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Western Asia ("Middle East")
By Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Sarah Baxter, Times
The head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Earlier this year Meir Dagan, Mossad’s director since 2002, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility.
The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials.
“The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia,” a diplomatic source said last week.
Israel committed war crimes and carried out reckless attacks and acts of wanton destruction in its Gaza offensive, an independent human rights report says.
Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed using high-precision weapons, while others were shot at close range, the group Amnesty International says.
Its report also calls rocket attacks by Palestinian militants war crimes and accuses Hamas of endangering civilians.
The Israeli military says its conduct was in line with international law.
Israel has attributed some civilian deaths to "professional mistakes", but has dismissed wider criticism that its attacks were indiscriminate and disproportionate.
Amnesty says some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day Israeli offensive between 27 December 2008 and 17 January 2009, which agrees broadly with Palestinian figures. Read more.
American forces have attempted to take over an Iranian oil field near the country's western border with Iraq, a security official says.
“US forces backed by tanks entered the Mousian area of the Dehloran County, laying around 100 meters of pipeline in Iranian territory," the source, talking on condition of anonymity, said Monday. Read more.
Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War writes:
Below is a translation of the attached Arabic language communication from the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq (IFOU) regarding the announced plan of the Oil Ministry to open bidding to foreign corporations and award 20 year contracts for development of Iraqi oil fields.
The IFOU argues that opening bidding in this manner violates the Iraqi constitution and several laws that govern development policy. The note that the decision of the Minister of Oil to proceed with the awarding of contracts goes against the expert opinion and advice of management of the Southern Oil Company and other government officials, and is being done without the required impact reports.
PART 4: FBI Ignored Compelling Evidence of bin Laden Role
By Gareth Porter | IPS News
On Jul. 11, 1995, he had written an "Open Letter" to King Fahd advocating a campaign of guerilla attacks to drive U.S. military forces out of the Kingdom.
Bin Laden’s al Qaeda organisation began carrying out that campaign later that same year. On Nov. 13, 1995 a car bomb destroyed the Office of the Programme Manager of the Saudi National Guard (OPM SANG) in Riyadh, killing five U.S. airmen and wounding 34.
The confessions of the four jihadists from the Afghan War to the bombing, which were broadcast on Saudi television, said they had been inspired by Osama bin Laden, and one of them referred to a camp in Afghanistan which was associated with bin Laden.
"It was a backhanded reference to bin Laden," says veteran FBI agent Dan Coleman.
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh immediately requested that the FBI be allowed to interrogate the suspects as soon as their arrests were announced in April. But the Saudis never responded to the request, and on May 31, the embassy was informed only an hour and half before that the four suspects would be beheaded. Read more.
When approaching Iran, the Republican Party line and the Hugo Chavez line are running in opposite directions -- but parallel. The leadership of GOP reaction and the leadership of Bolivarian revolution have bought into the convenient delusion that long-suffering Iranian people require assistance from the U.S. government to resist the regime in Tehran.
Inside Iran, advocates for reform and human rights have long pleaded for the U.S. government to keep out of Iranian affairs. After the CIA organized the coup that overthrew Iran’s democracy in 1953, Washington kept the Shah in power for a quarter century. When I was in Tehran four years ago, during the election that made Mahmoud Ahmadinejad president, what human rights activists most wanted President Bush to do was shut up.
But Bush played to the same kind of peanut gallery that is now applauding the likes of Sen. John McCain. The Bush White House denigrated the 2005 election just before the balloting began -- to the delight of the hardest-line Iranian fundamentalists. The ultra-righteous Bush rhetoric gave a significant boost to Ahmadinejad’s campaign.
Denunciations and threats from Washington are the last thing that Iran’s reform advocates want. And Iranians certainly don’t need encouragement from Uncle Sam to do what they can to bring about democratic change. Read more.
Investigating Khobar Towers: How a Saudi Deception Protected bin Laden
A five part series on Inter Press Service
Part 1: Al Qaeda Excluded from the Suspects List
By Gareth Porter*
WASHINGTON, Jun 22 (IPS) - On Jun. 25, 1996, a massive truck bomb exploded at a building in the Khobar Towers complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, which housed U.S. Air Force personnel, killing 19 U.S. airmen and wounding 372.
