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Are Washington, Moscow, and Beijing Using the Global Arms Trade to Create a New Cold War?

May 31st, 2013 - by admin

Tom Englehardt & Michael T. Klare / Tom Dispatch – 2013-05-31 01:58:15

Are Washington, Moscow, and Beijing Creating a New Cold War?

Are Washington, Moscow, and Beijing Creating a New Cold War?
Tom Engelhardt / TomDispatch

(May 30, 2013) — Imagine for a moment that in 2010, China’s leaders had announced a long-term, up to $60 billion arms deal with an extreme Islamic fundamentalist regime in the Middle East, one that was notoriously repressive to women and a well-known supporter of the Taliban.

Imagine as well that the first $30 billion part of that deal, involving 84 advanced jet fighters, was sealed in 2011, and that, since then, the sales have never stopped: several kinds of helicopters, artillery, armored personnel carriers, upgraded tanks, surface-to-air missile systems, even possibly a littoral combat vessel, among other purchases. Then include one more piece of information in the mix. In 2013, China added in “an advanced class of precision ‘standoff munitions'” — missiles that could be fired from those previously purchased advanced jet fighters.

Given all this, we would know what to think. It would be just the sort of thing you might expect from an unscrupulous, retrograde communist regime with no values whatsoever, one willing above all else to keep the production lines of its weapons makers humming. Washington would long ago have denounced such dealings in no uncertain terms.

In fact, such a scenario is utterly fantastic and essentially unimaginable — for China. But it happens to be a perfectly accurate description of the lucrative relationship that American arms makers and the Pentagon have with Saudi Arabia, a country Washington has promoted and sold weaponry to as if there were no tomorrow.

And that’s just to dip a toe into the strange world of the global arms “trade,” though in recent years it’s become something closer to a US monopoly in straightforward dollar terms. Now, TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left and an expert on energy and also on that bizarre “trade,” offers a glimpse into its latest grim set of wrinkles — new sales that might signal a twenty-first-century revival of the Cold War.

The Cold War Redux?
Are Washington, Moscow, and Beijing Using the Global Arms Trade to Create a New Cold War?

Michael T. Klare / Tom Dispatch

(May 31, 2013) — Did Washington just give Israel the green light for a future attack on Iran via an arms deal? Did Russia just signal its further support for Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime via an arms deal? Are the Russians, the Chinese, and the Americans all heightening regional tensions in Asia via arms deals? Is it possible that we’re witnessing the beginnings of a new Cold War in two key regions of the planet — and that the harbingers of this unnerving development are arms deals?

International weapons sales have proved to be a thriving global business in economically tough times. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), such sales reached an impressive $85 billion in 2011, nearly double the figure for 2010.

This surge in military spending reflected efforts by major Middle Eastern powers to bolster their armories with modern jets, tanks, and missiles — a process constantly encouraged by the leading arms manufacturing countries (especially the US and Russia) as it helps keep domestic production lines humming.

However, this familiar if always troubling pattern may soon be overshadowed by a more ominous development in the global arms trade: the revival of far more targeted Cold War-style weapons sales aimed at undermining rivals and destabilizing regional power balances. The result, inevitably, will be a more precarious world.

Arms sales have always served multiple functions. Valuable trade commodities, weapons can prove immensely lucrative for companies that specialize in making such products. Between 2008 and 2011, for example, US firms sold $146 billion worth of military hardware to foreign countries, according to the latest CRS figures.

Crucially, such sales help ensure that domestic production lines remain profitable even when government acquisitions slow down at home. But arms sales have also served as valuable tools of foreign policy — as enticements for the formation of alliances, expressions of ongoing support, and a way to lure new allies over to one’s side.

Powerful nations, seeking additional allies, use such sales to win the allegiance of weaker states; weaker states, seeking to bolster their defenses, look to arms deals as a way to build ties with stronger countries, or even to play one suitor off another in pursuit of the most sophisticated arms available.

Throughout the Cold War, both superpowers employed weapons transfers as a form of competition, offering advanced arms to entice regional powers to defect from each other’s alliance systems or to counter offers made by the other side. Egypt, for example, was convinced to join the Soviet sphere in 1955 when provided with arms the West had refused to deliver. In the late 1970s, it moved back into the American camp after Washington anted up far better weapons systems.

In those years, the Americans and the Soviets also used arms transfers to bolster key allies in areas of strategic confrontation like the Middle East. Washington armed Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran when it was still ruled by the Shah; Russia armed Iraq and Syria.

These transfers played a critical role in Cold War diplomacy and sometimes helped tilt the scales in favor of decisions to go to war. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, for example, Egypt, emboldened by an expanded arsenal of Soviet antitank missiles, attacked Israeli forces in the Negev desert.

In the wake of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the commercial aspect of arms sales came to the fore. Both Washington and Moscow were, by then, far more interested in keeping their military production lines running than in jousting for advantage abroad, so emphasis was placed on scoring contracts from those with the means to pay — mainly the major oil producers of the Middle East and Latin America and the economically expansive “tigers” of Asia.

Between 2008 and 2011, the CRS ranked the leading purchasers of conventional arms in the developing world this way: Saudi Arabia, India, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Egypt, and Venezuela. Together, these six countries ordered $117 billion in new weaponry.

Arms Sales Take a New Path
Only recently has some version of great power dueling and competition started up again, and in the early months of 2013 it seems to be gaining momentum. Several recent developments highlight this trend:

* In early May, Western intelligence sources revealed that Russia had supplied several batteries of advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to the embattled Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow had previously provided the Syrians with a version of the missile known as the Yakhont, but those delivered recently are said to be equipped with a more advanced radar that increases their effectiveness.

With those missiles, the Syrians should be in a better position to deter or counter any effort by international forces, including the United States, to aid anti-Assad rebels by sea or mount a naval blockade of Syria. They are also said to be negotiating with the Russians for the purchase of advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles, a weapons system that would greatly complicate air attacks on the country or the imposition of a no-fly zone.

Aside from its military significance, the Yakhont transfer suggests a new inclination on Moscow’s part to engage in provocative arms sales to advance its strategic goals — in this case, the survival of the Assad regime, Russia’s sole remaining ally in the region — even in the face of concerted Western opposition.

Employing tough language, Secretary of State John F. Kerry warned the Russians against such action. “We’ve made it crystal clear that we prefer that Russia would not supply them assistance,” he declared. “That is on record.” Despite such admonitions, Russian officials insist that they have no intention of halting arms deliveries to Assad. “Russia enjoys good and strong military technical cooperation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters.

* In April, during a visit to Jerusalem, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a multibillion-dollar arms package for Israel. Although its final details are still being worked out, it is expected to include V-22 “Osprey” tilt-rotor transport planes, KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft, and advanced radars and anti-radiation missiles for Israel’s strike aircraft.

“We are committed to providing Israel with whatever support is necessary for Israel to maintain military superiority over any state or coalition of states and non-state actors [in the region],” Hagel told reporters when announcing the package.

The US has, of course, long been committed to Israel’s military superiority, so there was something ritualistic about much of Hagel’s performance in Jerusalem. No less predictable were the complaints from Israeli military and intelligence sources that the package didn’t include enough new arms to satisfy Israel’s needs, or were of the wrong kind.

The V-22 Osprey, for example, was proclaimed by some to be of marginal military value. Far more surprising was that no red flags went up in the media over what was included. At least two of the items — the KC-135 refueling planes and the anti-radiation missiles (crucial weaponry for disabling an enemy’s air-defense radar system) — could only be intended for one purpose: bolstering Israel’s capacity to conduct a sustained air campaign against Iranian nuclear facilities, should it decide to do so.

At present, the biggest military obstacles to such an attack are that country’s inability to completely cripple Iranian anti-aircraft defense systems and mount sustained long-range air strikes. The missiles and the mid-air refueling capability will go a long way toward eliminating such impediments.

Although it may take up to a year for all this new hardware to be delivered and come online, the package can only be read as a green light from Washington for Israel to undertake preparations for an attack on Iran, which has long been shielded from tougher U.N. sanctions by China and Russia.

* In March, Russia agreed to sell 24 Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role combat jets and four Lada-class diesel submarines to China on the eve of newly installed President Xi Jinping’s first official visit to Moscow. Although details of the sale have yet to be worked out, observers say that it will represent the most significant transfer of Russian weaponry to China in a decade.

The Su-35, a fourth-generation stealth fighter, is superior to any plane now in China’s arsenal, while the Lada is a more advanced, quieter version of the Kilo-class sub it already possesses. Together, the two systems will provide the Chinese with a substantial boost in combat quality.

For anyone who has followed Asian security affairs over the past few years, it is hard to view this deal as anything but a reaction to the Obama administration’s new Asian strategy, its “pivot” to the Pacific. As announced by President Obama in a speech before the Australian Parliament in November 2011, it involves beefing-up the already strong US air and naval presence in the western Pacific — in, that is, waters off of China — along with increased US arms aid to American allies like Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea.

Not surprisingly, China has responded by bolstering its own naval capabilities, announcing plans for the acquisition of a second aircraft carrier (its first began operational testing in late 2012) and the procurement of advanced arms from Russia to fill gaps in its defense structure. This, in turn, is bound to increase the pressure on Washington from Japan, Taiwan, and other allies to provide yet more weaponry, triggering a classic Cold-War-style arms race in the region.

