Saudi Sunnis -- Predictably -- Supporting Sunnis Against Shi'a In Iraq And Iran
A Saudi beacon for Iraq's Sunni militias
By Brian M Downing
Iraq is less violent and more stable than it was at the height of the insurgency, but it is still plagued by bombings and sectarian tensions. In recent weeks, Shi'ite militias have been attacking United States troops - perhaps on the direction of Iran, perhaps simply to take claim for their departure scheduled for the end of this year.
Sunni forces have been at work as well, targeting Shi'ite marketplaces and security personnel. Sunni militancy is no longer the diffuse anti-US insurgency it was after the fall of Baghdad, nor is it held in check any longer by benefits that the US surge once bestowed upon it.
Over the past year or two, the Sunni resistance has demonstrated considerable discipline and control in attacking Shi'ite targets
and, most remarkably and puzzlingly, in not attacking US personnel. For an answer to this puzzle one might look next door to Saudi Arabia.
The Sunni insurgency, 2003-2007
In the four years between the fall of Baghdad and the success of the surge, various groups fought the Western forces. The Shi'ite militias were led by a handful of indigenous leaders and supported by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Leadership in the Sunni movement, however, was less concentrated. It was based on a confused array of former army officers, tribal chieftains, Ba'ath party figures, religious authorities, local power holders, and al-Qaeda lieutenants.
The rank and file came from former soldiers angered by the US's demobilization of the army, Salafist faithful who opposed the Western presence, foreign fighters from across the Middle East, and tribal youth seeking pay and adventure when elders lost the revenue and patronage system that Saddam Hussein had given them. All found a cause and steady pay.
Most fighters were undisciplined, and the insurgency showed it. Attacks demonstrated little knowledge of small-unit tactics and US troops often described Sunni fighters as no more than armed gangs. Coordination among rival Sunni groups was limited to sharing bomb-making skills and some supplies, though some tactical coordination emerged.
The Sunni insurgency was funded by Ba'ath party caches secreted about the country, wealthy contractors who had benefited from the old regime, and foreign sources in the Sunni Arab world. The money of the Ba'ath party and the contractors are thought to be long gone.
The Sunni opposition today
Most of the conditions that brought the old insurgency are still in existence. The Sunnis endure loss of privilege and status as the regimes they dominated since the 1920s are gone. Salafism remains strong and indeed it has strengthened as Sunnis turn to austere religion to explain their defeats and offer answers.
Perhaps most significantly, young men from the tribes have lost the jobs that Saddam's state and later the US surge had given them. The Shi'ite state ended these support systems and many young men are once again available - or they are supported through clandestine revenues from abroad.
Yet Sunni militants today operate in a far more controlled manner than in the past. They bomb Shi'ite markets and security forces, but refrain from the violent firefights and ambushes. The rivalries that divided various insurgent groups five years ago and led to rash competition for popular support are no longer in evidence. Whereas foreign fighters once fought openly with locals, they cooperate today.
There are few if any boastful manifestoes or propaganda videos from sundry leaders. The days of former colonels, neighborhood toughs, and foreign jihadis issuing proclamation after proclamation are gone. There is sufficient structure to prevent Sunni groups from attacking US troops.
This discipline and restraint cannot be rightly attributed to Iraqi political leadership. Sunni leaders are largely excluded from power. They are hounded, jailed, or even killed by Shi'ite security forces. Tribal elders no longer have the state or US revenue to keep their young men in line.
Why are al-Qaeda forces [but why are these called Al-Qaeda forces? Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been decimated. Why not call them Sunni forces? And the obvious answer is: they have to save their strength for fighting the Shi'a once the Americans leave] refraining from attacking US troops? They are not known for restraint. They despise the US intensely and generally follow the strategy of tying US forces down across the world so as to ruin the US financially - a goal that might seem less than far-fetched just now. Perhaps al-Qaeda in Iraq has come to an understanding with a foreign power reluctant to be tied to killing US soldiers.
Saudi influence All roads in the Gulf region lead to Riyadh. With the rising Shi'ite fortunes of late, Saudi Arabia is repaving and expanding those roads, especially the financial and intelligence ones running into Iraq's Sunni triangle. The Saudis are enlisting co-religionists - former soldiers, Salafists, and tribal elders of the old insurgency - to serve in their sacred cause of containing Shi'ism and Iran.
Saudi involvement in Iraq is deep and longstanding, dating back at least to supporting Saddam's war with Iran (1980-1988). Later, at the height of the insurgency, US intelligence detected money coming in from Sunni states in the region, though it wasn't clear if the money came from governments or prosperous individuals.
The Saudi government played an important role in easing the insurgency and sectarian violence that threatened to spread into other countries and expand Iranian power. Saudi diplomacy and money pressed the Dulayim tribes, a highly militarized confederation that straddles the Iraqi-Saudi border and predominates in Anbar province - the center of the insurgency. Saudi efforts, largely overshadowed by parallel US ones, greatly reduced the fighting.
The Sunnis of Iraq now play an important role in Riyadh's policy of containing Iran - a policy given more urgency by the perception - almost certainly erroneous - that Tehran has been encouraging uprisings by disaffected Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the Gulf.
