Inter Press Service » Global Geopolitics News and Views from the Global South Sun, 29 Nov 2015 08:37:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Did Argentina’s Elections Mark Start of Shift to the Right in South America? Tue, 24 Nov 2015 23:45:55 +0000 Mario Osava In the near future it will become clear whether the triumph of Mauricio Macri, to become president of Argentina on Dec. 10, marked the start of a new era in South America, with the emergence of conservative governments in a scenario where leaders identified as left-wing have been predominant so far this century. Credit: Mauricio Macri

In the near future it will become clear whether the triumph of Mauricio Macri, to become president of Argentina on Dec. 10, marked the start of a new era in South America, with the emergence of conservative governments in a scenario where leaders identified as left-wing have been predominant so far this century. Credit: Mauricio Macri

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 24 2015 (IPS)

Different degrees of economic problems are a common denominator in South American countries where governments that identify as leftist may start to fall, in a shift that began in Argentina and could continue among its neighbours to the north.

“It is not possible yet to say whether this is the end of a cycle, because the reasons for it are still very present…but there is a very complex crisis affecting the governments that I call ‘distributionist’, which are facing difficulties, especially in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela,” Professor Tullo Vigevani of the São Paulo State University told IPS.

For his part, retired diplomat Marcos Azambuja, a former Brazilian ambassador to Argentina and France, told IPS: “It’s not the end of a cycle in Latin America, but the waning of a group of governments tending towards populism associated with nationalism.”“My fear is that the dying Chavismo will come to an undemocratic end, given the fragile position of President Nicolás Maduro, while in Brazil the change will surely be democratic.” -- Marcos Azambuja

“Left” is a concept that has lost validity, he added, preferring to talk about populist governments, stressing the ones along South America’s Atlantic coast. “The ones along the Pacific coast are more modern,” he said.

Argentina is experiencing “the end of a cycle in a completely normal democratic manner, which should be celebrated,” after 12 years of presidency by the Kirchners, he said, referring to the consecutive terms of the late Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and his widow and successor Cristina Fernández, who steps down on Dec. 10. Both belonged to the Justicialista – Peronist – party.

“But any non-Peronist government will face great difficulties in that country,” Azambuja warned.

Neither of the last two non-Peronist presidents, Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989) and Fernando de la Rua (1999-2001), managed to serve out their full terms; they were both forced to resign.

That will be a challenge for Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires since 2007, who won the elections for president in the Nov. 22 runoff, representing the centre-right opposition Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition, made up of his conservative Republican Proposal (PRO) party and the traditional Radical Civic Union (UCR).

Helping him win the elections were the division of the Justicialista Party, on the political front, and the economic crisis.

But now he will have to deal with the country’s economic woes.

The problems include stagnation and the subsequent high unemployment, high inflation – close to 30 percent, say analysts, but only half that according to the authorities – dwindling foreign reserves, and a black market where the dollar is worth nearly 50 percent more than the official exchange rate.

There are also distortions, such as protectionist measures in some sectors, export duties on agricultural products, and subsidies that affect national production and trade with Brazil, whose main market for industrial exports used to be Argentina.

The economic changes promised by Macri, such as the removal of currency controls and restrictions on foreign trade, will affect relations with Argentina’s neighbours. But it is his foreign policy that could drastically modify things in the region.

He wants, for example, to exclude Venezuela from the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) as long as the current government there remains in power, by citing the bloc’s democratic clause, which already led to the suspension of Paraguay’s membership for over a year, due to the impeachment and removal of former president Fernando Lugo in 2012.

A return to warmer ties with the United States, trade accords with the European Union and Pacific rim blocs, and greater openness to trade in general form part of Macri’s plans, in contrast to the protectionist tendencies of governments described as leftist, populist, “distributionist” or Bolivarian, depending on the vocabularies used by different ideological currents.

But regional organisations like Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbbean States (CELAC) will not fall into crisis as a result of the political changes in the region, according to Vigevani.

These kinds of organisations are slow to react, which “has adequately served a few limited objectives,” he said.

The change in Argentina and the crises in Brazil and Venezuela, which have political as well as economic aspects, point to a probable wave of right-leaning, neoliberal governments in Latin America, that put a higher priority on the economy than on the social policies of their predecessors.

The situations are different. In Venezuela, where the economy is virtually in a state of collapse, “my fear is that the dying Chavismo will come to an undemocratic end, given the fragile position of President Nicolás Maduro, while in Brazil the change will surely be democratic,” Azambuja predicted in his conversation with IPS.

In those three countries along the Atlantic coast of South America governments “did not adequately administer economic policy, leading to low levels of investment, low savings rates, and scarce technological training, and failed to develop policies to expand, rather than reduce, consensus. Thus, the capacity to prevent neoliberal advances was decisively reduced,” said Vigevani.

Brazil has been suffering from an economic recession since late 2014, aggravated by nearly 10 percent annual inflation and a fiscal deficit that scares off investors. To all of this was added a corruption scandal involving the state oil giant Petrobras as well as all of the country’s major construction companies and around 50 politicians.

In addition, the campaign that led to the reelection of left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff in October 2014 was marked by an unprecedented degree of violence, with clashes and accusations that destroyed the chances of dialogue and negotiation.

As a result, the contradictions between the government’s election promises and its actual practices became so obvious that they undermined the legitimacy and popularity of the president, who had the approval of less than 10 percent of the population according to the latest polls, and is facing the threat of impeachment.

The political bickering has made it impossible to cobble together a stable majority in Congress, which has stood in the way of a fiscal adjustment programme that requires legislative approval of public spending cuts and a rise in taxes.

The economic crisis, blamed by the government on an adverse international environment and by the opposition on mistakes by the government, thus drags on.

“Economic results are important factors in the shift in favour of conservative candidates,” said Vigevani. “But besides the crises and the recession, there are underlying theoretical problems to be addressed, which the neoliberals don’t have answers to either, and this leads to a balance, even in the case of Argentina.”

“Distributionism without a capacity for investment, innovation and adjustment of the productive system is not sufficient, although it is necessary,” he said.

Underestimating or poorly managing economic questions would seem to be the Achilles’ heel of governments seen as leftist or populist in Latin America.

That curse has not affected leaders who, even though they are distributionist or “Bolivarian”, adopted orthodox economic policies, such as Evo Morales, in power in Bolivia since 2006, or Rafael Correa, who has governed Ecuador since 2007.

At the same time, it does not seem to be possible for new or future leaders, even right-leaning ones, to eliminate or even reduce social programmes that “populist” governments have used to pull millions of families out of poverty. Macri has already announced that he will keep them in place.

Everything would seem to indicate that these programmes are now a new dimension incorporated into regional politics, while poverty and social inequality remain unacceptably high in a majority of the countries in Latin America which, despite these “inclusion policies,” remains the world’s most unequal region.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: From European Union to Just a Common Market Tue, 20 Oct 2015 12:15:17 +0000 Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 20 2015 (IPS)

The success in the recent Swiss elections of the UDC-SVP, a xenophobic, anti European Union, right wing party, opens a number of reflections.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Seventy years ago Europe came out from a terrible war, exhausted and destroyed. That produced a generation of statesman, who went about creating a European integration, in order to avoid the repetition of the internal conflicts that had created the two world wars. Today a war between France and Germany is unthinkable, and Europe is an island of peace for the first time in its history.

This is the mantra we hear all the time. What is forgotten is that in fact a good part of Europe did not want integration. In 1960, the United Kingdom led the creation of an alternative institution, dedicated only to commercial exchange: the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), formed by the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, then later Finland and Iceland. It was only in 1972 that, bowing to the success of European integration, the UK and Denmark asked to join the EU. Later, Portugal and Austria left EFTA to join the European Union.

The UK was never interested in the European project and always felt committed to “a special relation” with United States. Union would mean also solidarity and integration, as the various EU treaties kept declaring. The UK was only interested in the market side of the process.

Since 1972, the gloss of European integration has lost much of its shine. Younger generations have no memory of the last war. The EU is perceived far from its citizens, run by unelected officials who make decisions without a participatory process, and unable to respond to challenges. Where is the external policy of the EU? When does it take decisions that are not an echo of Washington?

Since the financial crisis of 1999, xenophobic, nationalistic and right wing parties have sprouted all over Europe. In Hungary, one of them is in power and openly claims that democracy is not the most efficient system. The Greek crisis has made clear that there is a north-south divide, while Germany and the others do not consider solidarity a criterion for financial issues. And the refugee crisis is now the last division in European integration. The UK has openly declared that it will take only a token number of 10,000 refugees, while a new west-east divide has become evident, with the strong opposition of Eastern Europe to take any refugee. The idea of solidarity is again out of the equation.

Germany moved because of its demographic reality. It had 800,000 vacant jobs, and it needs at least 500,000 immigrants per year to remain competitive and keep its pension system alive. But that mentality is even more clear with the East European countries, which experience increasing demographic decline. At the end of communism in 1989, Bulgaria had a population of 9 million. Now it is at 7.2 million. It is estimated that it will lose an additional 7 per cent by 2030, and 28.5 per cent by 2050. Romania will lose 22 per cent by 2050, followed by Ukraine (20%), Moldova (20%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (19.5%), Latvia (19%), Lithuania (17.5%), Serbia (17%), Croatia (16%), and Hungary (16%). Yet, all Eastern Europe countries have followed the British rebellion, and take a strong stance on refusing to accept refugees.

Now the idea of European integration is reaching a crucial challenge: the United Kingdom will hold a referendum by the end of 2017 to decide if remain in the European Union or not. The prime minister David Cameron, has invented this referendum, in order to renegotiate with EU the terms of British participation, get enough concessions to appease the Euro-skeptics and thus win the referendum in favor of Europe.

Only 10 years ago, such a maneuver would have gone nowhere. But now things are different, and there is a general tendency among European countries to take back as much as possible space given to the EU. Germany has already indicated that it is open to debate, and it wants to avoid a Brexit as much as possible. Cameron has not yet indicated the detail of his requests to remain in the EU. But it is widely believed that they will be about unhitching from European political integration, requesting exceptionality for the British financial sector, demanding a voice in decisions in the Eurozone (of which the UK is not a member), eliminating social benefits for European immigrants and giving to the British parliament a strong say over European decisions. Cameron has already indicated that he will withdraw from the European Court of Justice.

Once Great Britain obtains these concessions or even part of them, other countries, beginning with Hungary, will follow. And this will be the end of the process of European integration. We will take the route of EFTA, not the one envisioned by the founding fathers: Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schumann, Paul-Henri Spaak and Alcide De Gasperi.

Meanwhile, Europe will have to accept that it is not going to be the homogenous and white society that the right wing and xenophobic parties dream of reestablishing. The lack of global governability has created a staggering figure of 60 million refugees. Of those, 15 million live in refugee camps. One of them, Dadaab, in Kenya, has now half a million people, more than the population of several members of the United Nations. It is estimated that climate change will create by 2030 another 10 million refugees. Solidarity or not, Europe demography will require the arrival of some million. What will be the Europe of 2030?


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Opinion: The Nuclear Deal’s Impact on Iranian Domestic and Foreign Policy Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:08:02 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the final of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Oct 19 2015 (IPS)

As in most countries, in Iran too there are hardliners and moderates. All polls show that a large majority of Iranians support the nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany), while a small but powerful group of hardliners opposes it. The Iranian parliament has finally approved the deal, but after a great deal of controversy and with some reservations.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

Despite the fact that in the 2013 presidential election, in which 72 per cent of eligible voters participated, more than half of the electorate voted for Hassan Rouhani, a centrist and moderate cleric, hardliners have a tight grip over practically all other branches of power in Iran.

