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…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
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Posts from — January 2012

“Syrian conflict being transformed into something much more cynical” – Bassam Haddad

January 31, 2012   No Comments

International Community Aids Bahrain Regime in Gassing Murders, Provides Gas and Looks Away – Reminiscent of Nazi Attitudes toward the Jewish

Bahraini Government’s Use of Tear Gas Claims Several Lives
by Abdulrazzaq al-Saiedi on January 27, 2012

Over the last month, the Bahraini police have been using tear gas almost every night against protesters in residential areas. Specifically, the police have been targeting the Shi’a neighborhoods of Iker, Sitra, Nuwadrat, and Ma’ameer. While there are international guidelines for the proper use of tear gas, victims of such attacks describe the police using tear gas inappropriately – including firing into homes and other closed spaces. Such inappropriate use can have disastrous consequences. Since the start of the unrest in February 2011, at least 13 civilians have died from exposure to the tear gas, according to Bahraini civil society groups. They note that those who die from tear gas inhalation are usually people who are already vulnerable due to old age or disease, which make the gas’s effects more deadly.

One of these victims was a newborn baby who was in her own home when she was exposed to the gas. She died on December 11th when she was just 6 days old. 14-year-old Yasseen Al Asfoor was the most recent victim of government misuse of tear gas against protestors; he suffered from respiratory problems and tear gas killed him on January 22nd.

A Bahraini doctor told Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) that she believes that the government is using a new kind of tear gas that is more dangerous. But without knowing the active ingredient, she has been struggling to treat patients:

“I was exposed to different types of gas when I went to (the village of) Sitra—a white gas and a yellow one, but I also saw a third gas of a blue color from a distance. The gas felt like a poison, like a thousand knives and needles all over your body; what kind of tear gas is supposed to affect people this way? I have seen tear gas patients who are in a state of convulsion that never ends, like a prolonged seizure… Before the tear gas that was being used had ‘Pennsylvania, USA’ written on it, now the canisters are just blank with no labels. It is impossible to know what the contents are.”

Other Bahraini doctors also noted that the symptoms of the tear gas were unusual. When they asked the Ministry of Health to run tests on the gas canisters, their requests were denied. Since the long-term effects of prolonged and repeated exposure to tear gas has never been studied, physicians in Bahrain have begun to worry about the impact that repeated exposure to these chemicals may have on the general population. …more

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Even US Hawks say “not so fast” on Syrian Abyss

Top US senator wary of aiding Syrian opposition
31 January, 2012 – Agence France Presse

WASHINGTON: Republican US Senator Dick Lugar, one of his party’s elder statesmen on foreign policy, cautioned Tuesday against providing US aid to Syria’s opposition “at this point.”
“I think for the time being we should back our ambassador, who I think is doing a great job of witnessing what is occurring, informing us and European countries or others who are interested,” Lugar told reporters.

“But I would not advocate action beyond that at this point,” said the senator, who had been asked what help Washington could provide to the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad amid a bloody months-long crackdown.

Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned that it would be “very difficult” to identify potential recipients of US help among the “tribes, regional groups of all sorts” and other foes of the regime.

“We’re not really prepared to pick and choose winners and losers in that situation,” said the lawmaker.

His comments came as Syria’s opposition urged the global community to act, deploring its failure to stop “massacres,” ahead of a showdown at the UN Security Council over a resolution aimed at halting the violence. …source

January 31, 2012   No Comments

In humane and arbitrary detentions in the name of anti-terrorism must stop!

A Prisoner Swap in Saudi Arabia
by Geoffrey Mock – 31 January 31, 2012 – Amnesty

‘If you don’t, we won’t either.’

That’s the agreement the Saudi and Iraqi government found on the matter of executing prisoners each is holding from the other country.

Arab News reported Friday that government officials of both countries came to a consent, at least in principle, to put executions of Saudi and Iraqi prisoners on death row on hold. This ‘in principle’ agreement reportedly will last two months until a final agreement to swap prisoners is reached. Currently, there are 138 Iraqi nationals imprisoned in the Saudi Kingdom, most of whom were charged with involvement in terrorist operations. Eleven Iraqis were sentenced to death.

The news of Friday’s ‘in principle’ agreement to put executions on hold until any further consent has been reached to swap prisoners, may appear as a step forward toward decreasing the shockingly accumulating numbers of executions posed on prisoners in the Kingdom. However, in reality it’s only a band-aid solution to a larger problem: Since March 2011, the Saudi Arabian authorities have launched a new wave of repression in the name of security, including attacks on political opponents, religious minorities and even foreign nationals.

Sentences based upon alleged terrorist affiliation are common in Saudi Arabia. The country is in the process of passing a new anti-terror law that provides for the prosecution of acts of peaceful dissent as ‘terrorist crimes’ such as ‘harming the reputation of the state or its position.’ If the law is passed as written, questioning the integrity of the king or the crown prince would be punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison.