* On the eve of Secretary of State John Kerry’s June 24th visit to India, that country’s press was full of reports and rumors about upcoming US military sales. Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, was widely quoted as saying that, in addition to sales already in the pipeline, “we think there’s going to be billions of dollars more in the next couple of years.”

In his comments, Shapiro referred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who, he said, was heading up an arms sales initiative, “which we think is making some good progress and will, hopefully, lead to an even greater pace of additional defense trade with India.”

To some degree, of course, this can be viewed as a continuation of weapons sales as a domestic economic motor, since US weapons companies have long sought access to India’s vast arms market. But such sales now clearly play another role as well: to lubricate the US drive to incorporate India into the arc of powers encircling China as part of the Obama administration’s new Asia-Pacific strategy.

Toward this end, as Deputy Secretary of State William Burns explained back in 2011, “Our two countries launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific to ensure that the world’s two largest democracies pursue strategies that reinforce one another.”

Arms transfers are seen by the leaders of both countries as a vital tool in the “containment” of China (though all parties are careful to avoid that old Cold War term). So watch for Kerry to pursue new arms agreements while in New Delhi.

Repeating History
These are just some examples of recent arms deals (or ones under discussion) that suggest a fresh willingness on the part of the major powers to use weapons transfers as instruments of geopolitical intrusion and competition. The reappearance of such behavior suggests a troubling resurgence of Cold War-like rivalries.

Even if senior leaders in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing are not talking about resurrecting some twenty-first-century version of the Cold War, anyone with a sense of history can see that they are headed down a grim, well-trodden path toward crisis and confrontation.

What gives this an added touch of irony is that leading arms suppliers and recipients, including the United States, recently voted in the U.N. General Assembly to approve the Arms Trade Treaty that was meant to impose significant constraints on the global trade in conventional weapons.

Although the treaty has many loopholes, lacks an enforcement mechanism, and will require years to achieve full implementation, it represents the first genuine attempt by the international community to place real restraints on weapons sales.

“This treaty won’t solve the problems of Syria overnight, no treaty could do that, but it will help to prevent future Syrias,” said Anna MacDonald, the head of arms control for Oxfam International and an ardent treaty supporter. “It will help to reduce armed violence. It will help to reduce conflict.”

This may be the hope, but such expectations will quickly be crushed if the major weapons suppliers, led by the US and Russia, once again come to see arms sales as the tool of choice to gain geopolitical advantage in areas of strategic importance.

Far from bringing peace and stability — as the proponents of such transactions invariably claim — each new arms deal now holds the possibility of taking us another step closer to a new Cold War with all the heightened risks of regional friction and conflict that entails. Are we, in fact, seeing a mindless new example of the old saw: that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it?

Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left, now published in paperback by Picador. A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil can be previewed and ordered at www.bloodandoilmovie.com. You can follow Klare on Facebook by clicking here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Michael T. Klare

No Need for US Bases in Afghanistan after 2014

May 31st, 2013 - by admin

Mehr News Agency & Tom Hayden – 2013-05-31 01:17:26


No Need for US Bases in Afghanistan after 2014: Iran
Mehr News Agency

TEHRAN (May 25, 2013) — Iran has advised the United States not to maintain military bases in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country, which is scheduled to take place in 2014. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi made the remarks in a meeting with UN special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis in Tehran on Wednesday.

On May 9, 2013, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Washington wants to maintain nine military bases after the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces at the end of next year.

Salehi stated that there is no need for US military bases in Afghanistan after 2014, and Afghan forces should take full responsibility for the country’s security. He went on to say that Afghanistan should pursue a political process to establish peace and security in the war-torn country.

The Iranian foreign minister also called on Western states to take a “wise stance” on the issue and to avoid actions that could harm people in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

Kubis said Iran plays an important role in regional developments and asked neighboring countries to help in the efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan.

In addition, the two officials also emphasized that Afghanistan should hold a free and fair election with the participation of all groups.

(c) 2003-2010 Mehr News Agency

Who Will Scream About Afghanistan?
Tom Hayden / Tom Hayden.com

(May 9, 2013) — It is understandable that the mass movement for ending the Afghanistan War has disappeared amidst promises of peace and the compelling demands of other crises. Nevertheless, there will have to be serious monitoring and focus, especially by local peace networks, Congressional opponents and the mainstream media, to prevent the “winding down” from becoming stalled in a political and military bog.

While withdrawing half of our 68,000 troops by next February — the good news — the US is centralizing its 10,000 Special Operations forces to guard against “one of its greatest fears,” a Taliban offensive on the scale of the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

The Afghan presidential election, now slated for next spring, may well be delayed until the end of the year. (New York Times, May 15) The evidence suggests that the Afghan armed forces cannot be trained and prepared to protect their own capital when the American/NATO forces leave.

If Obama delays the withdrawal, he will be blamed for failing to keep a promise to anti-war forces; if he pulls out on schedule, the unstable and corrupt Kabul government will fall apart. Since the anti-war movement has disappeared or turned its attention elsewhere, Obama will have to count on American public opinion concluding, “enough.” Or a classic political feud over “who lost Afghanistan” will ensue, making the Benghazi hearings look like a children’s sandbox fuss.

The White House and national security elite are engaged in closed discussions about how many US troops and bases will remain following the “handover” to the Afghan regime during next year’s elections. Scary rumors, some reliable and some manipulated, continue abound. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the US wants to maintain nine bases, and that NATO will not be leaving either. But that is also a bargaining stance, and nothing is anywhere near settled.

According to the Associated Press:
“A border spat with Pakistan and a desire to test public opinion led Karzai to break months of public silence on this issue, according to Afghan analysts. They said Karzai is concerned that Pakistan is using the Taliban to give it greater leverage, and that he wants to find out if Afghans, tired of 12 years of war, will support that size of a US military footprint.” (Associated Press, May 9, 2013)

The questions for Americans is whether we will ignore a smaller imperial footprint for drone strikes and counterterrorism operations, as long as American casualties are low of non-existent.

The obvious problem with a low-profile presence is that it could become tomorrow’s Benghazi, an easy target in the future. Americans also will be asked to shoulder a $4 billion tax burden indefinitely during a period of budget cuts for domestic needs.

There is a “fierce debate” in the beltway over this endgame, but the public is not informed. The CIA is brazenly sending millions in secret ghost funds to Karzai while our Congress is virtually silent. The Afghan army lost 54,000 defectors last year out of a total force of over 190,000, and is obviously unable to defend their country.

The current target legal has been dropped from 350,000 to 228,000, clear evidence that the center is not holding. Meanwhile, no one knows how much western aid is channeled daily out of the country to havens like Dubai. (New York Times, May 7, 2013)

Jay Carney said the White House wants “no permanent bases,” which avoids the question of whether Afghan bases can be “borrowed” occasionally. The question of how many US troops will remain — the Pentagon seems to want 12,000 — remains undecided or unknown. NATO will either tail behind the Pentagon demands or pressure for a faster pullout, depending partly on peace pressure in Europe and Canada.

Talks with the Taliban, secret or otherwise, are being scuttled by Republican allies of Karzai who refused to release any Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo, even in exchange for an American prisoner, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban.

The situation calls for someone like Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) to start screaming. Groups like PDA need to encourage a permanent anti-war task force, I believe, to monitor the unfolding crisis and send action updates to local networks in Congressional districts, members of Congress and the mainstream media.

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

Assad Vows To Retaliate Against Any Israeli Attack

May 31st, 2013 - by admin

Al Jazeera – 2013-05-31 01:00:18


(May 31, 2013) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has threatened Israel with retaliation to any future military aggression and with renewed fighting in the Golan Heights.

“We have informed all the parties who have contacted us that we will respond to any Israeli aggression next time,” Assad told Hezbollah-owned Al Manar TV on Thursday.

“There is clear popular pressure to open a new front of resistance in the Golan,” Assad said.”There are several factors, including repeated Israeli aggression,” he said, referring to reported Israeli air strikes on Syria.

There was no immediate comment on Assad’s remarks from Israel, which seized the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Assad, whose forces are battling alongside fighters from the Lebanese Shia movement, Hezbollah, to recapture the key town of Qusayr near the border with Lebanon, said he was “very confident” of victory.

“There is a world war being waged against Syria and the policy of (anti-Israeli) resistance… (but) we are very confident of victory,” he said.

Assad also said Syria would be willing to attend peace talks with the opposition in principle, but any subsequent deal would have to be approved by a referendum.

Assad was referring to talks, backed by Russia and the US, planned next month in Geneva aimed at finding a political solution to the country’s civil war.

He also said weapons contracts with Russia are not linked to the crisis, and that he would contest presidential elections next year if the Syrian people want him to. “All the agreements with Russia will be honoured and some already have been recently,” he said.

The interview, pre-recorded and released on Thursday, was welcomed by some in Damascus with celebratory gunfire.

“The only condition [to attend peace talks] is that anything to be implemented will be submitted to Syrian public opinion and a Syrian referendum,” Assad said.

Agreeing “in principle” to talks shows a “lack of relevance to the diplomatic process,” said Geneive Abdo, a fellow in the Middle East programme at the Stimson Centre in Washington.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, she said: “This is not good ahead of peace talks in Geneva.”