Hardliners control the judiciary, and have a majority in the current Majles or Iranian Parliament. They control the Assembly of Experts that has the power to elect the Supreme Leader’s successor, the Guardian Council that acts as a second chamber, the National Broadcasting Organization that has a virtual monopoly of all radio and television broadcasting, and many other organizations.

However, with President Rouhani’s election, the dominance of hardliners over the executive branch came to an end, and elections for parliament and the Assembly of Experts are due on 26 February 2016, and they could alter the internal balance of power. The nuclear agreement has begun to swing public support back to the reformists.

After the initial revolutionary upheaval that isolated Iran from most of the world, and after 36 years of estrangement from the West, this landmark agreement has ushered in a new era of relations between Iran and the West. While most analysts in the West are primarily concerned about its effect on Iran’s foreign relations, for most Iranians its significance lies in what it can do to improve the economic and political situation at home.

The fact of the matter is that Iran has made many concessions, but its nuclear program has received the seal of approval from the Security Council and the West. Even above and beyond the nuclear issue, the JCPOA has opened the prospect of the reintegration of Iran into the global economy and of it playing a much more prominent role in world affairs.

This is precisely what the hardliners fear, because they are worried that Iran’s revolutionary values would be undermined and that Western values would weaken Islamic sentiments. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards chief warned of “nuclear sedition,” aimed at derailing the Islamic Republic from its revolutionary path.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also warned against “infiltration” attempts by the West and has banned further negotiations with Washington.

The main question is whether Iran still wishes to remain in the past and retain its revolutionary zeal, or whether she feels confident enough to look forward and embrace change. It is quite clear that the majority of Iranians have shown that they are in favor of change and coexistence with the rest of the world, while also retaining their distinct religious and cultural values.

Most Iranians are strongly opposed to regime change in the way that has happened in a number of neighboring countries. They are in favor of evolution and reform, rather than revolution and violence. Nevertheless, they have a number of legitimate demands that cannot be suppressed by force.

President Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to expand political and social freedoms for all Iranians, including freedom of expression. Although some restrictions have been eased, the pace of change has been far too slow. Iran still has one of the largest numbers of executions per capita in the world, and one of the highest numbers of political prisoners. Iranian women still do not enjoy equality with men.

It is true that the government does not have much control over the judiciary or security organizations, but it cannot use this excuse to shirk its responsibilities towards the Iranian people. It must understand that the maintenance of the status quo is not an option. If change is not to be imposed through violence or from outside, the government with the support of the majority of the population must bring about meaningful change.

The JCPOA has opened new horizons for Iran. In the foreign policy field, it has lifted the shadow of war and has made Tehran the diplomatic and economic capital of the Middle East. Now, it is time for Iranian leaders to begin a new chapter of relations with the world. As Ambassador John Limbert, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and a former US hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis, has said: “Both sides, after 34 years, have made a very startling discovery, that diplomacy ­ long-neglected tools of listening, of seeking small areas of agreement, of careful choice of words ­ can actually accomplish more than shouting insults, making threats and the wonderful self-satisfaction of always being right.”

The same principle also applies to the domestic situation. Iranian leaders will be surprised to see how much small areas of agreement and small but steady steps towards greater freedoms and democracy can accomplish in putting an end to the alienation between the people and the government, and allow Iran to find its rightful place in the world, and avoid the chaos rampant in many neighboring countries. It is time to use this great opportunity to move forward both at home and abroad, confident in the common sense and patriotism of Iranian people.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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United Arab Emirates and Cuba Forge Closer Ties Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:10:19 +0000 Patricia Grogg The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Oct 6 2015 (IPS)

Cuba and the United Arab Emirates agreed to strengthen diplomatic ties and bilateral cooperation during an official visit to this Caribbean island nation by the UAE minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

During his 24-hour stay, Al Nahyan met on Monday Oct. 5 with Cuban authorities, signed two agreements, and inaugurated his country’s embassy in Havana, which he said was a clear sign of the consolidation of the ties established by the two countries in March 2002.

“I am sure that the next few years will witness the prosperity of our ties,” he added during his official meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, with whom he signed an agreement on air services “between and beyond our territories” which will facilitate the expansion of opportunities for international air transport.

In the meeting, Rodríguez reaffirmed his government’s support for Arab peoples in their struggle to maintain their independence and territorial integrity.

According to official sources, the two foreign ministers concurred that the opening of the UAE embassy is an important step forward in bilateral ties and will permit closer follow-up of questions of mutual interest.

Al Nahyan also met with the first vice president of the councils of state and ministers, Miguel Díaz Canel. The two officials confirmed the good state of bilateral ties and the possibilities for cooperation on the economic, trade and financial fronts, Cuba’s prime-time TV newscast reported.

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Cuba’s minister of foreign trade and investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, signed a credit agreement with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, to finance a solar energy farm that will generate 10 MW of electricity.

Al Nahyan first visited Havana on Oct. 1-2, 2009 in response to an official invitation from minister Rodríguez. On that occasion they signed two agreements, one on economic, trade and technical cooperation, and another between the two foreign ministries.

“We have great confidence in Cuba’s leaders and in our capacity to carry out these kinds of projects,” Al Nahyan told the local media on that occasion.

United Arab Emirates, a federation made up of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain – established diplomatic relations with Cuba in March 2002, in an accord signed in Cairo.

The decision to open an embassy in the Cuban capital was reached in a June 2014 cabinet meeting presided over by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE vice president and prime minister, and the ruler of Dubai.

In late February 2015, Al Maktoum received the letters of credentials for the new ambassador of Cuba in the UAE, Enrique Enríquez, during a ceremony in the Al Mushrif Palace in the Emirati capital.

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Later, UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ahmed al Jarman and Enríquez discussed the state of bilateral relations and agreed to take immediate concrete steps to expand and strengthen ties in different areas.

Enríquez also met with Cubans living in Abu Dhabi with a view to bolstering relations between them and their home country. They agreed on periodic future gatherings.

In May 2014, the UAE and Cuba signed an open skies agreement to allow the airlines of both countries to operate in each other’s territories, as well as opening the door to new plans for flights between the two countries, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) reported.

The accord formed part of a strategy to boost trade with other countries, said Saif Mohammed al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA, who headed a delegation of officials and representatives of national airlines during a two-day visit to Cuba.

The UAE signed similar agreements with other Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, as part of its effort at closer relations with this region, which is of growing interest to the Gulf country.

Talks have also been announced between the UAE and Russia to build a giant airport in Cuba, which would serve as an international airport hub for Latin America, the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper reported in February.

The proposal is being discussed by the Russian government and the Abu Dhabi state investment fund Mubadala, mandated to diversify the emirate’s economy.

In 2013 and 2014, UAE was named the world’s largest official development aid donor in a report released by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2013, the Gulf nation provided five billion dollars in ODA to other countries.

Last year, according to OECD data, the only Gulf country to have a Ministry of International Cooperation and Development spent 1.34 percent of their gross domestic product in development cooperation.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Human Rights Activists Condemn Houthi Militia’s Atrocities Against Women in Yemen Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:04:16 +0000 Emirates News Agency By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
Geneva, Sep 30 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) — Arab and Yemeni human rights activist monitoring the civil war in Yemen say that women have been subjected to grave human right violations at the hands of the rebel Houthi militia and an allied insurgent group under the command of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The human rights defenders were speaking at a landmark event organised by the Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) on the sidelines of the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Dr. Mona Hejres, a member of the AFHR and head of “Together for Human Rights,” noted in her presentation at the event that that women were active participants in the revolution that drove Saleh out of power and that many had faced human rights crimes including killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and use of excessive force during that struggle. She said that today, in rebel-held areas, women suffer greatly at the hands of the Houthi militia and Saleh group, with widespread murders, forced disappearances, kidnappings, deprivation of basic educational and health services, bombardment of residential districts, and other atrocities targeting them in the capital Sana’a, Aden and other cities.

She called upon the international community to live up to its responsibilities in protecting the Yemeni people, especially women, and to back the Arab Coalition’s operations seeking to protect the Yemeni people. She also appealed to the UN Security Council to enforce its resolutions on Yemen and ensure protection, safety and security for its people, and particularly women.

During the event, a number of heads of Yemeni human rights associations and organisations pointed to a recent report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV) as further evidence of the suffering caused by the Houthi militia and Saleh group in Yemen, particularly with regard to women.

Representatives of the AFHR and the YCMHRV also reiterated their rejection of the western countries’ request to establish a fact finding committee, which they said would dilute and ignore what they termed a human tragedy fomented by the rebel militias. Instead, they said, the international community should focus on prosecuting war criminals in the conflict, and to uphold its responsibilities to protect women during armed and military conflicts and disputes.

Maryam bin Tawq, Coordinator at the AFHR, spoke about the importance of establishing the international coalition “Operation Restoring Hope” aimed at protecting the Yemeni people from violations and crimes against humanity being carried out by al-Houthi group and the Saleh Militia. She said that the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Human Rights had found that the rebel militias had committed more than 4,500 human rights violations within the course of just one month of their control of Sana’a. (END)

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Report Condemns Atrocities of Houthi Rebels in Yemen Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:49:06 +0000 Emirates News Agency By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 28 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – A new report from a human rights group operating in Yemen says that human rights violations have reached unprecedented levels, with more than 3,000 people murdered by the insurgent Houthi militia and its allies in Yemen.

The report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV), prepared from
reports by the organisation’s field monitors in Yemen, outlines a series of atrocities committed over the
past year in Sana’a, the capital, Aden, Taiz, Lahej, Hodiedah, Addali’e, Abyan, Dhamar and Shabwa,
governorates (see full report in report.

The report tied the Houthi militia and an allied group operating under the command of former Yemeni
president Ali Abdullah Saleh with unconstitutional overthrow of the legitimate government that has
resulted in human rights violations that have afflicted men, women, children, property and the

The findings show that between September 2014 and August 2015, 3,074 people were murdered, about
20 percent of whom were women and children, and 7,347 civilians were wounded due to random
shelling, at least 25 percent of whom were women and children. A total of 5,894 people were arbitrarily
detained during the monitoring period – 4,640 of them were released and 1,254 people remain in

The report also focuses on arbitrary detention, forcible disappearances and hostage taking violations,
which the monitors said have been carried out regularly by the rebel militia against politicians,
journalists, and human rights and political activists. It said detainees are frequently mistreated and
deprived of basic needs such as food, water and proper hygiene and sanitation. Monitors also reported
that some detainees are used as human shields at military sites that have been targeted by the Coalition

“This is a clear violation of both national and international legislation,” said the report. “The de facto
forces, the Houthis, failed to observe their commitment towards human rights and humanitarian law,
being the power in control that practices the state’s functions. Rather, the Houthis-Saleh showed total
recklessness towards human rights and human suffering.”

The report concludes with recommendations, calling on the Houthi-Saleh militia, Yemeni government
and the international community to implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It also calls on
the international community to support the newly established National Commission to investigate
alleged human rights Violations with all needed technical assistance. (END)

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Iran’s commitments under the Nuclear Treaty are just short of total surrender Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:12:24 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 25 2015 (IPS)

Speaking about the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached between Iran, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States­ plus Germany) and the European Union, Joseph Cirincione, a leading nuclear expert and president of Ploughshares Fund, said:

“We have just achieved what may be the biggest diplomatic triumph in a generation. We have reached an agreement that not only stops Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but it prevents a new war in the Middle East. It has profound implications for the security of America, for the security of Israel, for the security of the world. It sets a new gold standard for nuclear agreements. Every state that wants even a token enrichment capability now will have to agree to the same intrusive verification measures Iran has just agreed to…”

Contrary to the extensive propaganda about it being good for Iran and bad for the United States, the deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has achieved something that no one thought was possible. Speaking at the American University shortly after the agreement was signed, President Barack Obama said:

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.”

