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Next Step After ‘Withdrawal’: Exploiting Afghanistan’s Natural Resources

November 30th, 2011 - by admin

Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com – 2011-11-30 20:53:32

NATO to Withdraw 40,000 Troops Next Year, But War is Not Over

NATO to Withdraw 40,000 Troops Next Year, But War is Not Over
John Glaser / Anti-War.com

(November 29, 2011) — NATO will reduce its troop levels in Afghanistan by 40,000 by the end of 2012, according to the Pentagon, as the overall military presence in the country begins to decrease. By that date, America’s share of the pullout will include 33,000 soldiers — one-third of 101,000 US troops who were in Afghanistan in June.

The gradual drawdown began late this year. About 14,000 foreign troops will be withdrawn by the end of December: 10,000 of those are American, 2,850 were Canadian, France and Britain will each send about 400 home, etc. The drawdown will get steeper next year.

But observers should not be fooled into believing the Obama administration’s 2014 date of full withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US plan has been to maintain a military presence there for the foreseeable future, with numerous officials recognizing considerable troop levels beyond 2014.

In a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, under secretary of defense for policy at the Department of Defense Michèle Flournoy, explained that “2014 is not a withdrawal date — it’s an inflection point.”

Afghans at that time “are still going to need support from the international community,” she said, and the US has “been negotiating a strategic partnership agreement with the Afghan government that would lay out an enduring strategic partnership far into the future.”

And Afghan President Hamid Karzai has tried hard to lock in that strategic partnership, as his council of tribal elders in mid-November tacitly approved a robust strategic agreement and US military presence through 2024.


Next Step: Exploit Afghanistan’s Natural Resources
John Glaser / Anti-War.com

(November 30, 2011) — [W]e are not getting out of Afghanistan in 2014, as the Obama administration claims. By the end of next year, 40,000 will have been withdrawn, from the approximately 140,000 there now….

Actual military and defense officials repeatedly explain that 2014 will not be the end of the occupation. As just one example, in a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations from under secretary of defense for policy at the Department of Defense Michèle Flournoy, she explained that “2014 is not a withdrawal date — it’s an inflection point.” And now Afghan President Hamid Karzai has tacitly approved a robust strategic agreement and US military presence through 2024 at his council of over 2,000 tribal elders.

But if we needed more evidence that 2014 is merely a political stamp (I think the zero should have a peace sign in it), as opposed to an actual date for the end of the military occupation, I think training Afghan geoscientists to collect, process, and exploit valuable “mineral resources” and “rare earth elements” in Afghanistan is plenty enough to top it off.

The Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), in partnership with the US Geological Survey, announced today it will provide training and equipment specific to airborne geophysical exploration to the Afghan Geological Survey. This initiative is part of the US Government’s continuing efforts to help the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan identify and develop its vast deposits of mineral resources in a transparent and responsible fashion.

A key component of the USGS’ new effort is to train Afghan geoscientists in collecting, processing and interpreting high-resolution geophysical data themselves. Utilizing airborne technology is essential to obtaining reliable, detailed information on mineral and rare earth element deposits.

…The TFBSO has already worked extensively with USGS to develop an ongoing survey of mineral resources and rare earth elements in Afghanistan, as well as creating an online and central repository for that data in Kabul. The new training is intended to augment and expand these earlier efforts. This earlier work identified at least $1 trillion in mineral resources, fossil fuels, and rare earth elements within Afghanistan, according to Pentagon estimates.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Pentagon’s New Weapons: Flying Robot Grenades

November 30th, 2011 - by admin

Katie Drummond / DangerRoom, Wired & Spencer Ackerman / DangerRoom, Wired – 2011-11-30 01:05:32

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/11/army-grenades/

Army Wants Grenade ‘Bots to Fly, Spy, Then Kill
Katie Drummond / DangerRoom, Wired

(November 28, 2011) — The military’s already got grenades that do plenty more than detonate: They can spray rubber pellets, obliterate underwater opponents and even, uh, be catapulted from the air in a tiny robocopter. But the next generation of grenade? Oh, no biggie, it’ll just navigate through the sky on-command, spy on our enemies… and then blow them all up.

At least, if the Army’s latest bright idea moves forward. In their new round of small business solicitations, top brass are asking for proposals that’d yield what amounts to a very deadly grenade-drone love child. Or, as the Army’s calling it, “A Hovering Tube-Launched Micromunition.”

Already, the Army’s made some impressive advances where grenade munitions are concerned. Just last year, they ordered up hundreds of “Men in Black” grenade launchers, capable of shooting “smart” grenades loaded with sensors and microchips that communicate with a guidance system. And of course, drone development is so hot right now. Used in surveillance for years, the unmanned vehicles are now getting loaded up with missiles — or, as the newly developed Switchblade Drone illustrates, turning into missiles themselves. [See story below.]

