamic Republic News Agency cites Khamenei as saying.




Top Ten Myths about Israeli Attack on Gaza

Posted on 11/17/2012 by Juan Cole


1. Israeli hawks represent themselves as engaged in a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians in which Hamas refuses to join. In fact, Israel has refused to cease colonizing and stealing Palestinian land long enough to engage in fruitful negotiations with them. Tel Aviv routinely announces new, unilateral house-building on the Palestinian West Bank. There is no peace process. It is an Israeli and American sham. Talking about a peace process is giving cover to Israeli nationalists who are determined to grab everything the Palestinians have and reduce them to penniless refugees (again).

2. Actions such as the assault on Gaza can achieve no genuine long-term strategic purpose. They are being launched to ensure that Jewish-Israelis are the first to exploit key resources. Rattling sabers at the Palestinians creates a pretext for further land-grabs and colonies on Palestinian land. That is, the military action against the people of Gaza is a diversion tactic; the real goal is Greater Israel, an assertion of Israeli sovereignty over all the territory once held by the British Mandate of Palestine.

3. Israeli hawks represent their war of aggression as in ‘self-defense.’ But the UK Israeli chief rabbi admitted on camera that that the Gaza attack actually ‘had something to do with Iran.’

4. Israeli hawks demonize the Palestinians of Gaza as “bad neighbors” who don’t accept Israel. But 40% of the people in Gaza are refugees, mostly living in refugee camps, from families in pre-1948 Palestine that had lived there for millennia.
They were expelled from what is now Israel in the 1948 Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign. Israelis are now living in their homes and farming their land, and they were never paid any reparations for the crimes done to them. [pdf] “Israel’s failure to provide reparations to Palestinian refugees over the past six decades is in blatant violation of international law.” Israel does not accept Palestine’s right to exist, even though it is constantly demanding that everyone, including the displaced and occupied Palestinians, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

5. Israeli hawks and their American clones depict Gaza as a foreign, hostile state with which Israel is at war. In fact, the Gaza strip is a small territory of 1.7 million people militarily occupied by Israel (something in which the UN and other international bodies concur). Israelis do not allow it to have a port or airport, nor to export most of what it produces. Palestinians cannot work about a third of its land, which is reserved by Israel as a security buffer. As an occupied territory, it is covered by the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied populations by their military occupier. Indiscriminate bombing of occupied territories by the occupier is clearly illegal in international law.

6. Israeli hawks see themselves as innocent victims of bewildering Palestinian rage from Gaza. But Israel not only has kept Palestinians of Gaza in the world’s largest outdoor penitentiary, they have them under an illegal blockade that for some years aimed at limiting their nutrition without altogether starving them to death. I wrote earlier:

“The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition. A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers. “

If any foreign power surrounded Israel, destroyed Haifa port and Tel Aviv airport, and prevented Israeli exports from being exported, what do you think Israelis would do? Oh, that’s right, it is rude to see both Palestinians and Israelis as equal human beings.

7. Israeli hawks demonize the Palestinian residents of Gaza as followers of Hamas, a party-militia of the Muslim religious right. But half of Palestinians in Gaza are minors, who never voted for Hamas and cannot be held collectively responsible for that party.

8. Israeli hawks justify their aggression on the Palestinians on grounds of self-defense. But Israel is a country of 7.5 million people with tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, helicopter gunships and F-16s and F-18s, plus 400 nuclear warheads. Gaza is a small occupied territory of 1.7 million which has no heavy weaponry, just some old guns and some largely ineffectual rockets. (Israelis cite hundreds of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza in 2012; but until Israel’s recent attack they had killed not a single Israeli, though they did wound a few last March when fighting between Palestinians and Israelis escalated.) Gaza is a threat to Israel the way the Transkei Bantustan was a threat to Apartheid South Africa. As for genuine asymmetrical threats from Gaza to Israel, they could be dealt with by giving the Palestinians a state and ceasing the blockade imposed on them, or in the worst case scenario counter-terrorism targeted at terrorists rather than indiscriminate bombing campaigns.

9. Israeli hawks maintain that they were provoked into the attack. But actually Ahmad Jabari, the Hamas leader the Israelis assassinated earlier this week, had been engaged in talks with the Israelis about a truce. Assassinations achieved by the ruse of openness to peace talks are guarantees of no further peace talks.

10. Although most American media is a cheering section for the Likud Party, in fact the world is increasingly done out with Israel’s aggressiveness. Boycotts and sanctions will likely grow over time, leaving Israeli hawks with a deficit…



Gaza’s Health Crisis and Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity


Israeli air strikes for the past 6 days have killed over 100 Palestinians in Gaza, many of them women and children; one strike deliberately targeted a media building that Israeli government knew to house journalists. Medics announced Monday that they are running out of key medicines (Gaza is under Israeli blockade). Military strikes are also interfering in the delivery of medical and other aid by international organizations in the Strip.

This Arabic-language report says that Israeli warplanes targeted the Jordanian field hospital late on Monday. I have not been able to find confirmation for this report, but if it is true, and deliberate, it would be a war crime.

A WHO spokesman reported Monday that injured individuals showing up at Gaza hospitals had “dramatically increased in the last 24 hours”. Some 700 have come to hospital, 252 of them children. Nurses at Shifa Hospital, who work 12-hour shifts, say that the injuries they are seeing are unprecedented. One said, “It’s very hard now, with many injured people coming every hour. Women and children outnumbered men, especially with the new wave [of attacks] targeting houses and civilian buildings.”

A recent World Health Organization Report worries that in just 8 years, in 2020, if current Israeli policies continue, Gaza will be virtually uninhabitable. Israel as the occupying power since 1967 is directly responsible in international law for the well-being of its occupied populations, and is in severe violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of the occupied. Moreover, since Israeli policies of Apartheid, discrimination, exile, restriction of movement and infliction of harm on Palestinians in Gaza are long-standing, deliberate and systematic, Israeli leaders are guilty in this regard of crimes against humanity.
The WHO report:
“Ms. [Jean] Gough [of UNICEF] said that demand for drinking water was projected to increase by 60 per cent while damage to the aquifer, the major water source, would become irreversible without remedial action now. Mr.[Robert] Turner [of UNRWA] added that more than 440 additional schools, 800 hospital beds and more than 1,000 doctors would be needed by 2020.”
Israeli airstrikes are exacerbating what had already been a parlous health care situation for Palestinians in Gaza.


When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End?

By Robert Wright
Nov 19 2012, 7:42 PM ET

President Obama and Bibi Netanyahu are on the same page when it comes to the justification for Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Netanyahu : "No country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat." Obama: "There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

It's true that if, say, Canada were lobbing missiles into the US, the US wouldn't tolerate it. But here's another thing the US wouldn't tolerate: If Canada imposed a crippling economic blockade, denying America the import of essential goods and hugely restricting American exports. That would be taken as an act of war, and America would if necessary respond with force--by, perhaps, lobbing missiles into Canada.

This is the situation Gaza has faced for years: a crippling economic blockade imposed by Israel. Under international pressure, Israel has relaxed the import restrictions, but even so such basic things as cement, gravel, and steel are prohibited from entering Gaza. The rationale is that these items are "dual use" and could be put to military ends. But this logic doesn't explain the most devastating part of the blockade--the severe restrictions on Gaza's exports.

Gazans can't export anything to anyone by sea or air, and there are extensive constraints on what they can export by land. They can't even sell things to their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank. According to the Israeli NGO Gisha, the number of truckloads of goods that leave Gaza each month is two percent of what it was before the blockade was imposed. (A black market trade via tunnels to Egypt has taken up some, but by no means all, of the slack.)

No wonder Gaza's unemployment rate has risen to 28 percent. No wonder 70 percent of Gazans receive humanitarian aid. No wonder there's a shortage of schools--it's hard to build them without construction materials.

If you mention the blockade to the average reasonably well-informed American or Israeli, you'll likely get a reply such as: Well, if the Gazans don't like economic strangulation, Hamas should quit firing missiles at Israel; or Hamas should recognize the state of Israel; or Hamas should do something else Israel wants it to do.

So, over the past couple of days, I tried to find out exactly what actions on the part of Hamas would suffice to end the blockade. And, after contacting various experts by email, I discovered that the answer is: nothing would suffice. At least, nothing we know of. Apparently Israel hasn't articulated clear conditions under which the blockade would end.

As law professor Noura Erakat has written in a journal article:

Despite claims of self-defense, Israel has not defined a definitive purpose for the blockade, the achievement of which would indicate its end. Official Israeli goals have ranged from limiting Hamas's access to weapons, to seeking retribution for the pain caused to Israeli civilians, and to compelling the Palestinian population to overthrow the Hamas government...





A decisive conclusion is necessary

By GILAD SHARON

Anyone who thinks Hamas is going to beg for a cease-fire, that Operation Pillar of Defense will draw to a close and quiet will reign in the South because we hit targets in the Gaza Strip, needs to think again.

With the elimination of a murderous terrorist and the destruction of Hamas’s long-range missile stockpile, the operation was off to an auspicious start, but what now? This must not be allowed to end as did Operation Cast Lead: We bomb them, they fire missiles at us, and then a cease-fire, followed by “showers” – namely sporadic missile fire and isolated incidents along the fence. Life under such a rain of death is no life at all, and we cannot allow ourselves to become resigned to it.

A strong opening isn’t enough, you also have to know how to finish – and finish decisively. If it isn’t clear whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not, the goal isn’t decisive. The ball needs to hit the net, visible to all. What does a decisive victory sound like? A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated.

To accomplish this, you need to achieve what the other side can’t bear, can’t live with, and our initial bombing campaign isn’t it.

THE DESIRE to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.

The Gaza Strip functions as a state – it has a government and conducts foreign relations, there are schools, medical facilities, there are armed forces and all the other trappings of statehood. We have no territorial conflict with “Gaza State,” and it is not under Israeli siege – it shares a border with Egypt. Despite this, it fires on our citizens without restraint.

Why do our citizens have to live with rocket fire from Gaza while we fight with our hands tied? Why are the citizens of Gaza immune? If the Syrians were to open fire on our towns, would we not attack Damascus? If the Cubans were to fire at Miami, wouldn’t Havana suffer the consequences? That’s what’s called “deterrence” – if you shoot at me, I’ll shoot at you. There is no justification for the State of Gaza being able to shoot at our towns with impunity. We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.

Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared.

IF THE government isn’t prepared to go all the way on this, it will mean reoccupying the entire Gaza Strip. Not a few neighborhoods in the suburbs, as with Cast Lead, but the entire Strip, like in Defensive Shield, so that rockets can no longer be fired.

There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.





Israel's intensifying its barrage of Gaza on the fourth day of hostilities, and stepping up preparations for a ground invasion. Militants are firing back with unguided rockets that mostly fall off target, while Israeli precision strikes are leading to a rising number of civilian deaths. Film-maker and activist Harry Fear has been in Gaza since the first bombs fell. He says Israel has the capability to avoid collateral damage - but has instead chosen to attack indiscriminately.




Today, Israeli forces attacked two media buildings in Gaza, drawing round condemnations and notes of caution from media accuracy groups. Reuters reported that the Israeli government justified the attacks by explaining they were targeting "Hamas communications devices" atop the buildings. Nonetheless, eight journalists were injured in the attacks. The Associated Press released a video of smoke pouring from one of the buildings' roofs in the aftermath of the attack.

Bomb The Press

by Ali Gharib Nov 18, 2012 2:30 PM EST

"Journalists are civilians and are protected under international law in military conflict," Robert Mahoney, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a release. "Israel knows this and should cease targeting facilities housing media organizations and journalists immediately." Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was even more harsh, outright condemning the attacks. In a statement, RSF head Christophe Deloire said: "Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks. We call for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of these air strikes. Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified."

Israel's media strategy centers on demonstrating that it's pursuing Hamas targets like missile stockpiles and military officials in the Islamist organization, all the while, apparently, expanding operations in response to each subsequent Hamas escalation. The short-sightedness of the tack mirrors that of the larger strategy, or lack thereof: the Israeli failure to realize that Hamas is here to stay, in large part due to the fact that its curriculum vitae contains more than just its role as an eliminationist terror group. Just as Hamas must end its morally bankrupt targeting of (or, for the more credulous, disregard for) Israeli civilians, so too must Israel acknowledge that it cannot at will hit Hamas "devices" that make up its non-military power structure in Gaza. That's precisely why there is no military solution to the Israel-Hamas conflict.



(Reuters) - Some of the Palestinian rockets fired far into Israel during the Gaza flare-up have lacked powerful warheads because they were stripped down to increase range and spread alarm over a wider population, Israeli security sources said on Sunday.

"Our assessment is that the prestige of setting off alarms deep in Israel, and being perceived as fighting on, is as important to them now as spilling our blood," said an Israeli official briefed on security cabinet decisions.

The official and two other sources who spoke to Reuters on the matter did not specify how many of the almost 900 rockets and mortars fired since fighting erupted on Wednesday had been deliberately sapped.

The official said "not a few" of the rockets reaching Tel Aviv and cities closer to Gaza were designed for much shorter ranges but had been shorn of their weighty warheads so that they flew further.

"They're pipes, basically," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Hamas, the militant Islamist movement governing Gaza, had no immediate comment. The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), another outgunned Palestinian faction taking part in the five days of clashes, dismissed the Israeli allegations.

"Israeli leaders are trying to assure their terrified public that those rockets are not dangerous, to minimize their fear. They will never succeed, and time will tell they lied to their people," PRC spokesman Abu Mujahed said.

Israeli air force and artillery strikes on Gaza, a small, densely populated enclave, have killed some 56 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians and wounded dozens of others in Israel since Wednesday, driving entire populations into bomb shelters.

Tel Aviv has become a target from the air for the first time since 1991, when Saddam Hussein's Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel's biggest city. A rocket also crashed near Jerusalem for the first time in four decades.

BOOSTERISM?

The enemies have hotly disputed the condition of Gaza's most potent rockets, with Israel saying its air force has destroyed the bulk of them on the ground and the Palestinians insisting they were continuing to strike at the heart of the Jewish state.

For the fourth time in as many days, rockets were launched at Tel Aviv, some 70 km (44 miles) from Gaza, on Sunday. The salvo, claimed by Hamas, set off sirens in Israel's coastal commercial hub and suburbs. The Iron Dome interceptor shot down two rockets.

A third source who receives regular briefings from Israel's air defense corps said some of the furthest-reaching Palestinian rockets had warheads that were lighter than they were designed to have.

"Yes, this was to increase range, but we have no indication of rockets without warheads being used," the third source said.

Israel's military and police declined comment.

The discrepancy between the Israeli disclosures could be due to the difficulty of studying rocket debris left over from Iron Dome interceptions, or the possibility that not all of the sources were privy to intelligence data on Palestinian tactics.

Hamas said the rockets it has fired at Tel Aviv were Iranian-designed Fajr-5s, with ranges of 75 km (46 miles) and 175 kg (385 lb) warheads that can shear through buildings.

But there has been no word of direct impacts in Tel Aviv. The rockets were either blown out of the sky by Iron Dome or, according to some witnesses, fell harmlessly into the sea.

If any did land in unpopulated areas, the locations were not disclosed by Israeli authorities, in order to deprive the rocket crews of any information that could help them adjust their aim. Iron Dome is designed to intercept any rocket or mortar on course to hit a populated area.

Hamas also launched, on Friday, a rocket that it dubbed a homemade "Qassam M-75" at Jerusalem, which has no Iron Dome shield. That launch set off sirens throughout the holy city and some witnesses reported hearing an explosion to the south.

Police have not published extensive details on the incident.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Douglas Hamilton)



The suffering impinged on the Palestinian people feel truly hopeless. Those, in both the West and the Arab world, who most self-righteously denounced Assad in Syria, have closed their eyes to the ever-repeating tragedy in Gaza; The shallowness of their human rights rhetoric exposed.

(Reuters) - Ten Palestinian civilians were killed on Sunday in an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza, Palestinian medics said, the highest civilian death toll in a single incident during five days of fighting.

An Israeli military spokesman said he was checking the report.

Medics said three women, six children and one man were killed in the attack on the three-storey building. Rescue workers were still at the site searching for people who might be buried under the rubble.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Crispian Balmer)






Nov. 18, 13:00 GMT: President Obama says "We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself'", discussing Gaza crisis during his Thailand visit. The US President also says will know in the next 36 to 48 hours whether progress can be made in halting Gaza crisis.

Israeli airstrikes killed four children
and wounded several others in Gaza on Sunday. At least nine children have been killed since Operation Pillar of Defense began. That number could potentially rise if Israel launches a ground operation on Gaza.

Eighteen-month-old Iyyad Abu Khusa was killed in a strike east of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. His brothers, aged four and five, were seriously wounded in the raid, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

Hours earlier, two toddlers were killed by strikes in the towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya. The children were identified as three-year-old Tamer Abu Saeyfan and his one-year-old sister, Jumana Abu Saeyfan.

Thirteen-year-old Tasneem Nahal was also among the children killed. She died of massive shrapnel wounds to the head after an Israeli strike hit a refugee camp in Gaza City.

Several women could be heard screaming and weeping after she was killed, AFP reported.

The tragic deaths of Gazan children killed in Israeli air strikes have angered the Arab and Islamic world.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that sooner or later, Israel would be held accountable for the “massacre.”

The child death toll is expected to rise unless the two sides enter negotiations soon.

“The Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation. The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place…the Israel Defense Forces have attacked more than 1,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and it continues its operation in this very moment,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting.

On Friday, Israel called up 75,000 army reservists to prepare for a possible ground operation against Gaza.

"We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water,” Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, as quoted by Yeshiva World News.

The chief of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has ordered the increase of sorties against militants in Gaza.

However, many world leaders believe a ceasefire could be foreseeable in the near future.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is set to hold talks with Israeli authorities and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas during a one-day trip to the region.

He is expected “to call on all the parties to stop the escalation and offer France’s help to reach an immediate ceasefire,” his ministry said in a statement.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is expected to arrive in Israel on Monday, to attempt to advance a ceasefire.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is pushing for a truce, too.

“There are some indications that there could be a ceasefire soon…but there are no guarantees,” he said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet with Morsi and other officials in Egypt on Monday, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

The Arab League has called an emergency meeting on the conflict in Cairo. Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo is in Egypt for the talks, which aren’t expected to take place before Monday.



The Israeli Air Force (IAF) killed Jabari in an airstrike on his car in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Israel's TV Channel 2 says his son also died in the missile attack.






Assassinating The Chance For Calm
by Gershon Baskin Nov 15, 2012 10:45 AM EST

Shortly after the return of Gilad Shalit, I drafted a proposal to the Government of Israel and Hamas to enter into a long term ceasefire arrangement based on the assumption that, for the time being, neither side was interested in engaging in renewed warfare. The assumption was well founded and based on the experience that I gained directly in helping to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza after the terrorist attack across the Sinai border in August 2011, while the Shalit negotiations were taking place.

Repeated rounds of rocket fire over the following year yielded the same results with both sides seeking a ladder to step down and avoid full escalation, which would not bring any political or military gains. Since that time, with the exception of the last round of violence two weeks ago, the rocket fire from Gaza was launched after a pre-emptive Israeli strike against terror cells. Based on Israeli intelligence information, pre-emptive strikes were conducted primarily against cells from the Islamic Jihad and the popular resistance committees. Hamas almost always sat on the sidelines and allowed the other factions in Gaza to shoot their rockets until the price in human life became too high. At that point, Hamas urged the Egyptians to intervene to secure a return to calm. In the last rounds, Hamas, under pressure from its public, joined in the shooting of rockets—but it almost always aimed its rockets at open spaces in Israel and their damage was minimal. It was clear to all involved that Hamas was not interested in escalating the situation and for its own reasons and agreed to impose the ceasefire on all of the other factions, and on itself.

The key actor on the Hamas side was Ahmed Jaabari, the commander of Ezedin al Qassam, the military wing of Hamas. When he was convinced that Israel was ready to stand down as well, Jaabari was always ready to take the orders to force the ceasefire on all of the other factions and on Hamas.

Both Israel and Hamas had decided months ago not to take action on my proposed ceasefire option, which included within it a mechanism that would prevent Israeli pre-emptive actions and would enable Hamas to prove that it was prepared to prevent terror attacks against Israel. Both sides responded very seriously to the proposal, but without any signal that there was an openness on the other side, neither was willing to advance the possibility for testing it.

Several weeks ago, I decided to try once again and, through my counterpart in Hamas, we both began speaking to high level officials on both sides. A few days ago I met my counterpart in Cairo and we agreed that he would draft a new proposal based on our common understanding of what was required to make it work.

Yesterday morning, hours before Israel assassinated Ahmed Jaabari, my counterpart in Hamas presented the draft to Jaabari and to other Hamas leaders. Senior Hamas leaders on the outside had already seen it and had instructed him to check the reactions to it in Gaza. I was supposed to receive the draft yesterday evening to present to Israeli officials who were waiting for me to send it to them.

That option is now off the table. Jaabari is dead and so is the chance for a mutually beneficial long term ceasefire understanding. Why did Benjamin Netanyahu do it? The cynical answer already offered by Aluf Benn in Haaretz is elections consideration. Cast Lead was also conducted before elections. Hitting Jaabari, according to Netanyahu’s thinking, would help him in the upcoming Israeli elections. Perhaps this is true, perhaps not.

It seems to me that some of the commanders of the Israeli army have been very frustrated that the previous agreements to return to calm left Israel in a weaker position, with Hamas calling the shots. They have been calling to rebuild Israel’s deterrence. Let them in Gaza feel the pain of a serious Israeli attack and then they will think seven times before shooting more rockets, is what they proposed. In the last days there has been a lot of talk from politicians, military experts and officers to return to the policy of “targeted killings.” This, they claim, would make the Hamas leaders hide for their lives and stop shooting at us. These military geniuses failed to realize that what never worked in the past will not work now either.

Now millions of Israelis and Palestinians are living under the terror of attack. Many more Gazans will be killed than Israelis, but is this a worthy achievement that we can be proud of and that will guarantee our long term security? I don’t think so.

I can only imagine that the assassination of Jaabari has bought us the entry card to Cast Lead II. This time, the experts say, “Let’s finish them off. Let’s do the job that we didn’t do last time. Let’s do a regime change.” Well, I ask: what then? Do we really want to reoccupy Gaza, because that will be the consequence of a regime change. I don’t believe that Netanyahu wants re-occupation. So if that is not what he wants, he must be aware that, on the morning after, we will still be living next to Gaza, which still be run by Hamas. They are not going away and the people of Gaza are not going away.

The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire. Netanyahu has acted with extreme irresponsibility. He has endangered the people of Israel and struck a real blow against the few important more pragmatic elements within Hamas. He has given another victory to those who seek our destruction, rather than strengthen those who are seeking to find a possibility to live side-by-side, not in peace, but in quiet.

The World in 1013 AD: China Rising, Militant Islam

What was our world like a thousand years ago? Of course, technologically very different, but Song China and Muslim Spain had made real advances in science, technology and infrastructure. Some of the themes salient then are still recognizable today.

What was our world like a thousand years ago? Of course, technologically very different, but Song China and Muslim Spain had made real advances in science, technology and infrastructure. Some of the themes salient then are still recognizable today.


U.S. Drone Program

Edited time: October 29, 2013 20:58

 
 

The victims of a drone strike alleged to be launched last year by the United States spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday and urged the US government to stop killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, Pakistan, spoke through an interpreter on Capitol Hill on Tuesday along with his two children, ages nine and 13.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) invited Rehman to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed Momina Bibi, his 67-year-old mother who was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized drone purported to be under the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency executed Bibi in front of her grandchildren on Oct. 24, 2012. The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

«Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said during the Tuesday morning panel. «All media reported three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.”

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rahman said. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”

Speaking before members of Congress, Rehman thanked Rep. Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government are willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

«As a teacher my job is to educate,” said Rehman. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rehman’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

«As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. «I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, nine-year-old Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream…I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

The Rehman’s were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Al-Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the United States because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Indeed, last week a former US State Department official claimed that drone strikes in Yemen are creating dozens of new militants with each attack.

Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. Independent studies suggest that the total number of civilians killed by unmanned aerial vehicles may be in the thousands.

“We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

Despite these numbers, though, the White House maintains that the best intelligence agencies in the world work in tandem with the mightiest military in order to gather information about targets, then order hits intended to take out extremists and cause as little collateral damage as possible.

According to Greenwald, this system is not without its flaws.

“How could we make decisions, let’s be clear about this, making decisions to clear people based on guesses?” asked Greenwald. “Guesses. No jury, no judge, no trial, no defense but because they are sitting in a certain pattern, because they’re in a certain place, an entire community of leadership has been wiped out.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”


Published on Oct 19, 2013

America’s deadly drone strikes are essentially above the law, and must become transparent and accountable. That’s according to the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. Washington has so far refused to disclose details on where its unmanned aerial strikes occur, and how many civilians are killed. Let’s get some reaction and insight from journalist and former Pakistani Air Force officer, Sultan M. Hali.


Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones

Posted on 12/16/2012 by Juan Cole

The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.
Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.
Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.
We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.
Someone actually wrote me chiding me that the Newtown children were “not in a war zone!” Americans seem not to understand that neither is Waziristan a “war zone.” No war has been declared there, no fronts exist, no calls for evacuation of civilians from their villages have been made. They’re just living their lives, working farms and going to school. They are not Arabs, and most are not Taliban. True, some sketchy Egyptians or Libyans occasionally show up and rent out a spare room. So occasionally an American drone appears out of nowhere and blows them away.
Robert Greenwald of the Brave New Foundation explains further: (warning: graphic and not for the squeamish):


Broad Spectrum of Organizations Support ACLU Legal Fight for Transparency on U.S. Drone Program

nine organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the CIA’s use of drones to carry out targeted killings around the world.  The organizations work on a diverse array of issues that don’t always overlap, including international human rights and rule of law, government transparency, investigative journalism, civil liberties and national security policy.  Although some of these groups seldom have occasion to collaborate, they joined together to urge the court to reject the CIA’s position that it can’t confirm whether it has a drone strike program at all.

Edited time: October 29, 2013 20:58
 
 

The victims of a drone strike alleged to be launched last year by the United States spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday and urged the US government to stop killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, Pakistan, spoke through an interpreter on Capitol Hill on Tuesday along with his two children, ages nine and 13.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) invited Rehman to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed Momina Bibi, his 67-year-old mother who was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized drone purported to be under the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency executed Bibi in front of her grandchildren on Oct. 24, 2012. The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

"Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said during the Tuesday morning panel. "All media reported three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.”

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rahman said. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”



Speaking before members of Congress, Rehman thanked Rep. Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government are willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

"As a teacher my job is to educate,” said Rehman. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rehman’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

"As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. "I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, nine-year-old Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream...I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

The Rehman’s were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Al-Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the United States because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Indeed, last week a former US State Department official claimed that drone strikes in Yemen are creating dozens of new militants with each attack.

Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. Independent studies suggest that the total number of civilians killed by unmanned aerial vehicles may be in the thousands.

“We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

Despite these numbers, though, the White House maintains that the best intelligence agencies in the world work in tandem with the mightiest military in order to gather information about targets, then order hits intended to take out extremists and cause as little collateral damage as possible.

According to Greenwald, this system is not without its flaws.

“How could we make decisions, let’s be clear about this, making decisions to clear people based on guesses?” asked Greenwald. “Guesses. No jury, no judge, no trial, no defense but because they are sitting in a certain pattern, because they’re in a certain place, an entire community of leadership has been wiped out.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”





Published on Oct 19, 2013

America's deadly drone strikes are essentially above the law, and must become transparent and accountable. That's according to the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. Washington has so far refused to disclose details on where its unmanned aerial strikes occur, and how many civilians are killed. Let's get some reaction and insight from journalist and former Pakistani Air Force officer, Sultan M. Hali.





Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones


Posted on 12/16/2012 by Juan Cole
The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.
Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.
Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.
We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.
Someone actually wrote me chiding me that the Newtown children were “not in a war zone!” Americans seem not to understand that neither is Waziristan a “war zone.” No war has been declared there, no fronts exist, no calls for evacuation of civilians from their villages have been made. They’re just living their lives, working farms and going to school. They are not Arabs, and most are not Taliban. True, some sketchy Egyptians or Libyans occasionally show up and rent out a spare room. So occasionally an American drone appears out of nowhere and blows them away.
Robert Greenwald of the Brave New Foundation explains further: (warning: graphic and not for the squeamish):





Broad Spectrum of Organizations Support ACLU Legal Fight for Transparency on U.S. Drone Program


nine organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the CIA's use of drones to carry out targeted killings around the world.  The organizations work on a diverse array of issues that don't always overlap, including international human rights and rule of law, government transparency, investigative journalism, civil liberties and national security policy.  Although some of these groups seldom have occasion to collaborate, they joined together to urge the court to reject the CIA's position that it can't confirm whether it has a drone strike program at all.

War Business

Published on Feb 4, 2013
Written and spoken by Michael Rivero. 
The written version is here: http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTI…

Video by Zane Henry.

This video is in the public domain. The producers have waived their copyright to this video.
Listen to a post production conversation between the producers by clicking on this mp3: https://soundcloud.com/eonitao-state/…


Cora Currier writes for ProPublica via Juan Cole
The United States is loosening controls over military exports, in a shift that former U.S. officials and human rights advocates say could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world’s conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions.
Come tomorrow, thousands of parts of military aircraft, such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires will be able to be sent to almost any country in the world, with minimal oversight – even to some countries subject to U.N. arms embargos. U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries.
Critics, including some who’ve worked on enforcing arms export laws, say the changes could undermine efforts to prevent arms smuggling to Iran and others.
Brake pads may sound innocuous, but “the Iranians are constantly looking for spare parts for old U.S. jets,” said Steven Pelak, who recently left the Department of Justice after six years overseeing investigations and prosecutions of export violations.
“It’s going to be easier for these military items to flow, harder to get a heads-up on their movements, and, in theory, easier for a smuggling ring to move weapons,” said William Hartung, author of a recent report on the topic for the Center for International Policy.
In the current system, every manufacturer and exporter of military equipment has to register with the State Department and get a license for each planned export. U.S. officials scrutinize each proposed deal to make sure the receiving country isn’t violating human rights and to determine the risk of the shipment winding up with terrorists or another questionable group.
Under the new system, whole categories of equipment encompassing tens of thousands of items will move to the Commerce Department, where they will be under more “flexible” controls. Final rules have been issued for six of 19 categories of equipment and more will roll out in the coming months. Some military equipment, such as fighter jets, drones, and other systems and parts, will stay under the State Department’s tighter oversight.
Commerce will do interagency human rights reviews before allowing exports, but only as a matter of policy, whereas in the State Department it is required by law.
The switch from State to Commerce represents a big win for defense manufacturers, who have long lobbied in favor of relaxing U.S. export rules, which they say put a damper on international trade. Among the companies that recently lobbied on the issue: Lockheed, which manufactures C-130 transport planes, Textron, which makes Kiowa Warrior helicopters, and Honeywell, which outfits military choppers.
Overall, industry trade groups and big defense companies have spent roughly $170 million over the last three years lobbying on a variety of issues, including export control reform, a ProPublica analysis of disclosure forms shows.
The administration says in a factsheet that “spending time and resources protecting a specialty bolt diverts resources from protecting truly sensitive items,” and that the effort will allow them to build “higher fences around fewer items.” Commerce says it will beef up its enforcement wing to prevent illegal re-exports or shipments to banned entities. The military has also supported the relaxed controls, arguing that the changes will make it easier to arm foreign allies.

