Vol 14, No.05
UNITED STATES : A PACIFIC POWER? By Nile Bowie As Washington pursues its rebalancing strategy, Obama’s historic four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific has subtly altered the region’s security dynamics. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” declared President Obama during his speech to the Australian parliament in 2011, following his announcement to deploy 2,500 marines to northern Australia to help protect American interests across Asia. As Washington remains embroiled in domestic economic issues and conflicts throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has come under great scrutiny for not living up to the promise of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, the world’s most economically dynamic region. The US president’s recent trip to the region was the most significant and tangible development to occur since the rebalancing policy was unveiled. Obama’s trip had two primary dimensions: deepening the role of the US military throughout the Asia-Pacific, and shoring up
support for the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an allencompassing trade deal led by Washington that would embolden transnational corporate power at great public expense. As the Obama administration moves ahead on plans to relocate some 60 percent of its navy into the region, Washington’s current Asia doctrine is grounded in the notion that no other power can be allowed to reach parity with the United States. Washington’s strategy to pivot toward the Asia-Pacific is adorned with the language of pragmatism and neutrality, and despite repeated denials, the Obama administration’s actions are quite transparently aimed at capping the influence of a rapidly developing China. Washington has inserted itself into complicated, long-standing historical and territorial disputes under the guise of neutrality, which risks potentially setting the stage for an irreparable strategic blunder: antagonizing two major world
powers simultaneously at a time when relations between the US and Russia are already deteriorating over the crisis in Ukraine. President Obama’s milestone four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific may have laid the foundations for the region’s local territorial disputes to grow into an increasing tense superpower stand-off. Japan refuses to yield on trade The US president’s visit to Japan comes at a time when the right-leaning administration of Shinzo Abe has taken controversial positions on historical and territorial issues that have inflamed relations with China and South Korea, which view the incumbent Japanese government as being openly unrepentant for past atrocities. The White House previously expressed reservations toward Abe’s calls to consider revising official apologies over Japan’s wartime conduct, and his controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine that honors Japan’s Turn to next page
STATEMENTS .VIOLENCE AND THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER IN EGYPT
BY CHANDRA MUZAFFAR......................P4
ARTICLES . ITS
BRINK OF WAR BY SEUMAS MILNE.............................................P 6
.OBAMA’S KILLING FIELDS IN YEMEN BY NILE BOWIE....................................................P 11 . CORRUPT TO THE CORE: THE FIRE POWER OF THE
. THE RED LINE AND THE RAT LINE (PART 2)
BY SEYMOUR M. HERSH.......................................P 7
BY COLIN TODHUNTER.......................................P 14 .ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXCIDE LEVELS ARE THE HIGHEST IN 3 MILLION YEARS BY COUNTERCURRENTS...........................................P 15
. ISRAEL’S DIRTY ROLE IN THE SYRIAN CRISIS BY KOUROSH ZIABRI.........................................P 10
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S T A T E M E N T S
unwilling to give significant concessions, forcing all countries to meet rigid criteria. Abe risks losing support from his conservative voter base by reducing tariffs on areas such as rice, sugar, beef, pork and dairy that would adversely affect Japanese farmers. Obama was expecting
Pyongyang’s calls for Seoul to cancel its planned joint military drills with the US.
These provocative gestures did little to derail Obama’s support for Japan’s position in its tense territorial dispute with China over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. In an interview with Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, Obama affirmed that the disputed islands fell within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, meaning that Washington would be obliged to back Japan in the event of a military confrontation over the islands with Beijing, which views the islands as an integral part of its territory.
to come to a final agreement with Abe, but trade negotiators claim that there is still “considerable distance” between the US and Japan on key issues in the deal.
Obama also enthusiastically pledged support for Abe’s moves to amend Japan’s postwar pacifist constitution, which has traditionally limited Japan’s armed forces from going beyond a self-defense role.
Trade talks are not expected to recommence anytime soon, and Obama was forced to reject suggestions that the deal is in danger over his failure to persuade Abe into making painful concessions.
Park and the Obama administration refuse to open dialogue with Pyongyang unless it agrees to denuclearization as a precondition, despite pressure from China that preconditions be relaxed to allow the recommencement of the Six-Party talks.
In the interest of expanding the US-Japan alliance to counter the growing clout of China, the US president has given Japanese rightists a green light to pursue militarization policies that will undoubtedly fuel regional antagonism. Rather than taking a neutral position and steering Tokyo toward a deescalation with Beijing, Obama has effectively sent Abe the message that he can challenge China’s bottom line without serious repercussions, encouraging Japan to continue its inflexible position. Obama may have hoped that in exchange for backing Japan’s stance on territorial disputes and constitutional reform, Abe would have reciprocated by yielding on thorny trade issues, but he was wrong. Obama allegedly put his chopsticks down halfway through his informal sushi dinner with Abe and jumped straight into discussions about trade. The White House is anxious to seal the TPP trade deal, but is
Dialogue with Pyongyang ruled out?
WWII war dead, including over a dozen convicted Class-A war criminals. Abe made a ritual offering to theYasukuni Shrine shortly before Obama’s arrival in Tokyo, followed by 146 Japanese lawmakers who visited the shrine en masse one day later, putting the US president in an awkward situation.
