Asylum for Snowden won’t stop journalist Greenwald from publishing more leaks

http://rt.com/news/asylum-nsa-leaks-greenwald-037/

Snowden leaks on US domestic surveillance programme – there is more to come

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has indicated that he is willing to halt his leakage of US secrets, a condition for gaining Russian asylum, though the journalist who first published information from those leaks intends to continue.

Glenn Greenwald, a journalist working with both the British Guardian newspaper and Brazil’s O Globo, had been in direct contact with the now fugitive Snowden and coordinated with the former intelligence contractor ahead of publishing information on secret online surveillance programs.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that asylum for Snowden would be offered only under the condition that he releases no further information that could prove damaging to the US. Greenwald, however, has indicated that he would consider the intelligence provided by Snowden already in his possession fair game.

“There are many more domestic stories coming, and big ones, and soon,” Greenwald wrote in an email to Politico on Friday.

“Given everything I know, I’d be very shocked if he ever asked me that,” Greenwald told Politico when asked if he would halt publishing any sensitive information if Snowden were to ask.

“I’d deal with that hypothetical only in the extremely unlikely event that it ever happened, but I can’t foresee anything that would or could stop me from further reporting on the NSA documents I have,” he added.

On Friday, Snowden said that he would remain in Russia until able to get safe passage to Latin America, where he has been offered political asylum by Venezuela as well as Honduras. Comments made during a meeting with human rights activists at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport Friday also indicated that he intended to renew a petition for asylum from Russia.

“Snowden is serious about obtaining political asylum in the Russian Federation,” said Vyacheslav Nikonov, a lawmaker who attended the meeting at the Moscow airport, reports The Guardian.

Most recently, Greenwald in conjunction with several reporters with O Globo published further information showing the existence of a wide array of surveillance programs tracking citizens of South American countries.

O Globo cited documents this week indicating that from January to March of 2013, NSA agents carried out “spying actions” via the ‘Boundless Informant’ program, which collected telephone calls and Internet data. Agents also used PRISM from February 2 to 8 this year, O Globo said.

Essentially all of Latin America is reported to be targeted for surveillance, including Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador. The most intense surveillance according to O Globo seems to have been directed at Colombia, a key US ally in the so-called War on Drugs, as well as Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico.

Comments by Greenwald to Politico on Friday suggest that the journalist already has a backlog of leaks to work with, and that any agreement Snowden were to make with a foreign government in regards to conditions of political asylum would be independent of Greenwald’s publication of that information.

Meanwhile, Snowden released a statement on Friday via WikiLeaks, which has orchestrated his legal defense as well as asylum petitions, to convey that he would accept all offers of political asylum made to him.

“I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future,” Snowden stated during his meeting with rights activists and lawyers at Sheremetyevo.

“I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted,” he told the meeting.

Frankie Boyle Owns Obama in hilarious retweet

Edward Snowden offered asylum by Venezuelan president

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/06/edward-snowden-venezuela-asylum

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro said on Friday he had decided to offer asylum to former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has petitioned several countries to avoid capture by Washington.

“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Maduro told a televised military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.

The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport.

WikiLeaks said on Friday that Snowden had applied to six more nations for asylum, bringing to about 20 the number of countries he has asked for protection from US espionage charges.

Maduro said Venezuela was ready to offer him sanctuary, and that the details Snowden had revealed of a US spy program had exposed the nefarious schemes of the US “empire”.

“He has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the US spying on the whole world,” Maduro said.

“Who is the guilty one? A young man … who denounces war plans, or the US government which launches bombs and arms the terrorist Syrian opposition against the people and legitimate president Bashar al-Assad?”

“Who is the terrorist? Who is the global delinquent?”

Russia has shown signs of growing impatience over Snowden’s stay in Moscow. Its deputy foreign minister said on Thursday that Snowden had not sought asylum in that country and needed to choose a place to go.

Moscow has made clear that the longer he stays, the greater the risk of the diplomatic standoff over his fate causing lasting damage to relations with Washington.

Earlier on Friday, Nicaragua said it had received an asylum request from Snowden and could accept the bid “if circumstances permit”, president Daniel Ortega said.

“We are an open country, respectful of the right of asylum, and it’s clear that if circumstances permit, we would gladly receive Snowden and give him asylum in Nicaragua,” Ortega said during a speech in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua.

Ortega, an ally of Venezuelan president Maduro, did not elaborate on the conditions that would allow him to offer asylum to Snowden, who has been at the eye of a diplomatic storm since leaking high-level US intelligence data last month.

