Tuesday, September 30, 2014

UN brokers Yemen peace deal between government and Houthi rebels

The Houthi rebels in Yemen accepted a UN-brokered peace deal after capturing much of the capital Sanaa. The deal will require disarmament and withdrawal from areas they seized recently.

The deal was signed by the Shiite rebels along with political rivals the Islah party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, with other parties signing as well. The Houthis appear to be the strongest force in the capital Sanaa. They have thousands of fighters in the city, man checkpoints, and are well supplied with weapons seized from army barracks. The Houthis may be reluctant to give up their present power status. While the Shiite Houthis are a minority among the Sunni majority in Yemen as a whole, they are a majority in their strongholds in the north. However, separatist rebels in the south also oppose the central government.
 Even while the deal was being signed some Houthi fighters fought with security guards at the house of the national security chief Ali-Ahmadi. Two Houthi fighters were killed in the fighting. Al-Ahmadi is in charge of the security apparatus that coordinates attacks on Al-Qaida with the US. The Houthis were apparently trying to storm the house.
 The US embassy told US citizens to leave Yemen because of the security situation just a day ago. Government staff have been reduced at the embassy. The Yemeni president and staunch US ally Mansour Hadi claimed that Yemen could be heading for civil war.
 On Saturday a rocket attack was launched against special police guarding the US embassy in Sanaa. The attack was said to be in retaliation for a US drone strike on Friday in the north of Yemen. Ansar al_Sharia, affiliated with Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula(AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attack. The rocket hit about 200 meters from the embassy and injured at least two of the special police guarding the facility. Tribal sources confirmed that 2 Al-Qaeda members were killed in a drone strike in Al Jawf, Friday, and some children were reported wounded. Another attack in the capital targeted an armored vehicle of security guards who were protecting a building rented by the US embassy. A man fired a portable missile from a motorcycle. It caused a large explosion but no one was injured. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: "We are aware of an attack with an assault weapon in Sanaa today. We have no indication that the U.S. Embassy was the target of the attack,"
  The US Embassy in Sanaa has been the target in the past of AQAP operations. The US provides training for Yemeni counter-terrorism forces and also carries out drone strikes again suspected militants. He is strongly supported by President Hadi even though there is considerable opposition among the population. Many Yemenis are angry that Yemeni citizens in Guantanamo have not been released back to Yemen. The president sides with the protesters on this issue.
 The Houthis have agreed to join the fight against Al Qaeda although they do not support US drone strikes. The agreement will give Houthis some executive power as the president will name an adviser from the group and another from the southern separatist movement which is also a challenge to the central government. A new government is to be formed within a month. So far the Houthis have not agreed on who should be the new prime minister. The appended video discusses the chances of the peace deal holding.

Entomophagy may help provide protein for growing global population

Entomophagy the consumption of "bugs," may become much more prevalent in the future especially to supply protein and ensure that a food supply is available for the world's growing population.

In a video here a University of British Columbia(UBC) researcher suggests that bugs could be a common source of protein in the future. Yasmin Akhtar, is a Research Associate in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the UBC. She discusses what the future of entomophagy might be with CBC reporter Deborah Goble. Bugs typically contain many vitamins and minerals as well as protein.
 Eating of insects is hardly new. The practice dates back to prehistoric times. Not only adult insects have been eaten but also the eggs, larvae, and pupae of insects. Many animals other than humans eat insects and even some plants live on them. While many in the west may be revolted at the very idea of eating insects, there are over 1,000 species of insects known to be eaten in 80 percent of the countries in the world. While in the developed world the taste for insects is limited, they are still popular as a food in many developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Some "bugs" that are eaten, such as spiders and centipedes, are not really insects but usually counted as examples of entomorphagy. Crickets, grasshoppers, ants, meal-worms, and caterpillars are popular edible insects but scorpions and tarantulas are also eaten.
 While the market for food produced from insects is limited in countries such as the U.S., nevertheless there is a US company All Things Bugs that manufactures and sells cricket powder which is used in protein bars, and baked goods. Studies show that the most likely group to adopt insects as a meat substitute are young males who have no strong attachment to meat and are open to novel foods particularly if their consumption would be positive for the environment.
 There are two places in Vancouver, Canada, that offer cricket-based food items. One restaurant has parathas, a type of flat bread, made from roasted crickets that are ground to make a flour. The other restaurant offers pizza that has whole roasted crickets sprinkled on naan dough a type of flat bread dough. The UN released a publication titled "Edible insects-Future prospects for food and feed security" in 2013 at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition. The paper discusses the opportunities for farming insects for food and feed, as well as research on the nutritional value of food from insects, as well as ways of processing and preserving foods made from insects. Perhaps by 2050 entomophagy will be trending even in the United States and Canada.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Taliban seize key area between Kabul and Kandahar on major highway

Hundreds of Taliban attacked the Ajrestan District of Ghazni province a key link between the capital Kabul and southern areas. The Taliban have also been making advances in the south recently.

Some 700 Taliban are said to be involved in the battle which has lasted about a week already. Although fighting is still continuing, there have been over 100 killed and the Afghan forces have been pushed back giving the Taliban effective control over the area. The highway through the area links Kabul to the main southern city of Kandahar.
 Provincial officials say they have lost all contact with police in the area. NATO has attempted to allow the Afghan military to counter Taliban attacks of late with the result that the Taliban are making gains in the south and central areas of Afghanistan. Earlier, Taliban had attacked a government compound in the area containing intelligence and police offices killing at least 8 security personnel and losing 19 of their own fighters. Deputy police chief of the Ajrestan area Asadullah Safi said on Friday: "If there is no urgent help from the central government, the district will collapse". The authorities have lost contact with Safi. With no air cover to pin down the Taliban attackers the Taliban have launched many attacks against military posts. Provincial officials were able to contact an army unit late Friday. The unit reported that fighting was still raging and that Afghan army commandos from outside Ghazni province had arrived as reinforcement.
Ajrestan is a small town but surrounded by about 100 villages. Control of the mountainous Ajrestan district that is about 125 miles southwest of Kabul will provide the Taliban a base to launch attacks on two bordering provinces and along the crucial highway as well. Provincial governor Ahmadi said that he had asked repeatedly for helicopters to evacuate wounded security forces but to no avail.
 Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, leader of the ethnic Hazara minority said: "Peace with the Taliban requires a strong government. At the moment, the Taliban think they can fight in every province and they believe they can overthrow the government, Without international support it will be hard to provide security ... The example of Ajrestan district shows that without international commitment of troops, it will be difficult to handle the Taliban."
 These attacks come just days before the new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is to be inaugurated in a unity deal with his opponent Abdullah Abdullah. All foreign troops are set to withdraw by the end of 2014 but the new president has promised that he will sign on to a bilateral security agreement that will allow some troops to remain after that time. The control of the battle against the Taliban already seems to be mainly by the Afghan government. Afghan officials claim that the continuing loses by their forces show that a peace settlement must be negotiated with the Taliban since without a powerful NATO occupation force they will be unable to defeat the Taliban in battle.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Watch for more foreign involvement in Libya

A common narrative about what is happening in Libya will be about the threat of radical Islamist groups such as Ansar al-Sharia, a group thought to be responsible for the attack on the American consul in Benghazi which killed the ambassador among others.