Obama’s trip to South Korea came as the country was still reeling from the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry, which killed scores of youngsters. Security topped the agenda as reports of increased activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site wrought condemnation from Seoul. President Park Geun-hye adopted a hardline stance, calling for the rejection of dialogue with Pyongyang over the nuclear issue if the North conducts a fourth nuclear test as expected. Pyongyang proposed a framework for better relations with the South at the start of this year and urged its willingness to meet for negotiations on the nuclear issue without any preconditions. The attempted thaw in relations culminated in reunions of separated families in February, amid
Given the circumstances, South Korean authorities could have toned down this year’s drills as a gesture of reciprocity following Pyongyang’s moves to host family reunions. Seoul’s response was to hold the largest amphibian landing exercise with the US in over two decades, followed by large-scale war exercises. The lack of sincere measures to cool ties with Pyongyang is evident in the actions of Seoul and Washington, who are quick to accuse the North of provocations while flexing military muscles on its doorstep, ratcheting up anxiety and insecurity.
During a joint press conference, Park announced that plans to transfer operational command of South Korea’s military in time of war, or OPCON, from the US to South Korea would be further delayed, giving the Pentagon de-facto control over South Korea’s military forces beyond December 2015. Washington has also encouraged Seoul to strengthen missile defense cooperation – which Park agreed to do – while deepening trilateral cooperation between the US, Japan, and South Korea. During his trip, Obama called for more sanctions against North Korea and spoke of America’s capacity for military might, creating every indication that Washington’s antagonistic ‘strategic patience’ policy against Pyongyang will remain unchanged. Malaysia’s delicate balancing act Western media have billed Obama’s trip to Malaysia – the first visit by a US president continued next page
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in nearly five decades – as being quite successful. Malaysia was the only Muslimmajority country on the president’s fournation tour, and the only country not to have an existing security treaty with the United States.
In the joint statement prepared by the two sides, Najib called for the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties regarding the South China Sea disputes, which Chinese statemedia welcomed, saying that Malaysia showed a balanced attitude to avoid confrontation with China.
Washington and Kuala Lumpur have always enjoyed strong trade relations, but political relations were known to be tense during the 22-year tenure of former PM Mahathir Mohamad, who took strong positions against US foreign policy. Prime Minister Najib Razak, a British-educated economist who assumed office in 2009 as a reformer, has been much friendlier to the US. The New York Times described Malaysian leadership’s change of attitude as an evolution from “deep suspicion, verging on contempt, to a cautious desire for cooperation.” Suspicious attitudes toward the US are still commonplace among certain factions within the ruling party and the conservative religious establishment. Several far-right Malay rights groups share the same misgivings, lashing out at Obama following statements he made on racial equality in the country. Trade and security topped the agenda during Obama’s visit, and although progress was made in both areas, it’s likely that the US delegation was hoping for a firmer stance on issues such as territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Malaysia is China’s largest trading partner within theASEAN bloc, and of all the countries in the region who have territorial disputes with Beijing, the approach taken by Kuala Lumpur has been the most low-key and non-adversarial. SinoMalaysian ties were upgraded to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ level during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Kuala Lumpur in October 2013, while Najib and Obama agreed to upgrade ties to a ‘comprehensive partnership’ at a joint news conference following their talks on 27 April 2014.
In an interview with Malaysian newspaper The Star, Obama alluded to his administration’s commitment to ensuring the “freedom of navigation in critical waterways,” which can be understood as a euphemism for policing the Straits of Malacca, one of China’s most critical supply routes responsible for transporting much of the oil and raw materials needed by Beijing to maintain high economic growth. Malaysia allowsAmerican warships to dock at ports throughout the country, but does not host any US military bases, and does not seek a hostile relationship with Beijing. It is unclear how deep Malaysia’s commitment to security cooperation with the US will go, although the Obama administration has pledged to assist in the development of Malaysia’s maritime enforcement capacity, setting the stage for deeper military-to-military cooperation. In the economic sphere, there were no breakthroughs on the TPP trade deal, with both sides admitting that significant differences still remain. Najib, however, made clear that the overall benefits of the TPP would far outweigh the disadvantages of the pact; he mentioned his commitment to getting acceptance from Malaysian people, but offered no specifics on how public acceptance of the trade deal
S T A T E M E N T would be measured. Mahathir, who still exerts a degree of influence on traditionalists within the ruling party, commented that Malaysia should not be pressured to agree to the terms stipulated by the TPP. The former PM has routinely called for the trade deal to be dropped, and a large segment of Malaysian civil society and activists are also opposed to the deal. As a country that has put much emphasis on a non-confrontational foreign policy, Malaysia is well suited to leverage its good ties with Washington and Beijing to promote a conciliatory solution to territorial issues. Malaysia finds itself somewhere between being a warm friend to the Obama administration but not yet a staunch US ally with deep security ties. Philippines signs 10-year defense agreement To coincide with the last stop of his four-nation tour, Washington and Manila inked a controversial defense agreement to allow greater numbers of US soldiers to remain in the country on a rotational basis. The reopening of foreign bases is prohibited by the 1987 Constitution, but the latest defense pact – negotiated largely in secret, and fast-tracked into law under the auspices of an executive agreement without ratification by the Philippine Congress – gives the US government de facto basing access in the country. The US maintained large military bases in northern regions of the Philippines until the Philippines congress voted to close them down in 1991, but American forces were allowed to return in 1999 under a temporary stay agreement that saw US troops conduct joint training with the Philippines military. The new agreement is far broader, allowing the
