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'Professor Blair' -- Tony Blair's Second Act: Former British Prime Minister on Iraq, Faith, and His New Life at Yale
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing criticism back home for his decision to lead his nation into war in Iraq -- a decision Blair says he does not regret, even though weapons of mass destruction never were found after the 2003 invasion.
He sat down with "Good Morning America's" Ron Claiborne this week to talk about Iraq, as well as his second act as a Yale professor teaching a class on faith and globalization as part of his Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Ron Claiborne: The U.S. and the U.K. went to war on the basis of the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam had them and could deploy them quickly, which turned out apparently not to be the case. Does that therefore invalidate having gone to war?
Tony Blair: For me, the question you're still left with is: Was Saddam a threat and was it right to remove him? When I look back on the years of the interaction between the international community and Saddam, the two wars that he began, the United Nations resolutions that were flouted ... when you look at that and you look at the destruction -- I mean the use, for example, of chemical weapons, whole villages wiped out in one day as a result of the use of chemical weapons against his own people -- my views, spending a lot of time out there in the region now, I think you can at least argue the case that the region is safer without him than with him.
Claiborne: But we went to war on the basis [of weapons of mass destruction].
Blair: And we've got to accept that that intelligence turned out to be wrong, and, that is obviously, a point that's not merely legitimate to make, it goes right to the heart of it. On the other hand, I think it's important then not to go to the other extreme and say, "Well this was someone who was basically not a danger and a source of instability in the region," because I believe that he was. And personally, I think there would always have been a time when you'd have to deal with him. Read more.
Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate
Blackwater, Other Firms Said to Be "Hired Guns" in Iraq, Afghanistan -- Combat Role Would Be Against U.S. Law
By Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito and Brian Ross | ABC News
The CIA and the military special forces have quietly expanded the role of private contractors, including Blackwater, to include their involvement in raids and secret paramilitary operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers tell ABC News.
American law specifically prohibits the use of private soldiers or mercenaries in combat, according to Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University.
"The United States Congress has never approved the use of private contractors for combat operations," Turley told ABC News in an interview...Read more.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 10 December 2009, Observed
Iftikhar Chaudri, President of Journalists for International Peace, wrote:
Journalists for International Peace observed the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2009. In this context, a meeting was held in the head office of JIP, in which participants/ members of JIP presented their reports on various human rights issues the world is confronting.
The participants, members of JIP, deliberated on the objectives of Human Rights Day which was focused on non-discrimination. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. These first few famous words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established 61 years ago, are the basic premise of international human rights law. Yet today, the fight against discrimination remains a daily struggle for millions around the globe.
Iftikhar Chaudri, President JIP, expressed grave concern over the situation of human rights all over the world, in general, which is further deteriorated. “The graph of the poverty-line personifies upward trend. People are devoid of clean drinking water and basic food items. Despite efforts to promote interfaith harmony through a dialogue, the religious and sectarian intolerance increased manifold. The ban on the construction of minarets in Switzerland is a glaring example that infuriates the Muslim minority,” he added.
Jews Against Zionism
By Stephen Lendman
They're numerous, outspoken, and range from secular to orthodox to one group calling itself "True Torah Jews Against Zionism."
They believe that "traditional" Jews don't support Zionism, an ideology they call "contrary to Jewish law and beliefs and the teachings of the Holy Torah." They say Zionism:
- advocates "a political and military end to the Jewish exile;"
- fosters "pseudo-Judaism" based on secular nationalism;
- coercively seeks "armed materialism" in place of "a Divine and Torah centered understanding;"
- endangers all Jews worldwide;
- wants to disassociate Jews and traditional Judaism from ideological Zionism; and
- calls Israel a "Zionist State," not a Jewish one.
