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How the US Help Saddam Gas Iran

August 31st, 2013 - by admin

Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams – 2013-08-31 01:45:34

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/08/26-5

US Complicity in ‘Some of the Most Gruesome Chemical Weapons Attacks’ Revealed
Foreign Policy Magazine Provides New Details in How the CIA Helped Saddam Gas Iran

(August 26, 2013) — As the US and its allies weigh the possibility of military intervention in Syria over the use of chemical weapons, new reporting by Foreign Policy reveals details of how the US helped Iraq launch multiple chemical weapons attacks during the Iran-Iraq war.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

The magazine reports that formerly unnoticed documents in the National Archives in addition to information obtained in interviews with former intelligence officials “are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry railed against chemical weapons he said were used in Syria. From his remarks:
What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict on Syria itself. And that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all, a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else.

There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons, and lock them down where they do exist.

There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

Twenty-five years ago, however, the US was not calling for “accountability for the use of chemical weapons.”
Foreign Policy magazine reported on Monday:
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses.

US intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

Even years before the US provided Iraq with intelligence it used to carry out chemical attacks, friend of President Ronald Reagan and then Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey and other intelligence officials were repeatedly informed of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in attacks, including strikes carried out by Saddam on Iraqis, the magazine reported.

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn” have to. We already knew,” said retired Air Force colonel Rick Francona, a military attache in Baghdad during the 1988 attacks.

In a 1987 report entitled “At the Gates of Basrah,” Reagan wrote in the margins, “An Iranian victory is unacceptable,” Foreign Policy reports. Their reporting continues:

In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people.

The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.

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

The Upcoming Unfortunate War with Syria

August 31st, 2013 - by admin

Jon Carroll / San Francisco Chronicle – 2013-08-31 01:44:52

http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/carroll/article/The-upcoming-unfortunate-war-with-Syria-4772410.php

(August 29, 2013) — It is hard for me to know what your reality is. Have we started shooting missiles at Syria yet? In my time, we are just threatening to, but we may have taken the next step by the time you read this.

Oh, it’s such a bad idea. More foreign blood on American hands — not good. Interfering in the affairs of the nations of the Middle East? It has not worked so well for us previously, as our fraught relationship with Israel demonstrates. Getting sucked into another foreign war? Boy, you would have thought that we had learned that lesson.

Of course, Obama pledges that there will be no American boots on the ground. That may even be true — but is it really moral to rain terror from above for a cause that Americans don’t support enough to fight for personally? It’s America as the blind assassin, taking out people from the clouds — or, with drones, from thousand of miles away.

Remember when Hillary Rodham Clinton and many other professional thinkers assured us that the Assad regime was just a shell of its former self, unable to hold out very long against the will of the people? That was two years ago. For a regime on its last legs, it’s doing pretty well. Indeed, experts say that over the last two months, it’s been kind of winning.

So our plan is to enter that battle on the losing side.

And what a side it is. Jihadists from all over the region, hoping to turn Syria into the next anti-American state ruled by Shariah law. These are our friends, dear readers. We like them because they’re not allied with Iran, and the balance of power … truth is, no one really knows how it will shake out.

Whatever way, we’ll have more enemies than when we started. Those rebels can be an ungrateful lot.

We are on a perpetual war footing. We have the biggest military in the history of militaries. When you have a large military, it can grow restive. It can agitate for something to do. But all it can do is fight wars and kill people. We need protection, sure, but we don’t need these proxy wars.

A war in Syria would be a proxy war, make no mistake. The issue is Iran’s sway in the area. So that’s what we’d be fighting about, preventing the spread of the Iranian hegemony. People forget that we’ve been at proxy war with Iran for a very long time. We even helped Saddam Hussein when he was gassing Iranians. It’s all the same battle; only the cannon fodder changes.

When you have a large military, every problem looks like a military problem. Every problem must have a military solution. It makes us blind to the other possibilities. Russia is not blind to the other possibilities. I hate to say that I like Russia’s stance on Syria (peace talks rather than armed intervention) better than I like my own government’s, but there you are.

There’s a humanitarian reason for intervening in Syria. A hundred thousand people have been killed, and someone must intervene to end this suffering. But if the only way we can think of to end the suffering is to cause more suffering, maybe we should sit out this round.

The argument that President Obama is using to justify the attacks is that Assad used chemical weapons. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in this instance — why would Syria risk foreign intervention into a war it’s currently winning, and then do it just once?

But suppose it happened. How do chemical weapons change the equation? Surely the people killed by conventional weapons suffered just as much as the people killed by chemical weapons. A death is a death; a soul is a soul. The potential for mass suffering from chemical weapons remains great, I agree. But why are we in charge of enforcing the Geneva Conventions?

Russia and China are being un-useful in the Security Council; the United Nations is really where this inquiry — and the decisions about intervention — should emanate from.

And here’s the other problem for the Obama administration. As it revs up its campaign to convince everyone that the chemical weapons were definitely Assad’s and it all really did happen, it’s beginning to sound suspiciously like another administration that wanted to have a war in Iraq, and set about lying to get one.

See Joe Biden on television defending the idea of air strikes; think Dick Cheney. We have always had good reason to distrust the government; now that we may be entering another warlike conflict, the time for skepticism is right this minute.

Stumbling down the road to war again, ignoring the many obvious potholes.

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

Events Are Moving Quickly In Syria … Here’s What You Need to Know

August 31st, 2013 - by admin

WashingtonsBlog & Global Research & The Irish Times – 2013-08-31 01:26:53

Cheat Sheet On Syria

Cheat Sheet On Syria
Washington’s Blog

(August 28, 2013) — The US is about to attack Syria. Here’s what you need to know:

* Bombing Syria will only strengthen the hardliners … and harm America’s national security. The top US military commander says that attacking Syria would be risky and expensive. (Security experts — including both conservatives and liberals — agree that waging a war which is not absolutely essential to defend ourselves from imminent threats weakens national security and increases terrorism. Indeed, just spreading our resources too thin leaves us vulnerable to terrorists.)

* A Syrian war could be one the least popular wars in American history

* In fact, most of the world is against attacking Syria

* There is no “coalition” supporting a war

* War against Syria could spike oil prices and plunge us back into another recession

* Russia has repeatedly stated that it would consider an attack on Syria as an attack on its national security. China has also strongly cautioned the US against attacking Syria. China and Russia hold a lot of US debt, and could make life difficult for us economically if we unnecessarily anger them

* Experts initially expressed some doubts that chemical weapons were actually used

* The American government — in a replay of the Iraq war — is trying to stop UN weapons inspectors from seeing if chemical weapons were used

* If chemical weapons were used, it’s unclear who used them

* Even though the US government claims that the Syrian government is the perpetrator, it admits that it has no idea who in the government ordered the attack. It could have been a rogue, low-level military officer. Given that American, British and other Western soldiers have pleaded guilty to massacring civilians and committing war crimes, should we condemn the entire Syrian regime if it turns out to be a crime carried out by one rogue officer? (Update: US and British intelligence now that admit they don’t know whether it was the rebels or the Syrian government who carried out the attack).

* The US has repeatedly falsely accused others of using chemical weapons.

* The Syrian rebels have — apparently — previously used chemical weapons.

* The US has been backing Al Qaeda and other known terrorists in Syria.

* A former Democratic Congressman said that a US strike on Syria would make America “Al Qaeda’s Air Force”

* The US, Britain and Israel have used chemical weapons within the last 10 years.

* “Humanitarian” wars usually don’t turn out very well.

* Attacking Syria without Congressional approval would be unconstitutional, and over 150 Congress members have demanded a vote on Syria.