Options have been narrowing for Snowden as he seeks a country to shelter him from US espionage charges.

A one-time cold war adversary of the United States, Ortega belongs to a bloc of leftist leaders in Latin America that have frequently taken up antagonistic positions with Washington.

Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, has benefited greatly from financial support from Venezuela, and Ortega was a staunch ally of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez.

Edward Snowden’s nightmare comes true

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/edward-snowden-nsa-93742.html?fb_action_ids=10151761440457658&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=.Udc_r-hzq9Q.like&fb_source=ticker&action_object_map=%7B%2210151761440457658%22%3A358649504260749%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210151761440457658%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%7B%2210151761440457658%22%3A%22.Udc_r-hzq9Q.like%22

Edward Snowden’s nightmare may be coming true.
Not exile; not the danger of imprisonment or prosecution; and not his newfound association with dictators, lawyers and impresarios.

Snowden’s worst fear, by his own account, was that “nothing will change.”
“People will see in the media all these disclosures, they’ll know the lengths the government is going to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society and global society,” he told The Guardian last month after he’d asked it to identify him as its source. “But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.”

One month after The Guardian’s first story, which revealed an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing the National Security Agency to collect the phone records of every Verizon customer, there has been no public movement in Washington to stop the court from issuing another such order. Congress has no intelligence reform bill that would rein in the phone tracking, or Internet monitoring, or cyberattack planning, or any of the other secret government workings that Snowden’s disclosures have revealed.
There is no modern day Sen. Frank Church ready to convene historic hearings about the intelligence community, like the ones Church ran in the 1970s, proceedings that radically transformed the U.S. intelligence services. Far from having been surprised by Snowden’s disclosures, today’s intelligence committee leaders stepped right up to defend the NSA’s surveillance programs. From Republicans, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, to Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, they’ve been nearly unanimous in their support.
“I feel I have an obligation to do everything I can to keep this country safe,” Feinstein told The New York Times. “So put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/edward-snowden-nsa-93742.html#ixzz2YGIXyIUG

The Media Silence on massacre of civilians in Iraq

When a U.S. taxpayer-funded massacre takes place in Iraq and results in the deaths of at least 10 Iraqi civilians, it barely makes a blip on the news media radar – yet, when a gunman walks into an American movie theater or an American school and mows down around the same number of people, the big news networks are filled with coverage and speculation fills the airwaves for days.

There should be little doubt that a random shooting in a movie theater is tragic, but at least U.S. taxpayers aren’t training the shooter and providing him with weapons to carry out the crime. The same can’t be said when a U.S. taxpayer-funded bomb is dropped on a wedding in Afghanistan, or when a U.S. taxpayer-funded drone wipes out a group of children in Pakistan, or when a whole city suffers from birth defects thanks to U.S. taxpayer-funded radioactive waste in Iraq. These types of atrocities should be reported on in detail by the media primarily because every act of violence is funded by, and carried out in the name of the taxpayer, and yet, the opposite is true: the random act of violence is given far more attention than the act of violence actually funded by most of the network’s audience.

This kind of lopsided behavior from American cable news shouldn’t be all too surprising to anyone who has been paying attention over the last decade. It was CNN, FOX, and MSNBC who ultimately helped sell the Iraq War to the U.S. public – a war with a death toll far surpassing the 100,000 mark for civilian casualties. It was CNN, FOX, and MSNBC who helped sell the U.S.-backed bombing of oil-rich Libya in 2011. And today, it is CNN, FOX, and MSNBC currently helping the U.S. government set the stage for gradual intervention in Syria, and soon, in Iran.

Most people understand by now that U.S. government officials spend more time lying over the course of a single day than they spend actually representing the taxpayer, yet those in the American news media nonetheless continue to regurgitate government talking points. If these networks actually gave a damn about their viewers, they would devote more energy to fact-checking and questioning claims made by the untrustworthy goons in government through the utilization of a now largely-retired practice once known as “journalism”. Instead, networks act against the public interest by spreading government distortions and emphasizing tragedies against Americans while largely neglecting atrocities perpetuated by them.

But imagine for a moment if the headlines looked a bit different. For instance, what if, “Iraqi children in U.S. raid shot in head, U.N. says”, as reported by McClatchy on 8/31/2011, instead read: “American children in Iraqi raid shot in head, U.N. says”? Or what if, “U.S. Drone Strikes Have Killed 176 Children in Pakistan”, as reported by PolicyMic in late 2012, instead read: “Pakistani Drone Strikes Have Killed 176 Children in the U.S.”? Or instead of “U.S. bomb kills 30 at Afghan wedding”, as reported back in 2002, the headline instead read, “Afghan bomb kills 30 at U.S. wedding”? Would the networks spend more time reporting on these crimes if they were carried out against their audience instead of by their audience?