- cite their concern for "peace and safety of all people throughout the world including those living in the Zionist state" and in Occupied Palestine;
- say from ancient times until 100 years ago, Jews and Arabs lived in peace and friendship until Zionism changed the relationship;
- believe Zionists abandoned the Torah and traditional Judaism, demanded political sovereignty over the Holy Land, and aroused anger in the Arab world; and
- Torah Jewry doesn't recognize or support a Zionist state; nor do they represent world Jews; even the name "Israel" is a "forgery," they believe, because the Torah forbids violence in the words of the prophet Isaiah who said:
"And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. No nation will lift its sword against any other, nor will they learn warfare anymore."
By Dave Lindorff
Most Americans are blissfully in the dark about it, but across the Atlantic in the UK, a commission reluctantly established by Prime Minister Gordon Brown under pressure from anti-war activists in Britain is beginning hearings into the actions and statements of British leaders that led to the country’s joining the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Even before testimony began in hearings that started yesterday, news began to leak out from documents obtained by the commission that the government of former PM Tony Blair had lied to Parliament and the public about the country’s involvement in war planning.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper over the weekend published documents from British military leaders, including a memo from British special forces head Maj. Gen. Graeme Lamb, saying that he had been instructed to begin “working the war up since early 2002.”
A basic principle taught to any young reporter is: "follow the money." A similar principle should apply to U.S. foreign policy reporting: follow the bases. As striking facts-on-the-ground, such bases tell us much about bedrock U.S. policy, whatever the policy debates in Washington. If the mainstream media ignores such bases, TomDispatch has long made it a policy of keeping an eye on them. Recently, Nick Turse, this site's associate editor and the award-winning author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, reported on a story only modestly and partially covered here: the way the Pentagon has been pouring money into building up its base infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Now, he turns to the Persian Gulf region where the news is focused on a future U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. It turns out, however, that we're withdrawing into something -- that, in fact, there's been a massive, if hardly noticed, Pentagon build-up in this region, too. You'd think it might be news. Now, at TomDispatch, thanks to Turse, it is. Tom
The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf
As Washington Talks Iraq Withdrawal, the Pentagon Builds Up Bases in the Region
By Nick Turse
Despite recent large-scale insurgent suicide bombings that have killed scores of civilians and the fact that well over 100,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in that country, coverage of the U.S. war in Iraq has been largely replaced in the mainstream press by the (previously) "forgotten war" in Afghanistan. A major reason for this is the plan, developed at the end of the Bush years and confirmed by President Obama, to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 2010 and withdraw most of the remaining forces by December 2011.
Getting out of Iraq, however, doesn't mean getting out of the Middle East. For one thing, it's likely that a sizeable contingent of U.S. forces will remain garrisoned on several large and remotely situated U.S. bases in Iraq well past December 2011. Still others will be stationed close by -- on bases throughout the region where, with little media attention since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, construction to harden, expand, and upgrade U.S. and allied facilities has gone on to this day. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
With word being leaked out over the weekend that our Nobel Peace Prize President is close to announcing plans to escalate the US troop level in the Afghanistan War by 50%, we are about to have perhaps the ultimate of ironies—a president announcing a big step-up in American war-making on November 11, the day known around much of the Western world as Armistice Day.
While modern Americans might not know it, with all the boom and bombast and mindless flag-waving featured in the military parades popular in today’s warrior culture, November 11 was originally established by Congress back in 1919, a year after the day the guns of World War I finally went silent over the blood-drenched fields of Europe in what was once, in a naïve spasm of optimism, referred to as the War to End All Wars. In declaring the national holiday Armistice Day, Congress said it was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
UN assembly draft urges action on Gaza "war crimes"
By Louis Charbonneau | Reuters
Arab U.N. delegates circulated a draft resolution on Monday that would require Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring a U.N. report alleging war crimes in the Gaza Strip before the Security Council.
A special meeting of the 192-nation assembly on Wednesday will debate the U.N. report on the December-January war in the Gaza Strip and vote on the draft resolution.
That report accused Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants of war crimes and was prepared by a U.N. fact-finding commission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.
The Arab draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, says the assembly "requests the Secretary-General to transmit the report ... to the Security Council." It also urges Israel and the Palestinians to comply with the report's recommendations for launching investigations into allegations of war crimes.
