Political Punch-ups

Lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party react as they fall down during scuffles with parliament security guards in Seoul
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If you’re not fighting, you’re not trying

“In a democracy, people usually get the kind of government they deserve, and they deserve what they get.” ~ Hunter Thompson

I am allergic to politics and politicians. I can never understand why some people like to fuss and fawn over them. At times it’s almost like hero worship, yet they are supposed to be servants of the public. All the scandals about politicians lying and cheating their way through life only reinforce my negative feelings. To further prove my point, here – in no particular order because there is no point trying to choose between them – are some examples of politicians behaving badly.

2013 – Venezuela

Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges arrives with a bruised face to his political party’s headquarters

2011 – Italy

Political fights: political fisticuffs

Claudio Barbato, left, a member of the opposition FLI party, fights with Fabio Ranieri, right, from the Northern League in Italy’s parliament in Rome. Photograph: Ansa/Reuters

2005 – Russia

Political fights: political fisticuffs

Members of the Rodina (Motherland) faction fight with deputies of the Russian Liberal-Democratic party during the State Duma session in Moscow in 2005. The Liberal-Democrats protested what they described as violations in the course of elections to the legislature of the Yamal-Nenets autonomous area and staged a walkout. As they made for the doors, some of them clashed with members of the Rodina party. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

2006 – Czech Republic

Political fights: political fisticuffs

The then Czech health minister, David Rath, in a punch-up with his right-wing rival, Miroslav Macek, during a meeting of disgruntled dentists in Prague. Macek, a presidential adviser and former deputy PM who is also a dentist, broke off an address to slap Rath hard on the back of the head. Rath responded by calling him a coward and the two men traded blows

2009 – Bolivia

Political fights: political fisticuffs

Bolivian opposition congressman Fernando Rodriguez, right, battles with an unidentified indigenous deputy of President Evo Morales’s party during a congress session in La Paz in 2009 Photograph: David Mercado/Reuters

2012 - Macedonia

In Macedonia, violent brawling broke out in parliament over the 2013 budget. Police in riot gear had to be called in to break up the fight.

Macedonian deputies and members of opposition Social-Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) rescue fellow party member Vesna Bendevska (C) during a clash with Parliament security as they try to protect parliament speaker Trajko Veljanovski in Skopje December 24, 2012. REUTERS/Viktor Popovski

2011 – Kuwait

Kuwaiti Shiite and Sunni MPs fight during a heated parliament debate over inmates in the US Guantanamo detention centre. Yasser al Zayyat / AFP Photo

Kuwaiti Shiite and Sunni MPs fight during a heated parliament debate over inmates in the US Guantanamo detention centre. Yasser al Zayyat / AFP Photo

2010 – Ukraine

Political fights: political fisticuffs

Ukrainian opposition and pro-presidential lawmakers fight against each other during ratification of the Black Sea fleet deal with Russia, in parliament in Kiev, in 2010. Ukraine’s parliament voted to extend Russia’s lease of a Crimean naval port for the Black Sea fleet in a chaotic session during which eggs and smoke bombs were thrown Photograph: Efrem Lukatsky/AP

2010 – Mauritania

MPs Jamil Ould Mansour and Slama Ould Abdellahi manhandling each other after exchanging insults and profanities during a parliamentary session on the civil status law.

MPs Jamil Ould Mansour and Slama Ould Abdellahi manhandling each other after exchanging insults and profanities during a parliamentary session on the civil status law.

2009 – South Korea

Lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party react as they fall down during scuffles with parliament security guards in Seoul

Lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party react as they fall down during scuffles with parliament security guards in Seoul

See also: Brawling Legislators in South Korea - Photo Essay – TIME

2007 – 2010 – Taiwan

Taipei reform bill

Taipei, Taiwan: Parliament dissolved into chaos over an electoral reform bill.

Taipei reform bill

Taipei, Taiwan 2007: Rival legislators exchanged punches and jostled violently for position around the speaker’s dais.