Reuters has an article on the issue noting that a group of countries mostly Western and Arab state expressed readiness to help Libya's government confront "a growing presence of Islamic militant groups in the North African country." The entire narrative of what has happened fails to mention CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar, Operation Dignity or his own attacks that started the present confrontation. Nor does the article mention that Haftar allies attacked and burned the Libyan parliament and kidnapped Islamist officials and legislators. The threat is apparently only from Islamist-linked militia. This is not so much news reporting as it is propaganda that ensures the public does not understand the context of what is happening. This is framing that will place discussion of what is happening in Libya in the appropriate context to justify foreign intervention.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a high-level meeting on the sidelines during a session of the General Assembly. The group discussed the situation in Libya. A summary of the meeting said: "The meeting recognized the lead role of the government of Libya in addressing the growing threat of terrorist groups, and the readiness to support the government in this regard," France, Britain, the United Staes, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were all at the meeting. The Reuters article stresses the issue of Ansar al-Sharia: Western countries are particularly concerned by the presence of Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, which the United States blames for killing its ambassador and three other Americans in 2012 and classifies as a terrorist organisation. While the group is active in Benghazi, even there it is simply part of a larger umbrella organization of mostly Islamist militias who control most of Benghazi. In the capital, other groups such as the Misrata militia play a major role but again as part of a larger umbrella organization containing numerous groups.
 France has been taking the lead in urging international intervention. Laurent Fabius said at the UN meeting: "The efforts that are being used to fight Daesh (Islamic State) to limit the movements of foreign fighters and financing should also be used for these groups, We know there are groups on the south and east of Libya, and these, let's be realistic, will not be automatically neutralized just because, as we hope, there is a reconciliation in Libya. Of course the reconciliation is necessary but if we want Libyan forces to do what is necessary towards these terrorist groups, they need to be united. But we all know that other measures will need to be taken." However, these groups are part of much larger umbrella groups of militia who are not going to abandon militant groups simply because France, the US, and others consider them terrorists. Any move against them by foreign forces will simply unite the opposition that already controls Tripoli and Benghazi against foreign interference.
 All this talk about intervention is itself strange since just over a week ago the recognized Libyan government in Tobruk along with 15 other countries came out against any foreign intervention at a meeting in Madrid Spain: Libya's struggling elected government and representatives of 15 neighbouring nations have unanimously rejected the idea of military intervention as a way to restore stability in the oil-rich North African nation, which some say is on the brink of civil war. The group claimed that there was no military solution to the crisis.
 There has already been foreign intervention in the form of night airstrikes on Islamist positions in Tripoli. General Haftar claimed that they were a joint operation involving his forces and the international community. The rebels claimed the UAE and Egypt were involved in the attacks as did the US. However, neither country accepted responsibility. The US later decided that it should take back its accusation against the UAE and Egypt. The government in Tobruk does not hold the UAE or Egypt responsible either, nor does the Libyan ambassador to the UN. The Libyan government, the UN, and all those countries who reject foreign intervention as a solution to Libya's problem have all fallen silent. Perhaps Reuters will do an investigative report. Meanwhile the Libyan government has a space problem in Tobruk: (Funny sidelight: Tobruk, being a fairly small place, doesn’t have sufficient accommodations for all the HoR legislators and bureaucrats, so they leased a Greek car ferry, the Elyros, to live on. Now the ship’s owner wants his ship back and has demanded that they leave. As of this date, they have refused to disembark.)

Pittsburgh Reverend tased while praying over dead son

Reverend Earl Baldwin Jr. has filed a lawsuit against Pittsburgh police after they are alleged to have restrained and tased him while he claims he was praying for his stepson Mileek Grissom in a hospital emergency room.

Baldwin explained on local station WPSI: “I needed to tell him his family was going to be OK. I was going to do everything I could to make sure they were OK.” The appended video from a camera in the hospital shows Baldwin with several officers surrounding him. The officers can be seen trying to pull him away from his son and shooting him in the back with a taser. The attendant officers claim that Baldwin was interfering with attempts by doctors to revive Grissom. However, the attorney for the family said that Grissom was dead at the time of the incident and was not being treated. Grissom's mother was denied entry into the hospital at the time of the incident. The hospital, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), issued a statement counter to Baldwin's claims: “Clearly this was a stressful situation and a tragic loss for this family. However, the allegations about the circumstances are inaccurate.”
 Grissom died from a gunshot wound after he attempted to break up a fight. The incident happened over two years ago on June 24 2012. Baldwin and his family had been campaigning in Pittsburgh against gun violence in Pittsburgh for the last two years. Baldwin had said: Mileek is not going to die, and we not do something about it. So today, I stand here before you all and I tell you all, I'm going to fight." Baldwin's federal lawsuit claims the police illegally used the taser on him while he was praying over the body of his son. To counter the hospital and police version of events Baldwin's attorney Joel Sassone claimed: “Watch the video. Not only was the child not being treated, the child was dead.” Grissom was 23 years old. Baldwin claims that the police slid his son out of the way so they could get at him, and then jumped on top of him as he was attempting to pay his regards to his dead son.

US bombings in Syria anger almost all Syria rebels

The Islamic State(IS) has captured territory held by other rebel groups and fought against them. Surely the rebels should welcome the strikes. However, the strikes were directed not only against IS but other radical rebel groups as well.

