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Seymour Hersh Draws Even More Criticism at LRB Than at New Yorker

By , April 15, 2014 6:16 am
Free Syrian Army fighters

The London Review of Books has again published venerable journalist Seymour Hersh’s latest piece, The Red Line and the Rat Line. Before exploring the controversy swirling around it, let’s briefly address a question that may have occurred to you. Why doesn’t the New Yorker  publish Hersh anymore? After his first LRB piece in December of 2013 about the use of chemical gas in Syria titled Whose sarin?, Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post wrote:

Hersh is a freelancer, but he’s best known these days for his work in The New Yorker, where he helped break the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. While Hersh is not a New Yorker staff writer, it was notable that his 5,500-word investigative piece landed in the London Review of Books, a London literary and intellectual magazine, rather than the publication with which he’s most closely associated.

In an email, Hersh wrote that “there was little interest” for the story at The New Yorker.

A New Yorker spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hersh then took the story to The Washington Post. The Post intended to publish it, as BuzzFeed first reported.

… It’s unclear exactly why the Post decided not to publish the story. Hersh wrote that he was told by email that Executive Editor Marty Baron decided “that the sourcing in the article did not meet the Post’s standards.”

The gracious Hersh

… reiterated his contention that the administration “may have not played it straight about a war crime [and] actually asked America to go to war without a solid case.” Such consequential issues, he wrote, make his own “travails” to get the piece published “seem slight.”

Indeed, Hersh didn’t seem particularly bothered by having to shop the story to different outlets, telling HuffPost over email that “these things happen on tough stories presented by a non-staff writer … the way it goes … freelancing is not for the faint of heart.”

His equanimity notwithstanding Hersh has been accused, in so many words, of being a conspiracy theorist. In his first piece, he wrote, “the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons.” Elaborating on that in his second piece, he begins by describing how the U.S. military command stayed the hand of those in the administration ― almost everybody ― who favored not just launching an attack on Syria, but a massive attack.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

Even more explosive was Hersh’s reporting on Turkey.

Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

… In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability.

Also, there was that YouTube video.

Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria.

Many contested Hersh’s findings. In a post at Arms Control Wonk, Stein made some valid points.

[One expert] forcefully argues that the volcano rockets used in the 21 August attack is a clear indication of regime culpability. In September 2013, Dr. Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow at RUSI in London, used open source analysis to confirm that the rockets in question are still in service with the Russian Navy and have likely been exported to Syria. Uzi Rubin, the first Director of Israel Missile Defense Organization, argues, “The ‘330 mm’ rockets discovered in Zamalka and Ein Tarma were not improvised, jury rigged devices that could be casually made in any workshop; rather, they were part of a well designed range of weapon systems contrived to fulfill Syrian Army’s operational needs.” And finally, Dan Kaszeta, a former US Army officer and consultant based in London, has estimated that the perpetrator of the attack would have needed an industrial facility to produce the amount of Sarin used.

But when Stein strays from the technical, his argument becomes shaky.

Thus, in order to believe Hersh’s recounting of events … Prime Minister Erdogan would have had to authorize the attack, and thereby sign off on the killing of hundreds of Syrians.

Erdogan is a rough and tumble dude, but the assertion that the Turkish Prime Minister would agree to such an attack belies any real understanding of Turkey’s Syrian policy. … While Turkey has geopolitical reasons to support certain rebel groups … the Turkish leadership’s desire to prevent more bloodshed is an aspect of Ankara’s Syria policy that most analysts often overlook. Erdogan, for example, often cries when speaking about the subject of Syria during television broadcasts and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s voice noticeably changes when he speaks about the issue in public.

Hard for me to be that sanguine about Erdoğan when he’s not only backing Al Nusra, but after the way he treats his own people. You have only to look at the heavy hand with which he repressed the demonstrations that began over Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park in May 2013. Approximately 11 were left dead, 8,000 injured.

But, far be it from me to criticize Erdoğan’s human record. After all, in December 2010, he received “the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights for his ‘distinguished service to humanity,’ which he said will further encourage him to fight for human rights.”

What’s odd is that Hersh’s critics seem to assume he has an agenda? What would be his motivation? To come up with scoops to prolong an aged an aged journalist’s career, no matter how decorated? To help stop Turkey from continuing to al Nusra?