Political fights: political fisticuffs

Taiwanese ruling and opposition lawmakers brawl as discussions start on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement planned with China in 2010, in Taipei. Pro-and anti-government lawmakers exchanged punches and threw garbage bins at each other in a raucous session in Taiwan’s legislature, after the speaker rejected an opposition bid to conduct a detailed debate on the contentious trade pact with China Photograph: Wally Santana/AP

Will #Mali’s new government herald arms or armies?

gingerbreadman1
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In less time than it takes for an apartment pineapple to ripen, a new government of national unity has been formed in Mali in the latest effort to restore stability after the military coup in March. It follows 5 long months of political tug-of-war between the ready-meal interim government and the frozen-dinner coup leadership headed by Captain Sanogo. The Captain was persuaded to release his grip a little, after his palms were oiled with a palatial home and “former head of state” status – including a generous allowance. The cabinet has 31 ministers, including five from Sanogo’s camp. The head of the interim government, Cheick Modibo Diarra, stays on as prime minister. For now.

Early-stage pre-coup pineapple during US training

During this incubation period, interim President Dioncounda Traore was attacked, and spent several weeks recovering in Paris. No doubt he spent more of that time in the briefing room of  Boulevard Mortier  than in recovery. Shortly after Dioncounda returned to Mali, one of the former President’s elite Red Beret guards, Staff Sergeant Amadou Traore, was murdered in his barracks. That signal seems to have been received loud and clear; no further attacks on the interim president have been reported yet.

Last month, the regional bloc ECOWAS threatened to expel Mali unless a unity government was installed, according to the BBC. Yesterday, there were news reports of ECOWAS and Algeria [ar] barring military shipments to Mali. Meanwhile, Major General Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi, Libya’s former Deputy Director of Military Intelligence and Chairman of the Republican Guard in Benghazi, reveals that, when there was a weapons amnesty and surrendering of arms in Libya last year, his unit alone boycotted the deal and instead their weapons passed to mercenaries from Egypt, for onward transfer to AQIM in Algeria and Mali. Doubly painful, as it was the ousted former president Touré, aka “ATT”, who said in February that they needed more military hardware to respond to the MNLA’s attacks, widely reported to be using massive fire-power brought back from Libya.

Weapons in 30 Days or Your Next Government Half Price

We need to wait to see if the formation of a new unity government defrosts the supply of arms, and whether they’ll be delivered by shipment or in person. Just last weekend, Al Jazeera Arabic reported a training exercise in Libya (irony alert) of 2,000 troops including 800 special forces from Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy, in preparation for an incursion into Malian territory. The training programme lasted from February to June. Here’s the video:

There are many competing theories about what is going on in Mali. One school of thought insists that the plan is, and always has been, to get the boots of foreign troops on the ground. However, just as with the reports of armed rebels severing someone’s hand as a punishment for stealing (and the victim later dying), and of their threat-or-promise to repeat the exercise with hundreds more after the Eid holiday, or even of the beheading* that UNHCR’s spokesperson Melissa Fleming claimed to have happened, there’s no way of knowing if the scenario portrayed in this video sheds light on the actual situation.

How can we figure Mali out? To butcher the old standard, “follow the ransom money” and we find food for thought. For example, fresh claims of Swiss support for the rebels appeared last week. This was denied by the MNLA as a rumour created by a Swiss journalist and promoted to a fact by a website in Mauritania, where the media has carved a niche for exclusive revelations about Mali.

I was anticipating more mention of Switzerland, after a Swiss woman was apparently taken hostage in Timbuctu by a private militia who planned to trade her to AQIM. The lady was reportedly “rescued” by Ansar Dine and released for an alleged 1 million Euro, in a deal where they demanded to liaise directly with the Swiss officials, rejecting the offer of a human rights NGO to mediate.  That event was soon followed by a spectacular betrayal of MNLA by Ansar Dine, who hijacked the uprising and forced the secular separatists into a retreat from which they have yet to emerge. Speculation about how the more radical supporters of religion achieved this feat includes the investment of ransom capital to buy supporters. There have been other kidnappings: three Westerners abducted nearly nine months ago by AQIM in Mali, seen today urging their governments to help free them in an Al-Jazeera television exclusive video, and the seven Algerian diplomatic staff taken from the embassy in Gao, three of whom were returned last month, shortly after the release of one Italian and two Spanish hostages. This last exchange was said to be accompanied by a few more million Euro and the release of two more prisoners – one assumed by some to be connected to the POLISARIO – who were being held in Mauritania for their part in the kidnapping of the three Europeans.

Within days Mauritania benefited from a capitulation by the EU (Note: the EU Africa team is led by a Spaniard) finally agreeing to their exorbitant new terms for renewing the fishing agreement, and an agreement from Spain to salvage the small aircraft “donated” to Mauritania in June last year to help in the fight against illegal immigrants, and which had remained, unairworthy and stranded on the tarmac, more or less the whole time.

