Inter Press Service » Armed Conflicts Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 09 Oct 2015 22:54:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 U.N. Continues Condemnation of Civilian Casualties in Yemen Thu, 01 Oct 2015 21:37:40 +0000 Thalif Deen yemen_

By Thalif Deen

The Saudi coalition, which continues its air strikes against rebels in strife-torn Yemen, is fast gaining notoriety as “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight” – largely because of its misses than its hits.

Last month, the coalition is reported to have targeted a bomb-making factory – and ended up killing some 36 civilians working at a water-bottling plant in northern Yemen.

And this week, the Saudi coalition unleashed an air attack on a wedding party in Yemen triggering outrage from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A statement released here said the Secretary-General condemned the air strikes that reportedly struck a wedding party in Wahijah village, outside of the Red Sea port city of Mokha in Yemen, killing as many as 135 people.

“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and a swift recovery to those injured,” he said.

Ted Lieu, Democratic Congressman from California, has urged the United States to “cease aiding coalition air strikes in Yemen until the coalition demonstrates they will institute proper safeguards to prevent civilian deaths.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Lieu said it was unclear whether the coalition “was grossly negligent or intentionally targeting civilians.”

“There is clearly no military value in a wedding party,” he said.

The Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, includes Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

Relenting to Saudi objections Wednesday, the Western group of countries, have withdrawn a proposal for an international inquiry into civilian casualties in Yemen – by both the Saudi coalition and the Houthi rebels – during the current session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The proposal for such an inquiry was being strongly supported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein who submitted a report to the HRC last month detailing the heavy civilian casualties in the conflict in Yemen.

A new resolution may opt for a national commission of inquiry, instead of an international commission.

After the airstrike in the bottling factory, Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the military spokesman for the coalition, reportedly told Reuters the plant had been used by the Houthi rebels to make explosive devices and was not, in fact, a bottling factory.

But all of the individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the plant was being used to bottle water and was not being used for any military purposes.

In its statement, HRW also said a group of international journalists travelled to the site of the blast two days after it was hit and could not find evidence of any military targets in the area.

“They carefully examined the site and could not find any evidence that the factory was being used for military purposes, and took photo and video evidence of piles of scorched plastic bottles melted together from the heat of the explosion,” HRW said.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday: “Our humanitarian colleagues (in Yemen) inform us that the number of deaths and injuries caused by explosive weapons in Yemen is the world’s highest.”

He said some 4,500 civilians were killed or wounded by explosive weapons in Yemen during the first seven months of 2015.

This is more than in any other country, according to a recently-released report done by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the NGO Action on Armed Violence.

Ninety-five per cent of people killed or injured by explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians. More than half of the reported civilian toll was recorded in Sana’a and surrounding districts.

The United Nations, meanwhile, has repeatedly called on all parties to the conflict to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians.

Asked if the attacks were deliberate or due to shoddy human and military intelligence, Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at the London-based Amnesty International (AI) told IPS these recent attacks are unfortunately not isolated incidents but very much part of an increasingly entrenched pattern in the conduct of Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces over the past six months.

She said AI had addressed this issue its last report and in the document titled ‘Nowhere safe for civilians’

Rovera said coalition strikes, which killed and injured civilians and destroyed civilian property and infrastructure – and investigated by Amnesty International – have been found to be “frequently disproportionate or indiscriminate.”

In some instances, Amnesty International found that strikes appeared to have apparently directly targeted civilians or civilian objects.

She pointed out that international humanitarian law prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, and attacks which do not discriminate between civilians/civilian objects and combatants/military objectives, or which cause disproportionate harm to civilians/civilian objects in relation to the anticipated military advantage which may be gained by such attack.

“Such attacks constitute war crimes,” she noted.

The pattern of attacks, which since the beginning of the coalition air bombardment campaign on March 25, 2015 have continued to cause civilian casualties, and the lack of investigations to date into such incidents raise serious concerns about an apparent disregard for civilian life and for fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, not only by those planning and executing the strikes but also by the exiled Yemeni government, at whose behest Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces are acting, Rovera declared.

The Washington-based Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) said the United States, which is providing intelligence and logistical support to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, should condition its support on adherence to international humanitarian law (IHL) and adoption of policies to minimize civilian harm by its allies.

Federico Borello, executive director of CIVIC, said: “The US has developed policies and tactics for preventing civilian harm from its own combat operations. These should be shared as a key element of any ongoing support to the coalition.”

The writer can be contacted at

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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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Iran’s nuclear deal and the regional countries Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:50:55 +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 ninth 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, Sep 29 2015 (IPS)

Although some regional countries initially opposed the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany), once the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by the two sides in July 2015, practically all regional countries welcomed it. After the initial agreement in Lausanne, U.S. President Barack Obama invited all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders to a Camp David summit in May and all of them expressed support for the deal.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the nuclear agreement was announced, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait both congratulated Iran and the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi hailed the deal as a historic event which constituted the first step to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. He called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to get rid of her nuclear weapons. As the head of the Arab League he speaks officially for all the Arab countries.

After the meeting between Obama and the Saudi King Salman at the White House on September 4th, the two sides issued a joint statement. In the statement King Salman expressed his support for the JCPOA “which once fully implemented will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and thereby enhance security in the region.”

For his part, Obama has indicated that the region needs a new approach toward regional security. He said the Sunni Arab states shouldn’t blame Iran for all their problems, and he called on them to engage Iran in a “practical conversation” to reduce sectarian divisions and address shared threats from terrorism.

At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has talked about the possibilities for cooperation with Iran’s neighbors on common challenges in a spirit of “mutual respect, good neighborliness, and Islamic brotherhood.”

Turkey, which has worked closely with Iran over many years to resolve the nuclear issue (in May 2010, Turkey and Brazil tried to broker a deal between Iran and the West), is also fully supportive of this agreement. This leaves Israel as the only regional country that still opposes the deal.

With the very sensitive nuclear issue taken off the table, it is much easier now to deal with a number of critical regional issues. If the U.S. focuses exclusively on the agreement and does not test opportunities for collaboration with Iran on other issues, it may miss a historic opportunity to reshape relations with the Islamic Republic, as well as to usher in a new political and security order in the Middle East as a whole.

Iran of course poses a number of challenges to U.S. interests in the region, and in many arenas American and Iranian interests seem to be fundamentally at odds. Chief among these disagreements are Iran’s policies towards Israel, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Dubbed the “axis of resistance,” the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hamas-Hezbollah grouping was supposed to highlight Iran’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. Iran is accused of supporting the Shi’a militias in Iraq to the detriment of the Sunni minority. Iran supports and arms the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and is also accused of supporting the Houthis in Yemen.

However, as the result of changed circumstances in the region none of these problems is insurmountable. As far as Hamas is concerned, after the civil war in Syria and the expulsion of Palestinians from that country, Hamas turned initially towards Turkey and towards the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Since the coup in Egypt, Hamas has turned more towards Qatar and has even mended relations with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, hardly any links exist at the moment between Hamas and Iran.

Hezbollah forces are fighting in Syria to support Assad’s government against ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups. This is a cause that the West shares. With the flood of refugees towards Europe, many European leaders have realized that no matter how much they loathe Assad, he is preferable to the terrorists that pose a deadly threat to the region and even to the West.

In a joint press conference in London, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that although Assad had to go, nevertheless, it might be necessary to talk to him as part of a deal over a transitional period. Neither Iran nor Russia has said that Assad should rule Syria forever, but they argue that first the terrorists should be defeated, and then Assad’s fate should be decided by the Syrian people in a supervised election.