The US bombing attacks also targeted Jabhat al-Nusra(JaN), an Al-Qaeda-linked radical group but one that has mostly fought in cooperation with the FSA and other rebel groups such as the Islamic Front. There are reports that the bombing attacks were directed also at Ahrar al-Sham in the Aleppo area. The group is not linked to Al-Qaeda at all and operates in tandem with the Free Syrian Army that is supported by the west.
One US official explained: "We're characterizing our targets as Khorasan and ISIS but its possible others were there. It is a toxic soup of terrorists". Khorasan is a jihadist group that has migrated to Syria. It is associated with Al Qaeda and apparently includes a bomb-maker from Yemen. It hopes to hit targets in the west. James Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence claims that "in terms of threat to the homeland Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State (IS)".
While attacking the Nusra Front and Khorasan mayl seem quite reasonable from the point of view of the US war against terror, it makes no sense to Syrian rebels. Just when the rebels need all the help they can get against the Assad regime, the US actions appear to help him out in key areas such as Aleppo where the rebels are already having difficulties holding their ground and radical groups are an important fighting force. The US has claimed that it was bombing the Islamic State in Syria but instead it is attacking any radical rebel group that it does not like even though those groups are helping the Free Syrian army and other rebels against Assad.
The bombings are cheered on by the Asssad regime which originally opposed them as violations of its sovereignty and against international law. Syrian minister for national reconciliation, Ali Haidar, praised the attacks although Syria was still watching developments with caution: "As for the raids in Syria, I say that what has happened so far is proceeding in the right direction in terms of informing the Syrian government and by not targeting Syrian military installations and not targeting civilians.Notification of the Syrian government happened. Confirmation that they would not target Syrian military installations, and confirmation they would not target civilians happened." Civilians are not typically targeted in any event but are just collateral damage.
 Rebel groups of all stripes condemned the bombings. The Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a major secular coalition in the north-west of Syria that drove ISIS out of Idlib in January along with other rebel groups condemned the bombings claiming:"You help Bashar" Although bombing strikes targeted Idlib there are no IS forces there any more. One of the first condemnations of the strikes was by Harak Hazm an FSA militia operating mostly in Hama and numbering about 7,000:“The Hazem Movement rejects the external intervention of the US Coalition, which launched its first airstrikes on Tuesday in the governorates of Deir el Zour, Raqqa, al Hasaka, Aleppo, Idlib and Homs, with 11 civilians killed in rural Idlib province and five others in rural Homs province, as well as fighters from Jabhat al Nusra and the ISIS.These air attacks amount to *an attack on national sovereignty* and work to *undermine the Syrian revolution...We of the Hazem Movement hereby reaffirm our full commitment to the principles of the revolution, and emphasize that *our actions are guided solely by revolutionary principles and national interest, not by the demands of the international coalition...The only beneficiaries from the US coalition’s military intervention will be the Assad regime,.."
There have been demonstrations against the bombings in many rebel areas. While many are in support of the Nusra Front there are others which even express sympathy with the Islamic State: The enclosed You Tube video shows damage in bombings of Al Nusra Front positions: The only clear support for the bombings among rebel groups was the group supported by the west and Gulf state the Syrian Opposition Coalition(SOC) and the Supreme Military Command(SMC). The latter group supported "all earnest national forces and free international forces who are fighting terrorism but said that this should begin with attacking "the Assad Gang" whom the group claimed created the Islamic State.
 The aim of the US may to be to weaken or eliminate rebel groups it does not favor even though they are fighting cooperatively along with other rebel groups against Assad. The type of force that they will train will play the role of the Sons of Iraq in Iraq who were paid by the US government to fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq. This worked as long as the US continued to foot the bill. It may not work in Syria. The main rebel groups see radicals as allies as long as they work together against Assad. Destroying rebel's allies will not win any friends among the majority of the rebels even moderates. The ultimate aim of US policy may not be to defeat the Assad regime but to create a situation where there are more pro-western moderate rebels but who will be willing to negotiate with a war-weary and weakened Assad regime. Assad will be convinced to step aside and there will be a political settlement with the new government committed to fighting radical jihadists throughout Syria. Much of the material in this article derives from a long and very interesting article plus many links by Michael Karadjis from the University of Western Sydney to be found here.

China opposes any further US and EU sanctions on Russia

China has been careful in its responses to the Ukrainian situation. While it wants to retain Russia as an ally it is concerned that the Crimea referendum could set a precedent for areas such as Tibet, which is part of China.

The European Union has threatened Russia with further sanctions after Russia was accused of sending troops into Ukraine to help separatists in their battle with Ukrainian forces. There are divisions among European leaders and it is not clear when any further sanctions might come into effect.
Spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Qin Gang, said: "A political solution is the only way out, sanctions do not help to solve the underlying problems in Ukraine. It may lead to new and more complicating factors." China has said also that it respects Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and wants to develop friendly relations with it. In a joint statement released during an official visit of Russian president Vladimir Putin to China both countries rejected the use of sanctions as political tools. As well the two condemned attempts to "encourage and finance" regime change a clear swipe at US actions in Ukraine and elsewhere to ensure election of pro-western regimes in countries around the periphery of Russia.
Sanctions by the west have encouraged Russia to turn east and in particular to grow business and trade with China. The two countries have already signed numerous, energy and business deals. The joint statement promised " a new stage in full-scale partnership and strategic relations". The two countries agreed to coordinate foreign policy where they have common priorities. President Putin said: “We have common priorities on a global and on a regional scale. We’ve agreed upon closer coordination of our foreign policy steps, including those in the UN, BRICS and APEC"
Both countries oppose attempts by the US and EU to impose sanctions. The joint statement said: “The parties stress the necessity to… reject unilateral sanctions rhetoric.Economic restrictions applied as punishment are no better than financial aid to forces that seek “a change in constitutional system of another country,” Russia has accused the US of spending $5 billion to promote regime change in the Ukraine.
 Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament also noted China's objections to sanctions against Russia. She said that both Russia and China believe that the sanctions are an attempt "to exert pressure on sovereign states to change their position and to weaken them and suppress their development." She thanked China for taking a public position in opposition to the western sanctions imposed upon Moscow. She noted also that Moscow and Beijing shared many common positions on a number of global issues.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fox news commentator Stephen Hayes on DHS terror watch list

Stephen Hayes is an unlikely candidate to be on the Department of Homeland Security's Terrorist Watchlist. As a senior writer for the conservative Weekly Standard and a regular commentator on Fox news he seems an unlikely terrorist sympathizer.

Hayes, as well as contributing to conservative media, has been on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, even C-Span as well. His conservative neo-con credentials include being picked as the official biographer of former vice-president Dick Cheney. The Weekly Standard could be called the home base of the neo-cons. The Weekly Standard has never made money but depended upon subsidies from prominent conservatives and the owner billionaire media magnate Rupert Murdoch until 2009 when it was sold to the Clarity Media Group. That company is also owned by a billionaire entrepreneur Philip Anschutz ranked by Forbes at 38th richest person in the US worth about $11 billion in 2014. Murdoch claimed he was not interested in selling the Weekly Standard but after he purchased the Wall Street Journal he seemed less interested in the Standard. Since the Anschutz group has taken over paid subscriptions are said to have increased by 39 percent between 2009 and 2010.
 The Standard is described in Wikipedia: The Weekly Standard is an American neoconservative opinion magazine published 48 times per year. Its founding publisher, News Corporation, debuted the title September 18, 1995. Currently edited by founder William Kristol and Fred Barnes, the Standard has been described as a "redoubt of neoconservatism" and as "the neo-con bible."
 Given Hayes' stellar credentials as being a bona fide conservative rather than a potential terrorist how is it that he ended up on a DHS terror watch list? Apparently, it is easy to get on the list. Hayes' big mistake was to buy a one way ticket to Turkey. Everyone should know that the DHS probably thinks that anyone who buys a one way ticket to Turkey is on the way to join the Islamic State or the Nusra Front rebels in Syria. Both groups are on the US terror list.
Hayes' describes his experiences in a podcast at the Weekly Standard. Hayes and his wife booked a one-way trip to Istanbul. However, they then went on a cruise and ended up in Athens. They flew back to the US from Athens. Hayes thinks that his being placed on the watch list resulted from his purchase of the one-way ticket to Istanbul. He told POLITICO: "I'd be concerned if it was anything more than that." I find it strange that he is not concerned about that. Should buying a one-way ticket to Turkey be sufficient grounds for placing a person on a terror watch list? There could be countless reasons for buying a one-way ticket to Turkey as his own case shows.
  Hayes describes what happened when he tried to check in for a flight from Minneapolis a few weeks later: "When I went online to check in with Southwest, they wouldn't let me. I figured it was some glitch. Then I got to the airport and went to check in. The woman had a concerned look on her face. She brought over her supervisor and a few other people. Then they shut down the lane I was in, took me to the side, told me I was a selectee and scrawled [something] on my ticket. On my way back. the same thing happened. I got pulled out, they closed down the lane, and did a full pat-down and looked in all parts of my luggage." Hayes later contacted Southwest. A customer service representative told him he was on the watch list.
 At the time Hayes talked to POLITICO he was attempting to fill out forms on the DHS website in an attempt to clear his name. He is finding out that the process has built in snags. Hayes reports: "Not surprisingly, it's confusing. The first time I did it, the whole site froze. Now it's asking me for my passport number and a bunch of other information. Then I think I'm supposed to submit an actual copy of my passport, which I obviously can't do electronically."
 Perhaps some enterprising terrorist came across the biography of Stephen Hayes and decided that "Stephen Hayes" would make a great alias and now the rest is history with Hayes being the victim. Then again, maybe this is all Obama's fault along with everything else bad that happens. Actually, in this case, Obama may be partly to blame since both the no-fly list and watchlist have expanded during his time in office.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Washington avoids discussion of costs of war on the Islamic State