An interview with Commerce Department officials was canceled due to the government shutdown, and the State Department did not respond to questions.
The shift is part of a larger administration initiative to update the arms export process, which many acknowledge needed to be streamlined. But critics of the move to Commerce say that decision has been overly driven by the interests of defense manufacturers.
“They’ve cut through the fat, into the meat, and to the bone,” said Brittany Benowitz, who was defense adviser to former Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and recently co-authored a paper on the pending changes.
“I think it’s fair to say that the views of the enforcement agencies and actors charged with carrying out the controls haven’t won the day,” said Pelak, the former Justice Department official.
Current controls haven’t prevented the U.S. from dominating arms exports up to now: In 2011, the U.S. concluded $66 billion in arms sales agreements, nearly 80 percent of the global market. The State Department denied just one percent of arms export licenses between 2008 and 2010.
At a recent hearing, a State Department official touted the economic benefits, saying the “defense industry is going to become even more competitive than they are already.”
Under the new policy, military helicopters, transport planes and other types of military equipment that typically need approval may be eligible for license-free export to 36 allied governments, including much of Europe, Argentina, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
According to Colby Goodman, an arms-control expert with the Open Society Policy Center, once an item is approved for that exemption, it’s not clear that there will be any ongoing, country-specific human rights review. (The State Department hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment on that point.)
Goodman is particularly concerned about Turkey, where in the last year authorities violently suppressed protests and “security forces committed unlawful killings,” according to the most recent State Department Human Rights report.
Under the new system, some military parts can now be sent license-free to any country besides China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria. Other parts that are deemed not “specially designed” for military use, while also initially banned from those countries, have even fewer restrictions on re-exports.
Spare parts are in high demand from sanctioned countries and groups, which need them to keep old equipment up and running, according to arms control researchers. Indonesia scrambled to keep its C-130s in the air after the U.S. blocked exports for human rights violations in the 1990s. In a report on trade in arms parts, Oxfam noted that by the time of the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, Muammar Qaddafi’s air combat fleet was in dire shape, referred to by one analyst as “the world’s largest military parking lot.” Goodman said Congolese militia members may be using aging arms that the U.S. sold decades ago to the former Zaire.
Pelak says the changes will make enforcement harder by getting rid of part of the paper trail as parts and munitions exit the U.S.: “When you take away that licensing record, you put the investigation overseas.” His office handled dozens of cases each year in which military items had been diverted to prohibited countries. The Government Accountability Office raised concerns last year about Commerce’s enforcement abilities as it takes control of exports that once went through the State Department.
The president is authorized – in fact, required – to revise the list of items under State Department control. But the massive shift to Commerce means that laws and regulations that were designed with the longstanding State Department system in place may now be up to presidential prerogative.
Vetting for human rights compliance is one such requirement. The Commerce Department said it will also continue to publicly report the sales of so-called “major defense equipment.”
Other laws may not get carried over, however. For example, if firearms are moved to Commerce, manufacturers may no longer have to notify Congress of foreign sales.
Several organizations, including the Center for International Policy, the Open Society Policy Center, and the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, have called on the administration to hold off moving some military items from the State Department, and have asked Congress to apply State’s reporting requirements and restrictions to more of the military items and parts soon to be under Commerce control.
In one area, the administration does appear to have temporarily backed off – firearms and ammunition. Any decision to loosen exports for firearms could have conflicted with the president’s call for enhanced domestic gun control.
According to a memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal last spring, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security both opposed draft versions of revisions to the firearms category. (The Justice Department press office is out of operation due to the government shutdown, and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.) Shifting firearms was also likely to be a lightning rod for arms control groups. As the New York Times’ C.J. Chivers has documented, small arms trafficking has been the scourge of conflicts around the world.
Draft rules for firearms and ammunitions were ready in mid-2012, according to Lawrence Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group for gun manufacturers. The Commerce Department even sent representatives to an industry export conference to preview manufacturers on the new system they might fall under.
But since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December, no proposed rule has been published.
Keane thinks the connection is irrelevant. “This has nothing to do with domestic gun control legislation. We’re talking about exports,” he said. “Our products have not moved forward, and we’re disappointed by that.”
The defense industry has long pushed for a loosening of the U.S. export controls. Initial wish-lists were aimed at restructuring and speeding up the State Department system, where the wait for a license had sometimes stretched to months. The current focus on moving items to Commerce began under the Obama administration.
The aerospace industry has been particularly active, as new rules for aircraft are the first to take effect. Commercial satellites had been moved briefly to Commerce in the 1990s, but when U.S. space companies were caught giving technical data to China in 1998, Congress returned them to State control. Last year, satellite makers successfully lobbied Congress to lift satellite-specific rules that had kept them from being eligible for the reforms.
Newer industries want to cash in, too. Virgin Galactic wrote in a comment on a proposed rule that the “nascent but growing” space tourism industry was hindered by current rules. At a conference in 2011, the chief executive of Northrup Grumman warned of “the U.S. drone aircraft industry losing its dominance” if exports weren’t boosted. (Drones are regulated under missile technology controls, and are mostly unaffected by the current changes.)
Lauren Airey, of the National Association of Manufacturers, named two main objections to the current system. First off, fees: Any company that makes a product on the State Department list has to be registered whether or not they actually export, with yearly costs starting at $2,500. There’s no fee for the Commerce list.
Secondly, any equipment that contains a listed part gets “lifetime controls,” Airey said. If a buyer wants to resell something, even for scrap, they need U.S. approval. (For example, the U.S. is currently debating whether to let Turkey re-sell American attack helicopters to Pakistan.) Under Commerce, “there are still limitations, but they are more flexible,” Airey said.
Airey’s association (and other trade groups) makes the case that foreign competitors are “taking advantage of perceived and real issues in U.S. export controls to promote foreign parts and components – advertising themselves as State-Department-free.” Airey demurred when asked for an estimate on the amount of business lost: “It’s hard to put a number directly on how much export controls cause U.S. companies to be avoided.”
An Aerospace Industries Association executive noted at a panel this spring, “We really did not move the needle at all by complaining about the fact that we weren’t making as much money as we wanted to.”
But at a recent hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, members of Congress highlighted economic impact.
“In my district in Rhode Island,” said David Cicilline, D-R.I., “as many of our defense companies are looking to expand their business, really, to respond to declines in defense domestic spending, international sales are becoming even more important and really critical…to the job growth in my state.”
William Keating, D-Mass., said that “with declining defense budgets, arms sales are even more critical to the defense industry in my state to maintain production lines and keep jobs.”
“That would not have been the response a decade ago,” said one staffer who works on the issue. “National security hawks would have been worried about defense items moving to the Commerce list. The environment on the Hill has dramatically changed.”
One concern came from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which believes that easing controls on military technology and software could actually lead to more outsourcing of production.
William Lowell, who spent a decade of his 30 years at the State Department directing defense trade controls, told ProPublica that the move represents a major shift in the U.S. attitude towards international arms trade. U.S. policy has long been aimed at “denying the entry of U.S. military articles of any type into the international gray arms market – for which small arms and military parts are the lifeblood,” Lowell wrote in comments opposing the new rules. “Commercial arms exports have never been considered normal commercial trade.”
Follow @coracurrier


U.N. Arms Trade Treaty…Not only would it violate Texans’ Second Amendment rights, including the right to self defense, it also raises U.S. sovereignty and national security concerns.

Senator John Cornyn

On 2 April 2013, the General Assembly adopted the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), regulating the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. The treaty will foster peace and security by putting a stop to destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions. It will prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms. And it will help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools.


By Richard Solash

September 25, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has signed a landmark treaty at the UN General Assembly in New York aimed at regulating the multibillion-dollar global trade in conventional weapons. RFE/RL looks at how the Arms Trade Treaty works and why it is significant that the United States has signed the international accord.

What does the Arms Trade Treaty seek to do?

The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has the ambitious aim of responding to international concern that the $70 billion a year trade in conventional weapons leaves a trail of atrocities in its wake.

The treaty calls for the international sale of weapons to be linked to the human rights records of buyers.

It requires countries to establish regulations for selling conventional weapons.

It calls for potential arms deals to be evaluated in order to determine whether they might enable buyers to carry out genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

The treaty also seeks to prevent conventional military weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists or organized criminal groups, and to stop deals that would violate UN arms embargos.

What is the significance of Washington’s signature on the treaty?

Experts say that Washington’s signature on the document could be the treaty’s watershed moment.

The United States is the world’s largest arms dealer. So U.S. support and ratification of the accord is essential to its success.

According to Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, formal support from the United States gives the treaty the potential to change the very nature of the global arms trade.

«The United States already has a very robust set of standards and export controls,» he says. «This treaty essentially internationalizes the U.S. system and lays down some prohibitions on the transfer of conventional weapons. And this treaty will require all states to establish export laws, to enforce those export laws, and to abide by a common set of standards.»

What types of conventional weapons deals does the Arms Trade Treaty seek to regulate?

Conventional weapons covered by the UN Arms Trade Treaty include tanks and other armored combat vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters, naval warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms.

It also establishes common international standards for the regulation of the international trade in ammunition, weapons parts, and arms components.

The treaty does not regulate the domestic sale or use of weapons in any country. It also recognizes the legitimacy of the arms trade to enable states to provide for their own security.

What enforcement clauses are contained in the treaty?

There is no clear enforcement mechanism in the UN Arms Trade Treaty. It also remains unclear whether the transfer of conventional weapons in ways other than sales — for example, such as rental contracts or gifts — would fall under the treaty.

Nevertheless, arms-control advocates hope the treaty will increase pressure on weapons exporters such as Russia — which argues that arms sales to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are permitted because Damascus is not under a UN arms embargo.

The West argues that Russia, a major player in the global arms trade, should stop sending weapons to the Syrian regime because Assad’s security forces have used conventional military weaponry to kill tens of thousands of civilians caught up in the civil war.

Who supports the treaty and who doesn’t?

The UN General Assembly voted decisively in April to approve the Arms Trade Treaty, ending nearly a decade of negotiations over how strict it should be.

UN members voted 154 to 3 in favor of the accord, with 23 countries abstaining.

Iran, North Korea, and Syria — long accused of fueling international conflicts through arms shipments — were the countries to vote against the treaty.

The United States voted in favor of the treaty, despite opposition from influential U.S. gun lobbyists.

The United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, and Canada also voted for the treaty.

Former Soviet republics that voted for the treaty were Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and all three Baltic states.

Also voting yes were Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Russia and China, which are two of the world’s leading exporters of conventional weaponry, were among the countries that abstained from the vote.

Others who abstained from the vote include Belarus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cuba, Burma, and Angola.

Several abstaining countries objected on grounds that the human rights criteria in the treaty are not defined clearly enough.

To date, 89 countries have signed the treaty, including the United States, which did so on September 25.

To take effect, it must be ratified by at least 50 UN member states. So far, just five countries have done so.

Italy became the first EU state to ratify the accord after it won parliamentary approval there on September 25.


The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons, which has not entered into force. International weapons commerce has been estimated to reach US$70 billion a year.[1]

The treaty was negotiated at a global conference under the auspices of the United Nations from July 2–27, 2012, in New York.[2] As it was not possible to reach an agreement on a final text at that time, a new meeting for the conference was scheduled for March 18–28, 2013.[3] On 2 April 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted the ATT.[4][5] The treaty has been signed by 113 states, but it will not enter into force until it has been ratified or acceded to by 50 states.

The roots of what is known today as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) can be traced back to the late 1990s, when civil society actors and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates voiced their concerns about the unregulated nature of the global arms trade and its impact on human security.[7]

The ATT is part of a larger global effort begun in 1997 by Costa Rican President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Óscar Arias. In that year, Arias led a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in a meeting in New York to offer the world a code of conduct for the trade in arms. This group included Elie Wiesel, Betty Williams, the Dalai Lama, José Ramos-Horta, representatives of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Amnesty International, and the American Friends Service Committee. The original idea was to establish ethical standards for the arms trade that would eventually be adopted by the international community. Over the following 16 years, the Arias Foundation for Peace & Human Progress has played an instrumental role in achieving approval of the treaty.

In 2001, the process continued with the adoption of a non-legally binding program of action at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects in 2001. This program was formally called the “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” (PoA).[8]

Later put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates, the ATT was first addressed in the UN in December 2006 when the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”.

The arms trade treaty, like the PoA, is predicated upon a hypothesis that the illicit trade in small arms is a large and serious problem requiring global action through the UN. According to a well regarded 2012 Routledge Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution publication, «the relative importance of diversion or misuse of officially authorised transfers, compared to international entirely illegal black market trafficking has been thoroughly confirmed.»[9] The authors go on to elaborate that «For most developing or fragile states, a combination of weak domestic regulation of authorised firearms possession with theft, loss or corrupt sale from official holdings tends to be a bigger source of weapons concern than illicit trafficking across borders.»

The UN General Assembly of 2 April 2013 (71st Plenary Meeting) adopted the Arms Trade Treaty as a resolution by a 154-to-3 vote with 23 abstentions. North Korea, Iran, and Syria voted in opposition. China and Russia, among the world’s leaders in weapon exports, were among the 23 nations that abstained.[21]Cuba, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan also abstained. Armenia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Vietnam did not vote.[1] It was opened for formal signature on 3 June 2013.

«According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, the treaty will not do any of the following: interfere with domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms in Member States; ban the export of any type of weapon; harm States’ legitimate right to self-defence; or undermine national arms regulation standards already in place.»

Opposition to the ATT can be broken down into state opposition and civil society opposition. Over thirty states have objected to various parts of the ATT during negotiations, the majority of which held strong concerns about the implications for national sovereignty.[citation needed] According to armstreaty.org, the leading ATT negotiations tracking website,[citation needed] countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran have objected to many more aspects of the ATT than has the United States.

From a civil society point of view, groups concerned about national sovereignty or individual rights to armed defense have been negative of the ATT. While not fundamentally opposed to an ATT, these groups are keenly sensitive to ensuring an ATT does not undermine national constitutional protections and individual rights. The most vocal and organized civil society groups opposing objectionable aspects to the ATT originated from the United States. These groups include the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR), the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and The Heritage Foundation. The NRA and the Gun Owners of America say that the treaty is an attempt to circumvent the Second Amendment and similar guarantees in state constitutions in order to impose domestic gun regulations.[24]

Perhaps the largest source of civil society opposition[vague] to the ATT has come from the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which is the lobbying arm of the NRA. In July 2012 ILA wrote that:

«Anti-gun treaty proponents continue to mislead the public, claiming the treaty would have no impact on American gun owners. That’s a bald-faced lie. For example, the most recent draft treaty includes export/import controls that would require officials in an importing country to collect information on the ‘end user’ of a firearm, keep the information for 20 years, and provide the information to the country from which the gun was exported. In other words, if you bought a Beretta shotgun, you would be an ‘end user’ and the U.S. government would have to keep a record of you and notify the Italian government about your purchase. That is gun registration. If the U.S. refuses to implement this data collection on law-abiding American gun owners, other nations might be required to ban the export of firearms to the U.S.»[25]

Advocates of the treaty say that it only pertains to international arms trade, and would have no effect on current domestic laws.[26][27][28] These advocates point to the UN General Assembly resolution starting the process on the Arms Trade Treaty. The resolution explicitly states that it is “the exclusive right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through constitutional protections on private ownership.”

On 12 July 2012, the United States issued a statement condemning the selection of Iran to serve as vice president of the conference. The statement called the move «outrageous» and noted that Iran is under Security Council sanctions for weapons proliferation.

International non-government and human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Oxfam, the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, Saferworld and the International Action Network on Small Arms (who lead the Control Arms Campaign) have developed analysis on what an effective Arms Trade Treaty would look like.[30]

It would ensure that no transfer is permitted if there is substantial risk that it is likely to:

Loopholes would be minimized. It would include:

  • all weapons—including all military, security and police arms, related equipment and ammunition, components, expertise, and production equipment;
  • all types of transfer—including import, export, re-export, temporary transfer and transshipment, in the state sanctioned and commercial trade, plus transfers of technology, loans, gifts and aid; and
  • all transactions—including those by dealers and brokers, and those providing technical assistance, training, transport, storage, finance and security.

The Amnesty International website «loopholes» include shotguns marketed for deer hunting that are virtually the same as military/police shotguns and rifles marketed for long range target shooting that are virtually the same as military/police sniper rifles. AI advocates that the civilian guns must be included in any workable arms trade controls; otherwise, governments could authorize export/import of sporting guns virtually the same as military/police weapons in function.[31]

It must be workable and enforceable. It must:

  • provide guidelines for the treaty’s full, clear implementation;
  • ensure transparency—including full annual reports of national arms transfers;
  • have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance;
  • ensure accountability—with provisions for adjudication, dispute settlement and sanctions;
  • include a comprehensive framework for international cooperation and assistance.

NGOs are also advocating that the Arms Trade Treaty must reinforce existing responsibilities to assist survivors of armed violence, as well as identify new avenues to address suffering and trauma.

The U.S. NGO Second Amendment Foundation has voiced concern that a multinational treaty limiting the firearms trade might infringe on the constitutional right of private firearm ownership for self-defense in the US and other countries.


The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in part, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” In Reid v. Covert and many other cases, United States Supreme Court has “regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty.” In Reid, the Court held, in part, that:
No agreement with a foreign nation can confer power on the Congress, or any other branch of government, which is free from the restraints of the Constitution. Article VI, the Supremacy clause of the Constitution declares, ‘This Constitution and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all the Treaties made, or
which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law
of the land…’ Indeed, as the Second Amendment applies directly to the federal government, it logically extends to international treaties entered by the federal government and, thus, may not be circumvented by such a treaty.

The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty would violate the Second Amendment, as it broadly applies to “small arms and light weapons” which are owned and carried by millions of Americans. The treaty also contains provisions for “end user documentation” for a “minimum of ten years,” which potentially opens the door to an international gun registry. Such a proposal goes far beyond measures Americans have already rejected time after time.

Texas Conservative Coalition

TCC


Brian Jones Aug. 27, 2013, 10:29 AM 5,322 4

The international community is not happy with the United States and Saudi Arabia amid news that they have inked a deal for hundreds of millions of dollars of controversial and potentially unethical cluster bombs.
The $641 million deal would send 1,300 cluster bombs to America’s closest ally on the Arabian Peninsula, through U.S. defense contractor Textron, according to a Pentagon release on the contract.
Cluster are controversial because they are by nature less accurate than more modern munitions. The Human Rights Watch page on cluster bombs puts it this way:

[Cluster munitions] pose an immediate threat during conflict by randomly scattering thousands of submunitions or «bomblets» over a vast area, and they continue to take even more civilian lives and limbs long after a conflict has ended, as hundreds of submunitions may fail to explode upon impact, littering the landscape with landmine-like «duds.

Presently, a treaty banning cluster bombs has been signed by 112 of the 192 member U.N. states. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are not signatory.
This comes as both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia criticize the violence that has waged on in Syria for more than two years.
Among a litany of human rights violations that include targeting civilians and using chemical weapons, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria has also been accused of using cluster bombs.


The war on Syria has nothing to do with the welfare of the Syrian population, the chemical attack just a fabricated excuse


Top US arms makers are forecasting a significant rise in sales for the coming year – after a pretty solid 2012. Washington has been shifting its sights towards Asia – looking to arm its allies neighboring North Korea and China.

Independent journalist James Corbett says the US is creating a pretext to make billions from arms sales – which generate geopolitical tensions.


(CNN) — Adam Lanza brought three weapons inside Sandy Hook Elementary school on December 14 and left a fourth in his car, police said. Those weapons were a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns — a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm.

In the car he left a shotgun, about which police have offered no details. Lanza used one of the handguns to take his own life, although police haven’t said whether the gun was the Glock or the Sig Sauer.
In fact many details remain unknown about the weapons Lanza used that day to kill 20 children, his own mother, six other adults and then himself. Here’s what is known so far:

Bushmaster AR-15 rifle

The primary weapon used in the attack was a «Bushmaster AR-15 assault-type weapon,» said Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance. The rifle is a Bushmaster version of a widely made AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military. The original M-16 patent ran out years ago, and now the AR-15 is manufactured by several gunmakers. Unlike the military version, the AR-15 is a semiautomatic, firing one bullet per squeeze of the trigger. But like the M-16, ammunition is loaded through a magazine. In the school shooting, police say Lanza’s rifle used numerous 30-round magazines.
An AR-15 is usually capable of firing a rate of 45 rounds per minute in semiautomatic mode.
Police didn’t offer details about the specific model of the rifle Lanza used. A typical Bushmaster rifle, such as the M4 model, comes with a 30-round magazine but can use magazines of various capacities from five to 40 rounds. An M4 weighs about 6 ½ pounds and retails for about $1,300.
Under the 1994 federal ban on such weapons, buying some variants of new AR-15s was against the law. The ban expired in 2004.
Bushmaster is the No. 1 supplier of AR-15 rifles in the United States, according to the company website.
Their weapons are used by more than 100 police departments and by the militaries of 50 nations, according to Bushmaster. Private citizens use them for «hunting, recreation, competition and home defense and security,» the website says.

Gun control: ‘This one feels different’

Glock 10 mm handgun

Police haven’t said what kind of Glock 10 mm handgun Lanza used. But Glock lists two types on its website, including the Glock 20 and Glock 29.
Lanza had «multiple magazines» for the Glock, Vance said. Such magazines are widely available.
The Glock 20 model has a 15-round magazine. Glock describes it as an ideal weapon for hunting because of its larger bullets, referred to as the ammunition’s caliber.
The Glock 20 measures nearly 8 ¼ inches long and weighs about 2 ½ pounds when loaded, according to Glock’s website.
Guns and Ammo magazine said of Glocks: «They point naturally, their triggers aren’t too heavy … but most importantly of all, they’re reliable.»

The Glock is among the more popular pistols sold in the United States.

The Glock semi-automatic was developed in 1982 for the Austrian army. It was not envisioned that it would be bought by millions of citizens. It is not in fact bought by millions of civilians anywhere but in the United States. The gun should not be singled out for demonization; there are lots of semi-automatic pistols, and lots of semi-automatic rifles, and all of them are widespread and legal in the United States.

“The Austrian military made an announcement in 1980 that it would be replacing the Walther P38 handgun – a WWII era weapon. Their Ministry of Defense outlined the basic criteria for this new service pistol. In 1982, Glock learned Austrian Army’s plan to procure a new weapon and begin assembling a team of European experts in the handgun field. He chose a variety of people – including some from the military, some from the police force and he even chose civilians involved in sport shooting.”
It wasn’t long before Glock had his first working prototype. Between Glock’s use of synthetic materials and the newer production technology, the design was very cost effective, making it a viable candidate. The Glock 17 (so-named as it was the company’s 17th patent) passed every endurance and abuse test and was chosen over a number of pistol designs from well-known manufacturers to be the official replacement of the Walther P38. Both military and police forces in Austria adopted the Glock 17 (aka: P80 – Pistole 80) into service in 1982. Many consider the Glock-17 one of the top pistols of all time.”
But here’s the kicker:

 ” Within its first 10 years, this pistol reached sales in excess of 350,000 in over 45 countries; the U.S. alone accounting for 250,000 of that total. “

So here is what happened: in the first ten years, 100,000 of these guns were sold to militaries and police in Europe, and then the rest went to the civilians and police of the United States. The US took 71% of all Glocks in their first decade, even though the US army rejected them. The US is peculiar.

Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun

The other handgun police said Lanza had with him during the school massacre was a Sig Sauer. Authorities didn’t say what kind, but possibilities include the P226, P229 or P250, P290, and if it was an older pistol, possibly the P220. The 9 mm P220 is no longer sold in the United States
Like the Glock, Lanza’s Sig Sauer also allowed a high-capacity magazine, Vance said. Lanza used «multiple magazines» that are widely available to feed ammunition to the Sig Sauer, Vance said. Sig Sauer makes 9 mm pistol magazines with a maximum capacity of 20 bullets.
And like the Glock, Vance said the Sig Sauer handgun was a semiautomatic.
The P226 has a 15-round magazine, measures 7 ¾ inches and costs about $1,142, according to Sig Sauer’s website. They can be found cheaper at some gun shops.

The Handguns magazine website says of the P226: «Adopted by the [Navy] SEALs nonetheless, it has proven to be durable, reliable, accurate and adaptable. What it has not had a reputation for is compactness.»


How America is Filling up itself and the World With Guns

Posted on 12/17/2012 by Juan Cole

It turns out that the Newtown shooter used a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle and he had lots of thirty-round high-capacity clips for it. Authorities have revealed that each of the 20 children and six adults he killed was shot multiple times, but given the number of clips Lanza brought with him, the number of victims could have been much, much higher. The Federal ban on weapons such as the Bushmaster, in place 1994-2004, was allowed to lapse by the George W. Bush administration and his Republican Congress, all of whom received massive campaign donations from the gun lobby. There is a Connecticut ban, but the maker of the Bushmaster used a loophole in the poorly written state law to continue to sell the gun in the state. The Bushmaster is manufactured by a subsidiary of the Wall Street hedge fund, Cerberus Capital Management, called the “Freedom Group”– which also owns Remington and DPMS Firearms. It is the largest single maker of semi-automatic rifles in the US, and they are expected to be a major growing profit center in the coming years. The Freedom Group was sued over the Washington, DC, sniper attacks, and paid $500,000 without admitting culpability.
So, the hedge funds are doing us in every which way.
But the weird idea of letting people buy military weaponry at will, with less trouble than you would have to buy a car, is only one manifestation of America’s cult of high-powered weaponry.
In 2011, US corporations sold 75% of all the arms sold in the international weapons market, some $66 billion of the $85 billion trade. Russia was the runner-up with only $4 billion in sales.
Saudi Arabia bought F-15s and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. Oman bought F-16s. The UAE got a missile shield. And, of course, Israel gets very sophisticated weapons from the US, as well.
The US share of the arms trade to the Middle East has burgeoned so much in the past decade that it now dwarfs the other suppliers, as this chart [pdf] from a Congressional study makes clear.

The University of Michigan “Correlates of War” project, run by my late colleague David Singer, tried to crunch numbers on potential causes of the wars of the past two centuries. Getting a statistically valid correlation for a cause was almost impossible. But there was one promising lead, as it was explained to me. When countries made large arms purchases, they seemed more likely to go to war in the aftermath. It may be that if you have invested in state of the art weapons, you want to use them before they become antiquated or before your enemies get them too.
So the very worst thing the US could do for Middle East peace is to sell the region billions in new, sophisticated weapons.
Moreover if you give sophisticated conventional weapons to some countries but deny them to their rivals, the rivals will try to level the playing field with unconventional weapons. The US is creating an artificial and unnecessary impetus to nuclear proliferation by this policy.
I first went to Pakistan in 1981. At that time it was not a society with either drugs or guns. But President Ronald Reagan decided to use private Afghan militias to foment a guerrilla war against the Soviets, who sent troops into Afghanistan in late 1979. Reagan ended up sending billions of dollars worth of arms to the Mujahidin annually, and twisting Saudi Arabia’s arm to match what the US sent. The Mujahidin were also encouraged by the US to grow poppies for heroin production so that they could buy even more weapons.
Over the decade of the 1980s, I saw the weapons begin to show up in the markets of Pakistan, and began hearing for the first time about drug addicts (there came to be a million of them by 1990). I had seen the arms market expand in Lebanon in the 1970s, and was alarmed that now it was happening in Pakistan, at that time a relatively peaceful and secure society. The US filled Pakistan up with guns to get at the Soviets, creating a gun culture where such a thing had been rare (with the exception of some Pashtuns who made home-made knock-offs of Western rifles). Ultimately the gun culture promoted by Reagan came back to bite the US on the ass (not to mention Afghanistan and Pakistan!) And not to mention the drugs.
Now the US views Pakistan as peculiarly violent, and pundits often blame it on Islamism. But no, it is just garden-variety Americanism. You’re welcome.


Published on Feb 4, 2013
Written and spoken by Michael Rivero. 
The written version is here: http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTI...

Video by Zane Henry.

This video is in the public domain. The producers have waived their copyright to this video.
Listen to a post production conversation between the producers by clicking on this mp3: https://soundcloud.com/eonitao-state/...




Cora Currier writes for ProPublica via Juan Cole
The United States is loosening controls over military exports, in a shift that former U.S. officials and human rights advocates say could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world’s conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions.
Come tomorrow, thousands of parts of military aircraft, such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires will be able to be sent to almost any country in the world, with minimal oversight – even to some countries subject to U.N. arms embargos. U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries.
Critics, including some who’ve worked on enforcing arms export laws, say the changes could undermine efforts to prevent arms smuggling to Iran and others.
Brake pads may sound innocuous, but “the Iranians are constantly looking for spare parts for old U.S. jets,” said Steven Pelak, who recently left the Department of Justice after six years overseeing investigations and prosecutions of export violations.
“It’s going to be easier for these military items to flow, harder to get a heads-up on their movements, and, in theory, easier for a smuggling ring to move weapons,” said William Hartung, author of a recent report on the topic for the Center for International Policy.
In the current system, every manufacturer and exporter of military equipment has to register with the State Department and get a license for each planned export. U.S. officials scrutinize each proposed deal to make sure the receiving country isn’t violating human rights and to determine the risk of the shipment winding up with terrorists or another questionable group.
Under the new system, whole categories of equipment encompassing tens of thousands of items will move to the Commerce Department, where they will be under more “flexible” controls. Final rules have been issued for six of 19 categories of equipment and more will roll out in the coming months. Some military equipment, such as fighter jets, drones, and other systems and parts, will stay under the State Department’s tighter oversight.
Commerce will do interagency human rights reviews before allowing exports, but only as a matter of policy, whereas in the State Department it is required by law.
The switch from State to Commerce represents a big win for defense manufacturers, who have long lobbied in favor of relaxing U.S. export rules, which they say put a damper on international trade. Among the companies that recently lobbied on the issue: Lockheed, which manufactures C-130 transport planes, Textron, which makes Kiowa Warrior helicopters, and Honeywell, which outfits military choppers.
Overall, industry trade groups and big defense companies have spent roughly $170 million over the last three years lobbying on a variety of issues, including export control reform, a ProPublica analysis of disclosure forms shows.
The administration says in a factsheet that “spending time and resources protecting a specialty bolt diverts resources from protecting truly sensitive items,” and that the effort will allow them to build “higher fences around fewer items.” Commerce says it will beef up its enforcement wing to prevent illegal re-exports or shipments to banned entities. The military has also supported the relaxed controls, arguing that the changes will make it easier to arm foreign allies.

An interview with Commerce Department officials was canceled due to the government shutdown, and the State Department did not respond to questions.
The shift is part of a larger administration initiative to update the arms export process, which many acknowledge needed to be streamlined. But critics of the move to Commerce say that decision has been overly driven by the interests of defense manufacturers.
“They’ve cut through the fat, into the meat, and to the bone,” said Brittany Benowitz, who was defense adviser to former Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and recently co-authored a paper on the pending changes.
“I think it’s fair to say that the views of the enforcement agencies and actors charged with carrying out the controls haven’t won the day,” said Pelak, the former Justice Department official.
Current controls haven’t prevented the U.S. from dominating arms exports up to now: In 2011, the U.S. concluded $66 billion in arms sales agreements, nearly 80 percent of the global market. The State Department denied just one percent of arms export licenses between 2008 and 2010.
At a recent hearing, a State Department official touted the economic benefits, saying the “defense industry is going to become even more competitive than they are already.”
Under the new policy, military helicopters, transport planes and other types of military equipment that typically need approval may be eligible for license-free export to 36 allied governments, including much of Europe, Argentina, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
According to Colby Goodman, an arms-control expert with the Open Society Policy Center, once an item is approved for that exemption, it’s not clear that there will be any ongoing, country-specific human rights review. (The State Department hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment on that point.)
Goodman is particularly concerned about Turkey, where in the last year authorities violently suppressed protests and “security forces committed unlawful killings,” according to the most recent State Department Human Rights report.
Under the new system, some military parts can now be sent license-free to any country besides China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria. Other parts that are deemed not “specially designed” for military use, while also initially banned from those countries, have even fewer restrictions on re-exports.
Spare parts are in high demand from sanctioned countries and groups, which need them to keep old equipment up and running, according to arms control researchers. Indonesia scrambled to keep its C-130s in the air after the U.S. blocked exports for human rights violations in the 1990s. In a report on trade in arms parts, Oxfam noted that by the time of the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, Muammar Qaddafi’s air combat fleet was in dire shape, referred to by one analyst as “the world’s largest military parking lot.” Goodman said Congolese militia members may be using aging arms that the U.S. sold decades ago to the former Zaire.
Pelak says the changes will make enforcement harder by getting rid of part of the paper trail as parts and munitions exit the U.S.: “When you take away that licensing record, you put the investigation overseas.” His office handled dozens of cases each year in which military items had been diverted to prohibited countries. The Government Accountability Office raised concerns last year about Commerce’s enforcement abilities as it takes control of exports that once went through the State Department.
The president is authorized – in fact, required – to revise the list of items under State Department control. But the massive shift to Commerce means that laws and regulations that were designed with the longstanding State Department system in place may now be up to presidential prerogative.
Vetting for human rights compliance is one such requirement. The Commerce Department said it will also continue to publicly report the sales of so-called “major defense equipment.”
Other laws may not get carried over, however. For example, if firearms are moved to Commerce, manufacturers may no longer have to notify Congress of foreign sales.
Several organizations, including the Center for International Policy, the Open Society Policy Center, and the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, have called on the administration to hold off moving some military items from the State Department, and have asked Congress to apply State’s reporting requirements and restrictions to more of the military items and parts soon to be under Commerce control.
In one area, the administration does appear to have temporarily backed off – firearms and ammunition. Any decision to loosen exports for firearms could have conflicted with the president’s call for enhanced domestic gun control.
According to a memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal last spring, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security both opposed draft versions of revisions to the firearms category. (The Justice Department press office is out of operation due to the government shutdown, and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.) Shifting firearms was also likely to be a lightning rod for arms control groups. As the New York Times’ C.J. Chivers has documented, small arms trafficking has been the scourge of conflicts around the world.
Draft rules for firearms and ammunitions were ready in mid-2012, according to Lawrence Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group for gun manufacturers. The Commerce Department even sent representatives to an industry export conference to preview manufacturers on the new system they might fall under.
But since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December, no proposed rule has been published.
Keane thinks the connection is irrelevant. “This has nothing to do with domestic gun control legislation. We’re talking about exports,” he said. “Our products have not moved forward, and we’re disappointed by that.”
The defense industry has long pushed for a loosening of the U.S. export controls. Initial wish-lists were aimed at restructuring and speeding up the State Department system, where the wait for a license had sometimes stretched to months. The current focus on moving items to Commerce began under the Obama administration.
The aerospace industry has been particularly active, as new rules for aircraft are the first to take effect. Commercial satellites had been moved briefly to Commerce in the 1990s, but when U.S. space companies were caught giving technical data to China in 1998, Congress returned them to State control. Last year, satellite makers successfully lobbied Congress to lift satellite-specific rules that had kept them from being eligible for the reforms.
Newer industries want to cash in, too. Virgin Galactic wrote in a comment on a proposed rule that the “nascent but growing” space tourism industry was hindered by current rules. At a conference in 2011, the chief executive of Northrup Grumman warned of “the U.S. drone aircraft industry losing its dominance” if exports weren’t boosted. (Drones are regulated under missile technology controls, and are mostly unaffected by the current changes.)
Lauren Airey, of the National Association of Manufacturers, named two main objections to the current system. First off, fees: Any company that makes a product on the State Department list has to be registered whether or not they actually export, with yearly costs starting at $2,500. There’s no fee for the Commerce list.
Secondly, any equipment that contains a listed part gets “lifetime controls,” Airey said. If a buyer wants to resell something, even for scrap, they need U.S. approval. (For example, the U.S. is currently debating whether to let Turkey re-sell American attack helicopters to Pakistan.) Under Commerce, “there are still limitations, but they are more flexible,” Airey said.
Airey’s association (and other trade groups) makes the case that foreign competitors are “taking advantage of perceived and real issues in U.S. export controls to promote foreign parts and components – advertising themselves as State-Department-free.” Airey demurred when asked for an estimate on the amount of business lost: “It’s hard to put a number directly on how much export controls cause U.S. companies to be avoided.”
An Aerospace Industries Association executive noted at a panel this spring, “We really did not move the needle at all by complaining about the fact that we weren’t making as much money as we wanted to.”
But at a recent hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, members of Congress highlighted economic impact.
“In my district in Rhode Island,” said David Cicilline, D-R.I., “as many of our defense companies are looking to expand their business, really, to respond to declines in defense domestic spending, international sales are becoming even more important and really critical…to the job growth in my state.”
William Keating, D-Mass., said that “with declining defense budgets, arms sales are even more critical to the defense industry in my state to maintain production lines and keep jobs.”
“That would not have been the response a decade ago,” said one staffer who works on the issue. “National security hawks would have been worried about defense items moving to the Commerce list. The environment on the Hill has dramatically changed.”
One concern came from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which believes that easing controls on military technology and software could actually lead to more outsourcing of production.
William Lowell, who spent a decade of his 30 years at the State Department directing defense trade controls, told ProPublica that the move represents a major shift in the U.S. attitude towards international arms trade. U.S. policy has long been aimed at “denying the entry of U.S. military articles of any type into the international gray arms market – for which small arms and military parts are the lifeblood,” Lowell wrote in comments opposing the new rules. “Commercial arms exports have never been considered normal commercial trade.”
Follow @coracurrier



U.N. Arms Trade Treaty...Not only would it violate Texans’ Second Amendment rights, including the right to self defense, it also raises U.S. sovereignty and national security concerns.