As far as Yemen is concerned, U.S. officials have admitted that Iran does not play any direct role in that conflict. In an interview with The New York Times in July, Obama said that Tehran had even tried to dissuade the Houthis from capturing Sana’a back in 2014. According to a report released on September 19 by Yemen’s Civil Coalition, over 6,000 Yemenis have so far lost their lives, and a total of 14,000 people have been injured, most of them civilians. The latest deadly stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, killing at least 717 and injuring over 800 with a few hundred people still missing, has added to Saudi woes. The combination of these tragedies, as well as growing domestic discontent, might persuade the Saudi rulers to turn towards diplomacy and regional cooperation.

Turkey has recently softened her position towards Assad, and by placing its airports at the disposal of U.S. aircraft fighting ISIS, Turkey has shown that it takes the terrorist threat seriously. Recently, there have been some moves by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to form a security belt, including Russia, Iran, Egypt and Syria against ISIS. The response from the U.S. to Putin’s proposal has not been hostile. In the wake of their meetings in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. and Russian presidents might reach an agreement over how to jointly tackle the menace of terrorism.

During his recent visit to New York to take part in the U.N. General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that ties with the U.S. had improved, but there was still a “long road to travel” before they could normalize their relations. Nevertheless, what we are seeing on the ground looks quite different. If the new rapprochement between Iran and the West is not to fizzle out, there is a need to broaden the scope of cooperation over regional issues.

Recent developments have shown that there is an increasing possibility for new geopolitical alignments throughout the region. The growing menace of terrorism, Iran and the U.S.’s tacit cooperation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia’s growing problems in Yemen, Turkey’s shift to greater cooperation with the U.S, and now Russia’s greater involvement in the fight against ISIS show that all these countries have some shared interests in fighting terrorism, and establishing security and stability in the region through cooperation.

The status quo in the Middle East cannot survive much longer. The winds of change are blowing throughout the entire region, and there is a possibility of new beginnings. This opportunity should not be missed.

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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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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Israel’s Opposition to the Nuclear Treaty with Iran Sat, 26 Sep 2015 21:12:45 +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 eighth 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, Sep 26 2015 (IPS)

Relations between Iran and Israel go back almost to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. Iran was the second Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel as a sovereign state, following Turkey, and the two countries had very close diplomatic and even military cooperation for many decades.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the 1953 coup, which restored the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to power, relations improved further, and Israel and the CIA played a significant role in establishing the dreaded SAVAK, Iran’s intelligence organization, and training its personnel. Also, after the Six-Day War in 1967, Iran supplied Israel with a significant portion of its oil needs.

However, after the 1979 revolution, Iran severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel. The Islamic government does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state, but despite hostile revolutionary rhetoric against Israel, relations between the two countries have not always been too acrimonious. Indeed, during the Iran-Iraq war, in order to prevent Saddam Hussein’s victory, Israel joined the mission to Iran under U.S. President Ronald Reagan and even provided Iran with some weapons in what later on came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Iranian funding of groups like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which Israel regards as terrorist organizations, and Israeli support for terrorist groups such as the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, the Jundullah, a militant terrorist organization based in Baluchestan that has carried out a number of deadly attacks against Iran, as well as Israeli covert operations in Iran, including assassinations and explosions, have intensified animosity between the two countries and have led to a number of tit-for-tat attacks on each other’s citizens.

The turning point from cold peace toward hostility occurred in the early 1990s, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Iraq in Desert Storm. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel was regarded as a U.S. bulwark against pro-Soviet Arab governments.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel could no longer continue to play that role. The removal of Saddam Hussein also removed a formidable enemy. Therefore, Israel directed all its attacks against a new enemy, namely Iran.

So, it is not a mere coincidence that Israel’s intense opposition to Iran’s nuclear program coincided with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the removal of the threat from Iraq. Although Iran’s nuclear program had developed under the late Shah with active Israeli, South African and U.S. participation, after the revolution, when Iran tried to revive her program, Israel became its most vociferous opponent. Under the Iranian reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami there were some moves for a rapprochement with the West, including the recognition of Israel, but the George W. Bush Administration rebuffed those offers.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been continuously warning that Iran is on the verge of manufacturing a nuclear weapon and posing an “existential threat” to Israel. As early as 1992, he predicted that Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within three to five years. In 1993, he claimed that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.This has been his constant refrain ever since the early 1990s and right up to the present time.

The interesting point is that the current and some former heads of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad have contradicted Netanyahu’s claims. They maintain that there has been no indication that Iran is moving towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons or poses an existential threat to Israel.

It is important to remember that Netanyahu has not only tried to incite war against Iran, he even made the same false claims prior to the Iraq war in 2003.

Therefore, the propaganda against the Iraqi and Iranian alleged nuclear weapons have had less to do with the existence of such weapons and more to do with the perception that those two countries were hostile to Israel and had to be attacked in order to bring about a regime change.

It should be stressed that Netanyahu’s views in no way represent the views of the majority of American Jews who are on the whole liberal and peace loving. Indeed, poll after poll has shown that the support for the nuclear deal with Iran is stronger among American Jews than among the population at large.

Netanyahu’s attempts to kill the deal with Iran have been futile and counterproductive. His intrusion into American domestic politics, and his cynical use of the U.S. Congress to undercut a major foreign policy achievement, have been acts of gross discourtesy to the president and to the American people, and a violation of diplomatic protocol.

The real reason for Israeli opposition to Iran’s nuclear program has been the fear of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the U.S. administration as far as the Middle East is concerned. Iran’s alleged nuclear bomb also been used as an excuse to divert attention from Israel’s own nuclear arsenal and illegal expansion into occupied Palestinian territories.

Instead of continuing with this campaign of vilification and inciting a military attack on Iran, it would be wiser for Israel to try to reach a settlement with the Palestinians and pave the way for peaceful coexistence with regional countries, including Iran. The emergence of terrorist organizations that pose a serious threat to the entire world should bring Iran and Israel closer to fight that dangerous menace. The two countries should tone down their ugly rhetoric and violent activities against each other, and realize that dialogue and compromise always produce better results than war and bloodshed.

Meanwhile, it is time to focus on Israel’s nuclear weapons and establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

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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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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U.S., Russian Arms Supplies to Iraq, Syria a Blessing to Rebel Groups Thu, 24 Sep 2015 20:54:25 +0000 Thalif Deen Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Thalif Deen

The United States and Russia are escalating arms sales to two of their major allies in the Middle East – Iraq and Syria – despite fears that some of these weapons may ultimately wind up, ironically, in the hands of armed rebel groups battling government forces.

The proposed U.S. sales to Iraq include 175 additional Abrams battle tanks and about 1,000 Humvee armoured vehicles, along with fighter jets, attack helicopters and laser-guided missiles – all worth over 15 billion dollars.

The Russians, meanwhile, have recently bolstered the beleaguered regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with jet fighters, helicopter gunships and transport helicopters – along with six T-90 battle tanks, 15 howitzers and 35 armoured personnel carriers, according to published reports.

But the ultimate beneficiaries may be rebel groups, including the Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front, who may inherit these weapons – either capturing them in battle or confiscating them from regular armed forces, who are known to abandon weapons and flee the battle field, as in several previous occasions.

The Wall Street Journal says some U.S. lawmakers, conscious of the risks, are conditioning any approval of arms sales to Iraq on “assurances the weapons won’t fall into enemy hands.”