The draft also tells Ban to report back to the assembly within three months on implementation of the resolution. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
It would be easy to read too much into the few statewide races that were decided last night, but I think it’s fair to say that the results in New Jersey and Virginia, where Republican gubernatorial candidates won--in New Jersey’s case knocking off a well-funded Democratic incumbent--that the results were a blow to the Barack Obama/Rahm Emanuel strategy of playing to the right, of avoiding confrontation in Congress and of ignoring the progressive voters whose enthusiasm and effort back in the 2008 campaign put Obama in office.
CHOMSKY SAYS PRESIDENT OBAMA CONTINUES BUSH POLICY TO CONTROL MIDDLE EAST OIL
By Sherwood Ross
Political activist Noam Chomsky says that although President Obama views the Iraq invasion merely as “a mistake” or “strategic blunder,” it is, in fact, a “major crime” designed to enable America to control the Middle East oil reserves.
“It’s (“strategic blunder”) probably what the German general staff was telling Hitler after Stalingrad,” Chomsky quipped, referring to the big Nazi defeat by the Soviet army in 1943.
“There is basically no significant change in the fundamental traditional conception that if we can control Middle East energy resources, then we can control the world,” he said.
In a lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London Oct. 27th, Chomsky warned against expecting significant foreign policy changes from Obama, according to a report by Mamoon Alabbasi published on MWC News.net. Alabbasi is an editor at Middle East Online.
“As Obama came into office, (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice predicted he would follow the policies of Bush’s second term, and that is pretty much what happened, apart from a different rhetorical style,” Chomsky said.
Chomsky said the U.S. operates under the “Mafia principle,” explaining “the Godfather does not tolerate ‘successful defiance’” and must be stamped out “so that others understand that disobedience is not an option.”
By Dave Lindorff
Country Joe McDonald said it best in his iconic "Fixin' to Die" Rag: "Oh, it's one, two, three, what are we fightin' for? Don't ask me. I don't give a damn." In fact, we were fighting for nothing in Vietnam. It was a war that started out because the US didn't want the Commies to win a battle in the so-called Cold War, and even though it was on the farthest side of the world, in a poor nation of peasants, even though they had been struggling to throw off colonialism for years and we had simply become the new colonists, no president dared to admit the obvious--we had no business being there, and all the killing and dying had no point.
By Dave Lindorff
How absurd is it that we have the government on the one hand pulling back from using a hollowed out mountain in Nevada to store nuclear waste because of a fear (legitimate I grant) that hundreds or thousands of years hence, some earthquake or other catastrophe could cause the stored waste to leak into the water table, while on the other hand we have this same government deliberately taking some of the most dangerous waste--the actual uranium from the used fuel rods--and putting it into bombs, shells and bullets to be splattered and burned all across the landscape?
And I should note that it's not just remote places like Iraq and Kuwait and Afghanistan that are being covered in super toxic and radioactive uranium dust--and I'm not just talking about the stuff that gets picked up in the wind and carried around the globe, or the stuff that gets inhaled by our troops and carried home internally, bad enough as that is.
United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict | PRESS RELEASE | 15 September 2009
UN Fact Finding Mission finds strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Gaza conflict; calls for end to impunity
NEW YORK / GENEVA - The UN Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone on Tuesday released its long-awaited report on the Gaza conflict, in which it concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.
The report also concludes there is also evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity, in their repeated launching of rockets and mortars into Southern Israel.
Beneath the hype Pt.5: Ray McGovern and Greg Thielmann on the potential causes of armed conflict in Iran.
Mondoweiss today gives us a Youtube clip of Tony Blair dodging a tough question from a University of Buffalo student about the Goldstone report.
The student, Nick Kabat, asked Blair why the US and Israel should be allowed to get away with blocking the Goldstone Report, how (as the "Quartet"'s peace envoy) he could explain that proceeding with Goldstone's recommendations might harm the peace process, and whether he didn't think that the blocade on Gaza also harmed the peace process.
You could see Blair ducking and weaving. (The questions had all been pre-screened by the university; but Kabat submitted a bland dummy question then asked this one instead.)