Coalition Talks Ending
Assad’s interview was broadcast as the main opposition coalition wrapped up several days of talks in Istanbul.

Syria’s divided opposition group officially expanded early Friday to include 43 new members, after eight days of meetings marred by internal bickering and international pressure.

The total number of National Coalition members is now 114, acting chief George Sabra told reporters, adding that the general assembly was now finished.

Among the new Coalition seats are “15 from the (rebel Free Syrian Army’s) Chief of Staff, 14 members of the revolutionary movements inside Syria and 14 others”, said Sabra.

Earlier on Thursday, Sabra said the opposition would not participate in the Geneva talks until the international community intervened to end a siege in Qusayr, a town in Homs province near the Lebanese border.

“The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria,” Sabra told reporters in Istanbul.

Khaled Saleh, the SNC spokesperson, who addressed the news conference after Sabra, said civilians in the town had been “severely wounded” and Qusayr had been completely cut off by forces loyal to Assad.

“Civilians have no access to water, electricity and the massacre continues minute by minute while the Assad regime continues to use weapons” it receives from allies, he said.

Saleh said the UN and Arab League should intervene to stop the killings that the Lebanese group “Hezbollah is responsible for.”

Meanwhile, fighting in Qusayr continued as activists claimed medical staff were running out of supplies to treat the wounded.

The battle of the town, which is close to the border with Lebanon, is considered strategic, and foreign fighters are reportedly supporting both sides.

Reports have said up to 4,000 Hezbollah fighters have joined forces with the Syrian military, which has claimed to be winning the battle.

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

ACTION ALERT: Help Stop the Navy’s Attack on Whales!

May 31st, 2013 - by admin

Pierce Brosnan and the Natural Resources Defense Council – 2013-05-31 00:50:32


ACTION ALERT: Help Stop the Navy’s Attack on Whales!
The Navy is prepared to kill more than 1,000 whales and other marine mammals during the next five years of testing and training with dangerous sonar and explosives.
CLICK HERE to tell Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to direct the Navy to adopt common-sense safeguards right away that will protect marine mammals during routine training without sacrificing our national security!

Lethal Sounds
The use of military sonar poses a deadly threat to whales and other marine mammals

Whales and other marine mammals rely on their hearing for life’s most basic functions, such as orientation and communication. Sound is how they find food, find friends, find a mate, and find their way through the world every day.

So when a sound thousands of times more powerful than a jet engine fills their ears, the results can be devastating — and even deadly.

This is the reality that whales and other marine mammals face because of human-caused noise in the ocean, whether it’s the sound of airguns used in oil exploration or subs and ships emitting sonar. Manmade sound waves can drown out the noises that marine mammals rely on for their very survival, causing serious injury and even death.

How Sonar Harms Whales
If you’ve ever seen a submarine movie, you probably came away with a basic understanding of how sonar works. Active sonar systems produce intense sound waves that sweep the ocean like a floodlight, revealing objects in their path.

Some systems operate at more than 235 decibels, producing sound waves that can travel across tens or even hundreds of miles of ocean. During testing off the California coast, noise from the Navy’s main low-frequency sonar system was detected across the breadth of the northern Pacific Ocean.

By the Navy’s own estimates, even 300 miles from the source, these sonic waves can retain an intensity of 140 decibels — a hundred times more intense than the level known to alter the behavior of large whales.

There is no question that sonar injures and kills whales and dolphins.
— Joel Reynolds, NRDC senior attorney

The Navy’s most widely used sonar systems operate in the mid-frequency range. Evidence of the danger caused by these systems surfaced dramatically in 2000, when whales of four different species stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas. Although the Navy initially denied responsibility, the government’s investigation established that mid-frequency sonar caused the strandings.

After the incident, the area’s population of Cuvier’s beaked whales nearly disappeared, leading researchers to conclude that they either abandoned their habitat or died at sea. Similar mass strandings have occurred in the Canary Islands, Greece, Madeira, the US Virgin Islands, Hawaii and other sites around the globe.

Deadly Impacts of Sonar
Many of these beached whales have suffered physical trauma, including bleeding around the brain, ears and other tissues and large bubbles in their organs.

These symptoms are akin to a severe case of “the bends” — the illness that can kill scuba divers who surface quickly from deep water. Scientists believe that the mid-frequency sonar blasts may drive certain whales to change their dive patterns in ways their bodies cannot handle, causing debilitating and even fatal injuries.

Stranded whales are only the most visible symptom of a problem affecting much larger numbers of marine life. Naval sonar has been shown to disrupt feeding and other vital behavior and to cause a wide range of species to panic and flee. Scientists are concerned about the cumulative effect of all of these impacts on marine animals.

Even the Navy estimates that increased sonar training will significantly harm marine mammals more than 10 million times during the next five years off the US coast alone.

NRDC has been a leader in the battle to regulate sonar use and protect whales and other species from its harmful effects. In 2008, a case filed by NRDC against the US Navy was heard by the US Supreme Court.

Related NRDC Webpages:
Protecting Whales from Dangerous Sonar

Report: Sounding the Depths II – The Rising Toll of Sonar, Shipping and Industrial Ocean Noise on Marine Life

Whale Strandings

Numerous mass strandings and whale deaths across the globe have been linked to military sonar use.

January 2006 At least four beaked whales strand in the Gulf of Almeria, Spain, while sonar exercises take place offshore.

January 2005 At least 34 whales of three species strand along the Outer Banks of North Carolina as Navy sonar training goes on offshore.

July 2004 Four beaked whales strand during naval exercises near the Canary Islands.

July 2004 Approximately 200 melon-headed whales crowd into the shallow waters of Hanalei Bay in Hawaii as a large Navy sonar exercise takes place nearby. Rescuers succeed in directing all but one of the whales back out to sea.

June 2004 As many as six beaked whales strand during a Navy sonar training exercise off Alaska.

May 2003 As many as 11 harbor porpoises beach along the shores of the Haro Strait, Washington State, as the USS Shoup tests its mid-frequency sonar system.

September 2002 At least 14 beaked whales from three different species strand in the Canary Islands during an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the area. Four additional beaked whales strand over the next several days.

May 2000 Three beaked whales strand on the beaches of Madeira during NATO naval exercises near shore.
October 1999 Four beaked whales strand in the US Virgin Islands during Navy maneuvers offshore.

October 1997 At least nine Cuvier’s beaked whales strand in the Ionian Sea, with military activity reported in the area.

May 1996 Twelve Cuvier’s beaked whales strand on the west coast of Greece as NATO ships sweep the area with low- and mid-frequency active sonar.

October 1989 At least 20 whales of three species strand during naval exercises near the Canary Islands.

December 1991 Two Cuvier’s beaked whales strand during naval exercises near the Canary Islands.

Whales and other marine mammals rely on their hearing for life’s most basic functions, such as orientation and communication. Sound is how they find food, find friends, find a mate, and find their way through the world every day.

So when a sound thousands of times more powerful than a jet engine fills their ears, the results can be devastating — and even deadly.

This is the reality that whales and other marine mammals face because of human-caused noise in the ocean, whether it’s the sound of airguns used in oil exploration or subs and

Sounding the Depths II
The Rising Toll of Sonar, Shipping and Industrial Ocean Noise on Marine Life

Michael Jasny / NRDC

(November 2005) — Most whales and many other marine species depend on sound as they hunt for food, avoid predators, find mates, and maintain their awareness in the darkness of the sea. But over the past century the acoustic landscape of the ocean has been transformed by human activity — intensely loud military sonar, oil-and-gas surveys, and the ever-increasing traffic of commercial ships.

This noise can have impacts on marine life ranging from long-term behavioral change to hearing loss to death. This November 2005 second edition of NRDC’s groundbreaking 1999 report on ocean noise has been completely rewritten to reflect the rapid growth of the scientific record. It reviews the science, surveys the leading contributors to the problem, and suggests what might be done to reduce the impacts of noise on the sea — before the proliferation of noise sources makes the problem unmanageable.

Executive Summary
It is a commonplace among divers and oceanographers that the ocean is no “silent world,” as Jacques Cousteau had written, but an exceptionally noisy place. Most whales and many other marine species depend on sound as they hunt for food, detect predators, find mates, and maintain their awareness in the darkness of the sea.

Over the past century, however, the acoustic landscape of the ocean has been transformed by human activity. Some biologists have compared the increasing levels of background noise in many places off our coasts to a continuous fog that is shrinking the sensory range of marine animals.

Others, concerned about a growing number of whale mortalities linked to military sonar, have compared the effects of intense sound to those of dynamite. Together these analogies suggest the range of impacts that noise can have: from long-term behavioral change to hearing loss to death.

Since 1999, when the first edition of this report was published, the scientific record and the public’s awareness of the issue have grown with astonishing rapidity. It has become increasingly clear that the rise of ocean noise presents a significant, long-term threat to an environment that is utterly dependent on sound.

Our purpose in this report is to review the science, survey the leading contributors to the problem, and suggest what might be done to reduce the impacts of noise on the sea-before the proliferation of noise sources makes the problem unmanageable.

The Rise of an Environmental Problem
There is general agreement that hearing is probably the primary sense of whales, dolphins, and other marine species, as vitally important to them as seeing is to us.

