Thursday, January 31, 2008

Iraqis Unite, On Demands For Americans To Go Home

Asia Times' reporter Pepe Escobar can usually be relied on to supply a brutally honest portrait of the state of Iraq as a nation, and the Iraqis as a people. His reporting throughout the Iraq War has been revelatory, and his predictions of what was to come (the rise of the resistance movement through 2004, for example) have been stunningly accurate, though it took mainstream news organs like the New York Times and the London Times three to six months to report what Escobar detailed in the Asia Times.

Escobar now supplies
an overall portrait of Iraq as the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion and occupation approaches. It's not pretty :
The George W Bush-sponsored Iraqi "surge" is now one year old. The US$11 billion-a-month (and counting) Iraqi/Afghan joint quagmire keeps adding to the US government's staggering over $9 trillion debt (it was "only" $5.6 trillion when Bush took power iearly 2001).

On the ground in Iraq, the state of the union - Bush's legacy - translates into a completely shattered nation with up to 70% unemployment, a 70% inflation rate, less than six hours of electricity a day and virtually no reconstruction, although White House-connected multinationals have bagged more than $50 billion in competition-free contracts so far. The gleaming reconstruction success stories of course are the Vatican-sized US Embassy in Baghdad - the largest in the world - and the scores of US military bases.

Facts on the ground also attest the "surge" achieved no "political reconciliation" whatsoever in Iraq - regardless of a relentless US corporate media propaganda drive, fed by the Pentagon, to proclaim it a success. The new law to reverse de-Ba'athification - approved by a half-empty Parliament and immediately condemned by Sunni and secular parties as well as former Ba'athists themselves - will only exacerbate sectarian hatred.

What the "surge" has facilitated instead is the total balkanization of Baghdad – as well as the whole of Iraq. There are now at least 5 million Iraqis among refugees and the internally displaced - apart from competing statistics numbering what certainly amounts to hundreds of thousands of dead civilians. So of course there is less violence; there's hardly any people left to be ethnically cleansed.

Everywhere in Iraq there are myriad signs of balkanization - not only in blast wall/partitioned Baghdad. In the Shi'ite south, the big prize is Basra, disputed by at least three militias. The Sadrists - the voice of the streets - are against regional autonomy; the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC)- which controls security - wants Basra as the key node of a southern Shi'iteistan; and the Fadhila party - which control the governorate - wants an autonomous Basra.

In the north, the big prize is oil-rich Kirkuk province, disputed by Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Turkmen; the referendum on Kirkuk has been postponed indefinitely, as everyone knows it will unleash a bloodbath. In al-Anbar province, Sunni Arab tribes bide their time collaborating with the US and controlling the exits to Syria and Jordan while preparing for the inevitable settling of scores with Shi'ites in Baghdad.

...what really matters is what Iraqis themselves think. According to Asia Times Online sources in Baghdad, apart from the three provinces in Iraqi Kurdistan, more than 75% of Sunnis and Shi'ites alike are certain Washington wants to set up permanent military bases; this roughly equals the bulk of the population in favor of continued attacks against US troops.

Furthermore, Sunni Arabs as a whole as well as the Sadrists are united in infinite suspicion of the key Bush-mandated "benchmark": the eventual approval by the Iraqi Parliament of a new oil law which would in fact de-nationalize the Iraqi oil industry and open it to Big Oil. Iraqi public opinion as a whole is also suspicious of what the Bush administration wants to extract from the cornered, battered Nuri al-Maliki government: full immunity from Iraqi law not only for US troops but for US civilian contractors as well. The empire seems to be oblivious to history: that was exactly one of ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's most popular reasons to dethrone the Shah of Iran in 1979.

It's impossible to overestimate the widespread anger in Baghdad, among Sunnis and Shi'ites alike, for what has essentially been the balkanization of the city as negotiated by US commanders with a rash of militias; the occupiers after all are only one more militia among many, although better equipped. Now there are insistent rumors - again - in Baghdad that the occupation, allied with the government-sanctioned Badr Organization - is preparing an anti-Sadrist blitzkrieg in oil-rich Basra.

