The Two Worst Rogue States in the United Nations

Noam Chomsky
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My transcript of part of a public lecture “The Emerging World Order: its roots, our legacy” given by Noam Chomsky at Politeama Rossetti in Trieste, Italy on September 17, 2012.

The basic reason for the concern [over the possibility of Iran building nuclear weapons] has been expressed succinctly by General Lee Butler, the former head of the US Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear weapons and the strategic policies involved. He writes, “it is dangerous in the extreme, that in the cauldron of animosities, that we call “the Middle East”, one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which may inspire other nations to do so.”
General Butler, however, was not referring to Iran. He was referring to Israel. That’s the country that ranks highest in polls of European public opinion, as the most dangerous country in the world, right above Iran. But not in the Arab world. In the Arab world, the public regards the United States as the second most dangerous country after Israel  and that goes back quite a while. Iran is generally disliked, but it ranks far lower as a threat – among populations, that is. Just not the dictatorships.

Western media and commentary keep almost entirely to the views of the dictators, so we constantly hear that the Arabs want ‘decisive US action against Iran, which is that’s true of the dictators, and you may recall that a while ago, WikiLeaks released the diplomatic documents quoting Arab dictators – Saudi Arabia and the Emirates – as calling for strong US action against Iran.

The commentary about that was interesting. It was almost euphoric: “Isn’t this wonderful? The Arabs support US policy against Iran!” which is true of the Arab dictators. At the very same time, Western-run polls were coming out, showing that it’s quite the opposite, that though again, they don’t like Iran, they’re not regarded as a threat. The United States is regarded as a threat. In fact opposition to US policy was so strong, that a majority – and in some countries like Egypt, a substantial majority, thought that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. They don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but if the United States and Israel have them and are there, that’s what’s needed.

That was almost never mentioned. And that reaction is pretty striking. It illustrates the contempt for democracy among Western elite opinion: it doesn’t matter what the population thinks, that’s derided as the “Arab street” – who cares what they think? What matters is what the dictators think. That’s a commentary about us, not about the Arab world.

Noam Chomsky

Unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow [IAEA] inspections, refuses to join the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). It has hundreds of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems, and it also has a long record of violence and repression (it has annexed and settled conquered territories illegally in violation of [UN] Security Council orders and court decisions), and many acts of aggression: it has invaded Lebanon five times with no credible pretext, and much more.

Meanwhile, severe threats of attack continue, from the United States and particularly Israel. Daily, there are strong threats of attack, and there’s reaction from US Government. The Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, reacted to the threats from Israel by saying, ‘we don’t want them to attack Iran, but they’re a sovereign country, they can do what they like’. If Iran was making comparable threats about Israel – and it isn’t – the reaction would be quite different.

You may remember there is a document called the United Nations Charter. The key provision in the UN Charter is a ban against the threat or use of force in international affairs. But now there are two rogue states, the United States and Israel, that pay no attention to this, and are constantly issuing severe threats. And the European Union goes along, politely. The threats are not just words: there is an ongoing war – or at least what we would regard as an ongoing war, if it was directed against us – and there are regular assassinations of scientists and terrorist acts, there’s a very severe economic war.

The US threats, which are unilateral, have cut Iran out of the international financial system. The European countries don’t disobey the United States so they’ve gone along. Five high-level former NATO commanders have recently released what they call a ‘new grand strategy’, which identified various acts of war that justify a violent response. One of them is ‘weapons of finance’ – that justifies a military reaction, when it’s directed against us. But cutting Iran out of the global financial markets, is different.

The US Government is very proudly announcing that it’s undertaking extensive cyber-warfare against Iran. The Pentagon has identified cyber-warfare as a serious military attack, which justifies our military response. But that’s the difference between what we do to them and they do to us. Israel has an enormous lethal armoury, not just nuclear. Only recently, in the last few months, Israel has received advanced submarines provided by Germany. These are capable of carrying Israel’s nuclear tipped missiles, and they’re sure to be deployed in the Persian Gulf, or nearby. They may already be there. Certainly, if Israel proceeds with its plan to bomb Iran,  the US has a vast array of nuclear weapons surrounding the region, from the Indian Ocean, all the way to the West. In the Persian Gulf itself, the US has enough fire-power to destroy the world many times over.