After 13 years of intensive talks and a fast-developing nuclear enrichment program, Iran has agreed to the most intrusive, restrictive and comprehensive set of demands to which any member state of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has ever been subjected. In reality, as some Iranian commentators have argued, Iran has relinquished most of her rights as an NPT member, short of total surrender.

In order to understand the magnitude of what Iran has given up and what she is required to do in return for the lifting of the sanctions, one has to look at some of the main provisions of the JCPOA. All the following actions must be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as complete before the implementation day, which comes 90 days after the unanimous approval on 20 July of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA, assuming that Iran provides the IAEA with the required information.

The Security Council requested that the IAEA undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s compliance, and it reaffirmed that Iran should cooperate fully with the agency to resolve all outstanding issues. Upon receipt of a positive report from the IAEA, the Council would terminate the sanctions set out in resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2015.

Iran must disassemble, remove and store under IAEA seal more than 13,000 excess centrifuges, including excess advanced centrifuge machines.

Out of more than 15,651.4 kg of uranium enriched to 3.6[DSJ1] , and 337.2 kg to 20 percent, Iran must reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to no more than 300 kg.

Iran had built its Fordow uranium enrichment facility deep in the mountains in order to have a more secure site for enrichment in case Israel or America bombed its main facility at Natanz. However, according to the agreement, Iran must convert the Fordow site to a research & development facility with no fissile material.

Iran had built a heavy water plant in Arak to have a different route to nuclear fuel, but she must remove and disable the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor.

Although Iran had not officially signed the Additional Protocol, an expanded set of requirements for information and access adopted in 1997 to assist the IAEA in its verification work, she must allow and make the necessary arrangements for additional IAEA access and monitoring in keeping with its requirements.

Key restrictions that will last significantly more than a decade include:

Iran may retain no more than 5,060 of the 19,000 centrifuges that Iran had installed.

She is not allowed to install more advanced centrifuges than she has already developed, and is allowed to carry out only limited research & development on advanced centrifuges for the next 15 years.

She is allowed only limited development of advanced centrifuges so that enrichment capacity remains the same.

Testing of centrifuges with uranium may carried out only at Natanz.

IAEA access to the site must be provided within 24 hours.

No new heavy-water reactors, no reprocessing or R & D allowed.

Iran makes a commitment not to process spent fuel.

There will be continuous surveillance of centrifuge production areas.

There will even be continuous surveillance of uranium mines and mills. Thus, the IAEA will have access to all Iranian activities from the mining of uranium to the construction of mills and centrifuges.

Even after all those initial restrictions, the NPT will remain in force banning the pursuit of nuclear weapons. This restriction has no time limit and will remain in force for as long as Iran remains a member of the NPT. Leaving the NPT would of course constitute a grave violation of the rules, and strong action would be taken against Iran.

In order to sabotage the talks, some critics of the nuclear deal, supported by fabricated documents, had raised the issue of Iran’s alleged military experimentations (the so-called previous military dimension, or PMD). Nevertheless, Iran must provide the IAEA with all the information necessary to complete its PMD investigation by October 15.

Another excuse that the opponents of the deal have used to undermine it was the issue of “the breakout period.” There is no provision in the NPT for any such limitation. The member states will be able to have any amount of enrichment to any level of purity, so long as they do not manufacture a nuclear weapon. However, an exception is made in the case of Iran regarding how long it would take her to have enough enriched uranium sufficient for a single bomb.

This is despite the fact that Iran does not possess any reprocessing facilities and that even if she enriches uranium to the more than 90 percent purity needed for a bomb, she still has to weaponise[DSJ2] it, test it and find the necessary means of delivery, none of which Iran possesses at the moment and which would be easily detected by the IAEA. Nevertheless, the agreement has required that Iran should have a breakout period of at least one year.

In addition to all the nuclear-related restrictions, the Security Council still prohibits Iran from importing or exporting weapons for five years and missile parts for eight years. In other words, the fuss was not only about Iran’s nuclear program, but her military capabilities as well.

As the result of this agreement, the P5+1 have re-written the rules and have gone completely beyond the requirements of the NPT and even the Additional Protocol. Nevertheless, all Republican and some Democratic senators in the U.S. still oppose it and are trying to legislate amendments that would undermine its implementation, despite the fact that this international agreement has been endorsed by more than 100 U.S. former ambassadors, 60 former top national leaders, 75 nuclear non-proliferation experts and another 29 top U.S. nuclear scientists, as well as by all the other five leading countries of the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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The Rubicons That Have Been Crossed Fri, 18 Sep 2015 13:41:54 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 18 2015 (IPS)

In their attempts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and Israel have resorted over time to a number of unorthodox, illegal and in some cases criminal methods to achieve their aims. They have included the following:

1. Constant vilification of the Iranian nuclear program despite evidence to the contrary.

Since the resumption of the Iranian nuclear program after the Islamic revolution, Western leaders have openly accused Iran of pursuing a military program, despite the lack of any evidence. The claims regarding Iran’s military intentions have been repeated non-stop, along with allegations that Iran was a few years away from manufacturing a bomb.

Here are just two early examples. An April 24, in a 1984 article entitled “‘Ayatollah’ Bomb in Production for Iran,” United Press International warned that Iran was moving “very quickly” towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986. In April 1987, the Washington Post published an article with the title “Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb,” in which reporter David Segal wrote of the imminent threat of such a weapon.

This pattern of reporting by Western and Israeli press has continued unabated, despite the fact that they have been proved to be wrong time and again.

2. Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

There have been at least four documented cases in which Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated on the streets of Tehran. Israeli agencies have been implicated in those assassinations. A number of suspects who had been arrested testified that they were members of the terrorist organization, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, who had been recruited by Mossad, taken to Israel and trained in the use of those explosive devices.

A month after the January 2012 assassination of Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist and university professor, NBC News reported: “Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret services, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders… U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Barack Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.”

This seems to be a continuation of the plan to assassinate Iraqi nuclear scientists prior to and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In his best-selling book By Way of Deception, Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad officer, revealed that Israel had targeted and had killed Iraqi nuclear scientists.

3. Acts of sabotage against Iranian nuclear and military installations.

On 12 November 2011, there was a massive explosion at an Iranian military base that killed Major General Hassan Moghaddam and 16 soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as causing extensive damage to the base. As usual, Israel did not confirm or deny responsibility for the explosion, but Israeli media pointed to the possible involvement of Mossad. The Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported that “some assessments” indicated that the blast was “the result of a military operation based on intelligence information.”

According to Annex III of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on “civil nuclear cooperation,” otherwise known as the framework agreement on the Iran nuclear program, the signatories commit to “co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems”.

However, it seems that far from condemning Israeli acts of sabotage against Iranian installations, some U.S. officials are even worried that the deal might prevent Israel from continuing these illegal activities. This provision of the deal doesn’t mention any countries by name, but U.S. Senator Marco Rubio wondered if this was included in the deal because of Iranian concerns related to a specific US ally.

“If Israel decides it doesn’t like this deal and it wants to sabotage an Iranian nuke program or facility, does this deal that we have just signed obligate us to help Iran defend itself against Israeli sabotage or for that matter the sabotage of any other country in the world?” Rubio asked at a congressional hearing on the agreement. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz replied that “all of our options and those of our allies and friends would remain in place” after the deal goes into effect.

4. Cyber terrorism

In 2010, Iran announced that uranium enrichment at Natanz had been disrupted and as many as 1,000 centrifuges had been damaged. It was subsequently reported that the destruction was due to cyber terrorism. In June 2010, anti-virus experts discovered a sophisticated computer worm dubbed “Stuxnet,” which had spread to Iranian centrifuges at the Natanz plant and had damaged many of them. The New York Times subsequently reported that Stuxnet was part of a U.S. and Israeli intelligence operation called “Operation Olympic Games,” initiated by President George W. Bush and expanded under President Barack Obama.

At the time that the worm was reportedly infecting the Iranian machines, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras installed in Natanz recorded the sudden dismantling and removal of approximately 900–1,000 centrifuges. These were quickly replaced, however, and Iran resumed uranium enrichment. The West regards cyber terrorism as an act of war, yet it is willing to cooperate with Israel in cyber terrorism against Iran. This will open Pandora’s box.

5. Spying on allies during the nuclear negotiations

U.S. officials have accused Israel of spying on nuclear negotiations with Iran and of “cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

Subsequently, it was revealed that hotels that served as venues for the talks including the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, the Intercontinental in Geneva, the Palais Coburg in Vienna, the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich and Royal Plaza Montreux had been targeted by an Israeli spy virus in order to eavesdrop on all the conversations.

It is clear that Israel did not even trust her closest ally, the U.S., whose officials normally informed her of all the details of the negotiations.

6. Plans to attack Iran

Apart from the repeated threats to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former defense minister and former prime minister, has revealed that at least on three occasions Israeli forces were ordered to get ready for an attack on Iranian nuclear installations. Israeli Channel 2 Television aired a recording of Barak revealing the details of those planned attacks. To this one should add repeated Israeli incitements for the U.S. to attack Iran, and U.S. officials constant refrain of “all options are on the table”.

7. Racist comments

It has become commonplace for U.S. and Israeli politicians to demonize Iran and Iranians and to refer to them in racist language. The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman declared in Congressional testimony in 2013 that Iranian leaders couldn’t be trusted because “We know that deception is part of the DNA.” Tom Donilon, a former National Security Advisor to the Obama administration, also said in 2011 that Iran had “a record of deceit and deception.”

In order to see how ugly and insulting such remarks are, it is enough to replace “Iranians” with “Jews” or “Americans” to see how offensive they sound. Many Republican senators and presidential candidates have even used much more disgusting language referring to Iranians. It is sad to note that even President Obama in his meeting with Jewish leaders felt it necessary to say: “And I keep on emphasizing we don’t trust Iran. Iran is antagonistic to the U.S. It is anti-Semitic. It has denied the Holocaust. It has called for the destruction of Israel.”

These are just a few examples of the many red lines and Rubicons that have been crossed with total impunity. Instead of condemning those illegal and criminal activities by Israel, American officials have collaborated with them in these outrageous acts.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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UAE Government Stresses its Abiding Support for Syrian Refugees Thu, 17 Sep 2015 13:31:22 +0000 Omar Salim By Omar Salim
ABU DHABI, Sep 17 2015 (IPS)

In response to suggestions that the Gulf states are doing littleor nothing to help Syrians fleeing their civil war, the Government of the United Arab Emirates has announced that it has take a broad range of supportive actions to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian population and to care for Syrian refugees in Syria and abroad, reports WAM.

Calling the Syrian refugee crisis a political and security crisis, a tragedy of enormous proportions and a key priority for his government, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, noted that the UAE Government has welcomed and extended residency permits to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, from all segments of society and various religious sects, since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

This has brought the number of Syrian residents in the UAE to almost a quarter million, he said.

In addition, the minister noted, the UAE Government has during this time allowed thousands more Syrian nationals with expired visas or travel documents to adjust their status, enabling them to remain in the UAE.

Government figures show that the number of new and registered Syrian students enrolled in UAE schools since the beginning of the crisis has surpassed 17,000, while more than 6,000 Syrian nationals have established businesses in the country, indications that, according to the minister, “Syrian families are living a natural and normal life in the UAE’s secure and welcoming environment.”