This brings me to another stranded plane – the famous “Air Cocaine” Boeing jet from South America which landed/crashed just north of Gao in a village called Tarkint at the end of October 2009, and was reportedly torched by the smugglers after their cargo of drugs had been retrieved. The local mayor was known as an intermediary with AQIM for the release of kidnap victims.

The char grilled remains of “Air Cocaine” /JON SISTIAGA

“Air Cocaine” was registered in Saudi Arabia,  rented in Venezuela, and had made previous trips from Colombia  under a licence issued by Guinea Bissau, but which had expired at some point. The drug trafficking was said to be linked to AQIM, and this flight’s cargo could have been worth anything between 150 and 300 million Euro. Some of these details only became apparent much later, after WikiLeaks’ cables release, as the original investigation was handled by the intelligence services and shrouded in secrecy.  There were dozens of arrests, but few detentions or convictions in connection with this scandal. Then last week, we learned that the last two suspects, one French, one Spanish, had been released in Mali. The drug smuggling case against the Spaniard was thrown out.  This chap is a real charmer: a former Madrid policeman, until he was busted for trafficking, drugs, explosives, weapons, and counterfeit identity documents. He also had a suspended sentence in Mali connected to the gruesome murder [es] of a Colombian with a forged Ukrainian passport. He apparently plans to stay in Mali. One would hope he is short of alternatives but why leave Mali, when half the world is ready to come to you?

Additionally, a wealthy businessman from Tilemsi in the Gao region - Mohamed Ould Awaynat - who had been sentenced to one year in prison for his part in the trafficking scandal, was reportedly released in January this year, in an alleged deal with the Malian government. In exchange for his freedom, he is said to have paid to recruit and train northern fighters to boost the ranks of the army against the MNLA. They do say money makes the world go around. If you add massive cash flows from drug trafficking it begins to spin put of control. That is certainly what appears the be the case in Mali.

All these rebel groups in Mali seem like just so many finger puppets. But to which “invisible hand” do the fingers belong?

If you enjoy bizarre details – and you’ve got this far, so I should take that as given – then you might be further entertained by the fact that the article in the previous link, by Andy Morgan in Think Africa Press, was posted on FaceBook in a now lifeless MNLA group, requiring 14 comments to post in its entirety. The comment poster uses the name Ghazi Agizul and, although his bio says he’s a proud Amazigh from Tunisia, I found it odd that “Ghazi” used a translation tool to render the English original into French, which should be a natural language for him. That he didn’t post a link to Google Translate or use a Note instead of 14+ comments is not mysterious, only irritating. If it transpired that Andy Morgan and Ghazi Agizul were one and the same person, that would be interesting. It would also raise many general questions about the clandestine online and offline activities of certain people who present themselves publicly as working in the media, but that is a whole other story. Going back to the article itself, it’s too lengthy to analyse in depth but there are some factual errors, which always has the effect of eroding credibility. For example,  Mr Morgan claims to have spent years in northern Mali, yet placed Kati near Timbuktu. I wouldn’t blame him if the article was simply too long for him to cope with when it got to proof-reading.

Also in the WikiLeaked cable, we learn of another incident involving a plane:  US military making a “hard landing” 65 miles from Bamako, and receiving assistance. ATT was happy to help because “he knew the United States was coming to help Mali”. Sadly, nothing could be done to help the three US military and their three civilian companions who died in a vehicle accident in April this year. Will the US be coming to help again; will they feel they no longer need an invite?

Short of the IAEA declaring that there are nuclear weapons hidden in the barren wastelands of northern Mali, I wonder how many more UN agencies or NGOs can enter the fray, wringing their collective hands over the many unverified domestic dramas that they claim are engulfing this most coveted of would-be war zones, declaring every incident a war crime, and clamouring at the gates to be allowed in to rescue Mali from itself and the horrors of Sharia law’s unjust desserts.

As ATT noted in February, with a prescience we have yet to fully to appreciate: “There are many rumors. If we are not careful, we’ll fall into the hands of those who are attacking Mali and who want to oppose the government.”

*I assume Ms Fleming meant to say “stoning” – but there is no solid evidence of that having happened, either. If she did witness a beheading, I’d have liked her to verify in reply to my question, especially since her bio includes the phrase “Tweets highlight the stories of human suffering and resilience I witness every day.” [my emphasis].