Full lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BK0XIm0DXE

3 Settlements in #WestBank Ordered Demolished

FileIsraeli_West-Bank_barrier_Ramallah
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Israeli West-Bank barrier near Ramallah with t...

Israeli West-Bank barrier near Ramallah (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Union this week continued the international condemnation of Israel’s policy of building settlements in largely Palestinian areas.

The enclaves are a stumbling block to restarting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But in a minor win for Palestinians, an Israeli court has ordered three small West Bank settlements to be demolished after ruling they were illegal.

The houses of Ulpana overlook Beit El, an Israeli settlement of 7,000 people not far from the major Palestinian city of Ramallah. The Israeli High Court has ruled that five of Ulpana’s 14 buildings are on land belonging to a Palestinian man. It has ordered Israel’s government to demolish them and evict the 30 young families living there.

Palestinians and much of the international community consider all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal. But the case regarding Ulpana is much narrower, and the ruling could pose a challenge for Israel’s new unity government.

Residents here say they bought the land legally although the sale was never registered. The Israeli administrator for the area, Danny Dayon, says the houses were built with government loans.

“Is demolishing and expelling people from their homes bought with complete sincerity, is that the just solution? No. The just solution in a dispute of that kind, no doubt, is monetary,” Dayon said.

Yesh Din, the Israeli human rights group that backed the Palestinian owner’s legal case, says the government is required by law to carry out the court’s decision.

“What will happen if the Israeli government is not going to fulfill the High Court decision? I think it will be a tragedy for the Israeli society and the Israeli democracy and for the rule of law in Israel,” said Yesh Din director Haim Erlich.

The residents of Ulpana have been living in uncertainty for months. Filmmaker Alex Traiman, a father of three, is one of them. “We’re individuals here that care about Western values. At the same time we want to be an organic part of this region. We want to be at peace with our neighbors, whether those neighbors are Palestinians, whether they’re Syrians, Egyptians. At the same time we care about the law,” he said.

Two other outposts are also slated to be removed. Some members of Israel’s coalition government want to pass a law legalizing such settlements despite the court rulings. Hebrew University Professor Gideon Rahat says this would be grave.

“This is problematic. The High Court in Israel is very important, the rule of law, democracy. This is a decision that they have to go with, even for the right wing,” Rahat said.

But Palestinians say no matter what Israeli courts do, all settlements are illegal under international law and need to be removed.

“We are asking now to stop all settlements construction,” said Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah.

That is a direction no Israeli government has been willing to take.

Source: VOA

Mauritania: A Country Without A Government

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When Aziz orchestrated the August 2008 coup that enabled him to take the presidency, big backers like the African Union and the US were furious and froze all non-humanitarian funding and applied sanctions, while the French government condemned the act. Later, without sending their own observers (and presumably with much encouragement from France, which did a political pirouette, and AFRICOM) they relented, accepted the presidential election as “free and fair” and restored a lot of the funding. The EU was mollified, NATO commended their cooperation, and the African Union, with help from from Mauritania’s long-time Libyan ally Colonel Gaddafi, welcomed Mauritania back into the fold.

With the passage of time, the situation in Mauritania has changed, and there are now several reasons why this situation needs to be urgently reviewed.

  • If the election in 2009 was “free and fair”, why did Aziz’ administration need a completely new voter registration census (which apparently failed*) just two years later?
  • What happened to the fancy biometric identification system devised in September 2010, and supposed to be complete by 20 June 2011, and which promised to make registration a simple, efficient process?
  • How was the US$102k of the US$258k UNDP 2010-13 grant - destined to support the electoral cycle – actually used?
  • Why was additional funding needed at all, given that the ousted Abdallahi government already received significant sums for national registration, election systems etc in 2006 for the 2007 election?
  • Why hasn’t the Senate election, meant to renew one-third of the members and cancelled in April 2011, happened yet?
  • What was the result of the “electoral review” that was announced on 31 May 2011, and which was to last from 1 June to 31 August 2011?
  • Why was the registration process halted even though doing that would prevent elections in November?
  • Why were the November parliamentary and municipal elections postponed indefinitely, again without a decent explanation?