It should make little difference what nation innocent people originate from when they are needlessly murdered in horrible ways – yet to some Americans, and to nearly all of the big names in the fetid landscape of corporate news, it’s unfortunately the only thing that really matters.”

http://tinyurl.com/mxewton

“The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers. They and their surviving family members are virtually never heard from on television. The Bush and Obama DOJs have collaborated with federal judges to ensure that even those who everyone admits are completely innocent have no access to American courts and thus no means of having their stories heard or their rights vindicated. Radical secrecy theories and escalating attacks on whistleblowers push these victims further into the dark.

It is the ultimate tactic of Othering: concealing their humanity, enabling their dehumanization, by simply relegating them to nonexistence. As Ashleigh Banfield put it her 2003 speech denouncing US media coverage of the Iraq war just months before she was demoted and then fired by MSNBC: US media reports systematically exclude both the perspectives of “the other side” and the victims of American violence. Media outlets in predominantly Muslim countries certainly report on their plight, but US media outlets simply do not, which is one major reason for the disparity in worldviews between the two populations. They know what the US does in their part of the world, but Americans are kept deliberately ignorant of it.”

“The son of the slain Afghan police commander (who is the husband of one of the killed pregnant woman and brother of the other) says that villagers refer to US Special Forces as the “American Taliban” and that he refrained from putting on a suicide belt and attacking US soldiers with it only because of the pleas of his grieving siblings. An influential Southern Yemeni cleric explains that he never heard of al-Qaida sympathizers in his country until that 2009 cruise missile attack and subsequent drone killings, including the one that ended the life of Abdulrahman (a claim supported by all sorts of data). The brutal Somali warlord explains that the Americans are the “masters of war” who taught him everything he knows and who fuel ongoing conflict. Anwar Awlaki’s transformation from moderate and peace-preaching American cleric to angry critic of the US is shown to have begun with the US attack on Iraq and then rapidly intensifying with Obama’s drone attacks and kill lists. Meanwhile, US military officials and officers interviewed by Scahill exhibit a sociopathic indifference to their victims, while Awlaki’s increasingly angry sermons in defense of jihad are juxtaposed with the very similar-sounding justifications of endless war from Obama.

The evidence has long been compelling that the primary fuel of what the US calls terrorism are the very policies of aggression justified in the name of stopping terrorism. The vast bulk of those who have been caught in recent years attempting attacks on the US have emphatically cited US militarism and drone killings in their part of the world as their motive. Evidence is overwhelming that what has radicalized huge numbers of previously peaceful and moderate Muslims is growing rage at seeing a continuous stream of innocent victims, including children, at the hands of the seemingly endless US commitment to violence.

The only way this clear truth is concealed is by preventing Americans from knowing about, let alone hearing from, the victims of US aggression. That concealment is what caused huge numbers of Americans to wander around in a daze after 9/11 innocently and bewilderingly wondering “why do they hate us”? – despite decades of continuous US interference, aggression, and violence-enabling in that part of the world. And it’s this concealment of these victims that causes Americans now to react to endless stories of the killing of innocent Muslims with the excuse that “we have to do something about the Terrorists” or “it’s better than a ground invasion” – without realizing that they’re affirming what Chris Hayes aptly describes as a false choice, and worse, without realizing that the very policies they’re cheering are not stopping the Terrorists at all but doing the opposite: helping the existing Terrorists and creating new ones.

To be fair, it’s not difficult to induce a population to avert its eyes from the victims of the violence they support: we all like to believe that we’re Good and peaceful people, and we particularly like to believe this about the leaders we elect, cheer and admire. Moreover, what the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole recently described as “the empathy gap” – the failure to imagine how others will react to situations that would cause us (and have caused us) to be driven by rage and violence – means that the US government need not work all that hard to silence its victims: there is a pervasive desire to keep them out of sight.

Nonetheless, if Americans are going to support or even tolerate endless militarism, as they have been doing, then they should at least have to be confronted with their victims – if not on moral grounds then on pragmatic ones, to understand the effects of these policies. Based on the out-of-sight-out-of-mind reality, the US government and media have been incredibly successful in rendering those victims silent and invisible.”