The Saudis support the Kurds of northwestern Iran, [evidence?]the Arabs of Khuzestan in western Iran, and the Balochi in the southeast. Saudi Arabia is encouraging opposition among other non-Persian tribes with long histories of opposing Tehran whether a shah or mullah is in power. In Afghanistan, the Saudis are also enlisting Pashtun tribes to counter Iranian influence in the north and west. Iraq is but one front. [if this is true -- and no evidence is presented -- it would be welcome, and even more welcome if it were more than merely distributing money, but weapons as well]
The Sunni campaign may seek to establish an autonomous region in Iraq for the increasingly marginalized Sunni Arabs. Perhaps a fully separate state is in mind, one that will serve as a buffer between Shi'ite states and Sunni ones. Such a country could rely on financial support from Sunni petro-states for quite some time, though Anbar province is thought to hold impressive hydrocarbon resources. [where does this information come from?]
Al-Qaeda in Iraq?
The position of al-Qaeda in all this is puzzling. The dogged enemy of both the United States and Saudi Arabia is thought to be operating in substantial numbers in Iraq, yet it refrains from attacking the former and accepts the latter. Clearly, this is a different al-Qaeda than the one the world has come to know over the last ten years - so much so that it might be better seen as a different entity altogether. [this does not follow]
The implication is that Saudi Arabia and the foreign fighters inside Iraq have established common ground and that these foreign fighters have been diverted from an anti-Western cause to an anti-Shi'ite one - at least temporait implies protracted and well-funded irregular warfare in Iraq and with Iran.rily, one must add. This might initially seem good news to many in the West, but it augurs poorly for stability in the Gulf as a whole [and why is stability in the Gulf a good thing for the West? Why should we not wish the resources, and attention, of Muslims consumed in internecine warfare that has no end?]
The mechanics of such an arrangement are not hard to define. Saudi security forces have for years maintained ties with fellow countrymen who served in the ranks of the anti-Soviet mujahideen. Some of them joined or knew members in Osama bin Laden's veteran league, which of course became al-Qaeda. Wahhabi clerics, through their interrelated preaching and recruiting, have been important parts of jihadi networks since the Afghan war emerged in 1980.
Further, Saudi security forces were able to infiltrate and defeat al-Qaeda-Arabian Peninsula when it turned on the House of Saud following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Many of those fighters were captured or turned themselves in and have since provided useful intelligence.
If indeed the Saudis have converted a guerrilla force inside Iraq into a partner against Shi'ite power, they would do well to remain on guard. Working with zealous fighters has proven problematic over the years as the Arab mujahideen have turned against Pashtun mujahideen, the United States, the Afghan north, and now increasingly Pakistan. And of course they have in the past turned against the House of Saud as well.
As Central Asia Dries Up, States Spar Over Shrinking Resources
While Tajikistan sees energy independence and economic development in hydropower on the Vakhsh and other rivers, Uzbekistan fears for its agriculture on an already-overburdened river system.
July 24, 2011
By Muhammad Tahir
Qubay Ortiqov is a farmer from Karakalpakstan, a remote region in the Central Asian state of Uzbekistan.
"We have planted cotton with expectations, but we cannot irrigate it. Right now we're supposed to have finished the second stage of irrigation, but we haven't been able to do it," Ortiqov said, adding that he had lost 20 hectares of cotton.
Shepherds were also suffering, Ortiqov said, with animals not able to find enough to eat. There wasn't even enough water to grow wheat. "We planted wheat but the harvest was not good, and it was because of insufficient water."
Ortiqov is one of hundreds of thousands of people in the region who depend directly on water from the Amu Darya River not only for irrigation, but also for personal use.
According to Ortiqov, the situation is only getting worse. "This is the third time during the last 10 years that the flow of water has been this low in the Amu Darya," he said. "Things are only getting worse here, and because of this people are abandoning the village."
Earlier this month the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) released a report on the situation in the Amu Darya Basin. The report criticizes Central Asian governments for failing to agree on ways to cooperate on water management. Unless they can find a way to coordinate their effort, the report concludes, the future does not look bright for farmers like Ortiqov.
Mighty River Spread Thin
The Amu Darya -- known in the past as the Oxus -- has not always been like this. For most of its history it has been praised for its richness and fertility. The region's writers have even written love poems to the river.
The upper reaches of the Amu Darya form part of Afghanistan's northern border with Tajikistan. Elsewhere it marks part of the boundary between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Originating from various water sources in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan, the Amu Darya flows northwest to its mouth on the southern shore of the Aral Sea. At 2,540 kilometers in length, the Amu Darya is the longest river in Central Asia.
When the Soviets controlled the region, they established a network of water pumps and irrigation canals to boost the region's agriculture. Until 1992, the entire region's water resources were managed by a centralized system based in Moscow. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, however, the situation has deteriorated rapidly.
Since then, the population of the region has more than doubled, as has the demand for water. The economies of Central Asian countries are heavily dependent on farming. The agricultural sector employs 67 percent of the labor force in Tajikistan, 45 percent in Uzbekistan, and 48 percent in Turkmenistan.
Regional Disputes, Distrust
As demand increases and the volume of water in the river continues to shrink, disputes among the stakeholders over water management are becoming more and more complicated.
Tajikistan's foreign minister, Hamrokhon Zarifi, told journalists at a July 18 press conference in Dushanbe that "differences of opinion" regarding the river were affecting the nature of overall relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and have not improved.
At the center of their disagreement lies Tajikistan's plan to complete the construction of Rogun, a Soviet-era hydropower dam that is being built on the Vaksh River, one of the source of the Amu Darya.
If completed to its full specifications, said Johannes Linn, senior resident scholar at the Washington-based Emerging Markets Forum, "it would be the highest hydroelectric dam in the world, and this is what makes Uzbekistan concerned."
"The problem, obviously, is that Uzbekistan feels threatened by what they regard as a potential control of Tajikistan over the downstream water resources and do not want Tajikistan to be able to exercise such control," Linn said, "while on the other hand Tajikistan feels that it is essential for its long-term development that it uses the water resources at its disposal that are generated in the country to the extent possible -- and the intention being without harming downstream neighbors."