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in his home city Akjou...The result of all the above is that there is no government in Mauritania. There are politicians who were voted into office in the last elections, and they are doubtless still drawing salaries, but their mandate expired in November 2011. This is the plain truth, and supported by law, as stated in the constitution and legal statutes. Now, the illegitimate government is using the power it has retained by false pretences to change the constitution, using one of the only two methods prescribed:  a special conference of both houses of parliament.

The other option is a national referendum. Neither option is valid at this time, and therefore no changes to the constitution can be considered valid. The problem here is, the houses are supposed to debate and then vote, and they need to be representative of the electorate. This is impossible once the mandate has expired. The fraudulent government is seeking to bestow legitimacy on itself retrospectively by altering the constitution after their mandate expired. In fact, there was no debate. As usual, the parliamentary session was called, then immediately postponed. When it reconvened a now-familiar pattern developed: some drama erupted so that the opposition MPs withdrew in a boycott, and the changes were pushed through with only a vote and no debate.

The government was arguably more active after what can only be described as a soft coup than it was during its legal term. In November 2011, it approved an electoral commission in a statement which said the Mauritanian national dialogue held on October 19th recommended organising municipal and parliamentary elections before March 2012, based on a ruling from the Mauritanian constitutional council. That deadline has passed and the elections have not taken place.

I am reminded that, after the international community reacted strongly to the 2008 coup, Aziz went on a charm offensive, claiming that his actions were a response to “anti-constitutional” oppression by the previous government.

Given the unconstitutional acts of his government and the brutal repression waged by his regime against peaceful unarmed protesters, that last part really takes the cake, and it brings me to my last question for this article:

  • Why is international funding not being frozen with a clear demand to complete registration and hold elections, with international observers present, by a set date?

It is important to note that while the IMF and World Bank are a law unto themselves, the source of funds from the United Nations, European Union, European Commission, United States government, etc being handed to this military junta are the taxes paid by ordinary people like you and me. If the people in power in our respective countries won’t do the right thing of their own volition then we will have to make our voices heard to force them to take immediate and affirmative action. And I don’t mean some wishy-washy rhetoric about “we hope” or “it would be advisable” or “we urge”. No. I mean they need to say “This is our people’s money and we only derive our authority from them. We are freezing all funds immediately, and you have to:

  • immediately return all the money we sent you since November 2011;
  • resume the census within 7 days;
  • remove your ambassadors, envoys and government representatives within 10 days;
  • let our observers in to monitor both the census and the elections by the end of April;
  • complete the census by the end of June;
  • and hold elections in August.”

If necessary, they should freeze any foreign bank accounts held by Mauritanian officials in countries that are members of all organizations that have supplied funding until and unless it is returned.

What they can’t do is continue to treat this former government as if it was a democratically elected body fulfilling the mandate of the people.

What might delay mean? Certainly it will mean that Mauritania will become increasingly insecure, and that opportunities for corruption, cronyism and exploitation will increase.  Civil society, already in a constant state of agitation and distress over a whole host of issues and grievances, will become increasingly frustrated by the lack of opportunity to exercise their democratic rights through an election. The opposition will become increasingly marginalised and their sense of frustration will likely make them hostile. New coalitions could form, and a period of escalating political instability, protests, and attempts to gain or seize power could arise.

It could bring the increased militarization of the country –  at times through unexpected means, signs of which are already evident. For example, the recent privatisation of the state TV and radio company was followed by a declaration that the broadcaster would no longer be protected by military security and would instead use a private company. However, this was preceded by a government ruling that all private security companies must exclusively employ ex-servicemen, and that this must be implemented retrospectively. In other words, the private security sector must be 100% staffed by former military members and all non-military personnel will lose their jobs. This is the equivalent of creating  a private army, funded by the commercial security service sector.

As an indicator of cronyism, there is the story in local press about the governor of Aleg province, location of a very well-attended opposition rally, being sacked, allegedly for failing to successfully implement the feed rations for farmers that were announced only last week.

In February 2012, news of the government eavesdropping on private phone conversations was reported by a member of the opposition, and immediately supported by activists and observers, who added that France had sold surveillance technology to Mauritania in 2010.