Senator John Cornyn
On 2 April 2013, the General Assembly adopted the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), regulating the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. The treaty will foster peace and security by putting a stop to destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions. It will prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms. And it will help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools.





By Richard Solash
September 25, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has signed a landmark treaty at the UN General Assembly in New York aimed at regulating the multibillion-dollar global trade in conventional weapons. RFE/RL looks at how the Arms Trade Treaty works and why it is significant that the United States has signed the international accord.

What does the Arms Trade Treaty seek to do?

The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has the ambitious aim of responding to international concern that the $70 billion a year trade in conventional weapons leaves a trail of atrocities in its wake.

The treaty calls for the international sale of weapons to be linked to the human rights records of buyers.

It requires countries to establish regulations for selling conventional weapons.

It calls for potential arms deals to be evaluated in order to determine whether they might enable buyers to carry out genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

The treaty also seeks to prevent conventional military weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists or organized criminal groups, and to stop deals that would violate UN arms embargos.

What is the significance of Washington's signature on the treaty?

Experts say that Washington's signature on the document could be the treaty's watershed moment.

The United States is the world's largest arms dealer. So U.S. support and ratification of the accord is essential to its success.

According to Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, formal support from the United States gives the treaty the potential to change the very nature of the global arms trade.

"The United States already has a very robust set of standards and export controls," he says. "This treaty essentially internationalizes the U.S. system and lays down some prohibitions on the transfer of conventional weapons. And this treaty will require all states to establish export laws, to enforce those export laws, and to abide by a common set of standards."

What types of conventional weapons deals does the Arms Trade Treaty seek to regulate?

Conventional weapons covered by the UN Arms Trade Treaty include tanks and other armored combat vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters, naval warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms.

It also establishes common international standards for the regulation of the international trade in ammunition, weapons parts, and arms components.

The treaty does not regulate the domestic sale or use of weapons in any country. It also recognizes the legitimacy of the arms trade to enable states to provide for their own security.

What enforcement clauses are contained in the treaty?

There is no clear enforcement mechanism in the UN Arms Trade Treaty. It also remains unclear whether the transfer of conventional weapons in ways other than sales -- for example, such as rental contracts or gifts -- would fall under the treaty.

Nevertheless, arms-control advocates hope the treaty will increase pressure on weapons exporters such as Russia -- which argues that arms sales to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime are permitted because Damascus is not under a UN arms embargo.

The West argues that Russia, a major player in the global arms trade, should stop sending weapons to the Syrian regime because Assad's security forces have used conventional military weaponry to kill tens of thousands of civilians caught up in the civil war.

Who supports the treaty and who doesn't?

The UN General Assembly voted decisively in April to approve the Arms Trade Treaty, ending nearly a decade of negotiations over how strict it should be.

UN members voted 154 to 3 in favor of the accord, with 23 countries abstaining.

Iran, North Korea, and Syria -- long accused of fueling international conflicts through arms shipments -- were the countries to vote against the treaty.

The United States voted in favor of the treaty, despite opposition from influential U.S. gun lobbyists.

The United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, and Canada also voted for the treaty.

Former Soviet republics that voted for the treaty were Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and all three Baltic states.

Also voting yes were Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Russia and China, which are two of the world's leading exporters of conventional weaponry, were among the countries that abstained from the vote.

Others who abstained from the vote include Belarus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cuba, Burma, and Angola.

Several abstaining countries objected on grounds that the human rights criteria in the treaty are not defined clearly enough.

To date, 89 countries have signed the treaty, including the United States, which did so on September 25.

To take effect, it must be ratified by at least 50 UN member states. So far, just five countries have done so.

Italy became the first EU state to ratify the accord after it won parliamentary approval there on September 25.




The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons, which has not entered into force. International weapons commerce has been estimated to reach US$70 billion a year.[1]

The treaty was negotiated at a global conference under the auspices of the United Nations from July 2–27, 2012, in New York.[2] As it was not possible to reach an agreement on a final text at that time, a new meeting for the conference was scheduled for March 18–28, 2013.[3] On 2 April 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted the ATT.[4][5] The treaty has been signed by 113 states, but it will not enter into force until it has been ratified or acceded to by 50 states.

The roots of what is known today as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) can be traced back to the late 1990s, when civil society actors and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates voiced their concerns about the unregulated nature of the global arms trade and its impact on human security.[7]

The ATT is part of a larger global effort begun in 1997 by Costa Rican President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Óscar Arias. In that year, Arias led a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in a meeting in New York to offer the world a code of conduct for the trade in arms. This group included Elie Wiesel, Betty Williams, the Dalai Lama, José Ramos-Horta, representatives of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Amnesty International, and the American Friends Service Committee. The original idea was to establish ethical standards for the arms trade that would eventually be adopted by the international community. Over the following 16 years, the Arias Foundation for Peace & Human Progress has played an instrumental role in achieving approval of the treaty.

In 2001, the process continued with the adoption of a non-legally binding program of action at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects in 2001. This program was formally called the “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” (PoA).[8]

Later put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates, the ATT was first addressed in the UN in December 2006 when the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”.

The arms trade treaty, like the PoA, is predicated upon a hypothesis that the illicit trade in small arms is a large and serious problem requiring global action through the UN. According to a well regarded 2012 Routledge Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution publication, "the relative importance of diversion or misuse of officially authorised transfers, compared to international entirely illegal black market trafficking has been thoroughly confirmed."[9] The authors go on to elaborate that "For most developing or fragile states, a combination of weak domestic regulation of authorised firearms possession with theft, loss or corrupt sale from official holdings tends to be a bigger source of weapons concern than illicit trafficking across borders."

The UN General Assembly of 2 April 2013 (71st Plenary Meeting) adopted the Arms Trade Treaty as a resolution by a 154-to-3 vote with 23 abstentions. North Korea, Iran, and Syria voted in opposition. China and Russia, among the world's leaders in weapon exports, were among the 23 nations that abstained.[21] Cuba, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan also abstained. Armenia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Vietnam did not vote.[1] It was opened for formal signature on 3 June 2013.

"According to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, the treaty will not do any of the following: interfere with domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms in Member States; ban the export of any type of weapon; harm States' legitimate right to self-defence; or undermine national arms regulation standards already in place."

Opposition to the ATT can be broken down into state opposition and civil society opposition. Over thirty states have objected to various parts of the ATT during negotiations, the majority of which held strong concerns about the implications for national sovereignty.[citation needed] According to armstreaty.org, the leading ATT negotiations tracking website,[citation needed] countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran have objected to many more aspects of the ATT than has the United States.

From a civil society point of view, groups concerned about national sovereignty or individual rights to armed defense have been negative of the ATT. While not fundamentally opposed to an ATT, these groups are keenly sensitive to ensuring an ATT does not undermine national constitutional protections and individual rights. The most vocal and organized civil society groups opposing objectionable aspects to the ATT originated from the United States. These groups include the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR), the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and The Heritage Foundation. The NRA and the Gun Owners of America say that the treaty is an attempt to circumvent the Second Amendment and similar guarantees in state constitutions in order to impose domestic gun regulations.[24]

Perhaps the largest source of civil society opposition[vague] to the ATT has come from the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which is the lobbying arm of the NRA. In July 2012 ILA wrote that:
"Anti-gun treaty proponents continue to mislead the public, claiming the treaty would have no impact on American gun owners. That's a bald-faced lie. For example, the most recent draft treaty includes export/import controls that would require officials in an importing country to collect information on the 'end user' of a firearm, keep the information for 20 years, and provide the information to the country from which the gun was exported. In other words, if you bought a Beretta shotgun, you would be an 'end user' and the U.S. government would have to keep a record of you and notify the Italian government about your purchase. That is gun registration. If the U.S. refuses to implement this data collection on law-abiding American gun owners, other nations might be required to ban the export of firearms to the U.S."[25]
Advocates of the treaty say that it only pertains to international arms trade, and would have no effect on current domestic laws.[26][27][28] These advocates point to the UN General Assembly resolution starting the process on the Arms Trade Treaty. The resolution explicitly states that it is “the exclusive right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through constitutional protections on private ownership.”

On 12 July 2012, the United States issued a statement condemning the selection of Iran to serve as vice president of the conference. The statement called the move "outrageous" and noted that Iran is under Security Council sanctions for weapons proliferation.

International non-government and human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Oxfam, the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, Saferworld and the International Action Network on Small Arms (who lead the Control Arms Campaign) have developed analysis on what an effective Arms Trade Treaty would look like.[30]

It would ensure that no transfer is permitted if there is substantial risk that it is likely to:
Loopholes would be minimized. It would include:
  • all weapons—including all military, security and police arms, related equipment and ammunition, components, expertise, and production equipment;
  • all types of transfer—including import, export, re-export, temporary transfer and transshipment, in the state sanctioned and commercial trade, plus transfers of technology, loans, gifts and aid; and
  • all transactions—including those by dealers and brokers, and those providing technical assistance, training, transport, storage, finance and security.
The Amnesty International website "loopholes" include shotguns marketed for deer hunting that are virtually the same as military/police shotguns and rifles marketed for long range target shooting that are virtually the same as military/police sniper rifles. AI advocates that the civilian guns must be included in any workable arms trade controls; otherwise, governments could authorize export/import of sporting guns virtually the same as military/police weapons in function.[31]

It must be workable and enforceable. It must:
  • provide guidelines for the treaty's full, clear implementation;
  • ensure transparency—including full annual reports of national arms transfers;
  • have an effective mechanism to monitor compliance;
  • ensure accountability—with provisions for adjudication, dispute settlement and sanctions;
  • include a comprehensive framework for international cooperation and assistance.
NGOs are also advocating that the Arms Trade Treaty must reinforce existing responsibilities to assist survivors of armed violence, as well as identify new avenues to address suffering and trauma.

The U.S. NGO Second Amendment Foundation has voiced concern that a multinational treaty limiting the firearms trade might infringe on the constitutional right of private firearm ownership for self-defense in the US and other countries.



The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in part, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” In Reid v. Covert and many other cases, United States Supreme Court has “regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty.” In Reid, the Court held, in part, that:
No agreement with a foreign nation can confer power on the Congress, or any other branch of government, which is free from the restraints of the Constitution. Article VI, the Supremacy clause of the Constitution declares, ‘This Constitution and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all the Treaties made, or
which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law
of the land...’ Indeed, as the Second Amendment applies directly to the federal government, it logically extends to international treaties entered by the federal government and, thus, may not be circumvented by such a treaty.

The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty would violate the Second Amendment, as it broadly applies to “small arms and light weapons” which are owned and carried by millions of Americans. The treaty also contains provisions for “end user documentation” for a “minimum of ten years,” which potentially opens the door to an international gun registry. Such a proposal goes far beyond measures Americans have already rejected time after time.


Texas Conservative Coalition

TCC





Brian Jones Aug. 27, 2013, 10:29 AM 5,322 4


The international community is not happy with the United States and Saudi Arabia amid news that they have inked a deal for hundreds of millions of dollars of controversial and potentially unethical cluster bombs.
The $641 million deal would send 1,300 cluster bombs to America's closest ally on the Arabian Peninsula, through U.S. defense contractor Textron, according to a Pentagon release on the contract.
Cluster are controversial because they are by nature less accurate than more modern munitions. The Human Rights Watch page on cluster bombs puts it this way:
[Cluster munitions] pose an immediate threat during conflict by randomly scattering thousands of submunitions or "bomblets" over a vast area, and they continue to take even more civilian lives and limbs long after a conflict has ended, as hundreds of submunitions may fail to explode upon impact, littering the landscape with landmine-like "duds.
Presently, a treaty banning cluster bombs has been signed by 112 of the 192 member U.N. states. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are not signatory.
This comes as both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia criticize the violence that has waged on in Syria for more than two years.
Among a litany of human rights violations that include targeting civilians and using chemical weapons, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria has also been accused of using cluster bombs.




The war on Syria has nothing to do with the welfare of the Syrian population, the chemical attack just a fabricated excuse







Top US arms makers are forecasting a significant rise in sales for the coming year - after a pretty solid 2012. Washington has been shifting its sights towards Asia - looking to arm its allies neighboring North Korea and China.

Independent journalist James Corbett says the US is creating a pretext to make billions from arms sales - which generate geopolitical tensions.





(CNN) -- Adam Lanza brought three weapons inside Sandy Hook Elementary school on December 14 and left a fourth in his car, police said. Those weapons were a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns -- a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm.


In the car he left a shotgun, about which police have offered no details. Lanza used one of the handguns to take his own life, although police haven't said whether the gun was the Glock or the Sig Sauer.
In fact many details remain unknown about the weapons Lanza used that day to kill 20 children, his own mother, six other adults and then himself. Here's what is known so far:

Bushmaster AR-15 rifle


The primary weapon used in the attack was a "Bushmaster AR-15 assault-type weapon," said Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance. The rifle is a Bushmaster version of a widely made AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military. The original M-16 patent ran out years ago, and now the AR-15 is manufactured by several gunmakers. Unlike the military version, the AR-15 is a semiautomatic, firing one bullet per squeeze of the trigger. But like the M-16, ammunition is loaded through a magazine. In the school shooting, police say Lanza's rifle used numerous 30-round magazines.
An AR-15 is usually capable of firing a rate of 45 rounds per minute in semiautomatic mode.
Police didn't offer details about the specific model of the rifle Lanza used. A typical Bushmaster rifle, such as the M4 model, comes with a 30-round magazine but can use magazines of various capacities from five to 40 rounds. An M4 weighs about 6 ½ pounds and retails for about $1,300.
Under the 1994 federal ban on such weapons, buying some variants of new AR-15s was against the law. The ban expired in 2004.
Bushmaster is the No. 1 supplier of AR-15 rifles in the United States, according to the company website.
Their weapons are used by more than 100 police departments and by the militaries of 50 nations, according to Bushmaster. Private citizens use them for "hunting, recreation, competition and home defense and security," the website says.


Gun control: 'This one feels different'

Glock 10 mm handgun

Police haven't said what kind of Glock 10 mm handgun Lanza used. But Glock lists two types on its website, including the Glock 20 and Glock 29.
Lanza had "multiple magazines" for the Glock, Vance said. Such magazines are widely available.
The Glock 20 model has a 15-round magazine. Glock describes it as an ideal weapon for hunting because of its larger bullets, referred to as the ammunition's caliber.
The Glock 20 measures nearly 8 ¼ inches long and weighs about 2 ½ pounds when loaded, according to Glock's website.
Guns and Ammo magazine said of Glocks: "They point naturally, their triggers aren't too heavy ... but most importantly of all, they're reliable."

The Glock is among the more popular pistols sold in the United States.

The Glock semi-automatic was developed in 1982 for the Austrian army. It was not envisioned that it would be bought by millions of citizens. It is not in fact bought by millions of civilians anywhere but in the United States. The gun should not be singled out for demonization; there are lots of semi-automatic pistols, and lots of semi-automatic rifles, and all of them are widespread and legal in the United States.

“The Austrian military made an announcement in 1980 that it would be replacing the Walther P38 handgun – a WWII era weapon. Their Ministry of Defense outlined the basic criteria for this new service pistol. In 1982, Glock learned Austrian Army’s plan to procure a new weapon and begin assembling a team of European experts in the handgun field. He chose a variety of people – including some from the military, some from the police force and he even chose civilians involved in sport shooting.”
It wasn’t long before Glock had his first working prototype. Between Glock’s use of synthetic materials and the newer production technology, the design was very cost effective, making it a viable candidate. The Glock 17 (so-named as it was the company’s 17th patent) passed every endurance and abuse test and was chosen over a number of pistol designs from well-known manufacturers to be the official replacement of the Walther P38. Both military and police forces in Austria adopted the Glock 17 (aka: P80 – Pistole 80) into service in 1982. Many consider the Glock-17 one of the top pistols of all time.”
But here’s the kicker:
 ” Within its first 10 years, this pistol reached sales in excess of 350,000 in over 45 countries; the U.S. alone accounting for 250,000 of that total. “
So here is what happened: in the first ten years, 100,000 of these guns were sold to militaries and police in Europe, and then the rest went to the civilians and police of the United States. The US took 71% of all Glocks in their first decade, even though the US army rejected them. The US is peculiar.

Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun

The other handgun police said Lanza had with him during the school massacre was a Sig Sauer. Authorities didn't say what kind, but possibilities include the P226, P229 or P250, P290, and if it was an older pistol, possibly the P220. The 9 mm P220 is no longer sold in the United States
Like the Glock, Lanza's Sig Sauer also allowed a high-capacity magazine, Vance said. Lanza used "multiple magazines" that are widely available to feed ammunition to the Sig Sauer, Vance said. Sig Sauer makes 9 mm pistol magazines with a maximum capacity of 20 bullets.
And like the Glock, Vance said the Sig Sauer handgun was a semiautomatic.
The P226 has a 15-round magazine, measures 7 ¾ inches and costs about $1,142, according to Sig Sauer's website. They can be found cheaper at some gun shops.

The Handguns magazine website says of the P226: "Adopted by the [Navy] SEALs nonetheless, it has proven to be durable, reliable, accurate and adaptable. What it has not had a reputation for is compactness."




How America is Filling up itself and the World With Guns

Posted on 12/17/2012 by Juan Cole

It turns out that the Newtown shooter used a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle and he had lots of thirty-round high-capacity clips for it. Authorities have revealed that each of the 20 children and six adults he killed was shot multiple times, but given the number of clips Lanza brought with him, the number of victims could have been much, much higher. The Federal ban on weapons such as the Bushmaster, in place 1994-2004, was allowed to lapse by the George W. Bush administration and his Republican Congress, all of whom received massive campaign donations from the gun lobby. There is a Connecticut ban, but the maker of the Bushmaster used a loophole in the poorly written state law to continue to sell the gun in the state. The Bushmaster is manufactured by a subsidiary of the Wall Street hedge fund, Cerberus Capital Management, called the “Freedom Group”– which also owns Remington and DPMS Firearms. It is the largest single maker of semi-automatic rifles in the US, and they are expected to be a major growing profit center in the coming years. The Freedom Group was sued over the Washington, DC, sniper attacks, and paid $500,000 without admitting culpability.
So, the hedge funds are doing us in every which way.
But the weird idea of letting people buy military weaponry at will, with less trouble than you would have to buy a car, is only one manifestation of America’s cult of high-powered weaponry.
In 2011, US corporations sold 75% of all the arms sold in the international weapons market, some $66 billion of the $85 billion trade. Russia was the runner-up with only $4 billion in sales.
Saudi Arabia bought F-15s and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. Oman bought F-16s. The UAE got a missile shield. And, of course, Israel gets very sophisticated weapons from the US, as well.
The US share of the arms trade to the Middle East has burgeoned so much in the past decade that it now dwarfs the other suppliers, as this chart [pdf] from a Congressional study makes clear.


The University of Michigan “Correlates of War” project, run by my late colleague David Singer, tried to crunch numbers on potential causes of the wars of the past two centuries. Getting a statistically valid correlation for a cause was almost impossible. But there was one promising lead, as it was explained to me. When countries made large arms purchases, they seemed more likely to go to war in the aftermath. It may be that if you have invested in state of the art weapons, you want to use them before they become antiquated or before your enemies get them too.
So the very worst thing the US could do for Middle East peace is to sell the region billions in new, sophisticated weapons.
Moreover if you give sophisticated conventional weapons to some countries but deny them to their rivals, the rivals will try to level the playing field with unconventional weapons. The US is creating an artificial and unnecessary impetus to nuclear proliferation by this policy.
I first went to Pakistan in 1981. At that time it was not a society with either drugs or guns. But President Ronald Reagan decided to use private Afghan militias to foment a guerrilla war against the Soviets, who sent troops into Afghanistan in late 1979. Reagan ended up sending billions of dollars worth of arms to the Mujahidin annually, and twisting Saudi Arabia’s arm to match what the US sent. The Mujahidin were also encouraged by the US to grow poppies for heroin production so that they could buy even more weapons.
Over the decade of the 1980s, I saw the weapons begin to show up in the markets of Pakistan, and began hearing for the first time about drug addicts (there came to be a million of them by 1990). I had seen the arms market expand in Lebanon in the 1970s, and was alarmed that now it was happening in Pakistan, at that time a relatively peaceful and secure society. The US filled Pakistan up with guns to get at the Soviets, creating a gun culture where such a thing had been rare (with the exception of some Pashtuns who made home-made knock-offs of Western rifles). Ultimately the gun culture promoted by Reagan came back to bite the US on the ass (not to mention Afghanistan and Pakistan!) And not to mention the drugs.
Now the US views Pakistan as peculiarly violent, and pundits often blame it on Islamism. But no, it is just garden-variety Americanism. You’re welcome.

War on Syria

18 August 2014

There is evidence in the public domain that the US and Saudi Arabia are behind the ISIS. ISIS used to be called Al-Qaida but that is not convenient anymore, it seems because it is clearly high treason to cooperate with Al-Qaida, Even in the US Media these facts were acknowledge when Obama was pondering invading Syria.

Tell your congressman that you are concerned about allegations that the US and/or its allies trained Islamic extremist in Jordan to fight the Syrian government. Ask how a bunch of young tugs can operate sophisticated high tech us supplied equipment without training, maintenance, and spear parts. Ask how Israel, with her paranoid arrogance and the best army and intelligence service in the World, allowed a military presence of the size of the ISIS to surge in her backyard. Ask who supplies the ammunition and money.

There are reasons, I guess, for people in power to play chess with the World, but at the end of the line what we have is psychopathic behavior and Power for the sake of Power. What we can do first of all is being informed and tell others at church, school, friends what is going on and tell government officials that you are aware and against blood for oil.


Published on Nov 21, 2013

Inside Syria it’s proving increasingly difficult to get anything like a clear picture of the state of the conflict, but the government appears to have the upper hand.


Published on Sep 10, 2013

In today’s video, Topher Morrison of AMTV confirms that John McCain posed with known terrorists in Syria.

Published on Oct 22, 2013

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has come under attack, and rightfully so. He has gone from being a Vietnam Veteran hero to crossing the line, in my opinion and many others, of being a traitor to the Constitution and the United States. I ran across a video of a townhall meeting that apparently took place sometime in September, in which Marine Blaine Cooper called out John McCain on his treason for aiding and abetting the enemy of the United States.


By Nick Tattersall

ISTANBUL | Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:34am EDT

(Reuters) – The rise of al Qaeda in parts of Syria’s north has left Turkey facing a new security threat on its already vulnerable border and raised questions about its wholesale support for rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has long championed more robust backing for Syria’s fractious armed opposition, arguing it would bring a quicker end to Assad’s rule and give moderate forces the authority they needed to keep more radical Islamist elements in check.

But with Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of the north near the border in recent weeks, it is a strategy that increasingly looks to have been a miscalculation.

Ankara has found itself facing accusations that indiscriminate support for the rebels has allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross into northern Syria and facilitated the rise of radical groups.

«We are being accused of supporting al Qaeda,» a source close to the Turkish government said, adding that U.S. officials had raised concerns on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

«They were politely but aggressively critical. The attention has focused away from Assad to al Qaeda,» the source said, echoing frustration voiced by other officials in Ankara that this was playing into Assad’s hands.

As if on cue, the Turkish army said on Wednesday it had fired on ISIL fighters over the border after a stray mortar shell hit Turkish soil. It has retaliated in the past in such cases but this appeared to be the first time its response had targeted al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Turkey has maintained an open-door policy throughout the two-and-a-half-year conflict, providing a lifeline to rebel-held areas by allowing humanitarian aid in, giving refugees a route out and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army organize on its soil.

It officially denies arming the rebels or facilitating the passage of foreign fighters who have swollen the ranks of al Qaeda-linked factions including ISIL and Nusra.

«Logistically nothing goes through the official borders in Turkey or any other country anyway,» said Louay Meqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

But the 900 km (560-mile) border is difficult to police and refugees, smugglers and rebel fighters have been able to cross undetected in remote areas, bypassing the main crossing points.

«Officially we didn’t allow it. But it’s a long border and some groups, we tried to accommodate them in the Syrian opposition, which we wanted to be as large as possible,» said one Turkish official in the region, when asked whether foreign fighters had been able to cross.

Foreign mercenaries, mainly backed by Gulf states, were initially welcomed by Syria’s rebel forces because they had greater battle experience and were more effective against pro-Assad militias, he said.

«This was a tactical mistake and now we see a totally different balance of power.»

LENDING ASSAD LEGITIMACY

It is a contrast with Jordan, where authorities have kept a tight control over their border with Syria. Rebels in the southern Syrian province of Deraa, the cradle of the 2011 protests against Assad, have long complained that they have been starved of significant arms supplies as a result.

In a report documenting sectarian mass killings by Assad’s foes, New York-based Human Rights Watch said last week Turkey needed to increase its border patrols and restrict the passage of fighters and arms to radical groups.

«Many foreign fighters operating in northern Syria gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and sometimes retreat to for medical treatment,» the report said.

It cited a humanitarian worker in Turkey as saying some of the foreign fighters entering Syria’s Latakia province, where it said 190 civilians were killed by rebels in an attack in August, had flown into Hatay airport in Turkey, from where they were picked up by other fighters and facilitators.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly denied any support from Turkey for al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and has described suggestions to the contrary as a bid to legitimize Assad’s actions by portraying him as fighting terrorism.

«This is what Assad wants. He is trying to … change the nature of the conflict, so that it is perceived not as a conflict between him and his own people, but as a fight against radical groups,» a senior foreign ministry official said.

It was a message Assad tried to deliver directly to the Turkish people this month, when in an interview with Turkey’s Halk TV he warned Turkey it would pay for harboring «terrorists» who, he said, would turn on their hosts.

It is not a risk Turkey can comfortably dismiss. Like Jordan, which fears Islamist fighters radicalized in Syria could return and strike targets inside the pro-Western kingdom, Turkey is not immune to the threat from al Qaeda.

Several websites carried reports of a threat to Turkey from jihadist groups in Syria after it temporarily shut part of the border last month when an al Qaeda-linked group stormed a nearby town, although it was not clear if the threat was genuine.

«We are not with al Nusra, and al Nusra is not happy about this. It is a nasty war. Nothing is black and white any more,» the source close to the Turkish government said.

FERTILE GROUND FOR RADICALISATION

As the conflict drags on, there is growing evidence of Turkish nationals going to fight in Syria, some alongside jihadists, others joining Syrian Kurds in their scramble against rival rebel units, Assad’s forces and Arab tribes.

Citing intelligence reports, Turkey’s Taraf newspaper estimated last month that around 500 Turkish nationals were fighting among 1,200 different rebel groups in Syria, many of them in the name of «jihad», while others had signed up as mercenaries, earning $1,500 a month.

Others were members of the Kurdish PKK militant group who were going to fight alongside Syrian Kurds, it said.

«Our border is very fragile, it is not as strong as it was,» the source close to the government said.

«No-one would go from an Anatolian town to fight for democracy in Syria. But jihadists would go to fight against the infidels. This is the danger for Turkey.»

Officials in Ankara, from President Abdullah Gul down, see the failure of the international community to take decisive action in Syria as creating the conditions which have allowed radical groups to thrive.

After repeated calls for assertive intervention, they are frustrated that the finger is now being pointed at them.

«What I have said to all our allies and everyone I have met and spoken to since these events started is that if this process prolongs, the inevitable result will be a radicalization,» Gul said in a speech in Istanbul this month.

Turkish officials argue that foreign fighters have also entered Syria from other neighboring countries, some with support from Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and point out that the escape of hundreds of convicts from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail in July swelled ISIL’s ranks in Syria.

«We do our best through the different opposition forces to contain the threat of the jihadi opposition in Syria, but the support for these groups is so sizeable that Turkey cannot control this (alone),» the Turkish official in the region said.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans and Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by giles Elgood)


Published on May 14, 2013

Robin Barnwell, who directed and produced ‘A History of Syria with Dan Snow’, explains the challenges of filiming amid the conflict, and describes the spirit of the Syrian people he met.

The Syrian Airlines jet performed an alarming dive on its nighttime approach into Damascus airport in an attempt to avoid any hostile fire. The exterior lights on the aircraft were switched off to make it less visible to any rebel fighters attempting to shoot the plane down. Syrian army artillery rounds were flying through the air, thudding into residential suburbs not far from the airport.

Once we’d landed, I saw little of the Syria I knew from my previous two visits. The airport that had been the gateway to the country for tourists was quiet. The road to the centre of Damascus was eerily empty. Our driver drove as fast as he could, speeding us past signs welcoming us to Syria on a road that regularly comes under attack or is caught in the crossfire in a conflict that has now cost more than 70,000 lives and displaced millions. How, I wondered, had Syria and its people, whom I had such warm memories of, reached such a state?

Like many people, I first travelled to Syria in 1995 to immerse myself in the country’s extraordinary and varied history. Now I was in Damascus to direct and film a documentary that would explain how history had helped shape and influence the appalling civil war that is tearing Syria and its different communities apart. It was a strange relief to be in Damascus, as visas for journalists and filmmakers, issued by the Syrian government, are difficult to obtain.

The programme’s Middle East producer had doggedly convinced a suspicious Syrian Ministry of Information that now was the right time to make a history of Syria after weeks of officials telling us to come back after the ‘current, temporary problems’ were over. We persisted in pushing for access because history can help explain the current violence in Syria; violence that has become increasingly incomprehensible for audiences of news programmes around the world.

I was surprised by my own ignorance about the subject. It was only after weeks of reading and meetings with experts before actually arriving in Syria did I map the historical connections, linking present day events with the past. How though, were we to go about making a documentary in a country consumed by civil war?

Permission to film almost anything and anyone was frustratingly difficult to obtain. The official from the Syrian Ministry of Information assigned to take us around kept apologizing for the numerous new restrictions that had been put in place. Getting access to the beautiful Old City of Damascus now involved negotiating a way through sandbagged checkpoints past soldiers who were suspicious of foreigners and visibly on edge.

Surreally, though, Syrians were rushing around going about their daily business, seemingly ignoring the near constant sound of gunfire and fighter jets which screeched overhead to bomb targets in the suburbs. An even stranger sense of normality prevailed in other locations we filmed, particularly in Syria’s coastal city Lattakia, where no fighting was taking place. We mingled with couples watching the sunset over the Mediterranean and for a moment one was back in pre-conflict Syria. But the effects of war were never far away.


President Obama’s approach to Syria has came under criticism from his first two defense secretaries. At a public event in Dallas, Leon Panetta said Obama should have followed through on a threat of U.S. military attack, while Robert Gates called for increased military aid to Syrian rebels.

Leon Panetta: «My view would have been that once the president came to that conclusion, that he should have directed limited action going after Assad to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word, dammit, we back it up.»

Robert Gates: «My view is significantly increasing the amount of covert assistance to selected rebel groups, opposition groups. I would not provide them with surfaced air missiles, but I would give them heavier weapons and more of them.»



This is true, but routine procedure in Washington, not the personal doing of Obama. For example,
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a «foreign terrorist organization». When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of «international terrorism», one of its prime examples was Iraq’s «sheltering» of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any «material support» to that group.
Nonetheless, a large group of prominent former US government officials from both political parties has spent the last several years receiving substantial sums of cash to give speeches to the MEK, and have then become vocal, relentless advocates for the group, specifically for removing them from the terrorist list. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor thoroughly described «these former high-ranking US officials – who represent the full political spectrum – [who] have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK.» They include Democrats Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, and Lee Hamilton, and Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Fran Townsend, Tom Ridge, Michael Mukasey, and Andrew Card. Other prominent voices outside government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel, have been enlisted to the cause and are steadfast MEK advocates.
For obvious reason this cannot be done so openly for Al Qaeda. So technically the Obama administration is committing a felony and should be impeached. So why not the republicans latch on this clear cut well documented, even promoted offense?


The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels. The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. «Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras,» says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. «So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis.»
Watch Part Two of Interview, ‘U.S.-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya


By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama told his war-weary country on Saturday that America needs to use limited military force in Syria to deter future chemical weapons attacks, but said he did not want to enter into another costly and protracted war.

«This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan,» Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address, previewing arguments he will make in a nationally televised address on Tuesday.

«Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope – designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so,» Obama said.

A week ago, Obama said he felt limited strikes in Syria were needed, but added he wanted to ask Congress to authorize the use of military force.


Trey Smith

After reading what President Obama said in Stockholm yesterday at a gathering of world leaders, I am guessing that Barack has never been on a debate team. In the course of a few minutes, he argued both sides of the same issue! At one moment, he said,

It is important for us to get out of the habit of just saying we’ll let the president stretch the boundaries of his authority as far as he can and Congress will sit on the sidelines and snipe.

However, in the same set of remarks, he also said,

As commander-in-chief I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America’s national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress but I did not take this to Congress just because it’s an empty exercise. I think it is important to have Congress’s support.

So, on the one hand, he agrees with his critics by saying that a president shouldn’t be allowed to «stretch the boundaries of his authority.» On the other hand, he submits that he has the [constitutional] right to stretch those boundaries as far as he sees fit!