Blair said he'd been to Gaza "twice-- in the recent period" and that the situation there is difficult... But you also "have to understand" that Israel has received a lot of rockets from there since it withdrew in 2005 and still has its young soldier Gilad Shalit held there as a prisoner...
No mention from Blair that there have been almost no rockets coming out of Gaza since Hamas announced the currently-operant ceasefire there on January 18-- but despite that lack of rocketings, the Israeli siege is harsher even than it was prior to last winter's war.
No mention of the roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. Read more.
Eight years after US and NATO forces toppled the Taliban, Afghanistan held its second major elections since 2001. But far from being a symbol of democracy, the August 20th elections have been marred by accusations of fraud and concerns over President Hamid Karzai’s reliance on the support of warlords and suspected war criminals. We get a report from independent journalist Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films. Read transcript.
By Cindy Sheehan
Today, a President of the largest violently military empire in the world, won the Nobel Peace Prize while his nation is mired in wars in three countries where his actions have oftentimes made things worse.
Let’s also make this clear that the Nobel prizes are supposed to be awarded for work done the previous year (2008), so that means Obama was awarded the prize for campaigning for the presidency of the USA, where his “vision” (platform) was consistently pro-more war. The nominations are also due by February 1st. Ten days after the inauguration and about a week after a drone in Pakistan killed over 3 dozen innocent people.
He was awarded the prize for his “vision” for a “nuclear free world.”
By Dave Lindorff
It’s not as much of a travesty as when Henry Kissinger, a war criminal of the first order who was an architect of the latter stages of the Indochina War, and was personally responsible for the slaughter of well over a million innocent people, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, while that war was still raging, but the awarding of the latest Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama is travesty enough.
We’re talking about a man whose practically first act upon taking office early this year was to escalate the ugly and pointless war in Afghanistan with the addition of some 20,000 troops, and who, even as the Nobel committee was discussing his award, was meeting with his military and political advisors to consider expanding that war even further, both in Afghanistan and across the border into Pakistan.
President Obama is prepared to accept some Taleban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future and is unlikely to favour a large influx of new US troops being demanded by his ground commander, a senior official said tonight.
Mr Obama appears to have been swayed in recent days by arguments from some advisers, led by Vice-President Joe Biden, that the Taleban do not pose a direct threat to the US and that there should be greater focus on tackling al-Qaeda inside Pakistan.
The official, speaking anonymously to the press about Mr Obama’s internal discussions – a tactic that is causing dismay among some senior military officials – said the president’s final decision on his war strategy and troop levels is still at least two weeks away.
Yet if Mr Obama fails to dispatch at least a significant number of the 40,000 troops requested by General Stanley McChystal, he will have ignored the wishes of his own ground commander and will face fierce attacks from Republicans back home. Read more.
And you thought "don't ask, don't tell" was a U.S. law on gays in the military that Barack Obama has promised to change. As it turns out, the same phrase plays quite a different role in the Middle East, where Obama seems to have no intention of changing it at all. Successive administrations have adhered to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to Israel's sizeable arsenal of nuclear weapons. That country has never acknowledged their existence, adhering instead to another arcane formula: "We will not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East." Jonathan Schell has described this strange situation: "Evidently, in some abstruse way, possessing [nuclear weapons] is not introducing them. You'd have to do something more to introduce them. You'd have to brandish one or make a threat with one, or maybe just acknowledge that you had them. As long as they keep them in the basement and don't make any introductions, then it's alright."
In May, the Obama administration evidently agreed not to break step with the fictions of previous administrations by acknowledging, or attempting to force Israel to publicly acknowledge, its estimated 100-200 nuclear weapons, including city-busters and cruise missiles adapted to be nuclear-armed and put on subs in the Mediterranean. His administration seems also to have agreed not to pressure the Israelis to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) under which nuclear arms are theoretically managed on our planet.