The Army’s grenade-of-tomorrow would be capable of being fired off from a launcher before it would “hover/loiter by using propulsion and glide” according to navigational instructions sent by on-the-ground operators. The loitering grenade would be able to maneuver itself for 10 minutes and up to 0.6 miles. Of course, the grenades wouldn’t just mosey around. Each one could “survey enemy targets by using a miniature day/night camera” and offer video feed and GPS coordinates to troops.

It’s easy to see how that kind of intel — taken inside compound walls, on the 12th floor of a building or anywhere else troops can’t readily, safely access — could be incredibly valuable. Not to mention that once soldiers have the info they need, the hovering grenade can make the ultimate sacrifice.

The Army wants each one loaded with “a lethal payload” to blow whatever’s spied by the grenade’s cameras to smithereens. Sounds a lot like the Switchblade, which will offer surveillance and lethality in a “backpack sized” device, except presumably even smaller. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before death-from-above shrinks enough to turn the Air Force’s adorable micro-aviary into an extremely deadly one.


SwitchBlade quick deployable Drone Plane from dizzymarkus on Vimeo.

US Troops Will Soon Get Tiny Kamikaze Drone
Spencer Ackerman / DangerRoom, Wired

(October 18, 2011) — AeroVironment calls its teeny-tiny killer drone the Switchblade. Essentially a guided missile small enough to fit in a backback and fire at a single foe, it might be the kind of blade US troops soon bring to a gunfight with Afghan insurgents.

Most tiny drones the military uses, like the Puma or the Raven, are snoopers, not killers. Missiles are too heavy for those unmanned planes to carry, which is why the killer drones are usually the big boys like Predators or Reapers. That’s starting to change: a Northern California company called Arcturus has a drone with a mere 17-foot wingspan that totes a 10-pound missile.

AeroVironment, manufacturer of many tiny drones, is offering a different paradigm. Instead of carrying a missile, the drone is the missile. Unfolded from a size small enough to fit in a soldier’s rucksack — like a Switchblade; get it? — and launched from a tube, the spy cameras on board the drone scout an enemy position before the soldier controlling it sends it barreling into the target. It’s a strictly one-way mission.

The video above, which AeroVironment showed at the August drone expo known as AUVSI, shows the problem that the Switchblade could solve. Troops on patrol come under sustained, accurate insurgent fire and get pinned behind their truck. Close air support could strafe the insurgents, but will take time to arrive. Mini-drones can spot the insurgent’s position, but can’t kill him. Boom: Switchblade marries those solutions together. And according to AFP, it’s “coming soon” to US troops.

This isn’t the first attempt to miniaturize killer drones. In addition to the Arcturus drone, a few years ago, enterprising engineers put a rifle on a Vigilante unmanned helicopter for something they called the Autonomous Rotorcraft Sniper System. It’s nowhere near as small as a Switchblade, but nowhere near as big as a Predator, either. In 2008, the Air Force tested out tiny killer drones in a mysterious experiment called Project Anubis.

And soon, the Switchblade won’t be the only Kamikaze drone out there. The spinning circles of death known as the Quadrocopter Microdrone is a homebrew combining tiny guns, laser targeting systems and an Xbox Kinect-style camera to hunt prey, with an optional iPad hookup for remote control.

But it appears the Switchblade is the first tiny kamikaze drone the US military actually bought. On July 29, the Army gave AeroVironment a $4.9 million contract for “rapid fielding” of an unspecified number of Switchblades to “deployed combat forces.” That probably means Afghanistan, if AFP’s right.

$4.9 million isn’t a lot of money when annual defense budgets reach $700 billion. But experience has shown that troops in warzones are cautious about using even tiny drones, for fear that they’ll misuse a robot that their individual units might consider costly. That’s what happened when Marines in Iraq got the Raven in 2008. A drone that they don’t have to worry about using a second time, though, might be a different story.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Afghan Opium Production to Expand after Troops Exit

November 30th, 2011 - by admin

Christine Kearney / Reuters & News Daily – 2011-11-30 01:05:03

http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre7ao08i-us-afghanistan-opium/

KABUL (November 25, 2011) — Afghanistan’s former anti-drug czar has warned that opium poppy cultivation will dramatically increase as foreign combat troops head home, with farmers and insurgents taking advantage of a withdrawal set to be complete by the end of 2014.

Insecurity in poppy growing regions in Afghanistan — the world’s leading producer of opium — and the expectation among insurgents and farmers that the country will be under the full control of Afghan forces within years is driving production, ex-counter-narcotics minister General Khodaidad said.