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US military to establish permanent facilities within Philippine military facilities, also paving the way for American military technology to be sold to the Philippines. Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s rationale for expanding the US presence in his country is to provide the Philippines with a powerful deterrent in the midst of Manila’s bitter territorial row with Beijing, as both countries lay claim to the Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal in the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea. The Philippines and its neighbors undoubtedly have firm and legitimate grievances in the interest of protecting their sovereignty and territorial integrity. It should be recognized that the disputed features falls within the Philippine’s 200nautical mile exclusive economic zone as recognized by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; China has resisted applying the procedures stipulated by the law to the many reefs and islands that lie much closer to the Philippines than to China. Manila has argued that Beijing has an obligation to respect the Philippines’ rights to exercise control over areas that fall within its 200nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
China claims that its sovereignty over the disputed areas can be supported by abundant historical and legal evidence, which also support Beijing’s maritime rights over three-quarters of the South China Sea. Beijing has consistently called for settling territorial issues through direct bilateral negotiations. Earlier this year, it offered the Philippines mutual disengagement from the contested area, trade and investment benefits, and postponement of the plans to declare an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea. The Philippines leadership rejected the proposal, and unilaterally filed a case with the tribunal that arbitrates maritime disputes under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. China has resolved territorial disputes with 12 of the 14 countries with which it shares land borders, and the immense complexities of these maritime territorial disputes require levelheaded dialogue and a commitment to negotiations by both sides. The Philippines leadership may have legitimate grievances, but is clearly not committed to seeking a resolution through dialogue, resorting to hyperbolic namecalling. In an interview with the New York Times, Aquino compared China to Nazi
S T A T E M E N T Germany, causing immense harm to bilateral relations with Beijing. Much like the Obama administration’s position on Japan’s territorial disputes, there is now a concern that backing by the US military can encourage Manila to take a provocative and reckless stance. Washington has entered the regional fold claiming to be a neutral party and mediating force, yet it supports the territorial claims of its allies and uses them as a justification to maximize its own interests, transforming a regional dispute into a potential superpower conflict, reducing the possibility for any peaceful settlement. The recent security developments will deepen Manila’s historic dependency on the United States, reinforcing its colonial subordination to the strategic, military and regional priorities of American hegemony. 29 April 2014 Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is also a Research Associate With JUST. Source: RT.com
STATEMENT VIOLENCE AND THE SRUGGLE FOR POWER IN EGYPT There is no sign to show that political violence in Egypt is abating. Political violence has become even more pronounced since the ouster of the democratically elected President, Dr Mohamed Morsi, on the 3rd of July 2013. The ouster is in fact one of the primary causes for the increased violence. They are interlinked for two reasons. The suppression of Morsi’s movement,
the Ikhwanul-Muslimin, by the military backed interim government has been violent. Peaceful protest camps were crushed in a deadly operation on 14 August 2013. At least a thousand people were killed in a week of violence. Thousands of Ikhwan members were arrested, including its spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie. The Ikhwan was declared a “terrorist” group in December 2013. On 25 March
2014, 529 people, many of them connected to the Ikhwan, were sentenced to death by a court for rioting and killing a policeman. It was a decision whose brutal severity shocked the world. The suppression has continued with the enactment of a new law against terrorism which provides for the death penalty for anyone committing “terrorist acts” or establishing or
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joining a “terrorist organisation.” The law announced by the government on the 3rd of April 2014 also increases the number of judicial districts dedicated to handling terrorismrelated trials, to ensure “speedy trials.” It was a response to bomb explosions that killed two persons, including a Police Brigadier-General, in the vicinity of Cairo University. This brings us to the second reason for the escalation of violence in Egypt in recent months. As we have seen, Ikhwan members and supporters have been reacting to the suppression of their movement through their own acts of violence. Security personnel have been their targets which explains the large number of policemen killed in the course of the last nine months. For the Ikhwan, violence is not just reactive or defensive. Since 1943, it has engaged in paramilitary activities. In 1948, an Ikhwan member allegedly murdered an Appellate Judge for passing a harsh sentence against a colleague. In the same year, the then Prime Minister of Egypt was killed by an Ikhwan member. On 26 October 1954, Ikhwan attempted to assassinate the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.
other groups is related to a much bigger battle which has marred and mired Egyptian politics for decades. It is the struggle for power between the military, on the one hand, and Islamic forces, on the other, particularly the Ikhwan, which has expressed itself in one form or another since the Free Officers revolt of 1952. Even before 1952, during the period of the monarchy, the Ikhwan was already challenging state power.
There are other groups which perceive themselves as Islamic that have also sought to pursue their political agenda through violence. In Egypt’s Senai Peninsula, the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis is the source of some of the violent activities we have witnessed there for a few years now. The Al-Furqan Brigades are active throughout Egypt.
This tussle for power will go on and continue to impact negatively upon the lives of ordinary people. Elections will not resolve this conflict as proven by the post-Mubarak situation. In spite of Presidential and Parliamentary elections which indicated the people’s preference for Islamic parties, the military and its allies have sought to perpetuate their power through subterfuge and manipulation. The unjust overthrow of Morsi was the culmination of this process. After the overthrow and the consolidation of its power, the military has, as we have noted, used and abused its authority to emasculate and decimate the Ikhwan. The new constitution endorsed in a questionable referendum on the 14th and 15th of January 2014 will further ensure that the power of the military is entrenched and extended beyond the present. The Presidential Election scheduled for the 26th and 27th of May 2014 will, to all intents and purposes, provide the imprimatur to the right of the military to rule Egypt for a long time to come.