* The US and Britain considered attacking Syrians and then blaming it on the Syrian government as an excuse for regime change … 50 years ago (the US just admitted that they did this to Iran).

* The US has been planning regime change in Syria for 20 years straight.

* The US has been arming the Syrian opposition since 2006.

* America is not involved in Syria because that country poses a threat to America’s security … but for entirely different reasons.

* Many see the timing of the Syria crisis as an attempt by the US government to distract from its domestic scandals. If you need a reminder about what’s going on inside our country, here’s a cheat sheet on spying.


US and British Intelligence Officials Admit They Don’t Know Whether the Syrian Government or Rebels Used Chemical Weapons
Washington’s Blog / Global Research

(August 29, 2013) — A US State Department spokesman admitted yesterday that the US doesn’t know whether a low-level, rogue Syrian official is responsible for the chemical weapons attacks.

Today, the wheels came off the war wagon altogether.

AP reports:
An intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said.

So while Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that links between the attack and the Assad government are “undeniable,” US intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad’s orders, or even completely sure it was carried out by government forces, the officials said.

***
Another possibility that officials would hope to rule out: that stocks had fallen out of the government’s control and were deployed by rebels in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war.

In other words, the US hasn’t yet ruled out that possibility … but only hopes to.

The New York Times writes:
American officials said Wednesday there was no “smoking gun” that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack.

***
It appears that the public presentation of the Syria evidence will be limited. Instead of the theater of Mr. Powell’s 2003 speech — which included satellite photographs, scratchy recordings of conversations between Iraqi officials and a vial of white powder meant to symbolize anthrax — American officials said the intelligence assessment they are preparing to make public will be similar to a modest news release that the White House issued in June to announce that the Assad government had used chemical weapons “on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.”

Except that — last time there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria — it turned out to have been therebels who launched the attack.

Similarly, the Guardian notes that British officials say there is not 100% certainty of who carried out the attacks, and that the conclusion of government culpability is not based on hard evidence, but a series of assumptions.

***
Media Coverage of Syrian
Violence Partial and Untrue

Patsy McGarry / The Irish Times

(August 22, 2012) — A nun who has been superior at a Syrian monastery for the past 18 years has warned that media coverage of ongoing violence in that country has been “partial and untrue”. It is “a fake”, Mother Agnes Mariam said, which “hides atrocities committed in the name of liberty and democracy”.

Superior of the Melkite Greek Catholic monastery of St James the Mutilated in Qara, in Syria’s diocese of Homs, which is in full communion with Rome, she left Ireland yesterday after a three-day visit during which she met representatives of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth.

She told The Irish Times she was in Ireland “not to advocate for the (Assad) regime but for the facts”. Most news reports from Syria were “forged, with only one side emphasised”, she said. This also applied to the UN, whose reports were “one-sided and not worthy of that organisation”.

UN observers in Syria had been “moderate with the rebels and covered for them in taking back positions after the withdrawal of heavy equipment, as seen so tragically in Homs”, she said.

When it was put to her this suggested the whole world was out of step except for Syria, Russia and China, she protested: “No, no, there are 20 countries, including some in Latin America” of the same view.

The reason the media was being denied easy access to Syria currently was because in the Libyan conflict journalists placed electronic devices for Nato in rooms used at press conferences in that country, she said. “So Syria didn’t want journalists,” she said.

Christians make up about 10 per cent of Syria’s population, dispersed throughout the country, she said. The Assad regime “does not favour Christians”, she said. “It is a secular regime based on equality for all, even though in the constitution it says the Koran is the source of legislation.”

But “Christians are less put aside [in Syria] than in other Islamic countries, for example Saudi Arabia,” she said. “The social fabric of Syria is very diverse, so Christians live in peace.”

The “Arab insurrection” under way in that country included “sectarian factions which promote fundamentalist Islam, which is not genuine Islam”, she said.

The majority of Muslims in Syria are moderate and open to other cultural and interfaith elements, she said. “Wahhabism (a fundamentalist branch of Islam) is not open,” she added.

Christians in Syria were “doubtful about the future if the project to topple the regime succeeded”. The alternative was “a religious sectarian state where all minorities would feel threatened and discriminated against”, she said.

There was “a need to end the violence”, she said. “The West and Gulf states must not give finance to armed insurrectionists who are sectarian terrorists, most of whom are from al-Qaeda, according to a report presented to the German parliament,” she said.

“We don’t want to be invaded, as in Aleppo, by mercenaries, some of whom think they are fighting Israel. They bring terror, destruction, fear and nobody protects the civilians,” she said. There were “very few Syrians among the rebels”, she said. “Mercenaries should go home,” she said.

What she and others sought in Syria was “reform, no violence, no foreign intervention.” She hoped for “a new, third way, a new social pact where the right to autodetermination without outside interference” would be respected. (Source: Irish Times)

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

ACTION ALERT: Act Now to Stop a War on Syria

August 31st, 2013 - by admin

War Is a Crime & Democrats.com & Ibrahim Ahmad – 2013-08-31 00:59:26

http://warisacrime.org/content/opposition-iraq-war-may-save-syria

Opposition to Iraq War May Save Syria
David Swanson / War Is a Crime

(August 30, 2013) — Evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” is “no slam dunk,” US officials are saying this time around, reversing the claim made about Iraq by then-CIA director George Tenet.

Opposition to a US-led attack on Syria is growing rapidly in Europe and the United States, drawing its strength from public awareness that the case made for attacking Iraq had holes in it.

A majority in the United States, still very much aware of Iraq war deceptions, opposes arming the “rebel” force in Syria, so heavily dominated by foreign fighters and al Qaeda. And a majority opposes US military action in Syria.

But that public opinion is only just beginning to get expressed as activism. With Republicans more willing to actively oppose a war this time, and some section of Democrats still opposed, there’s actually potential to build a larger antiwar movement than that of 2003-2006.

Thus far, however, what’s discouraging an attack on Syria is the public uproar that was created back then over the disastrous attack on Iraq.

The nation of Iraq was destroyed. Millions of refugees still can’t safely return. As with every other humanitarian war thus far, humanity suffered, and the suffering will last for ages. While the damage done to the United States itself doesn’t compare with the damage done to Iraq, it has been severe en ough to make many a near-sighted potential war supporter cautious.

The problem with attacking Iraq was not that the vast stockpiles of weapons were fictional. Had every claim been true, the war would have remained illegal, immoral, and catastrophic.

Were it true that the Syrian government really chose the moment of the UN inspectors’ arrival to use chemical weapons, launching a US war on Syria would still hurt the people of Syria — who are overwhelmingly opposed to it, regardless of their level of support for their government.

A regional or even global war could result. The US military is planning for such scenarios, as if preparing for the apocalypse while igniting it makes the action less insane.

A war of supposed humanitarian philanthropy should consider the value to humanity of the rule of law. Launching a war in violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, and the US Constitution hurts the rule of law.

A war of beneficial generosity should consider other possible medicines that lack the deadly side-effects of war. For example, the United States could easily stop supporting and arming abusive dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and Egypt, not to mention the horrors inflicted on Palestine by Israel.

A so-called good and noble war against the evil of chemical weapons should probably be launched by a nation that doesn’t itself use chemical weapons. Yet, the United States used white phosphorous and napalm as weapons in Iraq, not to mention such internationally sanctioned weapons as depleted uranium and cluster bombs — weapons the United States also sells to other governments regardless of their human rights records (including a big shipment of cluster bombs now headed to Saudi Arabia).