“With the coming exit strategy for 2014, the whole thing will be completely out of control. All the provinces will go more and more back to poppy,” Khodaidad said at his Kabul house.

The country’s poppy economy, which is estimated to provide insurgents with between $100 million and $400 million in funding each year, grew significantly in 2011, as soaring prices pushed farmers nationwide to expand production.

Land under poppy cultivation climbed 7 percent from 2010 and the crop returned to three provinces in the north and east that had been declared “poppy-free,” according to a joint report by the U.N. drugs agency and Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics ministry released in October.

The report said poppy growth had increased after a disease shrank the previous year’s harvest and pushed up prices for the drug that is processed into heroin, but Khodaidad said the unidentified disease was only a small factor.

“It is mostly due to security problems, corrupt officials and bad leadership in Afghanistan,” said Khodaidad, who spent four years as minister for counter-narcotics and three as deputy minister. Parliament did not approve his reappointment in the position when it voted on the cabinet in 2010.

He is now unemployed but said he travels to international conferences to discuss Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces were not strong enough nor did they have the motivation to reduce poppy once foreign troops had left and in turn farmers did not trust them, Khodaidad said.

“They cannot protect the farmers,” he said, referring to pressure on farmers in some insurgent-dominated areas to produce the lucrative and fast-growing crop.

“When there is no security there is poppy. When there is no law and order there is poppy. When there is corruption there is poppy,” Khodaidad said.

Violence is at its worst in Afghanistan since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban from power in late 2001, the United Nations and other agencies say.

INSURGENTS IN CONTROL

The country’s current drugs minister promised in October a bigger push to punish farmers who grow poppy crops, but Khodaidad said anti-drug laws were not being enforced.

Farmers are being told by insurgents in less secure areas that they will run the country within years, replacing the current administration, the ex-minister said.

“The Taliban is stronger than this present government and that directly affects poppy cultivation,” he said. “The Taliban explains to the farmer that the foreign troops are leaving and if you grow poppy, I am still here.”

Government officials earning kickbacks on the crop do not want to reduce poppy farming either, he said.

And lack of coordination between the Afghan government, western anti-drug agencies and neighboring countries was also contributing to the rise in production.

Russia’s top anti-drug czar last week called U.S. efforts to eradicate poppy “unsatisfactory” and said joint Russian-American drug raids, which appeared to tail off this year, were struggling to get quick military approval.

Foreign troops fighting the decade-long war against a Taliban-led insurgency have largely abandoned eradicating poppy crops themselves because of the hostility it generates among poor Afghan farmers whose support they are trying to win.

There is still a large foreign-funded push to wean farmers off poppy, a hardy crop that needs relatively little water, by offering incentives to grow legal crops like subsidized wheat and fertilizer.

But Khodaidad said it was now too late to try such tactics and that western countries should prepare for more highly addictive heroin flowing into their countries.

“We lost 11 years for keeping promises to the farmers and to the provinces that ‘We are supporting you.’ A lot of money came into controlling drugs in Afghanistan but it didn’t go in the right direction,” he said.

Copyright Reuters.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Mission Accomplished: Shell Oil Signs $17.2 Billion Gas Deal with Iraq

November 30th, 2011 - by admin

Wall Street Journal Online & Arab Oil & Gas News & Reuters – 2011-11-30 01:02:21

http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20111127-706700.html

Iraq Signs Final $17.2 Billion Shell Gas Deal
Wall Street Journal Online

BASRA (November 27, 2011) — Iraq Sunday signed the final $17.2 billion deal with Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) and Mitsubishi Corp. (8058.TO) to capture and process flared gas from southern Iraqi oil fields, Iraqi and company officials said.

The 25-year contract is one of biggest signed by Iraq in past two years.
The joint venture is expected to help generate electric power in Iraq.
Any gas produced that isn’t needed in Iraq can be exported.


Iraq Signs Final $17.2 Billion Shell Gas Deal
Arab Oil & Gas News

(November 29, 2011) — Iraq signed a final USD 17 billion deal with Royal Dutch Shell and Mitsubishi on Sunday to capture flared gas at southern oilfields, a project that should boost production of badly needed electricity. The 25-year deal, one of the largest Iraq has signed with foreign energy companies, is meant to help harness more than 700 million cubic feet per day of gas being burned off at southern fields.

The long-awaited deal was completed at a signing ceremony in Baghdad attended by Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi and Shell Chief Executive Peter Voser. “This day represents a historical change in the Iraqi oil industry, represented by the best utilisation of the (associated) gas to meet the increasing needs for gas in Iraq,” Luaibi said at the ceremony.

OPEC member Iraq has signed a series of deals with foreign oil companies to modernise its energy industry after years of war and economic sanctions. Increased oil production is expected to bring huge increases in associated gas output and Iraq may soon produce more gas than it can use, opening up the possibility of gas exports.