Yet the acoustic environment is increasingly overshadowed by a gamut of military, commercial, and industrial sources: dredgers that clear the seabed for ship traffic, pipelines, and structures; high explosives for removing oil platforms and testing the seaworthiness of military ships; pile drivers for construction; harassment devices for fisheries; tunnel borers; drilling platforms; commercial sonar; modems; transmitters; and innumerable jet skis and power boats.

In deep water, background noise seems to be growing by about three to five decibels per decade in the band occupied by commercial ships. In some areas near the coast, the sound is persistently several orders of magnitude higher than in less urbanized waters, raising concerns about chronic impacts on marine life. Among the leading contributors to the problem:

* Military active sonar systems put out intense sound to detect and track submarines and other targets. Midfrequency tactical sonar, which is currently installed on close to 200 American vessels and on the ships of other navies, is linked to a growing number of whale strandings worldwide.

Low-frequency sonar, which has proliferated rapidly over the last decade, can travel hundreds of miles at intensities strong enough to affect marine mammals. Navies are increasingly using both types of systems (a list of which is contained in the report) in coastal waters.

* High-energy seismic surveys are used by industry to detect oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor. Surveys typically involve firing airguns every few seconds at intensities that, in some cases, can drown out whale calls over tens of thousands of square miles.

The industry conducts more than 100 seismic surveys each year off the coast of the United States, and that could increase significantly with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which mandates an inventory of the entire US outer continental shelf. Global hot spots (which are mapped in the report) include the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, and the west coast of Africa.

* The low-frequency rumble of engines, propellers, and other commercial shipping noise can be heard in virtually every corner of the ocean. Over the last 75 years, the number of merchant ships has tripled, and their cargo capacity (which relates roughly to the amount of sound they produce) has increased steadily.

Some believe that the biggest ships will become faster and larger still, possibly tripling in capacity, and that their numbers will double over the next 20 to 30 years. Increasingly, short hauls between ports could take cargo ships nearer to shore-directly through coastal habitat for many marine species.

That some types of sound are killing some species of marine mammals is no longer a matter of serious scientific debate. A range of experts, from the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee to the US Navy’s own commissioned scientists, have agreed that the evidence linking mass strandings to mid-frequency sonar is convincing and overwhelming.

Suspect strandings have occurred off the Bahamas, the Canary Islands, the US Virgin Islands, North Carolina, Alaska, Hawaii, Greece, Italy, Japan, and other spots around the world. Some stranded animals have been found to suffer bleeding around the brain, emboli in the lungs, and lesions in the liver and kidneys, symptoms resembling a severe case of decompression sickness, or “the bends.”

That these injuries occurred in the water, before the animals stranded, has raised concerns that whales are dying in substantially larger numbers than are turning up onshore. Other sources of noise, such as the airguns used in seismic surveys, may have similar effects.

But to many scientists, it is the cumulative impact of subtle behavioral changes that pose the greatest potential threat from noise, particularly in depleted populations: what has been called a “death of a thousand cuts.” We know that sound can chase some animals from their habitat, force some to compromise their feeding, cause some to fall silent, and send some into what seems like panic.

Preliminary attempts at modeling the “energetics” of marine mammals (the amount of energy an animal has to spend to compensate for an intrusion) suggest that even small alterations in behavior could have significant consequences for reproduction or survival if repeated over time.

Other impacts include temporary and permanent hearing loss, which can compromise an animal’s ability to function in the wild; chronic stress, which has been associated in land mammals with suppression of the immune system, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems; and the masking of biologically important sounds, which could be disastrous for species, like the endangered fin whale, that are believed to communicate over long distances.

Although marine mammals have received most of the attention, there are increasing signs that noise, like other forms of pollution, is capable of affecting the entire web of ocean life. Pink snapper exposed to airgun pulses have been shown to suffer virtually permanent hearing loss; and the catch rates of haddock and cod have plummeted in the vicinity of an airgun survey across an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Indeed, fishermen in various parts of the world have complained of declines in catch after intense acoustic activities, like oil and gas surveys and sonar exercises, moved onto their grounds, suggesting that noise is seriously altering the behavior of commercial species. Other potentially vulnerable species include brown shrimp, snow crabs, and the giant squid, which is known to have mass stranded in the vicinity of airgun surveys.

The Domestic And Global Response
As yet, there is no domestic or international law to deal comprehensively with ocean noise. The closest approximation in the United States is the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which requires those who would harm animals incidentally, as an unavoidable consequence of their business, to first obtain permission from one of the wildlife agencies.

Congress dictated a precautionary approach to management given the vulnerable status of many of these species, their great cultural and ecological significance, and the exceptional difficulty of measuring the impacts of human activities on marine mammals in the wild.

When it has come to ocean noise, however, the MMPA’s mandate has not been fulfilled.

* Most of the leading contributors to the problem of ocean noise are not currently regulated. With few exceptions, the US Navy has not sought to comply with the MMPA on its sonar training exercises; oil and gas companies often conduct surveys off Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico without authorization; and commercial shipping remains entirely unregulated.

Lack of adequate funding is partly to blame, as is the recalcitrance of some powerful noise producers; but it can also be said that the agency with primary authority, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), has tied its own hands, declining to use the enforcement power available under law.

* Mitigation measures that could make the most difference are generally not imposed. As concern has mounted, scientists and policymakers have given more thought about ways to prevent and mitigate the needless environmental impacts of ocean noise.

Among the most promising measures are geographic and seasonal restrictions and technologies that curb or modify sound at the source. To date, however, regulators have relied primarily on operational requirements, such as visual monitoring, whose effectiveness — particularly for some of the most vulnerable species of whales — is highly limited.

* Legal standards are increasingly being defined in ways that limit the MMPA’s effectiveness. The NMFS has moved the threshold for regulatory action steadily upward over the years without any breakthroughs in research and, indeed, while studies on some species would seem to lead in the opposite direction. And changes that Congress has made to the threshold make the Act more difficult to enforce.

* Cumulative impacts of ocean noise have not been addressed in a meaningful way. This record is partly due to the basic empirical difficulty of determining when a population-level impact might occur, but also to the fragmentation of the permitting process, which relieves pressure on the agency to consider a broader set of impacts.

But undersea noise is not just a national issue: It is a global problem. Many noise-producing activities occur on the high seas, a gray zone of maritime jurisdiction, and both sounds and affected species have little respect for boundaries. Fortunately, as scientific and public consensus has crystallized around ocean noise, so has international recognition that the strategy for reducing it must be regional and global.

A number of international bodies, including the European Parliament, the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, and several regional seas agreements, have begun to address the problem, urging that nations work together.

Options range from the direct, comprehensive control that a federal system like the European Union can exercise; to the guidelines or regulations that specialized bodies such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the International Maritime Organization can propose for certain activities; to the coordination that regional agreements can bring, particularly to matters of habitat protection.

Unfortunately, the present US administration has opposed the international regulation of active sonar, which may weaken its leadership and standing on the broader issue of ocean noise.

The Way Forward
The mass strandings that have emerged over the last several years are a wake-up call to a significant environmental problem. We do not believe that an issue of this complexity can or will be settled tomorrow. Yet now is the moment when progress is possible, before the problem becomes intractable and its impacts irreversible.

With this in mind, NRDC recommends that the following steps be taken:

* Develop and implement a wider set of mitigation measures. Regulatory agencies in the United States, the NMFS and the Fish and Wildlife Service, should move beyond the inadequate operational requirements that are currently imposed and develop a full range of options, particularly geographic and seasonal restrictions and technological (or “sourcebased”) improvements.

* Build economies of scale. Agencies should use programmatic review and other means to develop economies of scale in mitigation, monitoring, and basic population research. In conducting programmatic review of noise-producing activities, the agencies should take care to make threshold mitigation decisions early in the process and to allow public participation at every stage, as the law requires.

* Improve enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The NMFS should exercise the enforcement authority delegated by Congress under the Act to bring clearly harmful activities, such as sonar exercises and airgun surveys, into the regulatory system and should adopt process guidelines to ensure that an arm’s length relationship is maintained with prospective permittees. And Congress should add a “citizen-suit” provision to the MMPA, which would empower the public to do what, in some cases, the regulatory agencies will not.

* Increase funds for permitting and enforcement. The US Congress should increase the NMFS’s annual budget for permitting and enforcement under the MMPA.

* Set effective standards for regulatory action. So that the MMPA can serve the protective role that Congress intended, the act’s standards for “negligible impact” and behavioral “harassment” should protect the species most vulnerable to noise, ensure that major noise-producing activities remain inside the regulatory system, and enable wildlife agencies to manage populations for cumulative impacts.

* Establish a federal research program. Congress should establish a National Ocean Noise Research Program through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, or similar institution, allowing for coordination, reliability, and independence of funding. A substantial portion of the budget should be expressly dedicated to improving and expanding mitigation measures.

* Commit to global and regional solutions. The United States and other nations should work through specialized bodies such as the International Maritime Organization to develop guidelines for particular activities like shipping noise; through regional seas agreements to bring sound into the management of coastal habitat; and through intergovernmental regimes, like the European Union, to develop binding multinational legislation.

