Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Greece: Greek court orders demolition of Roma homes

A Greek court has ordered the partial demolition of a Roma camp in a plush suburb of Athens.The camp has been home to a community of 300 Roma people for four decades.But the court says their properties lack planning permission and the government wants the prime real estate back.Al Jazeera's John Psaropoulos reports from Athens.

South Sudan: Four South Sudan Soldiers Killed in Pay Dispute

Source: Voice of America

Waakhe Simon Wudu

Officials in Central Equatoria state said Tuesday that four soldiers were killed and several more wounded in a shootout at a military barracks in Yei River county, in the south of the country.

Yei mayor Santo Paul Lasuba said the deadly incident appeared to have been sparked by a disagreement over pay. A former commander at the barracks accused the new commander of witholding pay that he was owed from months earlier.

"Without any conversation, he started to load his pistol and start to shoot the lieutenant colonel," Lasuba said.

Lasuba said three soldiers loyal to the former commander and one soldier loyal to the lieutenant colonel who is in command now were killed in the shooting incident.

The new commander was shot in the chest. He was rushed to Juba for treatment.

The former commander who opened fire on his successor has been arrested and is in custody, Lasuba said. Security has been stepped up at the barracks.

Another dispute over pay in March left at least five soldiers dead at the Giada barracks in Juba, the headquarters of the South Sudan army's ground forces and the same military barracks where fighting erupted in December, triggering the conflict that is still claiming lives in parts of the country.

ISIS: All the things that nobody told you


The US President Barrack Obama admitted during a CBS interview that the United States underestimated the opportunity that a war-torn Syria would provide for the comeback of extremist militant groups. He defined Iraq and Syria as "ground zero for jihadists around the world".

According to Obama, the head of the Us intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that they underestimated what had been going on in Syria. [1]

At the beginning of September Obama had also claimed that "the war on ISIS would last at least 3 years" and a few weeks later the Senate passed a bill authorizing Obama to begin arming "moderate" rebels in Syria as part of a plan to step up the US military campaign against ISIS militants.

The bill allocates $500 million not only to the arming and training of Syrian rebels, but also to the expansion of US military action in Iraq. Included in the bill is also the extension of US government funding until December 11.

In the meantime the coalition, which includes the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have begun the airstrikes against Isis targets in Syria and Iraq.

Obama contradicts himself once again

Initially, Barrack Obama had claimed that no US troops would be deployed on the ground but after several US and UK military chiefs explained how the air strikes have very limited use without ground control, Obama is now rethinking his whole "non-strategy" and he is staring to contradict himself once again.
Obama's Middle East policies have been one huge contradiction which led to total failure; although  the US administration has now reached claims that are hard to believe even for those who have minimum knowledge about foreign affairs.

The US intelligence apparently underestimated the collateral effects of arming those who have been defined as "moderate Syrian rebels" but in the meantime the Senate approves a bill to arm such rebels. It seems that they still haven't learnt the lesson.

In addition the US also plans to expand military operation in Iraq after two wars that brought the country into total anarchy and it is more than realistic to believe that there is a similar aim towards Syria, in order to destabilize Assad.

The mystery of Isis and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

According to Obama, it will take at least three years to defeat that Islamic State which literally popped out of nowhere; in less than one year the group managed to take control of great part of Syria and Iraq. Its militants defeated a well-armed Iraqi army that was trained and equipped for years by the US forces, stealing all their vehicles and weapons; although the US did not expect that the Iraqi army would simply run away once confronted by the jihadists.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the strange Isis leader, was a well-known preacher already in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq for the second time and he immediately joined Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's "al-Qaeda Iraq" with the task of infiltrating Arab jihadists inside Iraq.

Strangely enough, al-Baghdadi, who was famous for his passion for public execution, was arrested by US forces and locked inside the Camp Bucca detention facility but not in the compound where the dangerous jihadists were detained. Strangely enough, he was not considered dangerous at all.

In 2009, al-Baghdadi is freed by the US forces and the following year, on May 16th 2010, he is appointed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, replacing Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. As a consequence, the attacks towards Shia and Christian targets throughout Iraq drastically increased.

In 2011 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became one of the top wanted terrorists by the US Department of State, with a 10$ million reward.

Foreign fighters and Western intelligence

The US and EU intelligence community were also surprised by the fact that thousands of EU citizens suddenly began flowing towards the Middle East to join jihadists? Is it really credible?

According to statistics there are approximately 700 French citizens, 500 British, 300 from Belgium and Germany, 100 from Denmark. In some cases jihadists even managed to return from Syria and conduct attacks in their home countries, such as French-Algerian Mehdi Nemmouche, who shot against the Jewish museum of Brussels on May 24, 2014, killing four people.

In the UK, pro-Caliphate preachers, such as Anjem Choudary, have been allowed to freely preach extremist views for years without any type of measure on behalf of local authorities.