John Mc Cain admits the real reason for US supporting regime change in Syria

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/john-mccain-u-s-must-arm-syria-rebels-to-deter-iran-from-nuclear-ambitions-1.533132

.S. Senator John McCain said in an interview published Monday that arming Syrian rebels is an important step in deterring Iran from its nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to Army Radio on a visit to Israel, the Republican senator deflected concerns that weapons provided to rebels could fall into the hands of terrorists, who might use them against the United States and Israel.

“There’s [sic] no good options,” said McCain, “Would you rather have these weapons – perhaps some of them – in the hands of the wrong people, or would you rather have [Syrian President] Bashar Assad prevail and then encourage Iran to further their ambitions on nuclear weapons?”

Joining McCain in the interview was fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who criticized the Obama administration’s hesitation in acting on threats to Assad over his use of chemical weapons.

“When you say to a leader of another country, ‘You can’t cross this line,’ and that person does and nothing happens, it’s not good. The Iranians need to believe that America’s serious about stopping their nuclear program. I think our policies in Syria are sending a mixed message,” Graham told Army Radio.

With Russia and Iran arming Assad’s forces, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters joining the war on his behalf, Western powers have agreed to step up aid to the mainly Sunni rebels.

U.S. President Barack Obama, citing the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons, announced June 13 his decision to provide military aid to rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.

Israel spies on the USA

Obama organised shipment of 3,500 tons of weapons to Syrian rebels

President Obama will have no talk of peace. He has chosen war since the very start and he’s sticking to it. A recent New York Times article revealed that President Obama has been lying through his teeth about the level of U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict since the beginning.

The President recently said that the U.S. government continues to give only “non-lethal” military aid to the rebels, but The New York Times revealed that the CIA has been actively funneling and distributing massive shipments of weapons to the rebels over the borders of Jordan and Turkey.

This “arms pipeline” of illegal gun trafficking has been overseen by the U.S. government since January 2012. It has literally been the lifeblood of the Syrian “rebels,” and thus the cause of the immense bloodshed in Syria.

The New York Times reports:

“The C.I.A. role in facilitating the [weapons] shipments… gave the United States a degree of influence over the process [of weapon distribution]…American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the [weapons] shipments.”

The article also explains that a “conservative estimate” of the weapons shipment to date is “3,500 tons.”

So while Obama has repeatedly lied about “non-lethal” military aid, he has been personally involved in overseeing a multi-country flood of weapons into Syria, many of which are given to terrorist organizations. The only effective fighting force for the Syrian rebels has been the terrorist grouping the Al Nusra Front, and now we know exactly where they got their guns.

If not for this U.S.-sponsored flood of guns, the Syrian rebels — many of them from Saudi Arabia and other countries — would have been militarily defeated long ago. Tens of thousands of lives would thus have been spared and a million refugees could have remained in their homes in Syria. The large scale ethnic-religious cleansing initiated by the rebels would have been preventable.

But Obama is so intent on war that he will not even discuss peace with the Syrian government. He has repeatedly stated that there are “preconditions” for peace negotiations, the most important one being the downfall of the Syrian government, i.e., regime change. If a toppling of a nation’s government is Obama’s precondition for peace, then Obama is by definition choosing war.

Never mind that Syria is a sovereign nation that should not have to worry about a foreign country making demands as to who is in power. Obama doesn’t seem to think this relevant. In fact, his administration has been very busy determining who the “legitimate” government of Syria is, by hand picking the “National Coalition of Syrian Revolution,” the prime minister of which is a U.S. citizen.

One of the preconditions for being on Obama’s National Coalition of Syrian Revolution is that there be no peace negotiations with the Syrian government. Of course most Syrians want to immediately end the conflict in Syria, since it threatens an Iraq-like destruction of the country.

The most popular leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution, Moaz al-Khatib, recently quit in protest because he was prohibited from pursuing peace negotiations by the U.S.-appointed opposition Prime Minister, Ghassan Hitto, a U.S. citizen who had lived in the U.S. for the previous 30 years.”

“Obama also recently pressured the Arab League — composed of regimes loyal to the United States — to install as a member the hand-picked National Coalition of Syrian Revolution as the official government of Syria. The appointment didn’t give as much credibility to the opposition as much as it degraded the Arab League’s legitimacy.

The rebel’s seat in the Arab league implies, again, that the U.S. and its allies are fully intent on “regime change,” no matter how many people die, no matter the existing political alternatives. They will not reverse course.

The Russian government called the Arab League membership decision “… an open encouragement of the [rebel] forces which, unfortunately, continue to bet on a military solution in Syria, not looking at multiplying day by day the pain and suffering of the Syrians…. Moscow is convinced that only a political settlement and not encouraging destructive military scenarios, can stop the bloodshed and bring peace and security to all Syrians in their country.”