Obviously, quote #1 was a throwaway position, a meager attempt to satisfy those who believe in constitutional safeguards. What he really believes is contained in quote #2. Phrased a different way, he is taking this matter — attacking Syria — before Congress to give them the opportunity to agree with him! If they don’t, then he’s going to do what he believes he is empowered to do anyway.


By Timothy Heritage

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama faced growing pressure from world leaders not to launch military strikes in Syria on Thursday at a summit on the global economy that was eclipsed by the conflict.

The Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing economies met in St. Petersburg to try forge a united front on economic growth, trade, banking transparency and fighting tax evasion.

But the club that accounts for two thirds of the world’s population and 90 percent of its output is divided over issues ranging from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to end its program of stimulus for the economy to the civil war in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use the meeting in a seafront tsarist palace to talk Obama out of military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over a chemical weapons attack which Washington blames on government forces.

Obama wore a stiff smile as he approached Putin on arrival at the summit and grasped his hand. Putin also maintained a businesslike expression. It was only when they turned to pose for the cameras that Obama broke into a broader grin.

The first round at the summit went to Putin as China, the European Union and Pope Francis – in a letter for G20 leaders – aligned themselves more closely with him than with Obama over the possibility and legitimacy of armed intervention.

«Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price – it will cause a hike in the oil price,» Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing.

The Pope urged the leaders to «lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution». He has also invited the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and people of other faiths to join him in a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday to end the civil war.

European Union leaders, usually strong allies of the United States, described the August 21 attack near Damascus, which killed an estimated 1,400 people, as «abhorrent» but added: «There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict.»

Putin, Assad’s most important ally, was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big meeting of world powers. He could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a «bored kid in the back of the classroom.»

Only France, which is preparing to join U.S. military action, rallied behind Obama.

«We are convinced that if there is no punishment for Mr. Assad, there will be no negotiation,» French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said before leaving for St. Petersburg.

With backing by Beijing and Moscow unlikely at the U.N. Security Council, where both have veto powers, Obama is seeking the approval of the U.S. Congress.

Putin says rebel forces may have carried out the poison gas attack and that any military strike without Security Council approval would violate international law, a view which is now increasingly openly being supported by others.

He has no one-on-one talks scheduled with Obama but hopes to discuss Syria at a dinner with all the leaders. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi were also in St. Petersburg, hoping to secure agreement on holding an international peace conference on Syria.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the «camp of supporters of a strike on Syria» as divided and said: «It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation.»

One national leader attending the summit said there appeared to be little chance of a rapprochement between Putin and Obama, whose relations have soured following Russia’s offer of asylum to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Foreign ministers from the key states in the G20 – which includes all five permanent U.N. Security Council members – will also discuss Syria on the sidelines of the meeting.

Any G20 decision on Syria would not be binding but Putin would like to see a consensus to avert military action in what would be a significant – but unlikely – personal triumph.

LOSS OF HARMONY

The G20 achieved unprecedented cooperation between developed and emerging nations to stave off economic collapse during the 2009 financial crisis, but the harmony has now gone.

There are likely to be some agreements – including on measures to fight tax evasion by multinational companies – at the summit in the spectacular, 18th-century Peterhof palace complex, built on the orders of Tsar Peter the Great.

An initiative will be presented to leaders on refining regulation of the $630-trillion global market for financial derivatives to prevent a possible markets blow-up.

Steps to give the so-called ‘shadow banking’ sector until 2015 to comply with new global rules will also be discussed.

But consensus is proving hard to achieve among developed economies as the United States takes aggressive action to spur demand and Europe moves more slowly to let go of austerity.

The emerging economies in the BRICS group – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – urged the G20 to boost global demand and ensure that any changes in monetary policy are well flagged to minimize any disruptive «spillovers» that may result.

The appeal reflected the concerns among developing nations over the prospect that the Fed will scale back its ultra-loose monetary policy, and a view that Europe is not doing enough to promote a demand-driven recovery.

The BRICS also agreed to contribute $100 billion to a joint currency reserve pool. China will commit $41 billion; Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each; and South Africa $5 billion.

Russia and China also joined forces in warning about the potential impact of the Fed ending its bond-buying program to stimulate the economy.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller, Luke Baker, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Lidia Kelly, Katya Golubkova, Steve Holland, Douglas Busvine, Steve Gutterman, Alessandra Prentice and Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Anna Willard)


President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
The use of chemical weapons is morally reprehensible, and it should be punished. The International Criminal Court should immediately start war crime tribunals and proceedings against those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And the U.S. can take evidence that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons to the UN Security Council and seek a resolution against Syria. Both acts would make it far more difficult for Russia to continue defending the regime and open the door for international action to broker a ceasefire — the only way we will stop the massacre of civilians.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
The justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria — where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah — either just or strategic.
As heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. A knee jerk, unilateral attack by the U.S. won’t help civilians — it will make matters worse. At this point, there are no good options when it comes to military intervention by the United States, and it should be considered only as an effort of last resort, not a first response.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what’s more, initiating «limited» hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications — moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical — that would entail.
Call Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and tell them: Don’t bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Congress is still in recess — but it’s been a busy week in Washington! Congress will return on Sept. 9th — and on the top of their list will be whether to approve military action in Syria. POPVOX is also spotlighting labor and employment bills in honor of Labor Day. And get a legislative recap of Wednesday’s 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Authorizing Military Action in Syria 

President Obama said he is seeking Congressional approval for US military action in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Yesterday, the President sent to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate a letter with draft legislation that would authorize use of the US military «in connection with the conflict in Syria.» Weigh in.

President Obama specified that any military involvement would be of «limited duration and scope» and that «we would not put boots on the ground.» (Read his remarks.) The Obama Administration released an unclassified summary of the attack in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21 killing at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.

On Aug. 30, Secretary of State John Kerry said «President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria.» (Read Kerry’s remarks.) Kerry added that he believes, «as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people.» 

Weigh in with your Members of Congress on authorizing military action in Syria: https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/x134

Aid to Syria

Food, tents and other humanitarian aid, provided by the UN’s refugee agency and the World Food Program — and funded by the United States government — arrived in Iraq to help refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, according to the State Department. More than 47,000 refugees have crossed into Northern Iraq from Syria since August 15.

The US has provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid since the Syrian crisis began, and is the single-largest contributor of humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria, according to the State Department. The aid has helped 3.5 million people in Syria, «through all possible channels» including the UN, international and non-governmental organizations, and local Syrian organizations. 

Earlier this year, Congress introduced several bills related to humanitarian aid. Here are a few:

  • FAULT Act (HR 1922): to limit assistance to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan.
  • Syria Stabilization Act (S 856): to foster stability in Syria.
  • Free Syria Act (HR 1327): to improve US humanitarian and other assistance to the Syrian people, facilitate the transition of Syria to a democratic government, provide for US support to the post-Assad government.
  • Syria Democratic Transition Act (S 617): to provide humanitarian assistance and support a democratic transition in Syria.

See more bills related to Syria in our Issue Spotlight: http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-syria/

Issue Spotlight: Labor Day 

This Labor Day 2013 marks the centennial of the US Department of Labor — and a new Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Weigh in on bills related to the minimum wage, work and family policies and job training. – http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-labor-day/

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Fifty years ago today, more than 200,000 people came to the nation’s capital for the «March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.» However, the stated goals of the demonstration were much broader, including «a comprehensive civil rights bill» that would do away with segregated public accommodations; «protection of the right to vote»; mechanisms for seeking redress of violations of constitutional rights; «desegregation of all public schools in 1963»; a massive federal works program «to train and place unemployed workers»; and «a Federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination in all employment».

This week’s commemorations also included a diverse call to action, from jobs and workers’ rights to voting rights to «Stand Your Ground» laws.  Weigh in at http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-50th-anniversary-march-washington/

Thanks for using POPVOX! And if you’re new, be sure to check out our user tutorial slideshow. Congress returns on Sept. 9 — so stay tuned for new bills once they get back.

Sincerely,

Rachna Choudhry
Co-founder, POPVOX.com
rachna@popvox.com


President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria — where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah — either just or strategic.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what’s more, initiating «limited» hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications — moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical — that would entail.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►


According to multiple media reports, President Obama may be on the verge of deciding whether or not to bomb Syria. We need to speak out today and tell him to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria — where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah — either just or strategic.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click here to automatically sign the petition. 

 
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The kind of limited military strike reportedly under consideration by the Obama administration is very unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war
And a more significant military intervention (either considered as an alternative to a limited strike, or as something we could be drawn into once we initiate “limited” hostilities with Syria) would only serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications — moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical — that would entail.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/go/1746?t=5&akid=8762.5084505.TDS-O_
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
Thank you for speaking out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►


By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Matt Spetalnick

AMMAN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and its allies geared up for a probable military strike against Syria that could come within days and would be the most aggressive action by Western powers in the Middle Eastern nation’s two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Western envoys have told the Syrian opposition to expect a military response soon against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces as punishment for a chemical weapons attack last week, according to sources who attended a meeting with the rebel Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.

Amid a quickening drumbeat of preparations, Australia, a close U.S. ally and incoming chair of the United Nations Security Council, on Wednesday endorsed possible action against Syria even if the security council fails to agree.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday that American forces in the region were «ready to go» if President Barack Obama gave the order.

Obama – long reluctant to intervene in the Syrian conflict – worked to solidify allied support, including calling the leaders of Britain and Canada, while U.S. intelligence agencies assembled what they are sure to say is final confirmation of the Syrian government’s culpability for Wednesday’s poison gas attack near Damascus.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said it would «fanciful» to think that anyone other than Assad’s forces was behind the large-scale chemical attack, which activists said killed hundreds of people as they slept.

«There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime,» Vice President Joe Biden said at a speech in Houston to the American Legion, a military veterans’ group.

Top U.S. national security aides gathered to review the situation on Tuesday night in a meeting chaired by Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, officials said.

Obama has yet to make a final decision on the U.S. response, Carney said, but left little doubt that it would involve military action. He insisted, however, that Washington was not intent on «regime change,» signaling that any military strikes would be limited and not meant to topple Assad.

The British military was also drafting plans. Prime Minister David Cameron, anxious, like Obama, not to emulate entanglements in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that beset their predecessors, said any strikes would be «specific» so as not to drag the allies deeper into Syria’s civil war.

Cameron, who spoke to Obama on Tuesday for the second time in four days, recalled parliament for a debate on Syria on Thursday.

U.N. chemical weapons investigators put off until Wednesday a second trip to the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus where the chemical attack took place.

While evidence of chemical warfare could bolster an argument for intervention at the United Nations in the face of likely Russian and Chinese opposition, Western leaders and the Arab League have already declared Assad guilty.

Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition, met envoys from 11 countries at an Istanbul hotel, including the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. The rebel leaders proposed targets for cruise missiles and bombing.

One participant said: «The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days.»

Planning appears to focus on missile or air strikes. There is little public support in Western countries for troops to invade Syria.

The precise timing of possible military action remained unclear, but it is certain to wait for an official U.S. intelligence report expected to blame Assad’s government for the chemical attack. The findings, considered merely a formality at this point, will be released this week, U.S. officials said.

Obama will go ahead with a speech on Wednesday at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

«The clock is ticking, and the administration is not going to want that to tick too long,» said Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, as White House aides broadened consultations on Capitol Hill.

MOOD IN DAMASCUS

Syria’s government, backed by Iran, denies gassing its own people and has vowed to defend itself, but residents of Damascus are growing anxious.

«I’ve always been a supporter of foreign intervention, but now that it seems like a reality, I’ve been worrying that my family could be hurt or killed,» said a woman named Zaina, who opposes Assad. «I’m afraid of a military strike now.»

Russia, Assad’s main arms supplier, opposes military action and has suggested that rebel forces may have released the poison gas.

China’s state news agency recalled how flawed intelligence was used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, while the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said the United States and its allies were seeking to use the issue to pursue regime change in Syria illegally.

Firm opposition from permanent members of the Security Council all but rules out a U.N. mandate of the kind that gave legal backing to NATO air strikes that helped Libyan rebels unseat Muammar Gaddafi two years ago.

«Our preference, everyone’s preference, would be for action, a response, under United Nations auspices,» Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, whose country takes over the rotating chair

18 August 2014

There is evidence in the public domain that the US and Saudi Arabia are behind the ISIS. ISIS used to be called Al-Qaida but that is not convenient anymore, it seems because it is clearly high treason to cooperate with Al-Qaida, Even in the US Media these facts were acknowledge when Obama was pondering invading Syria.

Tell your congressman that you are concerned about allegations that the US and/or its allies trained Islamic extremist in Jordan to fight the Syrian government. Ask how a bunch of young tugs can operate sophisticated high tech us supplied equipment without training, maintenance, and spear parts. Ask how Israel, with her paranoid arrogance and the best army and intelligence service in the World, allowed a military presence of the size of the ISIS to surge in her backyard. Ask who supplies the ammunition and money.

There are reasons, I guess, for people in power to play chess with the World, but at the end of the line what we have is psychopathic behavior and Power for the sake of Power. What we can do first of all is being informed and tell others at church, school, friends what is going on and tell government officials that you are aware and against blood for oil.






Published on Nov 21, 2013

Inside Syria it's proving increasingly difficult to get anything like a clear picture of the state of the conflict, but the government appears to have the upper hand.








Published on Sep 10, 2013

In today's video, Topher Morrison of AMTV confirms that John McCain posed with known terrorists in Syria.





Published on Oct 22, 2013

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has come under attack, and rightfully so. He has gone from being a Vietnam Veteran hero to crossing the line, in my opinion and many others, of being a traitor to the Constitution and the United States. I ran across a video of a townhall meeting that apparently took place sometime in September, in which Marine Blaine Cooper called out John McCain on his treason for aiding and abetting the enemy of the United States.





ISTANBUL | Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:34am EDT

(Reuters) - The rise of al Qaeda in parts of Syria's north has left Turkey facing a new security threat on its already vulnerable border and raised questions about its wholesale support for rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has long championed more robust backing for Syria's fractious armed opposition, arguing it would bring a quicker end to Assad's rule and give moderate forces the authority they needed to keep more radical Islamist elements in check.

But with Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of the north near the border in recent weeks, it is a strategy that increasingly looks to have been a miscalculation.



Ankara has found itself facing accusations that indiscriminate support for the rebels has allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross into northern Syria and facilitated the rise of radical groups.

"We are being accused of supporting al Qaeda," a source close to the Turkish government said, adding that U.S. officials had raised concerns on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

"They were politely but aggressively critical. The attention has focused away from Assad to al Qaeda," the source said, echoing frustration voiced by other officials in Ankara that this was playing into Assad's hands.

As if on cue, the Turkish army said on Wednesday it had fired on ISIL fighters over the border after a stray mortar shell hit Turkish soil. It has retaliated in the past in such cases but this appeared to be the first time its response had targeted al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Turkey has maintained an open-door policy throughout the two-and-a-half-year conflict, providing a lifeline to rebel-held areas by allowing humanitarian aid in, giving refugees a route out and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army organize on its soil.

It officially denies arming the rebels or facilitating the passage of foreign fighters who have swollen the ranks of al Qaeda-linked factions including ISIL and Nusra.

"Logistically nothing goes through the official borders in Turkey or any other country anyway," said Louay Meqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

But the 900 km (560-mile) border is difficult to police and refugees, smugglers and rebel fighters have been able to cross undetected in remote areas, bypassing the main crossing points.

"Officially we didn't allow it. But it's a long border and some groups, we tried to accommodate them in the Syrian opposition, which we wanted to be as large as possible," said one Turkish official in the region, when asked whether foreign fighters had been able to cross.

Foreign mercenaries, mainly backed by Gulf states, were initially welcomed by Syria's rebel forces because they had greater battle experience and were more effective against pro-Assad militias, he said.

"This was a tactical mistake and now we see a totally different balance of power."

LENDING ASSAD LEGITIMACY

It is a contrast with Jordan, where authorities have kept a tight control over their border with Syria. Rebels in the southern Syrian province of Deraa, the cradle of the 2011 protests against Assad, have long complained that they have been starved of significant arms supplies as a result.

In a report documenting sectarian mass killings by Assad's foes, New York-based Human Rights Watch said last week Turkey needed to increase its border patrols and restrict the passage of fighters and arms to radical groups.

"Many foreign fighters operating in northern Syria gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and sometimes retreat to for medical treatment," the report said.

It cited a humanitarian worker in Turkey as saying some of the foreign fighters entering Syria's Latakia province, where it said 190 civilians were killed by rebels in an attack in August, had flown into Hatay airport in Turkey, from where they were picked up by other fighters and facilitators.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly denied any support from Turkey for al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and has described suggestions to the contrary as a bid to legitimize Assad's actions by portraying him as fighting terrorism.

"This is what Assad wants. He is trying to ... change the nature of the conflict, so that it is perceived not as a conflict between him and his own people, but as a fight against radical groups," a senior foreign ministry official said.

It was a message Assad tried to deliver directly to the Turkish people this month, when in an interview with Turkey's Halk TV he warned Turkey it would pay for harboring "terrorists" who, he said, would turn on their hosts.

It is not a risk Turkey can comfortably dismiss. Like Jordan, which fears Islamist fighters radicalized in Syria could return and strike targets inside the pro-Western kingdom, Turkey is not immune to the threat from al Qaeda.

Several websites carried reports of a threat to Turkey from jihadist groups in Syria after it temporarily shut part of the border last month when an al Qaeda-linked group stormed a nearby town, although it was not clear if the threat was genuine.

"We are not with al Nusra, and al Nusra is not happy about this. It is a nasty war. Nothing is black and white any more," the source close to the Turkish government said.

FERTILE GROUND FOR RADICALISATION

As the conflict drags on, there is growing evidence of Turkish nationals going to fight in Syria, some alongside jihadists, others joining Syrian Kurds in their scramble against rival rebel units, Assad's forces and Arab tribes.

Citing intelligence reports, Turkey's Taraf newspaper estimated last month that around 500 Turkish nationals were fighting among 1,200 different rebel groups in Syria, many of them in the name of "jihad", while others had signed up as mercenaries, earning $1,500 a month.

Others were members of the Kurdish PKK militant group who were going to fight alongside Syrian Kurds, it said.

"Our border is very fragile, it is not as strong as it was," the source close to the government said.

"No-one would go from an Anatolian town to fight for democracy in Syria. But jihadists would go to fight against the infidels. This is the danger for Turkey."

Officials in Ankara, from President Abdullah Gul down, see the failure of the international community to take decisive action in Syria as creating the conditions which have allowed radical groups to thrive.

After repeated calls for assertive intervention, they are frustrated that the finger is now being pointed at them.

"What I have said to all our allies and everyone I have met and spoken to since these events started is that if this process prolongs, the inevitable result will be a radicalization," Gul said in a speech in Istanbul this month.

Turkish officials argue that foreign fighters have also entered Syria from other neighboring countries, some with support from Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and point out that the escape of hundreds of convicts from Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in July swelled ISIL's ranks in Syria.

"We do our best through the different opposition forces to contain the threat of the jihadi opposition in Syria, but the support for these groups is so sizeable that Turkey cannot control this (alone)," the Turkish official in the region said.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans and Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by giles Elgood)






Published on May 14, 2013

Robin Barnwell, who directed and produced 'A History of Syria with Dan Snow', explains the challenges of filiming amid the conflict, and describes the spirit of the Syrian people he met.


The Syrian Airlines jet performed an alarming dive on its nighttime approach into Damascus airport in an attempt to avoid any hostile fire. The exterior lights on the aircraft were switched off to make it less visible to any rebel fighters attempting to shoot the plane down. Syrian army artillery rounds were flying through the air, thudding into residential suburbs not far from the airport.

Once we'd landed, I saw little of the Syria I knew from my previous two visits. The airport that had been the gateway to the country for tourists was quiet. The road to the centre of Damascus was eerily empty. Our driver drove as fast as he could, speeding us past signs welcoming us to Syria on a road that regularly comes under attack or is caught in the crossfire in a conflict that has now cost more than 70,000 lives and displaced millions. How, I wondered, had Syria and its people, whom I had such warm memories of, reached such a state?

Like many people, I first travelled to Syria in 1995 to immerse myself in the country's extraordinary and varied history. Now I was in Damascus to direct and film a documentary that would explain how history had helped shape and influence the appalling civil war that is tearing Syria and its different communities apart. It was a strange relief to be in Damascus, as visas for journalists and filmmakers, issued by the Syrian government, are difficult to obtain.

The programme's Middle East producer had doggedly convinced a suspicious Syrian Ministry of Information that now was the right time to make a history of Syria after weeks of officials telling us to come back after the 'current, temporary problems' were over. We persisted in pushing for access because history can help explain the current violence in Syria; violence that has become increasingly incomprehensible for audiences of news programmes around the world.

I was surprised by my own ignorance about the subject. It was only after weeks of reading and meetings with experts before actually arriving in Syria did I map the historical connections, linking present day events with the past. How though, were we to go about making a documentary in a country consumed by civil war?

Permission to film almost anything and anyone was frustratingly difficult to obtain. The official from the Syrian Ministry of Information assigned to take us around kept apologizing for the numerous new restrictions that had been put in place. Getting access to the beautiful Old City of Damascus now involved negotiating a way through sandbagged checkpoints past soldiers who were suspicious of foreigners and visibly on edge.

Surreally, though, Syrians were rushing around going about their daily business, seemingly ignoring the near constant sound of gunfire and fighter jets which screeched overhead to bomb targets in the suburbs. An even stranger sense of normality prevailed in other locations we filmed, particularly in Syria's coastal city Lattakia, where no fighting was taking place. We mingled with couples watching the sunset over the Mediterranean and for a moment one was back in pre-conflict Syria. But the effects of war were never far away.



President Obama’s approach to Syria has came under criticism from his first two defense secretaries. At a public event in Dallas, Leon Panetta said Obama should have followed through on a threat of U.S. military attack, while Robert Gates called for increased military aid to Syrian rebels.

Leon Panetta: "My view would have been that once the president came to that conclusion, that he should have directed limited action going after Assad to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word, dammit, we back it up."

Robert Gates: "My view is significantly increasing the amount of covert assistance to selected rebel groups, opposition groups. I would not provide them with surfaced air missiles, but I would give them heavier weapons and more of them."





This is true, but routine procedure in Washington, not the personal doing of Obama. For example,
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a "foreign terrorist organization". When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of "international terrorism", one of its prime examples was Iraq's "sheltering" of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any "material support" to that group.
Nonetheless, a large group of prominent former US government officials from both political parties has spent the last several years receiving substantial sums of cash to give speeches to the MEK, and have then become vocal, relentless advocates for the group, specifically for removing them from the terrorist list. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor thoroughly described "these former high-ranking US officials - who represent the full political spectrum - [who] have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK." They include Democrats Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, and Lee Hamilton, and Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Fran Townsend, Tom Ridge, Michael Mukasey, and Andrew Card. Other prominent voices outside government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel, have been enlisted to the cause and are steadfast MEK advocates.
For obvious reason this cannot be done so openly for Al Qaeda. So technically the Obama administration is committing a felony and should be impeached. So why not the republicans latch on this clear cut well documented, even promoted offense?







The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels. The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. "Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras," says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. "So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis."
Watch Part Two of Interview, 'U.S.-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya


By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama told his war-weary country on Saturday that America needs to use limited military force in Syria to deter future chemical weapons attacks, but said he did not want to enter into another costly and protracted war.

"This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan," Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address, previewing arguments he will make in a nationally televised address on Tuesday.

"Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope - designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so," Obama said.

A week ago, Obama said he felt limited strikes in Syria were needed, but added he wanted to ask Congress to authorize the use of military force.






Trey Smith

After reading what President Obama said in Stockholm yesterday at a gathering of world leaders, I am guessing that Barack has never been on a debate team. In the course of a few minutes, he argued both sides of the same issue! At one moment, he said,

It is important for us to get out of the habit of just saying we'll let the president stretch the boundaries of his authority as far as he can and Congress will sit on the sidelines and snipe.

However, in the same set of remarks, he also said,

As commander-in-chief I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress but I did not take this to Congress just because it's an empty exercise. I think it is important to have Congress's support.

So, on the one hand, he agrees with his critics by saying that a president shouldn't be allowed to "stretch the boundaries of his authority." On the other hand, he submits that he has the [constitutional] right to stretch those boundaries as far as he sees fit!

Obviously, quote #1 was a throwaway position, a meager attempt to satisfy those who believe in constitutional safeguards. What he really believes is contained in quote #2. Phrased a different way, he is taking this matter -- attacking Syria -- before Congress to give them the opportunity to agree with him! If they don't, then he's going to do what he believes he is empowered to do anyway.



By Timothy Heritage

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama faced growing pressure from world leaders not to launch military strikes in Syria on Thursday at a summit on the global economy that was eclipsed by the conflict.



The Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing economies met in St. Petersburg to try forge a united front on economic growth, trade, banking transparency and fighting tax evasion.

But the club that accounts for two thirds of the world's population and 90 percent of its output is divided over issues ranging from the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to end its program of stimulus for the economy to the civil war in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use the meeting in a seafront tsarist palace to talk Obama out of military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over a chemical weapons attack which Washington blames on government forces.

Obama wore a stiff smile as he approached Putin on arrival at the summit and grasped his hand. Putin also maintained a businesslike expression. It was only when they turned to pose for the cameras that Obama broke into a broader grin.

The first round at the summit went to Putin as China, the European Union and Pope Francis - in a letter for G20 leaders - aligned themselves more closely with him than with Obama over the possibility and legitimacy of armed intervention.

"Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price - it will cause a hike in the oil price," Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing.

The Pope urged the leaders to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution". He has also invited the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and people of other faiths to join him in a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday to end the civil war.

European Union leaders, usually strong allies of the United States, described the August 21 attack near Damascus, which killed an estimated 1,400 people, as "abhorrent" but added: "There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict."

Putin, Assad's most important ally, was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big meeting of world powers. He could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a "bored kid in the back of the classroom."

Only France, which is preparing to join U.S. military action, rallied behind Obama.

"We are convinced that if there is no punishment for Mr. Assad, there will be no negotiation," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said before leaving for St. Petersburg.

With backing by Beijing and Moscow unlikely at the U.N. Security Council, where both have veto powers, Obama is seeking the approval of the U.S. Congress.

Putin says rebel forces may have carried out the poison gas attack and that any military strike without Security Council approval would violate international law, a view which is now increasingly openly being supported by others.

He has no one-on-one talks scheduled with Obama but hopes to discuss Syria at a dinner with all the leaders. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi were also in St. Petersburg, hoping to secure agreement on holding an international peace conference on Syria.

Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the "camp of supporters of a strike on Syria" as divided and said: "It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation."

One national leader attending the summit said there appeared to be little chance of a rapprochement between Putin and Obama, whose relations have soured following Russia's offer of asylum to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Foreign ministers from the key states in the G20 - which includes all five permanent U.N. Security Council members - will also discuss Syria on the sidelines of the meeting.

Any G20 decision on Syria would not be binding but Putin would like to see a consensus to avert military action in what would be a significant - but unlikely - personal triumph.

LOSS OF HARMONY

The G20 achieved unprecedented cooperation between developed and emerging nations to stave off economic collapse during the 2009 financial crisis, but the harmony has now gone.

There are likely to be some agreements - including on measures to fight tax evasion by multinational companies - at the summit in the spectacular, 18th-century Peterhof palace complex, built on the orders of Tsar Peter the Great.

An initiative will be presented to leaders on refining regulation of the $630-trillion global market for financial derivatives to prevent a possible markets blow-up.

Steps to give the so-called 'shadow banking' sector until 2015 to comply with new global rules will also be discussed.

But consensus is proving hard to achieve among developed economies as the United States takes aggressive action to spur demand and Europe moves more slowly to let go of austerity.

The emerging economies in the BRICS group - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - urged the G20 to boost global demand and ensure that any changes in monetary policy are well flagged to minimize any disruptive "spillovers" that may result.

The appeal reflected the concerns among developing nations over the prospect that the Fed will scale back its ultra-loose monetary policy, and a view that Europe is not doing enough to promote a demand-driven recovery.

The BRICS also agreed to contribute $100 billion to a joint currency reserve pool. China will commit $41 billion; Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each; and South Africa $5 billion.

Russia and China also joined forces in warning about the potential impact of the Fed ending its bond-buying program to stimulate the economy.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller, Luke Baker, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Lidia Kelly, Katya Golubkova, Steve Holland, Douglas Busvine, Steve Gutterman, Alessandra Prentice and Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Anna Willard)



President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
The use of chemical weapons is morally reprehensible, and it should be punished. The International Criminal Court should immediately start war crime tribunals and proceedings against those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And the U.S. can take evidence that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons to the UN Security Council and seek a resolution against Syria. Both acts would make it far more difficult for Russia to continue defending the regime and open the door for international action to broker a ceasefire -- the only way we will stop the massacre of civilians.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
The justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria -- where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah -- either just or strategic.
As heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. A knee jerk, unilateral attack by the U.S. won’t help civilians -- it will make matters worse. At this point, there are no good options when it comes to military intervention by the United States, and it should be considered only as an effort of last resort, not a first response.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn't make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what's more, initiating "limited" hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications -- moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical -- that would entail.
Call Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and tell them: Don't bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn't one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets



Congress is still in recess -- but it's been a busy week in Washington! Congress will return on Sept. 9th -- and on the top of their list will be whether to approve military action in Syria. POPVOX is also spotlighting labor and employment bills in honor of Labor Day. And get a legislative recap of Wednesday's 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Authorizing Military Action in Syria 

President Obama said he is seeking Congressional approval for US military action in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Yesterday, the President sent to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate a letter with draft legislation that would authorize use of the US military "in connection with the conflict in Syria." Weigh in.

President Obama specified that any military involvement would be of "limited duration and scope" and that "we would not put boots on the ground." (Read his remarks.) The Obama Administration released an unclassified summary of the attack in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21 killing at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.

On Aug. 30, Secretary of State John Kerry said "President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria." (Read Kerry's remarks.) Kerry added that he believes, "as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people." 


Weigh in with your Members of Congress on authorizing military action in Syria: https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/x134

Aid to Syria

Food, tents and other humanitarian aid, provided by the UN's refugee agency and the World Food Program -- and funded by the United States government -- arrived in Iraq to help refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, according to the State Department. More than 47,000 refugees have crossed into Northern Iraq from Syria since August 15.

The US has provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid since the Syrian crisis began, and is the single-largest contributor of humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria, according to the State Department. The aid has helped 3.5 million people in Syria, "through all possible channels" including the UN, international and non-governmental organizations, and local Syrian organizations. 


Earlier this year, Congress introduced several bills related to humanitarian aid. Here are a few:
  • FAULT Act (HR 1922): to limit assistance to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan.
  • Syria Stabilization Act (S 856): to foster stability in Syria.
  • Free Syria Act (HR 1327): to improve US humanitarian and other assistance to the Syrian people, facilitate the transition of Syria to a democratic government, provide for US support to the post-Assad government.
  • Syria Democratic Transition Act (S 617): to provide humanitarian assistance and support a democratic transition in Syria.
See more bills related to Syria in our Issue Spotlight: http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-syria/

Issue Spotlight: Labor Day 

This Labor Day 2013 marks the centennial of the US Department of Labor -- and a new Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Weigh in on bills related to the minimum wage, work and family policies and job training. - http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-labor-day/

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Fifty years ago today, more than 200,000 people came to the nation's capital for the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." However, the stated goals of the demonstration were much broader, including "a comprehensive civil rights bill" that would do away with segregated public accommodations; "protection of the right to vote"; mechanisms for seeking redress of violations of constitutional rights; "desegregation of all public schools in 1963"; a massive federal works program "to train and place unemployed workers"; and "a Federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination in all employment".

This week's commemorations also included a diverse call to action, from jobs and workers' rights to voting rights to "Stand Your Ground" laws.  Weigh in at 
http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-50th-anniversary-march-washington/


Thanks for using POPVOX! And if you're new, be sure to check out our user tutorial slideshow. Congress returns on Sept. 9 -- so stay tuned for new bills once they get back.

Sincerely,

Rachna Choudhry
Co-founder, POPVOX.com
rachna@popvox.com


President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria -- where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah -- either just or strategic.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn't make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what's more, initiating "limited" hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications -- moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical -- that would entail.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn't one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ?






According to multiple media reports, President Obama may be on the verge of deciding whether or not to bomb Syria. We need to speak out today and tell him to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria -- where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah -- either just or strategic.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click here to automatically sign the petition. 

 
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The kind of limited military strike reportedly under consideration by the Obama administration is very unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war
And a more significant military intervention (either considered as an alternative to a limited strike, or as something we could be drawn into once we initiate “limited” hostilities with Syria) would only serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications -- moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical -- that would entail.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/go/1746?t=5&akid=8762.5084505.TDS-O_
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
Thank you for speaking out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ?



By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Matt Spetalnick

AMMAN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies geared up for a probable military strike against Syria that could come within days and would be the most aggressive action by Western powers in the Middle Eastern nation's two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Western envoys have told the Syrian opposition to expect a military response soon against President Bashar al-Assad's forces as punishment for a chemical weapons attack last week, according to sources who attended a meeting with the rebel Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.

Amid a quickening drumbeat of preparations, Australia, a close U.S. ally and incoming chair of the United Nations Security Council, on Wednesday endorsed possible action against Syria even if the security council fails to agree.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday that American forces in the region were "ready to go" if President Barack Obama gave the order.




Obama - long reluctant to intervene in the Syrian conflict - worked to solidify allied support, including calling the leaders of Britain and Canada, while U.S. intelligence agencies assembled what they are sure to say is final confirmation of the Syrian government's culpability for Wednesday's poison gas attack near Damascus.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said it would "fanciful" to think that anyone other than Assad's forces was behind the large-scale chemical attack, which activists said killed hundreds of people as they slept.

"There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime," Vice President Joe Biden said at a speech in Houston to the American Legion, a military veterans' group.

Top U.S. national security aides gathered to review the situation on Tuesday night in a meeting chaired by Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice, officials said.