The human rights threats of the new anti-terror law are vast according to the Amnesty International report, ‘Saudi Arabia: Repression in the name of security’, published last month. The vague and broad definition of terrorism offenses, the unlawful restrictions of freedom of expression, as well as the violations of rights of detainees are just a few of many key parts of the new law that pose tremendous threats to human rights in Saudi Arabia. …more

January 31, 2012   No Comments

U.S. Ranks 47th in Press Freedom

U.S. 47th in Press Freedom After Attacks on OWS
By DAVE LINDORFF – 27 January 27, 2012 – Counterpunch

Say it loud and say it proud: We’re Number 47! We’re Number 47! Boo-yah!

If you want to know why the US — beacon of freedom, land of the First Amendment – is now ranked number 47th (out of 179) in terms of freedom of the press in the annual ranking put out by Reporters Without Borders, below South Africa, Botswana, South Korea and Comoros, and just above Argentina, Romania and Latvia, you could ask Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York and himself owner of a huge news organization, or his Chief of Police Raymond Kelly.

For that matter you could ask the mayors and police chiefs of Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, or a host of other cities.

Better yet, ask the mayor of Oakland and her police department’s latest gestapo chief, Howard Jordan.

According to Reporters Without Borders, what caused the US to plunge from 20th place last year, up there with the likes of Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Japan, down to 47th this year, was the way reporters were treated by police as they tried to cover the Occupy Movement that began last September.

Across the country, police maneuvered to block reporters from covering their brutal crackdown on the Occupy Movement. They swept into encampments from Los Angeles to New York wearing black military-style riot gear in the dead of night to avoid cameras and video-cams, waiting until most journalists had gone home to bed before tearing up the tents and firing the tear gas grenades, the rubber bullets and the pepper spray at unarmed, unresisting protesters. Or, when reporters did show up and tried to cover the assaults on peaceful demonstrators, the cops sometimes, as in New York, smashed them and their cameras, or just arrested them.

“Who here has a press card?” asked the officer in charge in New York before the final assault on Zuccotti Square’s occupiers. When reporters dutifully raised their hands or held up their press passes, New York’s not-so-finest grabbed them, cuffed them and hauled them away. “Only for their safety,” was the explanation given later by the cops and the mayor after that particularly noxious display of police-state tactics against the media. ….more

January 31, 2012   No Comments

US Main Stream Media bangs the “war drum” against Iran

Israeli policy underscores the utterly criminal character of the war being prepared against Iran. Israel, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which illegally maintains a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, declares its right to destroy the nuclear program of Iran, a signatory to the treaty…

The New York Times and the drive to war against Iran
By Barry Grey – 31 January, 2012 – WSWS

The New York Times on Sunday published a lengthy article in its weekly magazine that sympathetically and clinically lays out the arguments of Israeli policy makers in favor of a military attack on Iran sometime this year. The article, written by Ronen Bergman, a prominent Israeli journalist who specializes in intelligence matters, features interviews with top current and former Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

Bergman discusses the extensive military preparations made by Israel for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and reviews the covert war being waged by Israel, with US support, which has included deadly explosions at military and nuclear facilities, cyber warfare, and the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007, the latest occurring January 11 in the center of Tehran.

The author concludes the article by stating, “I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012.”

Appearing in the context of newly announced US and European sanctions against Iranian oil exports and a buildup of US naval forces in the Persian Gulf, the article serves a definite and sinister purpose: to provide the pretexts and condition public opinion for a preemptive and unprovoked war of aggression that will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Iran and the Middle East and ultimately for the entire world.

It appeared only days after President Obama’s belligerent State of the Union address, in which he boasted of isolating and economically crippling Iran and reiterated that he would “take no options off the table” to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The same day the article was published, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared on CBS Television’s “60 Minutes” program and baldly asserted that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a year.

The Times article cites both supporters and opponents within the Israeli establishment of a near-term attack on Iran, giving greater weight to the former than the latter. It accepts uncritically the common premise advanced by Israel, the US and the European powers that Iran is embarked on a program to build nuclear weapons and must be prevented from doing so, if necessary by military means. It quotes Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, as saying, “Our policy is that in one way or another, Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped.”

This statement of Israeli policy underscores the utterly criminal character of the war being prepared against Iran. Israel, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which illegally maintains a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, declares its right to destroy the nuclear program of Iran, a signatory to the treaty, which insists that its nuclear program is civilian and therefore permitted under international law. Despite the best efforts of the US, Israel and their imperialist allies, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been unable to substantiate their claims that Iran is, in fact, seeking to build nuclear weapons. …more

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Great Depressions, Greed, Weapons and Jobs – And a President up for Reelection

Amazingly, the Nye Committee in the U.S. Senate devoted 93 hearings from 1934 to 1936 to exposing America’s own “greedy munitions interests.” Even in those desperate depression days, a desire for profit and jobs was balanced by a strong sense of unease at this deadly trade, an unease reinforced by the horrors of and hecatombs of dead from the First World War.