This, of course, leads to bizarre Middle Eastern policy anomalies rarely acknowledged in this country. In the midst of all the screaming headlines about an Iranian bomb which does not yet (and may never) exist, none of the acts the administration is demanding of the Iranians (and around which it is threatening to impose even stronger sanctions), including allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into its nuclear sites and providing greater transparency about the state of its nuclear program, have been put into practice by Israel, despite its perfectly real -- in fact, staggeringly large -- program. And no penalties have been imposed.
When Israel was in Iran's present situation back in the 1950s and early 1960s, and secretly developing a nuclear weapons program, U.S. administrations simply looked the other way. Ever since, presidents have preferred not to look at all, not publicly anyway. According to Eli Lake of the Washington Times, despite President Obama's stated policy of wanting to strengthen the NPT and lead the world toward nuclear disarmament, he recently "reaffirmed" to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections."
One irony of the Obama push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, even while working to bring Iran to heel, has been this: despite all efforts in Israel and here, the Israeli nuclear arsenal has begun creeping towards the light of day. Soon enough, to everyone's surprise, it may become part of the conversation even in the United States. So here's a final irony: it's just possible that "don't ask, don't tell" will lose its meaning in the Middle East before it does in the U.S. military. In the meantime, as TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus points out, the Obama administration's focus on Iran continually creates unexpected problems elsewhere. Tom
Obama Trapped Behind Wall of Mideast Containment
It's the Iranians, Stupid
By Ira Chernus
Damn the Iranians and full speed ahead. That was the U.S. policy in the Middle East. But the waters have proved treacherous, with torpedoes everywhere. Despite an initial hopeful sit-down with Iranian negotiators, this won't be the October the White House wanted on the foreign policy front. By now, Barack Obama was supposed to have announced -- with ruffles and flourishes -- the beginning of Middle East peace talks, leading to a final status agreement by 2012. But something didn't happen.
Israel didn't heed Obama's demand to stop all settlement expansion in the West Bank. So Obama didn't stick to that demand, settling instead for a temporary freeze after a spate of new building. The Palestinians, buoyed by Obama's initial strong stance on the settlements, refused to negotiate until Israel stopped all construction. Other Arab nations didn't offer Israel nearly as many concessions as the U.S. administration was demanding. Undermined by all that didn't happen, the president had nothing of substance to announce.
What went wrong? The heart of the problem was not Israel's supposed power over U.S. policy. The U.S. still has plenty of leverage over the Israelis and everyone else in the region. Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea is right: "Everyone depends on America, its money, its military aid, and its moves vis-à-vis Iran."
But it is precisely those U.S. moves, meant to contain the power of Iran, that are the main stumbling block on the path to a U.S.-brokered two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Middle East is a textbook example of the perils of containment.
The Ghost Of Cold War Past Read more.
CODEPINK co-founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans recently returned from an eye-opening trip to Afghanistan. Their experiences convinced them even further that sending 40,000 more US troops would be disastrous for Afghan women and children. On October 3, their last day in the country, a US bomb hit a farmer's house, killing two innocent women and six children. That same day, a fierce gun battle in mountainous Nuristan Province left eight U.S. Servicemen dead.
Barack Obama, the US president, has agreed to abide by a 40-year policy of allowing Israel to keep nuclear weapons without opening them to international inspection, according to a US newspaper.
In a report on Saturday, The Washington Times quoted three unnamed sources as saying Obama had confirmed to Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, that he would maintain the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The incident reportedly occurred when the two met at the White House in Washington DC in May.
Neither Israel's embassy in Washington, nor the White House National Security Council would comment on the claim.
Avner Cohen, an Israeli expert and author, was quoted by the paper as saying that under the deal "the United States passively [accepts] Israel's nuclear weapons status as long as Israel does not unveil publicly its capability or test a weapon". Read more.
The Middle East's Fruitful Valley | International Atomic Energy Organization
Against Odds, Israel, Jordan & Palestinian Authority Set Up "No-Fly" Zones of a Peaceful Kind
Arava Valley, Middle East -- Their people share an agricultural valley, and now they share the fruits of partnership – to the tune of millions of dollars every year.