The daily horror in Iraq has all but been erased from US corporate media narrative. But in Baghdad, now virtually a Shi'ite city like Shiraz, Salafi-jihadi suicide bombers continue to attack Shi'ite markets or funerals - especially in mixed neighborhoods, even those only across the Tigris from the Green Zone. Sectarian militias - although theoretical allies of the occupation, paid in US dollars in cash - continue to pursue their own ethnic cleansing agenda. And the "surge" continues to privilege air strikes which inevitably produce scores of civilian "collateral damage".

The Sunni Arab resistance continues to be the "fish" offered protection by the "sea" of the civilian population. All during the "surge", the Sunni Arab guerrillas always kept moving - from west Baghdad to Diyala, Salahuddin, Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces and even to the northern part of Babil province. After the collapse of fuel imports from Turkey used to drive the Iraqi power grid, Baghdad and other Iraqi major cities are most of the time mired in darkness. Fuel shortages are the norm. In addition, the Sunni Arab resistance makes sure sabotage of electricity towers and stations remains endemic.

Contrary to Iraqi government propaganda, only very few among the at least 1 million Iraqis exiled in Syria since the beginning of the "surge" - mostly white-collar middle class - have come back. They are Sunni and Shi'ite alike. People - mostly Sunni - are still fleeing the country. The Shi'ite urban middle class fears there will inevitably be a push by the Sunni Arab resistance - supported and financed by the ultra-wealthy Sunni Gulf monarchies - to "recapture" Baghdad. This includes of course the hundreds of thousands of Baghdad Sunnis forced to abandon their city because of the "surge".

As for the Sadrists, they are convinced the 80,000-strong Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils" - al-Sahwah, in Arabic - gathered in Anbar province are de facto militias biding their time and practicing for the big push. It's fair to assume thousands still keep tight connections with the Salafi-jihadis (including most of all al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers) they are now supposedly fighting.

Considering the sectarian record of the US-backed Maliki government - which, as well as the Sadrists, considers the Awakening Councils as US-financed Sunni militias - there's no chance they will be incorporated into the Iraqi army or police.

As the occupation/quagmire slouches towards its fifth year, it's obvious the US cannot possibly "win" the Iraqi war - either on a military or political level - as Republican presidential pre-candidate John McCain insists. Sources in Baghdad tell Asia Times Online if not in 2008, by 2009 the post-"surge" Sunni Arab resistance is set to unleash a new national, anti-sectarian, anti-religion-linked-to-politics offensive bound to seal what an overwhelming majority of Iraqis consider the "ideological and cultural" US defeat.

Already now a crucial Sunni-Shi'ite nationalist 12-party coalition is emerging - oblivious to US designs and divorced from the US-backed parties in power (the Shi'ite SIIC and Da'wa and the two main Kurdish parties - the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party ). They have already established a consensus in three key themes: no privatization of the Iraqi oil industry, either via the new oil law or via dodgy deals signed by the Kurds; no breakup of Iraq via a Kurdish state (which implies no Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk); and an end to the civil war.

The ultimate success of this coalition in great measure should be attributed to negotiations led by Muqtada al-Sadr. The Sadrists are betting on parliamentary elections in 2009, when they sense they may reach a non-sectarian, nationalist-based majority to form a government. This would definitely bury Iraq's Defense Minister Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim's recent estimate that a "significant" number of US troops would have to remain in Iraq at least for another 10 years, until 2018.

Go Here To Read The Full Story

Claim : US Oil Firm Offered Iraqi MPs $5 Million Each To Vote For New Oil Laws That Favour Western Energy Corporations

Survey Reveals Iraq War Has Killed One Million Iraqis

Iraqi Arab Anger Rises Against Kurds As They Push For More Territory And Control Of Oil-Rich Kirkuk

US Military Drops 45,000 Kilograms On Explosives On Iraq In Air Strikes, Mainstream Doesn't Notice, Or Care

Pentagon Confirms US Arms For Iraqi Army End Up In Hands Of Terrorists

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Now It's Official : Israel Lost The Second Lebanon War

The Winograd commission's final report, examining who is responsible for Israel's humiliating failure to win the Second Lebanon War, turns out to be, to no great surprise, something of a whitewash and refuses to lay blame at the feet of Israel prime minister Ehud Olmert.