The Shell deal will involve the creation of the Basra Gas Co joint venture, in which the government will hold 51%, Shell 44% and Mitsubishi 5%. The project aims to capture gas at Iraq’s workhorse field, Rumaila, as well as Zubair and West Qurna. Intermittent electricity is one of Iraqis’ major complaints against their government. Power supply is about half of demand.


Iraq Signs Final $17.2 Billion Royal Dutch Shell Plc And Mitsubishi Corporation Gas Deal
Reuters

(November 27, 2011) — Dow Jones reported that Iraq on Sunday signed the final $17.2 billion deal with Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Mitsubishi Corporation to capture and process flared gas from southern Iraqi oil fields, Iraqi and company officials said. The joint venture (JV), which includes Iraqi state South Gas Co., is expected to help Iraq make use of more than 700 million cubic feet a day of gas that is being burned and help generate much-needed electric power.

The 25-year contract has signed with international energy companies over the past two years as the country rebuilds its oil and gas industry after years of sanctions and war followed by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein.

The deal creates the Basra Gas Co. JV, made up of Iraq’s state South Gas Co., which holds 51% of the venture, Shell, which has 44%, and Mitsubishi, which holds the remaining 5%. It will collect raw associate gas from three supergiant Iraqi oil fields Rumaila, Zubair and West Qurna phase 1 in southern Iraq, and process that gas into valuable products, initially for sale domestically in Iraq.

At Least 7 Die from Asphyxiation as US-Made Tear Gas Is Used on Egyptian Protesters

November 30th, 2011 - by admin

Jihan Hafiz / The Real News & John Glaser / Anti-War.com – 2011-11-30 00:52:06

U.S.-Made Tear Gas Used on Egyptian Protesters

Video: Egyptian Protesters Vow to Resist US-Made Toxic Gas
An excellent report from Jihan Hafiz / The Real News

CAIRO (November 29, 2011) – Toxic smoke has come to symbolize the brutality of Egypt’s security forces. During the five days of violent street battles, makeshift street clinics and hospitals were overwhelmed with tear-gas victims. Some did not survive. The Egyptian Health Ministry reports that seven people died from asphyxiation caused by tear-gas. Innocent bystanders have also fallen victim. The medicine used by doctors earlier in the year to resuscitate victims of tear gas has been inadequate this time.

According to the State Department’s 2010 Fiscal Year report on foreign assistance, more than $1.7 million of non-lethal weapons, including tear-gas, were exported to Egypt from the United States. Most of the tear gas was produced by two companies in Pennsylvania — Combined Tactical Systems, in Jamestown, and Defense Technology Federal Laboratories, which is based in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania and is owned by British military contractor BAE Systems.

Both companies describe their products as “less-lethal.” [CTS made the 37/35 MM Riot CS Smoke Projectiles used in Tahrir Square, DTFL manufactures CS Riot Control gas and 518E Riot Gas used on protesting civilians.] They have come under fire for deaths caused by the use of their tear gas by one of their major clients — the Israeli government. Combined Tactical Systems flies an Israeli flag over their building in Jamestown.


US-Made Tear Gas Used on Egyptian Protesters
John Glaser / Anti-War.com

(November 28, 2011) — The close military relationship between the U.S. and Egypt/SCAF is continuing and is serving as an impediment to prospects for democratic governance. Elections took place today in Egypt and we will soon see the results, but — as a recent Amnesty International report puts it — the elections are being overshadowed by the continuing abuses by the U.S.-supported military junta.

In fact, with regard to trials of civilians before military courts, the numbers have become worse. Bloggers, journalists, scholars and ordinary citizens have been silenced and charged with crimes such as “criticizing the military.” When pressed to end the state of emergency, the military rulers repeatedly use security issues as an excuse to maintain the status quo.

Furthermore, the SCAF failed to heed the call of Amnesty International and Egyptian activists to demand accountability for the security abuses of the past Mubarak regime. Certainly key members of the previous government have gone on trial, including Mubarak himself. But the SCAF never took steps to investigate past abuses. Without accountability, the police and security officials of the past regime simply returned to their old jobs; it should be no surprise that the old regime’s violence toward protesters is now getting repeated.

The above links I provided detail recent U.S. military and economic aid to Egypt making the “U.S.A” on those tear gas canisters seem like a mundane feature of the status quo. The Government Accountability Office has made it clear that the U.S. is unable to track their weapons welfare to see whether it is used on civilians. But really, anybody with mental faculties rivaling that of a 10 year old kid can predict they U.S.-donated weapons to military rulers will eventually be used on the people.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Drums of War: Nuke Carrier Leads US Strike Force into Syrian Waters

November 29th, 2011 - by admin

Russia Today – 2011-11-29 16:43:09

http://rt.com/news/syria-intervention-us-warship-229/

(November 25, 2011) — Nuclear aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush has reportedly anchored off Syria. As an Arab League deadline to allow observers into the country passes with no response from Damascus, the possibility of intervention in Syria seems to be growing.