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News from Iran – Week 30 – 2012

Narges Mohammadi
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News of the Prisoners

A- Transfers

Narges Mohammadi

  • On day 56 of hunger strike Human Rights activist Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand was admitted to hospital for 2 hours then returned to Evin.
  • Narges Mohammadi is back in prison.
  • Vahid Rastgoo transferred to methadone ward in Tabriz prison.

 

B- Arrests/Incarcerations

  • Mitra Aali was transferred to Evin 350 to start serving her 1 year prison term.
  • Ashkan Alhayari begins serving his 1 year sentence in Evin.
  • Goudarz Beidaghi Baha’i from Semnan begins serving his 1 year sentence
  • Human Rights activist, Dr Ehsam Firouzi started his 18 Month prison sentence in Evin.
  • Habib Halefi, political Arab activist, arrested at home.
  • Abtin Jahanian, begins serving his 3 year sentence in Evin.
  • Adibeh Kalantari, Kurdish student, arrested.
  • Ali Mola Haji, student in Ghazvine University, begins serving his 3 year sentence in Evin.
  • Shamim Naeemi, Baha’i, arrested after summon in Tehran.
  • Mansour Naghipour, human rights activist, begins serving his 7 year sentence in Evin.
  • Zohreh Nikaeen, mother of a five month-old baby, begins serving her 23 month sentence.
  • Baha’i Aziz Samandari jailed in Iran for 5 years.
  • Ahmad Shariat the regime supporter blogger arrested.
  • Taraneh Torabi, mother of a one month baby, summoned to serve her 23 month sentence .
  • Nahid Zahraei, Baha’i, arrested at home in Tehran.

 

C-Liberations

  • Hasan Asadi-Zeidabadi, Advar member, released on bail on furlough.
  • Mojtaba Karimi, Esfahan University student activist, released on bail.
  • Ali Malihi, Advar member, released on bail on furlough.
  • Civil activist Hashem Mirzaei has been released on bail from Tabriz prison.
  • Erfan Mohammadi, Esfahan University student activist, released on bail.
  • Farahnaz Naeemi, Baha’i, released on bail.
  • Bakhtiar and Farin Rasekhi, Baha’is, released on bail.
  • Amin Zargarnezhad freed on bail.

 

D-Other News

  • Syrian-born Kurdish political prisoner Ramezan Ahmad Kamal serving 10-year sentence, on hunger strike.
  • Kurdish journalist/Human Rights activist Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand has ended his hunger strike.

 

News of injustice in Iran

  • Naser Behjati sentenced to 1.5 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Ali Borna sentenced to 3 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Soleiman Cheragh-Manan sentenced to 4 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Mohammad Ebrahimzadeh sentenced to 1 year in prison in Mahabad.
  • Baha’i Ehsan Erfani has been sentenced to 1 year in prison by the Revolutionary Court in Semnan.
  • Akbar Gavili, Kurdish environmentalist, sentenced to 2 years in Sanandaj.
  • Osman Ghadernezhad sentenced to 4 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Mohammad-Amin Ghaderzadehsentenced to 5 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Zanyar Ghaderzadeh sentenced to 3 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Esmail Hamzehpour sentenced to 5 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Morad Hasanzadeh sentenced to 1 year in prison in Mahabad.
  • Political/civil activist Roozbeh Khanpayeh has been sentenced to 4,5 years in prison + 8 months suspended sentence.
  • Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani to be executed August 11.
  • Veria Khosravi, Kurdish environmentalist, sentenced to 4 years in Sanandaj.
  • Former MP and Participation Front member Rajabali Mazrouie has been sentenced to 18 months in prison + 5 year ban on journalism.
  • Ali and Chia Molanezhad sentenced to 5 years in prison each in Mahabad.
  • Osman Molanezhad sentenced to 10 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Samkoo Osmani sentenced to 18 months in prison in Mahabad.
  • Human Rights activist Dr.Yousef Pourseifi sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in prison.
  • Ghasem Rahimi sentenced to 1 year in prison in Mahabad.
  • Kamran Rahimi, Kurdish environmentalist, sentenced to 3 years in Sanandaj.
  • Soleiman Rahimzadeh, and brothers Kaveh and Loghman Saleki sentenced to 4 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Davoud Shiri, environmentalist, sentenced to 4 months in Tabriz.
  • Naser Tarighi sentenced to 5 years in prison in Mahabad.
  • Anwar and Mohammad Yazid-Doost sentenced to 2 years in prison each in Mahabad.
  • 22 years old man convicted of cutting off a finger of another man during a fight is sentenced to hand amputation as retribution.
  • Siyasat Rooz magazine was exonerated of charges of publishing lies.
  • 17 years old receives the death penalty for committing murder when 15.
  • A man was hanged in Ilam on Tuesday.