The report makes one thing very clear, however. Israel lost the war against Hezbollah, and the UN resolution that brought an end to the fighting saved Lebanon's civilians and the Israeli Defence Force from further appalling losses :

The commission did not pull punches in describing the failures of Olmert's government during the 34-day conflict that, according to official figures from both sides, killed between 1,035 and 1,191 Lebanese civilians and combatants, in addition to 119 Israeli soldiers and 40 civilians.

Winograd told a packed news conference in Jerusalem that Israel did not win the war and the army did not provide an effective response to a sustained, deadly barrage of rocket fire from Hezbollah guerrillas.

Despite a heavy Israeli aerial campaign, the guerrilla group rained nearly 4,000 rockets on northern Israel. Israeli reservists returning from the battlefield complained of poor training and a lack of ammunition and key supplies.

"The overall image of the war was a result of a mixture of flawed conduct of the political and military leadership ... of flawed performance by the military, especially the ground forces, and of deficient Israeli preparedness," the 81-year-old Winograd said. "We found serious failings and flaws in the lack of strategic thinking and planning."

Winograd said the committee had decided not to assign personal blame for the war's shortcomings, preferring to search for ways to prevent similar mistakes in the future. "It should be stressed that the fact we refrained from imposing personal responsibility does not imply that no such responsibility exists," he said.

A large section of the report was devoted to the last-minute offensive that stirred controversy because it was ordered just as the U.N. truce was about to take effect. More than 30 Israeli soldiers were killed in that fighting.

Winograd said the 11th-hour offensive "failed" in its mission, did not improve Israel's position and that the army was not prepared for it.

However, he said the operation's goals were legitimate. "There was no failure in that decision in itself, despite its limited achievements and its painful costs." Winograd said both Olmert and his then-defense minister, Amir Peretz, acted in "what they thought at the time was Israel's interest."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Russia Sees NATO Closing In From All Sides

From RIA Novosti :
Russia is concerned over NATO's expansion, which is aimed at building up its military potential around Russian borders rather than strengthening European security, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Russia has been unnerved by NATO's eastward expansion and recent U.S. plans to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

"We are certain that the geographical expansion of NATO cannot be justified by security concerns," Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow.

"But it is clear that NATO is building up its military potential around our borders and its new members continue to increase their defense budgets," he said.

Lavrov said NATO's "open-door" policy has been inherited from the Cold War and can only antagonize relations with Russia.

"This policy cannot resolve any security problems," the minister said.

NATO has signaled its backing for the recent bids by Russia's former Soviet allies, Georgia and Ukraine, to join the alliance, a move that has infuriated Moscow.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the country would have to take "appropriate measures" if Ukraine were to join NATO.

An additional problem overshadowing cooperation between Russia and NATO is the bloc's refusal to ratify an updated version of the Soviet-era Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), aimed at regulating the deployment of non-nuclear weapons on the continent.

Russia imposed in December last year a unilateral moratorium on the arms reductions treaty, which the West regards as a cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security, and said it would resume its participation in the treaty only after NATO countries ratify the document.

Russian Fleet, Air Force Stage Biggest Military Exercises Off France Since Soviet Era

New UN Resolution On Iran Will Be Free Of Harshest Sanctions, Says Russia

Foreign Minister Warns Russia Will Not Back Down Over Kosovo

Russia Tells NATO New CFE Treat Must Take Naval Forces Into Account

Russia Uses Supersonic Ballistic Missile To Successfully Take Out Flying Target

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NATO To East : Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strikes Are On The Table

It's not often we get to see the contents of the numerous reports about nuclear weapons and the politics, and policies, of pre-emptive nuclear strikes that the world's war leaders spend hundreds of hours each year discussing and debating.

And when we do get a peak, it's downright horrific :

The West must be prepared to carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes to halt the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, a radical new manifesto argues.

The document - written by five of the West's most senior military officers and strategists - has been presented to the Pentagon and NATO's secretary-general.

They argue there is a need for urgent and comprehensive reform of NATO, The Guardian reports.

A new pact - involving the United States, NATO and the European Union - was also essential to face the challenges ahead, they said.

The manifesto is likely to be discussed at a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, in April, the paper said.

The authors include some of the top defence minds in the West, including General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and NATO's ex-supreme commander in Europe.