According to Belgian authorities Choudary, who was finally arrested last week in the UK, closely cooperated with Fouad Belkacem, the spokesman of Sharia4Belgium, a now disbanded Salafist organization that wanted sharia law adopted in Belgium. Belkacem is currently serving a jail term for inciting hatred against non-Muslims.

Another interesting element recently came up in connection to the beheadings carried out by ISIS. The suspected man who appears in such videos could be Abdel Majed Abdel Bary, who was only six years old when his father was arrested and taken away from their London home, accused of being one of Osama Bin Laden's lieutenants in Britain and who played a role in the bombings of two US embassies in east Africa in 1998.

While his father, Egyptian-born refugee Adel Abdul Bary, is in custody in New York, awaiting trial over his alleged role in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Majed lived with his mother and five siblings in a home in Maida Vale, west London, owned by Westminster Council, and on the open market would be worth £1 million ($1.8 million), according to British media reports. An issue that obviously raises many questions.

The issue of funds

According to documentation released by the Center for Research on Globalization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now threatening Baghdad, was funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, three U.S. allies that have dual agendas in the war on terror. It is interesting to notice how Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now participating in the air strike-coalition.

"The extremist group that is threatening the existence of the Iraqi state was built and grown for years with the help of elite donors from American supposed allies in the Persian Gulf region. There, the threat of Iran, Assad, and the Sunni-Shiite sectarian war trumps the U.S. goal of stability and moderation in the region". [2]
The objective seems clear, breaking the "Shia axis" that goes from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, all the way to Lebanon in order to contrast the Iranian influence in the Gulf. A primary task for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.

Giovanni Giacalone

Maldives: Three arrested over disappearance of Maldivian journalist


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the arrest of three suspects in connection to the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla in the Maldives.

The 28-year-old journalist with Minivan News has been missing since August 8, 2014, and there has been little progress in the subsequent investigation to locate him.

Maldives Police Services on Sunday, September 28, confirmed three men were arrested in connection to the disappearance. The men faced the Criminal Court the same day, which extended the detention of two 22-year-old men for five days and a 24-year-old man for seven days. Police have declined to reveal details on the suspects and what they knew about Rilwan.

Rilwan was last seen boarding the Hulhumalé ferry on August 8 at 12:55am, however police evidence does not rule out the possibility that he may not have boarded the ferry.

Evidence gathered by his employer suggests that he was abducted. A senior police official revealed there is a possibility that Rilwan could have been kidnapped.

An independent investigation commissioned by the Maldives Democracy Network (MDN) released last week implicated radicalised gangs in the journalist's disappearance. Its report found evidence of possible 'hostile surveillance' at the terminal conducted by two known affiliates of Malé based Kuda Henveiru gang.

The IFJ, the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) have pressured the Maldives government to speed up investigation, to deploy all necessary resources and release information to the public where possible.

The IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: "The arrest of three suspects in the disappearance of Rilwan is welcome news; however the Maldives media community and Rilwan's family are still no wiser on his whereabouts. We all remain gravely concerned for Rilwan who has now been missing for 52 days."

The IFJ said the lack of information being provided by the police was also concerning and has called on authorities to come forth with information which might help the public and media uncover new leads.

The safety of journalists in the Maldives continues to be a cause of concern for the IFJ and MJA. Last week the offices of Minivan News were attacked, with a machete being lodged in the front door and an external CCTV camera damaged by a known criminal. Following the attack, journalists also received threaten messages saying "you will be killed or disappear next. Watch out". You can follow the online campaign to find Rilwan or on social media with #findmoyameenaa

Defense: Waiting For Zero Nuke

By D Ravi Kanth* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

GENEVA (IDN) - The commemoration of the United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26 was a grim reminder of the continued threat from nuclear weapons to people at large.

“Around 2000 nuclear weapons are kept on alert between the United States and Russia which are now latched on to the [current] crisis in Syria and Ukraine,” says Aaron Tovish, a leading activist from the global Mayors for Peace campaign to eliminate nuclear warheads.

Just when Iraq and Syria are pounded from the skies with smart bombs, the surviving victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings point towards the deadly effects from the weapons of mass destruction on the civilians.

“We emphasize the importance of intensifying the global campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons and our major goal is to strengthen global momentum for achieving this goal by 2020,” Tovish told IDN.

As the United States plans to spend nearly a trillion dollars on modernizing its nuclear arsenal in the next ten years and Britain intending to spend 50 billion dollars on its Trident nuclear missile, the days of Cold War are back once again.

“We emphasize the dangers of from Syria, and Ukraine cannot serve as a justification for any of those expenditures on the nuclear weapons which pose a much bigger threat to climate change and food security,” Tovish argued.

Tovish who took part in the proceedings to mark the first anniversary of the UN day to eliminate nuclear weapons in Geneva explained about “I was her age” project launched by Mayors for Peace and Peace Boat to get the “Hibakusha” out to the world in the lead up to the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings next year.