Chapter 1: The Rise of Ocean Noise
Chapter 2: Dynamite and Fog — A Survey of Noise Sources
Chapter 3: The Tyranny of Small Decisions — Domestic Regulation of Ocean Noise
Chapter 4: Noise Without Borders — The Growing International Response

FULL REPORT IN PDF. Adobe Acrobat file (size: 2.4 mb)

On Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe

May 30th, 2013 - by admin

Noam Chomsky and Laray Polk / Aliertnet – 2013-05-30 01:36:39


Laray Polk: What immediate tensions do you perceive that could lead to nuclear war? How close are we?

Noam Chomsky: Actually, nuclear war has come unpleasantly close many times since 1945. There are literally dozens of occasions in which there was a significant threat of nuclear war.

There was one time in 1962 when it was very close, and furthermore, it’s not just the United States. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the issues remain. Both India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear arsenals with US support.

There are serious possibilities involved with Iran — not Iranian nuclear weapons, but just attacking Iran — and other things can just go wrong. It’s a very tense system, always has been. There are plenty of times when automated systems in the United States — and in Russia, it’s probably worse — have warned of a nuclear attack which would set off an automatic response except that human intervention happened to take place in time, and sometimes in a matter of minutes. That’s playing with fire. That’s a low-probability event, but with low-probability events over a long period, the probability is not low.

There is another possibility that, I think, is not to be dismissed: nuclear terror. Like a dirty bomb in New York City, let’s say. It wouldn’t take tremendous facility to do that. I know US intelligence or people like Graham Allison at Harvard who works on this, they regard it as very likely in the coming years — and who knows what kind of reaction there would be to that. So, I think there are plenty of possibilities. I think it is getting worse. Just like the proliferation problem is getting worse.

Take a couple of cases: In September 2009, the Security Council did pass a resolution, S/RES/1887, which was interpreted here as a resolution against Iran. In part it was, but it also called on all states to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s three states: India, Pakistan, and Israel. The Obama administration immediately informed India that this didn’t apply to them; it informed Israel that it doesn’t apply to them.

If India expands its nuclear capacity, Pakistan almost has to; it can’t compete with India with conventional forces. Not surprisingly, Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons with indirect US support.

The Reagan administration pretended they didn’t know anything about it, which of course they did. India reacted to resolution 1887 by announcing that they could now produce nuclear weapons with the same yield as the superpowers.

A year before, the United States had signed a deal with India, which broke the pre-existing regime and enabled the US to provide them with nuclear technology — though they hadn’t signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s in violation of congressional legislation going back to India’s first bomb, I suppose around 1974 or so.

The United States kind of rammed it through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and that opens a lot of doors. China reacted by sending nuclear technology to Pakistan. And though the claim is that the technology for India is for civilian use, that doesn’t mean much even if India doesn’t transfer that to nuclear weapons. It means they’re free to transfer what they would have spent on civilian use to nuclear weapons.

And then comes this announcement in 2009 that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been repeatedly trying to get Israel to open its facilities to inspection. The US along with Europe usually has been able to block it. And more significant is the effort in the international agencies to try to move toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, which would be quite significant.

It wouldn’t solve all the problems, but whatever threat Iran may be assumed to pose — and that’s a very interesting question in itself, but let’s suppose for the moment that there is a threat — it would certainly be mitigated and might be ended by a nuclear-weapon-free zone, but the US is blocking it every step of the way.

Laray Polk: Now that Iran’s reactor at Bushehr is running, the current fear is that they’re going to use the plutonium produced from the fuel cycle to make weapons. The questions raised about Iran’s possible nuclear weapons program are similar to those asked of Israel.

Noam Chomsky: Since the 1960s. And in fact, the Nixon administration made an unwritten agreement with Israel that it wouldn’t do anything to compel Israel, or even induce them, to drop what they call their ambiguity policy — not saying whether or not they have them. That’s now very alive because there’s this regular five-year Non-Proliferation Review Conference.

In 1995, under strong pressure from the Arab states, Egypt primarily, there was an agreement that they would move toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone and the Clinton administration signed on. It was reiterated in 2000. In 2005 the Bush administration just essentially undermined the whole meeting. They basically said, “Why do anything?”

It came up again in May 2010. Egypt is now speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, 118 countries, they’re this year’s representative and they pressed pretty hard for a move in that direction. The pressure was so strong that the United States accepted it in principle and claims to be committed to it, but Hillary Clinton said the time’s “not ripe for establishing the zone.” And the administration just endorsed Israel’s position, essentially saying, “Yes, but only after a comprehensive peace agreement in the region,” which the US and Israel can delay indefinitely.

So, that’s basically saying, “it’s fine, but it’s never going to happen.” And this is barely ever reported, so nobody knows about it. Just as almost nobody knows about Obama informing India and Israel that the resolutions don’t apply to them. All of this just increases the risk of nuclear war.

It’s more than that, actually. You know, the threats against Iran are nontrivial and that, of course, induce them to move toward nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Obama in particular has strongly increased the offensive capacity that the US has on the island of Diego Garcia, which is a major military base they use for bombing the Middle East and Central Asia.

In December 2009, the navy dispatched a submarine tender for nuclear submarines in Diego Garcia. Presumably they were already there, but this is going to expand their capacity, and they certainly have the capacity to attack Iran with nuclear weapons. And he also sharply increased the development of deep-penetration bombs, a program that mostly languished under the Bush administration.

As soon as Obama came in, he accelerated it, and it was quietly announced — but I think not reported here — that they put a couple of hundred of them in Diego Garcia. That’s all aimed at Iran. Those are all pretty serious threats.

Actually, the question of the Iranian threat is quite interesting. It’s discussed as if that’s the major issue of the current era. And not just in the United States, Britain too. This is “the year of Iran,” Iran is the major threat, the major policy issue. It does raise the question: What’s the Iranian threat? That’s never seriously discussed, but there is an authoritative answer, which isn’t reported.

The authoritative answer was given by the Pentagon and intelligence in April 2010; they have an annual submission to Congress on the global security system, and of course discussed Iran. They made it very clear that the threat is not military. They said Iran has very low military spending even by the standards of the region; their strategic doctrine is completely defensive, it’s designed to deter an invasion long enough to allow diplomacy to begin to operate; they have very little capacity to deploy force abroad.

They say if Iran were developing nuclear capability — which is not the same as weapons — it would be part of the deterrent strategy, which is what most strategic analysts take for granted, so there’s no military threat. Nevertheless, they say it’s the most significant threat in the world.

What is it? Well, that’s interesting. They’re trying to extend their influence in neighboring countries; that’s what’s called destabilizing. So if we invade their neighbors and occupy them, that’s stabilizing. Which is a standard assumption. It basically says, “Look, we own the world.” And if anybody doesn’t follow orders, they’re aggressive.

In fact, that’s going on with China right now. It’s been a kind of a hassle, also hasn’t been discussed much in the United States — but is discussed quite a lot in China, about control of the seas in China’s vicinity. Their navy is expanding, and that’s discussed here and described as a major threat. What they’re trying to do is to be able to control the waters nearby China — the South China Sea,Yellow Sea, and so on — and that’s described here as aggressive intent.

The Pentagon just released a report on the dangers of China. Their military budget is increasing; it’s now one-fifth what the US spends in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is of course a fraction of the military budget. Not long ago, the US was conducting naval exercises in the waters off China. China was protesting particularly over the plans to send an advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, into those waters,which, according to China, has the capacity to hit Beijing with nuclear weapons — and they didn’t like it. And the US formally responded by saying that China is being aggressive because they’re interfering with freedom of the seas.

Then, if you look at the strategic analysis literature, they describe it as a classic security dilemma where two sides are in a confrontation. Each regards what it’s doing as essential to its security and regards the other side as threatening its security, and we’re supposed to take the threat seriously.

So if China is trying to control waters off its coast, that’s aggression and it’s harming our security. That’s a classic security dilemma. You could just imagine if China were carrying out naval exercises in the Caribbean — in fact, in the mid-Pacific — it would be considered intolerable. That’s very much like Iran. The basic assumption is “We own the world,” and any exercise of sovereignty within our domains, which is most of the world, is aggression.

Laray Polk: Is there any type of nuclear racism involved in these issues?

Noam Chomsky: I think it would be the same if there were no nuclear weapons. I mean, it goes back to long-term planning assumptions, and I don’t really think it’s racism. Let’s take a concrete case. We have a lot of internal documents now, some interesting ones from the Nixon years. Nixon and Kissinger, when they were planning to overthrow the government of Chile in 1973, their position was that this government’s intolerable, it’s exercising its sovereignty, it’s a threat to us, so it has to go.14

It’s what Kissinger called a virus that might spread contagion elsewhere, maybe into southern Europe — not that Chile would attack southern Europe — but that a successful, social democratic parliamentary system would send the wrong message to Spain and Italy.

They might be inclined to try the same, it would mean its contagion would spread and the system falls apart. And they understood that, in fact stated that, if we can’t control Latin America, how are we going to control the rest of the world? We at least have to control Latin America.

There was some concern — which was mostly meaningless, but it was there — about a Soviet penetration into Latin America, and they recognized that if Europe gets more involved in Latin America, that would tend to deter any Soviet penetration, but they concluded the US couldn’t allow that because it would interfere with US dominance of the region. So, it’s not racist. It’s a matter of dominance.