While the latter may be true, it certainly does a journalist with Hersh’s reputation a disservice to imply that that he is trying to mold the facts around an agenda. It’s funny how the phrase “false flag” automatically raises a red flag. Like enraged bulls, those who have assigned themselves the task of stamping out all conspiracy theories, charge after it.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Great Expectations: Growth of domestic banks projected to more than 20%

By , April 13, 2014 2:58 pm

 predicted association of private banks, increase the rate of growth of domestic banks during the current year to more than 20% increase in light of the public’s demand to deal with the push towards raising the level of their capital.
The executive director of the Association Abdul Aziz Hassoun told / JD /: “The banking activity continuously his performance in spite of the circumstances and the crises that beset the country, whether political or security, because an important role in the recycling of funds and support economic processes and moving the wheel of development.”
He added: “The quarterly report of the activity of private banks during the first three months of this year indicates the presence of positive results in the growth rate of private banks with a large turnout by citizens to handle and this is evidence of increased confidence and the culture of the citizens.”
He said: “The rate of growth of domestic banks in the past year was (20%), but in light of the growing trade and banking activities may increase to more than 20% during the current year.” / Finished

Please any Questions: send to breitlingcurrency@gmail.com I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

US to send more fighter jets to Poland amid tensions with Russia

By , April 10, 2014 5:47 pm

US to send more fighter jets to Poland amid tensions with Russia
By: Press TV on: 10.04.2014 [18:27 ] (84 reads)

Thursday Apr 10, 201406:32 PM GMT

Israeli minister of economy calls on Netanyahu to annex 60% of West Bank

US to send more fighter jets to Poland amid tensions with Russia
This file photo shows US warships in the Black Sea.

Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:2PM GMT

The US Air Force plans to deploy 18 fighter jets, already based in Europe, to Poland for joint maritime exercises at Lask Air Base in the Black Sea, US officials say, amid continued tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

The officials said on Wednesday that F-16s from Germany’s Spangdahlem Air Base are also to participate in the training program in Lask Air Base, where F-16s from Italy’s Aviano Air Base have already been deployed.

Moreover, Britain’s Royal Air Force Mildenhall will deploy two KC-135 refueling tankers to Powidz for the exercises, which are scheduled for June.

The warplanes were ordered to Poland at the request of the country following the escalation of tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

The announcement of the planned long-term training program comes against the backdrop of the US’s efforts to “reassure NATO allies” following the secession of Crimea from Ukraine to join Russia.

Meanwhile, the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook, dispatched earlier to the Black Sea, is expected to arrive in the Sea on Thursday.

It is the third time in the past three months that a US warship is deployed to the Black Sea.

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa said in a statement that “Donald Cook’s mission is to reassure NATO allies of the U.S. Navy’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working toward mutual goals in the region.”

On Wednesday, NATO’s top military commander in Europe said American troops may be deployed to the alliance’s member states in Eastern Europe.

“Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies,” US Air Force General Philip Breedlove said.

Tensions between Moscow and the West remained high since Crimea separated from Ukraine and requested to join Russia after a referendum on March 16, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted for rejoining Russia. Russia subsequently accepted Crimea’s request.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/04/10/357995/us-to-send-more-fighter-jets-to-poland/

www.iraq-war.ru (en) RSS feed for articles and news

US to send more fighter jets to Poland amid tensions with Russia

By , April 10, 2014 12:19 pm

US to send more fighter jets to Poland amid tensions with Russia
By: Press TV on: 10.04.2014 [18:27 ] (5 reads)

Thursday Apr 10, 201406:32 PM GMT

Israeli minister of economy calls on Netanyahu to annex 60% of West Bank

US to send more fighter jets to Poland amid tensions with Russia
This file photo shows US warships in the Black Sea.

Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:2PM GMT

The US Air Force plans to deploy 18 fighter jets, already based in Europe, to Poland for joint maritime exercises at Lask Air Base in the Black Sea, US officials say, amid continued tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

The officials said on Wednesday that F-16s from Germany’s Spangdahlem Air Base are also to participate in the training program in Lask Air Base, where F-16s from Italy’s Aviano Air Base have already been deployed.