If the US war against the Islamic State were a social program there would be immediate requests for an estimate of the costs. If the duration and extent of the program was indefinite criticism would be immediate and harsh.

With respect to the Obama long term program to degrade and eliminate the Islamic State, costs appear to be irrelevant and in any case not worthy of discussing. We have no idea how long the attacks on the Islamic State will last nor the extent of the program but even now the attacks have extended from Iraq into Syria. While Obama so far has ruled out any boots on the ground, he has already sent about 1,500 special forces to Iraq. Apparently they do not count as boots on the ground.
The White House refuses to even estimate how much the war has cost up to now let alone what it might cost in the future. When press secretary Josh Earnest was pressed on the cost issue he said: “I don’t have an estimate on that. I know that we’re interested in having an open dialogue with Congress to ensure that our military has the resources necessary to carry out the mission that the president has laid out.” There is no budget for the war. Up to now, the US has been paying for the air attacks from the Overseas Contingency Operations budget. There is $85 billion in that budget but who knows how long that will last. The last US Iraq War had a total cost of over $2 trillion. While so far this new war has relatively few US forces present on the ground, over time with continued bombings and no doubt many contractors helping out with various tasks the bill could add up.
Last month, Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters the Iraq operations were costing about $7.5 million a day but no doubt that has increased considerably by now. Already the US has made over 170 airstrikes and there are about 60 surveillance flights each day.
 Unlike the first Iraq war, this new one will use mostly proxy troops such as Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga. In Syria the proxies will also be Kurds as well as many rebel groups who have clashed with the Islamic State. Obama has requested funds to train and arm more "moderate" rebels even though the weapons may end up in the hands of the Islamic State The tactic of using proxy troops will minimize casualties among Americans that might cause negative political reactions on the home front. However, Obama has made it clear that the fight against the Islamic Front will be long term. So will the costs.
 As was the case with the first Iraq War the US will try form a coalition of allies to share the cost of the battle. More than 40 countries have already pledged support for efforts to curb and destroy the Islamic State. France has already joined air strikes in Iraq and several Arab States joined in an attack on the Islamic State in Syria.
 Just last week, Obama again emphasized that he was not about to get the US involved in a ground war in Syria saying on TV: “American forces will not have a com Abat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, however revealed that on at least one occasion small teams of US advisers have gone into battle with Iraqi troops. He also noted that if circumstances changed, Obama could change his mind about sending in US troops.
 So far, Obama has not sought congressional authority for his air strikes even in Syria where Assad has not given permission. The attacks are seen by Assad and Russia as against international law. White House spokesperson Earnest said that Obama "will not hesitate to use his authority to keep Americans safe". He went on to claim that the contemplated attacks in Syria were not against the Assad regime: “What we're talking about now is not about the Assad regime, but about this threat that's posed by [ISIS] that's operating both in Iraq and in Syra". This does not change the fact that the attack is on Syrian territory without the permission of the Syrian government.
 No doubt the air strikes will help slow down if not reverse Islamic State advances, although in northern Syria in the last few days, the group has made significant gains of territory sparking a huge flood of refugees into Turkey. Air strikes have hit the main Islamic State held city and stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. Such strikes are almost bound to kill civilians and cause a great deal of damage to infrastructure. The same can be said of attacks on Iraqi cities. Just as many locals in Iraq prefer the Islamic State to the Shiite-dominated central government so in Syria many locals may prefer the Islamic State to Assad.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rival Afghan presidential candidates reach deal at last

Rival candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani were said to be close to a power-sharing agreement back on Tuesday Sept. 16 but talks stalled in part because the two could not agree when the results of final vote audit should be released.

Abdullah does not want the results as they now stand made public.Those results are widely thought to show him losing by a considerable margin even though he led by a good margin in the first vote before the runoff. Both Abdullah and Ghani had assured their western backers that they would support a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry. There would be a complete audit of all the votes cast and the formation of a unity government that would see the loser given a new chief executive position.
 The latest report from the Los Angeles Times indicated that the two rival candidates finally reached a deal yesterday September 19 on the formation of a unity government, even though they still have divisions over the final results. The two candidates also had difficulties defining the powers of the new post of chief executive. The reports of an agreement may be a bit premature since aides to both Ghani and Abdullah claimed that the two had not yet agreed on the result of the audit of the all 8 million votes cast in the June runoff. Abdullah claims that massive fraud allowed Ghani to win.
 The Afghan Independent Election Commission is set to announce the results of the election on Saturday afternoon according to one source but the next day Sunday according to another. Ghani is expected to win by a comfortable margin.
Not only Abdullah, but Ghani also had objections to some aspects of a proposed agreement which would see the president along with the chief executive together form the government. Ghani said that this would remove powers from the president granted by the Afghan constitution.
No matter who wins the presidency both rivals have promised that they would sign a bilateral security agreement with the US that has already been passed by the Afghan parliament. It would allow the US to keep up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the present agreement ends at the end of 2014. The US is anxious to have the agreement signed as soon as possible. Abdulllah Abdullah represents northern groups and power brokers while Ghani has the support of many in the Pashtun majority in the south and east of Pakistan. Ghani is a former World Bank official and finance minister and has the support of Karzai. Abdullah is a former foreign minister.
There has been enormous pressure from the US and others for a deal to be made. Even if Abdullah agrees to a deal, some of his supporters may not accept the results of the audit assuming Abdullah is the loser. However, Nasrullah Arsalai, an Abdullah campaign manager said both rivals need to compromise: They need to be responsible, act responsibly. This is not about Dr. Ghani and Dr. Abdullah. This is about Afghanistan. This is about the interest of our allies. This is about all the efforts of these 13 years. This is all about the sacrifices of Afghans and our allies have made. For that reason they need to be responsible."