The UAE government has also pointed out that it is among the leading financial contributors to efforts to help the Syrian people during the civil war. Thus far, the UAE has provided about 1.1 billion dollars, about half of that in humanitarian aid that has directly benefited Syrian refugees and another 420 million dollars to combat Daesh terrorism in Syria and Iraq and to provide humanitarian support and relief to displaced people.

These efforts include the UAE-funded Mrajib Al Fhood camp in Jordan, which provides high-quality care, shelter and education for 6,437 Syrian refugees and has been expanded to accommodate up to 10,000. Additionally, the UAE-Jordanian field hospital in Al Mafraq offers a wide range of professional medical services to Syrian refugees and has provided nearly a half-million treatments.

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Nuke Test Ban Treaty Still in Limbo, U.N. Complains Wed, 16 Sep 2015 22:53:12 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly back in 1996, has still not come into force for one primary reason: eight key countries have either refused to sign or have held back their ratifications.

The three who have not signed – India, North Korea and Pakistan – and the five who have not ratified — the United States, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel – remain non-committal 19 years following the adoption of the treaty.

When the United Nations last week commemorated International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed once again to all remaining States – especially the eight holdovers — to sign and ratify the Treaty as “a critical step on the road to a nuclear-weapons-free world.”

Currently, there is a voluntary moratoria on testing imposed by many nuclear-armed States.

“But moratoria are no substitute for a CTBT in force. The three nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) are proof of this,” Ban said

The warning comes amidst reports Tuesday that North Korea has re-started its programme to produce nuclear weapons.

But chances of all eight countries coming on board in the not-too-distant future are remote, says John Hallam of the Human Survival Project (HSP) and People for Nuclear Disarmament (PND), a joint project between PND and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.

“I think it is most unlikely that the recalcitrant 8 states will sign and ratify by 2016,” Hallam told IPS.

They include the United States itself, which though has signed, he said, but the Republicans have made it very clear they will not ratify..

Hallam said this also includes both India and Pakistan who have made it clear they have no intention of either signing or ratifying – “least of all, India under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi (although the nuclear disarmament movement in India has over the years advocated signature and ratification of the CTBT for India).”

Finally, he said, it includes China and one or two others who say they will ratify as soon as the United States has done so.

At a high-level panel discussion last week to commemorate International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Ban said: “The goal of ending nuclear tests has been a leading concern throughout my diplomatic career. “

As Secretary-General, and depository of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, “I have made achieving a legal ban on nuclear testing a personal priority.”

He said he has been to Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the site of 456 tests, including some of the largest in history.

“I have met with victims of nuclear tests. I have witnessed the lasting societal, environmental and economic damage nuclear tests have caused.”

Since the first test in New Mexico 70 years ago, he pointed out, the world has endured over two thousand nuclear tests. Those tests devastated pristine environments and local populations around the world.

Many have never recovered from the legacies of nuclear testing – including poisoned groundwater, cancer, birth defects and radioactive fallout, he noted.

“The best way to honour the victims of past tests is to prevent any in the future,” he declared.

The CTBT is a legally-binding, verifiable means by which to constrain the quantitative and qualitative development of nuclear weapons.

Hallam told IPS over 1100 nuclear tests were carried out by the United States in Nevada, Alaska, the Marshall Islands, other parts of the Pacific, and in outer space.

Tests carried out in Nevada resulted in large-scale contamination of downwind inhabitants and large-scale morbidity.

He said the largest ever U.S. test was the 15Megaton Castle Bravo test, which contaminated the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon, bringing about an agonizing slow death from radiation sickness, and contaminating the Marshall Islands.

The largest nuclear test ever was carried out by the Soviets in the early ’60s in Novaya Zemlya, a large island above the arctic circle, and known as ‘Tsar Bomba’ (King of Bombs), he noted.

At 60 megatons, it vaporized the sacred hunting grounds of the Nenets people, sent fallout right around the world and caused the planet to ring like a bell with seismic shock for hours.

Hallam said the Soviets carried out around 800 nuclear tests, many of them at the Semipalatinsk test site, and causing widespread radioactive contamination with catastrophic effects on local populations.

In addition, nuclear tests have been carried out by the UK, (many of them in Maralinga and Emu Field, Australia), France (Algeria and the Pacific), China (Sinkiang), India (Pokhran, Rajasthan) Pakistan (Baluchistan), and the North Korean, French, Chinese, and British tests have all inflicted radiation-based disease and death on local populations and participants.

Nuclear testing is the backbone of nuclear arms-racing and proliferation. A resumption of nuclear testing, or the conducting of a new nuclear test by any country – including the DPRK – helps to inch the world toward an abyss into which we hope it will never go, Hallam said.

The best way to halt proliferation and nail down a ‘no nuclear testing’ norm is for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which outlaws nuclear testing, to come into force, he declared.

Meanwhile, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has launched an international Project, called ATOM (the acronym for Abolish Testing. Our Mission), a worldwide e-campaign, calling on world leaders to end nuclear tests, once and for all.

The writer can be contacted at

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Opinion: Iran and Nuclear Weapons, a Dangerous Delusion Mon, 14 Sep 2015 16:12:41 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 14 2015 (IPS)

Despite all the propaganda about the Iranian leaders’ rush to acquire nuclear weapons, ever since the start of the country’s nuclear programme, Iranian leaders have been adamant that they only wish to make peaceful use of the nuclear energy to which they are entitled as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

This was true under the former government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who started Iran’s nuclear programme, and it has continued to be true under the Islamic Republic.

Shortly after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was agreed on Jul. 14, 2015, a number of documents belonging to the U.S. Department of Defence were declassified. Among them was a confidential cable dated Jun. 24, 1974, in which the then ruler of Iran Mohammad Reza Shah is quoted as saying:

“I am ready to repeat what I have proposed several times, that is, to declare our zone – a geographic zone whose borders could clearly be delimited – non-nuclear. Because, honestly, I believe that this nuclear armaments race is ridiculous. What would one do with them? Use them against the great powers? One could never have parity. Use them to kill each other? A country which would procure this means to attack would not wait long before being crushed by another country which also would be in the avant-garde. But if there is not enough vision, if in this region each little country tries to arm itself with armaments that are precarious, even elementary, but nuclear, then perhaps the national interests of any country at all would demand that it do the same. But I would find that completely ridiculous.”

So, contrary to some claims that the Shah was after a bomb, it is clear that he had a very rational attitude towards nuclear weapons.

The Shah once said that Iran too would develop nuclear weapons if other countries in the region did so, but his remarks were partially in response to the 1974 Indian test of a nuclear weapon and Pakistan’s efforts to do the same. He also knew that Israel already possessed nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, he repeatedly insisted that he was not looking for nuclear weapons. At the same time, he was adamant that Iran should not be treated as a second-class citizen in the region. The Shah’s common-sense attitude has been borne out by facts.

Nuclear weapons can have a deterrent effect only if the country that possesses them has the capability to respond in kind and sustain and survive the initial attacks. They can only work to serve as a deterrent in the context of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) between superpowers, but even that is a very foolish proposition, because it works until it fails, and if it fails once deliberately or by accident it would be the end of civilisation as we know it.

Pakistan has been a nuclear power for many decades, yet shortly after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage went to see President Pervez Musharraf and allegedly threatened him that the United States would bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if he did not cooperate against the Taliban, and Musharraf had no option but to comply.

Israel has long possessed nuclear weapons, but this has not stopped it fighting a number of wars against weaker neighbours which do not possess them. It would be a dangerous delusion for a country such as Israel to believe that its possession of nuclear weapons would ensure its safety, instead of resolving its differences with its Arab neighbours and reaching a fair agreement with millions of dispossessed and stateless Palestinians. The only use for nuclear weapons is that of suicide.

This is a lesson that even post-revolutionary Iranian leaders have learned. During the past few decades, Iranian leaders have turned towards the West many times to resolve their nuclear issue only to be rebuffed.

The most audacious offer was the one that was made by President Mohammad Khatami’s government to the U.S. Administration under George W. Bush in May 2003. Iran offered a “grand bargain”, including strict limits on enrichment. The Bush administration ignored the offer, and instead included Iran in the ‘Axis of Evil’.

The current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He reached an agreement with the European “Troika” (United Kingdom, France and Germany) for a very limited enrichment programme in Iran, and he even suspended enrichment for two years as a confidence-building measure, but President Bush rejected the deal.

In a letter published by TIME on May 9, 2006, Rouhani wrote: “A nuclear weaponized Iran destabilizes the region, prompts a regional arms race, and wastes the scarce resources in the region. And taking account of U.S. nuclear arsenal and its policy of ensuring a strategic edge for Israel, an Iranian bomb will accord Iran no security dividends. There are also some Islamic and developmental reasons why Iran as an Islamic and developing state must not develop and use weapons of mass destruction.”

He went on to say: “Three years of robust inspection of Iranian nuclear and non-nuclear facilities by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors led [IAEA Director-General] Dr. El-Baradi to conclude and certify that to date there are no indications of any diversion of nuclear material and activities toward making a bomb.”

In the same letter, he said that Iran would ratify the NPT’s Additional Protocol and would accept an IAEA verifiable cap on the enrichment limit of reactor grade uranium. Stressing Iran’s intention to produce nuclear fuel domestically for both historic and long-term economic reasons, he pointed out that Iran’s offer “to welcome other countries to partner with Iran in a consortium provides additional assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

He could not have been clearer about Iran’s intention to be open in its nuclear intentions, to cooperate with the IAEA and even partner with the West in pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been equally emphatic about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. Delivering the inaugural address at the 16th Non-Aligned Summit in Tehran on Aug. 30, 2012, he said:

“Nuclear weapons neither ensure security, nor do they consolidate political power, rather they are a threat to both security and political power. The events that took place in the 1990s showed that the possession of such weapons could not even safeguard a regime like the former Soviet Union. And today we see certain countries which are exposed to waves of deadly insecurity despite possessing atomic bombs.

The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a great and unforgivable sin. We proposed the idea of ‘Middle East free of nuclear weapons’ and we are committed to it. This does not mean forgoing our right to peaceful use of nuclear power and production of nuclear fuel. On the basis of international laws, peaceful use of nuclear energy is a right of every country.”

He even issued a fatwa stressing that the production, storage and use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were religiously forbidden (haram).

Even when he was president, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, whose inflammatory rhetoric made him a bête noire of the West and who was accused of wanting to gain access to nuclear weapons, said: “The period and era of using nuclear weapons is over… Nuclear bombs are not anymore helpful and those who are stockpiling nuclear weapons, politically they are backward, and they are mentally retarded.”

He stated that if Iran wanted to manufacture a nuclear bomb, it would not be afraid of saying so, but he rightly asked what use would a single Iranian bomb be against Israel’s hundreds and the West’s thousands of nuclear weapons.

From all the statements by Iranian leaders and 12 years of intrusive inspection of Iranian nuclear installations by the IAEA, it is clear that, contrary to the incessant propaganda about Iran’s “nuclear ambitions”, there is no shred of evidence that Iran has ever been trying to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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UAE Continues Relief to Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Sat, 12 Sep 2015 21:19:21 +0000 Emirates News Agency

Att.Editors: The following item is from the Emirates News Agency (WAM)

By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 12 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – Under the directives of the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), efforts are underway to provide relief to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. A strategic humanitarian plan has been put in place by the country which includes shelter to refugees closer to Lebanon in order to facilitate their return home when the crisis is over.

According to reports issued by the UAE news agency WAM, since the crisis began in 2011, the Gulf countries received more than 100,000 Syrian refugees. Earlier 140,000 refugees were accomodated in the region.

