Archive for the ‘ Global Oligarchy ’ Category

Senator warns Hizbullah may have chemical weapons; Jordan’s king could be toppled

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama has been warned that Syria’s chemical weapons could be dispersed and that Jordan could collapse.

A leading senator said the Hashemite kingdom was under tremendous strain from the civil war in neighboring Jordan. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Jordan’s King Abdullah could not bear the huge Syrian refugee population as well as threats from Iran and Al Qaida-aligned rebels.

“You ask me about my biggest fear would be to lose the king of Jordan for prolonged war, that the Al Qaida elements of the rebels could wind up seizing the chemical weapons cache, that Assad would share chemical weapons or advance Russian weapons with Hizbullah, which would be a direct threat,” Graham said.

Over the last few months, Graham has repeatedly warned of Jordan’s vulnerability. In July, the senator told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Abdullah said in 2012 that the influx of Syrian refugees — now reported at more than 650,000 — could destroy his regime. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he shared that concern.

“Will [Abdullah] be in power a year from now?” Graham asked Dempsey. “I have met with him and he is concerned with the demographic change. He told me last year he did not think he will be there in another year because there will be a million Syrian refugees destabilizing Jordan. Do you agree with that?”

“That is his concern,” Dempsey replied.

Earlier, Graham said Abdullah could not face an emboldened regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The senator urged Obama to use Jordan and Turkey to neutralize Assad’s military, backed by Iran and Russia.

“So the balance of power is really now on Assad’s side,” Graham told a television roundtable on June 13. “And if we don’t do more than add AK-47s into the mix, he will continue to win. And the king of Jordan is going to become toast.”

One option raised by Graham was the use of Jordan and Turkey to establish a no-fly zone in Syria to protect Sunni rebels. Graham cited the U.S. deployment of F-16 multi-role fighters and PAC-3 air and missile defense systems in the kingdom.

Graham, in close contact with Abdullah, envisioned the fall of the Hashemite kingdom and its replacement by an Al Qaida-aligned regime.

He said Washington must ensure the departure of Assad for regional stability.

“But if the war lasts six, four months, Jordan’s going to go,” Graham said. “And Israel’s going to be surrounded by a Syria on fire, Jordan more radical, and Egypt becoming more radical. The whole region’s about to blow up. And our foreign policy to me, I don’t understand it. Whatever it is is not working.”

Source: World Tribune.

Link: http://www.worldtribune.com/2013/08/27/senator-warns-hizbullah-may-have-chemical-weapons-jordans-king-could-be-toppled/.

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UK deports radical cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan

July 07, 2013

LONDON (AP) — Radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada was deported early Sunday from Britain to Jordan to face terror charges, ending over a decade-long battle to remove a man described as a key al-Qaida operative in Europe.

The move comes after Britain and Jordan ratified a treaty on torture aimed at easing human rights concerns that had blocked previous attempts to deport the Palestinian-born Jordanian preacher. British Home Secretary Theresa May announced Abu Qatada’s departure in a statement early Sunday, expressing confidence that the public in the U.K. would welcome the conclusion of efforts dating back to 2001 to remove the radical cleric.

“This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country,” May said in a statement. The Home Office then posted a picture on Twitter of Abu Qatada climbing the steps of a plane.

Abu Qatada was wanted in Jordan for retrial in several terror cases in which he was sentenced in absentia. Britain had tried since 2001 to deport Abu Qatada — whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman — but courts have blocked extradition over concerns that evidence obtained under torture could be used against him.

After years of successfully fighting the numerous attempts to expel him from the U.K., the 53-year-old preacher recently indicated he would voluntarily return to Jordan if that country and Britain ratified a treaty on torture.

That treaty — which explicitly bans the use of evidence “where there are serious and credible allegations that a statement from a person has been obtained by torture or ill-treatment” — was ratified by Britain and Jordan last month.