Immediately after the blast, more than 125 agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were ordered to the site to sift for clues and begin the investigation of who was responsible. But when two U.S. embassy officers arrived at the scene of the devastation early the next morning, they found a bulldozer beginning to dig up the entire crime scene.
Iranian security forces clashed with hundreds of protesters in Tehran Wednesday, badly beating some and killing others, sources said.
"They were waiting for us," a source told CNN. "They all have guns and riot uniforms. It was like a mouse trap."
Witnesses reached outside the national Parliament building told The New York Times the confrontation was bloody and police used live ammunition. The protesters had defied government warnings and hundreds, perhaps thousands, descended on the square in front of parliament, the Times said.
A source told CNN about "500 thugs" with clubs came out of a mosque and attacked people, and the security forces were "beating women madly" and "killing people like hell." Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
As a critic of media, in particular of cable/satellite "news," I'm troubled by American corporate-media, specifically CNN's near non-stop coverage of the turmoil in Iran. Not because the story isn't important. It's critically important and warrants the personal coverage it's getting from the Iranian people as they bypass corporate channels to tell their stories on facebook, youtube, flickr and twitter.
Thanks to Iran's tech-savvy society, old-time corporate media is now relegated to the position of new-media aggregator, whoring its visibility to co-opt the Iranian people's new-media messages to America and the world. Old-media, and specifically CNN, are learning the difficult lesson that with or without their vast resources and state of the art studios, the Iranians' stories will be told. And they'll be told to tens of millions more viewers than cable and satellite programs tend to reach.
Roughly half of Israelis support bombing Iran's nuclear facilities if international efforts fail to stop the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons, according to a Hebrew University poll released Sunday.
Some 52 percent of Israelis say the country should bomb Iran's nuclear reactor, while 35 percent are against, the poll found. The margin of error in the poll of Israelis is 4.5 percentage points.
Palestinians are somewhat more evenly divided, with 43 percent saying a nuclear Iran would be good for the Arab world and 33 percent saying it would be bad, according to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, which conducted the poll along with Hebrew University. The margin of error for the Palestinian sample is 3 percentage points. Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
As angry uprisings take place in Iran over the questionable "re-election" of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As innocents are murdered at every corner of this planet - indeed at EVERY CORNER - when considering those at its furthest coordinates suffering the effects of global warming brought on by human greed -- there appears on this day a message of hope that can make us ALL smile.
Regardless of ideology, the common denominator I would hope true adults will agree on is that ALL children are OURS to protect. The clear right of passage to be an adult is the knowledge that our principal obligation is to protect and serve the world's children; that ALL children are precious and should be accorded their mutual rights to safety and joy.
All bets are off on the eve of the most crucial presidential election in the 30 years of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Pepe Escobar argues the campaign of reformist - actually moderate conservative - Mir-Hossein Mousavi has evolved into a green revolution; the color of Islam and also the color of hope for a less confrontational, and more competent and pragmatic administration. Mousavi's campaign - roughly the Iranian equivalent of Obama's campaign in the US - has crossed all economic, ethnic and gender barriers, and was heavily supported by Iran's very young, tech-savvy population. He has the youth vote, the women's vote and the intelligentsia vote. But President Ahmadinejad, running for a second term, has the vote that counts the most: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's - not to mention the bulk of the rural, provincial vote. The stage is set for a second round between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.
The US envoy to the Middle East has reaffirmed Washington's "unshakable" support for Israel despite public differences over the continued building of Israeli settlements.
George Mitchell, who met Israeli leaders on Tuesday, sought to reassure them that "we are two allies, two friends, and our commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable".
"And I want you to know we come here to talk not as adversaries in disagreement but as friends in discussion," he told Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.
"We recognise that the issues are complex and many. But we hope that we're going to work our way through them to achieve the objective that we share with you, and that is peace security and prosperity throughout the region."Read more.
By Christine E. Black
President Barak Obama said in his speech in Cairo Thursday, June 4, 2009, that his administration wants to repair relations with Muslim countries. I am troubled by how his lofty words appear disconnected with what’s actually happening now in the U.S. and some Muslim countries.