The UAE was one of the first countries to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis, providing more than USD530 million in direct aid, mainly through the Syria Recovery Trust Fund.

Since January 2015, the UAE provided an additional USD44 million as part of a new aid commitment of USD100 million, reported WAM.

The UAE is also working towards peace and stability in Syria, by supporting the Global Coalition Against Daesh and as a co-leader for the Coalition Working Groups on Stabilisation and Strategic Communications in the region.

Commenting on the UAE humanitarian assistance to the Syrian refugees, Hamad Saeed Sultan Al Shamsi, Ambassador of UAE to Lebanon, said “The UAE government, its humanitarian institutions and organisations through direct initiatives and its offices have continued their support for the displaced Syrians in Lebanon.”

Ambassador Al Shamsi added that the UAE Embassy in Lebanon, in cooperation with the UN and other international organisations including Dar Al Fatwa, Orphanage House and municipalities, have provided humanitarian and relief assistance to the Syrian refugees with included medical treatment, date food packages, drinking water and food supplements for children, blankets and mattresses, and, during Iftar and Eid ul Fitr, distributed clothes, gifts and sacrificial meat. He also pointed out that the UAE Embassy in Beirut purchases goods from the local markets to support the Lebanese economy.

Millions of Syrians fled their homes as the conflict in their country escalated. By the summer of 2014, more than 11 million people — nearly half the population of Syria — had either been internally displaced or fled the country altogether. More than four million sought refuge in neighbouring countries, where they were sheltered in refugee camps, such as the UAE-funded Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan, that is home now to more than 4,000 Syrian refugees, and other refugee camps in Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. (WAM) (END/2015)

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Campaign to End Nuclear Tests: Kazakhstan Launches ATOM E Sat, 12 Sep 2015 19:14:20 +0000 Kairat Abdrakhmanov

Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov is Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations

By Kairat Abdrakhmanov

Despite United Nations General Assembly resolutions since 1946, calling for an end to lethal arsenal, the possession of nuclear weapons has continued to be a symbol of scientific sophistication or military power, until 29 August 1991, when Kazakhstan, upon gaining independence, closed its Nuclear Test Site in Semipalatinsk – the second largest in the world.


Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Permanent of Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

This action and the renunciation of our nuclear arsenal – the fourth largest in the world, were unprecedented acts to demonstrate to the world that Kazakhstan does not need these powerful nuclear weapons tests and weapons. The closure of Semipalatinsk led the way for the closure of other sites in Nevada, Novaya Zemlya, Lop Nur, Moruroa, Kiribati and others.

The detonation of over 600 warheads, one fourth of all 2000 nuclear tests globally, were conducted in a span of four decades on the territory of the Semipalatinsk test site covering a total area is 18.000 sq. km, affecting over 1.5 million people and a land mass of 300,000 sq. km.

In fact, the entire territory of Kazakhstan, was one big polygon, comprising of 11 units spread over the country. Besides nuclear, these included also air, space, missile defence and warning systems, as well as high-powered laser weapons test sites. Among these I would also like to mention the deadly biochemical and bacteriological weapons tested in the Aral Sea (which was the Barkhan Test Site on the former Renaissance Island).

Considering the actions taken by my country, Kazakhstan thus has the full right to call for the universal and prompt measures on the Path to Zero. This frightening data cited here and the 1996 Advisory of the International Court of Justice should spur the global community to act more decisively for the ultimate and irrevocable prohibition of nuclear tests and weapons.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has launched a worldwide e-campaign, an international project, called ATOM (Abolish Testing. Our Mission), calling on world leaders to end nuclear tests, once and for all. To draw attention to the campaign, Karpek Kuyukov, the Goodwill Ambassador of the ATOM project, himself a victim of nuclear radiation, has travelled from Kazakhstan and is here in New York to share his life experiences with us.

Despite being the largest producer and supplier of uranium in the world, Kazakshtan’s firm position demonstrates that harmony and cooperation can be stronger armaments for global peace and security than any weaponry.

Disarmament critics still insist that nuclear weapons cannot be dis-invented and that the nuclear genie is well out of the bottle. Kazakhstan and several other countries have proven that it is within our power to put this monstrous genie back into the bottle.

Kazakhstan was amongst the first countries to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). My country is committed to the Treaty, and along with Japan will co-chair the International Conference on Article XIV to CTBT on 29 September 2015, to work intensely to bring its entry into force.

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations and the start of a transformative Post-2015 development agenda. We must thus have the political will to invest vast resources that would be available as a result of nuclear disarmament to meet compelling human needs and achieve a peaceful and secure world.

Today, a new impetus is needed to move the disarmament machinery forward, considering that the 2015 review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) did not fulfil its anticipated outcome. We commend the three meetings held in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna, and the many unilateral, bilateral and collective efforts of several countries, together with the dynamic efforts of civil society.

These actions serve as a wake-up call to unite for a nuclear-weapon-free world. We, therefore, welcome the momentum gained by the Humanitarian Pledge put forward by Austria, which Kazakhstan endorsed on 10 July 2015. Likewise, we seek support at the forthcoming First Committee Meeting in October this year for the initiative of our President calling on the international community to adopt the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World. We do not consider this document as the basis for a major debate or tying down the United Nations disarmament machinery. Its value lies in the fact that, despite ongoing disagreements on the means to achieve nuclear disarmament, there is full agreement on the fundamental goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

I would like to point to other examples of successful cooperation between the East and West with the participation of Kazakhstan:

1. When our country became the “epicentre of the world” after renouncing its nuclear arsenal, it was the collaboration with the Russian Federation and the U.S. that made possible the removal and disposal of our nuclear warheads and missiles, as well as the destruction and decommissioning the infrastructure of the former test site.

2. Kazakhstan, along with other countries of the region, established the Central Asian Nulear-Free-Zone with the signing of the Treaty of Semipalatinsk in 2006, which speedily came into force in 2009. In May 2014, representatives of the “nuclear five” (the P5) signed a Protocol on negative security assurances to the participant states of that Treaty, of which four have already ratified it.

This year, the Central Asian states adopted an Action Plan to strengthen nuclear security in the region. Now we are elaborating regional instruments for the prevention of illicit trafficking in nuclear materials and combating nuclear terrorism.

3. In 2014, we worked to ensure the safety and preservation of hundreds of kilograms of nuclear material, remaining in the galleries at the Massif Degelen, also known as Plutonium Mountain, located at the former Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. This measure will prevent leakage and improper use of these materials. The constant and perennial trilateral cooperation between Kazakhstan, Russia and the U.S., was announced in Seoul in 2012 by the Presidents of the three countries. It is a striking proof that only a spirit of trust and mutual understanding will make our world secure. Today Kazakhstan is actively preparing for the Fourth Summit to be held in Washington D.C., in 2016 and will host a preparatory Sherpas Meeting in Almaty from 2-4 November 2015.

4. Another significant achievement has been the Agreement signed on 27 August 2015 by the Government of Kazakhstan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for establishing the International Bank of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) in 2017 in Eastern Kazakhstan. This initiative is yet another concrete contribution of Kazakhstan in strengthening the non-proliferation regime, and eliminating lacunae existing in the international legal framework. The Bank will allow Member States the right to reliable access to fuel for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It was again the collaboration between the East and West, particularly, Kazakhstan, the P5, as well as the European Union, Norway, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates -as the main donors of the project – that the Bank became a reality.

5. A most recent example of cooperation is related to the unique Cosmodrome Baikonur located in Kazakhstan – the only site in the world from where space crafts are launched to the International Space Station. On 2 September 2015, the spacecraft “Soyuz” was launched with a new crew, comprising of Kazakh, Russian and Danish cosmonauts, the latter from the European Space Agency. This, once again should inspire us to work together with hope for the future.

I would like to quote President Nazarbayev, who at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague reminded the world that “general and complete nuclear disarmament” is the only guarantee of nuclear security. He said that we should all live up to our responsibilities to our citizens and the global community to deliver political rather than military solutions in the name of international peace. It is therefore the collective responsibility and commitment of everyone, to increase the momentum for anti-tests and anti-nuclear weapons and to find and implement such peaceful solutions so that we do not forget our common humanity.

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The Recent Stages of Iran’s Nuclear Programme Sat, 12 Sep 2015 17:09:00 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 12 2015 (IPS)

When negotiations between Iran and the European “Troika” broke down, the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami was discredited in the eyes of the Iranian electorate which had seen the futility of negotiating with the West.

Despite Iran’s support for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and its help in persuading the Northern Alliance leaders in Afghanistan to join talks in Bonn, Iran was rewarded with U.S. President George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech.

Right-wing candidate Mahmud Ahmadinezhad won the 2005 presidential election, with the massive support of hardliners, including the paramilitary Basij forces and some sections of the Revolution Guards. His new government was dubbed “the government of the barracks” because it included many former and serving Revolution Guards officers and veterans of the Iran-Iraq war.

Having seen the futility of negotiations with the West, Ahmadinezhad resumed Iran’s nuclear programme. During a large, carefully staged and nationally televised celebration in Mashhad on Apr. 11, 2006, Ahmadinezhad announced that Iran had enriched uranium to 3.6 percent and proudly declared: “The nuclear fuel cycle at the laboratory level has been completed, and uranium with the desired enrichment for nuclear power plants was achieved … Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world.”

After a great deal of pressure by the West, on Feb. 4, 2006, the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council if it did not stop enrichment within a month. In response, Iran ended snap U.N. nuclear checks the following day.

In subsequent months and years, the Security Council passed eight resolutions demanding that Iran suspend all enrichment-related activities, and imposed some of the harshest sanctions ever imposed on a country. Iran declared all those resolutions illegal, maintaining that it had not violated any provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Instead of complying with those resolutions, Iran intensified its enrichment activities.

When Ahmadinezhad came to power, Iran had suspended all its nuclear activities. By the time he left office in 2013, Iran had installed more than 15,000 centrifuges, more than 9,000 of them being fed with UF6, as well as installing over 1,000 more advanced IR-2 centrifuges, despite all the sanctions that had been imposed.

After the West refused to provide Iran with uranium fuel of 20 percent purity required for the Tehran research reactor that is used for producing medical isotopes, Iran proceeded to produce enough uranium fuel of this purity. Altogether, Iran produced 15,651.4 kg of uranium enriched to 3.6, and 337.2 kg to 20 percent, some of which was used to produce fuel for the Tehran research reactor.

In 2004, the U.S. government came into possession of a laptop that contained a large number of documents purporting to be from an Iranian research program on nuclear weapons. It allegedly contained studies on high explosives testing for a nuclear detonation, and a uranium conversion system, all of which were purportedly done from 2001 through 2003.

From the start, there was uncertainty about how the documents had been obtained from Iran, if indeed they had originated in that country. While the material gave rise to a great deal of publicity in the media, the U.S. intelligence community remained sceptical about the document.

Without allowing either the IAEA or Iran to have access to the laptop, the United States called on IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei to issue a report on the basis of the alleged document.

El Baradei passed the material to a team of experts who soon concluded that the material was fraudulent and in an interview with The Hindu on Oct. 1, 2009, El Baradei declared: “The IAEA is not making any judgment at all whether Iran even had weaponisation studies before because there is a major question of authenticity of the documents.”

A second alleged clandestine nuclear research project involved a “process flow chart” for a bench-scale system for conversion of uranium ore for enrichment. However, when Iranian officials were shown the flow chart, they immediately spotted multiple technical errors and these were so clear that the head of the IAEA Safeguards Department, Olli Heinonen, acknowledged in his 2008 briefing that the diagram had “technical inconsistencies.”

It has now been established, almost without a shadow of doubt, that both documents were forgeries, allegedly the work of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.