Moreover, Britain’s Royal Air Force Mildenhall will deploy two KC-135 refueling tankers to Powidz for the exercises, which are scheduled for June.

The warplanes were ordered to Poland at the request of the country following the escalation of tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

The announcement of the planned long-term training program comes against the backdrop of the US’s efforts to “reassure NATO allies” following the secession of Crimea from Ukraine to join Russia.

Meanwhile, the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook, dispatched earlier to the Black Sea, is expected to arrive in the Sea on Thursday.

It is the third time in the past three months that a US warship is deployed to the Black Sea.

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa said in a statement that “Donald Cook’s mission is to reassure NATO allies of the U.S. Navy’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working toward mutual goals in the region.”

On Wednesday, NATO’s top military commander in Europe said American troops may be deployed to the alliance’s member states in Eastern Europe.

“Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies,” US Air Force General Philip Breedlove said.

Tensions between Moscow and the West remained high since Crimea separated from Ukraine and requested to join Russia after a referendum on March 16, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted for rejoining Russia. Russia subsequently accepted Crimea’s request.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/04/10/357995/us-to-send-more-fighter-jets-to-poland/

iraqwar.mirror-world.ru (en) RSS feed for articles and news

Central Bank announces re-printed banknotes Iraqi “pictures and more protection”

By , April 9, 2014 8:21 am

http://theiraqijournal.com/central-bank-announces-re-printed-banknotes-iraqi-pictures-and-more-protection/

Please any Questions: send to breitlingcurrency@gmail.com I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

More Cuba Hypocrisy in the U.S. Senate

By , March 27, 2014 5:37 pm
marco-rubio-robert-menendez-cuba-embargo

For Sens. Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, all roads in Latin America lead back to Cuba–a country they have never visited but proclaim expertise about anyway. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. This very American expression came to mind while I watched last month’s confirmation hearing for Noah Mamet, who was nominated by President Obama to be the U.S. ambassador to Argentina. The chairman of the committee, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), joined forces with his Republican colleague from Florida, Marco Rubio, to attack Mamet. Both senators expressed astonishment that Mamet, if confirmed, would play a central role in shaping U.S. policy toward a country he had never before visited.

But what if we hold the senators to their own standards? Menendez and Rubio have dedicated much of their political lives to one foreign policy issue: Cuba. Not a week passes without Rubio and Menendez demanding an apology from whoever favors even the slightest relaxation in the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Yet neither Menendez nor Rubio has ever set foot on the island (other than Rubio’s visit to the U.S. naval base and notorious detention center at Guantanamo Bay). They are just like most of the pro-embargo “experts” who have not been to Cuba over the last 10, 20, 30, or even 50 years.

Frank Argote-Freyre, who had been Menendez’s press secretary when he served in the House of Representatives and is now a professor at Kean University, told me how a trip to Cuba in 1999 changed his own support of the embargo. “For a time I believed that the U.S. embargo of Cuba was an effective economic strategy to encourage a more democratic system on the island and greater freedom of speech,” he told me. “My position on this subject changed in 1999 when I visited the island and saw that the embargo was having no impact on the Cuban government whatsoever. It seemed to me that the embargo — to the extent it was effective at all — was hurting individuals who were already struggling economically, by creating shortages of some items. It was hurting Cubans with lower and middle incomes. My visit put a human face on those being punished by the embargo.”

It is legitimate to question whether the U.S. system gives too much discretion to the president in nominating ambassadors. Many critics have argued that appointing campaign fundraisers like Mamet to ambassador posts, an increasingly common occurrence, amounts to political patronage. But that is another matter. Menendez and Rubio were using Mamet’s nomination as a pretext to attack the Obama administration’s approach to Latin America.

Mamet is not a career diplomat. But he responded to the senators’ questions with a diplomatic tone. When asked about Argentina’s friendly relations with Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador, Mamet recognized Washington’s differing views. But he also acknowledged that the central focus of his job would be handling the United States’ bilateral relations with Argentina, Latin America’s third-largest economy.

In marked contrast to Mamet’s measured responses, Menendez and Rubio pontificated — without any evidence — about how Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner takes instructions from Fidel Castro.