A humanitarian and just war should perhaps show equal concern for those humans killed with any kind of weapon. Bombing Syria woul d inevitably kill significant numbers of people. Isn’t that a problem even if they’re killed with the “right” kind of weapons?

Both sides in the war in Syria have killed large numbers of people. We have heard as many serious accounts of the rebels using chemical weapons as the government. Should indisputable facts establish that both sides have used those forbidden weapons, surely the proper response will not be to bomb both sides.

By joining in this war, on the side of an armed opposition dominated by people with no concern for democracy or human rights, the United States will make itself more hated in the region than its previous military actions already have. While this war has nothing to do with defending the United States, it will in fact endanger it.

Here’s what should be done instead: Pressure Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and Turkey to stop arming one side, while pressuring Russia and Iran to stop arming the other. Insi st on a cease-fire. Support UN inspections of the evidence of crimes by both sides. Provide humanitarian aid to Syria, Syrian refugees (now fleeing in greater numbers as the US threatens to attack), and others suffering in the region. Support nonviolent democracy movements.

And why stop there?
* End the occupation of Afghanistan, which we think of as “ending” but which is still twice as large as when President Obama was elected.

* Stop arming brutal dictatorships and calling the weapons “aid.”

* Close Guantanamo and other lawless prison sites.

* Halt US drone and other missile strikes worldwide.

* Bring US troops home from 175 nations.

* Spend 10% of the US military budget providing the world with clean drinking water, food, and assistance in sustainable agriculture and energy.

Our options are not to do nothing or to bomb Syria into the sort of disaster created in Iraq. There is an alternative that benefits Syrians , makes us safer, and costs less in money, lives, and morality.

Take action online: http://RootsAction.org
Take action in DC on Saturday:
https://www.facebook.com/events/563464440373777/563787403674814
And everywhere else:
http://interoccupy.net/blog/nowarwithsyria-global-rallies-on-august-31-2013
Flyers you can use to oppose this war: Color PDF, Black and White PDF.


No Syria War
Bob Fertik / Democrats.com

We say No!

Attacking Syria won’t reduce the violence — it will only escalate it with devastating consequences for Syrians and Americans, as we learned so painfully in Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq killed 100,000 to 600,000 Iraqi civilians. For Americans, the invasion killed 4,486 US troops and wounded 32,223. Of the 2.3 million US troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 20% suffer from PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury, and hundreds commit suicide each year. For returning troops and their loved ones, the war is never over.

President Obama may prefer sending missiles and bombs from a distance, but these are acts of war that can easily lead to all-out war with Syria.

Moreover Syria, unlike Iraq, has the support of major military powers like Russia and Iran, which could lead to a much larger war across the entire Middle East.

Economically, the US absolutely cannot afford war with Syria. The Iraq War cost the US economy $3 trillion and helped cause the Great Recession of 2008 , which has still not ended.

Since Republicans refuse to raise taxes, the inevitable costs of a Syrian War will come from food stamps, education, health care, environmental protection, and Social Security. The American people adamantly oppose cuts to these essential programs.

These are among the reasons Americans oppose a Syria War.
The US cannot solve Syria’s civil war by turning that war into a US war — instead we must increase our efforts to find a diplomatic solution, as was done successfully in Northern Ireland.

And when we have solid evidence of the people who ordered any chemical weapons attacks, we should bring them before the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Petition
Most Americans oppose a Syria War — and I am one of them. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were disastrous, both in human and economic terms. War in Syria could be even worse.

We have no idea who we’re fighting for — Al Qaeda?
Moreover we already have a federal budget crisis that is causing devastating cuts to food stamps, Head Start, and other crucial programs. We have absolutely no money for a new Syria War.

A US war is not the solution to Syria’s civil war — we need increased diplomacy instead, like the successful effort to end the civil war in Northern Ireland. And whoever ordered chemical attacks should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

As your constituent, I demand that you vote against a Syria War, and block any funds for any military actions that could start such a war.


ACTION ALERT: About Syria
Ibrahim Ahmad

(August 30, 2013) — Please help me in spreading the word about the unjustified war the overzealous want to launch in Syria against the will of the majority of Syrians, using false unfounded accusation about the use of chemical weapons, with staged and prepared agenda even before the UN finish its investigation.

It seems the politicians have memory problems and do not learn from history, wanting to repeat the mistakes of the past while the public is hypnotized and busy watching NFL/NBA/and other Different TV shows.

As Syrian American who raised and lived most of my life in Syria and visited Syria three times during this unrest and came back 4 weeks ago from there, I can tell you no one there with sound mind want foreign countries to bomb their land with uranium tainted explosives, only the murderers and the criminal and the cannibals you’ve seen on TV/YouTube are celebrating the current news about the crazy administration getting us in new war only to say later “sorry, we didn’t know” that Al-Qaida and the extremists will reap the sacrifice of our troops like other places,

ACTION LINKS
Petition to the White House
https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/no-war-syria/QcTV4m0F

Democrats.com Petition
http://www.democrats.com/no-syria-war

Credo Action Petition
http://org.credoaction.com/petitions/no-u-s-military-intervention-in-syria?sp_ref=8888627.4.327.e.1372.2&source=mailto_sp

Rebuffed by Allies, Obama Threatens to Go Rogue, Threatens Unilateral Act of War

August 30th, 2013 - by admin

Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman / The Guardian – 2013-08-30 01:48:08

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/30/obama-strike-syria-britain-vote

Obama Strike Plans in Disarray after
Britain Rejects Use of Force in Syria

Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman / The Guardian

WASHINGTON (August 29, 2013) — Barack Obama’s plans for air strikes against Syria were thrown into disarray on Thursday night after the British parliament unexpectedly rejected a motion designed to pave the way to authorising the UK’s participation in military action.

The White House was forced to consider the unpalatable option of taking unilateral action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad after the British prime minister, David Cameron, said UK would not now take part in any military action in response to a chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus last week.

Although Britain’s support was not a prerequisite for US action, the Obama administration was left exposed without the backing of its most loyal ally, which has taken part in every major US military offensive in recent years.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama’s national security council, indicated the administration would consider acting unliaterally. “The US will continue to consult with the UK government — one of our closest allies and friends. As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.

“He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

The US appears to have taken British support for granted. Hours before the vote, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Diane Feinstein, expressed confidence that Britain would join any strike.

Feinstein, a Democrat and staunch administration ally, told Time magazine: “I think the UK makes a difference. I think if the president were to decide to go there’s a very high likelihood that the United Kingdom would be with us.”

The timing of the British vote, 272 to 285 against the government, was disastrous for Obama. Less than 30 minutes after the vote, senior intelligence officials began a conference call with key members of Congress, in an attempt to keep US lawmakers on side.

Congressional leaders and the chairs and ranking members of national security committees were briefed by the most senior US intelligence officials, amid signs that some of the support for military strikes against Syria was fading.

The officials said there was “no doubt” that chemical weapons were used in Syria last week, Reuters reported. Obama aides cited intercepted communications of Syrian officials and evidence of movements by Syria’s military around Damascus before the attack that killed more than 300 people, said Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee.

The 90-minute briefing was conducted by secretary of state John Kerry, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel, national security adviser Susan Rice, among others.

After the briefing, Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate armed services committee, urged a cautious approach. “I have previously called for the United States to work with our friends and allies to increase the military pressure on the Assad regime by providing lethal aid to vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.

“Tonight, I suggested that we should do so while UN inspectors complete their work and while we seek international support for limited, targeted strikes in response to the Assad regime’s large-scale use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people.”