Since both U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be at the United Nations to address the high level annual debate, the two leaders are expected to hold bilateral talks – specifically on the future of Syria.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the Syria’s five-year old military crisis can be resolved only politically – not with weapons.

The United States has protested the infusion of new arms to the Assad regime but Russia maintains it is only honouring existing military contracts with Syria, a longstanding military ally going back to the days of President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president.

According to U.S. intelligence sources, Russia is also continuing a military buildup in the port city of Latakia establishing new barracks that could accommodate up to 2,000 people, presumably Russians advisers.

Patrick Wilcken, Researcher, Arms Control, Security Trade and Human Rights on the Global Thematic Issues Programme at Amnesty International, told IPS the majority of weapons with rebel groups have been gained from “battlefield capture” — particularly, though not exclusively, of Iraqi military stocks, especially during IS’s advances in 2014, taking military bases/ stores from Falluja, Mosul, Tikrit and Ramadi – and also in Syria, from bases in Raqqa City and Tabaqa Airbase;

While it is virtually impossible to trace chains of custody of arms and ammunition in use by IS and other armed groups in Iraq and Syria, he said, it is possible to make a few general statements from evidence available (images, video and limited amounts of physical evidence collected by Conflict Armament Research (CAR).

Wilcken said the bulk of the weapons currently in circulation in Syria and Iraq are of Soviet/Warsaw Pact design/production, e.g. AK assault rifle variants, which have been produced around the world. It reflects the fact that both the Syrian and Iraqi militaries have a long history of Russian/Soviet supply.

But many of the weapons are over 20 or 30 years old, some dating back to the weapons build-up during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), or even earlier.

He said some NATO-standard (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) weapons had begun to appear, as the Iraqi army under the U.S. had begun to convert over to NATO-standard small arms.

When the Islamic State captured a treasure trove of U.S. weapons from fleeing Iraqi soldiers last October, one of the rebel leaders was quoted as saying rather sarcastically: “We hope the Americans would honour their agreements and service our helicopters.”

As fighter planes continued attacking IS targets, some of the U.S. airstrikes were, paradoxically, aimed at U.S.-made helicopters, Humvees, armoured personnel carriers and anti-aircraft artillery guns originally supplied to the Iraqi armed forces and currently deployed by the rebel group.

Not surprisingly, they are all under U.S. warranties for maintenance, repair and servicing.

AI’s Wilcken also told IPS the black market has thrived in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and continues to thrive; there is some evidence of Syrian army corruption and supply of armed groups; recently manufactured Russian ammunition, for instance, has found its way into IS stocks, either through sale or capture.

“A lot of weapons interchange has come about through army defections and mergers of armed groups.”

And there appears to be a remarkable level of consistency in the armouries of all the main armed groups (i.e. mainly former Soviet stock with a smattering of NATO standard U.S. equipment) while early (2012-13) supplies of the so-called moderate armed groups in Syria came from Gulf states and Turkey and quickly proliferated to IS and others through battle field capture, affiliations or corruption, he noted.

In summary, he said “regional arms proliferation has a long pedigree – at least on the Iraqi side – and any future supplier states need to exercise extreme caution to prevent further regional proliferation and its catastrophic consequences.”

Meanwhile, according to the Washington-based Defence News, U.S arms sales to Iraq last year also included 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radars, three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles, 50 Stryker infantry carriers, 12 helicopters, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of maintenance and logistical support for thousands of U.S.-made military vehicles.

Additionally, Washington also struck arms deals for the sale of Hellfire missiles, M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, machine guns, sniper rifles, grenades and ammunition – all worth billions of dollars.

How much of this will wind up with rebel forces is anybody’s guess.

The writer can be contacted at

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Report Accuses Sudan’s ‘Merciless Men’ Going on a Rampage in Darfur Mon, 21 Sep 2015 14:14:05 +0000 Britta Schmitz Credit: Adriane Ohanesian

Credit: Adriane Ohanesian

By Britta Schmitz

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a Sudanese government force formed in mid-2013 and aimed at fighting rebel factions across Sudan, has allegedly not only committed war crimes, but serious crimes against humanity in Darfur.

A comprehensive report on the true magnitude of RSF attacks can hardly be provided, due to the inaccessibility of the region and lack of reliable data. Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has managed to interview 212 eyewitnesses who were either victims of RSF attacks or could otherwise testify the brutality of this government force.

“When an attack happens I call the people I know in that area and see if they can help locate people who were displaced by that attack and then try to get a phone to them or, how we got most of the people, was going and talking to the people in refugee camps,” Jonathan Loeb, Fellow at the Africa Division of HRW, told IPS.

In ‘Men With No Mercy’, HRW provides evidence that RSF attacks against civilians carried out between May 2014 and July 2015 were widespread and systematic, resulting in forced displacements, torture, extra-juridical killings, mass rapes and destruction of infrastructure crimes of universal jurisdiction, for which all states are responsible.

A mother from Bardani describes how she was raped by RSF soldiers: “They separated out the girls. When they finished raping the girls they raped all of us. [Each of us was raped] by two people. About 100 of us were raped. My daughters are 18, 12 and 8. They beat all the men.”

“Everything was destroyed. There were just bodies and burned houses left. We, the women, we started burying the bodies. Sometimes we found one arm or one leg. We just buried them. I buried five complete bodies and many incomplete bodies. […] After the burial we gathered children and we left in groups. We put the children on donkeys and walked for five days to [the town of] Um Baru,” Zeinab, a 25-year-old woman from Birdik, told HRW.

According to the report, the vast majority of attacked villages had no rebel presence before the RSF arrived.

Omar, a defector from a Sudanese state force, told HRW: “What I saw the army doing, I did not accept it. They raped women and killed civilians. They said that we were fighting the movements but we never went to the movement areas.”

RSF members told HRW that they were ordered to commit crimes like mass rapes and Sudan’s vice president Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman ordered RSF personnel to kill everyone living in the rebel areas near Jebel Marra.

“They asked us where the rebels were. We said we didn’t know. [I saw two men get] killed. They were shot by small boys,” a herder from Um Daraba told HRW: “

Most RSF members are Darfurians recruited by Hemeti, a former Border Guard commander and Janjaweed militia leader. Many soldiers were drawn from the Border Guards. The RSF is considered a well-equipped force of at least 5,000 to 6,000 troops with 600 to 750 vehicles. Eyewitnesses told HRW that RSF troops can be recognized by the colour of their vehicles and RSF logos.

Collective Responsibility

The conflict in Sudan has been going on for 12 years and is one of the most serious of its kind the world over. Darfur, located in Western Sudan near the border to Chad, is among the poorest and most inaccessible regions in the world. The denial of access through the Sudanese government makes it difficult for U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers to reach affected villages in Darfur.

“The Mission has repeatedly called to grant immediate and unfettered access in areas of on-going or recently concluded hostilities between government forces and rebel factions, including to the Jebel Marra area,” U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement with regard to the UNAMID mission.

“The work of UNAMID’s human rights component has also been seriously curtailed ever since the Mission called on the Government of Sudan to grant it access to Thabit, in North Darfur, to investigate allegations of rape.”

4.4 million people in Darfur need humanitarian assistance, while inaccessibility makes it hard to monitor the conflict and to prevent further attacks.