Weapons ‘R’ Us
Making Warbirds instead of Thunderbirds
31 January, 2012 – by William J Astore – Le Monde diplomatique

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Makin’ Thunderbirds,” a hard-bitten rock & roll song by Bob Seger that I listened to 30 years ago while in college. It’s about auto workers back in 1955 who were “young and proud” to be making Ford Thunderbirds. But in the early 1980s, Seger sings, “the plants have changed and you’re lucky if you work.” Seger caught the reality of an American manufacturing infrastructure that was seriously eroding as skilled and good-paying union jobs were cut or sent overseas, rarely to be seen again in these parts.

If the U.S. auto industry has recently shown sparks of new life (though we’re not making T-Birds or Mercuries or Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs or Saturns anymore), there is one form of manufacturing in which America is still dominant. When it comes to weaponry, to paraphrase Seger, we’re still young and proud and makin’ Predators and Reapers (as in unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones) and Eagles and Fighting Falcons (as in F-15 and F-16 combat jets), and outfitting them with the deadliest of weapons. In this market niche, we’re still the envy of the world.

Yes, we’re the world’s foremost “merchants of death,” the title of a best-selling exposé of the international arms trade published to acclaim in the U.S. in 1934. Back then, most Americans saw themselves as war-avoiders rather than as war-profiteers. The evil war-profiteers were mainly European arms makers like Germany’s Krupp, France’s Schneider, or Britain’s Vickers.

Not that America didn’t have its own arms merchants. As the authors of Merchants of Death noted, early on our country demonstrated a “Yankee propensity for extracting novel death-dealing knickknacks from [our] peddler’s pack.” Amazingly, the Nye Committee in the U.S. Senate devoted 93 hearings from 1934 to 1936 to exposing America’s own “greedy munitions interests.” Even in those desperate depression days, a desire for profit and jobs was balanced by a strong sense of unease at this deadly trade, an unease reinforced by the horrors of and hecatombs of dead from the First World War. …more

January 31, 2012   No Comments

“Security Consultants” write narrative and analysis of events in Bahrain

Bloodshed in Bahrain
By DANIEL NISMAN – 30 January, 2012 – Jerusalem Post

A year after Arab Spring and the island nation’s sectarian conflict is worse than ever.

As Bahrain braces for the year anniversary of the outbreak of its protest movement, worrying trends are beginning to emerge in the activity of its Shi’ite-led activist groups. Since February 14 2011, the opposition’s modus operandi consisted of mostly civil disobedience acts aimed at drawing the world’s attention to the inequality facing the Shi’ite majority. In past months however, activists have stepped up acts of violence, mainly aimed at security forces, whose alleged brutality has come to symbolize their oppression at the hands of the Sunni monarchy.

On January 24, opposition groups launched a campaign dubbed “the Rebel’s grip,” aimed at expelling the regime’s security forces from Shi’ite villages in the central and northern parts of the island. The campaign comes days after a prominent Shi’ite cleric issued a particularly scathing sermon, calling for supporters to assault any security personnel suspected of attacking female protesters. The opposition’s rage towards security forces comes after a year of high profile incidents involving protesters’ deaths as a result of police brutality. Many of these incidents were caught on video, spread through social media and ingrained in the minds of activists.

Regardless of whether their motives are justified or not, the opposition’s shift toward violence presents a real threat to the prosperity of a nation which seeks to shift from natural resources to international trade and commerce as its future source of revenue. In an effort to quell this discontent, the regime launched the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) which recommended reforming the police force as a primary step towards reconciliation. In early January 2012, public security chief Tariq Al Hassan announced the implementation of “community policing” programs in which 500 officers would be recruited in order to police their own communities.

These programs are likely the result of consultations with recently enlisted Western experts, who have themselves been part of the trend of community policing which has swept forces from Los Angeles to London in recent decades. This policy was born out of the realization that trust and coordination between the police and the communities they serve is a critical factor in preserving order. It remains clear that such reforms are crucial to restoring stability in Bahrain, given the ever-widening gap of trust between police and Shi’ite residents.

Unfortunately for the Bahraini government however, community policing is not a quick fix for the Island’s problems and therefore must be implemented holistically and patiently in order to achieve real results. Ground level reforms already proposed will not be successful in winning hearts and minds unless the police leadership makes it clear to the people that their perceptions of the police are indeed important. Performance surveys gauging the impact of new programs, meetings with community leaders, and increased transparency regarding officer misconduct are all proven methods which have helped improve public opinion of police forces in Europe and elsewhere.

In addition, Bahraini security forces must place special emphasis on appealing to the new generation of Shi’ite youth and garnering their trust. Police must learn about quality of life issues in Shi’ite villages, penetrating schools and setting up programs aimed at cooperatively solving these problems.