Obama has rejected both Russian and Syrian calls for peace negotiations in recent months, as he has greatly increased the frequency of the weapons trafficking plan.”

http://tinyurl.com/d5h35ue

“In Syria, there is mounting evidence that Al Qaeda and its allies are actively deploying terror tactics and suicide bombers to overthrow the Assad regime.

Syrian citizens who prefer the secular and stable state to the prospect of an Iraqi-style sectarian state may well be turning this same question around to the US government: are you with us, or with the terrorists?

This week, head of the Salafi jihad and close ally of al Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, pledged ”deadly attacks” against Syria as ”our fighters are coming to get you” because ”crimes” by the regime ”prompts us to jihad”.

Bush referred to al Qaeda as the enemies of freedom: ”the terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews”. But Sheikh Muhammad al Zughbey proclaimed that ”your jihad against this infidel criminal and his people is a religious duty … Alawites are more infidel than the Jews and Christians”. Because the new jihad targets Alawites rather than Jews and Christians, does this render them better bed fellows?

By his own admission, Bush stated that al Qaeda was ”linked to many other organisations in different countries … They are recruited from their own nations … where they are trained in the tactics of terror … They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction”.

Yet this is precisely how the foreign jihadists in Syria have been described by reporters. They are funded and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And they collaborate with the Free Syrian Army which is aided and abetted by the US.”

http://tinyurl.com/8gmjpt2

“Despite a narrative of Syria’s rebellion being an extension of pro-democracy protests in 2011, UN human rights investigators say that the rebel forces are increasingly made up of foreign fighters with a sectarian agenda.

A report by the UN says that rebel fighters have come from 29 countries, and are overwhelmingly Sunnis flocking to the nation to fight against the Alawite President Bashar Assad.”

http://tinyurl.com/c4ytl2u

“Confrontation with Iran has been the goal of U.S. foreign policy for decades and Syria is one more strategic stepping stone in the process. Syria is one of Iran’s strongest allies in the region and getting rid of Assad will further isolate Iran.

While visiting Iran in 2010, Assad said: “We have stood beside Iran in a brotherly way from the very beginning of the (Iranian Islamic) revolution.”

During the visit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad awarded Assad Iran’s highest medal of honor in recognition of his support for Palestinians and Lebanon and his resistance to “global arrogance” — a term which usually refers to the United States and its allies.

Assad also rejected an offer by the U.S. to have sanctions dropped against his country if Syria ditched Iran as an ally.”

“In 2008, Syria agreed to allow Russian missile defense systems into their country as a counterweight to plans for a United States missile deployment to Poland.

That same year, according to UPI: “Syria is adding the latest Russian MiG-29SMT fighter to 36 Pantsir S1E air-defense systems purchased from Russia, RIA Novosti reported, noting Syria also hopes to buy Strelets short-range air defense systems, Iskander tactical missile systems, Yak-130 aircraft and two Amur-1650 submarines — all Russian-made.”

In terms of the China-Syria relationship: “China has become Syria’s number one supplier. While figures from Syria’s Bureau of Statistics put the value of Syrian imports from China at $691 million, Syrian officials have said the real figure is more likely to be close to double that at around $1.2 billion. What is not in doubt is that China easily outstrips Syria’s other major suppliers Egypt ($553 million), South Korea ($441 million), Italy ($356 million), Turkey ($338 million), Japan ($317 million) and Germany ($308 million). Bilateral trade surged to a record high of $1.4 billion in 2006. […] China was the second largest non-Arab investor in Syria in 2006, accounting for $100 million out of the $800 million in non-Arab investment funds which flowed into the country. By the end of 2006, Chinese companies had signed project contracts worth $819 million and this amount is virtually guaranteed to be superseded this year with a billion dollar oil refinery deal near completion.””

“Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ditched the dollar back in 2000.

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi talked about dropping the dollar in 2009.

During the same year, Iranian leader Muammar Ahmadinejad switched Iran’s reserve currency off the dollar.