The UN has said more time should be given to diplomacy, and France, which earlier this week declared its support for taking action against Syria, is now calling for more time so UN inspections can be completed. A session of the United Nations Security Council in New York, called by Russia, broke up without agreement.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, instructed the 20-strong inspection team in Damascus to leave on Saturday, a day ahead of schedule. Ban also announced that the team would report to him immediately on departure, raising the possibility that the UN could issue an interim report on the 21 August chemical attacks that left hundreds of people dead.

The inspectors had not been due to deliver their findings for a week at least. The demand for a rushed early assessment reflects the fraught atmosphere at the UN triggered by US threats to launch punitive air strikes within days.

Shortly before Britain’s parliamentary vote, the New York Times quoted senior administration officials saying the US administration was prepared to launch strikes on Syria without a UN Security Council mandate or the support of allies such as Britain.

Earlier on Thursday, Joshua Earnest, the White House deputy spokesman, seemed to confirm that was a possibility when he was asked whether the US would “go it alone”. He repeatedly said it was in US “core national security interests” to enforce international chemical weapons norms.

“The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests of America,” he said. Any strikes would be “discreet and limited”, he said.

However, Earnest also stressed the broad international support for the US position — backing that now appears to be dissipating. The Arab League has blamed Syria for the chemical attack, but stopped short of advocating punitive strikes by the US.

In recent days, Obama has spoken personally with leaders of France, Australia, Canada and Germany. But none were as important as Britain, a traditional ally during US military actions which has been lobbying behind the scenes for months for a tougher action on Syria.

Ken Pollack, a fellow from the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy, said that with continuing uncertainty over the intelligence picture, and no obvious legal mandate for military action, the US will be desperate to secure more international backing to argue that intervention is “legitimate”.

“If the administration can’t even count of the full-throated support of our closest ally, the country that stuck by us even during the worst days of Iraq, that legitimacy is going to be called into question,” he said.

Now that the UK parliament has rejected an attack on Syria, Washington’s space for planning one is likely to be constrained, particularly as the Obama administration prepares to release its intelligence tying Assad to the 21 August gas attack. An unclassified report is due to be published on Friday.

Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA Middle East analyst and Georgetown professor, said the loss of British support would lead to more “intense” scrutiny of the US case for action against Syria. “The UK is, in many important respects, the most important ally of the United States,” said Pillar. “This action by parliament is unquestionably significant in that regard.”

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


ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress: No Syria War
Bob Fertik / Democrats.com

The neocon war criminals who took the US into an illegal and disastrous war in Iraq are back – and demanding a Syria War.

We say No!

Attacking Syria won’t reduce the violence – it will only escalate it with devastating consequences for Syrians and Americans, as we learned so painfully in Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq killed 100,000 to 600,000 Iraqi civilians. For Americans, the invasion killed 4,486 US troops and wounded 32,223. Of the 2.3 million US troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 20% suffer from PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury, and hundreds commit suicide each year. For returning troops and their loved ones, the war is never over.

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress: No Syria War!

Economically, the US absolutely cannot afford war with Syria. The Iraq War cost the US economy $3 trillion and helped cause the Great Recession of 2008, which has not ended.

Since Republicans refuse to raise taxes, the inevitable costs of a Syrian War will come from food stamps, education, health care, environmental protection, and Social Security. The American people adamantly oppose cuts in these essential programs.

Tell your Senators and Representative to vote against a Syria War, and block any funds for any military actions that could start such a war.

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Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack

August 30th, 2013 - by admin

Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh / Mint Press News & the Associated Press – 2013-08-30 01:15:59

http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

GHOUTA, Syria (August 29, 2013) — As the machinery for a US-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the US and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.

Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.

The US, Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. US warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack.

The US and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the [deadly]… gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.

“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.

Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.

More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.

Saudi Involvement
In a recent article for Business Insider, reporter Geoffrey Ingersoll highlighted Saudi Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syrian civil war. Many observers believe Bandar, with his close ties to Washington, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the US against Assad.

Ingersoll referred to an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks alleging that Bandar offered Russian President Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dumping Assad.

“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Ingersoll wrote.

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Bandar allegedly told the Russians.

“Along with Saudi officials, the US allegedly gave the Saudi intelligence chief the thumbs up to conduct these talks with Russia, which comes as no surprise,” Ingersoll wrote.

“Bandar is American-educated, both military and collegiate, served as a highly influential Saudi Ambassador to the US, and the CIA totally loves this guy,” he added.

According to UK’s Independent newspaper, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first brought allegations of the use of sarin gas by the regime to the attention of Western allies in February.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was “serious” about toppling Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar to lead the effort.

“They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one US diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout,” it said.

Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.

The newspaper reports that he met with the “uneasy Jordanians about such a base”:

His meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah sometimes ran to eight hours in a single sitting. “The king would joke: ‘Oh, Bandar’s coming again? Let’s clear two days for the meeting,’ ” said a person familiar with the meetings.

Jordan’s financial dependence on Saudi Arabia may have given the Saudis strong leverage. An operations center in Jordan started going online in the summer of 2012, including an airstrip and warehouses for arms. Saudi-procured AK-47s and ammunition arrived, WSJ reported, citing Arab officials.

Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that “funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.”

But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.

Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, has issued a word of caution about Washington’s rush to punish the Assad regime with so-called ‘limited’ strikes not meant to overthrow the Syrian leader but diminish his capacity to use chemical weapons:

Consider this: the only beneficiaries from the atrocity were the rebels, previously losing the war, who now have Britain and America ready to intervene on their side. While there seems to be little doubt that chemical weapons were used, there is doubt about who deployed them.

It is important to remember that Assad has been accused of using poison gas against civilians before. But on that occasion, Carla del Ponte, a UN commissioner on Syria, concluded that the rebels, not Assad, were probably responsible.

NOTE: Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.

Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and the Associated Press. Gavlak has been stationed in Amman, Jordan for the Associated Press for over two decades. An expert in Middle Eastern Affairs, Gavlak currently covers the Levant region of the Middle East for AP, National Public Radio and Mint Press News, writing on topics including politics, social issues and economic trends. Dale holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Contact Dale at dgavlak@mintpressnews.com

Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism, He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.

This article is a collaboration between Dale Gavlak of Mint Press News and the Associated Press and Yahya Ababneh.

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

US Hypocrisy on Use of Illegal Weapons

August 30th, 2013 - by admin

Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams – 2013-08-30 01:06:36

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/08/27-3

(August 27, 2013) — “This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all, a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else… And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.”

These statements by Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday put on display the hypocrisy of the United States, a serial user of weapons widely condemned by the global community.

From cluster bombs to depleted uranium to napalm, recent history of US warfare shows a trail of weapons leaving long-lasting civilian harm.

The US has not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and instead continues to produce and sell cluster bombs, and used them as recently as seven years ago. According to the Cluster Munition Coalition, from the 1960s to 2006, the US dropped cluster bombs on Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Napalm was not only widely used by the US during the years of the Vietnam War but also in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq, though it only admitted to having used it in Iraq after irrefutable evidence was out.

The US also used white phosphorus on Iraq and Afghanistan. White phosphorus was usedin 2004 during the assault on Fallujah, and the New York Times reported its use as recently as in 2011 in Afghanistan. Steve Goose and Bonnie Docherty of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch wrote:

The Associated Press reported that an 8-year-old Afghan girl, Razia, was injured when a white phosphorus shell ripped through her home in the Tagab Valley of Kapisa province in June 2009. When she reached the operating room, white powder covered her skin, the oxygen mask on her face started to melt, and flames appeared when doctors attempted to scrape away the dead tissue.