Violence on the part of both the government and the Ikhwan and
If there is a remedy to this situation, it lies with the people. The people
A R T I C L E S have demonstrated that they have the wisdom and the maturity to send the right signal to their rulers. It was the people, millions of them, who through sustained, peaceful mass action over a few weeks pushed out the dictator, Hosni Mubarak, on the 11 th of February 2011. It was a bold and brave rejection of authoritarianism, corruption and nepotism. At the same time, the popular uprising whose epicentre was Tahrir Square was a plea for justice, freedom, equality, and most of all, for human dignity. This is why the Egyptian people should not acquiesce with the re-assertion of authoritarianism, the resurgence of military power, through the ascendancy of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. It would be a betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the millions who yearn for a new Egypt guided by the rule of law, rather than the might of men, a new Egypt which honours through deeds the poor and powerless citizen seeking shelter in the cemeteries of the rich in Cairo rather than a state which continues to glorify the pompous and arrogant elite who aggrandise power and wealth for their own ego. But those who ride the wave of the people’s hopes and aspirations should also ensure that they do not exercise power and authority in a manner that subverts the trust of the masses. The Ikhwan was in a sense guilty of this. Granted that it faced formidable obstacles in the short time that it was in power. Nonetheless, because of its attachment to dogma — a commitment to projecting its own version of Islam — it was often diverted from focussing upon the fundamental challenges faced by the continued next page
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people such as the lack of basic amenities, a poor delivery system, street-level corruption and a severe paucity of jobs especially for the young. Not only did this erode its popular base; it alienated the Ikhwan from a significant
segment of the middle-class. It also led to the reinforcement of an approach to Islam that emphasised form at the expense of substance.
A R T I C L E S the Egyptian people go beyond both these forces to secure their future?
Chandra Muzaffar Given the Ikhwan’s orientation and what the military represents, shouldn’t
14 April 2014
ARTICLES IT’S NOT RUSSIA THAT PUSHED UKRAINE
THE BRINK OF WAR
By Seumas Milne The threat of war in Ukraine is growing. As the unelected government in Kiev declares itself unable to control the rebellion in the country’s east, John Kerry brands Russia a rogue state. The US and the European Union step up sanctions against the Kremlin, accusing it of destabilising Ukraine. The White House is reported to be set on a new cold war policy with the aim of turning Russia into a “pariah state”. That might be more explicable if what is going on in eastern Ukraine now were not the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago. Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the “masked militants” and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government’s use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk. “America is with you,” Senator John McCain told demonstrators then, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up
the new Ukrainian government. When the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover, politicians such as William Hague brazenly misled parliament about the legality of what had taken place: the imposition of a pro-western government on Russia’s most neuralgic and politically divided neighbour. Putin hit back, taking a leaf out of the US street-protest playbook – even though, as in Kiev, the protests that spread from Crimea to eastern Ukraine evidently have mass support. But what had been a glorious cry for freedom in Kiev became infiltration and insatiable aggression in Sevastopol and Luhansk. After Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, the bulk of the western media abandoned any hint of even-handed coverage. So Putin is now routinely compared to Hitler, while the role of the fascistic right on the streets and in the new Ukrainian regime has been airbrushed out of most reporting as Putinist propaganda. So you don’t hear much about the Ukrainian government’s veneration of wartime Nazi collaborators and
pogromists, or the arson attacks on the homes and offices of elected communist leaders, or the integration of the extreme Right Sector into the national guard, while the anti-semitism and white supremacism of the government’s ultranationalists is assiduously played down, and false identifications of Russian special forces are relayed as fact. The reality is that, after two decades of eastward Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure, via an explicitly antiMoscow EU association agreement. Its rejection led to the Maidan protests and the installation of an anti-Russian administration – rejected by half the country – that went on to sign the EU and International Monetary Fund agreements regardless. No Russian government could have acquiesced in such a threat from territory that was at the heart of both Russia and the Soviet Union. Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive, and the red line now drawn: the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by Nato or the EU. continued next page
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But the dangers are also multiplying. Ukraine has shown itself to be barely a functioning state: the former government was unable to clear Maidan, and the western-backed regime is “helpless” against the protests in the Sovietnostalgic industrial east. For all the talk about the paramilitary “green men” (who turn out to be overwhelmingly Ukrainian), the rebellion also has strong social and democratic demands: who would argue against a referendum on autonomy and elected governors? Meanwhile, the US and its European allies impose sanctions and dictate terms to Russia and its proteges in Kiev, encouraging the military crackdown on protesters after visits from Joe Biden and the CIA director, John Brennan. But by what right is the US involved at all, incorporating under its strategic umbrella a state that has never been a member of Nato, and whose last elected government came to power on a platform of explicit
neutrality? It has none, of course – which is why the Ukraine crisis is seen in such a different light across most of the world. There may be few global takers for Putin’s oligarchic conservatism and nationalism, but Russia’s counterweight to US imperial expansion is welcomed, from China to Brazil. In fact, one outcome of the crisis is likely to be a closer alliance between China and Russia, as the US continues its anti-Chinese “pivot” to Asia. And despite growing violence, the cost in lives of Russia’s armslength involvement in Ukraine has so far been minimal compared with any significant western intervention you care to think of for decades. The risk of civil war is nevertheless growing, and with it the chances of outside powers being drawn into the conflict. Barack Obama has already sent token forces to eastern Europe and is under pressure, both from Republicans and Nato hawks such as Poland, to send many more.