It paved the way for the long-awaited removal of the man described in courts in Britain and Spain as a senior al-Qaida figure in Europe who had close ties to the late Osama bin Laden. Abu Qatada is accused by Britain of links with Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States over the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and with shoe bomber Richard Reid. Audio recordings of some of the cleric’s sermons were found in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, used by some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Authorities first tried to deport Abu Qatada in 2001, then detained him in 2002 under anti-terrorism laws, which at the time allowed suspected terrorists to be jailed without charge. Though he was released in 2005 when the unpopular law was overturned, the cleric was kept under close surveillance and detained in various ways. He most recently was being held at London’s Belmarsh prison after breaching a bail condition in March which restricted the use of mobile phones and communication devices.

The British home secretary acknowledged the delays in the legal process in her statement announcing that “at last” Abu Qatada had been deported, saying it is “clear that we need to make sense of our human rights laws and remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport.”

EU ends arms embargo against Syrian rebels

Brussels (AFP)

May 28, 2013

The European Union finally agreed Monday to lift its embargo against arming Syrian rebels, after tough talks that exposed sharp differences between Britain and France, champions of the move, and their more reluctant partners.

However none of the 27 European member states intends to send any arms to the rebels in the coming months, for fear of endangering a US-Russia peace initiative for Syria.

After a grueling 12 hours of talks, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the deal to lift the arms embargo against the rebels, while maintaining the remainder of a far-reaching two-year package of sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Without such a deal, the entire set of sanctions, including an assets freeze on Assad and his cronies, and restrictions on trade in oil and financial transactions, would have lapsed at midnight on Friday.

But the agreement reached by EU foreign ministers in Brussels failed to come underpinned by a tight range of safeguards demanded for both ethical and political reasons by opponents of the long-running Franco-British push to arm Syria’s rebels.

“It was not possible to find a compromise with France and Britain,” said Austrian Foreign Michael Spindelegger, a longtime outspoken opponent of the move.

Austria, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic were reticent about pouring more arms into a conflict that has already cost some 94,000 lives.

To send arms is “against the principles” of Europe which is a “community of peace”, said Spindelegger.

A French official in Paris stressed that “this is a theoretical lifting of the embargo. In concrete terms, there will be no decision on any deliveries before August 1”.

Such a delay will allow for the planned US-Russia sponsored international peace conference on Syria, which it is hoped both the Assad regime and opposition figures will attend, to take place in Geneva in June.

The deal made in Brussels leaves the decision to supply arms to the rebels up to each nation. Ministers nonetheless vowed to stick to safeguards against misuse and to respect EU rules on arms exports.

Hague stressed that Britain, while championing the move, had “no immediate” plans to supply weapons to the rebels fighting Assad.

“None of the member states have the intention of actually providing arms at this stage,” said Frans Timmermans, the Dutch minister who tried to steer a compromise.

“Member states will have to decide for themselves in the future whether they will provide groups with arms in that region.”

But a written vow to respect a joint moratorium on supplying arms until after the planned peace conference in Geneva next month was eliminated in the final deal.

In Istanbul, Syria’s opposition Coalition had urged EU foreign ministers to lift the embargo.

“It’s the moment of truth that we’ve been waiting for for months,” said spokesman Khaled al-Saleh.

Hague said it had been a “difficult” decision for EU partners who believe delivering arms would serve only to fuel the conflict.

“I think it is the right decision,” he added. “It will support political progress on Syria and our attempts to bring together a Geneva (peace) conference.”

Hague said Britain saw only a political solution and a diplomatically supported solution for Syria but that Monday’s ground-breaking decision “sends a very strong message from Europe to the Assad regime of what we think of the continued brutality and murder and criminality of this regime”.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius left the talks before the finish to meet in Paris with his Russian and US counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry, over efforts to convene the Syria peace conference in Geneva.

According to a document obtained by AFP, a compromise favored by most nations would have formally postponed the actual delivery of arms until a fresh political decision by all EU members by August 1 “in light of the developments related to the US-Russia initiative”.

“Quite a lot of arms are already going to the wrong hands,” said Timmermans. “The parties to the conflict don’t have a shortage of arms, frankly.”

EU diplomats said Britain had refused to agree to put the decision to the EU a second time by August 1. It wanted the deal to be implemented automatically after a set period.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/EU_ends_arms_embargo_against_Syrian_rebels_999.html.