In fact, the same is happening with NATO. Why didn’t NATO disappear after the Soviet Union collapsed? If anybody read the propaganda, they’d say, “Well, it should have disappeared, it was supposed to protect Europe from the Russian hordes.” Okay, no more Russian hordes, so it should disappear. It expanded in violation of verbal promises to Gorbachev. And it expanded, I think, largely in order to keep Europe under control.

One of the purposes of NATO all along was to prevent Europe from moving in an independent path, maybe a kind of Gaullist path, and they had to expand NATO to make sure that Europe stays a vassal.

If you look back to the planning record during the Second World War, it’s very instructive. It’s almost never discussed, but there were high-level meetings from 1939 to 1945 under the Roosevelt administration, which sort of planned for the postwar years. They knew the United States would emerge from the war at least very well off and maybe completely triumphant. They didn’t know how much at first.

The principles that were established were very interesting and explicit, and later implemented. They devised the concept of what they called the Grand Area, which the US must dominate. And within the Grand Area, there can be no exercise of sovereignty that interferes with US plans — explicit, almost those words.

What’s the Grand Area? Well, at a minimum, it was to include the entire Western Hemisphere, the entire Far East, and the whole British Empire — former British Empire — which, of course, includes the Middle East energy resources.

As one high-level advisor later put it: “If we can control Middle East energy, we can control the world.” Well, that’s the Grand Area.

As the Russians began to grind down the German armies after Stalingrad, they recognized that Germany was weakened — at first, they thought that Germany would emerge from the war as a major power. So the Grand Area planning was extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, including at least Western Europe, which is the industrial-commercial center of the region. That’s the Grand Area, and within that area, there can be no exercise of sovereignty. Of course, they can’t carry it off.

For example, China is too big to push around and they’re exercising their sovereignty. Iran is trying, it’s small enough so you can push them around — they think so. Even Latin America is getting out of control. Brazil was not following orders. And, in fact, a lot of South America isn’t, and the whole thing is causing a lot of desperation in Washington.

You can see it if you look at the official pronouncements. China is not paying attention to US sanctions on Iran. US sanctions on Iran have absolutely no legitimacy. It’s just that people are afraid of the United States. And Europe more or less goes along with them, but China doesn’t. They disregard them. They observe the UN sanctions, which have formal legitimacy but are toothless, so they’re happy to observe them.

The major effect of the UN sanctions is to keep Western competitors out of Iran, so they can move in and do what they feel like. The US is pretty upset about it. In fact, the State Department issued some very interesting statements — interesting because of their desperate tone. They warned China that (this is almost a quote): “if you want to be accepted into the international community, you have to meet your international responsibilities, and the international responsibilities are to follow our orders.”

You can see both the desperation in US planning circles and you can kind of imagine the reaction of the Chinese foreign office, they’re probably laughing, you know, why should they follow US orders? They’ll do what they like.

They’re trying to recover their position as a major world power. For a long time, they were the major world power before what they call the “century of humiliation.” They are now coming back to a 3000-year tradition of being the center of the world and dismissing the barbarians. So, okay, “we’ll just go back to that and the US can’t do anything about it,” which is causing enormous frustration. That’s why they get terribly upset when China doesn’t observe US sanctions on Iran.

By now it’s not China and Iran that are isolated on Iran sanctions; it’s the United States that’s isolated. The nonaligned countries — 118 countries, most of the world — have always supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium, still do. Turkey recently constructed a pipeline to Iran, so has Pakistan. Turkey’s trade with Iran has been going way up, they’re planning to triple it the next few years.

In the Arab world, public opinion is so outraged at the United States that a real majority now favors Iran developing nuclear weapons, not just nuclear energy. The US doesn’t take that too seriously, they figure that dictatorships can control the populations. But when Turkey’s involved or, certainly, when China’s involved, it becomes a threat.

That’s why you get these desperate tones. Apart from Europe, almost nobody’s accepting US orders on this. Brazil’s probably the most important country in the South. Not long ago, Brazil and Turkey made a deal with Iran for enriching a large part of the uranium; the US quickly shot that down. They don’t want it, but the world is just hard to control.

The Grand Area planning was okay at the end of the Second World War when the US was overwhelmingly dominant, but it has been kind of fractured ever since — and during the last few years, considerably. And I think this is related to the proliferation issues. The US is strongly supporting India and Israel, and the reason is they’ve now turned India into a close strategic ally — Israel always was. India, on the other hand, is playing it pretty cool. They’re also improving their relations with China.

Laray Polk: President Obama recently secured military basing rights in Australia and formed a new free-trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which excludes China. Is this move related to the South China Sea?

Noam Chomsky: Yes, in particular that, but it’s more general. It has to do with the “classic security dilemma” that I mentioned before, referring to the strategic analysis literature. China’s efforts to gain some measure of control over nearby seas and its major trade routes are inconsistent with what the US calls “freedom of the seas” — a term that doesn’t extend to Chinese military maneuvers in the Caribbean or even most of the world’s oceans, but does include the US right to carry out military maneuvers and establish naval bases everywhere.

For different reasons, China’s neighbors are none too happy about its actions, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, which have competing claims to these waters, but others as well. The focus of US policy is slowly shifting from the Middle East — though that remains — to the Pacific, as openly announced.

That includes new bases from Australia to South Korea (and a continuing and very significant conflict over Okinawa), and also economic agreements, called “free-trade agreements,” though the phrase is more propaganda than reality, as in other such cases. Much of it is a system to “contain China.”

Laray Polk: To what degree are current maritime sovereignty disputes related to oil and gas reserves?

In part. There are underseas fossil-fuel resources, and a good deal of contention among regional states about rights to them. But it’s more than that. The new US base on Jeju Island in South Korea, bitterly protested by islanders, is not primarily concerned with energy sources. Other issues have to do with Malacca Straits, China’s main trade route, which does involve oil and gas but also much else.

In the background is the more general concern over parts of the world escaping from US control and influence, the contemporary variant of Grand Area policies. Much of this extends the practice of earlier hegemonic powers, though the scale of US post-World War II planning and implementation has been in a class by itself because of its unique wealth and power.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at MIT. Laray Polk is a multimedia artist and writer. Her articles and investigative reports have appeared in the Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, and In These Times.

Reprinted with permission from Seven Stories Press. Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved

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

ACTION ALERT: “Nuclear Gandhi”: An International Appeal to Stop The India-Japan Nuclear Agreement

May 30th, 2013 - by admin

DiaNuke.org – 2013-05-30 01:25:42

Stop India-Japan Nuclear Agreement: An International Appeal

International Nonviolent Protests of Proposed Japan-India Nuclear Deal Grow Despite Government’s Violent Opposition

The Coalition Against Nukes (CAN) and its international membership has stepped forward to support the protest currently being raised against Japan’s attempt to export nuclear technology to India. Specifically, an international petition to raise influential voices against this wrong-headed move has quickly gained more than fifteen hundred signatures as it continues to grow daily.

Protest demonstrations are planned in Tokyo and across India. The India-Japan nuclear agreement is currently under negotiation, with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is visiting Tokyo on May 27 in an attempt to further the deal.

Increasingly, this struggle has been seen by many as a “Nuclear Gandhi” movement, involving non-violent resistance, hunger strikes, and oppression of a protesting population by a dominant, non-responsive government. More than 10,000 Indian citizens have been arrested for sedition for their peaceful protests.

A committed group of activists, experts and citizens in Japan, India and other countries launched this petition as a means of making their concerns known. The appeal has been endorsed by eminent citizens, including academicians, artists, scientists, filmmakers and other public figures from India, Japan, US, France, Germany, Australia and a dozen other countries.

Since Japanese nuclear technology is used in large nuclear reactors made in the United States and France, it is difficult for India to import nuclear reactors from these countries unless it strikes a nuclear deal with Japan. To remove the obstacles to their export of nuclear technology to India, Washington and Paris have been unofficially urging Tokyo to conclude a nuclear deal with New Delhi.

The petition calls for termination of India-Japan nuclear negotiations, as its implementation would lead to expansion of nuclear installations in India. This in turn would mean more displacement of homes and families, loss of livelihoods and radiation risks for the Indian farmers and fishermen who have been leading massive resistance to proposed plants in Koodankulam and Chutka, among others.

These protests intensified after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began on March 11, 2011, and the Indian government has responded with increasingly violent repression of the non-violent protestors.

The appeal also criticizes the absurdity of Japan’s policy of exporting nuclear technology to India and other countries when their problems from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster continue to mount with no end in sight. This advancement of Japan’s nuclear agenda is seen as a way for the country to compensate for the huge, ongoing financial losses incurred in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

The Coalition Against Nuke (CAN) urges the global community to support these voices of sanity and demand termination of the India-Japan nuclear agreement. We also demand a moratorium on Japan’s nuclear export policy until and unless they can solve their own nuclear problems at Fukushima.

ACTION: Sign the petition here.

NOTE: A featured interview with Indian anti-nuclear activist Kumar Sudaram was podcast on Nuclear Hotseat, the weekly international news magazine, on Wednesday, May 28, 2013. You can access the recording (#102) at: www.NuclearHotseat.com/blog or download from iTunes.