Obama has yet to make a final decision on the U.S. response, Carney said, but left little doubt that it would involve military action. He insisted, however, that Washington was not intent on "regime change," signaling that any military strikes would be limited and not meant to topple Assad.


The British military was also drafting plans. Prime Minister David Cameron, anxious, like Obama, not to emulate entanglements in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that beset their predecessors, said any strikes would be "specific" so as not to drag the allies deeper into Syria's civil war.

Cameron, who spoke to Obama on Tuesday for the second time in four days, recalled parliament for a debate on Syria on Thursday.

U.N. chemical weapons investigators put off until Wednesday a second trip to the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus where the chemical attack took place.

While evidence of chemical warfare could bolster an argument for intervention at the United Nations in the face of likely Russian and Chinese opposition, Western leaders and the Arab League have already declared Assad guilty.

Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition, met envoys from 11 countries at an Istanbul hotel, including the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. The rebel leaders proposed targets for cruise missiles and bombing.


One participant said: "The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days."

Planning appears to focus on missile or air strikes. There is little public support in Western countries for troops to invade Syria.

The precise timing of possible military action remained unclear, but it is certain to wait for an official U.S. intelligence report expected to blame Assad's government for the chemical attack. The findings, considered merely a formality at this point, will be released this week, U.S. officials said.

Obama will go ahead with a speech on Wednesday at Washington's Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I have a dream' speech.

"The clock is ticking, and the administration is not going to want that to tick too long," said Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, as White House aides broadened consultations on Capitol Hill.


MOOD IN DAMASCUS

Syria's government, backed by Iran, denies gassing its own people and has vowed to defend itself, but residents of Damascus are growing anxious.

"I've always been a supporter of foreign intervention, but now that it seems like a reality, I've been worrying that my family could be hurt or killed," said a woman named Zaina, who opposes Assad. "I'm afraid of a military strike now."

Russia, Assad's main arms supplier, opposes military action and has suggested that rebel forces may have released the poison gas.

China's state news agency recalled how flawed intelligence was used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, while the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said the United States and its allies were seeking to use the issue to pursue regime change in Syria illegally.


Firm opposition from permanent members of the Security Council all but rules out a U.N. mandate of the kind that gave legal backing to NATO air strikes that helped Libyan rebels unseat Muammar Gaddafi two years ago.

"Our preference, everyone's preference, would be for action, a response, under United Nations auspices," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, whose country takes over the rotating chair of the Security Council on Sunday, told reporters.

"But if that's not possible, the sheer horror of a government using chemical weapons against its people, using chemical weapons in any circumstances, mandates a response."

Russia and China accuse Western powers of using human rights complaints, such as in Libya, to meddle in sovereign states' affairs.

Although Obama has long said Assad should step down, he is unwilling to commit to making that happen by force. White House spokesman Carney said it was "profoundly in the interests of the United States" to respond to the chemical weapons attack.


In Britain, Cameron told reporters: "This is not about getting involved in a Middle Eastern war or changing our stance in Syria or going further into that conflict. It's about chemical weapons. Their use is wrong and the world shouldn't stand idly by."

In France, which played a major role in Libya, President Francois Hollande said he was "ready to punish" Assad for using the chemical weapons, citing a 2005 U.N. provision for international action to protect civilians from their own governments.

Similar arguments were used by NATO to bomb Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999 after the killing of civilians in Kosovo.

In an indication of support from Arab states that may help Western powers argue the case for an attack against likely U.N. vetoes from Moscow and Beijing, the Arab League issued a statement blaming Assad's government for the chemical attack.

Fears of another international conflict in the Middle East affected financial markets. Oil prices hit a six-month high and stocks fell around the world, notably in Turkey, as well as in emerging economies that would suffer from a chill in trade.


TOUGH CHOICES

Obama, Cameron and Hollande face questions at home about how a military intervention would end and whether it risks bolstering Assad if he rides out the assault or empowering anti-Western Islamist rebels if the Syrian leader is overthrown.

Turmoil in Egypt, where the 2011 uprising inspired Syrians to rebel, has underlined the unpredictability of revolutions. The presence of Islamist militants, including allies of al Qaeda in the Syrian rebel ranks, has given Western leaders pause. They have held back so far from helping Assad's opponents to victory.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said U.S. strikes would help al Qaeda and called Western leaders "delusional" if they hoped to help the rebels reach a balance of power in Syria.

"We have means of defending ourselves, and we will surprise them with these if necessary," he said. "We will defend ourselves. We will not hesitate to use any means available."


Assad's forces made little or no response to three attacks by Israeli aircraft this year that Israeli officials said disrupted arms flowing from Iran to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The presence of U.N. experts in Damascus may be a factor holding back international military action. The experts came under fire in government-held territory on Monday before reaching rebel lines.

Opposition activists have said at least 500 people, and possibly twice that many, were killed by rockets carrying the nerve gas sarin or something similar. If true, it would be the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

(Additional reporting by William Maclean and Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Phil Stewart in Bandar, Seri Begawan and Andrew Osborn in London, John Irish in Paris, Timothy Heritage in Moscow, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Seda Sezer and Daren Butler in Istanbul, Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai, Roberta Rampton, Steve Holland, Jeff Mason, Tabassum Zakaria and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Paul Simao and Robert Birsel)




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The ruling Baath regime in Syria, over the course of 2012, lost more and more territory to the revolutionaries. They lost control of the border crossings to Iraq and Turkey. They lost much of Aleppo, the country’s second city. Then in November and December, the revolutionaries began taking military bases in the north and looting them for medium weaponry. The regime still controls substantial territory, and some smaller cities, such as Homs. But its losses in 2012 have been highly significant, raising the question of how much longer the regime can survive. In the meantime, Syria refugees in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon mushroomed in number and they faced severe difficulties in their often unsanitary and inadequate tent cities. In Syria, as in Bahrain and Yemen, sectarian considerations began to enter into the movements against authoritarian governance. The Alawi Shiite minority dominates the Baath Party in Syria, and Sunni fundamentalists have targeted that group (and vice versa). The government is supported by Shiite Iran, the rebels by Wahhabi Qatar and Saudi Arabia. If the Damascus government falls, Iran will be weakened, as will its ally, Hizbullah of Lebanon.


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm on Sunday at the worsening violence in Syria, including the reported mass killing of Alawites and alleged firing of long-range missiles on Syrian territory, Ban's spokesman said.


"The Secretary-General is alarmed by the continued dramatic escalation of violence in Syria over the past several days, and the grave danger facing civilians in areas under fire," Ban's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said in a statement.
"There have been extremely worrisome reports earlier this week of a mass killing of civilians in the village of Aqrab near Hama, as well as alleged firing of long-range missiles in some areas of the country," he said.
In the Aqrab incident, up to 200 members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority were injured or killed in an attack on their village in central Syria on Tuesday, opposition activists said. The death toll was still not known.
There have also been reports of the Syrian government using Scud missiles. NATO's U.S. commander said on Friday the alliance was deploying the Patriot anti-missile system along Syria's northern frontier because Assad's forces had fired Scud missiles that landed near Turkish territory.
Nesirky said that "continued bombing raids by fixed-wing military aircrafts and attack helicopters on populated areas have been amply documented."
"Today's reports of aerial bombing amid intense violence resulting in many casualties among the Palestinian refugee population in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus are a matter of grave concern," he said.
Activists said fighter jets had bombed the Yarmouk camp, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque.
Nesirky said Ban "calls on all sides to cease all forms of violence. The Secretary-General reminds all parties in Syria that they must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians."
"Targeting civilians or carrying out military operations in populated areas, in an indiscriminate or disproportionate fashion that harms civilians is a war crime," he added.
Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa told a Lebanese newspaper that neither forces of President Bashar al-Assad nor rebels can win the war in Syria. That is a view a number of U.N. officials and diplomats have voiced privately to Reuters.
The U.N. Security Council has been incapable of taking any meaningful action in the conflict. Veto powers Russia and China refuse to condemn Assad or support sanctions. Assad's government accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the United States and other Western governments of supporting and arming the rebels, an allegation the governments deny.
Meanwhile, U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has failed to bridge the gaps between the Russian and U.S. positions on Syria, which U.N. diplomats say is at the heart of the longstanding deadlock on the Security Council.
Nesirky said Ban "reiterates his call on the international community to make every effort to stop the tragic spiral of violence in Syria and urgently to promote an inclusive political process leading to a peaceful political transition."
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Sandra Maler)


Syria: The descent into Holy War



It is one of the most horrifying videos of the war in Syria. It shows two men being beheaded by Syrian rebels, one of them by a child. He hacks with a machete at the neck of a middle-aged man who has been forced to lie in the street with his head on a concrete block. At the end of the film, a soldier, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, holds up the severed heads by their hair in triumph.



The film is being widely watched on YouTube by Syrians, reinforcing their fears that Syria is imitating Iraq's descent into murderous warfare in the years after the US invasion in 2003. It fosters a belief among Syria's non-Sunni Muslim minorities, and Sunnis associated with the government as soldiers or civil servants, that there will be no safe future for them in Syria if the rebels win. In one version of the video, several of which are circulating, the men who are beheaded are identified as officers belonging to the 2.5 million-strong Alawite community. This is the Shia sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and core members of his regime belong. The beheadings, so proudly filmed by the perpetrators, may well convince them that they have no alternative but to fight to the end.

The video underlines a startling contradiction in the policy of the US and its allies. In the past week, 130 countries have recognised the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. But, at the same time, the US has denounced the al-Nusra Front, the most effective fighting force of the rebels, as being terrorists and an al-Qa'ida affiliate. Paradoxically, the US makes almost exactly same allegations of terrorism against al-Nusra as does the Syrian government. Even more bizarrely, though so many states now recognise the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, it is unclear if the rebels inside Syria do so. Angry crowds in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on Friday chanted "we are all al-Nusra" as they demonstrated against the US decision.

Videos posted on YouTube play such a central role in the propaganda war in Syria that questions always have to be asked about their authenticity and origin. In the case of the beheading video, the details look all too convincing. Nadim Houry, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, has watched the video many times to identify the circumstances, perpetrators and location where the killings took place. He has no doubts about its overall authenticity, but says that mention of one district suggests it might be in Deir el-Zhor (in eastern Syria). But people in the area immediately north of Homs are adamant the beheadings took place there. The victims have not been identified. The first time a version of the film was shown was on pro-government Sama TV on 26 November, but it has been widely viewed on YouTube in Syria only over the past week.

The film begins by showing two middle-aged men handcuffed together sitting on a settee in a house, surrounded by their captors who sometimes slap and beat them. They are taken outside into the street. A man in a black shirt is manhandled and kicked into lying down with his head on a concrete block. A boy, who looks to be about 11 or 12 years old, cuts at his neck with a machete, but does not quite sever it. Later a man finishes the job and cuts the head off. The second man in a blue shirt is also forced to lie with his head on a block and is beheaded. The heads are brandished in front of the camera and later laid on top of the bodies. The boy smiles as he poses with a rifle beside a headless corpse.

The execution video is very similar to those once made by al-Qa'ida in Iraq to demonstrate their mercilessness towards their enemies. This is scarcely surprising since many of the most experienced al-Nusra fighters boast that they have until recently been fighting the predominantly Shia government of Iraq as part of the local franchise of al-Qa'ida franchise. Their agenda is wholly sectarian, and they have shown greater enthusiasm for slaughtering Shias, often with bombs detonated in the middle of crowds in markets or outside mosques, than for fighting Americans.

The Syrian uprising, which began in March 2011, was not always so bloodthirsty or so dominated by the Sunnis who make up 70 per cent of the 23 million-strong Syrian population. At first, demonstrations were peaceful and the central demands of the protesters were for democratic rule and human rights as opposed to a violent, arbitrary and autocratic government. There are Syrians who claim that the people against the regime remains to this day the central feature of the uprising, but there is compelling evidence that the movement has slid towards sectarian Islamic fundamentalism intent on waging holy war.

The execution video is the most graphic illustration of deepening religious bigotry on the part of the rebels, but it is not the only one. Another recent video shows Free Syrian Army fighters burning and desecrating a Shia husseiniyah (a religious meeting house similar to a mosque) in Idlib in northern Syria. They chant prayers of victory as they set fire to the building, set fire to flags used in Shia religious processions and stamp on religious pictures. If the FSA were to repeat this assault on a revered Shia shrine such as the Sayyida Zeinab mosque in Damascus, to which Iranian and Iraqi pilgrims have flooded in the past and which is now almost encircled by rebels, then there could be an explosion of religious hatred and strife between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. Iraqi observers warn that it was the destruction of the Shia shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad, by an al-Qa'ida bomb in 2006 that detonated a sectarian war in which tens of thousands died.

The analogy with Iraq is troubling for the US and British governments. They and their allies are eager for Syria to avoid repeating the disastrous mistakes they made during the Iraqi occupation. Ideally, they would like to remove the regime, getting rid of Bashar al-Assad and the present leadership, but not dissolving the government machinery or introducing revolutionary change as they did in Baghdad by transferring power from the Sunnis to the Shia and the Kurds. This provoked a furious counter-reaction from Baathists and Sunnis who found themselves marginalised and economically impoverished.

Washington wants Assad out, but is having difficulty riding the Sunni revolutionary tiger. The Western powers have long hoped for a split in the Syrian elite, but so far there is little sign of this happening. "If you take defections as a measure of political cohesion, then there haven't been any serious ones," said a diplomat in Damascus.

Syria today resembles Iraq nine years ago in another disturbing respect. I have now been in Damascus for 10 days, and every day I am struck by the fact that the situation in areas of Syria I have visited is wholly different from the picture given to the world both by foreign leaders and by the foreign media. The last time I felt like this was in Baghdad in late 2003, when every Iraqi knew the US-led occupation was proving a disaster just as George W Bush, Tony Blair and much of the foreign media were painting a picture of progress towards stability and democracy under the wise tutelage of Washington and its carefully chosen Iraqi acolytes.

The picture of Syria most common believed abroad is of the rebels closing in on the capital as the Assad government faces defeat in weeks or, at most, a few months. The Secretary General of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said last week that the regime is "approaching collapse". The foreign media consensus is that the rebels are making sweeping gains on all fronts and the end may be nigh. But when one reaches Damascus, it is to discover that the best informed Syrians and foreign diplomats say, on the contrary, that the most recent rebel attacks in the capital had been thrown back by a government counteroffensive. They say that the rebel territorial advances, which fuelled speculation abroad that the Syrian government might implode, are partly explained by a new Syrian army strategy to pull back from indefensible outposts and bases and concentrate troops in cities and towns.

At times, Damascus resounds with the boom of artillery fire and the occasional car bomb, but it is not besieged. I drove 160 kilometres north to Homs, Syria's third largest city with a population of 2.3 million, without difficulty. Homs, once the heart of the uprising, is in the hands of the government, aside from the Old City, which is held by the FSA. Strongholds of the FSA in Damascus have been battered by shellfire and most of their inhabitants have fled to other parts of the capital. The director of the 1,000-bed Tishreen military hospital covering much of southern Syria told me that he received 15 to 20 soldiers wounded every day, of whom about 20 per cent died. This casualty rate indicates sniping, assassinations and small-scale ambushes, but not a fight to the finish.

This does not mean that the government is in a happy position. It has been unable to recapture southern Aleppo or the Old City in Homs. It does not have the troops to garrison permanently parts of Damascus it has retaken. Its overall diplomatic and military position is slowly eroding and the odds against it are lengthening, but it is a long way from total defeat, unless there is direct military intervention by foreign powers, as in Libya or Iraq, and this does not seem likely.

This misperception of the reality on the ground in Syria is fuelled in part by propaganda, but more especially by inaccurate and misleading reporting by the media where bias towards the rebels and against the government is unsurpassed since the height of the Cold War. Exaggerated notions are given of rebel strength and popularity. The Syrian government is partially responsible for this. By excluding all but a few foreign journalists, the regime has created a vacuum of information that is naturally filled by its enemies. In the event, a basically false and propagandistic account of events in Syria has been created by a foreign media credulous in using pro-opposition sources as if they were objective reporting.

The execution video is a case in point. I have not met a Syrian in Damascus who has not seen it. It is having great influence on how Syrians judge their future, but the mainstream media outside Syria has scarcely mentioned it. Some may be repulsed by its casual savagery, but more probably it is not shown because it contradicts so much of what foreign leaders and reporters claim is happening here.




President Obama announced on Tuesday that the US now formally recognizes the Syrian opposition as the legitimate government of Syria.

Posted on 12/12/2012 by Juan Cole

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Tuesday that there were no further indications of the Syrian regime priming itself to deploy chemical weapons. (My own suspicion is that Israeli intelligence planted that story in the first place, because it wants the US to militarily secure the chemical weapons lest they are transferred to Hizbullah. The Obama administration dealt with Netanyahu by saying deployment of chemical weapons would be a red line for the regime, and then declaring that the warning worked.)



Obama’s recognition comes as the momentum is turning slowly against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Baath Party. Alarabiya reports on how the Free Syria Army has reorganized itself, assigning each sector of the country to a rebel general.

The ability of the revolutionaries to disrupt the international airport in recent days is also a blow to the regime, which has had to divert Iranian arms flights to smaller military runways.

The revolutionaries claimed on Tuesday to have taken the last Baath military base in Aleppo and Idlib Province, denying the regime a site from which to subject them to artillery barrages. They also have captured anti-aircraft batteries from regime bases, reducing the danger to them of aerial bombardment.






MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP)
— More than 100 countries on Wednesday recognized a new Syrian opposition coalition, opening the way for greater humanitarian assistance to the forces battling Bashar Assad and possibly even military aid, France's foreign minister said.

The formation of the Syrian National Coalition appears to be the step the international community has been waiting for to extend deeper assistance to the opposition, which had been criticized for not being sufficiently organized or representative.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the "Friends of the Syrian People" conference meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, "extraordinary progress." He noted that the European Union is now renewing its weapons embargo on Syria every three months rather than annually to be more flexible as the situation on the ground changes.


Britain seeks to blunt an EU arms embargo against Damascus in order to supply Syria's opposition coalition with non-lethal equipment. Critics of the move, however, have expressed concern that the equipment could fall into other hands.

­The UK Foreign Office says Britain will seek an amendment to the embargo next week in a bid to support opponents Syrian President Bashar Assad.

EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the issue in Brussels on Monday. Last week. top EU diplomats agreed to decrease from one year to three months the renewal period for sanctions against Damascus. The moved was seen as a gesture of support for the Syrian rebels.

London said it seeks to ship non-lethal military gear and training to Syria to aid the rebel forces. Currently, body armor and night vision goggles fall under the arms embargo; the new amendment would permit the shipment of those and similar supplies.





(Reuters) - Rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared Damascus International Airport a battle zone on Friday, while Moscow and Washington both sounded downbeat about the prospects of a diplomatic push to end the conflict.

Fighting around the capital city has intensified over the past week, and Western officials have begun speaking about faster change on the ground in a 20-month-old conflict that has killed 40,000 people.

But Russia and the United States, the superpowers that have backed the opposing sides in the conflict, both played down the chance of a diplomatic breakthrough after talks aimed at resolving their differences.



"I don't think anyone believes that there was some great breakthrough," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

"No one should have any illusions about how hard this remains. But all of us, with any influence, need to be engaged with Brahimi for a concerted, sincere push."

Lavrov said the sides had agreed to send officials to another meeting with Brahimi, but also sounded a skeptical note.

"I would not make optimistic predictions ... It remains to be seen what will come out of this," he added, noting that Brahimi knows the chance of success is "far from 100 percent".

Rebels, meeting in Turkey in the presence of Western security officials, elected a 30-member unified military command, giving prominent posts to Islamists and excluding some senior officers who defected from Assad's army.

Washington and its NATO allies want to see Assad removed from power. Moscow has blocked action against him at the U.N. Security Council, and while outsiders repeatedly point to signs of Russia losing patience with him, its stance has not changed.

The past week has brought a war previously fought mainly in the provinces and other cities to the threshold of the capital.

Cutting access to the airport 20 km (12 miles) from the city center would be a symbolic blow. The rebels acknowledge the airport itself is still in army hands, but say they are blockading it from most sides.

"The rebel brigades who have been putting the airport under siege decided yesterday that the airport is a military zone," said Nabil al-Amir, a spokesman for the rebels' Damascus Military Council.

"Civilians who approach it now do so at their own risk," he said. Fighters had "waited two weeks for the airport to be emptied of most civilians and airlines" before declaring it a target, he added.

He did not say what they would do if aircraft tried to land. Foreign airlines have suspended all flights to Damascus since fighting has approached the airport in the past week, although some Syrian Air flights have used the airport in recent days.

Syria says the army is driving rebels back from positions in the suburbs and outskirts of Damascus where they have tried to concentrate their offensive. Accounts from rebels and the government are impossible to verify on the ground.

"SOME FIGHT LEFT IN THEM"

Although Western opponents of Assad believe events are tipping against him, they also acknowledge that the war is still far from over.

"It's very clear to me that the regime's forces are being ground down," U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, withdrawn last year, was quoted as saying by CNN. "That said, the regime's protection units continue to maintain some cohesion, and they still have some fight left in them, even though they are losing. I expect there will be substantial fighting in the days ahead."

Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has tracked the fighting since it began in March 2011, said: "I think it's unrealistic to expect that the battle is in its last stages right now."

The meeting of rebels in Antalya, Turkey, was aimed at forming a structure to run the conflict in conjunction with a new opposition National Coalition, which some European and Arab states have recognized as Syria's legitimate representatives.

One delegate at the meeting, who asked not to be identified, said two-thirds of the 30 members of the newly named command had ties with the Muslim Brotherhood or were its political allies.

"We are witnessing the result of the Qatari and Turkish creations," said the delegate, referring to leading anti-Assad countries that are seen as backing the Brotherhood.

Colonel Riad Asaad, founder of the Syrian Free Army rebel force, and General Hussein Haj Ali, the highest-ranking officer to defect from Assad's military, were among those excluded.

NATO decided this week to send U.S., German and Dutch batteries of air-defense missiles to the Turkish border, putting hundreds of American and European NATO troops close to the frontier with Syria for the first time in the crisis.

Russia's ambassador to NATO said the move risked dragging the alliance into the conflict.

"This is not a threat to us, but this is an indication that NATO is moving toward engagement, and that's it," Alexander Grushko said. "We see a threat of further involvement of NATO in the Syrian situation as a result of some provocation or some incidents on the border, if they take place.

The Dutch on Friday said they would send two Patriot batteries with up to 360 personnel. Germany approved its mission on Thursday.

The United States and its NATO allies have issued coordinated warnings in recent days to Assad not to use chemical weapons, prompting Syria to accuse Western countries of conjuring the threat to justify a military intervention.

Syria has not signed an international chemical weapons treaty banning poison gas, but has repeatedly said that it would never use such weapons on its own people.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "We have no confirmed reports on this matter. However, if it is the case, then it will be an outrageous crime in the name of humanity."

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Belfast, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Peter Apps in London, Steve Gutterman in Moscow and Adrian Croft in London; Writing by Douglas Hamilton and Peter Graff; Editing by Giles Elgood)





  • The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons programme "for years and already has a stockpile of CW agents which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
  • Syria is believed to possess mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent
  • The CIA also believes that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic and more persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas
  • A report citing Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies put Syria's stockpile at approximately 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, stored in 50 towns and cities
  • Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
Sources: CSIS, RUSI,BBC





US President Barack Obama has warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad he will face "consequences" if he uses chemical weapons against his people.

"The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable," said Mr Obama.

A Syrian official has insisted it would "never, under any circumstances" use such weapons, "if such weapons exist".

Meanwhile, the United Nations says it is pulling "all non-essential international staff" out of Syria.

As many as 25 out of 100 international staff could leave this week, the UN news agency Irin reported, while all humanitarian missions outside Damascus will be halted for the time being.

'World is watching'

In a speech on nuclear non-proliferation at the National Defense University in Fort McNair, Mr Obama said: "We've worked to keep weapons from spreading, whether it was nuclear material in Libya or nor chemical weapons in Syria.

In response to the threats, the Syrian Foreign Ministry has issued a brief statement saying that Damascus will not use chemical weapons, “if they were available, under any circumstances against its people.” The ministry also stressed that Syria has stated repeatedly that it “will not use these types of weapons.”
In July, Syrian Foreign Ministry stated that “any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used – and I repeat will never be used – during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi assured at the time that all of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and "will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”

­Anonymous reports of suspicious activity

Meanwhile, several senior US defense officials – all on condition of anonymity – claimed that Syria has begun mixing chemicals that can be used to make the deadly sarin gas.
“We've picked up several indications which lead us to believe that they're combining chemical precursors,” one unnamed US official told AFP, adding that the operation was apparently aimed at making sarin.

A report by Wired cites another unnamed US official “with knowledge of the situation,” who said that the sources in the Syrian military confirm that the preparations “have gotten to the point where they can load it up on a plane and drop it.”

The Associated Press earlier cited another official who said on condition of anonymity that US intelligence officials had detected activity around several known Syrian chemical weapons sites in recent days.
Concerns about the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria have arisen on the same day the UN announced it is sending all non-essential international staff out of Syria and halting aid missions outside Damascus.

­Pretext for intervention?

This is not the first time unusual movements of stockpiles have been detected in Syria. In September, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that intelligence said the Syrian government had moved some of its chemical weapons. Panetta though added that this might have been done to safeguard the chemical stockpile against rebel forces.

But this time, some analysts believe, the revived concerns of chemical weapons use might be used as a pretext for a “humanitarian intervention” in Syria.
“This issue of the chemical weapons is useful to prepare the ground for a humanitarian type of intervention which may include some strikes eventually,” political analyst Paolo Raffone told RT. “But mostly I doubt strongly that Western countries would send soldiers on the ground in Syria.”
Government and business consultant Christoph Horstel believes that the main concern of the Syrian government right now is that the opposition fighters, whoever they are, do not lay their hands on the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile.
“What Syria is certainly doing is trying to make sure that no foreign agent, how well equipped ever, can get into the possession of these weapons,” Horstel told RT. “Of course, they are not planning to use them against foreign enemies in their territory. No way. All these things are inventions of foreign and Western propaganda.”
Russia is meanwhile concerned that the militarization of the Syrian conflict is in full swing as large supplies of weapons to the Syrian opposition continue despite an arms embargo against the war-torn country. These supplies include “rather dangerous” arms, such as Stinger missiles, and hamper all efforts which “should be aimed at conciliation, and work with all the opposition groups,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview with Itar-Tass.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that while Russia cannot give any guarantees on the Syrian leader’s intentions, it shares international concern over the humanitarian situation in Syria and the wider region. Putin also added that the possible placing of Patriot missiles along the Syrian border in Turkey will not in any way add to stability in the region.


All hell is breaking loose in Syria.

Revolutionaries have captured at least 7 bases from the Syrian army in just the past two weeks, and they have been mining their depots for arms. They have gotten hold of SA-7 shoulderheld missile launchers and deployed them against the Syrian air force. The regime seems to have lost control of most of the north of the country, and roads north have been cut. The revolutionaries are now attempting to take the Damascus airport, to prevent the regime from being resupplied by Russia and other allies. The fighting near the airport has caused most international passenger airlines to cease flying into it, though it is technically still open and the regime may still be able to use it for resupply. The regime, desperate to disrupt the revolutionaries’ command and control, pulled the plug on the internet and also turned off the telephone service. Muammar Qaddafi turned off the internet during the uprising in Libya, but it did not help him in the end. It is hard to see how this regime can survive, given the kinds of advances that the opposition has been making in recent weeks.







– The Washington Post reports: Some of the heaviest fighting since the Syrian uprising began last year forced the closure of Damascus’s international airport Thursday as communications throughout the country went dark after the government apparently shut down Internet access.





UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The 20-month conflict in Syria has reached "new and appalling heights of brutality and violence" as the government steps up its shelling and air strikes and rebels boost their attacks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.

Ban and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi addressed the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on the revolt against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, which began as peaceful rallies calling for democracy but grew to an armed struggle after the military cracked down on protesters.

The fighting has killed about 40,000 people, making it the bloodiest of Arab uprisings that have ousted entrenched leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen since early last year.
"The government has intensified its campaigns to root out opposition strongholds and has increased shelling and air strikes," Ban said. "Opposition elements also have stepped up their attacks. I am horrified and saddened and condemn the seemingly daily massacres of civilians."
Syrian air force jets bombarded rebel targets on Friday close to the Damascus airport road and a regional airline said the violence had halted international flights. The Internet and most telephone lines also were down for a second day in the worst communications outage of the conflict.

Ban said with the onset of winter, up to 4 million people in Syria would be in need and that he expected to number of refugees - currently about 480,000 - to hit 700,000 by early next year. He appealed for more humanitarian aid and said he would soon visit refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey to assess the situation.

Brahimi said rebel forces had made gains on the ground in the past few weeks, but the government remained confident that it has the upper hand.

STRATEGIC GAINS

"The areas of territory that they (the rebels) control are expanding, and with strategic value in some cases," Brahimi said. "In Syria itself, there is no trust between the parties. They do not even define the problem in the same terms."
Brahimi told the General Assembly that Syria was in danger of becoming a failed state and stepped up his pressure on the Security Council, which is deadlocked over taking stronger action on Assad, to adopt a resolution backing his peace bid.

The United States and European council members blame Russia, a staunch ally and key arms supplier for Assad's government, and China for the council's inaction on the conflict. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad and reject the idea of sanctions. Diplomats say nothing has changed.
"Any peace process must include ... a binding agreement on the cessation of all forms of violence," Brahimi said.
"For the fighting to stop, a strong, well planned observation system must be put in place," he said. "Such observation can best be organized through a large, robust peacekeeping force - and, naturally, that cannot be envisaged without a Security Council resolution."
If there were a more sustained ceasefire, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations has told Brahimi it could put together a force of up to 3,000 monitors to keep fighters separated and maintain the truce, diplomats say.
"Difficult as it has been for the council to reach a consensus on an implementable roadmap for Syria, I nevertheless feel that it is here, and only here, that a credible, implementable process can be put together," Brahimi said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Trott)





TUNIS, Tunisia – The interim president of Libya, who came to power following a NATO-supported rebellion against former leader Moammar Gadhafi, said Thursday he opposed foreign intervention in Syria.

Speaking at press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, Mohammed al-Megarif said he also opposed arming the Syrian opposition which has been battling the regime of President Bashar Assad for the last year and a half, with thousands of lives lost.

The two leaders, both products of the wave of uprisings that swept the Middle East in 2011, did call for Assad to step down.

Like the conflict in Syria, the uprising that overthrew former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi turned into a civil war and the rebels only triumphed with the aid of a NATO campaign of airstrikes and the supply of sophisticated weapons.

Syria’s rebels have repeatedly called for greater material international support, but little has been forthcoming, in part because of international concerns over the lack of unity in the opposition.

Al-Megarif also said that he and Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki were withholding recognition of the new Syrian opposition coalition until they could evaluate how representative it was.

Al-Megarif’s visit to Tunisia comes with a $200 million offer of aid to the Tunisian economy to “support its development.”

The Tunisian economy, which relies heavily on tourism and exports to Europe, has been severely battered by the unrest that accompanied the overthrow of its long-ruling dictator in January 2011.

“It is the first financial interaction which will be followed by others as we solidify the excellent relations linking the two countries,” said Marzouki.



Source- AP via Montreal Gazette





The situation in Libya is worst now after Ousting Gaddafi; the destruction of Iran won't make the situation better for Iranians; the destruction of Syria is not making the situation better for Syrians.

As a person from countries with corrupt inefficient governments, I said that an attack from outside is never welcome, despite internal strife.





Hugh Schofield
BBC News, Paris


By becoming the first Western power to recognise the Syrian National Coalition, France is hoping to build on the success of Sunday's meeting in Doha and set a precedent that other nations may follow.

No-one has forgotten that it was France that set the pace when it came to recognising the Libyan opposition last year. That was under a different, arguably more gung-ho president - Nicolas Sarkozy - and the circumstances in Libya were very different. But France likes to feel it still has a special role to play in the Middle East, and this was a welcome opportunity for Francois Hollande to make a foreign policy mark.

The president's remarks on reconsidering arms deliveries need to be treated with caution. Nothing will happen quickly, not least because France is bound by an EU embargo on arms deliveries to all sides in the Syrian conflict.

Still the president did say that with the coalition now officially recognised, the question of arms could be re-opened - and that will be seized on by the opposition as an important advance.




The Arab League has hailed the formation of Syria's new rebel coalition, but stopped short of recognizing the group as the sole legitimate voice of the Syrian people. Leaders of Syria's exiled opposition, beset by mutual suspicion and infighting, formed the new bloc on Sunday and are now seeking full international backing.

Political analyst Lew Rockwell believes that by offering full support for the Syrian coalition, foreign nations may be hijacking the initiative.


I could hear the exchange of gunfire and the sounds of bombing nearby. After a particularly strong burst, I found myself trembling. Out of nowhere, a little boy named Mohamed came up and grabbed my hand with his two little hands. I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “Don’t you worry, you will be ok. We hear this all the time and we are used to it. Take a deep breath and you will be ok.”

Mohamed is 7 years old. I don’t know what affected me more - his gesture of kindness or knowing that such a young, sweet boy was already accustomed to such terrible sounds of violence. 

The ongoing conflict in Syria has played out in the international media for months now. But the humanitarian needs in Syria and the surrounding countries hosting Syrian refugees have never been more urgent than they are at this moment. Find out how you can help. 

The World Food Programme has scaled up its operations to reach 1.5 million people in Syria with emergency food assistance. As thousands more Syrians pour into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, many arrive exhausted and hungry after fleeing their homes with nothing. WFP is helping to feed these refugees through hot meals and food vouchers. 

During an emergency, every dollar counts. Your donation to provide food for Syrian families will come at a critical time. 

In some cases, we’re going to door-to-door delivering food to poor, displaced Syrians in order to avoid large gatherings of people in particularly tense areas. A few days ago, I joined some of my colleagues bringing rice, beans and oil to families in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs in western Syria. Two-thirds of the city has been devastated by conflict, and many streets are now deserted. 