U.N. resolution on Syria vetoed

Oct. 4, 2011

DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 4 (UPI) — Russia and China Tuesday vetoed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned Syria’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

The proposed resolution included a call for an immediate end to alleged human rights abuses by the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, the United Nations said in a release.

In Syria, activists said four people were killed Tuesday in clashes between government security forces and military defectors in Talbiseh, near Homs, Voice of America reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, said at least one those killed was a civilian.

The fighting Tuesday followed days of security operations in Rastan, during which activists say government forces arrested as many as 3,000 people to track down dissident soldiers.

It’s estimated 2,700 people have died in anti-government protests in Syria since mid-March.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, France, Gabon, Germany, Nigeria, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States voted in favor of the draft Security Council resolution. Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa abstained.

A veto by any one of the council’s five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — is enough to block any resolution.

The proposed wording condemned “the continued grave and systematic human rights violations and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.” It called for all sides to reject violence and extremism and for the creation of “an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism, and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s population.”

After the veto, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country does not support Assad’s regime but that the draft resolution was not the way to achieve a peaceful resolution of the crisis. He said most Syrians desire a gradual political change, not an abrupt overthrow of the current government, and the resolution failed to adequately factor in the impact of extremists organizations in the country.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said his country was greatly concerned about the violence in Syria but the resolution would only complicate matters. He said the threat of sanctions would not resolve the conflict in Syria.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud said he was disappointed in the vote, which he said came after repeated attempts by the co-sponsors to work out acceptable wording.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the countries that did not back the resolution would have to answer to the Syrian people. She said it was a “ruse” to suggest passing the resolution would lead to military intervention in Syria.

Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari of Syria said the resolution revealed some Western countries’ desire to undermine his country’s authorities.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/10/04/UN-resolution-on-Syria-vetoed/UPI-40371317740266/.

US, Syria opposition disagree over terrorist label

December 12, 2012

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — The U.S. and the head of the new Syrian opposition coalition being feted at a conference in Morocco Wednesday publicly disagreed over designating a rebel group as terrorist, highlighting a key dilemma in overthrowing President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Even as the U.S., Europe and its allies recognized the new opposition of the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people to succeed the Assad regime, they have to deal with the fact that some of the greatest battlefield successes are by extremist groups the West does not want to see running the country one day.

The Obama administration designated Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist organization Monday, a day before he recognized the newly formed Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.

The Syrian opposition has been under international pressure for months to form a more representative and organized coalition that could receive international assistance in the battle against Assad. The organization they formed in Doha last November was then formally recognized by 114 countries at the fourth Friends of Syria conference held in Marrakech.

Deputy Secretary of State for the Middle East William Burns described the new coalition as the future for Syria that the U.S. wants — democratic, pluralist, inclusive and unified. “The step that we took with regard to the designation of the al-Nusra Front raises an alarm about a very different kind of future for Syria, about a direction that a group like al-Nusra will try to take in Syria to impose its will and threaten the social fabric,” he said, describing the group as a successor to al-Qaida in Iraq.

But the president of that coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, who Burns invited to Washington at the conference, disagreed publicly with blacklisting one of the most successful fighting groups in the war against Assad.

“I say in all transparency that labeling one of the factions fighting the regime as a terrorist organization should be reconsidered,” he said in his speech at the conference’s opening. “We love our country very much, though we may not agree with all factions.”

Jabhat al-Nusra has recently conquered a number of bases from the regime in the north and has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly effective bombings that have hit sensitive government institutions, like a blast near the Interior Ministry on Wednesday that took four lives.

According to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, several ministers from the Arab states also disagreed with the U.S. move. In his speech, Khatib did condemn “all forms of extremism” and pledged to protect the countries many religious and sectarian minorities, including the Alawites, a Shiite offshoot from which the Assad family hails. He urged them to join the resistance against the regime.

“We call on them to accept our extended hand and work together against the violence of the regime,” he said. Violence in the 21-month civil war that has claimed 40,000 lives has taken on a sectarian tone in some cases, with the majority Sunnis arrayed against Alawites and other minorities remaining loyal to the regime — a stance encouraged by the Islamic militants among the rebels who consider Shiites heretic.

The conference did succeed in gaining international legitimacy for the new opposition coalition and has further isolated the Assad regime, making it, in the words of British Foreign Secretary William Hague, “the most significant” of all the conferences held to support the Syrian people in the past year.