Lastly, the Bahraini police must accept and compensate for the factors that are currently tarnishing their image and effectively preventing them from fulfilling their role in preserving order. As seen in the past year, the primary factor is the issue of police brutality – a trend particularly difficult to stem while persistent riots require a forceful response in order to be dispersed. As such, a two-pronged effort is required to nip the bud of what has become a central issue in the Bahraini discourse: Firstly, a dependable and transparent internal affairs division must be established within the force. Second, the Public Security Ministry must work to coordinate and approve peaceful demonstrations, even those taking place in high profile areas of the capital.

It is at this point that the success of community policing in Bahrain is dependent upon the government’s overall willingness to commit to reconciliation with willing opposition groups, including the staunchly opposed Al Wefaq organization. In a nation where mistrust between the government and the people is deeply entrenched along sectarian lines, the former’s choice in allowing the latter to demonstrate is truly the hardest step. Indeed, the concept of a liberal policing policy in a region known for absolutist rule may seem laughable to many skeptics. However, it was likely those same skeptics who laughed at the possibility of free elections in former dictatorships like Tunisia, or the power of the common man in Egypt.

As such, community policing indeed provides the opportunity for the Bahraini government to engage in its own revolutionary act, by proactively ensuring stability by restoring trust between the people and the police. As exhibited elsewhere in the region, they may not have a choice.

The writer works for Max Security Solutions, a risk consulting firm based in the Middle East. He is an expert on community policing and author several policy papers on its implementation in the region. …source

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Bahrain’s Jaw Prison Hunger Strike Spreads, Hunger Strikers under attack

Around 250 political prisoners started a widespread national hunger strike in the central Jaw prison on the 29th of January after the 14 political and human rights leaders in prison announced they would commence a hunger strike to protest their continued detention as well as the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. I sent out a SOS call yesterday from one of the detainees yesterday, and since then the situation has deteriorated.

According to the information we’ve received, part of the prison (number 4) was teargassed as punishment to the detainees on strike, and a number were severely beaten. Another number of detainees were also put in solitary confinement as punishment for going on hunger strike.

The detainees are also not being allowed to make any phone calls, and are being denied any time outside as they were before.

The 14 political and human rights leaders reportedly were paid a visit by the same judge who had presided over their case, who threatened that they will not be allowed to call their families and put in solitary confinement if they do not stop their hunger strike immediately. The detainees responded that they would continue with their planned one week strike, but if they are punished they will announce it as an open ended strike.

In other updates, after detainees at the Dry Docks prison announced they would join the hunger strike, a number of detainees from different areas in Bahrain were reportedly taken and were reportedly told that they would be released if they plead for the king’s forgiveness, and said they are against the strike and the protests. A number of those who refused to abide were reportedly beaten so severely that they had to be moved to the hospital after. Some of the detainees called their families after upset, saying they had been forced to make video taped apologies.

Two prisoners in AlWesta prison fainted due to the hunger strike and were moved to the MOI hospital.

A number of activists who are not detainees have joined the hunger strike, amongst them Mohammed AlMasqati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and Zainab Alkhawaja.

confirmed undisclosed source

January 31, 2012   No Comments

In the flames they seek to claim a future the Foreign Mercenaries were hired to steal

January 31, 2012   No Comments

ABC News and Bahrain Regime collaborate on Iran, Syria disinformation campaign

Officials: Iran, Syria Aided Bomb, Assassination Plot in Bahrain
By RYM MOMTAZ – 31 January, 2012 – ABC News

Five men arrested in November in connection with a plot to blow up the only bridge connecting the island of Bahrain with Saudi Arabia and to assassinate Bahraini politicians are allegedly tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and reportedly received military training in Syria, according to information leaked to the media by authorities.

The charges are the latest salvo in a regional struggle for power between Iran and the Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, and come just after the U.S. revealed an alleged plot by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.
…source

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Protect the victims not the abusers – al Khalifa regime and its Police are shameless in trampling of human rights and dignity

Bahrain must release woman activist convicted for listening to ‘revolutionary’ music
30 January, 2012 – Amnesty

The Bahraini authorities must release the first woman activist to be convicted over her involvement in last year’s pro-reform demonstrations, Amnesty International said today after a court rejected her appeal and upheld her prison sentence.

Fadhila Mubarak’s 18-month prison sentence for protesting and listening to “revolutionary” music was today upheld by the Court of Cassation in the capital, Manama.

“Fadhila Mubarak is a prisoner of conscience who was reportedly beaten and tortured in detention and then sentenced in an unfair trial before a military court on spurious charges for standing up for her rights,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Progamme.

“The Bahraini authorities must release her immediately and unconditionally. Fadhila Mubarak’s sentence only serves to demonstrate the intolerance of the authorities and the failures of the justice system. They must also launch an independent investigation into allegations of torture against her and bring those responsible to justice.”

Fadhila Mubarak was arrested on 20 March 2011 when her car, which was also carrying her eight-year-old son and two other children, was stopped at a checkpoint close to Rifaa, south-west of Manama.

She was told she had been stopped for playing music calling for the overthrow of the regime, and was asked to turn the sound down.

She refused and asked the police officer for identification, before being forced out of the car, beaten on the head and arrested.