In 2006, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, Syria “switched the primary hard currency it uses for foreign goods and services from the U.S. dollar to the euro in a bid to make it less vulnerable to pressure from Washington.””

http://tinyurl.com/b4qject

“Back in April, Thanassis Cambanis argued that one reason that the Obama administration hasn’t directly intervened militarily in Syria is that the long, drawn-out conflict hurts America’s geopolitical competitors:

[The war is also becoming a sinkhole for America’s enemies. Iran and Hezbollah, the region’s most persistent irritants to the United States and Israel, have tied up considerable resources and manpower propping up Assad’s regime and establishing new militias. Russia remains a key guarantor of the government, costing Russia support throughout the rest of the Arab world. Gulf monarchies, which tend to be troublesome American allies, have invested small fortunes on the rebel side, sending weapons and establishing exile political organizations. The more the Syrian war sucks up the attention and resources of its entire neighborhood, the greater America’s relative influence in the Middle East.]

The ongoing conflict in Syria isn’t perceived in Washington as harming U.S. interests, but — according to Cambanis — it is seen as draining the resources and influence of Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia. This is valuable to U.S. strategists at a time when the relative balance of U.S. power is seen as waning.

Not only is the Syrian war draining the resources and hampering the reputations of America’s geopolitical rivals, but it provides the U.S. with an opportunity to have a proxy war with Iran, ever the spoiler of U.S. imperial designs in the Middle East.

According to Foreign Policy’s Dan Drezner, “this is simply the next iteration of the unspoken, brutally realpolitik policy towards Syria that’s been going on for the past two years. To recap, the goal of that policy is to ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil war, with as minimal costs as possible.”

The Syrian people have been suffering immensely from this policy for two years. And the Obama administration risks endangering the American people in this scheme as well: It won’t be long before arming the Syrian rebels, most of whom have ties to al-Qaeda groups, blows back in our proverbial face.”

http://tinyurl.com/kd7r6g7

We should have talked to Taliban a decade ago, says top British officer in Afghanistan

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/28/talks-taliban-british-officer-afghanistan

The west should have tried talking to the Taliban a decade ago, after they had just been toppled from power, the top British commander in Afghanistan has told the Guardian, barely a week after the latest attempt to bring the insurgent group to the negotiating table stuttered to a halt.

General Nick Carter, deputy commander of the Nato-led coalition, said Afghan forces would need western military and financial support for several years after western combat troops head home in 2014. And he said the Kabul government may have to accept that for some years it would have only shaky control over some remoter parts of the country.

Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, he said: “Back in 2002, the Taliban were on the run. I think that at that stage, if we had been very prescient, we might have spotted that a final political solution to what started in 2001, from our perspective, would have involved getting all Afghans to sit at the table and talk about their future,”

Acknowledging that it was “easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight”, Carter added: “The problems that we have been encountering over the period since then are essentially political problems, and political problems are only ever solved by people talking to each other.”

But he believed the police and army had been shaped into sustainable institutions that were strong enough to protect a critical presidential election next year, and guarantee stability for the majority of the country after the western withdrawal.

The US and Afghan governments are pushing hard for negotiations to end a conflict that has dragged on for more than 12 years. But critics have long argued that the west could have struck a deal with moderate Taliban leaders after ousting the group from power in 2001, perhaps saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

One academic who studies the Taliban said the group tried to reach out to their own and the US governments until 2004, and would have made major compromises. “There would not have been too much negotiating to be done, even, in 2001 or 2002, because the Taliban’s senior leadership made their approaches in a conciliatory manner, acknowledging the new order in the country,” said Alex Strick von Linschoten, author of An Enemy We Created.

Today the insurgent group dominates swaths of the country, and seems ambivalent at best about negotiating ahead of the departure of foreign troops. Underlining how challenging efforts to broker peace talks are, the latest efforts collapsed in diplomatic farce last week.

The Taliban opened an office in Qatar which was meant to be a formal base for meetings and was welcomed by Washington, but the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, shut down the process after Taliban spokesmen presented the villa as a de-facto embassy for a government-in-exile.

Carter said he was confident that Nato’s handover of security to Afghan forces, finalised last week, would eventually bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

“What the opponents of the Afghan government now realise is they are likely to be up against capable Afghan security forces who are going to be here in perpetuity and therefore that old adage that ‘We have the clocks but the Taliban have the time’, has now been reversed,” he said.

“They are now up against security forces who have the time, and they are also Afghan forces … for those reasons I think that there is every chance people will realise that talking is the answer to this problem,” added Carter, who previously served as the top Nato officer in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban’s birthplace.

With a potential political solution far off, 2013 has been a year of heavy violence. Civilian casualties are rising and a string of high-profile attacks have hit Kabul including an assault on the airport and an audacious raid into the heart of the heavily fortified diplomatic and military zone.

These assaults were unlikely to let up before western troops left, as the Taliban tried to position for possible talks, and wage a campaign to claim credit for a the western exit, Carter said, although troops were actually leaving on a timetable set by the Afghan government and Nato in 2010.