Hibakusha are the living victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. President Harry S Truman, who took the decision to drop the first weapon of mass destruction on the Japanese city, had insisted that “the world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”

But the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey concluded in its official report that “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets because of their concentration of activities and population,” according to historian Howard Zinn.

UNFOLD ZERO and the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which organized the first anniversary of the International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, delivered a strong message that the global civil society must force the governments not to abandon the complete disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

With the UN Conference on Disarmament, the multilateral body to negotiate disarmament and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, mired in an interminable phase of paralysis for the last 18 years, the civil society has to play a bigger role. “But we must remember that political will is not only generated at leadership level,” says Michael Moller, the acting director general of the UN office in Geneva.

“It is most often propelled by popular demand and we need this commitment because the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth is not a simply a noble goal but it is the ultimate and indispensable condition for guaranteeing long-term, meaningful international peace and security,” Moller told the participants at the UNFOLD meeting.

Indonesia’s strong commitment

Last year, Indonesia on behalf of the non-aligned countries proposed a strong resolution in the UN General Assembly to commemorate September 26 every year as an International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The underlying objective is to “enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

The non-aligned countries reminded nuclear states about their forgotten “obligations” in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation of the Nuclear Weapons treaty, which stipulated the cessation of the nuclear arms race and complete nuclear disarmament.

“The NPT was a temporary arrangement resulting from the so-called ‘Grand Bargain’, by which non-nuclear States committed themselves not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons in exchange for access to peaceful use of nuclear energy while, nuclear states committed themselves to nuclear disarmament,” says Ambassador Jorge Lomonaco, Mexico’s representative to the UN in Geneva.

“While non-nuclear states have fulfilled their obligations under the NPT, the nuclear states have not fulfilled their commitment [more than 40 years after NPT was signed], Ambassador Lomonaco told IDN.

The Mexican envoy highlighted the increasing dangers from an intentional or accidental detonation, including the slippage into the hands of non-state actors. “With the greater availability of studies and scientific research in our time, the reflection on the implications of a nuclear detonation, whether incidental or accidental, in the environment; the human, animal or vegetation health; climate change; food security, development and the economy; human displacement, and other dimensions of development,” Ambassador Lomonaco listed in his address as major issues that would require an urgent discussion.

Mexico alongside Norway, Austria and others are now engaged in intensifying the global campaign about the humanitarian consequences from the impact of a single nuclear detonation.

Indonesia, which is a leading campaigner for complete nuclear disarmament at the UN has called for a commitment to ensure “world-free-of-nuclear weapons.” Indonesia’s envoy Ambassador Triyono Wibowo said the nuclear states must eliminate their weapons in the Middle East and commit to disarmament.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) which is one of the oldest multilateral bodies, adopted a resolution in March this year urging parliaments to ensure that governments must not use nuclear weapons as deterrents in national defence plans.

The IPU also called for strengthening the safety of all nuclear materials, consolidating existing nuclear-weapon free zones and supporting the establishment of new nuclear-free zones.

For almost 70 years, nations have been wrestling with the abolition of nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly adopted the first resolution in January 1946 in London to eliminate atomic weapons. Several important developments marked the disarmament negotiations despite the arms race during the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

More countries have now acquired the deadliest atomic weapons of mass destruction during this period on the pretext that they would serve as deterrent in their immediate bilateral and regional conflicts.

Contagious doctrine of nuclear deterrence

The two major nuclear states, the U.S. and Russia, have reduced their stockpile of atomic weapons from around 75,000 at the peak of the Cold War in the mid-1980s to around 20,000, But there are still “detailed, long-term, and well-funded programs” and no “concrete plans for achieving nuclear disarmament- and of course, no progress on negotiating a nuclear weapons convention,” says Ms Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack, a UN disarmament official.

“We see the perpetuation of what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the “contagious doctrine of nuclear deterrence”, which has now spread to some nine countries,” Ms Kraatz-Wadsack lamented.

Despite the prolonged stalemate and the “rust” that has been building up in the disarmament machinery, there are some encouraging developments to raise the awareness and educate people about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons from the civil society, in which the Japan-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is also playing an important role.

Also, some governments such as Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Austria, and Kazakhstan, among others, played a concerted role in the campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons.

The increasing attention worldwide to the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and their implications under the humanitarian and human rights laws and increasing pressure on governments because of non-implementation of commitments are development, which would augur well for opening the door to future progress in nuclear disarmament.

Also the 87th World Peace Voyage – the Hibakusha’s “Journey to Hearth of the World” next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is a significant initiative from Mayors of Peace to pressurize the nuclear states to destroy their arsenal. [IDN-InDepthNews – September 28, 2014]

*D Ravi Kanth is a free lance journalist based in Geneva.

2014 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Image credit: UN