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your dear ally in the Middle East

October 25th, 2014 No comments
“Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry on Thursday issued a warning to women not to get behind the wheel in defiance of the kingdom’s men-only road rules after a renewed social media campaign to challenge the law by driving in public.” “The conservative Islamic kingdom is the only country in the world to stop women driving,” “In Saudi Arabia, a top Arab ally of the United States, women are legally subject to a male guardian, who must give approval to basic decisions they make in fields including education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.”

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US influence in Latin America

October 25th, 2014 No comments
“Increasingly, the U.S. seems to be isolated from its Latin American and Caribbean neighbours, says Birns, who argues the same is true of Canada. Both countries are excluded from recently established regional organizations such as CELAC (the Spanish abbreviation for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Unasur (the Union of South American Nations).”

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torture graphic

October 25th, 2014 No comments
“The graphic below diagrams the participation of key high-level officials in the torture program based upon publicly available information.”

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Yoda Has Left the Building

October 25th, 2014 No comments

Andy Marshall, 93, has been the Pentagon’s futurist in chief for over 50 years. He hasn’t had a new idea since the 1970s.
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WWI: Remembering how Europe Blockaded Lebanese Civilians & Killed 200,000 with Famine

October 25th, 2014 No comments

BBC

“Unknown to many, a third of the Lebanese population [then West Syria] died of famine and disease during World War One. BBC Arabic’s Carine Torbey recounts the horrifying story of the Famine of Mount Lebanon.”

The famine of Mount Lebanon during WW1 – BBC News

Note: Contrary to what Ms. Torbey alleges, the Ottomans entered WW I for defensive purposes, being afraid of Russian expansionism, not for aggressive ones. -JRC

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Are US Drone Strikes in Pakistan War Crimes? Only 12% of those Killed are Known Militants

October 25th, 2014 No comments

By Rozina Ali

Drone Strikes: The numbers don’t lie, except
when they do

By: Rozina Ali

At a time when President Barack Obama has likened his new military strategy in Iraq and Syria to his drone programs in Yemen and Pakistan, disturbing new information has surfaced that damn drone strikes as indiscriminate in their effect on non-combatants and probably constituting war crimes.

After a lull in drone strikes in Pakistan—marking what
some thought was the beginning of the end of attacks in Pakistan—the United
States has amped up attacks this month. Regarding one attack on October 7th,
Reuters
reported “at least 8 suspected militants” were killed; the
New York Times and Washington Post
republished Associated Press reports,
which quoted an “official” saying “at least 10 militants” were killed.
According to the scenario framed through media reports, U.S. counter-terrorism
operations in Pakistan are successful. But this is a distorted perception.

A comprehensive investigation by The
Bureau of Investigative Journalism
found that only 12% of those
killed in Pakistan by drones over the past ten years were militants. Al Qaeda
members—the original intended targets of the drone
program—constituted only 4% of those killed. Civilians aren’t just
collateral damage, they are the overwhelming victims of drone strikes. It’s a major
challenge to a government who repeatedly insisted that drone strikes occur with
“surgical
precision”
. Now that the U.S. is repeating the program in the Middle
East and Somalia, we need to be able to understand just how effective drone
strikes are, not just in eradicating terrorism, but simply killing terrorists.

What makes TBIJ’s estimates unique is that it went through
the laborious process of identifying the dead through open-source reports and
leaked Pakistani government reports. This isn’t possible for media who have to
report events immediately. Out of 2,379 victims, TBIJ has identified 704 so
far. Of those, they found that only 295 were militants and 84 were Al-Qaeda
fighters. These numbers are staggering. If we take the total as the base, then
effectively, nearly nine in ten people that U.S. drones have killed in Pakistan
were not part of a militant group.

Compare TBIJ’s findings to numbers from New
America Foundation
, another reputable organization that has been
diligently tracking drone strike victims. NAF offers estimates of victims killed
in ranges. For example, they calculate the total to be 2,169-3,539.
Calculations based on the higher number in each range find that militants made
up nearly 82% of those killed—significantly higher than TBIJ’s 12%. Even
if we compare this to the ratio of militants (295) to just identified victims
(704) in TBIJ’s database, militants still make up only 40% of victims, half as
many as those suggested by NAF.