Obama's Syria bombing will violate international law

The Obama administration has explained why it thinks it has the legal authority to bomb IS in Iraq and Syria although many doubt whether the justifications are sound. No justification has yet been been given for the attacks under international law,.

Obama argues that the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after 9/11 to allow military action against Al Qaeda and those linked to the 9/11 attacks gives him the required authorization to use military forces against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. However,. Al Qaeda has disowned the Islamic State(IS) and IS has even fought against the group recognized by Al Qaeda in Syria the Al-Nusra Front. The Islamic State had nothing to do with 9/11.
 So far the Obama administration has not even attempted to provide a justification for attacking the Islamic State under international law. Since the Iraqi government has asked for and approved the US military actions against IS in Iraq, the problem will be to provide justification for attacks within Syria where the US refuses even to ask permission for its proposed bombing attacks. Both the Syrians and Russians claim any attacks in Syria would violate both international law with respect to armed conflict and also the UN charter unless authorized by the Assad government or a UN resolution.
The US answer appears to be that if and when the US actually carries out military action in Syria it will come up with the justification then. The moral appears to be to act first and justify after. Caitlin Hayden explained to the Daily Beast:“Whenever the United States uses force in foreign territories, international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints on the ability of the United States to act unilaterally—and on the way in which the United States can use force. With respect to international law, the specific basis will depend on the particular facts and circumstances related to any specific military actions, but we believe that we will have a basis for taking action.”
 In Libya, Obama took great pains to have a UN resolution authorize his military action under the guise of protecting the lives of citizens. The actual aim was regime change. With Gadaffi's air force and defenses destroyed, bombing attacks were used to help rebels defeat Gadaffi's forces on the ground. In other interventions the policy has been to violate international law along with any allies willing to go along and then go to the UN to justify continued occupation as in Iraq and Afghanistan. For some of the violations in the Afghan invasion see this article.
Even former UN secretary general Kofi Annan explicitly said in September 2004 that the Iraq attacks on Hussein violated international law and the UN charter: Mr Annan said that the invasion was not sanctioned by the UN security council or in accordance with the UN's founding charter. In an interview with the BBC World Service broadcast last night, he was asked outright if the war was illegal. He replied: "Yes, if you wish."He then added unequivocally: "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter."
 In spite of these precedents, Ken Gude, of the Center for American Progress, a think tank close to the Obama administration that supports his anti-IS campaign says: “It’s important that the U.S. be seen as an adherent and supporter of international law and I’m concerned about the direction this is going. I’m disappointed in the level of supporting both domestic and international law in this military campaign. It’s important that the U.S. be seen as an adherent and supporter of international law and I’m concerned about the direction this is going". Rather than providing a justification as Gude suggests, US State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf said in response to Syrian claims that any US attacks without Syrian permission or a UN resolution would violate international law:"I find it interesting that Russia’s suddenly taken an interest in international law, given some of their past behavior. The President has the authority as Commander-in-Chief under the United States Constitution to take actions to protect our people. And any action we take overseas, of course, we will have an international legal basis for doing so. I don’t have predictions about what that is, given we haven’t announced additional actions yet.”
 This response, would seem to indicate that the administration may take the tack of claiming the action is required on the grounds that the Islamic State is an immediate threat to the United States in a place where the state involved, Syria, is unable or unwilling to take action. Of course Syria is taking action against the IS and has even said that it would sanction the military actions of the US against IS if they were coordinated with the Syrian government. The self-defense argument used in this case would stretch the meaning of "imminent threat" beyond reason so as to allow the application of the self-defense justification. If the US were willing to cooperate with the Assad government there would be no need to resort to self defense as a justification at all. John Kerry explicitly ruled out such cooperation: No, we're not going to coordinate with it, Syria. We will certainly want to deconflict to make certain that they're not about to do something that they might regret even more seriously. But we're not going to coordinate. It's not a cooperative effort. We are going to do what they haven't done, what they had plenty of opportunity to do, which is to take on ISIL and to degrade it and eliminate it as a threat.
 For some time the Islamic State or ISIS, at it was then, concentrated on taking territory held by other rebels and so there was not much confrontation between Assad and ISIS but that has changed for some time and Assad and ISIS are in constant battle with each other.
The US might try to invoke a right of "collective self defense" and claim that strikes inside Syria were meant to protect Iraq against the IS. Syria is not able to control its own territory and prevent attacks against Iraq by IS from Syria. Any such justification would limit attacks to defending Iraq and not destroying IS as is Obama's purported aim. The Obama administration could again stretch the legal limits by claiming that any punitive action against IS in Syria would be protecting Iraq. No doubt the Russians would find this defense interesting. Perhaps, they could argue that two self-declared pro-Russian Republics were unable to control their territory in the Ukraine, and hence to protect them they are going to bomb Ukrainian forces that are trying to take control of those territories. This is simply an application of the collective right to self defense. Ashley Deeks, a University of Virginia Law Professor, does not think that the collective self defense justification would be attractive to the Obama administration: “This theory would limit the scope of action of those helping the Iraqi government: those providing assistance only could do so to the extent necessary to quell ISIS in Iraq and ensure that ISIS was unable to conduct future attacks there. The approach also would be contingent on Iraq’s consent, which it could withdraw. As a political matter, it seems doubtful that the United States would find this to be an appealing approach, particularly if it perceives its own national interests to be at stake.”
Finally, Obama could claim that IS is part of the continuing war against al-Qaeda an application of the same type of justification used under domestic law to the international realm. Apart from the problems that IS is not part of Al Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11 it is not clear how this justification shows US actions comply with international law. The US can attempt to pass a UN Security Council resolution justifying use of force against the Islamic State in Syria. Russia would no doubt veto such a resolution.
A drone has already been seen over Aleppo in areas controlled by IS and also over Raqqa the main center in IS territory in Syria. Unless these drones are Syrian or have permission from the government to be there, they are violating Syrian air space. The US justification for action in Syria is long overdue. We know that the US carried out attacks in Syria some time ago as they attempted to rescue a US journalist held by IS in Syria. On the appended video, the new Iraqi prime minister claims that without the consent of the Assad government bombing attacks on the IS in Syria violate international law.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Moderate Syrian rebels of FSA refuse to join Obama coalition to fight the Islamic State

The Free Syrian Army(FSA) that the US classifies as moderate Syrian rebels has announced that it will not join the US anti-Islamic State coalition.