 

University – Culture

  • Police continue with raiding the homes and collecting satellite dishes, this time in Bukan.
  • Ershad Ministry has banned billboards for foreign travel, except for pilgrimage.
  • Parviz Piran, prominent professor of Sociology expelled from Allameh Tabatabaie University.

 

Protests

  • First protest during 2012 against economic conditions in Nishapur, north-eastern Iran.

 

Economy in Iran

  • Iran introduces 3-tiered foreign exchange rate: USD at 1226, 1500, and 1910 tomans.
  • Iran to import 20,000 tons of frozen chicken from Brazil.
  • Food prices in Iran up 37% since last year’s Ramadan.
  • Workers owed 4 month wages at Ziviea Dam project.
  • Iran to import wheat from Pakistan in exchange for chemical fertilizers
  • Iran Khodro says it can live without PSA.
  • Ahvaz Pipe Factory workers have not been paid for 20 months.
  • Iran stops selling subsidized foreign currency to Iranians traveling abroad.

 

Iranabroad

  • New diplomatic crisis: Yemen officials have threatened to expel all Iran embassy diplomats.
  • India bars 3 Iranian banks on security fears.
  • Iran denies news reports of death in Damascus, Syria, of IRGC’s Ghassem Soleimani, a commander of the Ghods Force.
  • Inaugural Elizabeth Taylor Award given to Arash and Kamran Alaei for their work on HIV/AIDS in Iran.
  • Iran builds 1st tanker for Venezuela.
  • Ali Saeedlou, vice president for foreign affairs, received Syria‘s deputy prime minister in Tehran, and called for expansion of trade between the two countries.
  • Student bassiji protest against Bahrain presence in non-aligned meeting to be held in Tehran.

 

Politics in Iran

  • Iran began leasing agricultural land to Qatar as of 8 months ago.
  • Mojtaba Vahedi breaks ties to Karroubi, so he can pursue overthrow of regime.
  • Brother of Quds Force commander Ghassem Soleimani, Sohrab Soleimani – Director General of Tehran Province prisons – dismissed on charges of embezzlement and corruption and arrested; he was stealing prisoners’ and guards’ food rations.
  • Illegal residents being processed by the thousands: official.
  • Iran province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad bans transport of chicken across state lines.

 

Miscellaneous

  • 65% of Lake Urmia has dried up.
  • Iran nuclear energy facility hit with malware that plays AC/DC at full volume.
  • 143 traditional tea and coffee houses closed in Karaj.

 

#Iran’s South American Connections

Touching reunion - Ahmadinejad with Chavez in Caracas
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Useful summary from Just the Facts following Ahmadinejad’s visit to Latin America last week helps to provide some of the detail for this post. His trip to attend the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil and solidify relationships in the region was a chance to assess how Iranian foreign policy is evolving in response to the changing political scene in Latin America. During his visit, Ahmadinejad made stops in Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela.

In his 2011 Worldwide Threat Assessment (PDF), Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper noted that Iran continues to reach out to Latin America as a way to diminish its international isolation and bypass international sanctions. So far, Iranian relations with Latin America have only developed significantly with leftists governments that oppose U.S. leadership in the world, particularly Venezuela, Bolivia, and other ALBA members, as well as with Brazil.

Touching reunion – Ahmadinejad with Chavez in Caracas

The U.S. State Department reacted to the recent trip with characteristic rhetoric, saying Ahmadinejad was “looking for friends in wrong places.”