However legitimate Tajikistan's reasoning may be, it does not meet with a warm reception from Uzbek officials or farmers like Ortiqov. Uzbekistan has done what it can to block construction of the dam. The Uzbeks have called upon the international community to conduct an independent study of the Rogun project, noting that much has changed in the region since the Soviets first conceived the plan in 1976.
The Tajiks accuse the Uzbek government of curtailing the overland transit of goods to their landlocked country -- although the Uzbeks insist that the delays in railroad shipments have nothing to do with the dam issue. The Uzbeks have also partially suspended electricity supplies from Turkmenistan to Tajikistan and cut off their own exports of urgently needed natural gas to the Tajiks.
Some experts contend that these reprisals will hit Tajik industry hard and plunge its entire population into darkness. Others say that such fears are exaggerated.
New Exacerbating Factors
According to the UN report, the existing problems are now being magnified by climate change.
Cotton is a major industry in Uzbekistan since Soviet times.
Since the 1950s, the report says, the number of days with temperatures higher than 40 degrees Celsius has doubled, especially in the Amu Darya delta region. Temperatures are projected to rise by 2-3 degrees in the next 50 years. The report says that the glaciers in the high mountains of Central Asia are vanishing. Runoff from the glaciers is one important source of the waters of the Amu Darya.
And then there is the problem of Afghanistan.
Today over 80 percent of its population depends on farming, and the demand for water there is increasing. This is sure to aggravate the scarcity for the countries downstream from Afghanistan.
"As Afghanistan hopefully will develop peacefully in the next few years, its agriculture will develop the tributaries that flow through its territory. Water will be increasingly utilized for local irrigation," Johannes Linn said. "And that will mean that there will be less water that will flow into the main river. That particularly affects Turkmenistan, which is immediately downriver, but then also could affect Uzbekistan."
A Need For Partnership
Despite the lack of a proper agreement and emerging problems and challenges over the water-management issue, in particular with the Amu Darya, the status quo continues. As water supplies continue to decrease, Nick Nuttall of UNEP observes, the situation will likely continue to deteriorate.
"It's clear that the Amu Darya River basin and its tributary rivers are essential for hydropower, for drinking water, for agriculture production, all the basic things that actually people need as they develop over the coming years. It doesn't really have a classic time frame attached to it, in terms of this report," Nuttall said.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon visits the "ship cemetery" in Muynak, a former port city in Uzbekistan on the Aral Sea, in 2010. Will the Amu Darya suffer a similar fate?
"But it certainly points to hot spots and flashpoints that could emerge between the countries who share this finite resource, unless they actually move to cooperate and plan in a sense more smartly and more intelligently how together they are going to collectively utilize this river system," he added.
Collectively utilizing this resource would require trust among the leaders of Central Asia, which, according to Johannes Linn, does not exist at the moment.
Tajik Foreign Minister Zarifi recently proposed plans for boosting coordinated use of water resources among the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a grouping of former Soviet republics.
"While some improvements have been made in establishing closer partnerships between the member states," Zarifi said, "there is more that needs to be done, which includes the issue of water sharing between the Central Asian countries."
As conditions continue to deteriorate, farmers like Ortiqov can only hope that an agreement is made soon.
Geagea: In Lebanon, Talking To Hezbollah Is Pointless
Geagea: Change in Syria is inevitable, dialogue with Hezbollah pointless
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea condemned the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Syria and said that change in the country is “inevitable.”
“The numbers of victims are rising every day [in Syria], and this will only deepen divisions and further incite the uprising,” Geagea said in an interview with Al-Jumhuriya newspaper published on Monday.
According to the Syrian Observatory, 1,483 civilians are now confirmed dead in the government crackdown on dissent since mid-March. The violence has also claimed the lives of 365 troops and security forces.
Also, at least 12,000 people have been arrested and thousands have fled to neighboring Turkey and Lebanon, rights groups say.
The LF leader commented on the issue of Lebanon’s national dialogue sessions, saying that he does not see the point of holding such meetings if the Syrian- Iranian-backed Hezbollah group is not willing to address the use of its arms.
“If Hezbollah has nothing to offer, then what is the point of [resuming dialogue]?”
Geagea added that Lebanon’s defense strategy based on “the people, army and Resistance” combination will only lead to further “chaos and destruction.”
He also said that the cabinet decision to again appoint a Shia to the post of General Security chief was a “scandal.”
The post was originally granted to the Christian Maronites but was given to the Shia in 1998.
He voiced regret that “the Christians lost a golden opportunity to be reinstated in [public administrations].”
“Hezbollah only gave [its ally, Change and Reform bloc MP Michel] Aoun, 10 seats in cabinet and told him ‘this is enough’,” Geagea added, echoing the statements of some of the March 14 alliance figures that the Shia group is the “real decision maker” in government.
The Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition forced the collapse of Saad Hariri’s government in January over the dispute about the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is probing former PM Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination.
OSLO, Norway — A Nashville-based anti-jihad website is condemning the actions of Anders Behring Breivik, who admitted that he was responsible for Friday’s deadly bombing and shooting rampage in Norway.
Breivik, in a 1,500-page manifesto posted online, claimed his actions were justified as a strike against liberals who enable radical Islam. He quoted writers such as Theodore Dalrymple, pseudonym for a senior writer at the Nashville-based New English Review, to defend his actions.
Rebecca Bynum, editor of the website, said Breivik is crazy and latched onto jihad as “the vehicle for his psychosis.”