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group along with additional naval vessels are to remain in the Mediterranean to conducting maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. The US 6th Fleet is also patrolling the area, Interfax news agency reports.

Meanwhile, America and Turkey are urging their citizens to leave Syria. The US released a statement on Wednesday urging American citizens to “depart immediately while commercial transportation is available.”

Against this backdrop, the prospect of humanitarian intervention in Syria no longer looks like such an impossible scenario. And pressure is growing on the issue.

Paris is urging the creation of a secure zone to protect civilians “that would allow aid groups and observers into Syria” and is seeking support from the US, UN and the Arab League.

French foreign minister Alain Juppé said he was speaking with partners in the United Nations, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Arab League on the issue. However the EU stopped short of endorsing a French proposal for EU-backed humanitarian corridors on Thursday, acknowledging, however, that protection of civilians in Syria remains a top priority.

The imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria by the Arab League with US logistical support, is also being discussed, according to the Jordan-based Al Bawaba news website. A strong sense of déjà vu prevails, with the specter of a Libyan scenario repeating itself.

Drums of War:
US Strike Force Enters Syrian Waters!

Rumors about the no-fly zone over Syria came in the wake of Tuesday’s United Nations General Assembly resolution which condemned human rights abuses by the Syrian regime, including the killing, arbitrary imprisonment and torture of civilians.

Meanwhile, an Arab League deadline for Syria to allow an observer mission into the country or suffer crippling sanctions passed on Friday without a response from Damascus, a League source told AFP.

“Until now, there has been no response from the Syrian government,” the source said after the 1 pm (1100 GMT) deadline. Damascus has been given until the end of the day to respond, if it is to avoid sanctions.

Earlier this month Russia, the most powerful opponent of the West’s push for “international intervention,” also anchored its warships in the Syrian port of Tartus. According to unconfirmed reports, the warships were carrying technical advisors who will help Syria set up and run advanced S-300 missiles supplied by Russia. However, there is no official confirmation that the S-300 missiles have actually been delivered to Syria by any side.

Meanwhile, Moscow has announced it opposes a military scenario for resolving the Syrian problem and the use of a human rights argument as an excuse for foreign intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said that “under no circumstances must human rights issues be used as a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of a state.”

Moscow has also abstained from voting on the resolution by the UN General Assembly Human Rights Committee thanks to “the humanitarian focus of the draft’s text,” said Lukashevich.

Patrick Henningsen, a political analyst from the US-based Infowars.Com online magazine, believes that the escalation of tensions over Syria between the world’s major powers may lead to a new chilling in world politics.

“I think we are going to see a new Cold War emerge in the next two years, and we are seeing the initial steps of that new Cold War right now,” he told RT.

“If the Western powers think they are going to get away with a no-fly zone in Syria, this is a very different prospect than Libya. This will be the first time, in Syria, and also, if you look forward — with Iran, that the West, actually, is engaging a country that has the ability to fight back,” Henningsen said referring to Russia’s close military co-operation with the two countries, as well as rumors of S-300 installations having been supplied from Moscow.

Experts say that even the armed opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime would strongly oppose any interference from outside.

“Even among the opponents of the ugly Assad regime, many in Syria will actually not welcome an intervention by Western forces,” even if it comes in the shape of fellow-Muslims in the Turkish army, predicts Dr. Pierre Guerlain, a professor of political science at Paris West University.

And Dr Marcus Papadopoulos, an analyst from Britain’s ‘Politics First’ online magazine, told RT that any hopes of bringing peace to the region by toppling the current Syrian government are delusional.

“I can’t see how they can possibly believe that peace will come to the Middle East with president Assad falling, I mean if we have a look at some of the people that the Syrian government is fighting against at the moment, they’re actually armed militants, they’re criminal gangs, and many of these armed militants have links to religious extremism, so once again, I think it’s a reckless, negligence, short-sighted approach that the West is taking.”

Earlier this month, Arab League foreign ministers suspended Syria in response to its violent suppression of anti-government rallies.

An uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad started eight months ago. Since then, an estimated 3,500 people have died in clashes with government forces.

(c) Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”, 2005 – 2011. All rights reserved.


French Fig-leaf: Sarkozy Wants Syria
Russia Today

(November 225, 2011) — France is pushing for humanitarian corridors to be opened in Syria to bring medicine and other vital supplies into the country. But there is criticism it could be a pretext for intervention, in an echo of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya.