White phosphorus munitions cause particularly severe injuries, including chemical burns down to the bone. Wounds contaminated by white phosphorus can reignite days later when bandages are removed, produce poisoning that leads to organ failure and death, and lead to lifetime health problems.

[Still from video from The Guardian on hospitals in Falluja dealing with chronic deformities in infants.]

The US use of depleted uranium, what one peace activist described as America’s Silent Weapon of Mass Destruction, in Iraq has left a horrific legacy of birth defects and cancers for Iraqis and soldiers.

There is also the death and destruction the US launched in 1945 when it became the only country to drop nuclear bombs.

This all leads Middle Eastern history professor Mark LeVine to ask on Tuesday:

Can a government that supported the use of chemical weapons in one conflict claim any moral, political or legal authority militarily to attack another country for using the same weapons, particularly when the attack is not authorised by the UN Security Council?

Not only did the US aid the use of chemical weapons by the former Iraqi government, it also used chemical weapons on a large scale during its 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq, in the form of depleted-uranium (DU) ammunition.

As Dahr Jamail’s reporting for Al Jazeera has shown, the use of DU by the US and UK has very likely been the cause not only of many cases of Gulf War Syndrome suffered by Iraq war veterans, but also of thousands of instances of birth defects, cancer and other diseases — causing a “large-scale public health disaster” and the “highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied” — suffered by Iraqis in areas subjected to frequent and intense attacks by US and allied occupation forces.

Thus what we have now is a situation in which a government (the United States) that has both supported and committed large-scale and systematic war crimes in one country (Iraq) is leading the international effort to stop Iraq’s neighbor, Syria, from continuing to use chemical weapons against its own people.

This week, as we hear corporate media amplifying calls to attack Syria and know of US complicity in Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, a piece from the Guardian‘s George Monbiot from November of 2005 stands out. He wrote, in part:

We were told that the war with Iraq was necessary for two reasons. Saddam Hussein possessed biological and chemical weapons and might one day use them against another nation. And the Iraqi people needed to be liberated from his oppressive regime, which had, among its other crimes, used chemical weapons to kill them.

Tony Blair, Colin Powell, William Shawcross, David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, Ann Clwyd and many others referred, in making their case, to Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. They accused those who opposed the war of caring nothing for the welfare of the Iraqis.

Given that they care so much, why has none of these hawks spoken out against the use of unconventional weapons by coalition forces?

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

In Britain, the Voice of Democracy Derails Washington’s Rush to War

August 30th, 2013 - by admin

Al-Jazeera America & Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com – 2013-08-30 00:44:59

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/8/29/u-s-push-to-strikeslowsastensionsoversyriarise.html

Britain Votes Against Syria Action
Al-Jazeera America

White House says Obama’s decision to press on or abandon military intervention will be guided by national interests

LONDON (August 29, 2013) — The White House said that it would continue to weigh possible military action in Syria after facing fresh delays Thursday, when the British parliament voted against participation and Prime Minister David Cameron pledged not to override its decision.

Obama said in an interview on Wednesday that he was “certain” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week, and that he and allies were weighing a military response.

“It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action,” Cameron said. “I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”

Cameron had said earlier that it would be legal to take military action against Syria even if the U.N. Security Council denied authorization for such action. His government’s intelligence committee said it had confirmed that a chemical attack took place in Syria last week, and that intelligence suggests it is “highly likely” that government forces were responsible.

Cameron recalled parliament in an emergency session Thursday, and told lawmakers it’s likely that Assad has been “testing the boundaries” with at least 14 incidents of chemical weapons use.

Cameron said, “We must do the right thing in the right way” while ensuring that any action is proportionate, legal and designed to deter the use of such weapons.

Parliament’s ultimate decision to forgo military intervention will be seen as a severe rebuff for Cameron.

Nevertheless, the United States appeared resolved to press forward.

“As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.

“He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

Hayden noted that the US would “continue to consult” with London, “one of our closest allies and friends.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Associated Press late Thursday that Obama was still in discussions on the timing and scope of potential action.

Engel also said administration officials told lawmakers Thursday they received intercepts of Syrian officials’ communications that reportedly proved the Assad regime used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Earlier on Thursday, envoys from the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China gathered at UN headquarters in New York to discuss the possibility of military intervention. The meeting was called by the Russian delegation, and ended with no statement from the participants.

A similar meeting on Wednesday ended after more than an hour with no agreement.

Obama, who had earlier made the case for a limited punishment action to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, consulted with House Speaker John Boehner Thursday on a proposed course of action.

“It is clear that further dialogue and consultation with Congress, as well as communication with the American public, will be needed,” Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck said in a release issued afterward.

U.N. inspectors will be withdrawn from Syria on Saturday, when they will report the initial findings of their investigation to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Their mandate is simply to ascertain whether chemical weapons were used in the incident that left more than 300 civilians dead; they will not determine culpability for such use.

Security Council approval for military intervention remains unlikely, with Russia and China speaking out strongly against that option.

France called on allies to wait for the U.N. report on the chemical attack before committing to action. As a result, the administration is looking to support from key allies.

Security Council Concerns
The UN-Arab League special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said any international military action in Syria could be carried out only after it has been approved by the Security Council, despite the council’s two-year deadlock over the issue.

A Security Council resolution drafted by the UK that would authorize intervention to protect Syrian civilians is almost certain to be vetoed by Russia, Syria’s staunchest ally in the council, if brought to a vote. Russia, along with China, has vetoed three resolutions on Syria in the past two years.

The Security Council has begun closed consultations on Syria.

On Thursday, the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel released a statement that Germany and French President Francois Hollande have agreed that there must be a reaction to the suspected Syrian gas attack and that they hope for a prompt report from the UN.


Parliament Revolts, Brits to Stay Out of Syria
Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com

(August 29, 2013) –Britain is officially out of the planned US attacks on Syria today, after a parliamentary vote saw broad rejection of the Cameron government’s call to ignore their lack of evidence and approve the conflict.

The vote was close, but the admission that the British government doesn’t have anything resembling a “smoking gun” of evidence to back their allegations seemed to be a bigger problem for parliamentarians than it was for the prime minister.

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that after the vote, the British government will not take part in the initial American attacks on Syria, but officials raised the prospect of holding another vote, potentially next week, if they come up with any actual, real evidence.

US officials expressed “disappointment” that Britain won’t be joining the attack, but said it won’t stop their own plans to strike Syria in the coming days. The Obama Administration has rejected seeking Congressional approval, likely fearing that the US Congress would similarly reject the hasty calls to attack.

French officials are also suggesting that they “need proof” now in a way that they didn’t a few days ago, and this may mean the Obama Administration, once bragging about this being an “international action,” will end up attacking without any partners.

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

Vermont Yankee: Where Activists, Lawyers And Politicians Failed, the Market Succeeded

August 29th, 2013 - by admin

Anne Galloway / Vermont Digger – 2013-08-29 02:02:10


http://vtdigger.org/2013/08/28/vermont-yankee-where-activists-lawyers-and-politicians-failed-the-market-succeeded



Vermont Yankee: Where Activists, Lawyers
And Politicians Failed, the Market Succeeded

Anne Galloway / Vermont Digger

(August 28, 2013) — The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant has been the subject of one of the longest and most intensive anti-nuke campaigns in the region. Even before the plant was constructed on the banks of the Connecticut River in 1972, anti-nuclear activists demonstrated against Vermont Yankee with a fervor that bordered on religious conviction.

Anti-nuke groups formed — the New England Coalition, Citizens Awareness Network, Shut It Down Affinity Group and the Safe and Green Campaign — and environmental organizations like VPIRG, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Conservation Law Foundation took up the cause, too. From the 1970s and 1980s and again in the early 2000s, Vermont Yankee attracted a wide range of activists who pressed for one ultimate goal: closing the plant.