After news of the Norway attacks broke, the website’s blog posted a piece claiming that Breivik likely had Muslim allies in the attack. On Monday, Bynum said it appears that is untrue. She was stunned at his actions.
“It’s the most horrible thing I have heard of in my life,” she said. “I don’t know what else to say. I feel so sorry for the families.”
She said her site does not support violence. Her website, along with Jihadwatch.org and others like them, have come under scrutiny since the attacks. “You can’t be responsible for every complete nutcase who quotes from you,” Bynum said.
The self-described perpetrator of Norway’s deadly bombing and shooting rampage was ordered held in isolation at a hearing Monday after calmly telling the court that two other groups of allies stand ready to join his murderous campaign.
Hundreds of reporters and locals thronged the courthouse ahead of his first court appearance Monday, hoping to get their first glimpse of the man blamed for the deaths of 76 people — lowered Monday from 93. Police announced that they had dramatically overcounted the number of people slain in the island shooting spree and were lowering the confirmed death toll from 86 to 68.
Pakistan Chose To Spend Not On Flood Control, But On Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal
From Agence France-Presse:
Pakistan flood defences still lacking, says Oxfam
By Ben Sheppard (AFP)
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has failed to invest in prevention measures since last year's floods that killed 1,750 people and is vulnerable to another disaster this monsoon season, Oxfam said Tuesday.
The relief agency marked one year since the beginning of the 2010 disaster, when flooding inundated a third of Pakistan, by calling for more money to be spent on reconstruction, suitable housing and early-warning systems. [not a cent more from the West -- let Pakistan itself use the money it spends on the nuclear project on flood control instead]
About 21 million people were affected by the worst floods in Pakistan since the country was founded in 1947, and tens of thousands of people are still living in emergency camps.
"Pakistan needs to act now. Investing in measures today that reduce the impact of disasters is essential to save lives and safeguard development gains in the future," said Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan.
"It will ensure schools built with aid funds are not washed away and that farmers can keep the crops they have toiled over. A year after Pakistan's mega floods it's time we learnt this lesson."
Releasing a new report entitled "Ready or Not", Oxfam said that 37,000 people were still in camps in Sindh, the worst-hit province, and 800,000 families nationwide were without proper homes one year on.
It warned that river embankments had not been rebuilt, leaving villages more open to flooding, and that two to five million people were likely to be affected by this year's monsoon floods.
"Villagers in areas that we work fear new flooding. Many are planting fewer crops than usual as they are worried that their harvests will be destroyed in fresh floods," Khan said.
"In some areas, where fresh flooding has already begun, families have started to dismantle their houses and move to higher ground as they are scared of losing everything again."
The Pakistan government's response to the 2010 floods, which began in the last week of July, was widely criticised, with much of the emergency relief aid coming from foreign donor nations.
Crops, roads, schools, electricity lines and bridges were all washed away in a country already suffering from Islamist militant attacks and political instability.
Pakistan's chronic corruption has also made donors wary of giving more money, and the Oxfam report said a UN appeal had a shortfall of $600 million for "early recovery activities".
Acted, a French aid group, said in its own report marking one year since the floods that Pakistan was still in desperate need of help despite international focus now being on other disaster zones such as Somalia.
"Initial response to the UN fund-raising was strong, but humanitarian aid is falling off," Acted said. "Sustained commitment by international actors is crucial to fill the gaps, enable reconstruction and ensure food security."
Two people have died in flash floods in Rawalpindi in recent days, but the government has not reported any serious flooding yet this year and the meteorological department predicts the 2011 monsoon will be below average.
"So far there has been no unusual impact on river flows, which remain normal," chief meteorologist Arif Mehmood told AFP. "Our forecast also suggests there will be no flooding in the next 15 days."
The strength of the annual downpour between July to September is vital to hundreds of millions of farmers across South Asia who rely on the rains to irrigate their crops for much of the rest of the year.
BBC Unembarrassedly Calls Breivik "A Right-Wing Christian Extremist"
From the BBC:
Norway attacks: Anders Behring Breivik insane - lawyer
Click to play
Lawyer Geir Lippestad: ''This whole case has indicated that he is insane''
The lawyer defending Anders Behring Breivik, who admits carrying out Friday's mass killings in Norway, says his client is probably insane.
However he added it was too early to say Mr Breivik would plead insanity.
The bombing in Oslo and shooting spree on a nearby island killed 76 people. Mr Breivik is facing terrorism charges.
Police are considering also charging him with crimes against humanity, which carry a possible 30-year sentence, a prosecutor has said.
Mr Breivik's lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told reporters: "This whole case indicated that he is insane."
He said his client believed that he was in a war and that he would be vindicated in 60 years' time.
A medical evaluation would be carried out to establish his psychiatric condition, Mr Lippestad added.
He said Mr Breivik had told him he was part of an anti-Islam network that had two cells in Norway and several more abroad.
Describes himself as a Christian and conservative on Facebook page attributed to him [but as has been widely reported, this was added, mysteriously, to his Facebook page]
Norwegian police and researchers have cast doubt on such claims, but said they were investigating them. [if they cast doubts, why did the BBC claim, without any evidence, that he "describes himself as a Christian and conservative"]
Mr Lippestad also said that his client had used "some kind of drugs" before the crime.
'Fantastic' police work
Mr Breivik, a right-wing Christian extremist, appeared in court on Monday to face charges of destabilising vital functions of society, including government, and causing serious fear in the population.
He accepted responsibility for the attacks but denied the terrorism charges.
Prosecutor Christian Hatlo told Aftenposten that a new charge of crimes against humanity, which could be brought under a 2008 law, was "a possibility".