THE RED LINE
A R T I C L E S Both US and British troops are due to take part in Nato military exercises in Ukraine this summer. The US and EU have already overplayed their hand in Ukraine. Neither Russia nor the western powers may want to intervene directly, and the Ukrainian prime minister’s conjuring up of a third world war presumably isn’t authorised by his Washington sponsors. But a century after 1914, the risk of unintended consequences should be obvious enough – as the threat of a return of big-power conflict grows. Pressure for a negotiated end to the crisis is essential. Seumas Milne is a Guardian columnist and associate editor. He was the Guardian’s comment editor from 2001 to 2007 after working for the paper as a general reporter and labour editor. 30 April 2014 Source: http://www.theguardian.com/
THE RAT LINE (PART 2)
By Seymour M. Hersh The first part of this article appeared in last month’s (April)issueof the commentary. The third & final partwill be published in the Juneissueof the commentary -editor The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready. The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey,
chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after
an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’ Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an
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unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out. The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues,
according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote. Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that,
unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance
A R T I C L E S at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’) The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’) In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a
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continued from page 8 CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoðan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.) The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and
Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive. The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The
consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’ Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of theWashington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have
A R T I C L E S been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control. By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoðan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoðan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoðan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’
4 April 2014
End of Part 2 Seymour M. Hersh is an American investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C.
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A R T I C L E S
ISRAEL’S DIRTY ROLE IN THE SYRIAN CRISIS By Kourosh Ziabari When the civil war broke out in Syria in March 2011, there were some people who tended to portray it as a continuation of the wave of revolutionary protests in the Arab world that started from Tunisia and swept Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but as time goes by, it becomes more and more evident that what’s happening in Syria is a foreign-plotted conspiracy aimed at bringing down the government of President Bashar al-Assad, not a popular movement nor a part of the Arab Spring. As testified by several Western journalists who are currently reporting from Syria, including the prominent French journalist Thierry Meyssan to whom I was talking a few weeks ago, there’s no trace of a popular uprising against the national government in the ongoing unrest in Syria. It’s simply one of the covert regime change projects of the United States, in which several countries and role-players are taking part, including the Israeli regime. Aside from the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda fighters, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant warriors, Turkish, Qatari and Saudi Arabian terrorists and extremists who are pouring into Syria from the Arab and European countries at the behest of the United States and contributing to the exacerbation of the crisis in Syria, Israel alone is playing the most destructive role in the Arab country and has virtually become one of the main belligerents of the civil war there. It’s quite clear that unrest and violence in Syria would be in the best interests of Israel. Syria has long been a pivotal part of the axis of resistance against Israel; therefore, the destabilization of Syria means increased security on the Israeli borders and a giant step toward to a military confrontation with Iran. There is credible evidence showing that Israel, throughout the past three years, has
been closely working with Al-Qaeda bases in Syria, providing the terrorist cult with money, training and arms to help them fight the government of President Assad and the Syrian Army forces.
the use of chemical weapons against the rebels and eventually lay the groundwork for a UNSC-sanctioned military strike against Syria with the final objective of overthrowing the Syrian government.
According to German author and the director of nsnbc.me news website Christof Lehmann, Israel provides direct military aid to Jabhat al-Nusrah, Liwa-al-Islam, and other Al-Qaeda brigades currently stationed in Syria. Lehmann cites the Zionist daily Jerusalem Post as acknowledging that Israel has established a field hospital in the Occupied Golan Heights which provides medical and remedial services to the Jihadists and terrorists fighting in Syria. Bibi Netanyahu has laughably described the hospital as the “true face of Israel” and a place where “the good in the world” are separated from “the evil in the world.” Perhaps he has made such a lunatic remark because he wishfully believes every force that resists Israeli oppression and occupation is an incarnation of evil in the world.
It’s said that one day before the chemical attacks, the rebels and Al-Qaeda combatants had massacred Syrian citizens in the Ghouta suburbs of the Markaz Rif Dimashq and recorded videos of their killings and then uploaded the videos on the internet, pretending that the citizens were killed in the chemical attacks perpetrated by the government; however, their plan was carried out so frantically that they gave themselves up. It was then that the British MP George Galloway suggested that the Israelis provided the insurgents with chemical weapons.
Just recently, an Austrian military officer working with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Occupied Golan Heights who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity confirmed that Israel has provided largescale logistical and military support to the terrorists and rebels in different parts of Syria. The officer has confirmed that there’s a joint operation room between armed terrorist gangs and Israel which has the function to coordinate the delivery of assistance to the terrorists. It’s even believed that the 21 August 2013 chemical attacks on the civilians of the Ghouta district near Damascus in which around 1,500 people were killed was an Israeli scheme to deceive the public around the world and make the Western powers believe that President Assad had ordered
“If there’s been any use of nerve gas, it’s the rebels that used it...If there has been use of chemical weapons, it was Al-Qaeda who used the chemical weapons”, said the Respect Party MP George Galloway. “Who gave Al-Qaeda the chemical weapons? Here’s my theory. Israel gave them the chemical weapons”, Galloway MP added. Obviously, Israel will be making a great achievement if it succeeds in bringing the government of President Assad to its knees. Then it can realize its vicious plans for the Middle East, including the plan of permanently annexing the Golan Heights, as the Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has openly talked about. According to Liberman, the annexation of Golan Heights, which were illegally occupied by Israel in 1967, is an issue which should be resolved with the consent and agreement of Israel, the United States and the international community! The other plans which Israel can take action to realize are the annexation of the West Bank and parts of the Southern Lebanon which currently cannot turn into