Bolivia

  • The relationship between Bolivia and Iran has been increasingly friendly over the past few years. In 2007, trade and energy agreements were signed between the two countries and then extended in 2010. Bolivian President Evo Morales was also publicly reported praising Iranian investment by FARS news agency in 2007 and stated that his country “relies very much on Iran’s aids.”
  • On this trip, Ahmadinejad was keen to highlight the similarities between the two countries. According to Ahmadinejad, both Iran and Bolivia have a colonial past and will progress by “work[ing] together against greedy governments, and states that want to stop others from developing, and from exercising freedom.” President Morales responded: “There is a permanent aggression against you, your government and the Iranian people, but I want to tell you that you are not alone because we are with you in your fight against imperialism.”
  • An agreement was reached between Ahmadinejad and Bolivian President Evo Morales for the Iranian military to train ten counter-narcotics intelligence officers as per a new Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) between the two countries.
  • The trip has also renewed multiple economic and agricultural agreements between the countries, including the construction of a cement factory and housing projects, among others, according to the Argentina Independent.
  • The head of Iran’s Red Crescent Society, Abolhasan Faqih, said that Iran’s Red Crescent Society recently inaugurated a new medical center in Bolivia.

Brazil

  • Under President Lula da Silva, the relationship between Iran and Brazil became cordial, as Time reports, with Ahmadinejad visiting the country in 2009 and Lula returning the visit in 2010, to facilitate nuclear talks without US or EU powers, according to the BBC.
  • This relationship has changed with President Dilma Rousseff’s election in Brazil, as she has distanced her country from Iran as CNN noted earlier this year. Rousseff has cited Iran’s poor human rights record as a reason for her distance, which runs contrary to her priorities for her own country.
  • President Ahmadinejad was in Brazil for two days to take part in the Rio+20 Summit, though he also hoped to use the opportunity to reinvigorate ties with the Brazilian government. However, after a series of snubs by the Brazilian government, the success of the trip has been deemed a failure back at home in Iran. According to the Daily Telegraph, many Iranians are angry with the way in which President Ahmadinejad was treated and one Iranian MP criticized him “for failing to abandon the trip when he saw that he, and by extension, Iran, was being treated disrespectfully.”
  • The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Ahmadinejad’s time in Brazil was instead spent in meetings with Brazilian elites, a meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and another with the former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, as well as addressing the Rio+20 Summit.

Venezuela

  • Venezuela has probably had the closest ties with Iran of any country in the region in recent years. Since 1999, President Hugo Chavez has visited Tehran 13 times.
  • This relationship seems stable; Ahmadinejad’s visit occurred one week after President Chavez confirmed that Venezuela was building unmanned drones with Iran’s help, as Reuters recently reported. Venezuelan-Iranian relations have most recently been demonstrated through reports that Iran has unrestricted access to a Venezuelan port, where Venezuelan workers are denied access. This has been reported in El Nuevo HeraldDie Welt and the Miami Herald, all citing confidential sources that allege the goal is to ultimately build a missile base, although at the moment it remains under a veil of secrecy.
  • Although the meeting does not appear to have produced any new agreements, in his opening remarks at the presidential palace in Venezuela, Ahmadinejad offered to “always stand by the Venezuelan nation and their brave president Hugo Chavez”. In addition, the two presidents focused their meeting on reviewing current agreements including their “mutual investment of about $5 billion in factories to make cement, satellites, food, tractors and bicycles.”

Cuba

  • The relationship between Venezuela and Cuba is such that Iran seeming benefits by association. The Associated Press reported that Venezuela’s state-owned oil company will join efforts to look for oil in deep waters off Cuba’s coast:
    • State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, is next in line to drill after Malaysia’s Petronas completes its work, according to Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela’s oil minister and president of the company. He said Venezuela has budgeted an estimated $40 million for the project. Spanish oil company Repsol said last month that it would stop searching for oil off Cuba after hitting a dry well drilled at a cost of more than $100 million. “Repsol unfortunately didn’t have success in its well,” Ramirez said, “but that same platform is being used among all the companies that are participating there.”
  • ING bank has recently been forced to pay $619m as part of the deferred prosecution agreements reached with the Justice Department and the New York County District Attorney’s Office, for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA), and for violating New York state laws by illegally moving billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of sanctioned Cuban and Iranian entities.

Ecuador

  • Another country with close ties to Venezuela, and the smallest member of OPEC, Ecuador said on 23 May that it planned to buy about $400m in oil from Iran, despite US pressing for tighter sanctions.
  • Although not on Ahmadinejad’s itinerary – he visited in January, Ecuador received a visit from his deputy for international affairs, Vice-President Ali Saeedlou, at the end of May, reportedly to deliver a presidential invitation to the Non-Aligned Movement’s August summit in Tehran. Agence France Press says Saeedlou told reporters, after meeting with President Rafael Correa, that the two has also talked about increasing trade and technology exchanges.
  • In addition to the usual grandstanding we see whenever IAEA talks are in progress, Iran was perhaps attempting to exploit the relationship difficulties between Ecuador and the US following a diplomatic spat last year, in which ambassadors from both countries were expelled:  Saeedlou arrived on the same day the new US Ambassador resumed his post in Quito.