Police spokesman Sturla Henreiksboe told AFP news agency: "Police have so far cited... the law on terrorism but seeking other charges has not been excluded."
Earlier Mr Hatlo said Mr Breivik claimed he had worked in a cell, or group, and that there were two other cells working with him.
Although police sources say other groups are unlikely, Mr Hatlo said he "cannot completely, and I stress completely, rule out that others were involved in what happened".
He said his operation had not been aimed at killing as many people as possible but that he wanted to create the greatest loss possible to Norway's governing Labour Party, which he accused of failing the country on immigration.
The bomb in Oslo targeted buildings connected to the Labour government, and the youth camp on Utoeya island that was attacked was also run by the party.
Later on Tuesday, police are due to formally release the names of the victims.
Norwegian Justice Minister Knut Storberget has praised the "fantastic" work done by police.
"I had the opportunity to thank police in Oslo and other districts," he told reporters after talks with Oslo's police chief.
The praise comes despite criticism in the media that officers were slow to respond to the shooting on Utoeya island, where most of the victims died following a bombing in the capital.
"It is very important that we have an open and critical approach," Mr Storberget said, "but there is a time for everything."
Mr Breivik has been remanded in custody for eight weeks, the first four in full isolation.
On Monday up to 250,000 people poured on to the streets of the capital, many of them holding flowers in memory of the eight people killed in the Oslo blast and the 68 who died at the youth camp on Utoeya.
Solemn Analysis -- And Deploring -- Of The Sectarian War In Syria, But For The World's Infidels That War Can Only Weaken The Camp Of Islam
The obvious outcome in Syria -- protracted, without-end internal conflict, may be deplored by the eugene-rogans and patrick-seals of this world (who solemnly proffer, as does Samia Nakhoul, the perfectly bvious as expert "analysis"), but we shoudl take mackinder-and-wanda-gag satisfaction in the spectacle, and hope it goes on forever. r
Analysis - Syria faces slide into sectarian mayhem
LONDON (Reuters) - The popular upheaval in Syria is growing bolder and the cracks in the establishment are getting deeper -- yet there is a long and bloody road ahead if protesters are to unseat President Bashar al-Assad and end his family's 40 years in power.
The price of stalemate is rising daily: sectarian mayhem, a growing protest movement and a faltering economy, with no sign that Bashar and his minority Alawite clan are considering an exit strategy after four decades in power.
Yet so far, there is no sign of a tipping point that would assure success for protesters, as in Tunisia and Egypt, where millions took to the streets to topple autocratic leaders.
"The situation has not reached a critical mass," said Patrick Seale, biographer of Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad.
"Damascus hasn't risen, the security services haven't split yet, the economy hasn't collapsed. The regime looks weak and the opposition looks weaker," he said.
Sectarian killings in the city of Homs this month may be a foretaste for a country with an ethnic and religious mix and a long history of repression by the Alawite-led security forces.
The Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shi'ite Islam, is a minority in Syria, which has a Sunni Muslim majority, as well as smaller numbers of Druze, Christians and non-Arab Kurds.
A group of Alawite men, including four security men, went missing on July 14. The bodies of four of them were found killed. Some Alawites from their neighbourood in Homs took to the streets, torched and destroyed shops belonging to Sunnis.
The danger of sectarian strife is real, analysts say. It might even appeal to the authorities -- and some of their opponents -- as a way to break the deadlock. But it carries high risks for the Assad dynasty, as well as the opposition.
"This is a dangerous strategy for a regime trying to survive," said Eugene Rogan, director of the Middle East Centre at Oxford University. "You watch your army disintegrate if sectarianism becomes an issue."
Analysts say the Homs killings were provoked by a ferocious security clampdown, including the arrest, disappearance and torture to death of hundreds of men. Islamists, long persecuted by the security forces, have their own axe to grind.
"The security solution hasn't worked. The regime has decided to go for civil strife because it senses that it is losing. The protests are spilling over and spreading to the capital," said a Damascus-based Arab journalist who declined to be named.
Alawite villagers say authorities have been arming young men to fight the insurgency. Mutilated bodies of some Shabbiha men, handed over by security forces to their families for burial, served to incite sectarian hatred in those villages.
Sectarian paranoia is evident, with Assad trusting only two elite units commanded by his brother Maher -- the 4th Armoured Division and the Republican Guard -- as well as secret police and Alawite militia, known as Shabbiha, to deal with dissent.
"The coherence (of the security forces) is already in question. Sectarianism is already a problem, the loyalty of other units cannot be counted on," Rogan said.
While the authorities blame the upheaval on a "bunch of Islamists," the reality appears more complex.
Some Syria-watchers say the protest movement is driven mainly by youths and includes rural Sunni tribes, nationalists, leftists, secularists and also Islamists, united in their goal of overthrowing an autocratic and corrupt government.
Geographically, the protests have spread since March to many rural and tribal regions, cities such as Hama and Homs, and even to Damascus, although not on a huge scale in the capital.
Security forces and Shabbiha militiamen, armed with metal bars, are everywhere. The army has deployed tanks around the main cities to keep out protesters from the countryside.
"The savagery of the regime has increased 180 degrees. The hostility against it has massively increased too among ordinary people, not just protesters. There are widescale arrests in all areas, in cities and villages," the Syrian journalist said.
Residents said the Alawite units, though overstretched, have stepped up their offensive and are showing resilience in facing the growing demonstrations. The protest movement, however, is growing and showing no sign of dying down, residents add.
In a country where once no one dared utter a word against the president, chants such as: "Bashar you butcher we won't rest until we bury you" show how fearless the activists have become.