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continued from page 10 reality as a result of the presence of an opposing force that is the disobedient government of Syria. For a long time, the German textbooks were referring to what had come to be known as the “Schiitischer Halbmond” (Shiite Halfmoon) to describe the Shiite populations that were experiencing a growth of dominance in the Middle East since early 2000s. However, when in 2004, King Abdullah II of Jordan used the term “Shiite Crescent” to refer to the perceived threat of Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East, the epithet became more popular and widely used. The Shiite Crescent notionally consists of the Shiite populations in Bahrain, Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Although Shiites comprise only 10-15% of the Muslim population of the world, the Shiite-dominant countries wield an influence and power which is growing steadily, and since the political Shiite mindset fundamentally rejects Zionism and Israeli expansionism, Israel finds it the best way to ensure its security to fight against the
members of this hypothetical Shiite Crescent or blackmail them the other way. Although Iran has never been a threat to Israel despite the claims of its leaders to the contrary, Tel Aviv considers defeating or at least damaging Iran one of its main foreign policy missions, and conquering Syria that is Iran’s main ally and defender in the region would pave the way for Israel to think about overpowering and overwhelming Iran. Iranian military officials and statesmen have always clearly indicated that the peaceful nature of the country means that Iran will never think of waging any wars or harming its neighbors or other countries, but at the same time they have strongly maintained that any Israeli aggression against Iran will be the final nail in Israel’s coffin and would be equivalent to the rainfall of Iranian rockets and missiles into the Israeli soil which will close the chapter of this apartheid regime forever. Now Israel, whose leaders have explicitly confessed to providing ammunitions, missiles and other state-of-the-art weapons to the Syrian rebels and Al-Qaeda mercenaries, has found itself in an
OBAMA’S KILLING FIELDS
A R T I C L E S inextricable battle over its shivering security. It should continue providing the insurgents and mercenaries with dangerous weapons until President Assad is ousted from power, or concede to another big failure in the Middle East after the 2006 Lebanon War (also known as the 33-day War) and the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead) and experience a serious security decline. What is clear is that Israel is a big accomplice in the atrocities that are taking place in Syria. It’s playing a dirty role in the Arab country, but it doesn’t seem that it would be held accountable over its war crimes, like the past 66 years that it has been immune to accountability and responsibility before the international community by virtue of its “passionate attachment” to the United States. 04 March, 2014 Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian journalist, writer and media correspondent www.KouroshZiabari.com Source: Countercurrents.org
By Nile Bowie Washington’s drone program isn’t making Yemen safer – it is traumatizing and radicalizing communities, and swelling the ranks of Al-Qaeda. The Obama administration has recently taken part in a joint operation with Yemeni forces that has produced the highest death toll of any confirmed drone strike in Yemen so far this year, according to sources from the Associated Press (AP). Yemen’s state media claims that the victims of the attack were among the most dangerous elements of Al-Qaeda, and that the strike was based on confirmed intelligence that the targeted individuals were planning to target Yemen’s civil and
military institutions. Yemeni officials claim that the target site, located in remote mountainous regions in the country’s troubled south, was one of the few examples of permanent infrastructure setup by AlQaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to train fighters and store armaments. The strike allegedly took place with regional cooperation and assistance from Saudi Arabia, and due to official secrecy provisions, the United States does not have a legal obligation to acknowledge or comment on the strikes undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The exact death toll varies from source to source, but more than a dozen people have
been killed at minimum, with at least three civilian causalities. Witnesses say that a car carrying the alleged militants was hit with a missile as it drove by a vehicle carrying civilians, who were also killed. A second strike on the area was launched shortly after. Yemen’s government officially claims that 55 alleged militants have been killed so far, and the Supreme Security Committee which includes the country’s intelligence chief, defense and interior ministers - and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi approved the strike. Hadi, who came to power in February 2012 after he stood unopposed in elections, is a continued next page
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continued from page 11
staunch supporter of the US drone program, despite the high number of civilian casualties incurred by the strikes. AQAP, active in the south-central regions of the country, is a small but pervasive organization whose tactics include using sophisticated car bombs and suicide attacks that have been bold and deadly in their fight against the government in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Criminalizing drones Yemen, the only state on the Arabian Peninsula to have a purely republican form of government, is in the midst of an ongoing political and security crisis prompted by divisions between various movements and factions, who are themselves divided between Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam. The central government in Sanaa commands little authority outside the capital, and faces a widely popular secessionist movement in the south, an entrenched Shiite rebel movement in the north, and a scattered AQAP insurgency campaign that has succeeded in gathering adherents largely due to their resentment of the Obama administration’s drone warfare campaign throughout the country. Yemen has the youngest population in the world, with an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent, while half the population still lives below the poverty line. Longtime leaderAliAbdullah Saleh submitted his resignation in 2011, following nationwide protests calling for an end to corruption and greater representation. The collective vision for reform shared by nearly all sides of this highly polarized country failed to progress following Saleh’s removal, and like other Arab nations who experienced a change in power during the period known as the Arab Spring, militias and extremist elements took advantage of the precarious security situation to embolden themselves. In an effort to reconstruct Yemeni society and assuage various movements and