WFP’s expertise is getting the right food to people who need it most, when they need it the most. Right now, families need our help to ensure they don’t have to worry about where they’ll find their next meal. Please make a donation today to provide food for more families in Syria. Every donation will immediately be directed to our emergency operation. 


As I write this, more than 20 of my WFP colleagues in Syria have lost their homes, yet they continue to carry out their life-saving work each day. Their dedication amazes me. Your donation will not only support Syrian families but also honor the courage of these colleagues. 

Thank you, 

Abeer Etefa
Senior Communications Officer, Middle East
World Food Programme






JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says it has fired into Syria for a second straight day in response to errant mortar fire that landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

There were no reports of injuries on either side of the frontier Monday. But a series of similar incidents in recent days has raised fears that Israel could be dragged into the fighting in its northern neighbor.
Israel does not believe the mortar fire has intentionally targeted Israeli targets.
Still, Israeli officials have warned that they will respond harshly if the attacks persist.

Israel responded for the first time on Sunday, firing an anti-tank missile as a "warning shot."





In an exclusive interview with RT, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Syria is not going through a civil war, but rather a different kind of war -- terrorism through proxies.





BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army abandoned its last base near the northern town of Saraqeb after a fierce assault by rebels, further isolating the strategically important second city Aleppo from the capital.
But in a political setback to forces battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad, the United Nations said the rebels appeared to have committed a war crime after seizing the base.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday government troops had retreated from a post northwest of Saraqeb, leaving the town and surrounding areas "completely outside the control of regime forces".

It was not immediately possible to verify the reported army withdrawal. Authorities restrict journalists' access in Syria and state media made no reference to Saraqeb.

The pullout followed coordinated rebel attacks on Thursday against three military posts around Saraqeb, 50 km (30 miles) southwest of Aleppo, in which 28 soldiers were killed.

Several were shown in video footage being shot after they had surrendered.

"The allegations are that these were soldiers who were no longer combatants. And therefore, at this point it looks very likely that this is a war crime, another one," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

"Unfortunately this could be just the latest in a string of documented summary executions by opposition factions as well as by government forces and groups affiliated with them, such as the shabbiha (pro-government militia)," he said.

Video footage of the killings showed rebels berating the captured men, calling them "Assad's dogs", before firing round after round into their bodies as they lay on the ground.

Rights groups and the United Nations say rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have committed war crimes during the 19-month-old conflict. It began with protests against Assad and has spiraled into a civil war which has killed 32,000 people and threatens to drag in regional powers.

The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels are supported by Sunni states including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and neighboring Turkey. Shi'ite Iran remains the strongest regional supporter of Assad, who is from the Alawite faith which is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

STRATEGIC BLOW


Saraqeb lies at the meeting point of Syria's main north-south highway, linking Aleppo with Damascus, and another road connecting Aleppo to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

With areas of rural Aleppo and border crossings to Turkey already under rebel control, the loss of Saraqeb would leave Aleppo city further cut off from Assad's Damascus powerbase.

Any convoys using the highways from Damascus or the Mediterranean city of Latakia would be vulnerable to rebel attack. This would force the army to use smaller rural roads or send supplies on a dangerous route from Al-Raqqa in the east, according to the Observatory's director, Rami Abdelrahman.

In response to the rebels' territorial gains, Assad has stepped up air strikes against opposition strongholds, launching some of the heaviest raids so far against working class suburbs east of Damascus over the last week.

The bloodshed has continued unabated despite an attempted ceasefire, proposed by join U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to mark last month's Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

In the latest in a string of fruitless international initiatives, China called on Thursday for a phased, region-by-region ceasefire and the setting up of a transitional governing body - an idea which opposition leaders hope to flesh out at a meeting in Qatar next week.

Veteran opposition leader Riad Seif has proposed a structure bringing together the rebel Free Syrian Army, regional military councils and other rebel forces alongside local civilian bodies and prominent opposition figures.

His plan, called the Syrian National Initiative, calls for four bodies to be established: the Initiative Body, including political groups, local councils, national figures and rebel forces; a Supreme Military Council; a Judicial Committee and a transitional government made up of technocrats.

The initiative has the support of Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Wednesday for an overhaul of the opposition, saying it was time to move beyond the troubled Syrian National Council.

The SNC has failed to win recognition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and Clinton said it was time to bring in "those on the front lines fighting and dying".

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Jon Boyle)





ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) - The United States and Turkey indicated they were studying a range of possible measures over Syria, including a no-fly zone, as battles between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's forces shook Aleppo and the heart of Damascus.



U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after meeting her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul on Saturday that Washington and Ankara should develop detailed operational planning on ways to assist the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

"Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that," she said.

Asked about options such as imposing a no-fly zone over rebel-held territory, Clinton said these were possibilities she and Davutoglu had agreed "need greater in-depth analysis", while indicating that no decisions were necessarily imminent.

"It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning," she said.

Though any intervention appears to be a distant prospect, her remarks were nevertheless the closest Washington has come to suggesting direct military action in Syria.

No-fly zones imposed by NATO and Arab allies helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. Until recently, the West had shunned the idea of repeating any Libya-style action.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are believed to be arming Syrian rebels, while the United States and Britain have pledged to step up non-lethal assistance to Assad's opponents.

Davutoglu said it was time outside powers took decisive steps to resolve the humanitarian crisis in cities such as Aleppo, where Assad's forces have fought rebels for three weeks.

JETS, TANKS IN ACTION


In the latest battles, tanks and troops pummeled rebels near the shattered district of Salaheddine, a former opposition stronghold that commands the main southern approach to Aleppo.

Tank fire crashed into the adjacent Saif al-Dawla neighborhood as military jets circled over an abandoned police station held by rebels, firing missiles every few minutes.

Insurgents said they had been forced to retreat in the latest twist in relentless, see-saw battles for Salaheddine, part of a swathe of Aleppo seized by rebels last month.

Some rebels, outgunned and low on ammunition in Aleppo, have pleaded for outside military help, arguing that more weapons and a no-fly zone over areas they control near the Turkish border would give them a secure base against Assad's forces.

"The reason we retreated from Salaheddine this week is a lack of weapons," complained Abu Thadet, a rebel commander in Aleppo who said his fighters would regroup and fight back. "We can handle the bombing. It's the snipers that make it hard."

In Damascus, where Assad's forces have regained control of districts overrun by rebels last month, a resident reported an explosion near the Central Bank, followed by gunfire.

"The explosion was huge. There has been fighting for the past half-hour along Pakistan Street. I am very close. Can you hear that?" she told Reuters, a bang audible over the telephone.

Syrian state TV said authorities were hunting "terrorists" who had set off a bomb in Merjeh, an area near the central bank, and who were "shooting at random to spark panic among citizens".
At least 11 people were killed on Saturday when government forces mounted an armored attack to try to regain the area the Sunni Muslim north Damascus suburb of al-Tel, activists said.

"The army pushed tanks, armored personnel carriers and pick-up trucks equipped with heavy machine-guns toward Tel in the morning and fighting has been raging for the last 12 hours," said Alam, one of the opposition activists, who gave only his first name for fear of retribution.

"They did not manage to go in. The Free Syrian Army had booby trapped the entrances to Tel and four armor pieces have been destroyed," he added.

END GAME BEGINS?


Despite their superior firepower, Assad's forces have been stretched by months of warfare against increasingly skilled and organized fighters who have taken them on in every city and in many parts of the countryside at one time or another.

Germany's spy chief said the Syrian army had been depleted by casualties, deserters and defectors.
"There are a lot of indications that the end game for the regime has begun," said Gerhard Schindler, head of the BND intelligence agency, in an interview with Die Welt newspaper.

"The regular army is being confronted by a variety of flexible fighters. The recipe of their success is their guerrilla tactics. They're breaking the army's back."

Syria's torment, however, is far from over and several signs point to how the conflict could spill over into its neighbors.

Jordanian and Syrian forces clashed along the border in the early hours of Saturday when refugees tried to cross to Jordan, a Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said.

Thousands of Syrians have fled into Jordan, but tensions heightened after Assad's newly installed prime minister, Riad Hijab, defected and escaped across the border this week.

Assad's main outside allies are Shi'ite Iran and Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement. His ruling system is dominated by members of his Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

His foes are mostly from Syria's Sunni majority, who are backed by Sunni-ruled states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which are also regional rivals of Iran.

Arab foreign ministers will meet on Sunday in Jeddah to discuss the Syria crisis and who should replace Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy, a League official said.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Andrew Quinn and Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin, Louis Charbonneau in New York and Tamim Elyan in Cairo; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Jon Hemming)



UN envoy Kofi Annan says a national unity cabinet with government and opposition members could be the solution for the Syrian crisis. Moscow and other permanent members of the UN Security Council reportedly “signaled” their support of the idea.

That is according to diplomatic sources that spoke to Reuters on Wednesday on condition of anonymity. Annan's proposal for a political transition in Syria is one of the main topics that Russia and other key players in the Middle East will discuss at the Geneva meeting on Saturday.

Summarizing the proposal, diplomats explained the conflict could only end when all sides see a common way to a shared future. Annan stressed it was “vital that [any] settlement [be] irreversible, [with] clear transition steps in a fixed timeline.”

“These include establishing a transitional national unity government to create a neutral backdrop for transition,” the diplomat said. “It could comprise of present government members, opposition and others, but would need to exclude those whose continued participation or presence would jeopardize the transition's credibility, or harm prospects for reconciliation and stability.”

Although Annan's plan does not specify who exactly would be excluded from the prospective government, the diplomat added that this idea was clearly referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Reuters’ source also states that the Russians “signaled to Annan that they accept his transition plan,” while several Western diplomats confirmed these remarks. Moreover, all five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council have reportedly backed the proposal.

Kofi Annan has made the acceptance of his proposal a condition for organizing the Saturday meeting. The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar will attend the conference.



Rebel gunmen stormed Syria's pro-government television station on Wednesday, killing at least seven employees just hours after President Bashar Assad declared that the country is at war.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Gunmen stormed a pro-government Syrian TV channel headquarters on Wednesday, bombing buildings and shooting dead three employees, state media said, in one of the boldest attacks yet on a symbol of the authoritarian state.
More than 150 people were killed in fierce fighting across Syria on Wednesday, 86 of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Intensified fighting in the country have driven up the death toll averages to around 100 people per day in the past week.
President Bashar al-Assad declared late on Tuesday that his country was "at war". U.S. intelligence officials said the Syrian government was "holding fairly firm" and digging in for a long struggle against rebel forces who are getting stronger.
The dawn attack on Ikhbariya television's offices, 20 km (15 miles) south of the capital, as well as overnight fighting on the outskirts of Damascus showed the 16-month-old violence now rapidly encroaching on the city.
Ikhbariya resumed broadcasting shortly after the attack, which killed three journalists and four security guards, displaying bullet holes in its two-storey concrete building and pools of blood on the floor. One building was almost entirely destroyed.
"I heard a small explosion then a huge explosion and gunmen ran in. They ransacked the offices and entirely destroyed the newsroom," an employee who works at the offices in the town of Drousha told state media at the scene.
Syrian media are tightly regulated by the Ministry of Information. Although Ikhbariya is privately owned, opponents of Assad say it is a government mouthpiece.
After Tuesday's fighting unprecedented in its intensity around Damascus, violence appeared to ease off around the capital following the attack on the television complex. But rebel forces were clearly becoming stronger and more ambitious.
SYRIA "AT WAR"
During the pro-democracy revolt against the Assad family's four-decade rule, Ikhbariya has been pushing to counter what it says is a campaign of misinformation by Western and Arab satellite channels on the uprising that began in March 2011.
"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told a cabinet he appointed on Tuesday, in a speech broadcast on state television. "When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
The declaration marks a change of rhetoric from Assad, who had long dismissed the uprising against him as the work of scattered militants in "terrorist gangs" funded from abroad.
The rambling speech - Assad also commented on subjects as far afield as the benefits of renewable energy - left little room for compromise. He denounced the West, which "takes and never gives, and this has been proven at every stage".
International mediator Kofi Annan said he had convened a ministerial-level meeting on Syria in Geneva on Saturday with the aim of seeking an end to the violence and agreeing on principles for a "Syrian-led political transition".
In a statement, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy said he had invited foreign ministers from the five major powers - Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States - as well as Turkey, the European Union, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar.
Despite the deterioration in Syria, so far there has been no sign of an appetite for full-scale Western intervention. However, last week's shooting down of a Turkish warplane by Syrian air defenses has focused attention on a volatile situation on Turkey's southeastern border with Syria.
"We will not refrain from teaching a lesson to anyone trying to test Turkey's greatness," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, referring to the incident near the countries' maritime borders.
Turkey's land border territories, hosting over 33,000 refugees and units of the rebel Free Syria Army (FSA), are quickly becoming a potential flashpoint. Tuesday's comments by Erdogan may if anything have added further uncertainty to the situation there.
Erdogan said on Tuesday that Syrian military elements approaching the border and posing a threat would be deemed a military target. He made no public clarification of new terms of engagement issued to troops.
"With Tayyip Erdogan's announcement, and if Syria complies with it, Turkey will have by itself declared a de facto 'buffer zone'," Radikal newspaper columnist Cengiz Candar wrote.
"And if Bashar al-Assad doesn't comply with this? That is, if he continues to send soldiers right up to the border? Turkey runs the risk of a military operation against him."
Turkey has in the past spoken of possible establishment of a 'humanitarian corridor' on Syrian soil - a venture that would inevitably require armed protection. But it has always insisted such a measure, if required by a rising tide of refugees or by evidence of massacres, would need international endorsement
United Nations investigators said on Wednesday Syrian government forces had committed human rights violations, including executions, across the country "on an alarming scale" during military operations in the past three months.
The report by the U.N. Human Rights Council, issued in Geneva, also listed killings and kidnappings by armed opposition groups trying to topple President Assad.
"The situation on the ground is dangerously and quickly deteriorating," the report said.
Syria's ambassador dismissed the accusations and threatened to end cooperation with international agencies.
The United Nations accuses Syrian forces of killing more than 10,000 people during the conflict, which began with a popular uprising and has built up into an armed insurgency.
A White House spokesman said of the attack on the pro-government television station: "We condemn all acts of violence, including those targeting pro-regime elements."
LONG FIGHT
The UK-based Observatory, which compiles reports from activists across the country, reported battles on Tuesday near the headquarters of the Republican Guard in Qudsiya, and in other Damascus suburbs of al-Hama and Mashrou' Dumar, just 9 km from the capital.
Activists said the clashes were the heaviest to hit areas on the outskirts of Damascus, once considered an impenetrable Assad stronghold. Fighting in the suburbs outside the capital were renewed again on Wednesday night, the Observatory said.
Despite some military defections, mainly from low to mid-level ranks, Assad's inner circle remains cohesive and the war is still likely to be a drawn-out struggle, senior U.S. intelligence officials said, in an assessment dimming any U.S. hopes that Assad will fall soon.
"Our overall assessment ... would be that we are still seeing the military regime forces fairly cohesive, they've learned some lessons over the last year and a half about how to deal with this kind of insurgency," an official said.
The insurgency is also getting stronger, he said.
"Both sides seem to be girding for a long struggle. Our sense is that the regime still believes it can ultimately prevail or at least appears determined to try to prevail and the opposition at the same time seems to be preparing for a long fight."
(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; additional reporting by Jonathon Burch and Jon Hemming; editing by Ralph Boulton, Janet McBride and Michael Roddy)




Turkey's President, Abdullah Gul, has said the Turkish fighter jet shot down by Syria's air defence forces on Friday may have violated Syrian airspace.

Mr Gul said it was routine for warplanes flying at high speed to cross borders for short distances.

Syria has said it engaged the aircraft in its airspace "according to the laws that govern such situations", and that it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Turkish and Syrian navies are searching for the two crew members.

Relations between Nato-member Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. More than 30,000 Syrian refugees have fled the violence across the border into Turkey.

After a cross-border shooting by Syrian security forces in April that left two refugees dead at a camp near the town of Kilis, Turkey said it would not tolerate any action that it deemed violating its security.



Members of the U.N. Security Council remain at an impasse over an international response to Syria’s turmoil. Kofi Annan has proposed establishing a new contact group involving the United States, Russia and Iran, but the United States has refused to accept Iran’s involvement. Russia and China continue to oppose proposals for sanctions against Syria and the U.S.-led calls for Assad to step down. At the United Nations, Russia envoy Vitaly Churkin said Council members have ignored the role of Syria’s armed rebels in the ongoing violence and called for Iran’s involvement in any future talks.

Vitaly Churkin: "The truth of the matter, as you know, is that armed opposition groups do not only — do not only fail to comply to the Kofi Annan plan, but they declare that it is their intention not to do so, which, to us, is a very dangerous development, a very counterproductive development. We hear complaints about Iran, so the way to deal with that is to involve Iran in discussions and make sure that their activities are in sync with the activities of the rest of us who want to have this matter finally settled peacefully."

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov vowed to oppose any Security Council measure authorizing military intervention, saying: "There will not be a Security Council mandate for outside intervention, I guarantee you that."

The Turkish response to the downing of one of its fighter jets by Syrian forces has been strikingly low-key. Official statements have been terse. Turkey is not challenging the official Syrian account of what happened, but nor is it yet accepting it.

The Syrian military said the F4 reconnaissance jet was shot down as it flew low and fast towards the city of Latakia, just 1km from the coast. Turkey's President Abdullah Gul suggested that it was routine for fast-flying military jets to stray into other countries' air space, but the Syrian account puts this aircraft deep inside its territory, raising big questions about what it was doing. Had it gone badly off course, or was it on some other mission? There are questions too about why Syria shot the aircraft down, rather than try to ascertain its purpose.

Two impressions are left by what we know so far from this incident. First, that Syria's sophisticated, Russian-supplied air defence systems are effective, and Syria is willing to use them. Second, that Turkey is taking great care not to be drawn into a military confrontation with Syria.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. government website on Friday published what it said was photographic evidence of mass graves and attacks on civilian areas by Syrian government forces.

The website, operated by a bureau of the State Department, published a series of overhead photos, said to be taken earlier this week by commercial satellite, showing what it said were mass graves dug following a massacre near the town of Houla.

They also showed apparent artillery impact craters near civilian areas of a town called Atarib.

Included on the web page, which can be viewed at http://www.humanrights.gov/2012/03/05/situation-in-syria/, are pictures which apparently show artillery deployed as of May 31 - Thursday - near three Syrian towns and attack helicopters allegedly deployed near the towns of Shayrat and Homs.

The pictures are credited to commercial satellite imagery companies.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari did not have an immediate reaction when reached by Reuters.

More than 100 men, women and children were massacred in Houla last week, most of them shot at point-blank range or slashed with knives.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said earlier this week that the people who died from artillery and tank fire were clearly victims of government shelling while the others were most likely killed by "shabbiha" militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Damascus has blamed the massacre on the opposition, which Assad has tried unsuccessfully for 14 months to crush, killing over 10,000 people in the process, according to the United Nations. Russia, which has used its veto powers to prevent the U.N. Security Council from sanctioning Syria, blames Islamist militants for the Houla massacre.

The State Department website highlights what it said are before and after satellite pictures showing mass graves near Houla.

A May 18 photo from Tall Daww, a village near Houla, shows what the government says is a square that appears to be a flat dirt clearing. Juxtaposed against this is what the U.S. government says is a May 28 photo of the same square with what appear to be rows of turned up earth, which is labeled as "probable newly-dug graves/trenches."

(Additional reporting by Lou Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Warren Strobel and Lisa Shumaker)


By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut and Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent

7:42PM BST 31 May 2012

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, bluntly criticised Russia's continued backing for President Bashar al-Assad's regime yesterday. This support was illustrated last night by the disclosure that a Russian cargo ship carrying weapons had docked in Syria last Saturday, one day after the massacre in Houla which claimed at least 108 civilian lives.

Addressing students in Denmark, Mrs Clinton urged Russia to use its influence on Mr Assad to curb the fighting.

"The Syrians are not going to listen to us. They will listen - maybe - to the Russians, so we have to keep pushing them," she said.

Russian officials, added Mrs Clinton, "are telling me they don't want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going help to contribute to a civil war." Western governments believe that diplomatic cover afforded by the Kremlin has emboldened Mr Assad and encouraged him to resist pressure to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.

Earlier, Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the UN, said that Russia's veto-wielding membership of the Security Council would not necessarily prevent international action. If the violence worsened and the peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, made no progress, some countries would consider whether to bypass Russian and Chinese opposition in the UN.

Paul Wood
BBC Middle East correspondent, just out of Syria

The ceasefire exists in name only. Most people within Syria don't think that the UN plan will work anyway. I think the threat to lift the ceasefire by the Free Syrian Army will just mean business as usual.

The Free Syrian Army, from what I could see, are under enormous pressure. They're having to sell their furniture to buy bullets. A few more serious weapons are trickling through: we believe some anti-tank weapons reached the main holdout, the town of Rastan.

But these people are barely surviivng, and although they are getting a trickle of defections I don't think they're in a position to really cause the government serious trouble.

What we may get is a sectarian civil war, of village against village, and that is what is threatened by the Friday deadline.


An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called to discuss a massacre in Syria has heard that 116 people were killed and 300 injured in Houla.

Friday's killings in the town have sparked international outrage.

The UK wants Russia, Syria's only major foreign ally, to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to halt civilian deaths.

The Syrian government has denied any involvement in the Houla killings, blaming "terrorists".

The closed meeting was called after Russia rejected a joint UK-French statement condemning the killings, diplomats say.

Russia was said to first want a briefing from the head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Maj Gen Robert Mood.

He told the assembled diplomats via video link from Damascus that 116 people had been killed and 300 injured - up from a previous figure of 90 dead.

Opposition activists say the Syrian military bombarded Houla after demonstrations. They say that some of the victims were killed during the shelling, while others were shot dead at close range by the regime militia known as the "shabiha".

'Vile testament'

Russia's deputy ambassador to the United Nations told journalists that it was not clear who was responsible for the deaths.

"There are substantial grounds to believe that the majority of those who were killed were either slashed, cut by knives, or executed at point blank distance," he said.



Shashank Joshi Associate fellow, Royal United Services Institute

So far, there is no sign that Houla will be a game-changer. First, remember that this massacre will be interpreted differently around the world.

Many countries sympathise with the Assad's government narrative that the opposition are Arab-backed Sunni fundamentalists and terrorists.

Just as some critics argue that the massacres in Libya last year and Racak, Kosovo, in 1999 are exaggerated or fabricated, similar skepticism about Houla will persist, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence - and that will affect how the UN Security Council lines up on the issue.

Moreover, the growing role of al-Qaeda and affiliated jihadist groups in Syria has, in recent months, become a further deterrent to intervention.

American officials are terrified that support for the opposition may end up in the hands of the very same people that mounted attacks on Western forces in Iraq just a few years ago.

Above all, however, no-one wants to pick a fight with Russia.






Rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria will be paid salaries, the opposition Syrian National Council has announced.

Money will also be given to soldiers who defect from the government's army, the SNC added, after a "Friends of the Syrian people" summit in Turkey.

Conference delegates said wealthy Gulf Arab states would supply millions of dollars a month for the SNC fund.

The meeting recognised the SNC as the "legitimate representative" of Syrians.

Damascus dubbed the gathering of some 70 Western and Arab foreign ministers in Istanbul as the "enemies of Syria", and key players remained absent, including Russia, China and Iran.

At a news conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned Syria that Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan - which Damascus has agreed to in principle - was "not open-ended".

His comments were echoed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said there was "no more time for excuses and delays" by the Assad government. "This is a moment of truth," she said.
Compromise

"The SNC will take charge of the payment of fixed salaries of all officers, soldiers, and others who are members of the Free Syrian Army," SNC President Burhan Ghalioun told the conference.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Istanbul, says the decision to pay rebel fighters is a significant step by the SNC in recognising the central role the armed insurgency is now playing in their campaign to oust President Assad.

An SNC leader told the BBC that she hoped more substantial funding would help bind the disparate units of the Free Syrian Army into a more coherent fighting force, and encourage other soldiers to defect from the government side.

Some countries at the conference - notably Saudi Arabia - have been openly calling for insurgents in Syria to be given weapons. But others - including the US and Turkey - oppose the move, fearing it could fuel an all-out civil war.

The decision to increase non-lethal aid to the rebels by paying salaries to the fighters is a compromise, our correspondent says.

Not all opposition groups will be happy at the summit's decision to channel the funds through the SNC - as well as recognising it as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, he adds.

There are many activists who believe the SNC's leadership has been too ineffective, and should be replaced, he points out.

The united front displayed by the gathering was undermined by the pointed absence of Russia and China, which have repeatedly balked at any international resolutions that would require President Assad to stand down.

Iraq attended, having earlier suggested it might not. However, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made it clear beforehand that he opposed arming the opposition and believed the Syrian government would survive.

The Syrian government says it is close to ending the uprising.

Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdissi told Syrian TV "the battle to topple the state is over".

Violence continued on Sunday, with more than 10 people reported killed, a day after more than 60 people died across the country.

In the latest violence, activists reported attacks by security forces in areas near the Iraqi border to the east, and the Jordanian frontier to the south.

The UN believes at least 9,000 people have died in the year-long revolt against Mr Assad's rule.


Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that arming either side in Syria will lead to a "proxy war".

He was speaking at the opening of an Arab League summit - the first major international meeting to be hosted by Iraq since at least 1990.

A UN-Arab League plan for Syria would see a UN-monitored end to fighting, troops pulled out of opposition areas and access for humanitarian services.

Syria agreed to the initiative on Tuesday but violence has continued.

A number of explosions were heard in central Baghdad as the summit was starting.

Two of the blasts occurred near the Iranian embassy, eyewitnesses said. There are unconfirmed reports that an explosion near the city's secure Green Zone was an IED (improvised explosive device).

Public opinion matters

Even gun owners and NRA members overwhelmingly support background checks2 — although the NRA’s leadership opposes background checks and is at odds with its own members.3

Let’s make sure members of Congress listen to their constituents and not the gun lobby. Call your Senators right now and ask them to support the Fix Gun Checks Act:

http://DemandAPlan.org/100percent

Thanks for supporting common sense reform and spreading the word!

Mayors Against Illegal Guns
______________
1. «Background Checks Overwhelmingly Supported By Gun Owners In 4 States,» January 21, 2013.
2. «Does the NRA agree with Wayne LaPierre?» January 31, 2013.
3. «NRA Supported Universal Background Checks After Columbine Massacre,» January 31, 2013.


As a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, I believe it is essential to safeguard the law-abiding citizen’s constitutional right to own and use firearms designed for legitimate purposes such as hunting, target shooting, collecting, and self-protection.  Restricting this right runs counter to the intent of our Founding Fathers, who expressly guaranteed that citizens would retain the right to keep and bear arms.  

It is encouraging that the Supreme Court has upheld the will of our Founders and re-affirmed the ideals our country was established upon.  The Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller provides a greater guarantee that Americans’ Constitutional rights remain secure from federal government intrusion.  I was proud to sign an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in that case stating an individual’s right to bear arms is fundamental.  This historic ruling continues to have implications far beyond the District of Columbia.  In 2010, the Supreme Court decided in McDonald v. City of Chicago to strike down the arbitrary gun ban in Chicago—and thereby affirm that the Second Amendment safeguards against state and local encroachments on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.
As a former Texas Supreme Court Justice and Attorney General, I have firsthand knowledge of crime-fighting policies that work, and I believe that citizens’ Second Amendment rights should not be restricted because of the actions of criminals.  Rather, we must focus our attention on the source of violent crime: criminals who use firearms to commit crimes.  I believe that strictly enforcing the law—and meting out tougher sentences for career criminals and those who use firearms when committing crimes—will reduce crime more effectively than gun or equipment bans, which primarily serve to take firearms away from law-abiding citizens.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent Texans in the United States Senate, and you may be certain that I will continue working with my colleagues to protect our Second Amendment rights.  Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
Sincerely,
JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856
Please sign up for my monthly newsletter at http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/newsletter.
PLEASE NOTE:
Due to the nature of electronic communication, if you did not receive this e-mail directly from my office, I cannot guarantee that the text has not been altered.  If you have questions about the validity of this message, or would like to respond to this message, please use the web form available at my website, http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/contact.


My nine-year-old daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was murdered with a gun in Tucson, Arizona two years ago today.

Since that day, far too many families have gone through similar pain.

Families in Aurora, Colorado. Families in Newtown, Connecticut. Families of the 33 people who are murdered with guns every single day across America.

How many more families need to feel that pain before our leaders take action? What will it take for them to find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby?

Today, please watch the TV ad I made with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and join me in calling on your leaders in Congress to Demand A Plan to end gun violence.


It’s past time for our leaders to take action.

Please make a donation of $35 or more to support the fight to end gun violence.

This July, I went to see a midnight movie with a couple of friends in Aurora, Colorado. Our fun night out turned into a nightmare.

At first, I thought it was a prank — just some kids setting off fireworks. But when I realized what was happening, I immediately thought about other mass shootings: Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tucson.

Could what happened there actually be happening to us? The terrifying answer was yes, and Aurora is now part of that list.

My friends and I were lucky. We were among the 58 people who survived their injuries. But twelve others weren’t so lucky.

In the weeks that followed, we heard a lot of promises from politicians. Unfortunately, those promises didn’t go anywhere. And now, not even six months later, the list of mass shootings has grown again:Newtown.

Is there anything more horrible than the mass murder of innocent children? Do we need a clearer reason to finally take action?

The time is NOW! Join me in supporting the fight to end gun violence with a donation of $35 or more to Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Demand A Plan campaign.

My survival, and the survival of my friends, was arbitrary. It all came down to where we chose our seats, where the shooter aimed his gun, where the bullets entered our bodies.

We can’t let fate be the difference between life and death in our country.

We need a real plan to end gun violence — a plan to stop mass shootings and protect the 33 people murdered every day with guns. We need to stop dangerous people from getting their hands on deadly weapons.

Will you step up and support our fight?

http://DemandAPlan.org/now

Thank you,

Stephen Barton
Mayors Against Illegal Guns

P.S. — I grew up just ten minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary. My heart goes out to the families of Newtown, and I’m committed to making sure our leaders hear their voices and take action. Your support today can make the difference.


That line of defense from gun proponents comes up again and again in the wake of mass shootings, like last week’s at Sandy Hook elementary school that left 20 children and seven adults dead. It’s true, in a sense: when holding objects that are specifically designed to be the most effective killing machines possible, people do, in fact, kill people.
And yes, people have gone on murderous rampages for all of human history, and have used whatever tools were at their disposal – rocks, knives, swords, their own hands – to inflict violence. The problem comes in when the tools at their disposal are really good at killing others without much work on the part of the killer, which is why lots of folks would like to see the United States institute some reasonable laws regulating gun ownership.
Time and again, though, the pro-gun right’s answer is the same: people will find a way to kill, and violence is inevitable, so taking away guns won’t work. Their solution seems to be a society where every citizen has a gun in one hand and crossed fingers on the other.

That perspective represents not just an intense cultural tie to guns, but a typically conservative view of humanity: people (other than me) are fundamentally bad and our time on Earth is in preparation for the afterlife, so why worry about making it better?

As we’ve seen in the debates on issues from climate change to gender equality to foreign policy, facts, statistics and rational arguments don’t really matter if the goal of offering them up is to improve things in the here and now. It’s a deeply pessimistic view of humanity that projects a strong sense of fatalism.
The point of being «good» isn’t because goodness is valuable unto itself or because goodness is widely beneficial. The point of being good is to earn heaven points. Goodness, then, is defined according to a very particular set of religious and cultural values, and is highly «in-group» focused. Goodness means going to church, marrying early, submitting to a husband-in-charge family structure, having children out of obligationand upholding the social pillars that organize society to keep a particular group on top.
Goodness isn’t necessarily helping other people or taking steps that are proven effective at decreasing violence or working to create a more accepting and happy world for our children. Goodness is upholding the power structures that have traditionally benefited the small group of men who think they have a monopoly on defining «goodness.»
Without strong social incentives and harsh social punishments for deviation from these structures, they collapse – and they collapse because they simply don’t serve large swaths of the American population (women who want equal rights, people of color, immigrants, poor people, non-Christians, gay people). There isn’t much of a reason for why these particular structures are the best, other than that the few people who benefit from them seem to like them. But the fundamental argument in their favor seems to be that without a social organization that puts white Christian men on top, the hordes of «bad» people will simply be out there – and there is nothing we can do other than arm ourselves against them.
That’s why «guns don’t kill people, people kill people» is still considered an actual argument. It’s why the debates on gun control go in circles. One side thinks we have serious but fixable cultural problems with violence, with a masculinity that is tied to aggression and with the glorification of gun culture, and that the wide availability of all sorts of deadly weaponry in such a culture enables an unconscionable amount of lethal violence. The other side thinks people are just sinners, our time on this planet is meant to be trying and ugly, guns represent freedom and man’s dominion over the Earth, and gun deaths simply result from a lack of Christianity and the attendant breaks from a «traditional» model that necessitated the oppression of a great many Americans.
As Dennis Prager argued in the National Review, no one fears being massacred by a «decent» person. We fear being massacred by someone bad.
It is certainly true that «good» people don’t walk into a classroom and shoot a group of six year-olds. It’s also true that good people don’t murder their wives and girlfriends – yet five times more women are killed by intimate partners every year than by strangers, and 95% of the women who are killed with a firearm are murdered by a man. If there’s a gun involved, an incident of domestic violence is 12 times more likely to result in death. And while mass shootings understandably capture our national attention, the more than 30,000 American gun deaths every year (and their $37bn price tag) should spur us to action.
It’s easy to read those figures and conclude that conservatives are right: we are a world of awful, violent people who are going to keep on being awful and violent no matter what, so gun control serves no purpose and we’ll all be better off in Heaven anyway. But as is true with almost anything that makes life on Earth brutish and miserable, we have the power to change that. Gun deaths are lower in the states with the strictest gun control laws. And the majority of US gun deaths actually comprises suicides – acts committed not generally by evil, murderous people, but by individuals who are sick and hurting and need help.
Many other gun deaths occur in neighborhoods plagued by violence and poverty. What’s clear is that while some gun homicides are surely meticulously plotted by an evil-doer who would find a different weapon if no guns were available, the vast majority is lethal specifically because a gun was readily available.
The solutions, then, must be multifold: poverty alleviation; better mental health care with a focus on suicide prevention and depression treatment, not the stigmatization of the mentally ill, who are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators; and yes, gun control to make it more difficult for a firearm to be such an easily-accessed weapon.
To most people who believe in evidence-based policy and sociological realities, those solutions make sense. But to people who have no interest in actually finding solutions or making the world a better, safer, happier place, it’s like talking to a brick wall. Why improve life on earth if life on earth is temporary and all that matters is to secure a seat in the clouds?
That’s why you hear people like Mike Huckabee saying that mass shootings are somehow related to prayer in school and contraception, or Charlotte Allen arguing that the decline of traditional gender roles led to these shootings and that husky 12-year-old boys should throw their bodies at armed men.
Huckabee doesn’t actually think that saying prayers prevents gun violence or that contraception makes killers go on shooting sprees, any more than Allen believes that 12-year-old boys are made of Kevlar. They think that the world is divided into sinners and repentant sinners, and the only way to be a «decent» person is to fall in line behind their very narrow, often very harmful, beliefs.
Gun deaths, of course, are significantly more common in the most religious states of the nation. And gun deaths are very low in the relatively non-religiously-observant states of northern Europe. In the UK, the homicide by firearm rate is approximately one in a million. Ditto in France. That must be nice. More people are killed by guns in the US every day than in an entire year in Japan – by a factor of about 12.
Every nation in the world has people who are sadistic and violent or sick and violent. And yet, the kinds of regular mass rampages that have now happened several times this year alone in the United States seem to be a specifically American phenomenon.
As the Sandy Hook shootings unfolded, I watched many of the journalists I follow on Twitter post links to the articles about gun violence that they had written after the previous mass shooting, or the one before that. I watched friends on Facebook like and link to the inevitable memorial pages, this time around noting the too-short lives of 20 smiling kids who were practically infants, ensuring readers and supporters that these little angels are now safely in Heaven.
That’s an impulse I understand, but it’s not a solution.
Only in America do political writers all seem have a stable of articles about mass shootings that they can bring out and repost or revise when the next one occurs.
Only in America do we collectively shrug our shoulders when yet another young white man goes on a shooting spree.
Only in America do we remain convinced that people will kill no matter what, so we may as well give people virtually unlimited access to some of the deadliest hand-held weapons ever invented.
Only here, in America, do we think that the best we can do is a Facebook page and a plea to God.