In some respects I am more disturbed when I listen to Obama than I was when listening to former President Bush. Bush and Cheney snarled accusations and threats while unleashing destruction in Iraq, at rendition sites around the world, and at Guantanamo. Obama, on the other hand, says to Muslim people, we are not the enemy, we bring a message of peace and goodwill while just this past week U.S. military bombs killed more than 140 people in Afghanistan in what the government said was an accident and the most those in power can say is that they “regret” it.
Incongruities between speech and action disturb me.
By Anis Shivani, Huffington Post
The very idea of a speech addressed to more than a billion diverse people, with different grievances against America, seems ludicrous. My advisers have been after me to do this, from before I was elected president, but I have finally decided that no speech can fail to be patronizing, condescending, beside the point. A speech billed as a major one suggests a gap in reality. Rhetoric is used to paper over that which cannot be accomplished within political constraints. I am not interested in cover-ups and further hypocrisy, but in changing the real dynamics between Muslims and America. This must be self-driven.
By Linda Milazzo
This evening at a Washington DC fundraiser, in a statement that can best be described as regressive American exceptionalism, former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich said of himself:
"I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!"
Witness the video below of Mr. Gingrich's pronouncement that defines in two simple sentences the elitism, racism and egotism that have destroyed his Republican Party:
By: John Caruso, A Tiny Revolution
I have an embarrassing admission: I may have been too harsh in my judgment of Barack Obama's speech in Cairo. Maybe years of reading the words of politicians with a critical eye, always looking for the rotten core of hypocrisy and dissembling, have made me too reflexive in my rejection of the potential for real change; I was dead certain it would just be a shiny new coat of paint on the same decrepit house, and I suppose I saw exactly what I'd convinced myself I was going to see. Perhaps I've just made too much of a habit of skepticism to let myself believe in the possibility for transformative honesty in our deeply-corrupted system.
By CODEPINK/Linda Milazzo
The women inspired peace group, CODEPINK, in alliance with Israeli feminist group, Coalition of Women For Peace, will host continued human rights protests from June 8th through June 14th at Erez Crossing checkpoint at the Gaza Border in Israel.
EREZ, ISRAEL -- More than three dozen Americans and Israelis rallied today at the border checkpoint here into Gaza, hoping to be let through into the war-torn area with playground building materials, food and other products to delivered to the Gazan people, after Israel authorities barred them from entering.
From Chris in Cairo
In response to US President Barrack Obama's visit to Cairo, Egypt on June 4, seven "international community activists" from the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border, and US anti-war
groups Code Pink and Raging Grannies began a day-long protest to end the Siege of Gaza. The group began their protest at 9 am at the US embassy in Cairo. They unfurled a banner in front of the embassy with the message, "End the Siege of Gaza." Code Pink co-founder, Medea Benjamin carried a letter from the Palestinian government, Hamas, to deliver to the embassy and to President Obama. The letter had been issued to Medea the day before coming from Gaza. The correspondence from Hamas stated their desire to negotiate with israel and the US with no preconditions. "It was a very dignified letter," said French demonstrator, Christian. The group was also asking President Obama to visit Gaza, Palestine on his Middle East tour. "If the president could see Gaza for himself, he would see the result of US tax dollars, that support the Israeli war crimes in Gaza ," shouted the demonstrators. "Obama, go to Gaza!" they continued.
By Adam Kokesh
President Obama delivered a speech yesterday at Cairo University that has already been noted around the world as unique for its candor. It has been translated into thirteen languages and stirred emotions throughout the Middle East. There were a number of issues that he raised that we do not hear about very often from politicians in Washington, let alone the President himself. Unfortunately, his policies are all too typical of the establishment.
By Helena Cobban, IPS
DAMASCUS, Jun 5 (IPS) - The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, gave a qualified welcome here Thursday to the big speech that Pres. Barack Obama addressed to the Muslim world in Cairo.
"The speech was cleverly written in the way it addressed the Muslim world... and in the way it showed respect to the Muslim heritage," Meshaal told IPS in an exclusive interview. "But I think it's not enough. What's needed are deeds, actions on the ground, and a change of policies."
His remarks came just hours after the speech, in a wide-ranging interview in one of the Hamas leader’s offices here in the Syrian capital.