The head of the western-backed Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad Assad, the leader of the FSA also said that his group would not participate in attacks against the Islamic State. Assad is not related to the Syrian president Bashar Assad. The Colonel's main objection to the coalition is that it does not have as its primary goal regime change to replace president Bashar Assad and his government. Colonel Assad said: "If they want to see the Free Syrian Army on their side, they should give assurances on toppling the Assad regime and on a plan including revolutionary principles."
 The statement by the Colonel is in contrast to an earlier statement by the western-backed political group, the Syrian National Coalition associated with the FSA and recognized by some countries, including many Arab states, as representing the Syrian people. The group is not recognized by many rebel groups however as representing them including the Islamic Front. The Syrian National Council a sizable group within the Coalition withdrew after the Coalition attended the Geneva Peace Talks with the Assad government. The Coalition claimed that it was willing to work with the coalition to fight the Islamic State. Earlier, a ceasefire had been announced in Damascus between a rebel group, the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) and Islamic State fighters in the Damascus area. The Islamic State could very well agree not to target rebel forces in many areas in return for not being attacked themselves, and launching a coordinated effort against the Assad regime. Up to now there have been numerous clashes between Islamic State fighters and other rebels. A ceasefire with other rebels could very well foil completely the US aim of using rebels as proxy forces to defeat the Islamic State.
However, there are reports that the SRF agreement had been breached by the Islamic State. There are other reports of alliances between moderates and radical groups on the Lebanon border. The situation is certainly confusing with conflicting reports.
The National Coalition reaffirmed that it would not cooperate with Israel in any fight against the Islamic State. The group disowned Kamel Lubnani for traveling to Israel to attend a counter-terrorism conference. Israel is worried that Assad forces on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights have lost control to radical rebel groups including the Al-Nusra front linked to Al Qaeda. Obama's stated intention is to further train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to attack the Islamic State. The rebels on the ground in Syria have other views as to what they will do with their training and weapons.
Even now some of the anti-tank weapons provided to moderate rebels turned up in the hands of the Islamic State. The FSA has also experienced defections not only to the larger Islamic Front but also to Al-Nusra Front and even the Islamic State itself. What is certain in all of this is that there will be more killing and that arms manufacturers will see increasing demand for their products. The complexity of the situation completely eludes some US politicians as is illustrated by the appended video from the Young Turks.The level of fearful rhetoric is mind-boggling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Israel shows off its drones at conference in Tel Aviv

Only a few weeks after the recent truce that ended the Gaza war, Israel weapons manufacturers are displaying weapons used in the conflict at their annual Unmanned Systems Conference in Tel Aviv, from Sept. 14th to 19th.

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv is a co-host of the event. The US Embassy website says that "senior officials from commercial and government entities" attend from Europe, Asia, North and South America.
 Among sponsors are Elbit Systems,the largest private Israeli defense contractor. Elbit has over 12,000 employees. Elbit produces the Hermes 450 drone that was probably used for attacks during the Gaza conflict this summer. There are photos of the aircraft operating in Gaza. The company website claims that the Hermes 450 had been fighting terrorism for over a decade and claims that it is the main platform of the Israeli Defense Forces in counter-terrorism operations. The drone is described as a "multi-role tactical high-performance unmanned aircraft system."
The Hermes 450 was one of two drones used by Israel during the 2009 conflict in Gaza. Human Rights Watch estimates that between 48 to 87 Palestinian civilians were killed by drones in that conflict In the recent conflict 2,130 Palestinians were killed but there has been no estimate of how many were killed by drone strikes.
Recent share movement of Elbit can be seen here. Since the conflict started the shares have risen and reached $63.01 after fighting intensified on July 8. The stock is close to its highest level since 2010 and its price-to-earnings ratio is the highest in five years. In spite of growth in export sales, company performance is hurt by the high shekel, which also increases expenses for the firm. William Scholes of Aberdeen Asset Management points out that Elbit's revenues are global and increased income from sales in Israel will not impact global revenue to a great extent. Of six analysts of the stock only one rated it a buy with the other five recommending a hold.
Competition in the global military-industrial complex is quite fierce but with renewed emphasis on the need to fight the Islamic State and increasing involvement by the US military and those of allies globally, military budgets may begin to increase once again.
 The conflicts in Gaza have not only led to the development of drones using cutting-edge technology but also night-vision equipment that is widely exported. This equipment has been field-tested in actual combat conditions. While the Gaza conflict is estimated to have cost the Israeli economy several billion dollars and much more to Gaza itself, it has been a boost to Israel's arms industry according to Barbara Opall-Rome from the US magazine Defense News. She claims that Israel exported about $7 billion in military products annually during the last five-year period. Israel is in the top five of global arms-exporting countries. However, Israel faces limitations on its arms exports. It does not want to arm Arab neighbours. The US insists that it not sell to places such as China and no doubt to Russia. Of course the US is a prime supplier to Arab Gulf States.

More mysterious plane attacks on Islamist positions near Tripoli

General Saqr Jarrushi, an aide to CIA-linked General Hafter, claimed that their forces carried out an air strike on the town of Gharyan, 120 kilometers southwest of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Militia in the town are associated with the umbrella group Libya Dawn of mostly Islamist militias that control Tripoli and the international airport there. The same group had been targeted on several nights as it wrested control of Tripoli and the international airport from the Zintan brigades that are allies of Haftar. The rebels accused the UAE and Egypt of being behind the attacks, as did the US — at least for a time. Haftar claimed it was a joint operation by his forces and the international community. The planes involved were not of a type that are part of the Libyan air force.
 The Libyan state news agency said that 15 people were wounded in the recent raid directed at a munitions depot. General Haftar began the main conflict with Islamist militias in May and called it Operation Dignity. He attacked two Islamist bases in Benghazi where he had his headquarters. His allies, the Zintan brigades, attacked the elected parliament, burned it, and kidnapped a number of Islamist legislators and officials. Afterwards they continued to provide security for the Tripoli international airport. However, after lengthy clashes, they were driven out by militia from Misrata and are now being bombarded in an area called Warshefana on the outskirts of the city. The area is surrounded on all sides by militia who are bombarding the area and keeping out supplies.
 Forces loyal to Haftar are threatening to bomb Benghazi port unless authorities closed it to prevent arms from coming in for Islamist militia. He is prepared to ruin the port apparently to prevent it being used to supply the militias. The new legislators elected in June were to meet originally in Benghazi as the interim government had passed a law to move it there. However, before its scheduled meeting, Benghazi was taken over by an umbrella group of Islamist militias who over-ran military bases run by Libyan Special Forces who are allies of Haftar, Haftar still controls an airport on the outskirts from which he still seems able to launch some bombing attacks locally at least.
 It is not clear if he would be able to launch attacks near Tripoli. He may be protecting some foreign government that is giving him aid. The elected legislators finally met in the eastern city of Tobruk. They are loosely allied with Haftar, although the interim government had called Operation Dignity an attempted coup and ordered Haftar arrested. As with many orders of the earlier government the order was never carried out. Many Islamist groups do not recognize the government in Tobruk.
The internationally recognized government in Tobruk has lost control of many ministries. Islamist groups reconvened the General National Congress and it has appointed a new prime minister.
 The head of the UN mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon, who has been on the job only two weeks, said that only a political solution could solve the crisis. However, with the Islamist militias in control of Tripoli and Benghazi and with Haftar resorting to air bombardments after being defeated on the ground and having the internationally recognized government in an area under his control, it seems unlikely that either side is willing to recognize the other as a legitimate partner to forge a political solution. I would not be surprised if within a short time the west will suddenly discover that all the Islamists in Libya are akin to Ansar al-Sharia and need to be defeated and banned from politics as in Egypt. The CIA-linked General Haftar will save Libya from Islamists copying the formula of el-Sisi in Egypt. France is already calling for intervention.