“From January 2015 till the present, the Mission has attempted to reach troubled areas in Central Darfur, including Golo, nine times – eight access denials and one patrol restriction were imposed by both parties [government forces and rebel factions] to the on-going conflict. As of now, UNAMID has not been able to obtain access to Golo and, therefore, is unable to verify, first-hand, the content of any such reports on the area,” UNAMID Spokesperson Ashraf Eissa told IPS.

Due to the systematic nature of attacks against civilians, governments and institutions that fail to take action have a responsibility when it comes to solving the conflict. HRW provides specific recommendations on how to prevent new abuses by the RSF during the upcoming dry period, which will start around the turn of the year 2015/16 to the Sudanese government, the U.N., UNAMID, the EU and its member states, as well as other institutions.

“This force is a creation of the government of Sudan, they have been armed, they have been trained, they are fully part of the Sudanese military. And like any part of the military, they can be disarmed and disbanded, if senior government and military officials decide to do so,” Loeb said.

The Sudanese ambassador on the other hand criticizes HRW for accusing the RSF, which is considered as one of the best tools to fight rebels from Sudan’s point of view.

China and Russia have blocked possible action on this issue at the Security Council so far, but knowledgeable sources consider a unified Security Council essential for solving this conflict and building political pressure on the government of Sudan. Governments and international organizations, they say, should be more vocal about convincing the two countries to enable action, push Sudan to conduct the important step of banning the RSF and to investigate any form of abuse pro-actively.

The Sudanese government, they say, has the power to disband this force, which was created by them in the first place. However, there is a collective responsibility when it comes to solving this conflict.

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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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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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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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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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Rich Gulf Nations Tight-Lipped on Growing Refugee Crisis Tue, 08 Sep 2015 14:39:54 +0000 Thalif Deen A woman waits with her son outside the registration centre in Kos, just kilometres from the Turkish coast. For Syrians, the process is now easier, thanks to a ship-based registration centre docked at the island. For others, like this woman, the wait continues. So far in 2015, 160,000 migrants have arrived in Greece, already almost four times more than in the previous year. Credit: Photo: Stephen Ryan/IFRC

A woman waits with her son outside the registration centre in Kos, just kilometres from the Turkish coast. For Syrians, the process is now easier, thanks to a ship-based registration centre docked at the island. For others, like this woman, the wait continues. So far in 2015, 160,000 migrants have arrived in Greece, already almost four times more than in the previous year. Credit: Photo: Stephen Ryan/IFRC

By Thalif Deen

As Western and Central European nations seem overwhelmed by the growing refugee crisis – triggered mostly by the inflow of hundreds and thousands of displaced people largely from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq – one lingering question remains unanswered: why aren’t some of the rich Arab Gulf nations reaching out to help these hapless refugees?

The U.N. Committee on the Protection of Migrant Workers, the lead United Nations body dealing with issues relating to migrants, says millions of people have been forced to migrate from their homeland in search of safe havens abroad due to the on-going war in Syria.“The central question for Europe is: In the coming years will the migrants and their families be successfully integrated into European societies?” -- Joseph Chamie

“While neighbouring States have opened their borders to millions of Syrian migrants, other countries, especially in Europe and elsewhere, notably the Gulf States, should do more to address one of the most tragic mass displacements of people since World War II,” says the Committee.

Joseph Chamie, an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division, told IPS some neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, have accepted very large numbers of refugees (according to U.N. figures, over 3.5 million people).

However, other nearby countries, notably Israel and the Arab Persian Gulf countries, have not been willing to accept the current refugees, he said.

The primary reason for the non-acceptance, he pointed out, is apparently the refugees are viewed as politically destabilising.

“The Gulf countries have admitted large numbers of South Asians and North Africans who are not considered immigrants, but temporary foreign workers who are expected to return to their homes. Also, Israel has accepted refugees in the past, but virtually all have been Jewish,” said Chamie, who has worked at the U.N. on population and migration issues for more than a quarter century and was also a former director of research at the Center for Migration Studies in New York and editor of the International Migration Review.

The Gulf nations which have virtually ignored the refugee crisis include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

However, in a statement issued Tuesday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said Kuwait, under the leadership of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, has hosted three annual pledging conferences since 2013.

As a result, billions of dollars have been raised in order to support the humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis, with the participation of 78 member states and 38 humanitarian organisations.

In 2015 alone, donors at the Kuwait 3 conference pledged 3.8 billion dollars, IOM said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already declared that Israel is a “very small country that lacks demographic and geographic depth”, but pointed out Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa.

“We have already devotedly cared for approximately 1,000 wounded people from the fighting in Syria, and we have helped them to rehabilitate their lives. We must control our borders, against both illegal migrants and terrorism,” he said.

With about eight million people, Israel has been described as a country founded mostly by refugees. But it is now building a new fence, about 18 miles long, along its border with Jordan to ward off “illegal migration and hostile infiltrations.”

“We must control our borders, against both illegal immigrants and terrorism,” Netanyahu said after a Cabinet meeting last week.

His statement drew strong criticism from Isaac Herzog, head of the main opposition Zionist Union party, who recounted the history of the Jewish people seeking safe haven from persecution: “Our people experienced first-hand the silence of the world. You have forgotten what it is to be Jews: Refugees. Persecuted.”

“The prime minister of the Jewish people would not shut his heart and the gates when people are fleeing for their lives, with babies in their arms, from persecutors,” said Herzog.

In a statement released Monday the U.N. Committee said Syrian migrants, pushed to take extreme action in search of secure and decent lives for their families, are literally putting their lives at risk to reach Europe.

“Hundreds of men, women and children have died while trying to reach safe shores. This is unconscionable in the view of the Committee.”

“We are once again shocked and dismayed at the appalling loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea”, Committee Chair Francisco Carrion Mena said following the latest drowning of Syrian migrants off the coast of Turkey last week – even as the Committee was meeting in Geneva.

Chamie told IPS It should come as no surprise that people are migrating. Given the current state of the world, the question should be: “Why aren’t more people migrating?”

In addition to globalisation, communication technologies and social media, powerful push/pull forces are operating to produce the current migration flows: poverty, violence, corruption, unemployment, repression and rapid population growth on the one side versus wealth, jobs, safety, social services, freedom and population decline on the other, he added.

While everyone has the right to leave their country, Chamie said, they do not have the right to enter another country. This paradox is the “Catch-22” that the growing numbers of migrants and destination nations are confronting.

The supply of potential migrants, who are free to leave their homelands, simply greatly exceeds the demand for migrants, which is set by the receiving countries. If people cannot enter a country as legal migrants, then many are choosing to enter illegally or overstay their legal visit, he noted.

“Today many migrants are indeed refugees as they are coming from worn-torn countries. And there are large numbers who are not strictly refugees, but are seeking improved economic opportunities and more secure living conditions for themselves and their families.”

He said many are wondering what will be the consequence of the current migration flows. These migratory flows are not going to stop any time soon and with them will come significant demographic, social, economic, political and cultural changes.

“The central question for Europe is: In the coming years will the migrants and their families be successfully integrated into European societies?” Chamie said.

And for the international community the key question is how to effectively address the root causes of the recent migration surges. In the recent past, the receiving countries have largely been unwilling to address these matters at the global level.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at

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Opinion: Women’s Major Role in Culture of Peace – Part Two Mon, 07 Sep 2015 21:31:47 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Chowdhury is Chair of the U.N. General Assembly Drafting Committee for the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace (1998-1999).

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Another reality that emerges very distinctly in culture of peace is that we should never forget when women – half of world’s seven billion plus people – are marginalised and their equality is not established in all spheres of human activity, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense.