The others are General Klaus Naumann, Germany's former top soldier and ex-chairman of NATO's military committee; General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff; Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff; and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the United Kingdom.

The former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" as there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world", The Guardian reports.

It said the manifesto had been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom were unable or unwilling to publicly air their views.

"The risk of further (nuclear) proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors wrote, according to The Guardian.

"The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

It identified a number of key threats to the West's values and way of life, including international terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

It also cited the weakening of organisations such as the United Nations, NATO and the EU.

To prevail, they said, NATO's decision-taking methods must be overhauled, moving to a majority rather than a consensus model, putting an end to national vetoes.

A new "directorate" of US, European and NATO leaders must also be established to respond rapidly to crises.

The five also proposed the use of force without UN security council authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings," The Guardian reported.

Ron Asmus, head of the German Marshall Fund thinktank in Brussels and a former senior US state department official, described the manifesto as "a wake-up call".

"This report means that the core of the NATO establishment is saying we're in trouble, that the West is adrift and not facing up to the challenges," he told the paper.

Gen Naumann admitted the plan's retention of the nuclear first strike option was "controversial" even among the five authors.

But he said proliferation was spreading, and NATO needed to show "there is a big stick that we might have to use if there is no other option".

Lord Inge argued that "to tie our hands on first use or no first use removes a huge plank of deterrence."

The logic of using weapons of mass destruction pre-emptively to try and stop the possible building of weapons of mass destruction is pure Dr Strangelove.

Is there any connection between this report being made public at exactly the same time stock markets around the world are seeing hundreds of billions of dollars wiped from their values?

And is there any connnection between the release of this report and the show of force by the Russians in the Atlantic?

Well, of course there is. A pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran would cause chaos on world markets. The chaos has already begun, so there can only be so much market fallout if US and Israel move forward with their pre-emptive nuclear Iran strikes in the coming weeks or months.

It certainly does appear that the ground has been well and truly laid now for such strikes.

Whether Iran is hit or not, it will be years before we learn most of the details of the economic world war now being waged.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pakistan : Border War Claims More Soldiers Lives

Daily Bombings Turning Pakistan Into Iraq-Like War Zone

Another Taliban Rising : Pakistan Intel Loses Control Of Militants It Trained And Armed

Hundreds of Pakistan troops and police and thousands of Islamic militants have been killed in the 'border wars', mostly centred around the isolated provinces of Waziristan.

While the fighting, bombings and military action in Pakistan rarely receive in the United States the kind of media attention reserved for Iraq, the war there is now proving to be just as deadly, for soldiers, militants and civilians.

From ABC News :

At least seven Pakistani troops and 23 Islamic militants were killed in fighting in a remote tribal area near the Afghan border, the military said.

The clash in Mohmand tribal district erupted when militants attacked a paramilitary convoy, chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said.

"The militants attacked a security forces convoy and the forces responded with the help of local people, killing 23 of the attackers," he said.

The battle took place in a district that has seen none of the militant violence plaguing other parts of the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

It came after a major battle last week in nearby South Waziristan tribal district, when the military said it repulsed an attack involving around 300 militants, killing up to 50 of them.

The Government has deployed 90,000 troops to the north-western tribal districts to counter the growing influence of pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, blamed for a recent wave of suicide bomb attacks across Pakistan.

President Pervez Musharraf has ruled out direct US military operations in the mountainous area amid reports from Washington that the Pentagon is considering the use of hard military power in support of CIA operations there.

A bomb blast in Karachi has killed ten civilians, and wounded dozens more. But this wasn't a suicide bomber. The bomb was believed to have been planted under a fruit stall and detonated while the marketplace was at its busiest.

And then there's this story from the New York Times claiming that Pakistan's intelligence services have lost control of the militants they have trained, armed and deployed for more than three decades. Another Taliban blowback situation in the making :

As the military has moved against them, the militants have turned on their former handlers, the officials said. Joining with other extremist groups, they have battled Pakistani security forces and helped militants carry out a record number of suicide attacks last year, including some aimed directly at army and intelligence units as well as prominent political figures, possibly even Benazir Bhutto.