Stop India-Japan Nuclear Agreement: An International Appeal

Please sign and circulate this appeal to your friends. This appeal will be released during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Tokyo on May 29th. THANKS!
Endorsements can also be sent to editor@dianuke.org directly.

Stop India-Japan Nuclear Agreement, Stop Nuclear Export Policy
We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens of the world and we write this in support of the people in India and Japan.

We stand in complete opposition to the India-Japan nuclear cooperation agreement that is currently under intense negotiation. The governments of both countries must refrain from promoting nuclear commerce, jeopardizing the health and safety of their people and environments.

The Fukushima accident in Japan should provide an eye-opener to the Indian government and it must realize that cooperation in/supply of nuclear technology comes with insurmountable safety risks. Nuclear accidents result in totally unacceptable damages to people and the environment.

Even more than two years after the accident in Fukushima the reactors are far from being under control and massive radioactive releases have contaminated the ground, air and water, contaminations that coming generations will have to endure even after it has taken its toll on the current generation. The criminal nexus of the nuclear Industry and policy makers now stands exposed.

India must behave responsibly and should rethink its use of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy currently provides less than 3% of its total electricity and can be easily replaced, freeing the country to embrace renewable and sustainable alternatives.

Japan must refrain from exporting nuclear technology to other countries, especially non-signatories of the NPT and CTBT. The current policy option of exporting nuclear energy to countries like India, Vietnam, Jordan etc… are totally unjust while Japan is reeling under the huge financial losses posed by the Fukushima accident and its citizens are observing massive protests to demand a nuclear-free future and the victims of the triple meltdowns remain uncompensated.

For the children, women and coming generations of India and Japan, and of the planet as a whole, we demand a moratorium on Japan’s nuclear export policy and the termination of India-Japan civil nuclear negotiations with immediate effect.


Michael Leonardi, Coalition Against Nukes, 567-202-5327; mikeleonardi@hotmail.com
Kumar Sundaram, 91-9819556134 or SKYPE: pksundaram; message on Facebook

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

Japan, India to Discuss Military Plane Sales

May 30th, 2013 - by admin

Agence France-Presse & Arab News – 2013-05-30 00:55:41


TOKYO (May 28, 2013) — Japan is close to signing an agreement to supply amphibious planes to India, a report said yesterday, in what would be the first sale of hardware used by the military since a weapons export ban was imposed.

During a four-day visit to Tokyo by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the two sides are set firm up plans for Delhi to purchase the US-2, a domestically-developed aircraft used by Japan’s armed forces.

The sale, reported by the Nikkei business daily, would be the first of a finished product made by Japan’s homegrown defense industry since rules were imposed restricting the export of weapons systems and other equipment.

It would also mark a strengthening of the alliance between Japan and India, which both see rising China as a threat to regional stability.

Experts say the aircraft must be classed as for civilian use if it is to comply with Japan’s 1967 self-imposed ban on arms exports, part of the post-World War II anti-militarist drive.

The US-2, which was developed by ShinMaywa Industries and has been sold to the Japanese navy at a price tag of roughly 10 billion yen ($ 99 million), has a range of 4,700 km and can land in seas with waves of up to three meters.

“If the US-2 is exported to India for civilian use, that would be the first case of exports of Japanese-developed weaponry used by the defense ministry for civilian use,” a trade ministry official in charge of arms sales said.

ShinMaywa opened a sales office in New Delhi last year and has been promoting the plane there, a spokesman for the company said.

“We hear there is some demand from the Indian government but decline to comment further as we have yet to reach a contract,” he added. The Nikkei said India is looking to acquire at least 15 of the aircraft.

Japan has sought to expand the market for its defense industry. It has previously exported technology or parts of military hardware, but has not sold any finished products.

The plane could be deemed to have a non-military — for example, search and rescue — purpose if “friend-or-foe” identification systems were disabled, officials said, making it eligible for export.

In 2011 Tokyo eased the decades-old ban on arms exports, paving the way for Japanese firms to take part in multinational weapons projects.

The reported talks on sales “are based on policy decisions made a few years ago that Japan has to support its defense industry by diverting military technology to civilian use for export,” said Takehiko Yamamoto, professor of international relations at Waseda University.

Otherwise, major Japanese firms such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries “will not able to maintain their pool of engineers to develop military technology that is essential for the defense of Japan,” he said.

Boosting exports from Japan’s manufacturing behemoths is a key part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to revive the economy. Abe and Singh are scheduled to meet on Wednesday for a summit expected to concentrate on trade and investment.

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

Russia Calls For Multilateral Nuclear Weapons Cuts

May 30th, 2013 - by admin

RIA Novosti – 2013-05-30 00:48:33


Russia Calls For Multilateral Nuclear Cuts
RIA Novosti

MOSCOW (May 30, 2013) — Russia is not willing to negotiate further bilateral nuclear cuts with the United States until other nuclear powers join the process, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

“We cannot endlessly negotiate with the United States the reduction and limitation of nuclear arms while some other countries are strengthening their nuclear and missile capabilities,” Ryabkov told the Voice of Russia radio on Monday. “Making nuclear disarmament a multilateral process is becoming a priority,” he said.

Ryabkov added that Russia has never shunned a discussion of total nuclear disarmament, or “nuclear zero,” but this should not be an absolute goal, “otherwise we will simply undermine the very foundation of our national security.”

The New START nuclear arms treaty, signed by Russia and the United States in 2010, limits the number of nuclear warheads deployed by each side to 1,550, and the number of their delivery vehicles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and nuclear-capable bombers, to 700.

According to a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in 2011, the eight recognized nuclear powers — Russia, the United States, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel — possess more than 20,500 nuclear weapons.

Obama Hails Disarmament Pact With Russia
Simon Saradzhyan/ RIA Novosti

(February 4, 2013) — On April 5, 2009 President Barack Obama gave a speech that was supposed to set the agenda for his presidency in international security. “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” he proclaimed in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Prague.

Four years later, however, this drive to achieve “Global Zero” seems to have waned to a point when even another round of modest reductions in US and Russian arsenals appears difficult to achieve. Yet, I would argue that the United States, Russia and the other nuclear powers each have a stake in pushing forward toward world free from nuclear weapons.

Obama’s 2009 Global Zero rallying cry was welcomed by official nuclear powers such as Great Britain and China. India came out in support of eliminating nuclear weapons and influential policy leaders in Pakistan also backed the goal of Global Zero. A number of the world’s leading powers that do not have nuclear weapons but which could develop them with ease, such as Japan or Germany, also back a Global Zero world.

Russia’s leaders also joined the welcoming chorus. Both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev officially supported this “fourth wave” of nuclear abolitionism. Medvedev and Obama signed the New START treaty in April 2010, which both nations presented as evidence of their commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

However discussions on further reductions by the two countries, which together possess more than 90 percent of world’s nuclear weapons, have stalled over US missile defense plans. And Russia’s policy-makers in private are skeptical that their country will ever actually agree to go all the way to Global Zero.

Asked when he thinks Russia might agree to full nuclear disarmament, one senior Russian policy-maker is said to have quipped: “Mañana!”

This less than optimistic prognosis is rooted in the multitude of roles that Russia’s nuclear arsenal plays in the Kremlin’s defense, security, foreign and even domestic policies. In addition to deterring other nuclear powers and compensating for Russia’s inferiority to NATO and China, in conventional forces, Russia’s nuclear arsenal also re-affirms its great power status at home and abroad. It accommodates the institutional interests of the nuclear weapons sector in the military-industrial complex and the armed forces.

Given these multiple roles, one could say that “mañana” is overly optimistic – Russia will agree to full nuclear disarmament “bukra” (an Arabic word conveying a similar message as mañana but with even less urgency).

However, I would argue that nuclear weapons in fact play a narrower role than Russian strategists claim. For instance, nuclear weapons will not be effective in deterring or ending the types of conflicts that Russia is much more likely to have to face than a hypothetical war with NATO. These include an armed conflict with a conventional power, intrusion by insurgents, or low-intensity conflict with insurgents within Russia.

Some of the perceived benefits of nuclear weapons in a war are similarly problematic. A limited nuclear strike, which Russia has repeatedly gamed out in the “West” exercises, would not necessarily localize an armed conflict with NATO or de-escalate one were it ever to take place. Moreover, striking a nuclear power or alliance may actually escalate the conflict.

As for nuclear weapons’ role in preventing conflict among nuclear weapons states, the absence of nuclear weapons would not increase the probability of any such conflict occurring. The conditions for full nuclear disarmament that the Russian and US leaders have presented since April 2009 make it clear that neither will agree to a nuclear weapons free world unless they have developed effective conventional deterrents and established international arms control, security and verification systems.

These measures should not only help to prevent former nuclear powers from attacking each other, but also to prevent potential threats from opportunistic rogue states.

One disincentive for Moscow on the road to Global Zero is that dramatic reductions in nuclear arsenals by United States and Russia would undermine the existing model of deterrence based on the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD).

We can hope, however, that calls made by senior diplomats on both sides to explore ways of abandoning the Cold War relic of MAD in favor of what they have described as mutually assured stability will bring results that remove this disincentive.

Yet another disincentive is that nuclear arms cannot be “un-invented” and nations may preserve the capacity to covertly acquire nuclear weapons, undermining the Zero in Global Zero. But this effect can also be minimized. One proposed solution would place a modest number of nuclear arms under UN control to deter opportunistic nations.