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

I would reiterate that women in particular have a major role to play in promoting the culture of peace in our violence-ridden societies, thereby bringing in lasting peace and reconciliation. While women are often the first victims of armed conflict, they must also and always be recognised as key to the resolution of the conflict.

I believe with all my conviction that without peace, development is not possible, without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development can be realised.

Integral connection between development and peace

In today’s world we continue to perceive an inherent paradox that needs our attention. The process of globalisation has created an irreversible trend toward a global integrated community, while at the same time, divisions and distrust keep on manifesting in different and complex ways.

Disparities and inequalities within and among nations have been causing insecurity and uncertainty that has become an unwanted reality in our lives. That is why I strongly believe that peace and development are two sides of the same coin. One is meaningless without the other; one cannot be achieved without the other.It is being increasingly realised that over-emphasis on cognitive learning in schools at the cost of developing children’s emotional, social, moral and humanistic aspects has been a costly mistake.

Education as the most critical element in the culture of peace

A key ingredient in building the culture of peace is education. Peace education needs to be accepted in all parts of the world, in all societies and countries as an essential element in creating the culture of peace.

The young of today deserves a radically different education –“one that does not glorify war but educates for peace, non-violence and international cooperation.” They need the skills and knowledge to create and nurture peace for their individual selves as well as for the world they belong to.

As Maria Montessori had articulated so appropriately, “Those who want a violent way of living, prepare young people for that; but those who want peace have neglected their young children and adolescents and that way are unable to organize them for peace.”

It is being increasingly realised that over-emphasis on cognitive learning in schools at the cost of developing children’s emotional, social, moral and humanistic aspects has been a costly mistake.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asserted at the very first High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace in 2012 that “…. We are here to talk about how to create this culture of peace. I have a simple, one-word answer: education. Through education, we teach children not to hate. Through education, we raise leaders who act with wisdom and compassion. Through education, we establish a true, lasting culture of peace.”

In this context, I commend the initiative of the Soka University of America located near Los Angeles in initiating in 2014 its annual “Dialogue on The Culture of Peace and Non-Violence” as an independent, unbiased, non-partisan, intellectual forum to outline avenues and direction for incorporating the culture of peace and non-violence into all spheres of the educational experience.

Never has it been more important for us to learn about the world and understand its diversity. The task of educating children and young people to find non-aggressive means to relate with one another is of primary importance.

As I had underscored at the conference hosted by the Hague Appeal for Peace on “Educating toward a World without Violence” in Albania in 2004, “the participation of young people in this process is very essential. Their inputs in terms of their own ideas on how to cooperate with each other in order to eliminate violence in our societies must be fully taken into account.”

Peace education is more effective and meaningful when it is adopted according to the social and cultural context and the country’s needs and aspirations. It should be enriched by its cultural and spiritual values together with the universal human values.

It should also be globally relevant. The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice rightly emphasises that “…culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems; have the skills to resolve conflicts constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights, gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the integrity of the Earth.”

Indeed, this should be more appropriately called “education for global citizenship”. Such learning cannot be achieved without well-intentioned, sustained, and systematic peace education that leads the way to the culture of peace.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative’s essential objective is to promote global citizenship as the main objective of education. Connecting the role of individuals to broader global objectives, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior affirmed that “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Let me conclude by asserting that to turn the culture of peace into a global, universal movement, basically all that is needed is for every one of us to be a true believer in peace and non-violence, and to practice what we profess.

Whether it is at events like the annual High Level Forums, in places of worship, in schools or in our homes, a lot can be achieved in promoting the culture of peace through individual resolve and action. Peace and non-violence should become a part of our daily existence. This is the only way we shall achieve a just and sustainable peace in the world.

Part One can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Promoting Culture of Peace Through Dialogue – Part One Mon, 07 Sep 2015 21:04:27 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Chowdhury is Chair of the U.N. General Assembly Drafting Committee for the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace (1998-1999).

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Sep 7 2015 (IPS)

This week, for the fourth time in a row, the annual gathering of the apex intergovernmental body of the United Nation deliberating on peace and non-violence will take place at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

President of the ongoing 69th session of the General Assembly Mr. Sam Kahamba Kutesa has convened the fourth U.N. High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on Sep. 9.

This daylong event is an opportunity for U.N. Member States, U.N. system entities, media and civil society interested in discussing the ways and means to promote the Culture of Peace and to join the discourse on strengthening the global movement for the implementation of the U.N. Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace as adopted by consensus by the General Assembly on Sep. 13, 1999.

It also creates a platform for various stakeholders to have an exchange on the emerging trends and policies that can significantly impact on advancing the culture of peace.

Historical context

The adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace was a watershed event as a possible response to the evolving dynamics of global war and security strategies in a post-Cold War world. It has been an honour for me to Chair the nine-month long negotiations that led to the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action.The United Nations needs to be more than a fire brigade rushing in to put out the conflagrations and then withdraw from the scene without doing anything to ensure that fires do not break out again.

This historic norm-setting document is considered as one of the most significant legacies of the United Nations that would endure generations. I would always treasure and cherish that. For me this has been a realisation of my personal commitment to peace and my humble contribution to humanity.

In the responsibility that the United Nations – as the only universal body – must shoulder in fulfilling its Charter obligation of maintaining international peace and security worldwide, stronger focus on prevention and peace building is essential.

The United Nations needs to be more than a fire brigade rushing in to put out the conflagrations and then withdraw from the scene without doing anything to ensure that fires do not break out again.

In a historical perspective it is worthwhile to note that asserting and re-affirming the commitment of the totality of the United Nations membership to build the Culture of Peace, the General Assembly has been adopting resolutions on the subject every year since 1997.

The Assembly, through its annual substantive resolutions, has highlighted the priority it attaches to the full and effective implementation of these visionary decisions which are universally applicable and sought after by the vast majority of all peoples in every nation. It recognises the need for continuous support to the strengthening of the global movement to promote the Culture of Peace, as envisaged by the United Nations, particularly in the current global context.

The Forum in 2013 included Ministerial level participation and at its 68th session, the General Assembly adopted, by consensus, Resolution 68/125 on “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace”, which was co-sponsored by 105 Member States.

This year the keynote speaker at the Forum is the fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Arun Gandhi, who prides calling himself “The Peace Farmer” as he sows the seeds of peace and non-violence following the footsteps of his grandfather whose birthday on Oct. 2 is observed by the United Nations and the international community as the International Day of Non-Violence.

He builds on the message of last year’s keynote speaker Ms. Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is a global legend leading civil society activism for peace and equality. Of course, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will join the Forum at the opening with his ardent advocacy for the culture of peace.

The 2015 Forum will comprise of two multi-stakeholders interactive panels which will focus on: (1) “Promotion of the Culture of Peace in the context of the Post-2015 sustainable development agenda; and (2) “Role of the media in the promotion of the culture of peace”.

This High Level Forum is taking place at a time of some of the worst violence against civilians we have seen in recent years. Clearly, the hope that the new millennium would be a harbinger of peace has turned out to be rather misplaced.

The lesson in this, I believe, is that however much the world around us changes, we cannot achieve peace without a change in our own minds, and thereby in the global consciousness.

The wealth and the technology can only open up the opportunity to better the world. We must have the mind to seize that opportunity; we must have the culture of peace developed in each one of us both as an individual as well as a member of the global society.