Scientists, politicians, and farmers from Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority are winning a long and largely invisible fight against the odds. Their common foe: the Mediterranean fruit fly, or Medfly, one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests. Among their allies: the IAEA, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and tools of nuclear science and technology.
At a military checkpoint between Israel and Jordan in the Arava Valley, a precious cargo is traded. One-hundred-and-fifty-thousand sterilized male flies. Trapped in a dozen brownpaper bags, they buzz as they pass from Israeli to Jordanian hands.
Later that day, a plane loaded with seven million flies will make a two hour flight from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. It is the only plane authorised to tick-tack between the two countries in this region where military "no-fly zones" typically rule.
Twice a week, Steve Carrigan becomes the friendly "fly bomber", releasing swarms of sterile male flies by air to overrun the Mediterranean Basin´s shared Valley. The Medflies are commercially bred for birth control; their mating yields no offspring. If left to multiply in the wild, Medflies would wreak havoc on citrus and other fruit, quickly turning crops into infested mush.
Scientists call the pest-control technology the sterile insect technique (SIT). It is an environmentally friendly method, with a basic "birds and the bees" concept. No offspring means a dwindling fly population over time, through systematic and targeted campaigns combined with other strategic measures on an area-wide basis. Read more.
President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.
Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs. Read more.
Not content with expanding from 16 to 28 members over the past decade in a post-Cold War world in which it confronts no military threat from any source, state or non-state, and not sufficiently occupied with its first ground and first Asian war in Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - the world's only military bloc - is eager to take on a plethora of new international missions.
With the fragmentation of the Warsaw Pact and the breakup of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 NATO, far from scaling back its military might in Europe, not to mention returning the favor and dissolving itself, saw the opportunity to expand throughout the continent and the world.
Beginning with the bombing campaign in Bosnia in 1995, Operation Deliberate Force and its 400 aircraft, and the deployment of 60,000 troops there under Operation Joint Endeavor, the Alliance has steadily and inexorably deployed its military east and south into the Balkans, Northeast Africa, the entire Mediterranean Sea, Central Africa, and South and Central Asia. It has also extended its tentacles into the South Caucasus, throughout Scandinavia including Finland and Sweden, and into the Asia-Pacific region where it has formed individual partnerships with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea along with recruiting troops from Mongolia and Singapore to serve under its command in the eight-year war in Afghanistan.
With the upgrading of its Mediterranean Dialogue program (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia), with the Persian Gulf component of the 2004 Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partnership underway and planned for the Gulf Cooperation Council states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and with the deployment of U.S.-trained Colombian counterinsurgency forces for its Afghan war, a military bloc ostensibly formed to protect the nations of the North Atlantic community now has armed forces and partnerships in all six inhabited continents.
Odierno: May not be possible to declare victory in Iraq
By Mike Mount | CNN
It isn't clear whether the United States will ever be able to declare victory in Iraq, the top U.S. commander there said Thursday.
"I'm not sure we will ever see anyone declare victory in Iraq, because first off, I'm not sure we'll know for 10 years or five years," Army Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters at the Pentagon.
About 123,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq now, and President Obama says all combat forces will be gone by the end of August 2010, leaving as many as 50,000 noncombat troops to advise and train Iraqi forces before leaving by the end of 2011.
Odierno has said he wants to draw down the U.S. forces at a faster rate than planned if the security situation allows it. On Thursday, he said he expected the number of U.S. troops to drop to 120,000 by the end of October, and to as few as 110,000 by the end of 2009.
"What we've done here is we're giving Iraq an opportunity in the long term to be a strategic partner of the United States, but more importantly, be a partner in providing regional stability inside of the Middle East," Odierno said. Read more.
ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports: Sen John McCain, R-AZ, is furious that General Stanley McChrystal, US Commander in Afghanistan, has given a speech in London and appeared on ‘60 Minutes’ this week - but has not yet testified before Congress about the way forward in Afghanistan.
McCain’s furor is directed at the Obama Administration for not allowing McChyrstal and other top military officials to testify about the recommendations they are making for the way forward in Afghanistan.