The growing strength of the militants, many of whom now express support for Al Qaeda’s global jihad, presents a grave threat to Pakistan’s security, as well as NATO efforts to push back the Taliban in Afghanistan. American officials have begun to weigh more robust covert operations to go after Al Qaeda in the lawless border areas because they are so concerned that the Pakistani government is unable to do so.

The unusual disclosures regarding Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency — Inter-Services Intelligence, or the ISI — emerged in interviews last month with former senior Pakistani intelligence officials. The disclosures confirm some of the worst fears, and suspicions, of American and Western military officials and diplomats.

The interviews, a rare glimpse inside a notoriously secretive and opaque agency, offered a string of other troubling insights likely to refocus attention on the ISI’s role as Pakistan moves toward elections on Feb. 18 and a battle for control of the government looms:

¶One former senior Pakistani intelligence official, as well as other people close to the agency, acknowledged that the ISI led the effort to manipulate Pakistan’s last national election in 2002, and offered to drop corruption cases against candidates who would back President Pervez Musharraf.

A person close to the ISI said Mr. Musharraf had now ordered the agency to ensure that the coming elections were free and fair, and denied that the agency was working to rig the vote. But the acknowledgment of past rigging is certain to fuel opposition fears of new meddling.

¶The two former high-ranking intelligence officials acknowledged that after Sept. 11, 2001, when President Musharraf publicly allied Pakistan with the Bush administration, the ISI could not rein in the militants it had nurtured for decades as a proxy force to exert pressure on India and Afghanistan. After the agency unleashed hard-line Islamist beliefs, the officials said, it struggled to stop the ideology from spreading.

¶Another former senior intelligence official said dozens of ISI officers who trained militants had come to sympathize with their cause and had had to be expelled from the agency. He said three purges had taken place since the late 1980s and included the removal of three ISI directors suspected of being sympathetic to the militants.

None of the former intelligence officials who spoke to The New York Times agreed to be identified when talking about the ISI, an agency that has gained a fearsome reputation for interfering in almost every aspect of Pakistani life. But two former American intelligence officials agreed with much of what they said about the agency’s relationship with the militants.

So did other sources close to the ISI, who admitted that the agency had supported militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir, although they said they had been ordered to do so by political leaders.

The threat from the militants, the former intelligence officials warned, is one that Pakistan is unable to contain. “We could not control them,” said one former senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We indoctrinated them and told them, ‘You will go to heaven.’ You cannot turn it around so suddenly.”

There is little dispute that Pakistan’s crackdown on the militants has been at best uneven, but key sources interviewed by The Times disagreed on why.

Most Western officials in Pakistan say they believe, as Pakistani officials, including President Musharraf, insist, that the agency is well disciplined, like the army, and is in no sense a rogue or out-of-control organization acting contrary to the policies of the leadership.

A senior Western military official in Pakistan said that if the ISI was covertly aiding the Taliban, the decision would come from the top of the government, not the agency. “That’s not an ISI decision,” the official said. “That’s a government-of-Pakistan decision.”

But former Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that Mr. Musharraf had ordered a crackdown on all militants. It was never fully carried out, however, because of opposition within his government and within ISI, they said.

Western officials say that before Mr. Musharraf resigned as army chief in December, he appointed a loyalist to run the ISI and appears determined to retain power over the agency even as a civilian president.

...nearly half of Pakistanis said in a recent poll that they suspected that government agencies or pro-government politicians had assassinated Ms. Bhutto. Such suspicion stems from decades of interference in elections and politics by the ISI, according to analysts, as well as a high level of domestic surveillance, intimidation and threats to journalists, academics and human rights activists, which former intelligence officials also acknowledged.

Pakistani and American experts say that distrust speaks to the urgent need to reform a hugely powerful intelligence agency that Pakistan’s military rulers have used for decades to suppress political opponents, manipulate elections and support militant groups.

Read The Full Story Here

The more chaos, bombing and killing in Pakistan, the more likely that US and/or NATO troops will eventually be allowed in, and another occupation of the 'War on Terror' will begin, in the process completing the near total encirclement of Iran by Western military forces.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Netanyahu : Bush Agrees, Israel And US Must Nuke Iran

Bush Demands World Must Rally Against Iran

According to this story, President Bush is now backing Israel's plan to use nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear energy installations :
US President George W. Bush promised Israel's opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu that the United States will join the Jewish state in a nuclear strike against Iran, Israel Radio reported today.