When a new out-of-state owner — Entergy Corp. — purchased the Vernon plant for $180 million in 2002, and the facility began to age and show signs of deterioration (including the collapse of a cooling tower, a transmission fire and tritium leaks from underground pipes), activists ramped up the outrage, and eventually politicians — the state’s Democrats and Progressives — took up the cause, too.

In 2010, Sen. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat from Windham County where the plant is located, engineered a vote in the Senate to deny Entergy an opportunity to extend its license to operate beyond a predetermined shutdown date of March 21, 2012.

On Tuesday, the anti-nukers and Shumlin, who is now governor, got their wish: Entergy announced that they plan to close Vermont Yankee in October 2014.

Entergy officials insist the shutdown has nothing to do with the shenanigans of activists, political pressure, changes to state law, a hostile regulatory environment or the ongoing legal battles between the company and the state. It has everything to do with larger economic forces, namely the availability of cheap power from natural gas and the increased cost of maintaining an aging nuclear power plant as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission implements new standards in the wake of the Fukushima accident in March of 2012.

Bill Mohl, Entergy’s president of wholesale commodities, told reporters packed into a room at the Vermont Yankee administrative offices that the plant was no longer financially viable, and so the company had no choice but to close the plant.

“This decision was based on the economics of the plant, not operational performance, not litigation risk, nor political pressure. Simply put: The plant costs exceed the plant revenue,” Mohl said. “After careful analysis, it becomes painfully clear that Vermont Yankee is no longer financially viable.”

Mohl pointed to three key factors that led to the plant’s financial disposition. First, the rapid growth of low-priced natural gas is weighing on the nuclear industry. Second, the cost of maintaining the 41-year-old, single unit plant is prohibitively high, as Entergy has invested more than $400 million in Vermont Yankee since 2002. Lastly, Mohr said Vermont Yankee cannot compete in New England’s wholesale market because of flaws that artificially keep power prices from other sources low.

Entergy’s decision to shut down Vermont Yankee came as something of a surprise to many activists, politicians and business leaders in Vermont, but Wall Street watchers have been anticipating the possible closure of the plant for some time.

Last month, Entergy laid off 800 workers nationwide and cut 30 positions in Vernon; shares of Entergy dropped more than 50 percent from 2012 to 2013; and the fair market value of the Vermont Yankee plant fell by 69 percent, from $517.5 million to $162 million earlier this year.

UBS Securities downgraded Entergy Corp.’s stock from “neutral” to “sell.” The Swiss financial services firm also projected the closure of an Entergy nuclear facility in 2013, saying “Vermont Yankee is the most the most tenuously positioned plant.”

In addition, Entergy would have had to have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the plant next year in order to keep the facility operating. Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and former member of the public oversight commission for Vermont Yankee, says they needed to replace or repair the condenser, which would cost $100 million, and they had to plow another $100 million into the plant in modifications to meet new federal requirements that were put in place after the Fukushima accident took place in March 2011.

Vermont Yankee is Entergy’s lowest capacity plant, and it’s the only facility executives say they are currently planning to decommission. Mohl said Entergy’s board decided to close the plant Sunday night and officials spoke to Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday morning. The company pledged to work with the state to close the plant safely and in a manner that is best for local communities.

The announcement is a watershed moment for the state. Though no power from the plant is being sold to utilities in Vermont now, for decades the facility was the state’s No. 1 source of baseload electricity. Over the last few years, Vermont Yankee’s rates, which had been locked in at 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, suddenly increased and were no longer as competitive.

At the same time, natural gas flooded the electricity market and lowered costs throughout New England. The state’s largest utility, Green Mountain Power, struck a favorable deal with Seabrook, a nuclear power plant in New Hampshire, and Hydro-Quebec, for access to low-cost electricity from a series of megadam projects in Canada.

At the same time, in an attempt to meet the state’s ambitious renewable energy goals, utilities invested in local wind and solar projects.

The shutdown could also effectively neutralize the third rail of Vermont politics. Vermont Yankee has been politically polarizing for decades, and the rift between conservatives and liberals over safety and environmental impacts of nuclear power has deepened over time.

Republicans have typically supported the plant, while Democrats and Progressives have more often backed the arguments of anti-nuke opponents. Shumlin ran for governor in 2010 on a shut down Yankee platform (as did his Democratic primary opponents), and a tritium leak at the plant that year made Vermont Yankee an easy target of criticism.

Though Shumlin has long had an antagonistic relationship with Entergy officials, in a press conference on Tuesday, he struck a conciliatory chord, pledging to work with the company to ensure workers get placed in new jobs.

“As you know, Entergy Louisiana this morning made announcement it is shuttering the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in October 2014,” Shumlin said. “This is the right decision for Vermont and the right decision for Vermont’s clean energy future.”

The governor compared the plant shutdown to a base closing, and he used phrases from his tried-and-true election stump speech: Shumlin says he sees the project as an “opportunity to grow jobs and economic opportunity” and as an opportunity for the state to continue to foster renewable energy.

About a dozen organizations — left, right and center — weighed in on the news, and press releases from the groups reflect the divide between partisans. Environmental and activist groups praised Entergy’s decision, while most business groups bemoaned the job losses associated with the closure.

Municipal officials say the layoffs will continue to erode the economy of southern Vermont in general and Windham County in particular. Forty percent of 650 workers are from Vermont. Local residents anticipate significant economic blowback from the closure at a time when Windham County is already experiencing population losses and falling incomes.

While Entergy and state officials say the plant will be fully funded until the plant closes, they wouldn’t say how many workers would be laid off in the last quarter of 2014; one nuclear expert said he would anticipate that about half of the staff would receive pink slips once the plant is no longer operating.

Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, said the closing will have an irreparable impact on local towns.

“It’s going to be devastating to our communities because of the volunteers,” he said. “Our local rescue is predominantly Yankee employees, the volunteer fire department is predominantly Yankee employees, just about every charitable organization in the county has received something from Yankee.

“It will be a brain drain,” he added. “It’s not just the economic impact.”

The economic impact will be significant. Since 2007, the Windham Regional Commission, which is the county planning commission, has been preparing for the one of the area’s largest economic engines to turn off.

“There’s a significant impact to having those very highly paid jobs,” Hebert said. “Those are the people that buy your cars and eat in your restaurants.”

Entergy workers make roughly $90,000 a year, and the company contributes nearly $100 million to the state’s economy through wages, charitable donations and payments in local and state fees and taxes. Once Vermont Yankee closes these sources of income will begin to dry up.

A 2012 report from the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies predicts there will also be a 5 percent to 15 percent major declines in real estate value.

Gundersen says when the plant stops operating next year, it’s likely that Entergy will cut the workforce in half. Those who remain will monitor the facility for five years until the fuel cools down. Then the company will drain the spent fuel pool, at which point it will need about 150 workers to keep an eye on the facility. When Entergy decommissions the plant, i.e., dismantles it sometime before 2074, it will need about 1,000 workers on site for about seven years, Gundersen says.

“The economics of nuclear are driving this,” Gundersen said. “At Vermont Yankee it takes 650 people to get the same power out of gas plant which takes 100 people.”

Five nuclear plants in the United States have closed this year, he said, because it’s no longer as profitable to generate nuclear power. People are conserving energy and utilities are increasingly reliant on natural gas, Gundersen says.