Also, we must remember that technology and wealth can be put to destructive use too. The difference between war and peace, between poverty and prosperity, between death and life, is essentially prompted in our minds.

Why the culture of peace?

Peace is integral to human existence — in everything we do, in everything we say and in every thought we have, there is a place for peace. Absence of peace makes our challenges, our struggles, much more difficult. I believe that is why it is very important that we need to keep our focus on creating the culture of peace in our lives.

One lesson I have learned in my life over the years is that to prevent our history of war and conflict from repeating itself – the values of non-violence, tolerance, human rights and democratic participation will have to be germinated in every man and woman – children and adults alike.

When we see what is happening around us, we realise the urgent need for promoting the culture of peace – peace through dialogue – peace through non-violence. In a world where tragedy and despair seem to be everywhere, there is an urgent need – if not an imperative – for a global culture of peace.

Each of us can make an active choice each day through seemingly small acts of love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, cooperation or understanding, thereby contributing to the culture of peace. Eminent proponents of peace have continued to highlight that the culture of peace should be the foundation of the new global society.

In today’s world, more so, it should be seen as the essence of a new humanity, a new global civilisation based on inner oneness and outer diversity.

Part Two can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Investigators Dismiss Mexican Government’s Official Story on Missing Students Mon, 07 Sep 2015 20:23:48 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida A protester at a rally against the disappearance of 43 students in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero holds a sign that reads: ‘We Are Ayotzinapa. We Demand Justice.’ Credit: Montecruz Foto/CC-BY-SA-2.0

A protester at a rally against the disappearance of 43 students in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero holds a sign that reads: ‘We Are Ayotzinapa. We Demand Justice.’ Credit: Montecruz Foto/CC-BY-SA-2.0

By Kanya D'Almeida

A group of independent investigators has roundly dismissed the Mexican government’s claims that the 43 students who went missing in the southwestern city of Iguala last fall were burned to ashes in a garbage dump, reigniting an international outcry against the disappearance and heaping pressure on the government to provide answers to families of the victims.

The 500-page report released this past weekend by an expert group appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) refutes key aspects of the government’s official story, concluding in no uncertain terms that there is “no evidence” to support the Attorney General’s findings that the college students were executed and burned by a drug gang.

“This report provides an utterly damning indictment of Mexico’s handling of the worst human rights atrocity in recent memory,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a Sep. 6 statement.

“Even with the world watching and with substantial resources at hand, the authorities proved unable or unwilling to conduct a serious investigation,” he added.

HRW is calling on the government to urgently address its own flawed investigation, which was declared ‘closed’ this past January, and bring those responsible to justice.

The students, all members of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state, disappeared on Sep. 26, 2014.

Amid massive protests across the country and around the world, the government concluded that the students had commandeered several buses and traveled in them to a protest in Iguala. Following clashes with local police, the students were allegedly detained and then handed over to a criminal gang, who presumably executed them before burning their bodies in a municipal dump.

But the IACHR investigators say those “conclusions hinge on allegedly coerced witness testimony that is contradicted by physical evidence,” HRW said Sunday.

Negligence, mishandling of evidence and long delays marked the government’s official investigation, the expert panel found, adding that federal prosecutors failed to review footage from security cameras or interview key eyewitnesses.

HRW points out that “crucial pieces of evidence, such as blood and hair” were vulnerable to contamination and manipulation during the investigation, and “in July 2015, more than nine months into the investigation, the group discovered that multiple articles of clothing belonging to the victims had been collected but never examined.”

Perhaps the most damning revelation involves the government’s claim that the drug gang responsible for the students’ deaths built a pyre and fed it over a 16-hour period with scrap material like wood and tires, as well as small amounts of fuel.

Quoting the IACHR study, the Guardian reported Sunday: “It would have required 30,000 kg of wood or 13,330 kg of rubber tyres and burned for 60 hours in order to consume the bodies. [The report] adds that feeding the pyre would have been impossible, and that a conflagration of those dimensions would have left obvious evidence in the surrounding area, which an inspection of the site failed to find.”

Other major flaws in the government’s official version of events include so-called ‘confessions’ extracted from suspects under conditions likely amounting to torture and authorities’ failure to inspect the offices of members of municipal police identified by eyewitnesses.

The expert panel spent six months on the investigation, reviewing existing government evidence, conducting in-depth inspections of the crime scene and interviewing surviving witnesses and family members of the deceased.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearance highlighted shortcomings in the government’s investigation of the Ayotzinapa case, and called on the government to do more to tackle impunity.

HRW estimates that there are currently 300 open investigations relating to enforced disappearances in Iguala alone, and over 25,000 people reported as ‘missing’ nationwide.

“As of April 2014, no one had been convicted of an enforced disappearance committed after 2006, according to official statistics,” the rights group concluded.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Nuclear States Do Not Comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty Sat, 05 Sep 2015 09:43:07 +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 second 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 5 2015 (IPS)

Article Six of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) makes it obligatory for nuclear states to get rid of their nuclear weapons as part of a bargain that requires the non-nuclear states not to acquire nuclear weapons. Apart from the NPT provisions, there have been a number of other rulings that have reinforced those requirements.

However, while nuclear states have vigorously pursued a campaign of non-proliferation, they have violated many NPT and other international regulations.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

An advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1996 stated: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” Nuclear powers have ignored that opinion.

The nuclear states, especially the United States and Russia, have further violated the Treaty by their efforts to upgrade and diversity their nuclear weapons. The United States has developed the “Reliable Replacement Warhead”, a new type of nuclear warhead to extend the viability of its nuclear arsenal.

The United States and possibly Russia are also developing tactical nuclear warheads with lower yields, which can be used on the battlefield without producing a great deal of radiation. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge to reduce and ultimately abolish nuclear weapons, it has emerged that the United States is in the process of developing new categories of nuclear weapons, including B61-12 at a projected cost of 348 billion dollars over the next decade

India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea cannot be regarded as nuclear states. Since Article 9 of the NPT defines Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) as those that had manufactured and tested a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, it is not possible for India, Pakistan, Israel or North Korea to be regarded as nuclear weapon states.“All nuclear powers have continued to strengthen and modernise their nuclear arsenals. While they have been vigorous in punishing, on a selective basis, the countries that were suspected of developing nuclear weapons, they have not lived up to their side of the bargain to get rid of their nuclear weapons”

All those countries are in violation of the NPT, and providing them with nuclear assistance, such as the U.S. agreement with India to supply it with nuclear reactors and advanced nuclear technology, constitutes violations of the Treaty. The same applies to U.S. military cooperation with Israel and Pakistan.

Nuclear states are guilty of proliferation 

Paragraph 14 of the binding U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 that called for the disarmament of Iraq also specified the establishment of a zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in the Middle East.

It was clearly understood by all the countries that joined the U.S.-led coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait that after the elimination of Iraqi WMDs, Israel would be required to get rid of its nuclear arsenal. Israel – and by extension the countries that have not implemented that paragraph – have violated that binding resolution. Indeed, both the United States and Israel are believed to maintain nuclear weapons in the region.

During the apartheid era, Israel and South Africa collaborated in manufacturing nuclear weapons, with Israel leading the way. In 2010 it was reported that “the ‘top secret’ minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa’s Defence Minister P.W. Botha asked for nuclear warheads and the then Israeli Defence Minister Shimon Peres responded by offering them ‘in three sizes’.”

The documents were uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries. Israeli officials tried hard to prevent the publication of those documents. In 1977, South Africa signed a pact with Israel that included the manufacturing of at least six nuclear bombs.