Meanwhile, as some Israeli leaders and their supporters in the United States were pushing for an invasion of Iran on the excuse of its nuclear programme, the U.S Intelligence Community (a federation of 17 separate intelligence agencies) assessed in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had ended all “nuclear weapon design and weaponisation work” in 2003.

Yet, instead of welcoming that positive report, the then Israeli Minister of Defence Ehud Barak said that it was a kick to the gut, and many neo-conservatives in the United States also dismissed its findings.

On May 17, 2010, in talks held in Tehran, the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Brazil announced a major breakthrough in Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West. In a joint declaration, they reported that Iran had agreed to send 1240 kg of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Turkey for safe keeping under IAEA supervision as part of a swap for nuclear fuel for a research reactor in Tehran, thus preventing any possibility of using it for any eventual bomb.

However, with indecent haste, a day after that important agreement, the then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that a new package of sanctions against Iran had been approved by the major powers and would be sent to the U.N. Security Council later in the day, resulting in Resolution 1929 which imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.

The move angered both Turkey and Brazil which thought that they had acted in keeping with U.S. President Barack Obama’s wishes to take most of Iran’s enriched uranium out of the country. In her statement to the U.N. Security Council meeting, the Brazilian envoy said: “As Brazil repeatedly stated, the Tehran Declaration adopted 17 May is a unique opportunity that should not be missed. It was approved by the highest levels of the Iranian leadership and endorsed by its Parliament.”

In an interview with the Brazilian press, El Baradei supported the Tehran Declaration and said that the deal “should be perceived as a first good confidence-building measure, a first effort by Iran to stretch its hand and say [they] are ready to negotiate”.

He also argued that “if you remove around half of the material that Iran has to Turkey, that is clearly a confidence-building measure regarding concerns about Iran’s future intentions. The material that will remain in Iran is under IAEA safeguards and seals. There is absolutely no imminent threat that Iran is going to develop the bomb tomorrow with the material that they have in Iran.”

In July 2009, Yukiya Amano was elected Director-General of the IAEA to succeed El Baradei. In November 2010, the Guardian published a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks originating a year earlier in Vienna by the then U.S. envoy to the IAEA Board of Governors Geoffrey Pyatt.

According to that cable, Amano said that he was “solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme.” Amano published the alleged contents of the laptop, which have been seized upon by the opponents of Iran’s nuclear programme as evidence of Iran’s military intentions.

Finally, in the June 2013 presidential election, tired by their isolation in the world and suffering under the weight of sanctions, Iranians elected Hassan Rouhani who had vowed to resolve the nuclear dispute with the West as their next president. Rouhani had been the chief nuclear negotiator under President Khatami who reached the nuclear deal with the European “Troika”.

Rouhani chose the former Iranian envoy to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had also been involved in earlier negotiations, as Iran’s foreign minister and head of the Iranian negotiating team. After two years of talks with the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States; plus Germany), the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was eventually reached.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Africa Sees U.N. Climate Conference as “Court Case” for the Continent Thu, 10 Sep 2015 15:57:08 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu Section of a geothermal power plant in Kenya. Some African countries have invested heavily in green energy, showcasing what  Africa can do, given resources. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Section of a geothermal power plant in Kenya. Some African countries have invested heavily in green energy, showcasing what Africa can do, given resources. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
DAR ES SALAAM, Sep 10 2015 (IPS)

As the clock ticks towards the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) in Paris in December, African experts, policy-makers and civil society groups plan to come to the negotiation table prepared for a legal approach to avoid mistakes made during formulation of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty which extends the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the premise that global warming exists and that man-made CO2 emissions have caused it.

“The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a legal instrument, and therefore we need legal experts to argue the case for Africa, using available evidence instead of having only scientists and politicians at the negotiation table,” according to Dr Oliver C. Ruppel, a professor of law at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.“We must stop complaining and look at how much we have done ourselves with and without support, look at our success stories and build a case of what Africa can do instead of shouting for resources” – John Salehe, Africa Wildlife Foundation

“It is a court case for Africa, and Africa must argue it out, and not keep looking for scientific evidence,” Ruppel told an Africa Climate Talks (ACT!) forum on ‘Democratising Global Climate Change Governance and Building an African Consensus toward COP 21 and Beyond’ last week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The forum, which was organised by the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme, was part of the preparatory process for Africa’s contribution to COP 21 in Paris.

Africa has always based its climate argument on geopolitics and science. However, in Paris, experts say that Africa will have to include a good number of lawyers who will table existing evidence of what climate change has caused, what Africans have done about it, and what they can do given appropriate financial and technological support.

“We must stop complaining and look at how much we have done ourselves with and without support, look at our success stories and build a case of what Africa can do instead of shouting for resources,” said John Salehe of the Africa Wildlife Foundation. “We need to show evidence of what we can do, then approach the negotiations positively,” added Ruppel.

Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, Vice-President of Tanzania, observed that Africa has suffered under the Kyoto Protocol because there were unforeseen gaps. “Since we are negotiating a new agreement, nobody in Africa will benefit if we make the same mistakes that were made in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations,” he told the forum.

According to experts, the Kyoto Protocol was formulated in a way that was designed to address mitigation of climate change, rather than adaptation to its impacts.

“The agreement also failed to recognise some countries which have since emerged as major greenhouse gas emitters, a fact that has complicated implementation of the agreement’s mechanisms,” observed Mithika Mwenda, executive secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).

He also noted that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the protocol was based on markets, and therefore failed completely to address climate change in countries with negligible emissions.

Such gaps must be sealed in Paris and a new agreement reached or else the world’s sustainable development path will be jeopardised, warned Bilal.

Nevertheless, the Tanzanian Vice-President recognised that sometimes Africa expects too much from the developed countries. “We need to change and change has to start from within,” he said.” The vision has to be crafted from within and we have to go to Paris to champion a narrative and cause that is consistent with our own development aspirations.”

So far, in response to changing climatic conditions, African countries have proactively put in place climate change policies with tools geared towards mitigating and adapting to their impacts. Some have invested heavily in clean energy, some have adopted climate-smart farming techniques, and others have invested in tree growing.

“Africa has lots of capacities but they differ,” said John Kioli, chairman of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group. “We need to take stock of what we have, and negotiate for enhancement of what we do not have.”

Dr Joseph Mutemi, a climate scientist and executive director of the Africa Centre for Technology Studies, noted that the playing field has always been tilted to support pro-mitigation. “As Africa, we need to be strategic enough to understand where mitigation supports adaptation and take advantage of it,” he said.” We should start from the known, then venture into the unknown.”

ACT! seeks to crystallise a conceptual framework umbrella for Africa’s role in the global governance of climate change, and to position climate change as both a constraint on Africa’s development potential as well as an opportunity for structural transformation of African economies.

The objective is to mobilise the engagement of Africans from all spheres of life in the run-up to the Paris negotiations, increase public awareness of climate change and the roles people can play in the global governance of climate change, and elicit critical reflection on the UNFCCC process among Africans.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Strong Climate Deal Needed to Combat Future Refugee Crises Thu, 10 Sep 2015 15:32:35 +0000 Andreas Sieber

Andreas Sieber, who has worked for several NGOs and the Saxon State Chancellery in Germany, is part of the #Climatetracker project.

By Andreas Sieber
STRASBOURG, Sep 10 2015 (IPS)

Climate change has been held responsible many of the social and economic woes affecting mainly the poorest in the global South and now many are seeing it as one of the root causes of refugee crises.

In his State of the Union speech here Sep. 9 to the European Parliament, even European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said that an “ambitious, robust and binding“ climate treaty is needed to prevent another refugee crisis.Climate change has been held responsible many of the social and economic woes affecting mainly the poorest in the global South and now many are seeing it as one of the root causes of refugee crises

Climate change is one the root causes of a new migration phenomenon,” said Juncker. “Climate refugees will become a new challenge – if we do not act swiftly.”

Calling on the European Union and its international partners to be more ambitious about climate protection, Juncker warned that “the EU will not sign just any deal” at the United Nations climate change conference (COP21), scheduled to be held in Paris in December.

The COP21 meeting is expected to come up with a climate treaty with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Climate change marked by longer-lasting droughts, more violent storms and rising sea levels is worsening the living conditions of hundreds of millions. Particularly in the poorest countries, climate change has the effect of forcing people who are unable to adapt to leave their homes.

In the Sahelian countries, Bangladesh and in the South Pacific people have already had to flee because of climate impacts.

According to Jan Kowalzig from Oxfam, “climate change is already causing a lot of damage in the global South. It could ruin all progress which has been made in the fight against global poverty over the last decades.”

However, it is the relationship between climate change and the refugee phenomenon that is attracting the attention of many experts.

Earlier this year, a study by a research team from Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) held global warming partly responsible for the civil war in Syria.

The study noted that between 2006 and 2010, Syria faced the “worst drought in the instrumental record”, leading to crop failures and mass migration within the country. According to climate models, this drought would have been highly improbable without climate change.

“For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest,” the study concluded.

The number of refugees entering Europe this year is the highest on record and Syrians are by far the largest group – an estimated nine million Syrians have left their homes so far.

Besides the Syrian crisis, the United Nations warns that, worldwide, climate change could increase the number of refugees dramatically.

Srgjan Kerim, president of the United Nations General Assembly, has estimated that global warming could cause up to 200 million refugees until 2050. “Tomorrow we will have climate refugees and we have to know that,” Juncker told the European Parliament.

Oxfam’s Kowalzig explains what needs to be included in a climate treaty to mitigate a potential refugee crisis: “Climate change expels people from their homes and this is where a potential climate treaty in Paris comes in: first, we need to cut emissions and keep global warming below two degrees; secondly, people in poor countries need support to adapt to climate change; and thirdly, a climate treaty in Paris has to lay down rules for damages and losses caused by global warming where adaption is not possible.”

In his speech in Strasbourg, Juncker also admitted that the European Union “is probably not doing enough” to tackle climate change. The EU has announced greenhouse gas emission cuts of 40 percent by 2030 as part of its ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC).

INDCs are the commitments every country is supposed to announce before the climate conference in Paris.

However, because a treaty in Paris based on the INDCs will not be enough to keep global warming below 2oC, many organisations and countries from the global South are demanding a five-yearly “review and improve” process to make climate commitments more ambitious over time.

Any agreement reached in Paris should at least offer a perspective for effective climate protection and this depends heavily on the process of creating a regular built-in review that would enable countries to improve that agreement.

Last week, formal negotiations ahead of COP21 in Paris were held, but while there was support for long-term goals, short-term commitments seemed to be far less popular.

An agreement in Paris with short-term commitments and five-year cycles without a concrete long-term goal might not be perfect. It would lack a perspective beyond 2030, but it would enhance climate protection and greenhouse gas reduction in the next 15 years.

On the other hand, an agreement with an ambitious long-term goal but no effective short-term measures would allow countries to fall far behind with their greenhouse gas reductions and many would just not be able to catch up after 2030.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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In and Behind the Trenches Against ISIS Wed, 09 Sep 2015 20:41:07 +0000 Karlos Zurutuza A PKK fighter holds his position in Nouafel, an Arab village west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

A PKK fighter holds his position in Nouafel, an Arab village west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By Karlos Zurutuza
KIRKUK, Iraq, Sep 9 2015 (IPS)

Reminders of the last occupants of camp K1 in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk are only visible on the murals at the main gate leading into the compound: Iraqi soldiers saluting the flag, pointing their weapons or being cheered on by grateful families.

But Iraq’s 12th Infantry Division fled, leaving everything behind, after the arrival of fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in June 2014.