As anybody knowledgeable about Latin America’s region-wide rejection of the U.S. stance on Cuba might note, Mamet’s answers showed sensitivity toward Argentina’s own nationalist history and deeply rooted resistance to the U.S. role in the region. Here are some highlights. In 1945, General Juan Domingo Perón ran for president of Argentina under the slogan “Perón versus Braden” — Spruille Braden being the U.S. ambassador to Argentina at the time. Most of the electorate rallied around the nationalist flag against opposition forces, considered puppets of the United States. Later, a 1961 meeting between Argentine president Arturo Frondizi and the Argentine-born Ernesto “Che” Guevara — the famed Cuban revolutionary — was used by Argentina’s armed forces as a pretext to overthrow Frondizi and impose a military dictatorship supported by the United States.

No sensible U.S. strategist would begin his tenure as ambassador by evoking these episodes, and Mamet rightly side-stepped anything that might reignite animosity. In their anti-Cuba and anti-Obama vendettas, in contrast, Menendez and Rubio have already caused unnecessary tensions in U.S.-Argentine relations — provoking Argentina’s Foreign Relations Minister Hector Timerman to reject the senators’ declarations about Argentina’s “immature” democracy and call on them to respect his country.

If they’re not willing to go to Cuba, Rubio and Menendez should at least pay more attention to reports from their constituents who travel to the island. They would likely find out that the embargo is harming, rather than promoting, human rights in Cuba. As Frank Argote-Freyre said: “More than 50 years of the embargo shows it is a policy failure, and its continuation serves no purpose. Rather, the embargo has been used by the revolutionary government to hide its failures over time. It has also been used as a justification for restricting democratic freedoms by fostering this sense that the Cuban nation is under siege and threatened by its powerful neighbor to the north.”

Majorities in Florida and New Jersey, the senators’ own states, agree. According to a recent poll by the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council, 56 percent of Americans — including 63 percent of Floridians, 57 percent of New Jerseyans, 60 percent of Democrats, and 52 percent of Republicans — support changing U.S. policy toward Cuba. All these majorities favor removing all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S citizens and allowing more U.S. companies to do business in the country.

Only in a culture of double standards could Menendez and Rubio question Mamet’s qualifications to serve as U.S. ambassador to Argentina based on the fact that he has never been there — without questioning their own qualifications to hold forth on U.S. policy toward Cuba. Since they have never themselves been to Cuba, they should be more modest in their claim to know about it.

What’s good for the ambassadorial nominee is good for the senators.

Arturo Lopez-Levy is a PhD Candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. You can follow him on Twitter @turylevy.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Sunni Revolt in Syria Has Given Al-Qa’ida More Power in Iraq

By , March 20, 2014 3:10 am

Events in Iraq are not always what they seem: take two occurrences over the past year illustrating the difference between appearance and the reality in Iraq.

The first event took place outside Fallujah after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), formerly known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq, aided by tribal militias, took over the city in January. This was a body blow to the Iraqi government since Fallujah is only 40 miles west of Baghdad and was famously stormed by US Marines in a bloody battle in 2004.

But soon after Isis had retaken it three months ago, a reassuring video was circulated on Twitter and Facebook by government supporters. It had some narrative in Iraqi Arabic, was shot from the air and showed insurgents being targeted and eliminated by air-launched missiles. This was morale-raising stuff for the Iraqi government and to those loyal to it, but unfortunately it proved to be a fabrication and after a few hours someone noticed that the video had been shot in Afghanistan and it is of American drones or helicopters firing missiles at Taliban fighters. It is doubtful if Iraqi airpower is capable of carrying out such attacks.

But such deceptions are not all on the government side. In December 2012 the arrest of the bodyguards of the moderate Sunni Finance Minister, Rafi al-Issawi, by the government led to widespread but peaceful protests in Sunni provinces in northern and central Iraq, Sunni Arabs making up about a fifth of Iraq’s 33 million population. At first, the demonstrations were well-attended, with protesters demanding an end to political, civil and economic discrimination against the Sunni community. But soon they realised that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was offering only cosmetic changes and many stopped attending the weekly demonstrations.