Graffiti on rubbish bins read: "Bashar: this is your final grave."
Toppling the system, analysts say, is hazardous because of Syria's power structure under which Alawites hold key posts in the military and Assad family insiders run the key security bodies, tying senior officers closely to Assad's own fate.
Sarkis Naoum, an expert on Syrian affairs, said Assad was not likely to be overthrown quickly, but the conflict could develop into a bloody civil war.
"It is not clear how it would evolve and how much time it would take. The regime cannot win and also the opposition cannot win either," said Naoum, a columnist at Beirut's an-Nahar daily.
What complicates the Syrian scene is that the Assads will fight to the end rather than leave because they fear that their family and their sect would be targeted under Sunni rule.[and every Alawite village and neighborhood would be attacked]
"The Assads won't relinquish power. They are refusing reform because it will make them have to give up power," Naoum said.
Rogan said that Assad's departure was not imminent. "It is a long way before we reach the point where Bashar has to go. The regime is a lot stronger than people like to think but Assad is weak and has no sense of leadership."
The protests have virtually crippled Damascus. Shops open for a few hours during the day and close early. Business activity is grounded and many people have lost their jobs.
The city, which once buzzed with night life, is tense and eerie after dark. Signs of stretched resources and a strained economy are very evident.
The Syrian economy could prove to be Assad's curse. With no end in sight to the crackdown on protesters, the country's key revenue streams look shattered. A more marked decline in Syria's economic health may force the regime to fall.
After growing at an average of 5 percent over the last five years, the economy is forecast to contract as much as 3 percent this year as tourism, which accounts for 23 percent of Syria's hard currency earnings, and foreign investment grind to a halt.
With hotels almost empty and the growing likelihood of oil sanctions, Syria is desperately trying to retain local and foreign currency by increasing interest rates on deposits and curbing foreign currency sales.
Tehran, which regards Syria as a close ally in a mainly Sunni-dominated region suspicious of non-Arab Shi'ite Iran, is reported to have come to his help in funds and expertise.
Iran is considering offering $5.8 billion (3.5 billion pound) in financial help, French business newspaper Les Echos said.
Iran, which quashed its own pro-democracy youth movement after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009, has sent experts to help the Syrian authorities monitor and jam satellite communication and the Internet, according to Ausama Monajed of the Syrian opposition.
The opposition said the government had been finding it hard to monitor the activists' communications until the Iranians stepped in, providing authorities with Chinese and North Korean equipment to intercept and eavesdrop on conversations.
Monajed, spokesman for the Syrian opposition in Europe, said the opposition is lobbying to raise funds and rally world opinion to slap more sanctions against Assad and his aides.
While close observers of Syria weigh the multiple scenarios, none of them appears to have a neat end.
"The sooner this mafia is gone the better," Rogan said. "A lot worse can happen trying to get rid of these guys than we have seen already."
Seale said: "The more blood is spilt the more difficult is to find a solution. There has to be a negotiated solution of sort. If there is no solution there will be a civil war."
Abbas J. Ali lives in, has obtained a good post in, may be a citizen of, the United States. His conspiratorial business about an "Axis" of the U.S., Israel, and the Gulf Arabs and his copycat banalities about "the right side of history" and "positive change" -- I can well imagine that phrase being piously mouthed -- are telling.
But along the way he describes correctly the situation in Syria -- there is no going back. It's the Alawites or the Sunnis, and now Assad can no longer be jettisoned, nor can he jettison his brother Maher without losing power himself. And there's been too much violence to go back on it.
And that, from the point of view of the non-Muslims of this world who should not deplore, but welcome, any desarroi in the Camp of Islam (and Syria is in that camp, even if the quasi-Muslim Alawites are involved), any distraction to internal quarrels, ethnic and sectarian. The more attention to those, the less time left over, and money, and unity, to devote to defeating Infidel states near and far.
Assad’s Blunders in Dealing with the Arab Spring and Counter Revoluti
In recent weeks, the popular protest in Syria has reached a historical stage. It has become widespread as millions of people have taken to the streets demanding profound changes in the political and economic order. Prudent politicians should respond accordingly and responsibly. What is at stake goes beyond Syria’s internal affairs and affects the future of the Arab people and their collective security and freedom, including the future of Palestine and the existence of Iraq as a unified vibrant democratic Arab state.
Middle East experts and intellectuals were surprised when Buthaina Shaaban (July 22), adviser to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, reiterated his accusations that armed forces and saboteurs were inciting the unrest, stating, “the roots of the current crisis and the people behind it are becoming clear.” While there might be some truth to this, the fact remains that the protest is no longer primarily confined to religious groups as it originally occurred in Deraa or ethnic minorities as was the case in the Al- Qamishli and the surrounding areas that took place in March.
In recent weeks, the protest has attracted young people, secular and religious, males and females, religious extremists and ethnic groups. Their goals differ but all seem to seek fundamental changes. The longer their demands are not met, the worse the political situation will be. Though, Buthaina Shaaban asserted that the change would take place soon and that political parties and press laws would be enacted, timely response to popular demand is imperative.
Most Arab intellectuals and political analysts thought that President Bashar al-Assad would be in a position earlier this year to capitalize on the mood in the new political environment generated by the Arab youth uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and to undertake profound political and economic changes. The assumption was that Al-Assad, a young politician who had lived abroad, had a clear understanding of the people’s aspiration for freedom and democracy and thus would work to champion national and popular causes. However, he has not embarked on such a program even though the obstacles for such a transformation represented by the collapse of the two western-backed regimes in Egypt and Tunisia no longer exist.