In a thunderous speech on the Senate floor, McCain introduced an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill that would require McChrystal to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee before November 15. The amendment would also require testimony from CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus and Admiral James Stravridis, the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
“General McChrystal gave a speech in London just yesterday talking about what we needed to do,” McCain said. “So it's ok with the administration for General McChrystal to go on ‘60 Minutes,’ it's ok for him to give a speech at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, but the administration does not want General McChrystal and General Petraeus before the Senate Armed Services Committee. How does that work?”
McCain hammered President Obama for talking to McChrystal only once during a 70-day period “although the President talks to labor leaders almost on a daily basis, pushing a health care agenda.”
“We need to hear from the architects and the commanders. Now, if the president doesn't want to talk to the commander in the field, General McChrystal, very often ... the fact is that we as members of Congress, a coequal branch of government, also have a responsibility in this decision-making process. Now, I respect the president's role as Commander in Chief. I respect the President of the United States making a decision. But I also cherish the role of the United States Senate and House of Representatives in being informed as to the views of our military commanders in whom we place the responsibilities and the lives of our young men and women who are in harm's way,” McCain said. Read more.
Iran agrees to ship enriched uranium to Russia for refinement
By Warren P. Strobel and Margaret Talev | McClatchy
Iran agreed in principle Thursday to ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be refined for exclusively peaceful uses, in what Western diplomats called a significant, but interim, measure to ease concerns over its nuclear program.
The agreement was announced after more than seven hours of high-level talks in Geneva among Iran and representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which also featured the highest-level official U.S.-Iranian encounter in three decades.
Iran also pledged that within weeks it would allow the inspection of a previously covert uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom, and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, announced that he'd head to Tehran to work out the details.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said the talks marked "a constructive beginning" and showed the promise of renewed engagement with Iran, but added that "going forward, we expect to see swift action. We're not interested in talking for the sake of talking."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the talks had "opened the door" to potential progress on the nuclear issue. "It was a productive day, but the proof of that has not yet come to fruition, so we'll wait and continue to press our point of view and see what Iran decides to do," she said.
In Geneva, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said he hoped the talks — which are to reconvene later this month — were the beginning of intensive engagement with Iran after a 15-month pause. Read more.
Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land
By Stephen Lendman
Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law.
Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.
B'Tselem's report titled "The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost" shows that Israel reneged on its agreement because Ofra is illegal under local and international law.
Called a flagship settlement, it was established in 1975 by the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement that began seizing West Bank land for itself - modestly at first in abandoned Jordanian Ein Yabrud army camp houses. Then later, more aggressively after the Rabin government recognized it as a community even though 58% of its area lies on land registered to Palestinians in Israel's Land Registry. Settlement construction there is forbidden. Yet in 1977 under Menachem Begin, recognition became official.
Ofra set a precedent. As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," on paper only to be defiled and ignored.
Some Background on Gush Emunim
Under the slogan, "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel," Gush Emunim (GE) emerged in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but Israel's 1967 Six-Day war victory inspired its adherents to believe that all biblical Israel for Jews alone was now in reach.
Today, GE is an influential, extremist pressure group - fundamentalist, radical, messianic, militant, terrorist, and undemocratic, yet supported by all Israeli governments. Ofra gave it a footprint, a toehold, an entry for Israel to establish 130 West Bank settlements and other outposts, now home to half a million Jews on confiscated Palestinian land.
Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
There is no good evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It has offered to allow regular International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of the newly announced facility near Qom, which would effectively prevent it from being used for weapons production.
There is a secret nuclear facility in the Middle East, however, producing plutonium and not just enriched uranium, which has the capacity to make 10 nuclear warheads a year.
It is Israel's ongoing nuclear weapon production that drives the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saddam wanted a bomb because Israel had one. The Iranians were then worried both about an Iraqi and an Israeli bomb. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others are annoyed at their geostrategic helplessness in the face of Israeli nukes.
Israel's nuclear arsenal is the region's Original Sin.