We are already witnessing events which will prolong and increase the need for humanitarian aid in Mauritania, due both to a lack of effort on essential development projects such as drilling wells for water supply, and the arrival of tens of thousands of refugees from Mali. I assume that Aziz hopes to make up any remaining shortfall in non-humanitarian cash flow by increasing the need for charity, even if this has to be engineered by importing a crisis from the country next door. It may seem harsh to speak in this way about the situation in Mali, but I am not saying the refugees should not be sheltered or provisioned. What I am saying is certain events have made me deeply suspicious about the true nature of the conflict in Mali and the driving forces behind it. I support activists and concerned citizens in the Malian diaspora, who are keen to see a ceasefire, peace talks and families returned to their homes as quickly as possible. Whether I am right about Aziz deliberately manipulating and capitalizing on the situation in Mali  or not, the fact that Mauritania has no legal government and no agenda to rectify this situation is a genuine cause for concern.

Update: 11 March 2012At 3pm on Monday 12 March 2012, the people of #Mauritania will vote with their feet in a march organised by a coalition of political opposition parties and activist groups. Aziz is rumoured to have engineered a plan to disrupt traffic to prevent people from assembling, and there is talk of free food distribution in the suburbs, between 5 and 15 kilometres from the mosque where the march to the presidential palace begins.

There is still some uncertainty about whether the big anti-slavery and anti-racism activist groups will join the march. They are hesitant about the coalition’s call for Aziz to step down, seeing it as a futile demand that will not bring about the level of change (complete removal of the military regime) that is required. Naturally, they also want to see their demands to end racism / slavery and punish offenders added to the list.

I noticed the lack of attention to the needs of largely French-speaking black African activist groups when the march was first announced, with all the initial statements and flyers being produced in Arabic only, and the lack of a clear call for national unity. I wondered how that might impact on its success. After 3pm tomorrow, we’ll know.

I have to say, since the riot police are so fond of using tear gas and sound grenades for crowd control, I often wonder why no one ever organised a rally on the beach, where the sound would have fewer upright surfaces to amplify it and where there are ready supplies of sand and water, two very effective methods for dealing with tear gas grenades (by smothering with sand or immersing in water).

Update: 13 March 2012 They ‘voted’ in their tens of thousands – a resounding “NO!” – see my photo essay post about the historic opposition protest rally here.

*The census was hugely unpopular with the black African community that represents almost half of Mauritania’s population. They claimed they were being discriminated against during the registration process, and a “Hands Off My Nationality” protest movement appeared in April 2011. Their large protests in the capital and other towns were brutally repressed by police, and there were dozens of arrests, injuries and at least two protesters were killed. Rather mysteriously, the movement began to decline at the same time as the government announced indefinite postponement of the elections. To me, it really seems as though the government was playing a rather more subtle game that anyone might have suspected. By inciting racial tension and dividing the previously unified protest movement, Aziz was able to manipulate the situation so that elections were postponed, thus enabling a soft coup for the incumbent majority to retain power.

Police clash with protesters in #Romania

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Protesters clash with riot police on University Square in Bucharest on January 14, 2012 during a protest against the government’s austerity program and Romanian President Traian Basescu

Romanian police fired tear gas and clashed with protesters during an anti-government rally, the third consecutive day of demonstrations against austerity cuts and falling living standards.

The protests were the most serious since President Traian Basescu came to power in 2004 and were the result of pent-up frustration against public wage cuts, slashed benefits, higher taxes and widespread corruption.

In 2009, Romania took a two-year 20 billion euro loan from the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank, as its economy shrank by 7.1%.

Romania imposed harsh austerity measures under the agreement, reducing public wages by 25% and increasing taxes.

The unlikely catalyst for the protests, however, was the resignation of popular health official Raed Arafat, a Palestinian with Romanian citizenship who opposed health reforms proposed by the government.

On Friday, Mr Basescu told the government to scrap the reforms, but public anger had already risen against Mr Basescu and the government.

Widespread support for Mr Arafat has led commentators drawing parallels with ethnic Hungarian Laszlo Toekes, whose opposition to late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 was the spark for the anti-communist revolt.