communities who feel unrepresented throughout the country, Hadi has channeled his administration’s efforts into UN-backed reconciliation talks known as the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which impressively brought together over 500 activists and representatives from a diverse array of backgrounds to reform the security apparatus and administrative structure of the country, and draft a new constitution that would be the basis for both presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014. In a rare show of consensus, participants at the conference voted to criminalize the use of drones for extrajudicial killing, which have enraged average Yemenis from all walks of life. Drone strikes were made technically illegal since 2013, but their continued prevalence in partnership with Yemeni security forces dangerously delegitimizes the government in Sanaa and puts Hadi in an exceedingly awkward position at a time when the government is distrusted for colluding with foreign powers. The message sent by the delegates of the NDC, which is the most democratic and representative reflection of Yemeni society that currently exists, is that the use of drones are an affront to the sovereignty and dignity of the state, opening the possibility that President Hadi may be criminally persecuted if the current policy continues. Killing with impunity President Obama’s speech on his administration’s drone warfare program in 2013 was widely perceived as a convincing and compelling defense of an otherwise controversial policy. In describing the elaborate precautions and high standards taken prior to launching a strike, Obama claimed, “there must be nearcertainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” The president acknowledged how any US military activity risks creating animosity and enemies in the target country,
A R T I C L E S and spoke of the high threshold set for taking lethal action, in respect for the dignity of every human life. According to the rules in place under the Obama administration, targeted strikes can only take place when capturing a suspect would not be feasible, when the authorities of the country in question could not or would not address the threat, and when no other reasonable alternatives were available. In the six months since Obama delivered his speech on the rules for using armed drones, reports indicate that covert strikes in Yemen and Pakistan incurred more casualties when compared to the six months before the speech was given. Behind the US president’s carefully-selected language and various moral assurances, is a covert assassination program that has operated under an accountability and transparency vacuum, where basic statistical data is withheld under the blanketing justification of protecting national security, and hundreds of innocent civilians have been targeted and killed with near-total impunity. The facts that have been established about the Obama administration’s program are profoundly disturbing. The United States is bound to abide by international human rights law outside of a defined conflict zone, which would apply for its operations in Yemen and Pakistan, where war has not been declared. In such a legal environment, targeted killings can only take place when strictly unavoidable and necessary to protect life, and due to the official secrecy policies surrounding the Obama administration’s drone program, US officials are not legally obliged to acknowledge strikes or provide evidence needed to substantiate alleged threats to the degree that would satisfy the law enforcement standards that govern the intentional use of lethal force outside armed conflict. The legal criterion to justify a strike is continued next page
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determined in secret by the White House with advice from the Justice Department, but with no oversight or accountability. Obama’s so-called ‘near-certainty’standard and his administration’s definition of an ‘imminent threat’ are not open to independent review, and are taken unilaterally by the executive branch. As noted by UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, the United States violates international law by targeting of persons directly participating in hostilities who are located in nonbelligerent states. The known criteria for justifying lethal force have proven to be shockingly indiscriminate, to the point where the president’s ‘nearcertainty’ standards can never logically be met. The Obama administration, according to investigations, targets individuals based on their exhibiting of ‘behavioral characteristics’ that are deemed typical of militants, rather than making strikes based on the confirmed identity of a target. Such use of ‘signature strikes’ has resulted in the arbitrary targeting of any military-age male in a given strike vicinity on the presumption that he is a combatant, and directly targetable. The ‘double tap’ technique involves launching an initial drone strike, which is followed by a second strike that targets rescuers and first responders, a tactic that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist outfits have made use of in the past. The double tap relies on the assumption that the initial target is a militant, and all those who converge on the scene of the initial strike must be militants themselves. Such a strategy cannot possibly meet the stringent requirements needed to avoid the killing of civilians, and can only result in actions that can be described as war crimes or extrajudicial killings. An undeclared war Obama’s speech marked the first formal public acknowledgement of a US citizen’s death in a drone strike. Anwar al-Awlaki,
an American-born cleric of Yemeni descent and a US citizen, was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in May 2011. In describing his criteria for an extrajudicial targeted strike, Obama claims there is no difference between a foreign terrorist and a terrorist with US citizenship. Al-Awlaki’s assassination and the subsequent killing of his 16-year-old son, also an American national, sets an alarming precedent. At one time, Anwar al-Awlaki was known to be a moderate cleric who denounced terrorism and violence. At some stage between the events of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Anwar al-Awlaki underwent a
profound change in his political orientation and began to preach jihad, in response to what he viewed as the United States engaging in a war against Islam and Muslim civilians. Just as Anwar al-Awlaki’s views morphed toward the violent fringe as a reaction to US policy, the radicalization of communities and traumatized survivors of drone strikes throughout Yemen provides AQAP with a steady flow of militants seeking to avenge their families’ deaths by harming the United States. The Obama administration and the Yemeni political elite may view drone strikes as a shortterm fix, but the radicalization of growing swathes of society will prove to be a major liability for any future government in power. Washington has assured the public that the American role in Yemen is highly
A R T I C L E S constrained, and held in accordance with a mandate to target members of Al-Qaeda approved by Congress after 9/11. The scope and breadth of covert operations undertaken by the CIA and secretive paramilitary unit Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are impossible to ascertain, but Washington’s role in Yemen’s civil wars are much deeper than what the public imagines. The inhumanity of this war comes to the fore in incidents such as the US bombing of a wedding convoy in December 2013, killing 12 civilians. Consider the vile injustice meted out in 2009 to the people of al-Majalah, a Bedouin village that became the target of US cluster-bombing, killing 41 civilians, including nine women and 21 children. Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist who exposed the American slaughter at al-Majala, was jailed by authorities and framed as an Al-Qaeda collaborator. His original release from prison was blocked by the personal intervention of President Obama, who phoned former Yemeni President Saleh and lobbied for Shaye to remain in custody. Contrary to claims that drones only target those high-level figures who pose an imminent threat to the US homeland, reports indicate that low-level fighters, local commanders, and even figures in Yemen’s own military have been targeted by US drones – not because they present any risk to US national security, but because they are political opponents of the current US-backed regime in Sanaa. The Obama administration’s dirty wars and covert operations in Yemen represent a glaring evasion of justice and accountability that will continue to sow wanton killing and perpetual conflict if left unchecked. 24 April, 2014 Source: rt.com