"We have a very good relationship with the PKK and we’re fighting together not only for the Kurds, but also because ISIS is the enemy of mankind as a whole." -- Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar
Today, the military garrison hosts a joint Kurdish force of Peshmerga units – Kurdish army soldiers – and guerillas from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK and the Peshmerga fought each other back in the 1990s, but a powerful common enemy – ISIS – brought them together last summer.

A visit to the trenches where the united front is still holding back the Jihadi militants offers a glimpse into the region’s complex ethnic and ideological dynamics, as well insight into the relationship between armed groups and the local population.

After a brief introduction, Heval Rebar – Kurdish for ‘Comrade Rebar’ – offers to accompany this IPS reporter on a drive south alongside an earthen wall.

A chain of checkpoints gives us access to military posts or villages recovered from ISIS, some of which have been completely destroyed by air strikes led by the U.S. and its allies.

Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar welcomes IPS from inside a bunker standing close to a 15-meter-high promontory, which has its replica every thousand meters along the wall.

Jafar talks of “constant” fighting: “We get sniper fire from two houses and a tower the enemy has raised but they also hit us with an improvised device made of gas canisters,” explains the official, adding that the last fire exchange was “just an hour ago”.

Despite the hardships, he appears satisfied with his PKK counterparts.

“We have a very good relationship with the PKK and we’re fighting together not only for the Kurds, but also because ISIS is the enemy of mankind as a whole,” he stresses.

Sitting to his right, Comrade Rebar nods.

After the mandatory cup of tea, Jafar invites us to the promontory, which overlooks Al Noor, one of the many villages built by Saddam Hussein – Iraq’s ousted ruler – to host Arab settlers on Kurdish land.

Al Noor remains under ISIS control, but last week Kurdish forces launched a major offensive southwest of Kirkuk, taking back nine villages like this one plus a 24-square-km swathe of land.

“These gains are only possible thanks to international aid, both supplies and air strikes,” Jafar notes while he walks towards one of the armed pick-up trucks.

“We have just installed machine guns on the back of the vehicles. They are French and we got them recently. We are also getting night vision goggles, which are essential in this environment and MILAN guided missiles from Germany. Regarding air cover, we get it every time we need it,” explained the Kurdish officer.

He said he had spent seven years with American troops in Iraq, and that he would welcome western foreign troops in the region.

Female PKK fighters are also present in the combat line against ISIS in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Female PKK fighters are also present in the combat line against ISIS in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

No man’s land

Coordination between Kurdish factions is more than evident but that has not been the trend in this part of Iraq over the last decade.

Historically claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, oil-rich Kirkuk is among the so-called “disputed territories” by Baghdad and the north-western Kurdish city of Erbil, very much one of Iraq’s thorniest issues even years before the emergence and advance of ISIS.

Ethnic and sectarian clashes have been rife in this part of the country, with the local population being constantly targeted from every side.

Our next stop on our way south is Nouafel, an Arab village next to the wall where PKK fighters keep their positions. From their makeshift headquarters in one of the houses, Comrade Selim prefers not to disclose the exact number of his fighters deployed here.

“We have enough to fight ISIS,” he tells IPS, settling the question with a smile. From the little hill where they hold their positions, another fighter, Comrade Farashin uses a pair of binoculars to monitor Wastaniya – the closest village under ISIS control.

Relying on light assault, snipers and a couple of machine guns, the PKK guerrillas don’t look as heavily armed as their Peshmerga counterparts. However, Comrade Aso’s testimony stands as proof that the PKK fighters are far from neglected:

“In the spring we received a course in urban warfare for two months conducted by two Italian instructors. I learned many things they had not taught me during my training in Qandil [the Kurdish mountain stronghold],” recalls this fighter, a young man in his early 20s hailing from the nearby town of Tuz Khormato, a predominantly Turkmen district located 170 km north of Baghdad.

“They were very professional,” he added. “They never let us take their picture and we were never told which organisation they were working for.”

Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar says he’s satisfied with the support his forces are receiving from the PKK. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar says he’s satisfied with the support his forces are receiving from the PKK. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

What makes this combat post particularly interesting is not only the fact the village remained under ISIS control for seven months, but also that the majority of the local villagers have not left the area.

At the request of Comrade Rebar, a dozen locals agree to meet this IPS reporter in a house just a few metres away from the one occupied by the guerrillas.

At first glance, the relationship between civilians and fighters looks cordial. Greetings are exchanged and some of the fighters try a few words in Arabic to break the ice. Meanwhile, our host, Arkan Ali Bader, serves Arabic coffee, which everyone drinks from the same cup.

The sound of incoming fire from the other side hardly provokes any visible emotion among the villagers. That’s been part of their daily life for over a year. However, Ali Bader says he regrets that his land, and that of most of the villagers, lies today in “no man’s land” – between the Kurds and ISIS.

Also dressed in the traditional lose garments, Juma Hussein Toma claims that during the seven months the village was under Jihadi control, life for ordinary people did not undergo significant changes.

“When ISIS came they announced through the mosque’s loudspeakers that they had freed our village from infidels, and that it was the victory of the revolution, but no one here suffered threats of any kind,” explains Toma.

“There are a few who left because they had no work here, but not because of the war,” adds the peasant.

“ISIS killed a few [people] in Al Noor because they had been members of the Awakening Councils [a US-backed Iraqi militia that fought against Al Qaeda] but none of us was hurt,” stressed Mohamed al Ubeid.

Locals in Nouafel said they were happy about the arrival of the PKK fighters. However, such statements were made in the presence of those very fighters, making it impossible to ascertain whether or not they were coerced.

After the expected polite farewell, a PKK fighter points to the deep ditch surrounding their headquarters in the village.

“We had to dig it because we do not trust the villagers,” he admits, just before returning to his guard shift by the earthen wall.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: The Early History of Iran’s Nuclear Programme Wed, 09 Sep 2015 19:08:04 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.This is the third of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 9 2015 (IPS)

Iran has had a nuclear programme since 1959 when the United States gave a small reactor to Tehran University as part of the “Atoms for Peace” programme during Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign.  When the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was introduced in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, Iran was one of the first signatories of that Treaty.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

The Shah had made extensive plans for using nuclear energy in order to free Iran’s oil deposits for export and also in order for use in petrochemical industries to receive more revenue. The Shah had planned to build 22 nuclear reactors to generate 23 million megawatts of electric power.  By 1977, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) had more than 1,500 highly paid employees, with a budget of 1.3 billion dollars, making it the second biggest public economic institution in the country.

In 1975, the Gerald Ford administration in the United States expressed support for the Shah’s plan to develop a full-fledged nuclear power programme, including the construction of 23 nuclear power reactors.

President Gerald Ford has been reported as having “signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete ‘nuclear fuel cycle’.”“Iran has had a nuclear programme since 1959 when the United States gave a small reactor to Tehran University as part of the “Atoms for Peace” programme during Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign”

The Shah donated 20 million dollars to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to train Iranian nuclear experts, many of whom are still working for Iran’s Nuclear Energy Organisation, including the current head of the organisation and one of the chief negotiators, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi.  In 1975, Iran also paid 1.18 billion dollars to buy 10 percent of Eurodif, a French company that produces enriched uranium. In return, Iran was supposed to receive enriched uranium for its reactors, a pledge that the French government reneged on after the Iranian revolution.

In 1975, Germany’s Kraftwerk Union AG started the construction of two reactors in Bushehr at an estimated cost of 3-6 billion dollars. Kraftwerk Union stopped work on the Bushehr reactors after the start of the Iranian revolution, with one reactor 50 percent complete, and the other 85 percent complete. The United States also cut off the supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel for the Tehran nuclear reactor.

After the revolution, the Islamic Republic initially stopped all work on the nuclear programme. However, in 1981, Iranian officials concluded that after having spent billions of dollars on their programme it would be foolish to dismantle it. So, they turned to the companies that had
signed agreements with Iran to complete their work. Nevertheless, as the result of political pressure by the U.S. government, all of them declined. Iran also turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for help to no avail.

In the late 1980s, a consortium of companies from Argentina, Germany and Spain submitted a proposal to Iran to complete the Bushehr-1 reactor, but pressure by the United States stopped the deal. In 1990, U.S. pressure also stopped Spain’s National Institute of Industry and Nuclear Equipment from completing the Bushehr project.  Later on, Iran set up a bilateral cooperation on fuel cycle-related issues with China but, under pressure from the West, China also discontinued its assistance.

Therefore, it was no secret to the West that Iran was trying to revive its nuclear programme.

Having failed to achieve results through formal and open channels, Iranian officials turned to clandestine sources, and using their own domestic capabilities.  A major mistake was to receive assistance from A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.  In 1992, Iran invited IAEA inspectors to visit all the sites and facilities they asked. Director General Hans Blix reported that all activities observed were consistent with the peaceful use of atomic energy.

On Feb. 9, 2003, Iran’s programme and efforts to build sophisticated facilities at Natanz were revealed allegedly by Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO), for years regarded as a terrorist organisation by the West. It has been strongly suggested that MKO had received its information from Israeli intelligence sources.

President Mohammad Khatami announced the existence of the Natanz (and other) facilities on Iranian television and invited the IAEA to visit them. Then, in late February 2003, Dr. Mohammad El-Baradei, the head of IAEA, accompanied by a team of inspectors, visited Iran.  In November 2003, the IAEA reported that Iran had systematically failed to meet its obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement to report its activities to the IAEA, although it also reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons programme.

It should be noted that at that time Iran was only bound by the provisions of the NPT, which required the country to inform the IAEA of its nuclear activities only 180 days before introducing any nuclear material into the facility.  So, according to Iranian officials, building the Natanz facility and not declaring it was not illegal, but the West regarded it as an act of concealment and violation of the NPT’s Additional Protocol, which Iran had not signed. In any event, the scale of Iran’s nuclear activities surprised the West, and it was taken for granted that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.

In May 2003, in a bold move, the Khatami government in Iran sent a proposal to the U.S. government through Swiss diplomatic channels for a “Grand Bargain”, offering full transparency, as well as withdrawal of support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and resumption of diplomatic relations, but the offer went unanswered.

In October 2003, the United Kingdom, France and Germany undertook a diplomatic initiative to resolve the problem. The foreign ministers of the three countries and Iran issued a statement known as the Tehran Declaration, according to which Iran agreed to cooperate with the IAEA and to implement the Additional Protocol as a voluntary confidence-building measure. Iran even suspended enrichment for two years during the course of the negotiations.  On Mar. 23, 2005, Iran submitted to the EU Troika” a plan of “objective guarantees” with the following elements:

(1) Spent reactor fuels would not be reprocessed by Iran.

(2) Iran would forego plutonium production through a heavy water reactor.

(3) Only low-enriched uranium would be produced.

(4) A limit would be imposed on the enrichment level.

(5) A limit would be imposed on the amount of enrichment, restricting it to what was needed for Iran’s reactors.

(6) All the low-enriched uranium would be converted immediately to fuel rods for use in reactors (fuel rods cannot be further enriched).

(7) The number of centrifuges in Natanz would be limited, at least at the beginning.

(8) The IAEA would have permanent on-site presence at all the facilities for uranium conversion and enrichment.

In early August 2005, the EU Troika” submitted the “Framework for a Long-Term Agreement” to Iran, recognising Iran’s right to develop infrastructure for peaceful use of nuclear energy, and promised collaboration with Iran. However, as the result of extreme U.S. pressure, the EU Troika was unable to respond to Iran’s call for nuclear collaboration, and subsequently Iran withdrew its offer and resumed enrichment.