Another proposal envisions robust and even intrusive inspections coupled. A combination of the two could minimize the risks. Weighing the long-term benefits of eliminating nuclear weapons against the long-term costs of keeping them reveals that the costs keep growing as nuclear proliferation continues.

The United States, Russia and other official nuclear powers cannot hope to hold on to their arsenals despite their commitments under the NPT treaty to eliminate them, while also trying to convince others to honor their commitments to refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons. True, fulfillment of these commitments will not ‘awaken the conscience’ of those set on proliferation and ‘shame them into stopping.’ However, without such efforts, it would be very difficult to win the international community’s support in trying to stop these proliferators.

The spread of technologies will inevitably, over time, allow ever more countries and, potentially, non-state actors to develop nuclear weapons, spurring on countries that have the technological capacity, but have so far abstained from developing these weapons, to follow suit.

The emergence of new nuclear powers will ultimately end the era of bilateral nuclear deterrence, and usher in an era of complex and unpredictable multilateral deterrence configurations, increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict, as Russian strategist Andrei Kokoshin rightly notes.

And while new nuclear states might be expected to act rationally or predictably and not to use such weapons against Russia, the same cannot be said of non-state actors.

Nuclear weapons will not prevent a nuclear attack by a group that is not clearly defined geographically or whose members are willing to die for their cause.

A nuclear-free world will probably prove unattainable even in the longer-term, due to the web of disincentives and the various roles that nuclear weapons play. However, if the leaders of the United States and Russia were to take further steps toward disarmament, and if other nuclear powers were to join them further down the road, the world would become significantly safer.

Simon Saradzhyan is a researcher at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. His research interests include international security, arms control, counter-terrorism as well as political affairs in post-Soviet states and their relations with major outside powers. Prior to joining the Belfer Center in 2008 Saradzhyan had worked as deputy editor of the Moscow Times and a consultant for the United Nations and World Bank. Saradzhyan holds a graduate degree from the Harvard University.

The views expressed in this column are the author’s alone.

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

No Holidays or Parades for Homeless Women Veterans

May 29th, 2013 - by admin

Lizzie Warren / Salon – 2013-05-29 02:11:25


No Holidays or Parades for Homeless Women Veterans
Lizzie Warren / Salon

(May 27, 2013) — As we rightly commemorate those who perished while serving in the Armed Forces today, another group of veterans is getting little attention, and its numbers are swelling: homeless women veterans. In fact, while the problem among male veterans has dropped, homelessness among women veterans has risen sharply. It may come as a surprise, but women veterans are the fastest growing homeless population in the nation.

I recently completed production of a documentary, War Zone / Comfort Zone, in which I followed the story of two women — one of them a Gold Star mother — who fight to establish Connecticut’s first transitional, supportive house for women veterans.

The women and their allies faced neighborhood opposition in several towns, and establishing a home with fifteen beds for women veterans and their children took more than four years. (A house in Delaware is currently facing a similar response.)

I also followed women veterans as they struggled to create stability for themselves and their families in the wake of war and trauma. Too many veterans — especially women — are falling into homelessness in record numbers and in record time.

Gladys is one who has struggled with homelessness and depression since she returned from Iraq. She is a funny, resourceful and generous person who grew up in a Colombian immigrant household in the Bronx. Gladys initially joined the Air Force to see the world and better herself — a pioneering move in the 1970s. She settled in Connecticut and worked for the US Postal Service, and remained in the reserves for twenty years.

When Gladys turned forty, she wanted to challenge herself again and decided to join the Army Reserves, serving two tours of duty in the Iraq War. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and serious spinal damage, and spent a year recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center.

While in the hospital, she lost her house in a real estate deal gone bad. She returned to Connecticut, homeless, devastated and dependent on a walker.

“Every night I ended up finding a different spot,” Gladys said. She lived in her car and, unable to get the help she desperately needed, tried to commit suicide. She ended up sleeping on her ex-husband’s couch for a while, but they’ve since been evicted.

Gladys had difficulty engaging in treatment, because she found the male-dominated environment at the Veterans Administration alienating. “These groups I was attending at [the VA], most of the time, I was the only female,” she said.

Women make up 14 percent of active duty service members and about 20 percent of the National Guard. Despite their significant numbers, when they come home they’re often returning to communities that are ill-equipped or unwilling to deal with their needs.

Stories like Gladys’s are all too common. Women veterans face a dense constellation of issues: low wages, a lack of childcare and family housing options, inadequate gender-specific services at the Veterans Administration and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat and Military Sexual Trauma.

“You come out of the Afghan or Iraqi war, as an American woman veteran, at a time when the housing market is terrible, the banks don’t trust you, and its hard to get a job, and you’ve experienced mental health issues as a result of what happened you in the military,” said Dr. Cynthia Enloe, a professor at Clark University and author of Nimo’s War, Emma’s War. “It’s not any wonder that there so many women veterans now who are really suffering the loss of housing.”

Military Sexual Trauma is a common thread in the stories of women who become homeless after returning from service.A recent study by Dr. Donna L. Washington of the UCLA Medical Center and the VA of Greater Los Angeles, estimates thatjust over halfof homeless women veterans were victims of sexual assault.

Then, after they serve, they’re faced with asupply of housing for them that remains woefully inadequate. This is all happening asthe ranks of women in the military grows and grows.

Lauren, who served as a military police officer, recalled what her commanding officer told her when she reported being drugged and raped by a member of her unit: “You’re just about to stir a pot of shit that we’re just not willing to deal with right now.” After leaving the service, Lauren was able to move back in with her parents.

Caroline, another veteran, had planned to spend her entire career in the military — until she was raped by two fellow soldiers that she had considered friends. As a result she struggled for years with alcoholism and homelessness, and hated the idea of going to the V.A. for help.

“It’s almost like coming back to your very rapist and saying help me. Even though they’re not the actual rapist, they represent them because that’s who they protected,” she said. Caroline eventually found a welcoming V.A. center and went through an in-patient treatment program, but still had nowhere to live.

“They have all sorts of different transitional housing they can offer the male veterans…. and they didn’t have any place for me to go. So for me to get treatment and just be put out on the streets… it’s like you get treated for frostbite and they’re going to throw you back out in the snow,” she said. “And it actually was snowing. It was January, It was pretty cold.”

Lizzie Warren is a writer and filmmaker living in Brooklyn, New York. Her newest documentary, War Zone / Comfort Zone, produced with Connecticut Public Television, is airing on PBS stations across the country.

Documentary TV-PG

Women account for roughly 14 percent of the active-duty US military and more than 24 percent of the National Guard, yet they often receive less than a hero’s welcome upon their return to civilian life.

Many face poverty, homelessness and joblessness; deal with the psychological and physiological effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from military sexual trauma and combat-related injuries; and often receive poor service from a Veterans Administration ill-equipped and, in some cases, unwilling to help them.

The Emmy®-nominated documentary WAR ZONE/COMFORT ZONE uncovers the plight of these veterans through the intense and personal stories of four women veterans coping with life after their military service. Each seeks a sense of normalcy and peace without the benefit of a comprehensive support system.

WAR ZONE/COMFORT ZONE weaves together intimate interviews with the story of two women — Shalini Madaras and Joy Kiss — struggling to establish transitional housing for homeless female veterans in Bridgeport, Connecticut, despite virulent community opposition.

DISTRIBUTOR: American Public Television
PRODUCER: Connecticut Public Broadcasting Inc. (CPBI)
PRESENTER: Connecticut Public Broadcasting Inc. (CPBI)

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

Russia: Iran Must Join Syria Peace Conference

May 29th, 2013 - by admin

Al Jazeera – 2013-05-29 02:09:57


(May 29, 2013) — Russia has said that it is imperative for Iran to join a proposed peace conference on Syria despite reservations from some Western nations. “The issue of Iran is key for us,” said Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, while on a visit to Paris on Tuesday. “Iran, without question, is one of the most important nations.”

Russia has argued that both Iran, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and rebel ally Saudi Arabia should take part in the negotiations as part of a new push for peace agreed by Moscow and Washington earlier this month.

France has already rejected the idea of Iran taking part, while the United States has responded to Moscow’s proposal with scepticism.

On Monday, Lavrov said that he and US Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed in Paris that more “clarity” was needed about who could take part in the proposed negotiations before a date for them could be set. “We must get clarity about the participants,” said Lavrov. “And this concerns not only the Syrians that will represent the various levels of society, but also the foreign players.”

Russia and Iran are seen as Assad’s most important allies and key suppliers of weapons used by the regime’s forces.

No Date Set
Diplomats have said that details of how the conference would be organised had yet to be agreed, and there was still no firm agreement on the date. The possibility of an arms race in Syria overshadows attempts to bring representatives of the Assad regime and Syria’s political opposition to peace talks.

The talks, though seen as a long shot, constitute the international community’s only plan for ending the conflict that began more than two years ago and has killed more than 70,000 people.

Syria’s fractured opposition, which has not yet committed to the Geneva talks, could also be lured to the table if attendance is linked to receiving weapons in the event that talks fail.

Opposition leaders have said they will only participate in talks if Assad’s departure from power tops the agenda, a demand Assad and his Russian backers have rejected.

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

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