Fadhila Mubarak was taken to Rifaa police station. During interrogation she is said to have been repeatedly beaten all over her body by female policewomen. She was then taken to ‘Issa Town police station and beaten again.

The National Safety Court of First Instance, a military court, found Fadhila Mubarak guilty of several charges on 17 May 2011 and she was sentenced to four years in jail.

She faced spurious charges of taking part in an illegal gathering of more than five people; taking part in illegal protests at the GCC (Pearl) Roundabout in central Manama; possessing CDs and leaflets inciting hatred towards the regime and assaulting a policeman by pulling his shirt.

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Bahrain’s Police need to be jailed not protected – MOI should enforce laws against lawless Police

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Outcry over the idiocy of Obama’s weapons greed in Bahrain

Rights Groups Oppose Smaller Arms Transfer
By Jim Lobe -30 January, 2012 – IPS

WASHINGTON, Jan 30, 2012 (IPS) – The decision by the administration of President Barack Obama to approve limited transfers of military equipment to Bahrain is coming under renewed fire by human rights and pro-democracy groups here.

The groups, as well as a number of lawmakers who have opposed renewed arms transfers to Bahrain, are demanding that the administration publicly disclose precisely what it intends to provide the Gulf kingdom.

And they are warning that any military transfers at this time will almost certainly be seen by pro-democracy opposition forces as support for a repressive regime.

“Even a limited sale of military items to the Bahraini government sends the wrong message,” said David Kramer, the president of Freedom House, a pro-democracy group that receives support from the Congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

“Until the Bahraini government ends systemic human rights abuses, allows unfettered access to media and international organisations, and begins implementing meaningful political reform, the United States should not consider the sale of any military items,” Kramer said Monday.

Other groups were slightly more circumspect. “Because the details (of the sale) are secret, it is difficult to independent determine whether the U.S. government is providing the kinds of weapons and ammunition, and/or equipment that Bahraini security forces could use in the commission of further human rights violations,” according to Sanjeev Bery, advocacy director for the Middle East at Amnesty International’s office here.

“At a time when Bahrainis are experiencing human rights violations at home, it doesn’t look good to be handing their government additional military equipment,” he added, noting the deaths in January of as many as nine Bahrainis from tear-gas inhalation or being struck by tear-gas canisters at close range.

Longstanding relationships between Washington and the militaries of friendly but repressive governments during the so-called “Arab Spring” over the past year have become increasingly problematic. …more

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Mr. Interior Minister, Where are your laws that protect people driving, from CS gas shot by your MOI thugs?

January 31, 2012   No Comments

Who needs protection from Whom Mr. Interior Minister?

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa said on Sunday 29 January 2012, recent clashes have seen an “increase in violence and attacks on security personnel.” He also stated his intention to urge parliament to pass laws to punish “assailants and the instigators” of attacks that target security forces with jail sentences lasting up to 15 years. “My responsibility is to call for the strengthening of law protecting police as there are no deterrent laws so far.”


Ali Jawad, 14 years old, murdered with tear gas canister shot point blank to head by MOI Security Forces

January 30, 2012   No Comments

The Death and Forbidden Rebirth of the Oakland Occupy Commune

A report on the J28 “move-in day” in Oakland, first published at Viewpoint.

Building the Red Army: The Death and Forbidden Rebirth of the Oakland Commune
Submitted by maxrenn – 30 January, 2012 – libcom.org

“Don’t fuck with the Oakland Commune.” Words which will live forever in history, to be remembered and repeated at every glorious defeat inflicted upon the heroes of the future by mayors, police officers, unions, churches, and children. A letter, signed by the Occupy Oakland Move-In Assembly, promised to respond to the inevitable eviction of an illegal building occupation by “blockading the airport indefinitely.” Tactics only dreamed of by al-Qaeda, within the reach of Occupy Oakland after just four months.

Yesterday these words were at the center of a material practice which brought our movement up against its limits. It’s not a bad thing to meet your limits. It means confronting the possibility and necessity of radical transformation. And this confrontation should be approached with all the courage and resolve on display when a young militant throws a tear gas canister back at a line of police.

Occupy Oakland Move-In Day was to be a historic event, an occupation of a privately owned building by a mass of people, announced well in advance. The literature indicated that “multiple targets” had been identified, and that the site would be “a vacant building owned either by a bank, a large corporation of the 1% or already public.” The goal was familiar: to establish a social center in the building for community use. And in fact a remarkable schedule of events had been planned, a “festival” which could surely have drawn in attention and support.

Every action in Oakland begins with a deceptive innocence, a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza. The numbers were impressive – the mainstream media reports 1,000-2000 throughout the day – and a sign that a remarkable cross-section of the city had been waiting for this. But at the same time police were walking through the crowd with a photo album of prominent organizers, along with warrants for their arrest.

Apparently some of those arrested were returned to the rally, and the march set off in good spirits. From time to time you could look across the street and see lines of police on the next block. You could also look up and see their helicopters.