Thanks to his country’s role in the military intervention in Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy bagged a string of “firsts” for his country:

France was first to call for a NATO-imposed no-fly zone over Libya, first to strike, and first to officially recognize the opposition as “Libya’s only legitimate government.”

With Libya now in the rearview mirror, Syria appears to be the next stop. France has once again become the first Western nation to suggest an international intervention on the ground in Syria with its calls for a “secured zone to protect civilians”, and first to endorse the exiled opposition Syrian National Council.

Jean Bricmont, author of “Humanitarian Imperialism”, says that “France is a country where humanitarian intervention is very, very popular. And there is an agreement between most of the left and most of the right about that. Sarkozy has this ideology of intervention. It seems to me he’s even more aggressive than Obama would be, even though he doesn’t have the military strength to do it alone.”

And a dramatic rise in popularity at home is what Sarkozy needs if he intends to let the French decide his fate as president in the 2012 elections.

Alex Korbel, a political analyst with contrepoint.org, says Sarkozy’s popularity goes up every time he talks about the Syrian crisis.

“Now he’s really in a bad situation when it comes to the polls. He really needs to be seen as more pro-active than his opponents and he’s using the Syrian crisis as a way to be seen as that,” he said.

However, what the French government deemed a “success” is looking rather less promising for those living in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Violent clashes between rival militia groups have continued, adding to the already high death toll from the NATO-backed conflict. A new UN report says some 7,000 people are being held in Libyan detention centers controlled by militias, with no access to courts or a functioning judiciary.

And it is a scenario some warn could be repeated in Syria.

John Laughland from the Paris-based Institute for Democracy and Co-operation says that: “Once those regimes are overthrown, a Pandora’s box is opened. “While one is always happy to see the end of brutal dictatorships, my own view is that the ends to these regimes should come from the people themselves,” he said.

Critics of France’s latest move have raised the question of whether any foreign intervention in Syria would actually end the bloodshed. While other countries have been more cautious, it seems the French leadership is keen on putting its foot down and planting its flag ahead of everyone else. And that French assertiveness is not being wholeheartedly welcomed by the Syrians themselves.

Dr. Pierre Guerlain, a lecturer in political science at Paris West University, told RT he believes it is possible to oppose the regime, while at the same time taking a stand against foreign intervention. “A lot of opponents in Syria actually would not welcome an intervention by foreign forces — not even Turkish forces,” he said.

For all the gains France in general and Sarkozy in particular might reap from an intervention in Syria, even its most vocal advocates might now wonder if it is really worth it. Ultimately, Dr Marcus Papadopoulos, an analyst from Britain’s ‘Politics First’ online magazine, told RT that Frances increasingly aggressive posturing could be a means of compensating for past defeats.

“If you look at the second half of the 20th century, it was a humiliating time for France, they were kicked out of Indochina, they were occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and they had to be liberated by foreign armies…I think this is an attempt by France to regain some prestige on the international arena.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Key Senate Vote on Indefinite Detention

November 29th, 2011 - by admin

Chris Anders / ACLU – 2011-11-29 12:35:34

http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/senators-demand-military-lock-american-citizens-battlefield-they-define-being

WASHINGTON (November 28, 2011) — The Senate is about to vote on an amendment that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans, and your senators need to hear from you now.

Either tonight or tomorrow, there will be a vote on whether Congress will give this president — and every future president — the power to order the military to indefinitely imprison people anywhere in the world without charging them or trying them. The power is so broad that even US citizens, within our own country’s borders, could be swept up by the military.

The National Defense Authorization Act bill, which is on the Senate floor now, was drafted in secret and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, and includes this dangerous provision allowing worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial.

But there is a way to stop this craziness. Senator Mark Udall is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly review of detention power. The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values.

Now is the time to act. Please urge your senators to vote YES on the Udall Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

It seems almost unimaginable that the Senate would even consider passing a provision that is such a deep affront to human rights and to American values. But, this outrageous measure could be voted on at any moment.

And because this bill is so dangerous and fast-moving, once you’ve petitioned your senators, please ask your friends and relatives to do the same. The only way to stop this outrage is for as many Americans as possible to contact their senators immediately.

Chris Anders is Senior Legislative Counsel for the ACLU

THE LETTER

Dear Senator,
I strongly urge you to vote yes on the Udall amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA).

The Udall amendment would strip sections 1031 and 1032 from the bill and in their place, mandate a process for Congress to use to consider whether any detention legislation is needed. If enacted, sections 1031 and 1032 of the NDAA would:

(1) Explicitly authorize the federal government to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial American citizens and others picked up inside and outside the United States;

(2) Mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilians picked up within the United States itself; and

(3) Transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial, investigative, law enforcement, penal, and custodial authority and responsibility now held by the Department of Justice.