Obama breaks promise to declassify pages of 9/11 report on foreign involvement

In 2002 a report was issued that gave details of support for the hijackers behind the 2001 attacks. Twelve years later the pages dealing with the support still remain classified in spite of many promises to have them released.

The pages are part of a US House-Senate Intelligence Committee's Joint Inquiry. The section classified was on "specific sources of foreign support". George W. Bush classified the pages for national security reasons. Bush himself was criticized by many for not declassifying the material. Critics say that the American public and especially family members of victims of the attacks deserve to know the contents of the report. The attack, involved four hijacked airlines. Two crashed into the New York World Trade Center's Twin Towers. One crashed into the Pentagon, and a third crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The attack killed almost 3,000 people.
 Attempts to declassify the documents are not new with 46 Senators urging release of the section back in 2003, an attempt that failed. The pages can actually be read by members of Congress if given permission from leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Members are accompanied by intelligence officials who ensure that no notes are taken and those who read the notes must not release specific details about the report.
  Stephen Lynch, a congressman who has read the material, said:"I think the 28 pages are stunning in their clarity in terms of how demonstrative they are in showing the planning beforehand, the financing, and the eventual attacks on that day." However, he also cautioned that questions remained whether individuals "were acting as part of a government, or acting as rogue agents".
  Bob Graham, a former senator, was co-chair of the committee that oversaw the writing of the document containing the 28 pages in 2002. . Graham has been asking for years that the White House release the material. He has also claimed that Saudi Arabia was linked to the 9/11 attacks. Graham accuses Omar al-Bayoumi a Saudi citizen who helped two of the hijackers find an apartment in San Diego, and also paid their security deposit and signed their lease, of being a Saudi agent. Those accusations were rejected by a 9/11 Commission Report in 2004. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the US at the time of 9/11 denies that the Saudi government had any role in the attacks.
 There were not just rumors of foreign involvement but of the FBI being involved. This article reports that an FBI informant had rented a room to two hijackers. Specifically, investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House.
 Another link to Saudi Arabia involved the house of the father of a Saudi millionaire Abdullaz al-Hiji in Sarasota Florida. The al-Hijii's moved out of their house abruptly and left the country abruptly just weeks before the 9/11 attacks: "..leaving behind three luxury cars, and personal belongings including clothing, furniture, and fresh food. They also left the swimming pool water circulating." An FBI investigation found no connection of the family to the attacks.
However, Bob Graham begs to differ: Graham says he recently gained access to two secret documents regarding the FBI’s investigation of al-Hijji’s family, and says one of the documents “completely contradicts” the bureau’s public statements that there was no connection between the 9/11 hijackers and the al-Hijjis. However, Graham said he could not provide further details because the documents were classified. As the appended video indicates Obama promised 9/11 families that he would declassify the pages. He has not kept his promise and the White House has not even bothered to answer recent letters from the 9/11 family group.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

IMF loan to Ukraine chains it to the west

Back in April of this year after the February uprising against president Yanukovych in the Ukraine, the IMF approved a loan of $17 billion to the new Ukrainian government.

The $17 billion is eight times the normal quota. Usually a country will be able at most to borrow just twice its annual quota. However, the Ukraine loan is four times even that amount, indicating that the IMF was very anxious to grant the loan even though past loans have not worked out well, as when a loan was made previously in 2012: The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund has decided that Ukraine is expected to engage in post-program monitoring1 with the Fund, following the expiration on December 27, 2012 of the 29-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with exceptional access (SDR 10 billion; US$ 15.2 billion; 729 percent of quota). The program went off-track with only two purchases made in the total amount of SDR 2.25 billion (about US$ 3.4 billion). As of June 30, 2013 Ukraine’s outstanding credit to the Fund was SDR 5.27 billion (about US$ 8 billion; 383.8 percent of quota). The Board's decision was adopted on a lapse-of-time basis2 on Friday, July 26.
 Given that the new loan is even larger and more out of line with normal practice, this indicates how anxious the IMF is to tie Ukraine into western international financial institutions. On August 29 the IMF signed off on the loan. The IMF signed off on the loan even though Ukraine was in effect fighting a civil war, was suffering from capital flights, and their balance of payments was in a state of collapse.
This article suggests the loan supported Ukrainian currency long enough for Ukrainian oligarchs to move their accounts to hard currency accounts in the west. The war in the east is further damaging an already faltering economy destroying basic infrastructure for power generation, water, and even hospitals. Many citizens are internally displaced or fled to Russia. Yet an IMF press release praised the Ukrainian government: “The IMF praised the government’s commitment to economic reforms despite the ongoing conflict.” John Helmer has calculated that of the $3.2 billion disbursed by the IMF at beginning of May this year, $3.1 billion had disappeared offshore by the middle of last month. It appears that the financial situation is worsening and that another $5 billion may be needed over above the IMF loan of $17 billion.
President Poroshenko one of the oligarchs may be threatened from the right by another oligarch, Igor Kolomysky, who has his own private militia. Given that Poroshenko has not yet been able to defeat the separatists and economic austerity measures demanded by the IMF will decrease his political popularity, it is possible that there could be another coup by forces even more to the right and nationalist. Ukraine's debt is not dominated in Ukrainian currency but dollars and euros. With Ukrainian currency falling in value the Ukraine needs to gain dollars and euros to finance its debt. To do this, Ukraine will need to sell off its resources to western interests, often at fire sale prices, and in return it will receive the dollars and euros it will need to finance its debt.
 There are clear links to the US at this stage. Senate Bill 2277 directs the US Agency for International Development(USAID) to guarantee loans for the development of oil and gas in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. There are links to the Obama administration as well in all of this. Vice-president Joe Biden's son recently was appointed to the board of Burisma a Ukrainian company although it is registered in Cyprus. The Ukrainian government has even helped using its military: “Ukrainian troopers help installing shale gas production equipment near the east Ukrainian town of Slavyansk, which they bombed and shelled for the three preceding months, the Novorossiya news agency reports on its website citing local residents. Civilians protected by Ukrainian army are getting ready to install drilling rigs. More equipment is being brought in, they said, adding that the military are encircling the future extraction area.” Kolomoysky is reported to a major investor in Burisma. He was appointed by the Ukrainian government to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk a south-central province. In the Eastern Ukraine there had been opposition to fracking even before the Maidan demonstrations.
 There is pressure from the IMF and World Bank for Ukraine to deregulate its agriculture.The Investment Finance Corporation of the World Bank has advised Ukraine "to delete provisions regarding mandatory certification of food in the listed laws of Ukraine and Government Decree," and also "to avoid unnecessary costs for businesses" by regulations on pesticides and food additives.
As part of its efforts to punish Russia for thwarting plans to orient the Ukraine more towards the west and to reliance on western funding, there are various plans afoot to ensure that the IMF loans to do not for the most part go towards paying off the huge debt that the Ukraine owes Russia. Anna Gelpem. a former UK Treasury official wants a $3 billion bond negotiated by Russia's sovereign wealth fund to be declared by law foreign aid rather than a commercial loan. She said: “The United Kingdom can refuse to enforce English-law contracts for the money Russia lent,” thereby taking “away creditor remedies for default on this debt.” Gelpem suggests an even more extensive repudiation of debt: Ukraine may claim that its debt to Russia is “odious.” This applies to situations where “an evil ruler signs contracts that burden future generations long after the ruler is deposed.” She adds that “Repudiating all debts incurred under Yanukovich would discourage lending to corrupt leaders.” Gelpem suggests that it be a universal principle that contracts that are "used to advance military and political objectives..should lose their claim to court enforcement". This should mean then that the IMF loan to the Ukraine need not be paid off. That would help out the Ukraine most of all. As the appended video shows the IMF loan comes with many unpopular provisions.