More than 31,000 Americans have signed a petition calling for British TV host Piers Morgan to be deported.

They are angry about his advocacy of gun control, in the wake of the 14 December shootings in Connecticut.

The petition followed an interview with Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, on CNN – in which Mr Morgan called his guest «a dangerous man».

Petitions posted on the White House website only require 25,000 signatures to get a response from the government.

The campaign was started by a journalist in Texas following Mr Morgan’s CNN programme of 19 December.

The petition says the talk show host «is engaged in a hostile attack against the US Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment», which protects an individual’s right to own guns.

«We demand that Mr Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.»

Mr Morgan has responded, repeatedly, on his Twitter account.

«If I do get deported from America for wanting fewer gun murders, are there any other countries that will have me?» the 47-year-old joked after the 25,000-signature threshold was passed.

He added: «Wanting America to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines isn’t anti-constitutional – it’s called ‘common sense.'»

Later he said, in a reference to the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech: «Ironic US gun rights campaign to deport me for ‘attacking Second Amendment rights’ – is my opinion not protected under 1st Amendment rights?»

In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama has vowed to push for immediate and concrete gun safety proposals.

But the pro-gun National Rifle Association (NRA), which has more than four million members, has rejected the need for tighter gun control. According to the Small Arms Survey, there were 88.8 firearms for every 100 Americans in 2007.

‘Stupid man’
Mr Morgan’s interview, on his nightly chat show, came five days after gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

Mr Pratt said tighter controls on gun sales would not put an end to similar tragedies.

«The problem occurs in those areas precisely where we have said ‘no guns’,» he said.

Mr Morgan hosts a nightly chat show on news network CNN
«Where the guns are allowed freely to be carried… we have very low murder rates.

«We only have problems in our cities and, unhappily, in our schools, where people like you have been able to get laws put on the books that keep people from being able to defend themselves.»

Mr Morgan responded: «You’re a very stupid man, aren’t you?

«You have absolutely no coherent argument. You don’t actually give a damn about the gun murder rate in America.»

He ended the combative interview by calling Mr Pratt «a dangerous man espousing dangerous nonsense» and declared, «you shame your country».


The tone deaf and horrifyingly self-serving speech given by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association on Friday cast a pall over our holiday season. It took the NRA a full week to prepare THIS?

1. Blamed video games for massacre of 6-year-olds and elementary school teachers. No evidence video games implicated.

2. Blamed movies for massacre of 6-year-olds and elementary school teachers. No evidence movies implicated.

3. Urged creation of 100,000-strong new Federal bureaucracy of armed school guards, which implies big tax increase. Thanks, Wayne! (And did not mention that Columbine had an armed guard or that Virginia Tech has its own police department.)

4. Condemned “gun-free schools” policy as insane.

5. Scaremongered about rise in violent crime. Murder rate in US cut in half since 1990, but did not mention that firearms murder rate remains highest among advanced countries.

6. Condemns confusion of semi-automatic guns with “machine guns.” Does not mention how many bullets a minute a semi-automatic gun with expanded clip can shoot.

7. Seems to call for armed adult volunteers to show up at our elementary schools to engage in vigilante ‘guarding’ of them. Are these likely the people we want in our schools?

8. Wants cordons around schools instead of gun control.

9. Offers to train elementary school children in use of firearms.

10. Does not mention that semi-automatic rifles were designed for military use and are not necessary for hunting, or that they are banned for civilians among all our NATO allies.


Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Today’s NRA press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis our country is facing. Their proposed solution to reduce mass shootings like the one in Newtown, CT: put armed guards in every school in America.
The NRA’s extreme leadership has completely lost touch with the American people, their members, and reality. Today, they made it even more clear with what they didn’t say:
Not a word about background checks. Not a word about assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Not a word about ending gun trafficking.
Not an ounce of common sense.
Please join me in rejecting the NRA’s vision of a world where everyone is armed and no one is safe.
You would think that following the execution of 20 first graders, the NRA would finally come around to the need for common sense gun laws. Instead, they doubled down on their extreme agenda.
What we need are the tough new laws that we know will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and protect our children.
What we don’t need is a culture of fear that increases gun sales while putting our families at even greater risk.
Tell your members of Congress that it’s time to stand up to the NRA:
Thanks you for standing against the gun lobby,
Mark Glaze
Mayors Against Illegal Guns
P.S. — A group of 53 artists joined our effort to Demand A Plan and recorded a powerful, personal message. Please take a minute to watch the video and share it with your friends and family:http://DemandAPlan.org.


(Reuters) – Gun makers are facing pressure from some major U.S. investors after the Newtown elementary school shooting, with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP announcing it would sell the largest U.S. manufacturer of firearms and major public pension funds reviewing their gun-related investments.

Cerberus said on Tuesday it would sell Freedom Group, whose AR-15-type Bushmaster rifle was used by a 20-year-old gunman to kill 20 children and six staff in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Cerberus’ move came after some of its investors had expressed concerns, including the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), which said on Monday that it was reviewing its investment with the private equity firm.

«It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,» said Cerberus, which has more than $20 billion under management.

The $150.1 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund is reviewing its investments in firearm manufacturers, a spokesman for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said on Tuesday.

New York City’s pension funds are also reviewing investments and may sell nearly $18 million worth of stock in four companies that manufacture guns and ammunition, a spokesman said on Tuesday. The city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been a leading advocate for gun control in the U.S.

The city’s $128 billion pension funds hold nearly $14 million worth of shares in ammunition maker Olin Corp, $1.7 million in gun maker Smith & Wesson Holding Corp, $2.4 million in gun maker Sturm Ruger & Co Inc and $17,866 worth of stock in Brazilian gun maker Forjas Taurus SA.

Shares of Smith & Wesson fell nearly 10 percent, shares of Sturm Roger fell 7.7 percent, shares of Forjas Taurus fell 3.8 percent and shares of Olin fell 2.1 percent on Tuesday.

It wasn’t just public pension funds who were questioning whether they should have investments in gun companies.

King Lip, chief investment officer for San Francisco-based wealth adviser Baker Avenue Asset Management, said has received calls from clients wanting to make sure that the firm did not own or buy shares in gun-makers or gun-related companies.

«This one has especially hit close to home for a lot of people. A lot of our clients have kids or grandkids,» said Lip, whose firm has about $800 million in client assets under management. The firm does not own any gun-related stocks.

As outrage grew over the killings in Newtown, some gun retailers pulled rifles off their shelves. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s largest retailer, took down an informational website about semi-automatic Bushmaster rifles.

Dick’s Sporting Goods pulled all guns from its store closest to the site of the massacre, and suspended the sale of certain kinds of semi-automatic rifles from its chains nationwide. Cabela’s however, continued to advertise the AR-15 type Bushmaster rifles on its website.

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer on Monday asked CalSTRS and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to account for their investments in gun manufacturers. Lockyer proposed that the state’s public pension funds, the largest in the United States, sell their interest in any company that makes guns that are illegal under California’s assault weapons ban. California’s ban includes the Bushmaster rifle.

«We are not precluding the possibility of extending a divestment move to the retail sector, but right now we are focused on the source, which is the manufacturers,» Lockyer’s spokesman Tom Dresslar said.

KNEE-JERK REACTION?

U.S. lawmakers have not approved a major new federal gun law since 1994, and a ban on certain semi-automatic rifles known as assault weapons expired in 2004.

The Newtown killings have led President Barack Obama and some congressional leaders to reconsider what has been a largely hands-off approach to gun control in recent years.

The percentage of Americans favoring tough gun regulations rose significantly after the killings at the Connecticut school, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Monday.

While the latest moves by investors could herald a new chapter in corporate America’s stance toward the issue of gun rights, it remains to be seen if they will have lasting effects.

Several investors held firm about investing in gun-related stocks, seeing the debate more as a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy. Vanguard Group Inc, the largest shareholder in Smith & Wesson, for example, said it was not in a position to meet what it called the «social concerns» of all shareholders.

Vanguard said in a statement it was «deeply saddened by the tragedy» but that most of its shares in Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger were held in index funds.

«All these stocks are getting hit, but ironically I think what we’ll find is that traditional gun purchases will actually rise,» said Timothy Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in New York.

«People are scared, and there’s a good slice of America that very much believes they have a right to protect themselves,» said Ghriskey, whose firm has a small position in gun retailer Cabela’s. Cabela’s shares fell 5.9 percent.

A German fund manager, who focuses on «sin» stocks such as firearms, alcohol and gambling, said he was sticking with his recommendation to buy Smith & Wesson stock despite Newtown.

It’s a terrible tragedy, he said, «but everyone who changes his investment strategy now should ask himself if he really is surprised. Didn’t they read newspapers in the past?»

CERBERUS DELIBERATION

Still, investor outrage over the shooting was enough for Cerberus to decide to sell Freedom Group.

The firm’s decision came late on Monday night, after executives deliberated on the impact of the shooting, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

The private equity firm, which was founded by Stephen Feinberg and William Richter in 1992, also has to be careful not to anger investors at a time it is seeking to raise up to $3.5 billion for a new buyout fund.

Feinberg’s father, Martin Feinberg, is also a resident of Newtown, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing an interview with him. Public records show a Martin Feinberg residing in a retirement facility in Newtown.

Cerberus bought firearms maker Bushmaster in 2006 and later merged it with other gun companies to create Freedom Group, which reported net sales of $677 million for the nine months ended September, up from $565 million a year earlier.

Cerberus filed for an initial public offering of Freedom Group in October 2009 but withdrew the registration in April 2011, without offering a reason.

«It’s an unusual move by Cerberus but it was a terrible event, so they are responding to some of their investors who are teachers’ funds. I’m sure they will be selling it at a low price because now would not be a good time to sell the business,» said Steven Kaplan, a University of Chicago finance professor.

(Additional reporting by Martine Geller, Hilary Russ and Ashley Lau in New York, Lisa Baertlein and Peter Henderson in Los Angeles and Dan Burns in Newtown, Connecticut; Editing by Paritosh Bansal, Tiffany Wu and Michael Perry)


Dec 18 (Reuters) – The National Rifle Association said on Tuesday it is «prepared to offer meaningful contributions» to prevent future massacres like the Connecticut shooting on Friday, marking a sharp change in tone for the nation’s largest gun rights group.

«The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown,» the organization said in a statement sent to reporters.

The NRA plans a news conference on Friday after staying silent out of respect for families in Newtown, Connecticut, and as a matter of common decency, the statement said.


It turns out that the Newtown shooter used a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle and he had lots of thirty-round high-capacity clips for it. Authorities have revealed that each of the 20 children and six adults he killed was shot multiple times, but given the number of clips Lanza brought with him, the number of victims could have been much, much higher. The Federal ban on weapons such as the Bushmaster, in place 1994-2004, was allowed to lapse by the George W. Bush administration and his Republican Congress, all of whom received massive campaign donations from the gun lobby. There is a Connecticut ban, but the maker of the Bushmaster used a loophole in the poorly written state law to continue to sell the gun in the state. The Bushmaster is manufactured by a subsidiary of the Wall Street hedge fund, Cerberus Capital Management, called the “Freedom Group”– which also owns Remington and DPMS Firearms. It is the largest single maker of semi-automatic rifles in the US, and they are expected to be a major growing profit center in the coming years. The Freedom Group was sued over the Washington, DC, sniper attacks, and paid $500,000 without admitting culpability.


A US private equity firm has said it is to sell its stake in the maker of the AR15-style rifle used in the Newtown school shootings.

Cerberus Capital Management’s move came after pressure from one of its own biggest investors, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Calstrs).

Cerberus bought Bushmaster in 2006, and more gunmakers since, merging them into Freedom Group, which it will now sell.

The firm said it wanted to avoid being drawn into the gun control controversy.

The announcement by Cerberus comes four days after 20 young children and six adults were killed by 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Mr Lanza then killed himself.

He had earlier killed his mother at her home before travelling to the school.

The murders have renewed the debate over the need for gun control in the US, with President Barack Obama promising «meaningful action», and adding that «as a country, we have been through this too many times».

The National Rifle Association, the largest pro-gun rights organisation in the US, has not commented since the mass shooting.

Politicians previously against more gun control have also generally been quiet, while one, Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, said the Newtown attack had made him rethink his opposition to a ban on assault weapons.

However, gun control is difficult to tighten in the US, because the second amendment of the country’s constitution guarantees the «right to keep and bear arms».

‘Senseless violence’
«We believe that this decision allows us to meet our obligations to the investors whose interests we are entrusted to protect without being drawn into the national debate that is more properly pursued by those with the formal charter and public responsibility to do so,» Cerberus said in a statement.

«We do not believe that Freedom Group or any single company or individual can prevent senseless violence or the illegal use or procurement of firearms and ammunition,» the firm added, noting that Freedom Group only sold weapons to federally licensed dealers and distributors, and not directly to US citizens.

Freedom Group claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial firearms, selling over two billion rounds of ammunition each year.

As well as Bushmaster, the maker of the AR15-style rifle, Freedom Group also owns Remington, the oldest US gunmaker established in 1816, and seven other gun arms manufacturers, as well as majority stakes in two clothing companies specialising in hunting and paramilitary apparel.

The group made profits before tax of $2.7m in the 12 months to September 2012, on $875m of sales.

Calstrs, which is the second largest pension fund in the US, had said on Monday that it was reviewing its own $750m (£460m) investment in Cerberus in light of the deaths of 20 school children and seven adults including teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday.

Cerberus, which is one of the biggest private equity firms in the world with over $20bn of assets under management, said that the shootings represented «a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level».

Proceeds from the sale of Freedom Group would be returned to Cerberus’ investors, and not reinvested by the firm.

Even gun owners and NRA members overwhelmingly support background checks2 -- although the NRA's leadership opposes background checks and is at odds with its own members.3

Let's make sure members of Congress listen to their constituents and not the gun lobby. Call your Senators right now and ask them to support the Fix Gun Checks Act:

http://DemandAPlan.org/100percent

Thanks for supporting common sense reform and spreading the word!

Mayors Against Illegal Guns
______________
1. "Background Checks Overwhelmingly Supported By Gun Owners In 4 States," January 21, 2013.
2. "Does the NRA agree with Wayne LaPierre?" January 31, 2013.
3. "NRA Supported Universal Background Checks After Columbine Massacre," January 31, 2013.





As a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, I believe it is essential to safeguard the law-abiding citizen's constitutional right to own and use firearms designed for legitimate purposes such as hunting, target shooting, collecting, and self-protection.  Restricting this right runs counter to the intent of our Founding Fathers, who expressly guaranteed that citizens would retain the right to keep and bear arms.  

It is encouraging that the Supreme Court has upheld the will of our Founders and re-affirmed the ideals our country was established upon.  The Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller provides a greater guarantee that Americans' Constitutional rights remain secure from federal government intrusion.  I was proud to sign an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in that case stating an individual’s right to bear arms is fundamental.  This historic ruling continues to have implications far beyond the District of Columbia.  In 2010, the Supreme Court decided in McDonald v. City of Chicago to strike down the arbitrary gun ban in Chicago—and thereby affirm that the Second Amendment safeguards against state and local encroachments on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.
As a former Texas Supreme Court Justice and Attorney General, I have firsthand knowledge of crime-fighting policies that work, and I believe that citizens' Second Amendment rights should not be restricted because of the actions of criminals.  Rather, we must focus our attention on the source of violent crime: criminals who use firearms to commit crimes.  I believe that strictly enforcing the law—and meting out tougher sentences for career criminals and those who use firearms when committing crimes—will reduce crime more effectively than gun or equipment bans, which primarily serve to take firearms away from law-abiding citizens.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent Texans in the United States Senate, and you may be certain that I will continue working with my colleagues to protect our Second Amendment rights.  Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
Sincerely,
JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856
Please sign up for my monthly newsletter at http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/newsletter.
PLEASE NOTE:
Due to the nature of electronic communication, if you did not receive this e-mail directly from my office, I cannot guarantee that the text has not been altered.  If you have questions about the validity of this message, or would like to respond to this message, please use the web form available at my website, http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/contact.





My nine-year-old daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was murdered with a gun in Tucson, Arizona two years ago today.

Since that day, far too many families have gone through similar pain.

Families in Aurora, Colorado. Families in Newtown, Connecticut. Families of the 33 people who are murdered with guns every single day across America.

How many more families need to feel that pain before our leaders take action? What will it take for them to find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby?

Today, please watch the TV ad I made with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and join me in calling on your leaders in Congress to Demand A Plan to end gun violence.







It’s past time for our leaders to take action.

Please make a donation of $35 or more to support the fight to end gun violence.

???This July, I went to see a midnight movie with a couple of friends in Aurora, Colorado. Our fun night out turned into a nightmare.

At first, I thought it was a prank -- just some kids setting off fireworks. But when I realized what was happening, I immediately thought about other mass shootings: Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tucson.

Could what happened there actually be happening to us? The terrifying answer was yes, and Aurora is now part of that list.

My friends and I were lucky. We were among the 58 people who survived their injuries. But twelve others weren’t so lucky.

In the weeks that followed, we heard a lot of promises from politicians. Unfortunately, those promises didn’t go anywhere. And now, not even six months later, the list of mass shootings has grown again:Newtown.

Is there anything more horrible than the mass murder of innocent children? Do we need a clearer reason to finally take action?

The time is NOW! Join me in supporting the fight to end gun violence with a donation of $35 or more to Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Demand A Plan campaign.

My survival, and the survival of my friends, was arbitrary. It all came down to where we chose our seats, where the shooter aimed his gun, where the bullets entered our bodies.

We can’t let fate be the difference between life and death in our country.

We need a real plan to end gun violence -- a plan to stop mass shootings and protect the 33 people murdered every day with guns. We need to stop dangerous people from getting their hands on deadly weapons.

Will you step up and support our fight?

http://DemandAPlan.org/now

Thank you,

Stephen Barton
Mayors Against Illegal Guns

P.S. -- I grew up just ten minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary. My heart goes out to the families of Newtown, and I'm committed to making sure our leaders hear their voices and take action. Your support today can make the difference.






That line of defense from gun proponents comes up again and again in the wake of mass shootings, like last week's at Sandy Hook elementary school that left 20 children and seven adults dead. It's true, in a sense: when holding objects that are specifically designed to be the most effective killing machines possible, people do, in fact, kill people.
And yes, people have gone on murderous rampages for all of human history, and have used whatever tools were at their disposal – rocks, knives, swords, their own hands – to inflict violence. The problem comes in when the tools at their disposal are really good at killing others without much work on the part of the killer, which is why lots of folks would like to see the United States institute some reasonable laws regulating gun ownership.
Time and again, though, the pro-gun right's answer is the same: people will find a way to kill, and violence is inevitable, so taking away guns won't work. Their solution seems to be a society where every citizen has a gun in one hand and crossed fingers on the other.



That perspective represents not just an intense cultural tie to guns, but a typically conservative view of humanity: people (other than me) are fundamentally bad and our time on Earth is in preparation for the afterlife, so why worry about making it better?
As we've seen in the debates on issues from climate change to gender equality to foreign policy, facts, statistics and rational arguments don't really matter if the goal of offering them up is to improve things in the here and now. It's a deeply pessimistic view of humanity that projects a strong sense of fatalism.
The point of being "good" isn't because goodness is valuable unto itself or because goodness is widely beneficial. The point of being good is to earn heaven points. Goodness, then, is defined according to a very particular set of religious and cultural values, and is highly "in-group" focused. Goodness means going to church, marrying early, submitting to a husband-in-charge family structure, having children out of obligationand upholding the social pillars that organize society to keep a particular group on top.
Goodness isn't necessarily helping other people or taking steps that are proven effective at decreasing violence or working to create a more accepting and happy world for our children. Goodness is upholding the power structures that have traditionally benefited the small group of men who think they have a monopoly on defining "goodness."
Without strong social incentives and harsh social punishments for deviation from these structures, they collapse – and they collapse because they simply don't serve large swaths of the American population (women who want equal rights, people of color, immigrants, poor people, non-Christians, gay people). There isn't much of a reason for why these particular structures are the best, other than that the few people who benefit from them seem to like them. But the fundamental argument in their favor seems to be that without a social organization that puts white Christian men on top, the hordes of "bad" people will simply be out there – and there is nothing we can do other than arm ourselves against them.
That's why "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is still considered an actual argument. It's why the debates on gun control go in circles. One side thinks we have serious but fixable cultural problems with violence, with a masculinity that is tied to aggression and with the glorification of gun culture, and that the wide availability of all sorts of deadly weaponry in such a culture enables an unconscionable amount of lethal violence. The other side thinks people are just sinners, our time on this planet is meant to be trying and ugly, guns represent freedom and man's dominion over the Earth, and gun deaths simply result from a lack of Christianity and the attendant breaks from a "traditional" model that necessitated the oppression of a great many Americans.
As Dennis Prager argued in the National Review, no one fears being massacred by a "decent" person. We fear being massacred by someone bad.
It is certainly true that "good" people don't walk into a classroom and shoot a group of six year-olds. It's also true that good people don't murder their wives and girlfriends – yet five times more women are killed by intimate partners every year than by strangers, and 95% of the women who are killed with a firearm are murdered by a man. If there's a gun involved, an incident of domestic violence is 12 times more likely to result in death. And while mass shootings understandably capture our national attention, the more than 30,000 American gun deaths every year (and their $37bn price tag) should spur us to action.
It's easy to read those figures and conclude that conservatives are right: we are a world of awful, violent people who are going to keep on being awful and violent no matter what, so gun control serves no purpose and we'll all be better off in Heaven anyway. But as is true with almost anything that makes life on Earth brutish and miserable, we have the power to change that. Gun deaths are lower in the states with the strictest gun control laws. And the majority of US gun deaths actually comprises suicides – acts committed not generally by evil, murderous people, but by individuals who are sick and hurting and need help.
Many other gun deaths occur in neighborhoods plagued by violence and poverty. What's clear is that while some gun homicides are surely meticulously plotted by an evil-doer who would find a different weapon if no guns were available, the vast majority is lethal specifically because a gun was readily available.
The solutions, then, must be multifold: poverty alleviation; better mental health care with a focus on suicide prevention and depression treatment, not the stigmatization of the mentally ill, who are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators; and yes, gun control to make it more difficult for a firearm to be such an easily-accessed weapon.
To most people who believe in evidence-based policy and sociological realities, those solutions make sense. But to people who have no interest in actually finding solutions or making the world a better, safer, happier place, it's like talking to a brick wall. Why improve life on earth if life on earth is temporary and all that matters is to secure a seat in the clouds?
That's why you hear people like Mike Huckabee saying that mass shootings are somehow related to prayer in school and contraception, or Charlotte Allen arguing that the decline of traditional gender roles led to these shootings and that husky 12-year-old boys should throw their bodies at armed men.
Huckabee doesn't actually think that saying prayers prevents gun violence or that contraception makes killers go on shooting sprees, any more than Allen believes that 12-year-old boys are made of Kevlar. They think that the world is divided into sinners and repentant sinners, and the only way to be a "decent" person is to fall in line behind their very narrow, often very harmful, beliefs.
Gun deaths, of course, are significantly more common in the most religious states of the nation. And gun deaths are very low in the relatively non-religiously-observant states of northern Europe. In the UK, the homicide by firearm rate is approximately one in a million. Ditto in France. That must be nice. More people are killed by guns in the US every day than in an entire year in Japan – by a factor of about 12.
Every nation in the world has people who are sadistic and violent or sick and violent. And yet, the kinds of regular mass rampages that have now happened several times this year alone in the United States seem to be a specifically American phenomenon.
As the Sandy Hook shootings unfolded, I watched many of the journalists I follow on Twitter post links to the articles about gun violence that they had written after the previous mass shooting, or the one before that. I watched friends on Facebook like and link to the inevitable memorial pages, this time around noting the too-short lives of 20 smiling kids who were practically infants, ensuring readers and supporters that these little angels are now safely in Heaven.
That's an impulse I understand, but it's not a solution.
Only in America do political writers all seem have a stable of articles about mass shootings that they can bring out and repost or revise when the next one occurs.
Only in America do we collectively shrug our shoulders when yet another young white man goes on a shooting spree.
Only in America do we remain convinced that people will kill no matter what, so we may as well give people virtually unlimited access to some of the deadliest hand-held weapons ever invented.
Only here, in America, do we think that the best we can do is a Facebook page and a plea to God.



More than 31,000 Americans have signed a petition calling for British TV host Piers Morgan to be deported.

They are angry about his advocacy of gun control, in the wake of the 14 December shootings in Connecticut.

The petition followed an interview with Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, on CNN - in which Mr Morgan called his guest "a dangerous man".

Petitions posted on the White House website only require 25,000 signatures to get a response from the government.

The campaign was started by a journalist in Texas following Mr Morgan's CNN programme of 19 December.

The petition says the talk show host "is engaged in a hostile attack against the US Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment", which protects an individual's right to own guns.

"We demand that Mr Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens."



Mr Morgan has responded, repeatedly, on his Twitter account.

"If I do get deported from America for wanting fewer gun murders, are there any other countries that will have me?" the 47-year-old joked after the 25,000-signature threshold was passed.

He added: "Wanting America to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines isn't anti-constitutional - it's called 'common sense.'"

Later he said, in a reference to the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech: "Ironic US gun rights campaign to deport me for 'attacking Second Amendment rights' - is my opinion not protected under 1st Amendment rights?"

In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama has vowed to push for immediate and concrete gun safety proposals.

But the pro-gun National Rifle Association (NRA), which has more than four million members, has rejected the need for tighter gun control. According to the Small Arms Survey, there were 88.8 firearms for every 100 Americans in 2007.

'Stupid man'
Mr Morgan's interview, on his nightly chat show, came five days after gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

Mr Pratt said tighter controls on gun sales would not put an end to similar tragedies.

"The problem occurs in those areas precisely where we have said 'no guns'," he said.


Mr Morgan hosts a nightly chat show on news network CNN
"Where the guns are allowed freely to be carried... we have very low murder rates.

"We only have problems in our cities and, unhappily, in our schools, where people like you have been able to get laws put on the books that keep people from being able to defend themselves."

Mr Morgan responded: "You're a very stupid man, aren't you?

"You have absolutely no coherent argument. You don't actually give a damn about the gun murder rate in America."

He ended the combative interview by calling Mr Pratt "a dangerous man espousing dangerous nonsense" and declared, "you shame your country".



The tone deaf and horrifyingly self-serving speech given by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association on Friday cast a pall over our holiday season. It took the NRA a full week to prepare THIS?

1. Blamed video games for massacre of 6-year-olds and elementary school teachers. No evidence video games implicated.

2. Blamed movies for massacre of 6-year-olds and elementary school teachers. No evidence movies implicated.

3. Urged creation of 100,000-strong new Federal bureaucracy of armed school guards, which implies big tax increase. Thanks, Wayne! (And did not mention that Columbine had an armed guard or that Virginia Tech has its own police department.)

4. Condemned “gun-free schools” policy as insane.

5. Scaremongered about rise in violent crime. Murder rate in US cut in half since 1990, but did not mention that firearms murder rate remains highest among advanced countries.

6. Condemns confusion of semi-automatic guns with “machine guns.” Does not mention how many bullets a minute a semi-automatic gun with expanded clip can shoot.

7. Seems to call for armed adult volunteers to show up at our elementary schools to engage in vigilante ‘guarding’ of them. Are these likely the people we want in our schools?

8. Wants cordons around schools instead of gun control.

9. Offers to train elementary school children in use of firearms.

10. Does not mention that semi-automatic rifles were designed for military use and are not necessary for hunting, or that they are banned for civilians among all our NATO allies.



Mayors Against Illegal Guns


Today's NRA press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis our country is facing. Their proposed solution to reduce mass shootings like the one in Newtown, CT: put armed guards in every school in America.
The NRA's extreme leadership has completely lost touch with the American people, their members, and reality. Today, they made it even more clear with what they didn't say:
Not a word about background checks. Not a word about assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Not a word about ending gun trafficking.
Not an ounce of common sense.
Please join me in rejecting the NRA’s vision of a world where everyone is armed and no one is safe.
You would think that following the execution of 20 first graders, the NRA would finally come around to the need for common sense gun laws. Instead, they doubled down on their extreme agenda.
What we need are the tough new laws that we know will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and protect our children.
What we don’t need is a culture of fear that increases gun sales while putting our families at even greater risk.
Tell your members of Congress that it's time to stand up to the NRA:
Thanks you for standing against the gun lobby,
Mark Glaze
Mayors Against Illegal Guns
P.S. -- A group of 53 artists joined our effort to Demand A Plan and recorded a powerful, personal message. Please take a minute to watch the video and share it with your friends and family:http://DemandAPlan.org.





(Reuters) - Gun makers are facing pressure from some major U.S. investors after the Newtown elementary school shooting, with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP announcing it would sell the largest U.S. manufacturer of firearms and major public pension funds reviewing their gun-related investments.

Cerberus said on Tuesday it would sell Freedom Group, whose AR-15-type Bushmaster rifle was used by a 20-year-old gunman to kill 20 children and six staff in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Cerberus' move came after some of its investors had expressed concerns, including the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), which said on Monday that it was reviewing its investment with the private equity firm.



"It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level," said Cerberus, which has more than $20 billion under management.

The $150.1 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund is reviewing its investments in firearm manufacturers, a spokesman for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said on Tuesday.

New York City's pension funds are also reviewing investments and may sell nearly $18 million worth of stock in four companies that manufacture guns and ammunition, a spokesman said on Tuesday. The city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been a leading advocate for gun control in the U.S.

The city's $128 billion pension funds hold nearly $14 million worth of shares in ammunition maker Olin Corp, $1.7 million in gun maker Smith & Wesson Holding Corp, $2.4 million in gun maker Sturm Ruger & Co Inc and $17,866 worth of stock in Brazilian gun maker Forjas Taurus SA.

Shares of Smith & Wesson fell nearly 10 percent, shares of Sturm Roger fell 7.7 percent, shares of Forjas Taurus fell 3.8 percent and shares of Olin fell 2.1 percent on Tuesday.

It wasn't just public pension funds who were questioning whether they should have investments in gun companies.

King Lip, chief investment officer for San Francisco-based wealth adviser Baker Avenue Asset Management, said has received calls from clients wanting to make sure that the firm did not own or buy shares in gun-makers or gun-related companies.

"This one has especially hit close to home for a lot of people. A lot of our clients have kids or grandkids," said Lip, whose firm has about $800 million in client assets under management. The firm does not own any gun-related stocks.

As outrage grew over the killings in Newtown, some gun retailers pulled rifles off their shelves. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, took down an informational website about semi-automatic Bushmaster rifles.

Dick's Sporting Goods pulled all guns from its store closest to the site of the massacre, and suspended the sale of certain kinds of semi-automatic rifles from its chains nationwide. Cabela's however, continued to advertise the AR-15 type Bushmaster rifles on its website.

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer on Monday asked CalSTRS and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) to account for their investments in gun manufacturers. Lockyer proposed that the state's public pension funds, the largest in the United States, sell their interest in any company that makes guns that are illegal under California's assault weapons ban. California's ban includes the Bushmaster rifle.

"We are not precluding the possibility of extending a divestment move to the retail sector, but right now we are focused on the source, which is the manufacturers," Lockyer's spokesman Tom Dresslar said.

KNEE-JERK REACTION?

U.S. lawmakers have not approved a major new federal gun law since 1994, and a ban on certain semi-automatic rifles known as assault weapons expired in 2004.

The Newtown killings have led President Barack Obama and some congressional leaders to reconsider what has been a largely hands-off approach to gun control in recent years.

The percentage of Americans favoring tough gun regulations rose significantly after the killings at the Connecticut school, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Monday.