“It costs $1 billion to build a gas plant, to build a nuclear plant it costs $10 billion, plus you have to have a big staff, plus gas is so damn cheap,” Gundersen says. “The net effect is these marginal old plants that have modifications in front of them are in jeopardy.”

Decommissioning or
Mothballing Vermont Yankee?

Under federal law, Entergy has up to 60 years to decommission the plant. In the interim, the company can mothball the plant, leaving all of the buildings, equipment and highly radioactive spent fuel in place, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Sheehan says the company could decide to dismantle the facility as soon as the spent fuel has cooled. Vermont Yankee has 1,507 fuel rod assemblies submerged in a spent fuel pool that was originally designed to hold about 350.

Spent fuel must be kept under water in order to prevent the Zirconium cladding (the metal tubes that contain the fuel pellets) from igniting. Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool, located in a metal warehouse structure, has more than five full reactor cores worth of radioactive material.

It typically takes about 10 years to deconstruct a nuclear power plant, Sheehan said.

Entergy has made it clear that it wants to mothball the plant, put the spent fuel in concrete “dry casks,” and wait at least several decades before dismantling the plant.

Two years from the plant shutdown, the company has to submit a plan to the NRC detailing when it plans to remove the infrastructure and finish putting the fuel in dry cask storage.

Either way, the fuel will likely remain on site for decades because the federal government, which had guaranteed nuclear operators it would create a national repository for the waste, failed to secure Yucca Mountain in Nevada. For the time being, there is no other option but to keep high-level waste on the Vermont Yankee site.

Chris Campany, director of the regional planning commission, says it would be best for the region’s economy if Entergy used the DECON method of decommissioning, which calls for a full dismantling of the plant in a shorter time frame.

“Based on our research, that would be the softer landing because you retain those legacy employees for a longer period of time,” he said. “There would be value to Entergy to have those people stay on to advise how to take the plant apart.”

The company, however, wants to effectively mothball the plant for as long as 60 years without disposing of the plant infrastructure or dealing with the spent fuel rods now sitting in a large pool of water. Jeff Forbes, Entergy vice president of nuclear operations did not indicate when the fuel would be moved from the plant’s spent fuel pool to dry cask storage. (Many nuclear experts consider dry cask storage to be a safe method of keeping radioactive waste.)

The US Department of Energy would then remove the fuel at an undetermined point in time, and Entergy would completely dismantle the site. In the interim, workers would secure and monitor the site.

Campany wants Entergy to begin moving spent fuel from its on-site spent fuel pool to dry casks during operation, so that the plant can absorb those costs in its operating budget and have more decommissioning funds up front to dismantle the plant more quickly.

“The company will establish a decommissioning organization that will be responsible for planning and executing the safe decommissioning of the facility,” he said. “Decommissioning is a long process that could take decades. Once the plant is shut down, workers will defuel the reactor and place it in SAFSTOR, which is an NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] approved process.”

But the company is unlikely to begin transferring the spent fuel into long-term storage before it has officially begun the decommissioning process. That’s because Entergy doesn’t want to eat into operating revenues (and profits) — it wants to tap the decommissioning fund instead, Gundersen says.

The decommissioning fund is worth about $580 million. In 2012, Entergy completed a decommissioning cost analysis for Vermont Yankee that projects SAFSTOR could cost more than $1 billion.

Entergy has indicated it wants to wait until the decommissioning fund builds up before it begins the expensive process of dismantling the plant.

“We’re $400 million short,” Gundersen says. “If the stock market doesn’t collapse, we could get there in 20 years.”

Gundersen says the state has very little leverage to speed up the decommissioning process. The only way state officials could hasten it is by abandoning the notion of converting the Vermont Yankee compound into a greenfield for renewable energy (as Shumlin suggested at his press conference), and accepting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s less stringent plan for decommissioning, he said.

On Tuesday, neither Mohl nor Forbes would provide specifics on decommissioning costs or future job numbers. They said Entergy would conduct a detailed analysis to determine how best to decommission the plant.

Until the plant closes, Mohl said, the plant will be fully staffed.

“Then we expect after we shut down the plant and defuel the reactor, we would be able to reduce the workforce by some amount,” he said. “The actual numbers will depend on what plan we have, and we’ll have to determine that at that time.”

Andrew Stein contributed to this report.


Entergy Focus Under New CEO
May Shift to New York Nuclear Fight



Eileen O’Grady / Reuters & Vermont Digger

HOUSTON (August 27, 2013) — Entergy Corp’s (ETR.N) decision to shut its Vermont nuclear plant begins the final chapter in a battle with politicians seeking to close the station and may shift the firm’s focus to the larger Indian Point nuclear plant in New York.



Entergy on Tuesday said it will shut the 620-megawatt Vermont Yankee by the end of 2014, saying the reactor is no longer economical to operate with current low power prices and rising regulatory costs.



The decision will end legal appeals and regulatory disputes and highlights the actions of Entergy’s new chairman and chief executive, Leo Denault, who succeeded J. Wayne Leonard as CEO in February. Denault previously served as Entergy’s chief financial officer for nine years.



Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin cited a “constructive” call with Denault on Tuesday and said he hopes to work with the new CEO going forward.

”

The past is the past; we’re now dealing with the future and he pledged to work together as a team to get the best outcome we possibly can,” Shumlin told reporters.



In New York, Entergy also faces a showdown with politicians, regulators and environmental groups in its effort to keep the two Indian Point reactors running after their current licenses expire later this year and in 2015.

 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo opposes Indian Point’s license renewal because of the plant’s proximity to the New York City metropolitan area that is home to 19 million people

.

At Cuomo’s direction, state power agencies are pursuing plans to modernize the New York grid so that it can operate without the 2,037-MW Indian Point plant.



Denault told Reuters the company’s current Indian Point strategy is to continue the safe, reliable operation of the plant located 40 miles north of New York City, but he remains open to talks to determine the plant’s future.



Like Vermont Yankee, Indian Point also faces the double economic challenges of falling wholesale prices and uncertain capital costs to deal with changing nuclear regulatory mandates, Denault said.

Entergy is “open to a resolution with the state that makes sense for us and for the objectives of the state,” Denault said.



However, the much larger Indian Point plant — which can supply one-quarter of the power used in New York City and Westchester — operates in a different power market and can take better advantage of scale, Denault said.

 “It’s a different animal,” he said.



Indian Point also contributes to the local economy with high-paying jobs and taxes, supplying low-cost power that releases no carbon dioxide or other pollutants, Denault said.



He said he wants to make sure Entergy has recovered the large investment it has made since purchasing the first Indian Point reactor in 2000 from the state power authority.



Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston. Editing by Andrew Hay)

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

Syria: Another Western War Crime in the Making

August 29th, 2013 - by admin

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts / Global Research – 2013-08-29 01:47:28

Syria: Another Western War Crime In The Making — Paul Craig Roberts

(August 27, 2013) — The war criminals in Washington and other Western capitals are determined to maintain their lie that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Having failed in efforts to intimidate the UN chemical inspectors in Syria, Washington has demanded that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon withdraw the chemical weapons inspectors before they can assess the evidence and make their report. The UN Secretary General stood up to the Washington war criminals and rejected their demand.

The US and UK governments have revealed none of the “conclusive evidence” they claim to have that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. Listening to their voices, observing their body language, and looking into their eyes, it is completely obvious that John Kerry and his British and German puppets are lying through their teeth.

This is a far more shameful situation than the massive lies that former Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell claims that he was deceived by the White House and did not know that he was lying. Kerry and the British, French, and German puppets know full well that they are lying.

The face that the West presents to the world is the brazen face of a liar.