Vietnam renews adoptions with US but Russia still bans US adoptions

The United States and Vietnam will resume adoptions, ending a six-year ban. The ban was imposed after reports of babies being sold and some children offered without parental consent.

The new system will allow Americans to adopt children who have special needs or are over five years old. The adoptions will begin again after the Vietnam decides which US adoption service groups will be authorized to represent parents in the US. Nguyen Van Binh, director of the adoption agency at the Vietnamese Justice Ministry said that two agencies would be issued licenses next week.
 The US government also announced the renewal of adoptions: Beginning September 16, 2014, USCIS will accept and adjudicate Form I-800 petitions filed on behalf of children from Vietnam who meet the specific criteria of a Special Adoption Program under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). The announcement said that Vietnam has taken a number of steps since 2012 to improve its implementation of the Hague Convention, particularly with respect to adoption of children with special needs and older children. The US government statement went on to say that the US Department of State could now issue Hague Adoption Certificates on a case-by-case basis.
 Before the ban in 2008, Vietnam was popular as a source of children for adoption. The allegations that led to the ban on adoptions from Vietnam were confirmed by a UN report in 2009. It found that cash payments were made by adoption agencies to orphanages. This led to orphanages seeking out children to be adopted without proper checks on family circumstances or their background. The resumption of these limited types of adoptions may be a prelude to allowing all adoptions according to a delegation of US senators who visited Vietnam last year.
 Russia has banned adoptions by Americans since January 1, 2013. The most popular country for US adoptions were China, Ethiopia, and then Russia at the time of the ban. Supporters of the Russian bill claimed that some US adoptive parents had been abusive, and that there had been 19 deaths of adopted Russian children since the 1990's. The Russian law might have been partly in retaliation for the US passage of the Magnitsky Act.
 However, there was also a very negative reaction in Russia to a case where a seven-year-old adopted by an American nurse was sent back to Russia with a note saying that she no longer wanted him: Little Artem Saveliev was last year taken from a grim orphanage and given a new life in Tennessee last year. But his adoptive mother Torry-Ann Hansen, a 34-year-old nurse, yesterday put him on a ten-hour flight as an unaccompanied minor with a note 'to whom it may concern' saying: 'I no longer wish to parent this child'. Given the present tense relations between Russia and the US, adoptions from Russia may not resume soon.
The ban halted pending adoption of 259 Russian children to about 230 US families. A year after the ban many of the families were looking to adopt elsewhere but some were still hoping the ban would be lifted. Many of the families had already traveled to Russia and bonded with the children they were to adopt.

Obama may be planning to intervene in Libya with others

In Obama's recent announcement of the expansion of attacks against the Islamic State in Iraq and also into Syria, he also spoke of the need for vigilance in northern Africa.

Obama may also be turning his sights on a possible intervention in Libya which is more and more described in the media as a failed state. Ever since the CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar began his Operation Dignity against Islamist militias and had his allies the Zintan Brigades attack and burn parliament while kidnapping some Islamist lawmakers and officials, there have been counter-attacks by umbrella groups of mostly Islamist militias who now control Tripoli and also most of Benghazi.
Obama could argue that the success of Islamist militias could lead to a safe haven for radical Islamist groups. Some radical groups are already associated with Islamist militia umbrella groups, especially in Benghazi, including Ansar al Sharia, the group accused of the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. The US along with allies could intervene to support the government in Tobruk and indirectly Haftar.
 France is already pushing for intervention. There has already been intervention in the form of several night attacks by mystery planes directed against Islamist targets in Tripoli. They failed to stop the ultimate takeover of the city by the militias. The rebels accused the UAE and Egypt of being behind the attacks. Haftar himself called the attacks a joint project with the international community. Later, the US also accused the UAE and Egypt of being behind the attacks and claimed to have known nothing about the attacks before they happened. This seems quite unlikely. More likely, the US might have even approved even if tacitly. Later still, the US withdrew its accusations against the UAE and Egypt suggesting that the US cannot decide what story it should tell.
 The government elected in June has been meeting in the far eastern city of Tobruk and is loosely allied with Haftar. The interim government had scheduled a meeting of the group in Benghazi where parliament had been moved but the security situation prevented it. In a recent interview, Obama suggested for Libya the sort of nation building and long term commitment which was part of the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan neither of which have been very successful so far but cost the US huge sums and many casualties.
 Obama said: "I think we [and] our European partners underestimated the need to come in full force if you’re going to do this. Then it’s the day after Ghadafi is gone, when everybody is feeling good and everybody is holding up posters saying, ‘Thank you, America. At that moment, there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies that didn’t have any civic traditions." In neighboring Egypt, the president el-Sisi is waging an all-out battle against any Islamists who oppose his government especially the Muslim Brotherhood which until it was overthrown ran the first elected government. El-Sisi designates these Islamists as terrorists. Obama could very well decide to describe the Islamist militias in Libya as terrorists and intervene as part of his global war on terror.
Obama said: "As Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead from Europe to Asia—from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East—we stand for justice, for dignity, Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.” In his recent speech Obama emphasized that the greatest threats at present come from the Middle East and North Africa where he claims radical groups are exploiting grievances for their own game. General Haftar could very well play a key role in helping Obama rebuild Libya in any attempt to create a Libya more to the liking of the west and western corporations eager to further the exploitation of Libya's vast oil resources.
 One suggestion by Barak Barfi is as follows:"Washington and its partners should persuade the new Libyan government to appoint Haftar as chief of staff. Respected by his troops, he has the military skills and combat experience necessary to create a modern army. But most important, he is the sole Libyan willing to take on the Islamist militias that are preventing the establishment of a modern state" The Tobruk-based government has dismissed 7 ambassadors loyal to the GNC-formed government in Tripoli.

Facebook loses more users in Europe last quarter but is growing elsewhere

Facebook finds its user base had gone down in Europe the company reported as it announced its third-quarter earnings. This is the second qu...