In the Sunni city of Tikrit, capital of Salah Ad-Din province, 10,000 people had come to rallies at first, but then the number sank to 1,000. A local observer says: “It was decided that all mosques should be shut on Fridays except for one, forcing all the faithful to go to the same mosque for Friday prayers. Cameras eagerly filmed and photographed the crowd to make it look like they were all protesters and would beam the images back to the Gulf, where their paymasters were fooled (or maybe they weren’t) into thinking that the protests were still attracting large numbers.” The eyewitness in Tikrit cynically suggests that the money supposedly spent on feeding and transporting non-existent demonstrators was pocketed by protest leaders.

The two stories illustrate an important political truth about contemporary Iraq. Neither the government nor any of the constitutional political movements are as strong as they pretend. Power is divided and these divisions have helped al-Qa’ida in Iraq to re-emerge far stronger and more speedily than anybody expected. Its jihadist militants are still in Fallujah where they reportedly have 300 to 500 men armed with high-powered sniper rifles on its outskirts. The political winds are still blowing in their favour and peaceful protests are languishing.

“Belittled, demonised and increasingly subject to a central government crackdown, the popular movement is slowly mutating into an armed struggle,” reports the International Crisis Group. “Many Sunni Arabs have concluded that their only realistic option is a violent conflict increasingly framed in confessional terms.”

The government might have got away with its confrontational approach before 2011, after which the Arab Spring took the form in Syria of a revolt by the Sunni majority. With the Syrian rebels backed by Saudi Arabia and the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf and Turkey, the sectarian balance of power in the region is changing.

Previously, the Iraqi Sunni had been resentful but largely resigned to the Shia-Kurdish domination of Iraq established since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. They were fearful of a renewed onslaught by Shia militias and Shia-controlled security forces which had driven Sunni out of much of Baghdad in the sectarian civil war of 2006-7.

A US embassy cable in September 2007 said: “More than half of all Baghdad neighbourhoods now contain a clear Shia majority. Sunnis have largely fled to outlying areas or have been concentrated into small enclaves surrounded by Shia neighbourhoods.” To a great extent, this remains true to this day.

Many Iraqi Sunni felt they had no alternative but to revert to armed struggle and they were encouraged by two regional developments: the Sunni-Shia conflict is intensifying as is the hot and cold war between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies backed by the US, in confrontation with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, who in turn are backed by Russia.

Iraq has long suspected the hidden hand of Wahhabism, the variant of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia, as being behind many of its troubles. But it was only this month that Mr Maliki, in an interview with France 24 television, put the blame squarely on Saudi Arabia and Qatar, saying that “these two countries are primarily responsible for the sectarian, terrorist and security crisis in Iraq”.

He added that allegations that he was marginalising Sunnis was broadcast by “sectarians with ties to foreign agendas, with Saudi and Qatari incitement”. His accusations were angrier and more direct than before, alleging that Riyadh and Doha are providing support for the militants, including “buying weapons for the benefit of these terrorist organisations”.

How much truth is there in Mr Maliki’s accusations? A proportion of aid from the Gulf destined for the armed opposition in Syria undoubtedly goes to Iraq. Turkey allows weapons and jihadist volunteers, many of them potential suicide bombers, to cross its 500 mile-long border into Syria and inevitably some of the guns, fighters and bombers will go to Iraq. This is hardly surprising given that Isis operates in both countries as if they were one. Since mid-2012, violence has increased sharply, with 9,571 Iraqi civilians killed in 2013 and 2,006 in the first two months of this year, according to Iraq Body Count. A senior US administration official, speaking last August and quoted by Jessica D Lewis of the Institute for the Study of War, said: “In the [past] two years, we’ve had an average of about five to 10 suicide bombers a month, in 2011 and 2012… We’ve seen over the [past] 90 days the suicide bomber numbers approach about 30 a month, and we still suspect that most of them are coming in from Syria.”

A blind spot for the US and the Western powers has been their failure to see that by supporting the armed uprising in Syria, they would inevitably destabilise Iraq and provoke a new round of its sectarian civil war. Al-Qa’ida in Iraq, as it was then known, was at its lowest ebb in 2010. It had been vigorously pursued by the Americans, was under attack from the Sahwa or “Awakening” groups of anti-al-Qa’ida fighters, mostly drawn from the Sunni tribes. It had lost many of its veterans, who were dead or in prison, and survivors were unpopular among ordinary Sunnis because of their general bloodthirstiness, killing even minor government employees who might be Sunni. Above all, they had failed and up to 2012 many Sunnis were hopeful of extracting at least some concessions from the government without going back to war.