The 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference also called for “the early establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other WMDs and their delivery systems”. The international community has ignored these resolutions by not pressing Israel to give up its nuclear weapons. Indeed, any call for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East has been opposed by Israel and the United States.

The 2000 NPT Review Conference called on “India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the Treaty as Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS) promptly and without condition”. States Parties also agreed to “make determined efforts” to achieve universality. Since 2000, little effort has been made to encourage India, Pakistan or Israel to accede as NNWS.

The declaration agreed by the Iranian government and visiting European Union foreign ministers (from Britain, France and Germany) that reached an agreement on Iran’s accession to the Additional Protocol and suspension of its enrichment for more than two years also called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction throughout the Middle East.

The three foreign ministers made the following commitment: “They will cooperate with Iran to promote security and stability in the region including the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East in accordance with the objectives of the United Nations.” Twelve years after signing that declaration, the three European countries and the international community have failed to bring about a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.

While, during the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) refused to rule out first use of nuclear weapons due to the proximity of Soviet forces to European capitals, this policy has not been revised since the end of the Cold War. There have been repeated credible reports that the Pentagon has been considering the use of nuclear bunker-buster weapons to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites.

For the past 2,000 years and more, mankind has tried to define the requirements of a just war. During the past few decades, some of these principles have been enshrined in legally-binding international agreements and conventions. They include the Covenant of the League of Nations after the First World War, the 1928 Pact of Paris, and the Charter of the United Nations.

A few ideas are common to all these definitions, namely that any military action should be based on self-defence, be in compliance with international law, be proportionate, be a matter of last resort, and not target civilians and non-combatants.

Other ideas flow from these: the emphasis on arbitration and the renunciation of first resort to force in the settlement of disputes, and the principle of collective self- defence. It is difficult to see how the use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with any of these requirements. Yet, despite many international calls for nuclear disarmament, nuclear states have refused to abide by the NPT regulations and get rid of their nuclear weapons.

In his first major foreign policy speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, President Barack Obama spoke about his vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons. He said: “The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War… Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”

He went on to say: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons…”

Sadly, those noble sentiments have not been put into action. On the contrary, all nuclear powers have continued to strengthen and modernise their nuclear arsenals. While they have been vigorous in punishing, on a selective basis, the countries that were suspected of developing nuclear weapons, they have not lived up to their side of the bargain to get rid of their nuclear weapons. (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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Opinion: Iran and the Non-Proliferation Treaty Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:48:29 +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 first 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 4 2015 (IPS)

Iran’s nuclear programme has been the target of a great deal of misinformation, downright lies and above all myths. As a result, it is often difficult to unpick truth from falsehood. 

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

As President John F. Kennedy said in his Yale University Commencement Address on 11 June 1962: “For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliché of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of the opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

In order to understand the pros and cons of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed by Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany) on 14 July 2015, and the subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 passed unanimously on 20 July 2015 setting the agreement in U.N. law and rescinding the sanctions that had been imposed on Iran, it is important to study the background to the whole deal.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regulates the activities of the countries that wish to make use of peaceful nuclear energy. The NPT was enacted in 1968 and it entered into force in 1970. Its objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, while promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Iran was one of the first signatories to that Treaty, and so far 191 states have joined the Treaty.“Iran’s nuclear programme has been the target of a great deal of misinformation, downright lies and above all myths. As a result, it is often difficult to unpick truth from falsehood”

It has been one of the most successful disarmament treaties in history. Only three U.N. member states – Israel, India and Pakistan – did not join the NPT and all of them proceeded to manufacture nuclear weapons. North Korea, which acceded to the NPT in 1985, withdrew in 2003 and has allegedly manufactured nuclear weapons.

This treaty was a part of the move known as “atoms for peace”, which allowed different nations to have access to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but prevented them from manufacturing nuclear weapons.

The treaty was a kind of bargain between the five original countries that possessed nuclear weapons (all the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) and the non-nuclear countries that agreed never to acquire nuclear weapons in return for sharing the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology.

The Treaty is based on four pillars:

Pillar One – Non-Proliferation:  Article 1 of the NPT states that nuclear weapon state countries (N5) should not transfer any weapon-related technology to others.

Pillar Two – Ban on possession of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states: Article 2 states the other side of the coin, namely that non-nuclear states should not acquire any form of nuclear weapons technology from the countries that possess it or acquire it independently.

Pillar Three – Peaceful use of nuclear energy: Article 4 not only allows the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but even stresses that it is “the inalienable right” of every country to do research, development and production, and to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, without discrimination, as long as Articles 1 and 2 are satisfied.

It further states that all parties can exchange equipment, material, and science and technology for peaceful purposes. It calls on the nuclear states to assist the non-nuclear states in the use of peaceful nuclear technology.

Pillar Four – Nuclear disarmament: Article 6 makes it obligatory for nuclear states to get rid of their nuclear weapons. The Treaty states that all countries should pursue negotiations on measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and “achieving nuclear disarmament”.

While nuclear powers have worked hard to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, they have not abided by their side of the bargain and have been reluctant to give up their nuclear weapons. On the contrary, they have further developed and upgraded those weapons, and have made them more capable of use on battlefields.

Sadly, 37 years after its final ratification, the number of nuclear-armed countries has increased, and at least four other countries have joined the club.

After it was realised that unfettered access to enrichment could lead some countries, such as Iraq and North Korea, to gain knowledge of nuclear technology and subsequently develop nuclear weapons, the NPT was amended in 1977 with the Additional Protocol, which tightened the regulations in order to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

According to the Additional Protocol, which Iran has agreed to implement as part of the JCPOA, “Special inspections may be carried out in circumstances according to defined procedures. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may carry out such inspections if it considers that information made available by the State concerned, including explanations from the State and information obtained from routine inspections, is not adequate for the Agency to fulfil its responsibilities under the safeguards agreement.” 

However, as the above paragraph makes clear, these inspections will be carried out only in exceptional circumstances when there is valid cause for suspicion that a country has been violating the terms of the agreement, and only if the IAEA decides that the explanations provided by the State concerned are not adequate. Also, such inspections will be carried out on the basis of “defined procedures”

The countries that have ratified the Additional Protocol have agreed to “managed inspections”, and the Iranian authorities have also said that such managed and supervised inspections can be carried out. This of course does not mean “anytime, anywhere” inspections, but inspections that are in keeping with the provisions of the Additional Protocol as set out above.

Meanwhile, in addition to the nuclear states, there are 19 other non-weapons states which are signatories to the NPT and which actively enrich uranium. They have vastly more centrifuges than Iran ever had. Iran’s array of 19,000 centrifuges (only 10,000 of them were operational) prior to the agreement was paltry compared with the capabilities of other countries that enrich uranium.

During the talks between Iran and the P5+1, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali  Khamenei said that Iran wanted to have at least 190,000 centrifuges in order to get engaged in industrial scale enrichment.

It should be remembered that the sale of nuclear fuel is a lucrative business and the countries that do not have enrichment facilities but which have nuclear reactors, are forced to purchase fuel from the few countries that have a monopoly of enriched uranium. Iran had openly stated that it wished to join that club, or at least to be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel.