While the latest moves by investors could herald a new chapter in corporate America's stance toward the issue of gun rights, it remains to be seen if they will have lasting effects.

Several investors held firm about investing in gun-related stocks, seeing the debate more as a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy. Vanguard Group Inc, the largest shareholder in Smith & Wesson, for example, said it was not in a position to meet what it called the "social concerns" of all shareholders.

Vanguard said in a statement it was "deeply saddened by the tragedy" but that most of its shares in Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger were held in index funds.

"All these stocks are getting hit, but ironically I think what we'll find is that traditional gun purchases will actually rise," said Timothy Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in New York.

"People are scared, and there's a good slice of America that very much believes they have a right to protect themselves," said Ghriskey, whose firm has a small position in gun retailer Cabela's. Cabela's shares fell 5.9 percent.

A German fund manager, who focuses on "sin" stocks such as firearms, alcohol and gambling, said he was sticking with his recommendation to buy Smith & Wesson stock despite Newtown.

It's a terrible tragedy, he said, "but everyone who changes his investment strategy now should ask himself if he really is surprised. Didn't they read newspapers in the past?"

CERBERUS DELIBERATION

Still, investor outrage over the shooting was enough for Cerberus to decide to sell Freedom Group.

The firm's decision came late on Monday night, after executives deliberated on the impact of the shooting, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

The private equity firm, which was founded by Stephen Feinberg and William Richter in 1992, also has to be careful not to anger investors at a time it is seeking to raise up to $3.5 billion for a new buyout fund.

Feinberg's father, Martin Feinberg, is also a resident of Newtown, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing an interview with him. Public records show a Martin Feinberg residing in a retirement facility in Newtown.

Cerberus bought firearms maker Bushmaster in 2006 and later merged it with other gun companies to create Freedom Group, which reported net sales of $677 million for the nine months ended September, up from $565 million a year earlier.

Cerberus filed for an initial public offering of Freedom Group in October 2009 but withdrew the registration in April 2011, without offering a reason.

"It's an unusual move by Cerberus but it was a terrible event, so they are responding to some of their investors who are teachers' funds. I'm sure they will be selling it at a low price because now would not be a good time to sell the business," said Steven Kaplan, a University of Chicago finance professor.

(Additional reporting by Martine Geller, Hilary Russ and Ashley Lau in New York, Lisa Baertlein and Peter Henderson in Los Angeles and Dan Burns in Newtown, Connecticut; Editing by Paritosh Bansal, Tiffany Wu and Michael Perry)



Dec 18 (Reuters) - The National Rifle Association said on Tuesday it is "prepared to offer meaningful contributions" to prevent future massacres like the Connecticut shooting on Friday, marking a sharp change in tone for the nation's largest gun rights group.

"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters - and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," the organization said in a statement sent to reporters.

The NRA plans a news conference on Friday after staying silent out of respect for families in Newtown, Connecticut, and as a matter of common decency, the statement said.



It turns out that the Newtown shooter used a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle and he had lots of thirty-round high-capacity clips for it. Authorities have revealed that each of the 20 children and six adults he killed was shot multiple times, but given the number of clips Lanza brought with him, the number of victims could have been much, much higher. The Federal ban on weapons such as the Bushmaster, in place 1994-2004, was allowed to lapse by the George W. Bush administration and his Republican Congress, all of whom received massive campaign donations from the gun lobby. There is a Connecticut ban, but the maker of the Bushmaster used a loophole in the poorly written state law to continue to sell the gun in the state. The Bushmaster is manufactured by a subsidiary of the Wall Street hedge fund, Cerberus Capital Management, called the “Freedom Group”– which also owns Remington and DPMS Firearms. It is the largest single maker of semi-automatic rifles in the US, and they are expected to be a major growing profit center in the coming years. The Freedom Group was sued over the Washington, DC, sniper attacks, and paid $500,000 without admitting culpability.



A US private equity firm has said it is to sell its stake in the maker of the AR15-style rifle used in the Newtown school shootings.

Cerberus Capital Management's move came after pressure from one of its own biggest investors, the California State Teachers' Retirement System (Calstrs).

Cerberus bought Bushmaster in 2006, and more gunmakers since, merging them into Freedom Group, which it will now sell.

The firm said it wanted to avoid being drawn into the gun control controversy.

The announcement by Cerberus comes four days after 20 young children and six adults were killed by 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Mr Lanza then killed himself.

He had earlier killed his mother at her home before travelling to the school.

The murders have renewed the debate over the need for gun control in the US, with President Barack Obama promising "meaningful action", and adding that "as a country, we have been through this too many times".

The National Rifle Association, the largest pro-gun rights organisation in the US, has not commented since the mass shooting.

Politicians previously against more gun control have also generally been quiet, while one, Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, said the Newtown attack had made him rethink his opposition to a ban on assault weapons.

However, gun control is difficult to tighten in the US, because the second amendment of the country's constitution guarantees the "right to keep and bear arms".

'Senseless violence'
"We believe that this decision allows us to meet our obligations to the investors whose interests we are entrusted to protect without being drawn into the national debate that is more properly pursued by those with the formal charter and public responsibility to do so," Cerberus said in a statement.

"We do not believe that Freedom Group or any single company or individual can prevent senseless violence or the illegal use or procurement of firearms and ammunition," the firm added, noting that Freedom Group only sold weapons to federally licensed dealers and distributors, and not directly to US citizens.

Freedom Group claims to be the world's largest manufacturer of commercial firearms, selling over two billion rounds of ammunition each year.

As well as Bushmaster, the maker of the AR15-style rifle, Freedom Group also owns Remington, the oldest US gunmaker established in 1816, and seven other gun arms manufacturers, as well as majority stakes in two clothing companies specialising in hunting and paramilitary apparel.

The group made profits before tax of $2.7m in the 12 months to September 2012, on $875m of sales.

Calstrs, which is the second largest pension fund in the US, had said on Monday that it was reviewing its own $750m (£460m) investment in Cerberus in light of the deaths of 20 school children and seven adults including teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday.

Cerberus, which is one of the biggest private equity firms in the world with over $20bn of assets under management, said that the shootings represented "a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level".

Proceeds from the sale of Freedom Group would be returned to Cerberus' investors, and not reinvested by the firm.

Palestinian land

Reuters

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years, drawing Palestinian condemnation and a U.S. rebuke.

Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared «state land, on the instructions of the political echelon» by the military-run Civil Administration.


Edited time: June 28, 2013 12:43

Israeli settlers are up in arms about McDonald’s refusal to build an outlet in the West Bank, calling to boycott the company’s entire operations in Israel. The chain cited a policy of “staying out of occupied territories” with other businesses joining in.

McDonald’s stated that its refusal to operate in the West Bank «had always been the restaurant chain’s policy» and that its decision was not coordinated with McDonald’s headquarters in the US.

The co-owner of the new mall in the town of Ariel located in central West Bank admitted that some other international companies which were asked to open up businesses in the mall have also declined. He refused to specify which ones.

«The mediators told us that branches operating abroad and other companies holding rights in Israel for international brand names are worried about the potential negative response toward their businesses [from consumers] abroad if they open shops in the mall,» Tzahi Nahmias told Calcalist newspaper.

In response Israeli settlers have called to boycott McDonald’s altogether. The right-wing ‘My Israel’ Facebook page posted a “McDonald’s: I’m not loving it” sign in protest.


Edited time: October 28, 2013 07:48

The Palestinian Authority is ramping up its diplomatic efforts against Israeli settlements in the territories it occupied in the 1967 war. It has called on 50 countries around the world to freeze business dealings and withdraw investments.

In letters to countries in Latin America and Europe, as well as to South Africa, Australia, Japan and South Korea, the Palestinian Authority asked governments to put pressure on local companies and discourage any relations with the Israeli settlements, Muhammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official, told the Financial Times.

The messages also requested that Israeli companies with connections to the settlements are barred from doing business in those countries. Citizens of those countries should be advised to abandon the settlements, because staying there is illegal, the Palestinian Authority said.

The campaign for an economic boycott was also given a boost by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his trip to Europe.

«I call on European companies and foreign companies doing business in the settlements to put an end to their activities,» he said following his meeting with European Council President Herman van Rompuy this week.

The campaign follows the EU’s decision in June to ban financial assistance to any Israeli organizations operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights from 2014. The decision infuriated Israel and prevented the country from participating in the Horizon 2020 European scientific exchange program.

Also, in recent months, several individual members of the European Union, including the UK and the Netherlands, began to warn their companies against dealing with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. This month Dutch infrastructure giant Royal HaskoningDHV announced the withdrawal from a wastewater treatment plant project in East Jerusalem, because the location is outside of the pre-1967 border of Israel.

There are currently more than 500,000 Israelis living in the settlements, which continue to be a point of bitter dispute with Palestinians. Many countries consider their existence unlawful and say they are a major stumbling block on the path toward a peaceful Middle East.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been actively encouraging development of the controversial settlements in defiance of foreign criticism, which comes even from Israel’s long-time ally the US.


The end of any potential ‘two state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s far right wing Likud government, headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, built or committed to build thousands of new family domiciles for Israeli squatters in Palestinian territory. In the absence of a Palestinian state, Palestinians are doomed to statelessness and a lack of basic human rights, living under Israeli military occupation. The only other possibility, given that they live on territory unilaterally annexed by Israel, is for them ultimately to gain Israeli citizenship. In the meantime, Israel’s treatment of the occupied Palestinians looks even worse than Apartheid or racial segregation and systematic discrimination in South Africa before 1990. Israeli Apartheid is likely to result in the country being sanctioned and boycotted by the international community.

Juan Cole


Jordan Valley settlers farm private Palestinian land while owners are barred from entering

by on January 4, 2013

Palestinian owners barred from Jordan Valley land while Israeli farmers profit
Haaretz 3 Jan — Thai workers from the Israeli settlements are allowed across the border fence into the area, while the Palestinians are not; IDF spokesman also refuses to let Haaretz reporters tour the area Settlers in the Jordan Valley are farming more than 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private Palestinian land located between the border fence and the actual border with Jordan. They received the land from the World Zionist Organization in the 1980s. The original owners, some of whom fled in 1967 and returned to the West Bank after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, are still not allowed to access the land because of a military order preventing them from entering the border area.
link to www.haaretz.com


SodaStream wants to clean up its reputation by spending millions of dollars for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl on February 3, 2013.

WHAT IS SODASTREAM?
SodaStream manufactures and distributes home carbonating devices and flavorings for soft drinks. Its products can be found in retail stores like Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Costco, and others — including those listed here. The company’s main production site is in the illegal West Bank settlement of the Mishor Edomin Industrial Zone, where the company conceals the fact that its products are manufactured in a settlement by using ‘Made in Israel’ labels. As an Israeli settlement manufacturer, it exploits Palestinian land, resources, and labor. 
Companies that produce in the settlements enjoy several structural advantages, such as tax incentives, lax enforcement of regulations, as well as additional governmental support. Despite SodaStream’s location in the West Bank, goods produced here do not serve the local population; instead, 65% of goods are shipped elsewhere and taxes and profits go to support the Israeli economy—not Palestinians. 
Click here to visit the excellent Global Exchange site about SodaStream.
Click here for a report on SodaStream.
Click here to see some of their arguments and counter-arguments.

Reuters

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years, drawing Palestinian condemnation and a U.S. rebuke.

Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared "state land, on the instructions of the political echelon" by the military-run Civil Administration.



Edited time: June 28, 2013 12:43

Israeli settlers are up in arms about McDonald’s refusal to build an outlet in the West Bank, calling to boycott the company’s entire operations in Israel. The chain cited a policy of “staying out of occupied territories” with other businesses joining in.

McDonald's stated that its refusal to operate in the West Bank "had always been the restaurant chain's policy" and that its decision was not coordinated with McDonald’s headquarters in the US.

The co-owner of the new mall in the town of Ariel located in central West Bank admitted that some other international companies which were asked to open up businesses in the mall have also declined. He refused to specify which ones.

"The mediators told us that branches operating abroad and other companies holding rights in Israel for international brand names are worried about the potential negative response toward their businesses [from consumers] abroad if they open shops in the mall," Tzahi Nahmias told Calcalist newspaper.

In response Israeli settlers have called to boycott McDonald’s altogether. The right-wing ‘My Israel’ Facebook page posted a “McDonald’s: I’m not loving it” sign in protest.



Edited time: October 28, 2013 07:48
The Palestinian Authority is ramping up its diplomatic efforts against Israeli settlements in the territories it occupied in the 1967 war. It has called on 50 countries around the world to freeze business dealings and withdraw investments.

In letters to countries in Latin America and Europe, as well as to South Africa, Australia, Japan and South Korea, the Palestinian Authority asked governments to put pressure on local companies and discourage any relations with the Israeli settlements, Muhammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official, told the Financial Times.

The messages also requested that Israeli companies with connections to the settlements are barred from doing business in those countries. Citizens of those countries should be advised to abandon the settlements, because staying there is illegal, the Palestinian Authority said.

The campaign for an economic boycott was also given a boost by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his trip to Europe.

"I call on European companies and foreign companies doing business in the settlements to put an end to their activities," he said following his meeting with European Council President Herman van Rompuy this week.

The campaign follows the EU’s decision in June to ban financial assistance to any Israeli organizations operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights from 2014. The decision infuriated Israel and prevented the country from participating in the Horizon 2020 European scientific exchange program.

Also, in recent months, several individual members of the European Union, including the UK and the Netherlands, began to warn their companies against dealing with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. This month Dutch infrastructure giant Royal HaskoningDHV announced the withdrawal from a wastewater treatment plant project in East Jerusalem, because the location is outside of the pre-1967 border of Israel.

There are currently more than 500,000 Israelis living in the settlements, which continue to be a point of bitter dispute with Palestinians. Many countries consider their existence unlawful and say they are a major stumbling block on the path toward a peaceful Middle East.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been actively encouraging development of the controversial settlements in defiance of foreign criticism, which comes even from Israel’s long-time ally the US.



The end of any potential ‘two state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s far right wing Likud government, headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, built or committed to build thousands of new family domiciles for Israeli squatters in Palestinian territory. In the absence of a Palestinian state, Palestinians are doomed to statelessness and a lack of basic human rights, living under Israeli military occupation. The only other possibility, given that they live on territory unilaterally annexed by Israel, is for them ultimately to gain Israeli citizenship. In the meantime, Israel’s treatment of the occupied Palestinians looks even worse than Apartheid or racial segregation and systematic discrimination in South Africa before 1990. Israeli Apartheid is likely to result in the country being sanctioned and boycotted by the international community.
Juan Cole




Jordan Valley settlers farm private Palestinian land while owners are barred from entering

Palestinian owners barred from Jordan Valley land while Israeli farmers profit
Haaretz 3 Jan -- Thai workers from the Israeli settlements are allowed across the border fence into the area, while the Palestinians are not; IDF spokesman also refuses to let Haaretz reporters tour the area -- Settlers in the Jordan Valley are farming more than 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private Palestinian land located between the border fence and the actual border with Jordan. They received the land from the World Zionist Organization in the 1980s. The original owners, some of whom fled in 1967 and returned to the West Bank after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, are still not allowed to access the land because of a military order preventing them from entering the border area.
link to www.haaretz.com



SodaStream wants to clean up its reputation by spending millions of dollars for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl on February 3, 2013.



WHAT IS SODASTREAM?
SodaStream manufactures and distributes home carbonating devices and flavorings for soft drinks. Its products can be found in retail stores like Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Costco, and others -- including those listed here. The company’s main production site is in the illegal West Bank settlement of the Mishor Edomin Industrial Zone, where the company conceals the fact that its products are manufactured in a settlement by using ‘Made in Israel’ labels. As an Israeli settlement manufacturer, it exploits Palestinian land, resources, and labor. 
Companies that produce in the settlements enjoy several structural advantages, such as tax incentives, lax enforcement of regulations, as well as additional governmental support. Despite SodaStream’s location in the West Bank, goods produced here do not serve the local population; instead, 65% of goods are shipped elsewhere and taxes and profits go to support the Israeli economy---not Palestinians. 
Click here to visit the excellent Global Exchange site about SodaStream.
Click here for a report on SodaStream.
Click here to see some of their arguments and counter-arguments.

atrocities are always committed by somebody else

Posted on 10/17/2013 by Juan Cole

A new household survey of Iraqis has projected the civilian death toll from the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq at roughly 450,000. Passive information-gathering techniques like logging deaths in the Western press have produced estimates closer to 150,000, but such techniques have been proven to miss a lot of people. (To my knowledge no one was counting all the deaths reported in the some 200 Arabic-language Iraqi newspapers in the 2000s, so even the passive information-gathering was limited. And, the Wikileaks US military log of civilian deaths did not overlap very much with e.g. Iraq Body Count, so both of them were missing things the other caught.)

Of those extra deaths beyond those who would have died if the US had never invaded, some 270,000 died violently, with US troops responsible for about 90,000 civilian deaths and militias for another 90,000. Of those killed violently, 60 percent were shot, and 12 percent died from car bombs. Some 180,000 died because of the destruction of the public health infrastructure (lack of access to hospital treatment, e.g.).

Despite the horrific total, this estimate for 2003-2011 is smaller than the Lancet study of some years ago, which was done under wartime conditions. The authors admit, however, that the death toll could have been even higher; this total is a projection based on 2000 interviews.

The US/ UN sanctions on Iraq of the 1990s, which interdicted chlorine for much of that decade and so made water purification impossible, are estimated to have killed another 500,000 Iraqis, mainly children. (Infants and toddlers die easily from diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis, which causes fatal dehydration).

So the US polished off about a million Iraqis from 1991 through 2011, large numbers of them children. The Iraqi population in that period was roughly 25 million, so the US killed or created the conditions for the killing of 4% of the Iraqi population.

If Iraq had killed 4% of Americans, it would be 12 million people dead.

Iraq did not attack the United States. It did attack Iran in 1980, but by 1983 the US was an ally in Iraq’s war against Iran. It also attacked Kuwait, which it occupied quite bestially, but it was out by spring 1991. There was no casus belli or legitimate legal cause of war in 2003. Iraq’s main crime appears to have been to be an oil state not compliant with US demands.

All this is horrible enough. Even more horrible is that the US occupation of Iraq sparked a Sunni Arab insurgency, which is still vigorous. Insurgencies typically take 10 to 15 years to subside. Some 5000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far this year by that insurgency. US occupation is the gift that goes on giving.

Despite the Bush administration’s violation of the UN charter and its war crimes in Iraq, none of its high officials has faced prosecution. Some of them even have the gall to come on television from time to time to urge more killing.


Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the author of dozens of books on U.S. foreign policy. He writes a monthly column for The New York Times News Service/Syndicate.
More information about Noam Chomsky

In his penetrating study “Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights,” international affairs scholar James Peck observes, “In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us”—whoever “us” is.

Almost any moment in history yields innumerable illustrations. Let’s keep to the past few weeks.

On May 10, the Summer Olympics were inaugurated at the Greek birthplace of the ancient games. A few days before, virtually unnoticed, the government of Vietnam addressed a letter to the International Olympic Committee expressing the “profound concerns of the Government and people of Viet Nam about the decision of IOC to accept the Dow Chemical Company as a global partner sponsoring the Olympic Movement.”

Dow provided the chemicals that Washington used from 1961 onward to destroy crops and forests in South Vietnam, drenching the country with Agent Orange.

These poisons contain dioxin, one of the most lethal carcinogens known, affecting millions of Vietnamese and many U.S. soldiers. To this day in Vietnam, aborted fetuses and deformed infants are very likely the effects of these crimes—though, in light of Washington’s refusal to investigate, we have only the studies of Vietnamese scientists and independent analysts.

Joining the Vietnamese appeal against Dow are the government of India, the Indian Olympic Association, and the survivors of the horrendous 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of history’s worst industrial disasters, which killed thousands and injured more than half a million.

Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the disaster, was taken over by Dow, for whom the matter is of no slight concern. In February, Wikileaks revealed that Dow hired the U.S. private investigative agency Stratfor to monitor activists seeking compensation for the victims and prosecution of those responsible.

Another major crime with very serious persisting effects is the Marine assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004.

Women and children were permitted to escape if they could. After several weeks of bombing, the attack opened with a carefully planned war crime: Invasion of the Fallujah General Hospital, where patients and staff were ordered to the floor, their hands tied. Soon the bonds were loosened; the compound was secure.

The official justification was that the hospital was reporting civilian casualties, and therefore was considered a propaganda weapon.

Much of the city was left in “smoking ruins,” the press reported while the Marines sought out insurgents in their “warrens.” The invaders barred entry to the Red Crescent relief organization. Absent an official inquiry, the scale of the crimes is unknown.

If the Fallujah events are reminiscent of the events that took place in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, now again in the news with the genocide trial of Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, there’s a good reason. An honest comparison would be instructive, but there’s no fear of that: One is an atrocity, the other not, by definition.

As in Vietnam, independent investigators are reporting long-term effects of the Fallujah assault.

Medical researchers have found dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia, even higher than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uranium levels in hair and soil samples are far beyond comparable cases.

One of the rare investigators from the invading countries is Dr. Kypros Nicolaides, director of the fetal-medicine research center at London’s King’s College Hospital. “I’m sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities,” Nicolaides says.

The lingering effects of a vastly greater nonatrocity were reported last month by U.S. law professor James Anaya, the U.N. rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Anaya dared to tread on forbidden territory by investigating the shocking conditions among the remnants of the Native American population in the U.S.—”poverty, poor health conditions, lack of attainment of formal education (and) social ills at rates that far exceed those of other segments of the American population,” Anaya reported. No member of Congress was willing to meet him. Press coverage was minimal.

Dissidents have been much in the news after the dramatic rescue of the blind Chinese civil-rights activist Chen Guangcheng.

“The international commotion,” Samuel Moyn wrote in The New York Times last month, “aroused memories of earlier dissidents like Andrei D. Sakharov and Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the Eastern bloc heroes of another age who first made `international human rights’ a rallying cry for activists across the globe and a high-profile item on Western governments’ agendas.”

Moyn is the author of “The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History,” released in 2010. In The New York Times Book Review, Belinda Cooper questioned Moyn’s tracing the contemporary prominence of these ideals to “(President Jimmy) Carter’s abortive steps to inject human rights into foreign policy and the 1975 Helsinki accords with the Soviet Union,” focusing on abuses in the Soviet sphere. She finds Moyn’s thesis unpersuasive because “an alternative history to his own is far too easy to construct.”

True enough: The obvious alternative is the one that James Peck provides, which the mainstream can hardly consider, though the relevant facts are strikingly clear and known at least to scholarship.

Thus in the “Cambridge History of the Cold War,” John Coatsworth recalls that from 1960 to “the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites.” But being nonatrocities, these crimes, substantially traceable to U.S. intervention, didn’t inspire a human-rights crusade.

Also inspired by the Chen rescue, New York Times columnist Bill Keller writes that “Dissidents are heroic,” but they can be “irritants to American diplomats who have important business to transact with countries that don’t share our values.” Keller criticizes Washington for sometimes failing to live up to our values with prompt action when others commit crimes.

There is no shortage of heroic dissidents within the domains of U.S. influence and power, but they are as invisible as the Latin American victims. Looking almost at random around the world, we find Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, now facing death in prison from a long hunger strike.

And Father Mun Jeong-hyeon, the elderly Korean priest who was severely injured while holding mass as part of the protest against the construction of a U.S. naval base on Jeju Island, named an Island of Peace, now occupied by security forces for the first time since the 1948 massacres by the U.S.-imposed South Korean government.

And Turkish scholar Ismail Besikci, facing trial again for defending the rights of Kurds. He already has spent much of his life in prison on the same charge, including the 1990s, when the Clinton administration was providing Turkey with huge quantities of military aid—at a time when the Turkish military perpetrated some of the period’s worst atrocities.

But these instances are all nonexistent, on standard principles, along with others too numerous to mention.

Posted on 10/17/2013 by Juan Cole

A new household survey of Iraqis has projected the civilian death toll from the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq at roughly 450,000. Passive information-gathering techniques like logging deaths in the Western press have produced estimates closer to 150,000, but such techniques have been proven to miss a lot of people. (To my knowledge no one was counting all the deaths reported in the some 200 Arabic-language Iraqi newspapers in the 2000s, so even the passive information-gathering was limited. And, the Wikileaks US military log of civilian deaths did not overlap very much with e.g. Iraq Body Count, so both of them were missing things the other caught.)



Of those extra deaths beyond those who would have died if the US had never invaded, some 270,000 died violently, with US troops responsible for about 90,000 civilian deaths and militias for another 90,000. Of those killed violently, 60 percent were shot, and 12 percent died from car bombs. Some 180,000 died because of the destruction of the public health infrastructure (lack of access to hospital treatment, e.g.).

Despite the horrific total, this estimate for 2003-2011 is smaller than the Lancet study of some years ago, which was done under wartime conditions. The authors admit, however, that the death toll could have been even higher; this total is a projection based on 2000 interviews.

The US/ UN sanctions on Iraq of the 1990s, which interdicted chlorine for much of that decade and so made water purification impossible, are estimated to have killed another 500,000 Iraqis, mainly children. (Infants and toddlers die easily from diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis, which causes fatal dehydration).

So the US polished off about a million Iraqis from 1991 through 2011, large numbers of them children. The Iraqi population in that period was roughly 25 million, so the US killed or created the conditions for the killing of 4% of the Iraqi population.

If Iraq had killed 4% of Americans, it would be 12 million people dead.

Iraq did not attack the United States. It did attack Iran in 1980, but by 1983 the US was an ally in Iraq’s war against Iran. It also attacked Kuwait, which it occupied quite bestially, but it was out by spring 1991. There was no casus belli or legitimate legal cause of war in 2003. Iraq’s main crime appears to have been to be an oil state not compliant with US demands.

All this is horrible enough. Even more horrible is that the US occupation of Iraq sparked a Sunni Arab insurgency, which is still vigorous. Insurgencies typically take 10 to 15 years to subside. Some 5000 Iraqi civilians have been killed so far this year by that insurgency. US occupation is the gift that goes on giving.

Despite the Bush administration’s violation of the UN charter and its war crimes in Iraq, none of its high officials has faced prosecution. Some of them even have the gall to come on television from time to time to urge more killing.




Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the author of dozens of books on U.S. foreign policy. He writes a monthly column for The New York Times News Service/Syndicate.
More information about Noam Chomsky

In his penetrating study “Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights,” international affairs scholar James Peck observes, “In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us”—whoever “us” is.

Almost any moment in history yields innumerable illustrations. Let’s keep to the past few weeks.

On May 10, the Summer Olympics were inaugurated at the Greek birthplace of the ancient games. A few days before, virtually unnoticed, the government of Vietnam addressed a letter to the International Olympic Committee expressing the “profound concerns of the Government and people of Viet Nam about the decision of IOC to accept the Dow Chemical Company as a global partner sponsoring the Olympic Movement.”

Dow provided the chemicals that Washington used from 1961 onward to destroy crops and forests in South Vietnam, drenching the country with Agent Orange.

These poisons contain dioxin, one of the most lethal carcinogens known, affecting millions of Vietnamese and many U.S. soldiers. To this day in Vietnam, aborted fetuses and deformed infants are very likely the effects of these crimes—though, in light of Washington’s refusal to investigate, we have only the studies of Vietnamese scientists and independent analysts.

Joining the Vietnamese appeal against Dow are the government of India, the Indian Olympic Association, and the survivors of the horrendous 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of history’s worst industrial disasters, which killed thousands and injured more than half a million.

Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the disaster, was taken over by Dow, for whom the matter is of no slight concern. In February, Wikileaks revealed that Dow hired the U.S. private investigative agency Stratfor to monitor activists seeking compensation for the victims and prosecution of those responsible.

Another major crime with very serious persisting effects is the Marine assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004.

Women and children were permitted to escape if they could. After several weeks of bombing, the attack opened with a carefully planned war crime: Invasion of the Fallujah General Hospital, where patients and staff were ordered to the floor, their hands tied. Soon the bonds were loosened; the compound was secure.

The official justification was that the hospital was reporting civilian casualties, and therefore was considered a propaganda weapon.

Much of the city was left in “smoking ruins,” the press reported while the Marines sought out insurgents in their “warrens.” The invaders barred entry to the Red Crescent relief organization. Absent an official inquiry, the scale of the crimes is unknown.

If the Fallujah events are reminiscent of the events that took place in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, now again in the news with the genocide trial of Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, there’s a good reason. An honest comparison would be instructive, but there’s no fear of that: One is an atrocity, the other not, by definition.

As in Vietnam, independent investigators are reporting long-term effects of the Fallujah assault.

Medical researchers have found dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia, even higher than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uranium levels in hair and soil samples are far beyond comparable cases.

One of the rare investigators from the invading countries is Dr. Kypros Nicolaides, director of the fetal-medicine research center at London’s King’s College Hospital. “I’m sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities,” Nicolaides says.

The lingering effects of a vastly greater nonatrocity were reported last month by U.S. law professor James Anaya, the U.N. rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Anaya dared to tread on forbidden territory by investigating the shocking conditions among the remnants of the Native American population in the U.S.—”poverty, poor health conditions, lack of attainment of formal education (and) social ills at rates that far exceed those of other segments of the American population,” Anaya reported. No member of Congress was willing to meet him. Press coverage was minimal.

Dissidents have been much in the news after the dramatic rescue of the blind Chinese civil-rights activist Chen Guangcheng.

“The international commotion,” Samuel Moyn wrote in The New York Times last month, “aroused memories of earlier dissidents like Andrei D. Sakharov and Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the Eastern bloc heroes of another age who first made `international human rights’ a rallying cry for activists across the globe and a high-profile item on Western governments’ agendas.”

Moyn is the author of “The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History,” released in 2010. In The New York Times Book Review, Belinda Cooper questioned Moyn’s tracing the contemporary prominence of these ideals to “(President Jimmy) Carter’s abortive steps to inject human rights into foreign policy and the 1975 Helsinki accords with the Soviet Union,” focusing on abuses in the Soviet sphere. She finds Moyn’s thesis unpersuasive because “an alternative history to his own is far too easy to construct.”

True enough: The obvious alternative is the one that James Peck provides, which the mainstream can hardly consider, though the relevant facts are strikingly clear and known at least to scholarship.

Thus in the “Cambridge History of the Cold War,” John Coatsworth recalls that from 1960 to “the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites.” But being nonatrocities, these crimes, substantially traceable to U.S. intervention, didn’t inspire a human-rights crusade.

Also inspired by the Chen rescue, New York Times columnist Bill Keller writes that “Dissidents are heroic,” but they can be “irritants to American diplomats who have important business to transact with countries that don’t share our values.” Keller criticizes Washington for sometimes failing to live up to our values with prompt action when others commit crimes.

There is no shortage of heroic dissidents within the domains of U.S. influence and power, but they are as invisible as the Latin American victims. Looking almost at random around the world, we find Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, now facing death in prison from a long hunger strike.

And Father Mun Jeong-hyeon, the elderly Korean priest who was severely injured while holding mass as part of the protest against the construction of a U.S. naval base on Jeju Island, named an Island of Peace, now occupied by security forces for the first time since the 1948 massacres by the U.S.-imposed South Korean government.

And Turkish scholar Ismail Besikci, facing trial again for defending the rights of Kurds. He already has spent much of his life in prison on the same charge, including the 1990s, when the Clinton administration was providing Turkey with huge quantities of military aid—at a time when the Turkish military perpetrated some of the period’s worst atrocities.

But these instances are all nonexistent, on standard principles, along with others too numerous to mention.

waves and tides in Scotland

Published on Dec 13, 2012 This short film, narrated by scientist and TV presenter Heather Reid at Whitelees Windfarm, explores the opportunities for using the power of the wind, waves and tides in Scotland to produce energy. Heather speaks to Laura Watson, an engineer with Scottish Renewables, who explains how wind and tidal turbines works […]

Published on Dec 13, 2012
This short film, narrated by scientist and TV presenter Heather Reid at Whitelees Windfarm, explores the opportunities for using the power of the wind, waves and tides in Scotland to produce energy.

Heather speaks to Laura Watson, an engineer with Scottish Renewables, who explains how wind and tidal turbines works and the difficulties of using these turbines including selecting the best location and under-water maintenance.

Tom Wills, an engineer from Aquamarine, explains how his company’s new Oyster technology converts wave energy into power. Storms in the Scottish sea are just one of the challenges they face.

Video and all copyright belongs to: Education Scotland


Scotland  has the ambitious goal of getting 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, and it is making amazing progress toward attaining it. Although many provinces or countries get 60% or more of their electricity from renewables, most of these depend mainly on hydro-electic. For those without riparian resources, the challenge is to implement other renewable energy generating technologies. Scotland is favorably situated to develop wind power, and is going for it in a big way.

Based on the performance of the first three quarters, Scotland was on track in 2012 to generate 15 percent more electricity from renewablesthan in the previous year (which also broke earlier records).

In 2011, Scotland was already getting 36 percent of its electricity from green energy, ahead of its target of 31 percent! In 2012 alone, renewables are estimated to have attracted $1 billion in investments. Pete Danko writes of these investments, which have produced 11,000 jobs at a time of economic retrenchment, “Maybe this is what happens if you have a national policy that encourages not just incremental but radical transitioning to renewable energy: Not only do you get clean energy, you get a lot of the manufacturing infrastructure that comes with it.”

In 2011, Scotland had generated 13.735 gigawatt hours from renewable sources (up 44.3% from 2010 and an increase of 97.3% from 2006). Unlike in Portugal, a relatively small portion– only about a gig — of that was from hydroelectric.

Scotland is planning the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

Some of the Scottish have even put in solar panels and use solar thermal to heat water. Although solar is a harder technology to profit from in overcast Scotland than wind, it can be part of the renewable mix there. The government is also now experimenting with wave energy, which could be huge for Scotland, as well as tidal energy.

The UK in general is now wavering on commitment to renewables, under the Tory government of David Cameron, and national policy may hobble Scotland’s efforts a bit. BP and other Big Carbon interests (and Donald Trump) are propagandizing against wind as ruining the beauty of the countryside, as though oil rigs do not, or as though catastrophic climate change would be better.