Former Prime Minister Netanyahu, opposition Likud party's hardline chairman who opposes the US-backed Annapolis peace process, reiterated to President Bush his stance, that a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran's nuclear installations was the only way to stop the Islamic nation's nuclear weapons ambitions.

"I told him my position and Bush agreed," Netanyahu told Israel Radio.

During their 45-minute meeting at King David hotel in Jerusalem Netanyahu also told Bush that "Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people and will remain under Israeli sovereignty for eternity."

President Bush issued a stark warning to Iran over Strait of Hormuz incident, saying that "all options are on the table to protect our assets."

“There will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple,” Bush said during the joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem. “And my advice to them is, don't do it.”

Iran claims that Bush's pumping of the supposed 'attack' by Iranian navy vessels on US warships in the Strait Of Hormuz is nothing but a psy-op, aimed at building tension and part of preparations for War On Iran.

The US Navy has now withdrawn its allegations that radio threats that US ships would be "blown up" by Iranian patrol vessels originated with Iranians.

Disturbing parallels are now being drawn between the supposed incident in the Strait Of Hormuz and the utterly fictitious Gulf Of Tonkin incident that plunged the United States deep into the Vietnam War.

Did Bush go to the Middle East to push for peace between Israel and Palestine, or was the trip more about firming up War On Iran plans with Israel and trying to raise support for nuclear strikes on Iran amongst US-allied Arab dictatorships?

US President George W. Bush said Iran is threatening the security of the world, and the United States and Arab allies must join together to confront the danger "before it's too late".

Mr Bush said Iran funds terrorist extremists, undermines peace in Lebanon, sends arms to the Taliban, seeks to intimidate its neighbours with alarming rhetoric, defies the United Nations and destabilises the entire region by refusing to be open about its nuclear program.

“Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terror,” Mr Bush said in a speech he delivered about midway through his eight-day Mid-East trip that began with a renewed push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace pact - an accord whose “time has come,” he said.

“Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere,” Mr Bush said. “So the United States is strengthening our long-standing security commitments with our friends in the Gulf, and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late.”

Is The Strait Of Hormuz 'Incident' Just Another Gulf Of Tonkin-Like Fiction?

US Republican Presidential Candidate Warns Iran It Is Facing "Gates Of Hell"

Mystery Radio Heckler Has Been Making Threats For 25 Years To US Navy In Gulf

Iran Slams US "Propaganda Campaign"

Arab Countries Tell Bush To Be Tough On Iran, But Not Tough Enough To Start A War

US Navy Admits Radio Threat To "Blow Up" US Ships May Not Have Come From Iran

Monday, January 07, 2008

The First Major Confrontation Of The Coming Iran-US War

Raw Story has a round-up of reports and details about today's confrontation in the sea lane between Iran and Saudi Arabia, between Iranian boats and US warships. The gist is that the Iranians were supposedly trying to provoke the US into attacking them, and the US ships exercised great restraint, despite being threatened by what would appear to be claims of 'terror attacks' on American vessels :
US Navy warships over the weekend came "very close" to shooting at an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels, which American officials say provoked US ships in international waters, according to CNN.

"US officials are confirming to CNN that five Iranian Revolutionary guard boats, in their words, 'harassed and provoked' three US Navy warships sailing in the Strait of Hormuz," reports CNN's Barbara Starr. "One of those Iranian boats came within 200 yards of a Navy warship."

The Iranian boats had also transmitted threats via radio, according to officials.

"According to the sources we have spoken to," Starr continued, "the Iranians made threatening moves and threatening radio transmissions. One of those transmissions was...'I am coming at you, you will explode in a couple of minutes.'"

According to the CNN website, "one of the Iranian ships had been dropping white boxes into the water in front of the US ships."

Following the radio transmission, a Navy ship had prepared to fire on an Iranian vessel.

"This official also tells CNN that when that radio transmission was heard, the Navy went to manning its positions, its gun positions on those ships," Starr reports, "and that they were very close to shooting at one of the Iranian boats. In fact the were ready to shoot, the orders had been given when the Iranians suddenly turned away."

No shots were fired, and there were no injuries.