Anonymous Hackers Give 5 million STRATFOR Emails to WikiLeaks

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27 Feb 2012:

George Friedman

George Friedman

WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example:

“[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase” – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees: “We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either.”

Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to “utilise the intelligence” it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS: “What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like”. The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested “substantially” more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff: “Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral… It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor… we are already working on mock portfolios and trades”. StratCap is due to launch in 2012.

The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and “other government intelligence agencies” in “becoming government Stratfors”. Stratfor’s Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counterterrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability. Stratfor claims that it operates “without ideology, agenda or national bias”, yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.

Ironically, considering the present circumstances, Stratfor was trying to get into what it called the leak-focused “gravy train” that sprung up after WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan disclosures:

“[Is it] possible for us to get some of that ‘leak-focused’ gravy train? This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that the IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick know better than anyone on the planet… Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused’ network security that focuses on preventing one’s own employees from leaking sensitive information… In fact, I’m not so sure this is an IT problem that requires an IT solution.”

Like WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables, much of the significance of the emails will be revealed over the coming weeks, as our coalition and the public search through them and discover connections. Readers will find that whereas large numbers of Stratfor’s subscribers and clients work in the US military and intelligence agencies, Stratfor gave a complimentary membership to the controversial Pakistan general Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who, according to US diplomatic cables, planned an IED attack on international forces in Afghanistan in 2006. Readers will discover Stratfor’s internal email classification system that codes correspondence according to categories such as ‘alpha’, ‘tactical’ and ‘secure’. The correspondence also contains code names for people of particular interest such as ‘Izzies’ (members of Hezbollah), or ‘Adogg’ (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad).

Stratfor did secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists – from Reuters to the Kiev Post. The list of Stratfor’s “Confederation Partners”, whom Stratfor internally referred to as its “Confed Fuck House” are included in the release. While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and private clients these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.

WikiLeaks has also obtained Stratfor’s list of informants and, in many cases, records of its payoffs, including $1,200 a month paid to the informant “Geronimo” , handled by Stratfor’s Former State Department agent Fred Burton.

WikiLeaks has built an investigative partnership with more than 25 media organisations and activists to inform the public about this huge body of documents. The organisations were provided access to a sophisticated investigative database developed by WikiLeaks and together with WikiLeaks are conducting journalistic evaluations of these emails. Important revelations discovered using this system will appear in the media in the coming weeks, together with the gradual release of the source documents.
Public partners in the investigation:

More than 25 media partners (others will be disclosed after their first publication):

Al Akhbar – Lebanon – http://english.al-akhbar.com
Al Masry Al Youm – Egypt – http://www.almasry-alyoum.com
Bivol – Bulgaria – http://bivol.bg
CIPER – Chile – http://ciperchile.cl
Dawn Media – Pakistan – http://www.dawn.com
L’Espresso – Italy – http://espresso.repubblica.it
La Repubblica – Italy – http://www.repubblica.it
La Jornada – Mexico – http://www.jornada.unam.mx/
La Nacion – Costa Rica – http://www.nacion.com
Malaysia Today – Malaysia – http://www.malaysia-today.net
McClatchy – United States – http://www.mcclatchy.com
Nawaat – Tunisia – http://nawaat.org
NDR/ARD – Germany – http://www.ard.de
Owni – France – http://owni.fr
Pagina 12 – Argentina – http://www.pagina12.com.ar
Plaza Publica – Guatemala – http://plazapublica.com.gt
Publico.es – Spain – http://www.publico.es
Rolling Stone – United States – http://www.rollingstone.com
Russia Reporter – Russia – http://rusrep.ru
Ta Nea – Greece –- http://www.tanea.gr
Taraf – Turkey – http://www.taraf.com.tr
The Hindu – India – http://www.thehindu.com
The Yes Men – Bhopal Activists – Global http://theyesmen.org
Nicky Hager for NZ Herald – New Zealand – http://www.nzherald.co.nz

via BNO Breaking News