At a certain crucial intersection it became clear that police, who had a bird’s-eye view of our trajectory, were blocking the planned route. In front of us was quagmire known as Laney College. This was the first moment in which a desperately-needed contingency plan was unavailable. Though the truck with the sound system and furniture was at an impasse, the crowd spontaneously surged onto the unfamiliar campus and had no idea where to go. It wasn’t hard for the police to block the most apparent exits. …more

January 30, 2012   No Comments

Sanctions were Aimed at Averting Wider Conflict

New Sanctions Aimed at Averting Wider Conflict
By Barbara Slavin – IPS – 25 January, 2012
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the sanctions are designed to “increase(e) the pressure for a peaceful settlement of these disputes.”

WASHINGTON, Jan 25, 2012 (IPS) – European countries are imposing unprecedented sanctions against Iran in part in hopes of preventing an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations that could further destabilise the Middle East and wreak havoc on the global economy.

The decision Monday by the European Union to phase out purchases of Iranian oil by Jul. 1 is timed to U.S. legislation that has the same deadline for sanctions against foreign banks that continue to do business with the Iranian central bank. However, European and U.S. experts on Iran cite the fear of a new war as a key reason for the EU decision.

“The French administration is worried about Israel attacking Iran this year,” a French researcher, speaking on condition of anonymity because he advises the French government, told IPS Wednesday.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, answering questions Tuesday in the House of Commons, said the new sanctions are designed to “to lead us away from any conflict by increasing the pressure for a peaceful settlement of these disputes.”

The EU decision reflects Israeli success in pressuring both the United States and Europe. Israeli officials have repeatedly called for “crippling” sanctions against Iran, suggesting that might forestall their use of military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities – and collateral damage in terms of sharply higher oil prices and increased regional instability.

There is particular concern that Israel might act in 2012 out of concern that Iran is nearing nuclear weapons capability and in the belief that the Barack Obama administration would be obliged to support Israel in a U.S. presidential election year.

Stuart Eizenstat, who negotiated with Europeans a decade ago after the U.S. Congress first enacted sanctions that sought to penalise foreign oil companies doing business with Iran, told IPS Wednesday that the EU turnaround was “remarkable and stunning…given where they were on sanctions in general and Iran in particular.” …more

January 30, 2012   No Comments

The escalating stakes over Iran’s Soverign Rights, including the Right to Self Defense

Playing Poker in the Strait
By James R. Holmes – 30 January, 2012 – The Diplomat

Does Iran boast the capacity to bar the Strait of Hormuz to commercial and naval shipping, as influential officials and lawmakers have repeatedly vowed to do? Doubtful – but Tehran can make serious trouble for the United States, the West, and its Middle East neighbors short of putting a stopper in the bottle of the Persian Gulf.

Just after the New Year, Iranian army chief Ataollah Salehi cautioned the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to stay clear of the Persian Gulf. “I advise, recommend and warn them over their return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf,” intoned Salehi, “because we are not in the habit of warning more than once.” The U.S. Navy paid these words little if any heed. Stennis remained in the area and was joined by its sister ship, USS Carl Vinson, in the Indian Ocean theater a few days later. Last week, after the European Union levied new economic sanctions to dissuade Iran from pressing ahead with its nuclear-weapons program, Muhammad Ismail Kowsari, deputy head of the Islamic Republic’s committee on national security, warned that the strategic waterway would “definitely be closed if the sale of Iranian oil is violated in any way.” Kowsari proclaimed that regional and Western navies would be unable to force the Strait should Iranian forces close it.

We have to allow for the bluster quotient in any pronouncement issuing forth from Tehran. Still, the Iranian armed forces possess sufficient seaward reach – in the form of anti-ship cruise missiles, speedboats and other small craft, sea mines, and so forth – to give Western capitals pause. The logic of “access denial” and “area denial,” two terms much in vogue among American commentators, involves manipulating perceptions among antagonists as much as it does girding oneself to actually fight battles on the high seas. Amassing and displaying the capacity to do significant damage sends a message. Tehran may believe it can convince Washington and its partners that persevering with sanctions will exact costs that vastly outstrip any gains the coalition can hope to extract from economic coercion. In effect, the Iranian leadership has threatened to hold hostage the 17 million barrels of oil that passes through the Strait every day, and the prosperity of oil-dependent economies with it. …more

January 30, 2012   No Comments

Pushing for War with Iran

Putting Israel First
The War Party’s Achilles’ heel
by Justin Raimondo – 30 January, 2012 – Antiwar Forum

The campaign to lure the US into attacking Iran has one big problem to overcome before the War Party can taste success: the rather obvious fact that such a war would benefit Israel, and not the United States. This is why Israel’s partisans in the US constitute the spearhead of the pro-war agitation, why AIPAC has made this a consistent theme for the past few years, and why the billionaire Sheldon Adelson, aside from funding the Newtster, has poured untold millions into the same project. Hardly a day goes by without some Israeli government official reiterating, once again, that Iran represents an “existential threat” to the Jewish state, and threatening to strike the first blow if Uncle Sam fails to wake up in time, while Israel’s amen corner dutifully echoes the same line.