“First of all, people like to negotiate from a position of strength, and secondly I think the opponents of Afghanistan would like to appear to compel the international community’s withdrawal,” Carter said. “I don’t think it’s surprising that we are seeing spectacular attacks in Kabul and a continuance of attacks elsewhere.”

The strength of the insurgency meant Kabul would not control all of the country for some years to come, said Carter, who previously described Afghanistan’s likely post-2014 situation as “stable instability”.

“There will be parts of Afghanistan which will not necessarily be as closely linked to central government as others … there will therefore be some local political solutions which won’t in any way threaten central government,” Carter said. “That phenomenon may go on for a while.”

Nato only began the buildup of Afghanistan’s police and army in earnest in 2009, and the rapid pace of expansion towards a target of 350,000 meant the police and army would need help for years to come, particularly in highly skilled areas such as bomb disposal, medical evacuation and logistics.

“The security forces will need continuing development because they have been built very quickly,” Carter said. One major roadblock for now was the lack of planes and helicopters, critical to dominating a large, mountainous country with poor and often deadly roads. “The plan to field the airforce … is designed to give them more capability every year, but probably not to be fully fielded until 2017-18.”

But he said their institutions were now sustainable and overall he was optimistic about Afghanistan’s future, as long as the US and its allies came through on promises of financial and military support.

“When you see how this country has developed in the last 10 to 12 years, it’s a completely different place, and people have completely different expectations,” he said. “We owe it to all of those who have invested a great deal of effort in what we have been doing here since 2001 to see it through.”

Is there a civil war in Syria?

http://www.workers.org/2013/02/17/is-there-a-civil-war-in-syria/

After almost two years of fighting in Syria, it is incorrect to call the struggle a “civil war.” True, large numbers of Syrians took to the streets in March 2011 to demand changes in their government, similar to the crowds that were seen in Tunisia, Egypt and other nations during the “Arab Spring,” and this quickly moved to armed confrontation. What keeps this from being a real civil war, however, is the complete takeover of the opposition movement by foreign imperialist powers.

It is no secret that U.S. imperialism has been hostile for decades to numerous governments around the world. Countries that established socialism have been targeted for destruction ever since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Nations that established some measure of independence, economic and political, under bourgeois nationalist regimes also have been in the crosshairs.

Since the destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. and its NATO allies have aggressively sought to install compliant governments in one country after another with the goal of controlling the resources and working classes of the entire world in pursuit of ever greater profit. Syria fits into this pattern.

U.S.’s long history of regime change

The imperialists first dismembered Yugoslavia piece by piece, turning one nationality against another with bribes, diplomatic support, weapons and military advisors. They even used fascist elements in Croatia and Albania. A vicious 78 days of U.S.-NATO bombing in 1999 finally broke the back of this formerly peaceful, prosperous and ethnically diverse socialist state. What remain now are weak, fragmented ministates, under the thumb of the Western powers and Wall Street exploitation.

It took two invasions and years of violent U.S. occupation to shatter Iraq, the most economically advanced, secular, majority-Arab nation. Iraq’s oil wealth, formerly nationalized to benefit Iraqis, has been opened up to imperialist control. The occupation regime provoked the various ethnic and religious groups to battle each other. The widespread destruction of the country goes unrepaired and there is still no stable government.

More recently, the imperialists targeted Libya, another stable country with a high standard of living financed by nationalized oil. The U.S. and NATO armed any and every reactionary group opposed to the Moammar Gadhafi government.

These groups had no common economic or political program, and their militias were incapable of leading a serious struggle inside Libya. Only the massive imperialist air assault in 2011 allowed the ragtag “rebels” to march into Tripoli and seize power.

The results? Libya has no real government. Much of the country is in ruins. Some of the groups Washington armed are now U.S. targets. And the oil resources are now in the hands of private foreign interests.

Afghanistan suffered the same fate. As early as 1979, the U.S. started covertly supplying “rebels” against a pro-socialist government established in a revolution the year before. The Soviet Union then sent military troops to support that government.

Fighting continued until 1992, when the contra rebels overthrew the progressive government. As many as 1 million Afghan people were killed and millions more made refugees. Estimates of U.S. financing of this “civil war” run as high as $40 billion.

From 1992 on, fighting continued in Afghanistan among various “rebel” groups until the Taliban, with Pakistan’s backing, came out ahead. Following the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the U.S. with NATO help invaded and occupied Afghanistan, installing an oil executive as their puppet.