These provisions in the NDAA are inconsistent with fundamental American values embodied in the Constitution. I urge the Senate to vote YES on the Udall amendment and reject indefinite detention provisions tucked inside the NDAA.

Sincerely,


Senators Demand the Military Lock Up of
US Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as
Being Right Outside Your Window

Chris Anders / ACLU

WASHINGTON, DC (November 23, 2011) — While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.

Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president — and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.

I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too?

And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?

The answer on why now is nothing more than election season politics. The White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General have all said that the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act are harmful and counterproductive. The White House has even threatened a veto. But Senate politics has propelled this bad legislation to the Senate floor.

But there is a way to stop this dangerous legislation. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power. The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values.

In support of this harmful bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.”

The solution is the Udall Amendment; a way for the Senate to say no to indefinite detention without charge or trial anywhere in the world where any president decides to use the military. Instead of simply going along with a bill that was drafted in secret and is being jammed through the Senate, the Udall Amendment deletes the provisions and sets up an orderly review of detention power. It tries to take the politics out and put American values back in.

In response to proponents of the indefinite detention legislation who contend that the bill “applies to American citizens and designates the world as the battlefield,” and that the “heart of the issue is whether or not the United States is part of the battlefield,” Sen. Udall disagrees, and says that we can win this fight without worldwide war and worldwide indefinite detention.

The senators pushing the indefinite detention proposal have made their goals very clear that they want an okay for a worldwide military battlefield that even extends to your hometown. That is an extreme position that will forever change our country.

Now is the time to stop this bad idea. Please urge your senators to vote YES on the Udall Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

UPDATE: Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.

But you don’t have to believe us. Instead, read what one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham said about it on the Senate floor: “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”

There you have it — indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial. And the Senate is likely to vote on it Monday or Tuesday.

URGENT UPDATE: The debate on NDAA has begun. Your Senator needs to hear from you RIGHT NOW! >>

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ACTION ALERT: Key Senate Vote on Indefinite Detention

November 29th, 2011 - by admin

Chris Anders / ACLU – 2011-11-29 01:11:49

http://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/indefinite%20detention

WASHINGTON (November 28, 2011) — The Senate is about to vote on an amendment that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans, and your senators need to hear from you now.

Either tonight or tomorrow, there will be a vote on whether Congress will give this president — and every future president — the power to order the military to indefinitely imprison people anywhere in the world without charging them or trying them. The power is so broad that even US citizens, within our own country’s borders, could be swept up by the military.

The National Defense Authorization Act bill, which is on the Senate floor now, was drafted in secret and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, and includes this dangerous provision allowing worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial.

But there is a way to stop this craziness. Senator Mark Udall is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly review of detention power. The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values.

Now is the time to act. Please urge your senators to vote YES on the Udall Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

It seems almost unimaginable that the Senate would even consider passing a provision that is such a deep affront to human rights and to American values. But, this outrageous measure could be voted on at any moment.

And because this bill is so dangerous and fast-moving, once you’ve petitioned your senators, please ask your friends and relatives to do the same. The only way to stop this outrage is for as many Americans as possible to contact their senators immediately.

Chris Anders is Senior Legislative Counsel for the ACLU

THE LETTER

Dear Senator,
I strongly urge you to vote yes on the Udall amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA).

The Udall amendment would strip sections 1031 and 1032 from the bill and in their place, mandate a process for Congress to use to consider whether any detention legislation is needed. If enacted, sections 1031 and 1032 of the NDAA would:

(1) Explicitly authorize the federal government to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial American citizens and others picked up inside and outside the United States;

(2) Mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilians picked up within the United States itself; and

(3) Transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial, investigative, law enforcement, penal, and custodial authority and responsibility now held by the Department of Justice.

These provisions in the NDAA are inconsistent with fundamental American values embodied in the Constitution. I urge the Senate to vote YES on the Udall amendment and reject indefinite detention provisions tucked inside the NDAA.

Sincerely,

Exxon’s Greed Could Stoke Civil War Tensions in Iraq

November 29th, 2011 - by admin

Commodity Online – 2011-11-29 00:52:52

http://www.commodityonline.com/news/crude-oil-exxon-mobils-deal-may-excacerbate-tensions-between-baghdad-and-kurdistan-43980-3-1.html

Crude Oil:
Exxon Mobil’s Deal May Excacerbate
Tensions between Baghdad and Kurdistan

LONDON (November 24, 2011) — Exxon Mobil’s decision to sign a deal for stakes in six oil fields in Kurdistan is threatening to exacerbate tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government and imperil the company’s position in the country. Exxon is the first major IOC to sign a production-sharing contract (PSC) with the KRG, said Barclays Capital in a briefing.