Israel and its more vehement partisans in this country have demanded the US attack Iran, even going so far as to raise the specter of another Holocaust if America fails to act. However, one argument they have failed to make is significant by its absence – they have failed to show how it is in America’s interest to launch a military strike. Indeed, they have neglected this part of the equation rather ostentatiously, and yet one can hardly blame them for this oversight for the simple reason that such a case would be impossible to make. An attack on Iran would deprive the world economy of a significant portion of its energy needs, and would likely result in an economic catastrophe in this country – to say nothing of the costs of the war, in blood and treasure. War-weary Americans are not in the mood for another invasion and occupation in search of nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction.” This is the War Party’s Achilles’ heel.

How to get around this is the problem at the heart of the War Party’s current project, and in order to do so they are employing the deadliest weapon in their well-stocked arsenal: the accusation of “racism,” the most toxic accusation anyone can make about someone in the current political climate. Specifically, they are accusing war opponents of “anti-Semitism.” After all, if Israel is the Jewish state, and that state’s very existence is threatened by the specter of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program (which US intelligence has stubbornly failed to detect), then opposition to US military action is “anti-Semitism,” pure and simple. …more

January 30, 2012   No Comments

President Obama shoots self in foot, again – Iran Oil Export Curbs Extend to 95% of Tankers in Europe’s Insurance Rules

Iran Oil Export Curbs Extend to 95% of Tankers in Europe’s Insurance Rules
30 January, 2012 – Maritime Sun Hellenic Shipping Portal

European Union sanctions on Iranian oil will extend to about 95 percent of tankers because they are insured under rules governed by European law.
The International Group of P&I Clubs insures all but 5 percent of the global tanker fleet and its 13 member clubs follow European rules to participate in the claim-sharing pool, said Andrew Bardot, the London-based secretary and executive officer. Carrying Iranian oil would invalidate the ships’ cover against risks including spills and collisions, he said.

“Any EU-regulated insurer will not be able to provide insurance to cover any ship engaged in the carriage of Iranian oil and petrochemicals to the EU and elsewhere,” Bardot said by phone yesterday. “We have already notified ship owners of the effect on their trading activities and our ability to cover.”
While the embargo on Iranian oil only covers the EU’s 27 member states, the extent of the region’s role in insuring ships will curb trade globally. Iran is the second-biggest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and sends oil to China, Europe, Japan, India and South Korea. EU foreign ministers agreed to the ban on Jan. 23, seeking to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, which the nation says is for civilian and medical purposes.

Vessels carrying oil from the nation will have to use “questionable” insurance, said Simon Schnorr, the London-based marine client director at Aon Risk Solutions, a unit of the world’s largest insurance broker.

Insurance Policies
The EU sanctions will still apply to shipping companies with no European link because of their insurance policies, according to Intertanko, the largest trade group representing tanker owners. Members include Hamilton, Bermuda-based Frontline Ltd. (FRO) and Tokyo-based Kawasaki Kisen (9107) Kaisha Ltd.
“The EU ban on related insurance and re-insurance means that owners or operators with no EU link who seek to transport Iranian oil will be caught even if there is no EU element to the shipment itself,” Michele White, Intertanko’s general counsel, said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. “This is now a highly restrictive and volatile environment in which we feel our members cannot trade without risk of breaching EU or indeed the myriad of other sanctions against Iran.”

Ship owners will struggle to find insurance that doesn’t comply with EU law and whose provider has the funds needed to meet the “standard cover provision” of $1 billion for pollution liabilities, Schnorr said. Ships without valid insurance would be barred from entering most ports, he said.

Mutual Protection
China and Japan have said they will still buy Iranian oil. The Japan Ship Owners’ Mutual Protection & Indemnity Association, the Asian nation’s only organization insuring ocean-going and coastal vessels, is a member of the International Group of P&I Clubs, according to its website. The London-based group doesn’t list Chinese members. …more

January 30, 2012   No Comments

Resist U.S. war threats on Iran

Resist U.S. war threats on Iran
by Sara Flounders – 23 January, 2012 – Fight Back

There is growing apprehension that through miscalculation, deliberate provocation or a staged false flag operation, a U.S. war with Iran is imminent.

The dangerous combination of top U.S. officials’ public threats, the Pentagon’s massive military deployment, continued drone flights and industrial sabotage against Iran provides an ominous warning. The corporate media have been more than willing to cheer industrial sabotage, computer viruses and targeted assassinations. War maneuvers with Israel scheduled for mid-January were suddenly postponed Jan. 15 until May or later.

The U.S. Congress overwhelmingly voted to include binding provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, and President Obama signed the legislation Dec. 31 ordering Iran’s economic strangulation. These NDAA provisions demand that every other country in the world joins this economic blockade of Iran or face U.S. sanctions themselves. This itself is an act of war.