The rebuff by the West to President Khatami’s outstretched hand resulted in the weakening of the Reformist Movement and the election of hardline candidate Mahmud Ahmadinezhad as the next president of Iran in June 2005. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Young Cubans Look Forward to Greater Openness to Technology Wed, 09 Sep 2015 18:48:31 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez A group of people outside the medical library in the central Havana neighourhood of El Vedado, where Wi-Fi connection is now available. It is one of the 35 hotspots opened by the government telecoms monopoly around the country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A group of people outside the medical library in the central Havana neighourhood of El Vedado, where Wi-Fi connection is now available. It is one of the 35 hotspots opened by the government telecoms monopoly around the country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Sep 9 2015 (IPS)

Young people in Cuba are anxiously awaiting an acceleration of the informatisation of society, which is apparently moving ahead at the same pace as the current reform process, “without haste, but without pause,” according to the authorities.

“Where I would really like to have Internet is at home,” Beatriz Seijas told IPS, sitting in the entrance to a building on Avenida 23, a street in downtown Havana better known as La Rampa, where the state telecoms monopoly ETECSA opened one of the 35 new Wi-Fi access points around the country in July.

Seijas said she came to try the connection here, for two dollars an hour. “As a Cuban, I had never connected to the Internet by telephone or tablet,” said the 19-year-old university student.

“Connecting to the Internet is just a normal thing to do,” said the young woman, who despite the technological and connectivity problems in this Caribbean island nation, sees the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a natural part of life, like many of her peers around the world.

Today six out of seven people across the globe have a cell phone and more than 3.0 billion of the world’s 7.1 billion people use the Internet, according to the United Nations, although there is a large gap in ICT access – another reflection of global poverty and inequality.

Digital natives is a term used to refer to people born after 1980, who had access to computers, video games, the Internet, and mobile phones from a young age.

Young people, who represent 26 percent of Cuba’s 11.2 million people, are the main voices calling for greater openness to ICTs.

Internet parlour at the University of Camagüey in eastern Cuba, where the first social network developed entirely in this country, Dreamcatchers, was born. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Internet parlour at the University of Camagüey in eastern Cuba, where the first social network developed entirely in this country, Dreamcatchers, was born. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) ranks Cuba 125th out of 166 countries in telecommunications development.

The U.N. agency estimated that only 3.4 percent of Cuban households had private but state-regulated Internet connections in 2013, most of them via dial-up modems and a small proportion through DSL service, which is limited to certain professions, such as journalists and artists.

In June, ETECSA reported that there were more than three million cell phones in the country.

In 2013, Cuba’s national statistics office ONEI registered 2,923,000 users of the Internet and the country’s state-controlled intranet, where a limited number of international and local sites can be accessed.

Thaw in telecommunications

For decades, Cuba cited financial problems as well as the U.S. embargo to explain the limited availability of Internet in this socialist nation.

But things should change with the thaw between the two countries, which led to the reopening of embassies on Jul. 20.

Google executives offered the Cuban government a detailed plan to provide faster Internet, and U.S. officials suggested opening the sector to several foreign investors.

Other U.S. companies that have presented proposals to the government of Raúl Castro are Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Airbnb. In addition, IDT reached an agreement with ETECSA in February to offer direct telephone services between the two countries.

In a Jul. 6 online forum in the local media, the Communist Youth Union stated that “more than 60 percent of the people online in Cuba are young people,” without specifying whether they were referring to the Internet or the intranet.

“The prices are not affordable, but people make the effort. I’ve seen that demand outstrips offer,” said Seijas, who uses her allowance to surf the web for fun.

In 2013 Cuba expanded connectivity, opening 118 public Internet cafés, but at a cost that was unaffordable to the average Cuban: between 4.50 and 6.00 dollars an hour.

Until then the Internet was available only in certain government institutions, schools and Young Computer Club community centres, as well as to tourists in hotels.

In 2014, mobile phone email service was made available.

The 35 Wi-Fi hotspots created by ETECSA are on sidewalks and in parks in 16 cities around the island, and up to 50 or 100 users can log on simultaneously at a speed of one megabit a second.

But although the price of surfing the net for one hour at the 35 public spaces with Wi-Fi is two dollars, down from 4.50 in the state-owned Internet parlours, that is still prohibitive in a country where over five million people earn a public sector salary averaging 23 dollars a month.

The demand is driven by a segment of the population who are earning more in the growing number of private businesses, receive remittances from family members abroad, or have better-paid jobs in foreign companies.

It is also fuelled by people’s hunger for new things or the search for higher speed Internet.

Although they can log on at the University of Camagüey, a young professor, José Carlos Hernández, and students Merín Machado and Dany Avilés told IPS that they sometimes pay the 4.50 dollars an hour rate at the cybercafé in the city of Camagüey, 578 km east of Havana.

The team maintains the social network Dreamcatchers, which emerged in 2012 as the first one totally developed by young Cubans – computer science students and professors from the University of Camagüey. The network, which now has 15,000 users, “bolsters research and development in the university community,” explained the 21-year-old Avilés.

Also available over Cuba’s intranet, Dreamcatchers promotes itself as a collaborative social network based on ideas, which brings together “like-minded people,” the computer science student said. It offers a messaging and chat platform and a page for sharing ideas.

The three young people said they were sure there would soon be more Internet access in Cuba which, they stressed, would be a very positive thing for their project.

The socialist government faces the commitment to reach the International Telecommunications Union’s target of 50 percent household Internet coverage and 60 percent cell-phone coverage by 2020 in developing countries.

To meet this and other international goals, early this year the authorities launched a plan to expand computer use in Cuban society and boost the social use of the web in sectors like health, education and science, increase access in public site like cyber salons and parks, and lastly provide access at home.

The programme’s aims include: developing the country’s fixed and mobile telecoms infrastructure, using Wi-Fi and optic fibre to bring in broadband, reducing Internet costs, and fostering e-commerce and the computer industry.

Authorities in Cuba, which has been caught in the grip of economic crisis for over 20 years, have not specified the funds to be allotted to the plan. But they did say it was backed by China and Russia.

The ICT sector does not form part of the package of business opportunities presented in 2014 with the aim of attracting 8.7 billion dollars in foreign investment.

Based on these announcements, experts anticipate that Cuba plans to continue to regulate public access to the Internet along the lines of China and Russia, whose governments exert control over the web.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Western Double Standards on Deadly Cluster Bombs Wed, 09 Sep 2015 18:26:15 +0000 Thalif Deen Ta Doangchom, a Laotian cluster bomb victim, beside homemade prosthetic limbs in the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) National Rehabilitation Centre in Vientiane. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

Ta Doangchom, a Laotian cluster bomb victim, beside homemade prosthetic limbs in the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) National Rehabilitation Centre in Vientiane. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

By Thalif Deen

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) banned the use of these deadly weapons for two primary reasons: they release small bomblets over a wide area, posing extended risks beyond war zones, and they leave behind unexploded ordnance which have killed civilians, including women and children, long after conflicts have ended.

As of last month, 117 have joined the Convention, with 95 States Parties (who have signed and ratified the treaty) and 22 signatories (who have signed but not ratified).“The protection of civilians must be non-political. By picking and choosing when it wishes to condemn the use of cluster bombs, the UK is playing politics with the protection of civilians." -- Thomas Nash of Article 36

At the First Review Conference of the CCM in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which began early this week, three States Parties – the UK, Canada and Australia – expressed reservations on a draft declaration on the use of cluster munitions.

In a selective approach to the implementation of the treaty, the three countries argued they could not accept or endorse text that condemned any use of cluster munitions because they contend that doing so would interfere with their ability to conduct joint military operations with states outside the convention.

The UK, which condemned the use of cluster bombs in Sudan, Syria and Ukraine this year, has refused to censure the use of the same deadly weapons by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is a lucrative multi-billion-dollar arms market for the UK, which has traditionally provided sophisticated fighter planes, missiles and precision-guided bombs to the oil rich country.

Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch and the Cluster Munition Coalition said if the Convention is to succeed, States Parties must condemn any use of cluster munitions, by any actor, anywhere.

“States Parties cannot be selective about condemning, based on their relationship with the offender, or based on the type of cluster munition used,” he said.

If a State Party remains silent about confirmed use, one can argue that it is in effect condoning use, and thereby failing its obligations under the Convention, he noted.

The Cluster Munition Coalition believes the changes to the Dubrovnik Declaration sought by the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada are contrary to the aims of the Convention, and would be a setback to efforts to stigmatise the weapon, and to prevent future use; thus, such changes could have the effect of increased casualties and other harm to civilians, Goose added.

Thomas Nash, director of the UK-based weapons monitoring organisation Article 36, told IPS the UK has tried to block international condemnation of these banned weapons at a gathering of states who are parties to the treaty banning cluster munitions.

The UK has condemned the use of cluster bombs in Sudan, Syria and Ukraine, he pointed out, but it refuses to condemn the use by Saudi-led forces in Yemen.

“The protection of civilians must be non-political. By picking and choosing when it wishes to condemn the use of cluster bombs, the UK is playing politics with the protection of civilians,” Nash said.

He said UK efforts to water down international condemnation of cluster bombs show a callous disregard for the human suffering caused by these weapons.”

According to Article 36, prior to signing the Convention in 2008, the UK used cluster munitions extensively during the Falklands War (1982), in Kosovo (1998-1999) and in Iraq (1991-2003).

The UK also sold cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia prior to 2008, but it is not clear whether these transfers included the types of cluster munitions used in Yemen.

Asked for a rationale for the UK decision, Nash told IPS the UK says that it doesn’t want to condemn any use of cluster bombs by any actor because this might discourage some countries from joining the treaty in the future. “But this makes no sense.”

The UK has a legal obligation to discourage use of cluster bombs by any country and condemning the use of these banned weapons is the best way to do that, he argued.

Nash said the UK has come under close scrutiny over its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and there are numerous concerns over that country’s compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law.

Whether or not the UK refusal to condemn use of cluster bombs by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is directly linked to UK arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, clearly, UK policy in this area is highly dubious, he noted.

“The best way for the UK to clarify this would be for it to condemn the use of cluster bombs by Saudi-led forces in Yemen,” he said.

He also pointed out that the UK has historically been heavily influenced by the United States on the question of cluster munitions and, like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. would no doubt be displeased by the UK condemning any use of cluster munitions by any actor.

“So this is likely to be a factor as well,” Nash added.

The U.S., he said, continues to finds itself on the wrong side of history when it comes to cluster bombs and the UK, having signed and ratified the ban treaty, needs to choose which side it wants to be on.

Nicole Auger, Middle East & Africa Analyst and International Defense Budgets Analyst at Forecast International, a leading U.S. defence research company, told IPS Saudi Arabia remains a critical market for the UK, “and I believe last year Saudi Arabia was the UK’s biggest arms export market at about 2.4 billion dollars. “

Saudi operates the Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado fighter planes. Under BAE (British Aerospace) Systems’ Saudi Tornado Sustainment Program, BAE recently upgraded Saudi’s Tornado IDS (Interdictor/Strike fighter bombers) and air defense Tornado F3 fighters to extend service life through 2020.

Both the Typhoon and the Tornado are frontline fighter planes and have been playing a central role in the Yemen bombing campaign. Meanwhile, the air force also operates Hawk 65/65A trainers.

They have the Paveway IV precision-guided bomb from U.K.-based Raytheon Systems and the Storm Shadow air-to-surface cruise missile from MBDA, a French-Italian-British defense contractor.

She said Saudi Arabia was described as the first export customer for the MBDA Meteor missile in February this year, having signed a contract worth more than 1.0 billion dollars.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at

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