Saudi Arabia pledged $100 million in humanitarian aid, with the U.S. following up with another $14 million in emergency medical care and winter supplies, including medicine, blankets and insulation. The world’s recognition of the Libyan opposition gave it a huge boost in the battle against Moammar Gadhafi last year and paved the way for Western airstrikes. Military intervention does not appear to be an immediate option for Syria, however, where the government has the powerful backing of Russia, China and Iran — though the conference pledged a swift international response if Assad unleashes his chemical weapons stocks against his own people.

According to Jon Wilks, the British special representative to the rebels, the purpose of the conference was not so much about military intervention or even collecting donations, but making sure the new opposition was building institutions that would let them channel the aid and administer the increasing amounts of territory under its control.

“The key point is they are setting up institutions and money is coming, it’s a better situation than three months ago, they are happy, we are happy,” he said, adding that farther down the road for the Cairo-based group would be a provisional government.

Suheir Atassi, one of the vice presidents of the opposition, said in her speech that these structures for delivering aid, free of religious or political affiliations, were now in place across liberated areas, so the most needy during Syria’s cold winters get needed supplies.

The international recognition could also eventually pave the way for other sorts of aid, hinted Fabius, the French minister. “The fact that the coalition, which asks for the right to defend itself, now is being recognized by (many) countries … I think it is an important point,” he said, expressing confidence that “2013 will be the year of the democratic and united Syria.”

Despite the civil war grinding away in Syria, many of the delegates expressed confidence it would just be a matter of time before Assad’s regime fell and there was a need to start planning for an aftermath.

To that end, the conference pledged to set up a post-war reconstruction fund for the country to be administered by Germany and the United Arab Emirates. “With the fighting in Damascus, I believe we are coming close to the end, and there is a shift in the balance of power in Syria,” Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said at the closing news conference. “We are coming to the point of talking about the post-Assad era.”

According to a representative from Human Rights Watch, there is a strong chance the current human rights violations will pale in comparison to those when the regime falls, which might involve reprisals against former government supporters and wholesale sectarian massacres on the order of Iraq — especially if groups like the now blacklisted Jabhat al-Nusra remain powerful.

The new Syrian opposition has to take into account how they are going to manage justice in the “new Iraq,” cautioned Tamara al-Rifai of the rights group. “We are calling on the Syrian delegation to include transitional justice in any political plan they are doing and calling on the international community to help support that,” she said.

US backs new Syrian opposition ahead of conference

December 12, 2012

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — A Syrian opposition spokesman called for “real support” and not just recognition on Wednesday, hours after the U.S. declared that the new Syrian opposition coalition was the “legitimate representative” of its country’s people.

Speaking as the fourth meeting of the “Friends of the Syrian People” opened in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, Walid al-Bunni called on the more than a hundred delegates from Europe and the Gulf countries to provide something concrete to help in their battle against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“Recognition is nice, but we need real support,” said Walid al-Bunni, a spokesman for the newly formed Syrian National Coalition as the conference began. “I will be happy after the conference if we have something for the Syrian people.”

The U.S. move, announced by President Barack Obama late Tuesday, follows that of France and the U.K. The Syrian National Coalition, formed in November during a conference in Doha, Qatar, has been calling for increased international support, including military material for opposition forces battling the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria for nearly two years.

The U.S. and its British allies are not, however, expected to approve military aid, in part over fears of al-Qaida linked rebel units operating in the country. There are also no representatives of the Syrian rebel forces at the conference.

John Wilks, the British special representative to the Syrian opposition, explained that Wednesday’s event was neither a donor conference nor a military aid event but rather an effort to set up opposition institutions so that they could effectively use future aid in a credible manner to administer the areas they control.

“The key point is that they are setting up institutions and money is coming, so it’s a better situation than three months ago — they are happy, we are happy,” he said before the conference began. He said so far Britain had earmarked 50 million pounds ($80 million) of humanitarian aid and 7 million pounds ($11.2 million) non-humanitarian including communications equipment, training and office supplies — but no plans for now for military aid.