However, under the JCPOA, Iran has given up the quest for industrial scale enrichment and is even reducing the number of its operational centrifuges from 19,000 to just over 5,000. (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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European Residents Offer Support, Homes to Refugees Thu, 03 Sep 2015 21:01:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Many Syrian cities have been reduced to piles of rubble, as a civil war that is now well into its fifth year shows no signs of abating. Desperate refugees are fleeing to Europe to escape the fighting. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Many Syrian cities have been reduced to piles of rubble, as a civil war that is now well into its fifth year shows no signs of abating. Desperate refugees are fleeing to Europe to escape the fighting. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

As the migration crisis in Europe continues to grow and government response remains slow, European citizens have taken it upon themselves to act by opening up their homes to those in need.

In a Facebook group entitled ‘Dear Eygló Harðar – Syria is Calling’, over 15,000 Icelanders have signed an open letter calling on their government to “open the gates” for more Syrian refugees.

The open letter, initiated by author and professor Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir on Aug. 30, addresses Iceland’s Minister of Welfare Eygló Harðar and calls on the government to reconsider capping the number of refugees at a mere 50.

The week-long campaign, which ends on Sep. 4, aims to gather information about available assistance and to create pressure on the government to increase its quota.

“Refugees are our […] best friends, our next soul mate, the drummer in our children’s band, our next colleague, Miss Iceland 2022, the carpenter who finally fixes our bathroom, the chef in the cafeteria, the fireman, the hacker and the television host. People who we’ll never be able to say to: ‘Your life is worth less than mine’,” the open letter states.

Many have posted their own open letters, offering their homes, food, and general support to refugees, to enable them to integrate into Icelandic society.

One Icelander posted on the group: “I’m a single mother with a six-year-old son […] we can take a child in need. I’m a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys, and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket.”

The open letter has sparked more people around the world to express words of support and to offer their homes to those in need.

One mother of a 19-month-old baby from Argentina wrote in the group: “I want you to know that I would like to help in any way I can, even if it is looking at the possibility of hosting some boy or girl in my house […]. I don’t have a comfortable financial position, but I can provide what is necessary and a lot of love.”

Similar efforts to house refugees have begun in other parts of Europe.

Refugees Welcome, a German initiative, matches refugees from around the world with host citizens offering private accommodation.

Once hosts sign up to offer their homes, Refugees Welcome works with local refugee organizations to reach out to find a “suitable” match.

Though only Germany and Austrian residents can currently be hosts, over 780 people have already signed up to help and more than 134 refugees from Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria have been matched with families in the two countries.

Refugees Welcome also stated that the initiative has been picked up and may be expanded to the United States and Australia.

“We are convinced that refugees should not be stigmatized and excluded by being housed in mass accommodations. Instead, we should offer them a warm welcome,” says Refugees Welcome on its website.

European Union’s border agency Frontex revealed that in July 2015 alone, over 100,000 people migrated into Europe. Germany has stated that it expects up to 800,000 asylum seekers by the end of the year.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Europe Invaded Mostly by “Regime Change” Refugees Thu, 03 Sep 2015 20:23:40 +0000 Thalif Deen The migrants photographed here were being loaded on to a cargo plane in Kufra, located in southeastern Libya. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS

The migrants photographed here were being loaded on to a cargo plane in Kufra, located in southeastern Libya. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS

By Thalif Deen

The military conflicts and political instability driving hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe were triggered largely by U.S. and Western military interventions for regime change – specifically in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria (a regime change in-the-making).

The United States was provided with strong military support by countries such as Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain, while the no-fly zone to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was led by France and the UK in 2011 and aided by Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Canada, among others.

“[European leaders] stay silent about the military intervention and regime change in which Europeans were major actors, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart and resulted in civil war and state collapse.” -- James A. Paul, former executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum
Last week, an unnamed official of a former Eastern European country, now an integral part of the 28-nation European Union (EU), was constrained to ask: “Why should we provide homes for these refugees when we didn’t invade their countries?”

This reaction could have come from any of the former Soviet bloc countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Latvia – all of them now members of the EU, which has an open-door policy for transiting migrants and refugees.

The United States was directly involved in regime change in Afghanistan (in 2001) and Iraq (in 2003) – and has been providing support for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battling a civil war now in its fifth year.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who says he is “horrified and heartbroken” at the loss of lives of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean and Europe, points out that a large majority of people “undertaking these arduous and dangerous journeys are refugees fleeing from places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

James A. Paul, former executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, told IPS the term “regime change refugees” is an excellent way to change the empty conversation about the refugee crisis.

Obviously, there are many causes, but “regime change” helps focus on a crucial part of the picture, he added.

Official discourse in Europe frames the civil wars and economic turmoil in terms of fanaticism, corruption, dictatorship, economic failures and other causes for which they have no responsibility, Paul said.

“They stay silent about the military intervention and regime change in which Europeans were major actors, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart and resulted in civil war and state collapse.”

The origins of the refugees make the case clearly: Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan are major sources, he pointed out.

Also many refugees come from the Balkans where the wars of the 1990s, again involving European complicity, shredded those societies and led to the present economic and social collapse, he noted.

Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College, Connecticut, and the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History, told IPS the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention was dated.

He said the Covenant “was written up for the time of the Cold War – when those who were fleeing the so-called Unfree World were to be welcomed to the Free World”.

He said many Third World states refused this covenant because of the horrid ideology behind it.

“We need a new Covenant,” he said, one that specifically takes into consideration economic refugees (driven by the International Monetary Fund) and political (war) refugees.

At the same time, he said, the international community should also recognize “climate change refugees, regime change refugees and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] refugees.”

The 1951 Convention guarantees refugee status if one “has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Asked about the Eastern European reaction, Prashad said: “I agree entirely. But of course one didn’t hear such a sentiment from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and others – who also welcomed refugees in large numbers. Why say, ‘Why should we take [them]?’ Why not say, ‘Why are they [Western Europe and the U.S.] not doing more?’” he asked.

While Western European countries are complaining about the hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding their shores, the numbers are relatively insignificant compared to the 3.5 million Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon – none of which invaded any of the countries from where most of the refugees are originating.

Paul told IPS the huge flow of refugees into Europe has created a political crisis in many recipient countries, especially Germany, where neo-Nazi thugs battle police almost daily, while fire-bombings of refugee housing have alarmed the political establishment.

The public have been horrified by refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, deaths in trucks and railway tunnels, thousands of children and families caught on the open seas, facing border fences and mobilized security forces.

Religious leaders call for tolerance, while EU politicians wring their hands and wonder how they can solve the issue with new rules and more money, Paul said.

“But the refugee flow is increasing rapidly, with no end in sight.  Fences cannot contain the desperate multitudes.”

He said a few billion euros in economic assistance to the countries of origin, recently proposed by the Germans, are unlikely to buy away the problem.

“Only a clear understanding of the origins of the crisis can lead to an answer, but European leaders do not want to touch this hot wire and expose their own culpability.”

Paul said some European leaders, the French in particular, are arguing in favour of military intervention in these troubled lands on their periphery as a way of doing something.

Overthrowing Assad appears to be popular among the policy classes in Paris, who choose to ignore how counter-productive their overthrow of Libyan leader Gaddafi was a short time ago, or how counter-productive has been their clandestine support in Syria for the Islamist rebels, he declared.

Paul also said “the aggressive nationalist beast in the rich country establishments is not ready to learn the lesson, or to beware the “blowback” from future interventions.”

“This is why we need to look closely at the ‘regime change’ angle and to mobilize the public understanding that this was a crisis that was largely ‘Made in Europe’ – with the active connivance of Washington, of course,” he declared.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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