Why such a huge difference? NAF’s estimates are based solely
on media reports, which often have to rely on U.S. officials for information.
Journalists have little access to Waziristan and the CIA offers limited
information about attacks and their victims. But such limited information is dangerous:
the U.S. is using media to distort the perception of the effectiveness of drone
strikes, to make them appear as a viable alternative to “boots on the ground”
to battling terrorists. The discrepancy between TBIJ and NAF’s numbers
underscore just how big a blind spot the U.S. drone program is in media and
public knowledge.

It’s not difficult to ascertain how we might be killing so
many civilians. A 2012 New York Times
report
revealed that under his drone program, President Obama’s “kill list”
effectively considers men of military age as legitimate targets. So, the U.S.
can theoretically be hitting targets with “near precision”, if those targets
are simply young men.

We also know that the U.S. government will consider victims
civilians if there is “explicit intelligence posthumously proving them
innocent.” But there is little incentive to prove their innocence. U.S. doesn’t
have boots on the ground in Pakistan. Waziristan is a remote area with a strong
presence of militants, and unsecure for reporters. The Pakistani government has
a vested interest in keeping U.S. operations in Waziristan going, but it
doesn’t like admitting its complicity in drone strikes. When there is no one
looking, it’s easy to cover up the aftermath.

Drone strikes are becoming the new modus operendi
in the next stage of warfare. The U.S. launched drone strikes last month in
Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS. The repercussions are apparent: one strike killed
nearly
12 civilians
in Syria. But according to Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, determining if victims are “civilian” or
“combatant” is a moot point: “We hit them. And I don’t think we need to throw
up a dossier here to prove that these are the bad dudes.”

We just have to take the government’s word that those killed
are “bad dudes”.

Rozina Ali is Senior Editor at Cairo Review of Global Affairs and was formerly Deputy Editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit

——-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

RT: Half of US Drone Strike Victims may be Non-Combatants

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US Negotiator: All the Components of an Enrichment Deal with Iran are on the Table

October 25th, 2014 No comments

By Golnaz Esfandiari

The top U.S. negotiator in nuclear talks with Iran says Washington will not allow Tehran to obtain nuclear arms.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman warned that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons could lead to an arms race in the region and create further instability and danger.

Sherman said the United States prefers to achieve its goal through diplomatic means.

But she added that “Iran will not, shall not, obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Sherman also acknowledged that the negotiations are controversial, with some — she did not specify who — hoping for success while others for failure.

Sherman spoke ahead of the November 24 deadline for Iran and six major world powers to reach a lasting agreement to the crisis over Iran’s sensitive nuclear work.

She said the U.S. administration has consulted regularly with members of the U.S. Congress and allies, including Israel and the Persian Gulf States, to allay their fear regarding a potential deal.

Sherman called on Iran’s leaders to make the right choice.

“If Iran truly wants to resolve its differences with the international community — and facilitate the lifting of economic sanctions — it will have no better chance than between now and November 24,” Sherman said.

She said now is the time to finish the job.

However, she added that she didn’t know if a deal would be reached by the target date.

“I can tell you that all the components of a plan that should be acceptable to both sides are on the table,” she said.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes and denies it is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Sherman also said that on the margins of the nuclear talks with Iran, she and other U.S. officials had raised concern over the status of U.S. citizens detained or missing in Iran.

She said former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Pastor Saeed Abedini, and “Washington Post” reporter Jason Rezaian should be allowed to return to their families.

Mirrored from RFE/RL

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

——

Related video added by Juan Cole

Democracy Now!: “Former Weapons Inspector in Iraq Raises Skepticism over Claims Iran Is Hiding Nuclear Weapons Tests”

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Don’t Blame CNN for the Ebola Panic

October 24th, 2014 No comments

If you crunch
the data, the mainstream media has actually been pretty levelheaded.
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Surprise! That Russian Submarine in Stockholm Got Away From the Swedish Navy

October 24th, 2014 No comments
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Saudi king’s nephew admits to Riyadh support for ISIL

October 24th, 2014 No comments
“Billionaire Saudi businessman Alwaleed bin Talal has admitted to the kingdom’s support for the ISIL Takfiri terrorists who fight against the Iraqi and Syrian governments.

The Saudi business tycoon, who is a member of the Saudi royal family, told CNN on Monday that “some extremists in Saudi Arabia” provided financial support for the terrorists.”

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