Iran has directly charged the CIA for the Jan. 11 assassination of physicist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, which has outraged Iranians. Roshan is the fourth scientist killed in five targeted assassinations in two years.

Whether or not a war will actually erupt, it is essential to look at the powerful forces that lay the groundwork for such a conflagration.

A U.S. war would kill hundreds of thousands of Iranians and create region-wide destabilization. It would cause a wild, speculative hike in oil and gas prices, devastating fragile economies of the poorest countries and unhinging the increasingly shaky Eurozone.

Revolutionary Marxists like Fidel Castro, political leaders in China and Russia, and even a hardened Israeli general have joined many political commentators to warn that a U.S. or U.S.-supported Israeli attack on Iran could quickly become a far wider war. While defending its sovereign right to develop energy self-sufficiency, Tehran has made every effort to deflect U.S. threats and charges. Iran has submitted to years of intrusive inspections of its research and industrial facilities to confirm its compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But Washington insists on stopping Iran’s development — and not only its nuclear energy development to assure its future as oil production declines. For decades Iran was forced to import refined oil. Washington has tried to stop Iran from importing parts to build oil refineries, as it has tried to stop all Iran’s development since the 1979 revolution. …more

January 30, 2012   No Comments

FBI to expand mining Twitter and Facebook to watch who the hell ever they want with impunity

FBI seeking tools to find threat info in Facebook, Twitter posts
By Alice Lipowicz – 30 January, 2012 – Federal Computer Week

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking to “search and scrape” information from social media websites, including Facebook and Twitter, for the purpose of identifying possible domestic and global threats as they develop.

The potential threats would be mapped and supplemented with additional data using “mash-up” techniques, according to a Request for Information directed to vendors published by the FBI on Jan. 19.

The FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center asked vendors to describe what services and software they could provide and at what price. Responses are due by Feb. 10.

The FBI is looking for an application that would search, collect and analyze publicly-available messages posted on social media networks. It notes that the networks have become primary sources of on-the-ground information on public reaction to global and domestic events and fomenting possibly threatening initiatives, the RFI said.

“Social media has become a primary source of intelligence because it has become the premier first response to key events and the primal alert to possible developing situations,” the RFI stated.

The goal is to collect and analyze the raw data to improve real-time situational awareness. Desired capabilities include the ability to quickly “vet, identify and geo-locate breaking events, incidents and emerging threats.”

The FBI is looking for a solution offering an automated capability to collect and analyze data from social networks including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, along with news sites. Users should be able to create new keyword searches. Foreign-language tweets would be translated into English. …more

January 30, 2012   No Comments

Wyden and McGovern demonstrate courage and call Obama to account for backdoor weapons dealing to abusive regime – Obama should disclose contents of planned weapons transfer, especially riot control agents(including gas), small arms and other LTL weapons

US sale of some military items to Bahrain draws congressional opposition
By Associated Press, 30 January 30, 2012 – Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The United States is selling some military equipment to Bahrain as it walks a fine line between pushing the Sunni monarchy to open talks with the opposition while proceeding cautiously with a strategic ally to counter Iran.

The sale of an undisclosed amount of spare parts and equipment has drawn opposition from some in Congress who argue that it sends the wrong signal about the U.S. commitment to human rights. The State Department said late Friday that the equipment is for Bahrain’s external defense and support for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in the country.

“This isn’t a new sale nor are we using a legal loophole,” the department said. “The items that we briefed to Congress were notified and cleared by the Hill previously or are not large enough to require congressional notification.”

The administration said it is maintaining its “pause on most security assistance for Bahrain pending further progress on reform.”

It was almost a year ago that Bahrain’s Shiite majority demanded greater rights from the 200-year-old ruling Sunni dynasty. More than 35 people have died in the unrest that Bahrain leaders claim Iran has encouraged.

The United States sees its allies in the Persian Gulf region as particularly crucial after Iran warned it might use military force to close the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the gulf in response to international economic sanctions.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., collected signatures from lawmakers on a letter they plan to send to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton later this week expressing their opposition to the administration’s moves. They argue that Bahrain is still violating human rights and using excessive force to crack down on protests.

“Small steps deserve small rewards,” the two wrote. “In the case of Bahrain, any military equipment is a big reward and will be viewed as such by other governments and the people of Bahrain. The incentives are simply wrong.” …source

January 30, 2012   No Comments

Activists Released in Cuba

Cuba: 3 Dissidents Are Released, Rights Group Says
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – 23 January, 2012

Amnesty International said Monday that three antigovernment protesters held without charge for 52 days were released last week, hours after the human rights group identified them as prisoners of conscience. They were released Friday, a day after a hunger-striking dissident died, prompting condemnation from dissidents and human rights groups. The freed dissidents — Ivonne Malleza Galano, Ignacio Martínez Montejo and Isabel Haydee Álvarez — were threatened with “harsh sentences” if they did not stop their anti-government actions, Amnesty said.

January 30, 2012   No Comments