The occupation of Afghanistan continues to this day, yet Washington has been unable to create an effective government, end corruption or establish peace. The U.S. announced the withdrawal of troops by 2014, but now is openly talking about keeping troops beyond that date as the military situation deteriorates. Meanwhile, foreign firms are busy buying up large tracts of Afghanistan rich in mineral deposits originally identified by U.S. Geological Survey crews escorted around the country by U.S. troops.

What about Syria?

The situation in Syria for the past two years parallels the course of events in the struggles recounted above. However the internal struggle in Syria began, U.S. imperialism and its allies were quick to step in and transform it from a civil conflict into an imperialist-directed war for “regime change.”

The motley assortment of Syrian opposition forces include Islamist fundamentalists, Syrian exiles and secular local groups inside Syria. Many are eager to grab up some of the billions of U.S. dollars being funneled to this “opposition.” But they have never constituted a united force, and even before Washington took over the political direction and funds, they could never put forward a unified program for Syria.

After then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cobbled many of these groups together last November, this opposition still fell flat. The capitalist news services have despaired at the weakness of the Syrian opposition even as fighting inside Syria gets bloodier and more widespread.

The opposition represents no major sections of the population, they represent no alternative economic vision, and they don’t agree on the basics of what a new Syrian government might look like.

In an op-ed New York Times piece on Feb. 4 former State Department official Ramzy Mardini wrote that the opposition is not “remotely prepared to assume power. It is facing the prospects of defections and, worse, disintegration. Narrow interests are taking precedence; Islamists are overpowering secularists; exiles are eclipsing insiders; and very few members seem to have credibility on the ground back home.” This is from an anti-Assad specialist who has no major disagreements with imperialist intervention.

The opposition’s weakness does not in itself guarantee that the Syrian government will be able to defeat its military operations. The BBC stresses that “U.S. allies like Qatar and Turkey are arming the rebels with Washington’s tacit approval.” (bbc.com, Feb. 7) How many billions of dollars of U.S. weaponry have already flowed into Syrian contra rebel hands may not be known for years.

In Senate testimony, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified that he supported a plan to directly arm the contras that was pushed earlier by Clinton and then CIA Director David Patraeus, with backing by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (bbc.com, Feb. 7) If rebel military attacks continue to fail, direct U.S. arms shipments will likely be started.

U.S. and NATO troops and anti-aircraft missile batteries already are in Turkey just outside the Syrian border. With bottomless pockets and with foreign mercenaries flooding into Syria to bolster the Syrian contras, fighting may continue and even escalate. Direct bombing attacks and even U.S. troop involvement are not precluded.

What is certain is that the Syrian people, their cities and the modern infrastructure of the country are systematically being destroyed. “The idea of the nation is disappearing amid cycles of sectarian bloodshed. … The fighting has left major cities in ruins and has gutted the nation’s industries. Power failures are common. … Syria’s civil war has settled into a bloody stalemate.” (NYTimes.com, Feb. 9)

The ability of Syria’s government, led by Bashar Assad, to survive this debilitating struggle will depend on the determination of the sectors of the population that oppose imperialism and foreign intervention. This includes broad sections of the nationalist forces, the many and sizeable minorities who are being targeted by right-wing fundamentalist groups, Syrian communist groups, and the Palestinian people settled in Syrian camps, whose cause has been upheld by the Syrian government in its confrontations with Zionist Israel.

Important also is the continued support of Russia and China, which have, so far, refused to isolate Syria’s government. The people of Turkey have repeatedly weighed in with demonstrations against their government’s complicity in the war against Syria.

Is Iran the next target?

It is no secret that the next target for U.S. imperialism is Iran. In 1979, the Iranian people overthrew the CIA-installed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In retaliation, Washington imposed economic sanctions against Iran and tightened them over the decades.

Now the U.S. and Israel threaten direct military attack. The pretext is unsubstantiated charges that Iran is making weapons-grade nuclear material. Iran insists it is only making lower grade uranium for reactors or research. What the U.S. is really after, of course, is the vast oil wealth that was nationalized after 1979, and to destroy Iran’s ability to oppose imperialism within the region.

Without resistance, the U.S. military, in service to Wall Street’s corporate and banking bosses, will continue to threaten, undermine and attack any and all independent or semi-independent nations around the world. Only a worldwide revolutionary movement can challenge and ultimately end this never ending cycle of bloodshed and destruction. A strong anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movement here inside the U.S. must be a vital component of this movement. The task at hand is to demand an end to the U.S.-led war against Syria.

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