“There are big issues concerning legality — intervening in a civil war to overthrow a government is a difficult proposition, to put it mildly,” he said. Obama’s announcement follows his administration’s blacklisting of a militant Syrian rebel group with links to al-Qaida. That step is aimed at blunting the influence of extremists amid fears that the regime may use or lose control of its stockpile of chemical weapons.

The U.S. had been leading international efforts to prod the fractured Syrian opposition into coalescing around a leadership that would represent all of the country’s factions and religions. Yet it had held back from granting recognition to the group until it demonstrated that it could organize itself in credible fashion.

In particular, Washington had wanted to see the group set up smaller committees that could deal with specific immediate and short-term issues, such as governing parts of Syria under their control and putting in place institutions to address the needs of people once Assad is ousted. Some of those committees could form the basis of a transitional government.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to attend the conference, but cancelled following an illness and will be represented by Deputy Secretary of State for the Middle East, William Burns.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday the recognition contradicted earlier international agreements that foresee the “commencement of an all-Syria dialogue” that would include all sides of the conflict, in which more than 40,000 people have died so far.

EU endorses Syrian opposition

November 19, 2012

BRUSSELS (AP) — The newly formed Syrian opposition coalition received backing from the European Union on Monday in a significant vote of confidence for a movement struggling to prove its credibility and gain the trust of splintered factions.

The endorsement of the coalition as a legitimate voice for Syria’s people represents a major step forward in the West’s acceptance of the group, even as fast-moving events and fluid alliances are casting doubts on the direction of the rebellion.

“The EU considers them legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people,” the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers said in a statement at the end of their monthly meeting. They stopped short of offering official diplomatic recognition because that can only be decided by each member country individually.

The international support comes at a difficult time for the new coalition. Late Sunday, a group of extremist Islamist factions in Syria rejected the new opposition coalition, saying in a video statement they have formed an “Islamic state” in the embattled city of Aleppo to underline that they want nothing to do with the Western-backed bloc.

Few outsiders can be sure of exactly who is in the coalition of disparate opposition groups seeking to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and whether offering it support could be a cause for future regret.

“The nature of the opposition is still pretty fragmented,” said Malcolm Chalmers, a professor of defense and foreign policy at King’s College in London. “There are fears of what the opposition regime would look like. There is a strong wish that we get a regime that is broadly representative rather than sectarian with extreme agendas that the West would not support.”

So far, France has been the only Western nation to extend diplomatic recognition to the coalition. The U.K. has indicated it will consider the issue later this week. “I hope this meeting here today will give a boost to that opposition, to the coalition, and will appreciate that they have made a big step forward,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on his way into the meeting. “I will speak about the question of recognition when I talk to the House of Commons later this week.”

Some EU members have suggested arming the Syrian opposition, but officials said the idea was likely to get little traction in the meeting Monday. A senior EU official said last week that shipping weapons to the Syrian opposition while keeping an embargo against the Assad regime in place would be very difficult to enforce.

Currently, the EU has an embargo prohibiting the shipment of arms into Syria. An EU official said Monday that embargo is likely to be renewed in full later this week. Meanwhile, the EU joined the chorus of international figures expressing concern about violence elsewhere in the Middle East, deploring the mounting death toll in the Gaza conflict. A ministerial statement called for an urgent de-escalation and cessation of hostilities. It also expressed strong support for the efforts of Egypt and other actors to arrange for a rapid cease-fire.

Israeli forces are attacking Gaza in an effort to stop the militant rocket fire, and scores of Palestinians and three Israeli civilians have been killed in the conflict. Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said the most important thing is to arrange an immediate cease-fire.

“Then, we must look at the wider and deeper issues,” he said. “This is the second Gaza war in a few years. We can’t wait for the third and fourth.” The EU ministers also discussed how to provide assistance to the West African force that is scheduled to help Mali’s tenuous government wrest control of the country’s vast north that was seized by al-Qaida-linked fighters more than six months ago.

The ministers said they welcomed undertakings by member states to contribute to the training mission and would submit these plans to EU leaders for their approval at a summit next month. Several EU members have expressed their readiness to help train the Malian army so it can retake the north.

The United States is also worried that the Sahel region of northeastern Mali could become a terrorist haven, and is pushing for international action in the region.

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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