The Kurdistan government has signed around 37 PSC agreements with smaller and medium sized international oil companies but the majors up till now have taken a pass on the region, despite the fact that the contract terms are more favorable than those offered by Baghdad for the southern fields and allow the companies to book reserves.

Baghdad has repeatedly vowed to blacklist any company that signed an agreement with the KRG from participating in licensing rounds for fields in Southern Iraq. While some commentators have speculated that the move by Exxon will spur other majors to venture into Kurdistan, Barclays believes that the decision is fraught with political risks.

Baghdad has publicly condemned the company’s actions and on Tuesday the Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani warned that the Iraqi government “is considering sanctions” against Exxon.

The company is the lead operator in the West Quarna 1 oil field in Southern Iraq, which is poised to produce 0.4 mb/d by the year and is expected to produce 2.25 mb/d by 2015. The Iraqi government has delivered on its blacklist threats in the past.

This summer, Hess was disqualified from participating in licensing rounds for southern fields after it signed exploration agreements with the KRG. The Chinese oil giant Sinopec also found itself at odds with Baghdad following its purchase of Addax Petroleum in 2009.

After Sinopec refused to surrender Addax’s holdings in Kurdistan, Baghdad barred the company from taking part in the second bid round for southern oil blocs and removed it from the ENI led consortium for the Zubair field.

As Barclays has previously noted, in many ways the Kurdistan contract dispute is part of a much broader debate about the nature of the Iraqi state. Kurdistan has been governed as a semiautonomous region since 1991, and its leaders strongly support a loose federal system of government.

The KRG insists that it has the legal authority to negotiate its own oil concessions and is seeking a larger share of the oil revenue that is divvied out by the central government.

The Maliki government, on the other hand, supports a strong central state and maintains that the KRG has no authority to sign extraction agreements. His government also insists that the only agreements that can be signed with the IOCs are technical service agreements, which pay the companies a fixed amount for increasing production but do not confer any ownership rights for the oil.

Many southern politicians are ardent nationalists who are opposed to foreign companies owning Iraq’s energy assets. It is worth noting that the US government has previously tried to discourage American companies from signing extraction agreements with the KRG, fearing that it would inflame relations between Baghdad and Kurdish officials. On Tuesday, the State Department confirmed that it had warned Exxon about the risks of signing contracts without “nationwide approval.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Banned Neuro-toxic Nerve Gas ‘Poisons’ Tahrir Protesters

November 29th, 2011 - by admin

Russia Today – 2011-11-29 00:48:14

http://rt.com/news/nerve-gas-egypt-protest-199/

CAIRO (November 25, 2011) — A banned chemical agent has reportedly been used by the Egyptian military as the brutal crackdown against tens of thousands of protesters has clouded prospects of a democratic transfer in the country.

­Rashes, epileptic-type convulsions, temporary blindness and coughing up blood are among the symptoms being reported by Egyptian protesters who have fallen victim to a potentially lethal form of neuro-toxic nerve gas reportedly being deployed by security forces.

After almost a week of protests against the ruling military junta left some 41 people dead, several sources claim scores have died from gas asphyxiation, while thousands more have received medical treatment after possibly being exposed to an agent known as CR gas.

”It is some kind of neuro-toxic nerve gas,” doctor Mohamed Aden told , who usually works at the Cairo University hospitals, told the Australian daily, The Age. ”We are seeing people whose upper respiratory tract is in convulsion – we have to give them diazepam to relax the muscles to allow them to begin to breathe again.”
CR gas, which is up to 10 times more powerful than tear gas, which is commonly used today, is no longer used by the United States due to its carcinogenic properties. The US military has categorized it as a combat-class chemical agent.

CR gas was used in the townships during anti-apartheid protests in South Africa in the 1980s, and Irish Republicans also claimed British security forces had used it against Republican detainees.

After a truce between the Egyptian military and demonstrators ushered in a nervous calm across the deeply shaken city on Thursday, the army which was once lauded for its role in toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak is now widely believed to have turned against the Egyptian people.

Reacting to the increasingly militarized response of the security forces, former IAEA official and Egyptian presidential hopeful Mohammed El Baradei wrote via twitter

“Tear gas with nerve agent & live ammunition being used against civilians in Tahrir. A massacre is taking place.”

Some 40 people have also been treated for ruptured eyes after being shot with rubber bullets.

With such reports of widespread brutality increasingly galvanizing protesters, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has promised to hasten the end of military rule, with a full transition to civilian government promised by June 2012.

However, with parliamentary elections scheduled to proceed on Monday, the military’s decision on Friday to appoint septuagenarian Kamal Ganzourito to lead a national salvation government has the city once again bracing for chaos on “Martyr’s Friday.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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