While al-Assad publically supported the youth uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, he failed to respond positively and in a timely manner to legitimate demands at home. This has given ammunition to internal forces which seek violence and to the “axis alliance” whose aims are to weaken or change al- Assad’s regime. The axis includes the Arab Gulf regimes, the U.S., and Israel. Members of the Axis appreciate the autocratic role of the Al-Assad regime and they all resist Syria‘s support to the patriotic forces in Lebanon and Palestine, its alliance with Iran, and its Arab nationalistic expression.
The Arab Gulf regimes view the alliance of the Syrian regime with Iran with suspicion and have unsuccessfully attempted to sway Damascus away from Iran. Likewise, the Arab Gulf regimes have treated the collapse of the Saad al –Hariri government in Lebanon as a defeat to their political design and accused the Syrian regime of accelerating the collapse of a trusted ally. Israel and the U.S., on the other hand, are committed to ending Syria‘s support for the resistance forces in Lebanon and Palestine. Both powers consider this a strategic goal that will ultimately lead to forcing the Palestinians and Lebanese to submit to Israeli will and conditions.
Apparently, Bashar al-Assad has underestimated the power and determination of the Axis that seeks to humiliate or change his regime. Furthermore, he has underestimated the Axis member’s fear of grass roots democracy and their goal of derailing or containing the Arab youth uprisings to prevent genuine democratic transformation. One of their vital options is to sponsor and invigorate counter revolution to effectively obstruct authentic political change in the region.
As the Washington Post reported (April 18), the US state department has channeled up to $6m since 2006 to a group of Syrian exiles to operate Barada TV and to finance activities inside Syria. Initially, this support was aimed at weakening the Syrian regime. The goal, however, has changed after the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. These unexpected uprisings have changed the political calculus and posed a serious threat to the existing corrupt Arab political order.
Therefore, stirring unrest in Syria and encouraging counterrevolutionary elements in other parts of the Arab world have become a strategic tool to either infiltrate the Arab youth uprisings or divert the focus from pressing political and economic issues. Indeed, unrest in Syria has not only divided the Arab progressive camp but also made it possible for the Axis forces [?]to take the initiative in influencing events in Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Jordan, and Yemen to their advantage.
Most importantly, al-Assad has misread the changing mood of the Arab youth. The emerging youth movements no longer have faith in the Arab political elite and aspire to fully participate in designing their future and actively shape the political process, especially that which directly affects their national security and economic prosperity.
Likewise, al-Assad has failed to outmaneuver the counter revolution. Instead, his regime resorts to the use of force and violence to quell various counter revolution elements. This has further incited popular anger and legitimized elements of the counter revolution. Likewise, the regime has been timid in clearly identifying the Arab and foreign governments that allegedly induce and support violence in the country.
Had al-Assad taken the initiative, ahead of the protest, to inaugurate genuine democratic transformation by reforming the election and press laws, changing the constitution, releasing political prisoners, and stimulating Syria’s entrepreneurial talent, the Syrian people would willingly have voiced their confidence in his leadership and shown contempt for the forces that utilize violence against public property and security forces.
From the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arab Gulf in the East the Arab masses face real and immediate challenges. [for the author, the whole area can best be viewed as one vast Arab domain] scarcely matter.]Bashar al-Assad has a historical opportunity to show them that he is on the right side of history and is willing to undertake immediate political and economic reforms not only to put end to violence in Syria but to accelerate positive change in the rest of the Arab region. ["right side of history," "positive change" -- the banal works]
when I said I thought that Anders Breivik was a jihadi revert taking taqiyya into a whole new dimension. I still believe that there was a second gunman and some of the witness reports coming out give credence to that opinion.
Breivik considers himself to be fighting a 60 year war. Whatever his motives, if he is at war, his actions on Friday make him a war criminal.
Egypt: One More Arab Society Suffused With Antisemitism
in the Handbook of Stereotypes that diplomats, travellers, and journalists regularlly consult, Egypt is considered to be a "soft" country, with a gentle, easygoing, humorful population, so different from the hard-edged Arabs in violent Iraq, or Syria, or the Gulf, where money muffles everything. Easygoing, humorful, gentle some may be, in many areas, but not when it comes to the Jews. There it's the same old story.
Here's a short paragraph in that story, from CAMERA:
The Banality of Anti-Semitism in Egypt
MEMRI TV has made available a video of a comedy skit aired on Egyptian Television portraying a Jewish grandfather, his granddaughter and grandson sitting around the kitchen table scheming to sell human organs. They are portrayed as bloodthirsty, greedy buffoons in order to elicit chuckles from the audience. A young woman comedian introduces the skit with some "humor,"
the Jews trade in everything, so obviously they have not neglected organ trafficking. I have recently seen someone haggle over a pancreas in order to save five shekels.
The skit exposes the banality of Egyptian bigotry against Jews. In some ways, it recalls the cartoons and children's shows in the early years of American television that used humor to lampoon black Americans with demeaning stereotypes. In the Egyptian skit, however, the message concerning the nature of Jews is far darker.
US military officials in Afghanistan warn that it’s now or never to make key advancements against insurgent fighters, with the surge of US forces at its zenith and the summer fighting season in full swing.
Yet Taliban forces in the east appear to be launching offensives of their own, with no intention of giving up easily, US military officials say.
Rates of violence bear testament to that resolve. Attacks by insurgents in the east nearly doubled between March 2010 and March 2011. That’s not unexpected, US military officials say, given the surge. They add that attacks in the month of July appear to be on a downward trajectory.