"It is the most serious provocation of this sort that we've seen yet," an unnamed Pentagon official told the Associated Press. He added that the Iranian boats turned away "literally at the very moment that US forces were preparing to open fire."

Go Here For The Full Story

If a war between Iran and the United States breaks out this year, as many NeoCons are anticipating, and clearly fantasising about, this incident will be regarded as one of the sparks that began the major hostilities.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Kenya Goes To Hell

The breakdown of law and order and peaceful society in Kenya, following disputed elections, has been fast and vast, and has totally overwhelmed most of the public. More than 300 have been killed in vicious machete attacks, arson and police gunfire. More than 250,000 have been forced to flee their homes :

The speed of Kenya’s unravelling has been breathtaking. In Africa, one country after another has been racked by political violence, massacres, corruption and civil war. For 44 years, since independence from Britain, Kenya was largely the exception.

It is true that Jomo Kenyatta, its first leader, and his successor, Daniel arap Moi, countenanced little dissent and plundered the national treasury. But viewed against the savagery that descended on its neighbours – Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Rwanda – Kenya was a success story. It was an economic hub and a top tourist destination.

Hidden away were problems, however. Kenya is a mosaic of 42 tribes. But since independence the Kikuyu have dominated politically and economically.

Political patronage enabled them to settle across the country outside their densely populated traditional homeland near Mount Kenya. While poor Kikuyu drove communal taxis or ran street stalls, the wealthier ones owned the big businesses.

Their growing presence and economic power attracted resentment, especially in the Rift Valley in the west.

In the last elections many Kalenjin, the original Rift Valley inhabitants, backed Odinga. Other minor tribes threw in their lot with the flamboyant opposition leader, hoping for a better deal under a Luo president. This led to the closest-fought election in African history.

The violence has killed more than 300 people and the wider suffering has been terrible. Half a million need food and 180,000 have fled their homes. Reports from western Kenya said children were dying from exposure. The World Food Programme suggested that up to 100,000 people faced starvation.

The election was projected as a milestone in Kenya’s advance to a more mature democracy. In 2002 Kibaki had put down the first marker on this path when he won a multi-party election that ended Moi’s autocratic rule. Odinga helped in his victory. But the two fell out and became political opponents.

On December 27, Kenyans voted, with Odinga consistently ahead in opinion polls. He won a parliamentary majority, but two days after election day, delays in counting for the presidential contest and rumours of electoral fraud sparked riots.

Last Sunday, Kibaki was declared the winner by 231,728 votes, even though Odinga had led by a substantial margin in preliminary results. Kibaki was sworn in secretively as 152 European Union observers declared the election deeply flawed.

Aggrieved at having apparently been cheated out of power, Luos went on the rampage against Kibaki’s Kikuyu supporters. Even mobile phone text messages called for violence. “Let’s wipe out the Mt Kenya mafia,” they read, a reference to Kibaki’s power base. “Kill two, get one free.”

As the Kikuyu hit back, tribal clashes spread through the Rift Valley and beyond, as far as the teeming slums of Nairobi and on to Mombasa and the Kenyan coast. In the Rift Valley, the Luo were supported by the Kalenjin and another minor tribe.

The resurrection of two violent criminal gangs, the Mungiki and the Taliban, loyal to the Kikuyu and Luo respectively, added a gruesome dimension.

The Taliban were blamed for horrendous killings in which Kikuyu were hacked to death with machetes in the slums of Nairobi. The Mungiki, who are bound by secret rituals, were accused of hacking off heads and mutilating Luo men. It was reported that a number of Luos were admitted to hospital after forced circumcisions.

The Luo do not practise male circumcision, while the Kikuyu are one of several tribes in which it is a rite of passage.

On Tuesday, a new atrocity evoked memories of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people died. Attackers burnt alive Kikuyu women, children and elderly people sheltering inside a church just outside Eldoret in the Rift Valley.

After throwing stones at the church to make sure the refugees stayed inside, they blocked the door with mattresses soaked in fuel, and added piles of dried maize leaves. Then they set the whole lot on fire. Soon the church was a blazing inferno.

A few escaped, including a woman who broke out, her baby in a shawl on her back. The shawl caught fire. The baby fell back into the flames. The woman ran away with her hair on fire, screaming.

The rest of this story is almost beyond belief.

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