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A R T I C L E S
CORRUPT TO THE CORE: THE FIRE POWER OF THE FINANCIAL SECTOR By Colin Todhunter The enormous power and destructive influence of financial markets became apparent after the global economic collapse of 2008. This event revealed a need for bringing the sector under democratic public ownership; failing that, stronger regulations for financial markets at the very least. But political will has been lacking on both counts. The sector enjoys massive financial resources and successfully translates them into political influence. Many ordinary people might be wondering why governments have not curtailed the criminality of the financial sector on the back of the economic crisis which it created. Instead, billions of dollars, pounds and euros have been handed over to the sector, and governments continue to grant banks free rein and thus dictate national economic and social policies. If bankers and financiers are to be able to stuff their bulging suitcases with taxpayer handouts and to further loot economies, it is essential for them to have politicians in their pockets. One way by which this is achieved is shown in a new report, which indicates that the financial industry spends more than 120 million euros a year on lobbying in Brussels and employs more than 1,700 lobbyists to influence EU policy-making. The report, ‘The fire power of the financial lobby’ has been released by Corporate Europe Observatory, ÖGB Europabüro (Brussels office o f t h e A u s t r i a n Tr a d e U n i o n F e d e r a t i o n ) , a n d A K E U R O PA
(Brussels office of the Austrian Chamber of Labour) . Kenneth Haar from Corporate Europe Observatory says: “Reform has proved difficult, and these numbers are an important part of the explanation. The financial lobby’s fire power to resist reform has been evident in all significant battles over financial regulation since the collapse of Lehman
conservative figures. The actual numbers – and the imbalance between different interests – are thus likely to be far higher. This underestimate is mainly due to the lack of a mandatory register of lobbyists at the EU level that would provide reliable information for proper monitoring. The report also shows the presence of the financial industry i n t h e E U ’s o f f i c i a l a d v i s o r y groups that play a key role in helping to shape policy. And, here too, the financial lobby is massively over-represented: 15 of the 17 expert groups covered by the study were heavily dominated by the financial industry. Oliver Röpke, Europabüro said:
Brothers.” The report shows the financial industry commands tremendous lobbying resources and enjoys privileged access to decision makers. The financial sector lobbies EU decision-makers by means of over 700 organisations, including companies’ public relations offices, business associations, and consultancies. This figure outnumbers civilsociety organisations and trade unions working on financial issues by a factor of more than five. And the imbalance is even greater when numbers of staff and lobbying expenses are compared. The report shows that the financial lobby massively outspends other actors by a factor of more than 30. In order to arrive at a safe estimate, the survey used the most
“This situation represents a severe democratic problem that politicians must act on swiftly. A first step is to adopt effective rules on lobbying transparency and strong ethics rules against undue influence.”
Amir Ghoreishi from AK EUROPA said: “The fact that the financial lobby is so dominant in advisory groups reveals that the European Commission feels that people representing the financial industry should be allowed to set the agenda. An arms-length principle should be applied immediately.” The report is a damning indictment of the sector’s political influence.
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The sector continues to rake in unimaginable profits, while sucking the life out of economies. Ordinary people continue to pay the price via the privatization of public assets and ‘austerity’. “The stench emanating from the financial system is a product of the decay of the entire profit system. That system must be replaced by a higher socio-economic order in which the vast wealth created by
the collective labour of the world working class is deployed to meet human need. The expropriation of the banks and finance houses, placing them under public ownership and democratic control, is the first step in implementing such a program.” Nick Beams (1) Read the full report here: http:// corporateeurope.org/sites/default/ f i l e s / a t t a c h m e n t s / financial_lobby_report.pdf
ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS ARE YEARS
A R T I C L E S
Note: 1 ) h t t p s : / / w w w. w s w s . o rg / e n / articles/2013/02/08/pers-f08.html 09 April, 2014 Colin Todhunter : Originally from the northwest of England, Colin Todhunter has spent many years in India. Source: Countercurrents.org
HIGHEST IN 3 MILLION
By Countercurrents Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest in 3 million years. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere averaged more than 400 parts per million throughout April, the first time the planet’s monthly average has surpassed that threshold.
i n s t i t u t i o n ’s K e e l i n g C u r v e program. It was named for the scientist who began the measurements in 1958 and shows that temperatures are rising more quickly. The finding adds to concerns that a buildup of carbon dioxide is
The data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California , San Diego , shows how world leaders are failing to rein in greenhouse gases that climate scientists say are warming the planet.
Concentrations of CO2 are rising at about 2 to 3 ppm a year. The United Nations has said that in order to maximize our chances of limiting the global temperature rise since 1750 to the internationally agreed-upon target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the concentration of all greenhouse gases should peak at no higher than 450 ppm this century. That includes methane and nitrous oxide, gases not included in the Scripps measurement.
“We’re running out of time, but not solutions,” Ed Chen, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an e-mail. “The next big step is to limit, for the first time, carbon pollution being spewed by our power plants.”
damaging the atmosphere, making storms more intense, melting glaciers and putting at risk the future of seaside cities such as Miami .
The average value for April was measured at 401.33 ppm at the Mauna Loa monitoring station in Hawaii , according to an announcement on Tw i t t e r disclosing the finding by the
The level of CO2 broke 400, as a daily average, for the first time last May. Less than a year later, the average for a month has exceeded a threshold not seen in the measured record dating back 3 million years.
The atmospheric concentration of all greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, was equivalent to a CO2 level of 430 ppm in 2011, according to the UN intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The annual average concentration of CO2 that year was about 391 ppm, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Association. 03 May, 2014 Source: Countercurrents.org
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