#Cyprus Lets #Russia’s “Dangerous” #Syria-bound Cargo Go

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Russian Ship Stopped Carrying Arms Bound For Syria

Cyprus Frees Russian Ship bound for Syria Despite "Dangerous" Cargo

Cyprus Frees Russian Ship bound for Syria Despite "Dangerous" Cargo

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A Russian ship that made an unscheduled stop in Cyprus while carrying tons of arms to Syria was technically violating an EU embargo on such shipments, say Cypriot officials.

The vessel, however, was allowed to continue its journey Wednesday after changing its destination.

The cargo ship, owned by St. Petersburg-based Westberg Ltd., left the Russian port on Dec. 9 for Turkey and Syria, which is 65 miles (105 kilometers) east of Cyprus, the officials said.

Russia and Turkey are not members of the European Union, so such a route would not have violated the embargo the bloc imposed to protest Syria’s crackdown on the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule.

But the Chariot, a St. Vincent and Grenadines-flagged ship, dropped anchor off the southern Cypriot port of Limassol on Tuesday because of high seas, drawing the attention of Cypriot officials.

Customs officials boarded the ship to examine its cargo, but couldn’t open and inspect four containers in the hold because of “the confined space” they were stored in, the Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Nevertheless, the officials determined they were holding a “dangerous cargo.”

Cyprus Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias told private Sigma TV that the cargo was of a type that “essentially necessitated its seizure.”

State radio in Cyprus went further, saying the vessel was carrying “tens of tons of munitions.”

The ship was also carrying an electricity generator, the foreign ministry said.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a Westberg spokesman as saying that the Chariot was ferrying cargo owned by Russia’s state arms trader Rosoboronexport. The spokesman said the cargo was listed as “dangerous” in the ship’s manifest, but no further details about it were available.

Cypriot authorities consulted with the ship’s Russian owners who promised to change the ship’s route, and the vessel was allowed to refuel and leave Cyprus on Wednesday, the statement said.

“From the moment that we were informed that the cargo aboard the ship won’t go to Syria, then we had no reason not to allow (the ship’s) immediate release,” Kazamias said. “All actions were taken allowing us to properly get rid of this ship with the dangerous cargo.”

The statement didn’t say where the vessel is now headed. But an official with knowledge of the matter said the ship was allowed to leave after saying its final destination will be nearby Turkey.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, given the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue.

However, Turkish officials couldn’t confirm that the Chariot was heading to Turkey, and the vessel could still make a dash for the Syrian ports of Latakia or Tartus which Russian warships use as a resupply stop.

Turkey had previously cultivated close ties with Syria, but is now one of the Assad regime’s most vociferous critics. Turkey has imposed trade sanctions on Syria and is allowing its opposition groups to meet on its territory. Some 7,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey.

Turkish authorities intercepted an arms shipment from Iran to Syria in August and seized the cargo of a Syria-bound Iranian plane in March, because it breached U.N. sanctions.

Turkish media said the aircraft was carrying light weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket launchers and mortars.

Last summer, Cyprus suffered a disaster when it confiscated munitions aboard another cargo ship heading to the Middle East.

In February 2009, officials seized 85 gunpowder-laden containers from a Cypriot-flagged ship that was suspected of transporting them from Iran to Palestinian militants in Gaza through Syria.

Those containers, left piled in an open field at a naval base, blew up in July, killing 13 people and wrecking the island’s main power station in the island’s worst peacetime military accident.

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AP writers Suzan Fraser and Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this story.


Dialogue to help end violence in Syria – Russia”s Deputy FM

Syria's Ambassador in Moscow Riyad Haddad. Photo: RIA Novosti

Syria's Ambassador in Moscow Riyad Haddad. Photo: RIA Novosti

Russia believes that the beginning of the all-Syrian dialogue will help to stop violence and prevent interference into the country’s affairs from outside, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said meeting Syria’s Ambassador in Moscow Riyad Haddad in Moscow Wednesday.

The parties highly appreciated the Arab League’s efforts on stabilization of the situation in Syria.

Haddad informed Bogdanov about the government’s plans to carry out democratic reforms.

He stressed that the Syrian government is committed to the dialogue with the opposition.

(TASS)

Dialogue to help end violence in Syria – Russia”s Deputy FM: Voice of Russia.