Washington and its British and French puppet governments are poised to yet again reveal their criminality. The image of the West as War Criminal is not a propaganda image created by the West’s enemies, but the portrait that the West has painted of itself.

The UK Independent reports that over this past week-end Obama, Cameron, and Hollande agreed to launch cruise missile attacks against the Syrian government within two weeks despite the lack of any authorization from the UN and despite the absence of any evidence in behalf of Washington’s claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the Washington-backed “rebels”, largely US supported external forces, seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.

Indeed, one reason for the rush to war is to prevent the UN inspection that Washington knows would disprove its claim and possibly implicate Washington in the false flag attack by the “rebels,” who assembled a large number of children into one area to be chemically murdered with the blame pinned by Washington on the Syrian government.

Another reason for the rush to war is that Cameron, the UK prime minister, wants to get the war going before the British parliament can block him for providing cover for Obama’s war crimes the way that Tony Blair provided cover for George W. Bush, for which Blair was duly rewarded. What does Cameron care about Syrian lives when he can leave office into the waiting arms of a $50 million fortune.

The Syrian government, knowing that it is not responsible for the chemical weapons incident, has agreed for the UN to send in chemical inspectors to determine the substance used and the method of delivery.

However, Washington has declared that it is “too late” for UN inspectors and that Washington accepts the self-serving claim of the al Qaeda affiliated “rebels” that the Syrian government attacked civilians with chemical weapons.

In an attempt to prevent the UN chemical inspectors who arrived on the scene from doing their work, the inspectors were fired upon by snipers in “rebel” held territory and forced off site, although a later report from RT says the inspectors have returned to the site to conduct their inspection.

The corrupt British government has declared that Syria can be attacked without UN authorization, just as Serbia and Libya were militarily attacked without UN authorization.

In other words, the Western democracies have already established precedents for violating international law. “International law? We don’t need no stinking international law!” The West knows only one rule: Might is Right. As long as the West has the Might, the West has the Right.

In a response to the news report that the US, UK, and France are preparing to attack Syria, the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov, said that such unilateral action is a “severe violation of international law,” and that the violation was not only a legal one but also an ethical and moral violation.

Lavrov referred to the lies and deception used by the West to justify its grave violations of international law in military attacks on Serbia, Iraq, and Libya and how the US government used preemptive moves to undermine every hope for peaceful settlements in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

Once again Washington has preempted any hope of peaceful settlement. By announcing the forthcoming attack, the US destroyed any incentive for the “rebels” to participate in the peace talks with the Syrian government. On the verge of these talks taking place, the “rebels” now have no incentive to participate as the West’s military is coming to their aid.

In his press conference Lavrov spoke of how the ruling parties in the US, UK, and France stir up emotions among poorly informed people that, once aroused, have to be satisfied by war.

This, of course, is the way the US manipulated the public in order to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. But the American public is tired of the wars, the goal of which is never made clear, and has grown suspicious of the government’s justifications for more wars.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that “Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria’s government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed.”

However, Obama could not care less that only 9 percent of the public supports his warmongering. As former president Jimmy Carter recently stated, “America has no functioning democracy.”

It has a police state in which the executive branch has placed itself above all law and the Constitution.

This police state is now going to commit yet another Nazi-style war crime of unprovoked aggression. At Nuremberg the Nazis were sentenced to death for precisely the identical actions being committed by Obama, Cameron, and Hollande. The West is banking on might, not right, to keep it out of the criminal dock.

The US, UK, and French governments have not explained why it matters whether people in the wars initiated by the West are killed by explosives made of depleted uranium or with chemical agents or any other weapon. It was obvious from the beginning that Obama was setting up the Syrian government for attack.

Obama demonized chemical weapons — but not nuclear “bunker busters” that the US might use on Iran. Then Obama drew a red line, saying that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrians was such a great crime that the West would be obliged to attack Syria. Washington’s UK puppets, William Hague and Cameron, have just repeated this nonsensical claim.

The final step in the frame-up was to orchestrate a chemical incident and blame the Syrian government.

What is the West’s real agenda? This is the unasked and unanswered question. Clearly, the US, UK, and French governments, which have displayed continuously their support for dictatorial regimes that serve their purposes, are not the least disturbed by dictatorships.

They brand Assad a dictator as a means of demonizing him for the ill-informed Western masses. But Washington, UK, and France support any number of dictatorial regimes, such as the ones in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now the military dictatorship in Egypt that is ruthlessly killing Egyptians without any Western government speaking of invading Egypt for “killing its own people.”

Clearly also, the forthcoming Western attack on Syria has nothing whatsoever to do with bringing “freedom and democracy” to Syria any more than freedom and democracy were reasons for the attacks on Iraq and Libya, neither of which gained any “freedom and democracy.”

The Western attack on Syria is unrelated to human rights, justice or any of the high sounding causes with which the West cloaks its criminality.

The Western media, and least of all the American presstitutes, never ask Obama, Cameron, or Hollande what the real agenda is. It is difficult to believe than any reporter is sufficiently stupid or gullible to believe that the agenda is bringing “freedom and democracy” to Syria or punishing Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against murderous thugs trying to overthrow the Syrian government.

Of course, the question wouldn’t be answered if asked. But the act of asking it would help make the public aware that more is afoot than meets the eye. Originally, the excuse for Washington’s wars was to keep Americans safe from terrorists.

Now Washington is endeavoring to turn Syria over to jihad terrorists by helping them to overthrow the secular, non-terrorist Assad government. What is the agenda behind Washington’s support of terrorism?

Perhaps the purpose of the wars is to radicalize Muslims and, thereby, destabilize Russia and even China. Russia has large populations of Muslims and is bordered by Muslim countries. Even China has some Muslim population.

As radicalization spreads strife into the only two countries capable of being an obstacle to Washington’s world hegemony, Western media propaganda and the large number of US financed NGOs, posing as “human rights” organizations, can be counted on by Washington to demonize the Russian and Chinese governments for harsh measures against “rebels.”

Another advantage of the radicalization of Muslims is that it leaves former Muslim countries in long-term turmoil or civil wars, as is currently the case in Iraq and Libya, thus removing any organized state power from obstructing Israeli purposes.

Secretary of State John Kerry is working the phones using bribes and threats to build acceptance, if not support, for Washington’s war crime-in-the-making against Syria.

Washington is driving the world closer to nuclear war than it ever was even in the most dangerous periods of the Cold War. When Washington finishes with Syria, the next target is Iran. Russia and China will no longer be able to fool themselves that there is any system of international law or restraint on Western criminality.

Western aggression is already forcing both countries to develop their strategic nuclear forces and to curtail the Western-financed NGOs that pose as “human rights organizations,” but in reality comprise a fifth column that Washington can use to destroy the legitimacy of the Russian and Chinese governments.

Russia and China have been extremely careless in their dealings with the United States. Essentially, the Russian political opposition is financed by Washington. Even the Chinese government is being undermined. When a US corporation opens a company in China, it creates a Chinese board on which are put relatives of the local political authorities.

These boards create a conduit for payments that influence the decisions and loyalties of local and regional party members. The US has penetrated Chinese universities and intellectual attitudes. The Rockefeller University is active in China as is Rockefeller philanthropy.

Dissenting voices are being created that are arrayed against the Chinese government. Demands for “liberalization” can resurrect regional and ethnic differences and undermine the cohesiveness of the national government.

Once Russia and China realize that they are riven with American fifth columns, isolated diplomatically, and outgunned militarily, nuclear weapons become the only guarantor of their sovereignty. This suggests that nuclear war is likely to terminate humanity well before humanity succumbs to global warming or rising national debts.

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

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