In the interview, Meshaal was friendly, quietly self-confident, and thoughtful. He was firm in describing his movement’s positions, including when he restated that he wants Hamas to be treated as "part of the solution and not part of the problem".
By David Swanson
President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo probably did a world of good. It was packed with truth telling and noble sentiments. But imagine how much more good would be done if all the best parts of it corresponded to reality.
If we treated people around the world with "respect," would we continue occupying their nations against their adamant desires? If we truly "seek no military bases" in Afghanistan, why are we building them on such massive scale? And why are we locking up hundreds of people there whom Obama hopes to keep outside the rule of law and never bring to trial (or at least he's fighting for that power in court and recently declared that he possessed it), people who will not all die any time soon?
Barack Obama, “A New Beginning”
Delivered at Cairo University
I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.
Palestinian National Authority
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Fax: +972 8 2868971
Tel: +972 8 2822937
His Excellency President Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America.
June 3rd 2009
Dear Mr. President,
We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your administration’s initiative to bridge differences with the Arab-Muslim world.
One long-standing source of tension between the United States and this part of the world has been the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.
Last month, 60 Members of the House of Representatives, including 51 Democrats, voted against the war supplemental for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. But this week, when the House is expected to consider the agreement of a House-Senate conference on the war funding, the supplemental could well be defeated on the floor of the House - if most of the 51 anti-war Democrats stick to their no vote - which they might, if they hear from their constituents.
The key thing that's changed is the Treasury Department's insistence that the war supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the International Monetary Fund - a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe, the international version of the Wall Street bailout.
By Micky Duxbury, The Monthly
Barbara Lubin was 22 years old in 1967 when she walked into the Philadelphia military induction center along with 250 young men—and was told to strip. A dedicated and unusually daring draft counselor, Lubin had dressed in drag and hidden her hair in preparation for infiltrating an entry point into the U.S. military. As she peeled off her clothing, leaflets opposing the Vietnam War spilled from her undergarments. Her memories of that success are still vivid: “The sergeants were so enraged that they marched me out with bayonets and arrested me, but not before I was able to pass out hundreds of leaflets.”
Navy Vet Honored, Foiled Israeli Attack
By Ray McGovern
What’s the difference between murder and massacre?
The answer is Terry Halbardier, whose bravery and ingenuity as a 23-year-old Navy seaman spelled the difference between the murder of 34 of the USS Liberty crew and the intended massacre of all 294.
The date was June 8, 1967; and for the families of the 34 murdered and for the Liberty’s survivors and their families, it is a “date which will live in infamy” — like the date of an earlier surprise attack on the U.S. Navy.
Relatives of 9/11 victims who filed a lawsuit seeking to pin blame on the Saudi royal family for financing attacks against the United States just acquired a significant new opponent: the Obama administration.
Hundreds of supporters of Pakistan's opposition Jamaat-i-Islami party have demonstrated in what is believed to be the first major protest against the military's offensive against the Taliban in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
The demonstration in the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday took place as the army fought bloody street-to-street battles in Mingora, the main city in the Swat valley.
"To this point there has been absolutely total political support for the ongoing operation in Swat valley," Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from Islamabad, said.
"But now there is the first sign that there are sectors in society who are opposed to what is going on."
Many of the protesters were carrying banners carrying slogans condemning the role of the United States in Pakistan.
"This is a great point of contention for many Pakistanis, not just the supporters of the political party gathered here," Hanna said.
"The speakers are basing part of their criticism on their belief that Pakistan is doing ... the work of the United States in its so-called 'war on terror'." Read more.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S Iran policy has, in all likelihood, already failed. On its present course, the White House’s approach will not stop Tehran’s development of a nuclear fuel program — or, as Iran’s successful test of a medium-range, solid-fuel missile last week underscored, military capacities of other sorts. It will also not provide an alternative to continued antagonism between the United States and Iran — a posture that for 30 years has proved increasingly damaging to the interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East.
This judgment may seem both premature and overly severe. We do not make it happily. We voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and we still want him to succeed in reversing the deterioration in America’s strategic position. But we also believe that successful diplomacy with Iran is essential to that end. Unless President Obama and his national security team take a fundamentally different approach to Tehran, they will not achieve a breakthrough. Read more.