The spectacular resurgence of al-Qa’ida in Iraq came through a well-planned campaign, an important element of which was systematic attacks on the prisons. Known as the “Breaking the Walls” campaign, it involved eight separate attacks to free prisoners, culminating in a successful assault on Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons in July 2013 in which at least 500 captives, many of them experienced fighters, escaped. The attackers poured 100 mortar bombs into the jails and used suicide bombers to clear the way as inmates rioted and started fires to confuse the guards.

There were escalating attacks on Iraqi security forces by Isis all over Iraq last year. An assault by government forces on a peace camp at Hawijah, south-west of Kirkuk, on 23 April killed 50 people and injured 110, alienating many Sunni, including powerful tribes. Ill-planned government counter-offensives, which often mean detaining and mistreating all Sunni men of military age, are counter-effective. Sporadic shelling of Fallujah and Ramadi by government forces in Anbar forced some 500,000 people out of 1.6 million in the province to flee to safer places where they often live rough or whole families are crammed into a single room.

Along the upper Euphrates river, food is scarce and expensive and many schools have closed. The most important Sunni religious leader in Anbar, Abdul Malak al-Saadi, who had previously counselled moderation, says the April parliamentary elections are illegitimate. Election posters are torn down a soon as they are put up.

There is some uncertainty about the degree of control Isis has over Sunni areas, depending on whether or not it wants to advertise its presence. Its grip over Iraq’s third-largest city, Mosul, is probably more important than its position in Fallujah but gets little publicity because of an assassination campaign against local media appears to be aimed at concealing this: five journalists have been killed since October and 40 have fled to Kurdistan and Turkey.

Mukhtars, the most important of the government’s representatives, who are also community leaders, are being killed off, forced to flee or to co-operate with Isis. Minorities such as the Yazidis and Christians are being targeted to drive them out of Mosul. Isis has enough authority to levy taxes on everybody from people selling food on the street to construction and mobile-phone companies.

The surge in Isis’s control in Sunni Iraq has happened at speed over the past year, but there is no sign of an effective government counter-attack. The slaughter of Shia civilians continues, with a suicide bomber in a minivan packed with explosives killing 45 and wounding 157 people at the security checkpoint at the entrance to the largely Shia town of Hilla, south-west of Baghdad, on 8 March. Government security is incapable of finding and eliminating the hideouts where these devastating vehicle-born bombs are rigged.

Speaking early last year, Dr Mahmoud Othman, the veteran MP, said that “about half the country is not really controlled by the government”. Asked why Iraq’s 900,000-strong armed forces are so ineffective against Isis, another politician, who did not want to be named, said: “This is the harvest of total corruption. People pay money to get into the army [so they are paid] — but they are investors not soldiers.”

This may be a little harsh, but there is no doubt that Isis is stronger than ever before, controls much of Sunni Iraq and can carry out its murderous operations anywhere in the rest of the country.

Assyrian International News Agency

US conducts more war games in Black Sea as Ukraine crisis intensifies

By , March 19, 2014 11:19 pm

US conducts more war games in Black Sea as Ukraine crisis intensifies
By: Press TV on: 20.03.2014 [03:25 ] (61 reads)


US conducts more war games in Black Sea as Ukraine crisis intensifies
The guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun is shown underway in the Atlantic Ocean in this US Navy handout photo taken August 4, 2013.

Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:16AM GMT

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The United States has conducted more war games with allied states in the Black Sea, as tensions between Washington and Moscow grow over the autonomous Ukrainian region.

A US Naval Forces official told Reuters on Wednesday that the USS Truxtun, a US Navy guided-missile destroyer, conducted a one-day military exercise with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies a few hundred kilometers from the Russian forces deployed in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

“There are many reasons for exercises with allies, it allows us an opportunity to assure our NATO allies that we support them,” said Shawn Eklund, a public affairs officer for US Naval Forces Europe.

Meanwhile, the US has stepped up the deployment of its military forces to Eastern Europe, including the dispatch of fighter jets and surveillance equipment to Poland and the Baltic states.

This month, six F-15C Eagles and more than 60 American troops arrived at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, while twelve F-16 fighter jets and 300 US soldiers landed in Poland.

Tensions have mounted between the US and Russia following Sunday’s referendum in the autonomous Ukrainian region of Crimea, in which the region’s residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

Tensions over the Crimea vote escalated even more on Tuesday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty making the Black Sea region part of Russia.

Before inking the agreement, Putin defended Crimea’s referendum as democratic and legal, saying the region is an inseparable part of Russia.

The Russian leader criticized the US and its allies for what he called hypocrisy, saying they had endorsed Kosovo’s independence in a referendum from Serbia but now denied the people of Crimea the same right. “You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow.”

The Crimea situation has raised the fears of the most serious confrontation between the West and Russia since the Cold War.

Many political analysts say that it is unlikely that a political settlement will be reached in the near future.

GJH/ISH

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/03/20/355413/us-conducts-more-war-games-in-black-sea/

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US to send more F-16 fighters to Poland due to crisis in Ukraine

By , March 11, 2014 8:30 am

US to send more F-16 fighters to Poland due to crisis in Ukraine
By: voiceofrussia.com on: 11.03.2014 [12:46 ] (83 reads)

US to send more F-16 fighters to Poland due to crisis in Ukraine

Photo: EPA

The US intends to send more American F-16 fighters to Poland in the coming days. This question was discussed at the meeting of the Minister of Defense Chuck Hagel and Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, the press service of the US Defense Ministry reports.

“We have no decision regarding the number of fighters just yet,” the Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren says, as quoted by the press-service. The report also notes that as soon as the relevant decision is taken, the United States European Command will detach the fighters. The decision is aimed to increase the number of the US aviation detachment in Poland.

“Currently, the Lusk Air Base in Poland houses 10 people of the US personnel, but no permanent presence there is established yet. We want to reassure our allies that they can count on us. This is the right time for us to say clearly to all our allies and partners in the region that the United States will support them,” Warren added.

The Pentagon report says that this is but “one of the visible actions that were taken by the US” due to development of the situation around Ukraine. Earlier, the United States sent six F-15C Eagles to enhance air mission in the Baltic states. In addition, the American destroyer USS Truxton was sent to the Black Sea.

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_03_11/US-to-send-more-F-16-fighters-to-Poland-due-to-crisis-in-Ukraine-3172/

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Yen Ahead of BoJ, More Weakness Expected

By , March 10, 2014 1:34 pm

The Japanese yen was extremely weak last week. The market sentiment was favorable to the currency initially, but it sharply turned negative for the yen after the European Central Bank refrained from additional stimulus and was relatively optimistic about the future of the European economy. The better-than expected US non-farm payrolls did not help the Japanese currency either. But what about this week?

Domestically, things do not look good for the yen. The Bank of Japan meets on Tuesday, March 11, and there is a chance that the central bank will make monetary policy more accommodative. Admittedly, the chances do not look particularly high, but they increased after the economic growth estimate received a downward revision. Additionally, the minutes of the previous policy meeting will be released on Friday, March14. They may give insights into the thinking of Japanese policy makers, but the impact of this release will likely be limited as they will be released after the most recent meeting.

Overseas, news was a bit more favorable, increasing demand for safe currencies. While fears about the situation in Ukraine receded, the problems there were not resolved and may yet push the Forex market into the risk-off mode in case of a major conflict between Russia and Ukraine (or the United States perhaps). Poor China’s economic data also made investors less willing to risk, but, surprisingly enough, its impact on the currency market was rather limited.

All in all, fundamentals are a bit mixed for the yen, but it looks like the adverse ones have more influence on the currency. As a result, the outlook for the yen is neutral with a downward bias. DailyFX is neutral on the currency, while Forex Crunch believes that the yen should lose to the dollar.

It is worth noting that there will be important events that may affect the performance of the yen against the Australian and New Zealand currencies. It is expected that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand will perform an interest rate hike, while analysts anticipate robust employment data from Australia. Both these event may lead to losses of the Japanese currency against the Aussie and the kiwi.

If you have any questions, comments or opinions regarding the Japanese Yen, feel free to post them using the commentary form below.

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