In the weeks ahead, however, US commanders expect violent clashes between Taliban and US soldiers to continue apace in the east, where insurgents often make use of sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
With 10,000 of the 30,000 US surge forces scheduled to return to the United States by year's end – the vast majority of which have been based in southern Afghanistan – there is a sense, too, that the clock is ticking for US commanders here.
“We have more forces [in Afghanistan] right now than we will ever have,” says Col. Clay Hall, commander of the US Air Force’s 455th Expeditionary Operations Group (EOG). “There’s a feeling of, ‘Let’s use them to maximum effect.’ As we pull out,” with fewer and fewer US troops on the ground, “those engagements are going to become less and less effective.”
The US military’s role in Afghanistan was a central point of discussion in at least two congressional hearings Tuesday. Gen. Martin Dempsey fielded questions on the way forward in Afghanistan during his Senate confirmation hearing for serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The House Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, was to hear testimony from former military and defense officials about US activity in Afghanistan.
On the ground here, US commanders say they see few signs of violence abating. Military officials point to a hair-raising battle between insurgents and US troops on May 25 in the violent eastern province of Nuristan.
The Infidels Keep Paying To Support The "Palestinian" Arabs, The Rich Arabs Won't
An issue often discussed here -- that of financial support. A question the author does not raise, but that has been raised many times here, is the matter of of the continued transfer of wealth by non-Muslims to Muslims, both across national borders, and within non-Muslim countries, and why it makes no sense, and merely delays the day when Muslims themselves will be forced -- as Ataturk was forced by circumstances -- to recognize that Islam explains their many failures, including the eocnomic ones.
Because donors are not meeting their pledges, the Palestinian Authority is nearly broke and cannot meet its payroll. The PA told a specially convened session of the Arab League today that it needs an immediate injection of $300 million. Already, PA employees are on half salary.
This is not because the United States or the EU is failing to support the PA financially, nor because Israel is failing to pass on withheld tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA; the US, EU, and Israel are meeting their commitments. It is solely because Arab states are not paying up, as PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has candidly pointed out.
And yesterday PA foreign minister Riad al-Maliki said the same thing: “The importance of the meeting is that it has become urgent that the Arab countries meet their financial obligations, particularly given the looming possibility that the Palestinian Authority will be unable to pay salaries for this current month and the next one, which is Ramadan.”
This is a simple and quick test of the oil-rich Gulf states, and especially Saudi Arabia. With crude oil in the area of $100 a barrel, it is not a measure of their financial ability; they have the money. And that being the case, this is a far better test than speeches and UN votes of just how committed to Palestinian progress they really are.
The rebels in western Libya have captured the Nafusa Mountains and are only 80 kilometers from Tripoli, but have been unable to advance further. Meanwhile long-simmering tribal hostilities are complicating the situation, as rival groups clash and old resentments flare up. The inter-tribal conflict adds to a growing sense that the uprising against Gadhafi is turning into a civil war.
The decisive front in the war against Moammar Gadhafi runs through the dusty village of Qawalish, which consists of a mosque, a few dozen houses and a hill, behind which rebel fighters are entrenched.
At first glance, it is hard to understand why more than 15 rebels have been killed in this godforsaken place, and why Qawalish has changed hands three times in only two weeks.
Musbah Milad, a rebel fighter from the city of Zintan in northwestern Libya, is standing on the roof of a two-story building in the midday heat. He gazes out at the flat landscape and points to a row of trees at the other end of a vast plain. "There you can see him," he says. "Fucking Gadhafi." Through his binoculars, Milad can make out two trucks hidden in the shade of trees, about 6 kilometers (4 miles) away. Sometimes Gadhafi's forces fire a poorly targeted missile, prompting the rebels to return fire.
The fate of the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is being decided in these days and weeks in tiny villages in the Nafusa Mountains of western Libya. The region was almost unknown to the world before the Libyan revolution began in February.
Loosely Organized State
Since the outbreak of the war, the rebel offensive has made more significant advances in these hilly highlands than anywhere else in Libya. In the eastern part of the country, the rebels are still entrenched near Brega, a city they captured for the first time in February, only to lose it to Gadhafi's forces soon afterwards. Brega is more than 600 kilometers from the capital Tripoli.
In the west, on the other hand, the rebels have captured almost the entire mountain chain, where they have established a loosely organized state, complete with its own newspapers, a radio station and a makeshift airfield. The territory they control extends 200 kilometers eastward from the Tunisian border. And at the northern end of the Nafusa Mountains, the rebel fighters are now only 80 kilometers from the capital.
But the most important front lies in Qawalish. If the rebels manage to advance into the next town, which is 30 kilometers away, they will have cut off Gadhafi's key supply route, the road from Sabha to Tripoli.
However, the rebels have not made any progress in weeks. After taking Qawalish in early July, they were so heady with victory that they left the front and returned to their villages, leaving only a few 16-year-olds with Kalashnikovs in the village. Their mission was to hold the town, but the small rebel contingent didn't stand a chance when Gadhafi's troops attacked on Wednesday of the week before last.
In the ensuing six-hour battle, the rebels mobilized all of their forces to return to the front that they had so foolishly exposed. Troops rushed back to Qawalish from Zintan, Jadu and Kikla. By the end of a bloody day, they had regained control over the village, despite heavy rocket fire. Eight men died. It was a strange battle, and it showed how little Gadhafi's opponents in western Libya understand about waging battles. The rebel force there consists of a motorized horde that rushes to the front when it is needed and then quickly disperses.
Since then, the rebels have done nothing to advance farther to the east.
Limits of Their Strength
When Ramadan begins in a week, the fighters will not be allowed to eat or drink anything during the day, at temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade. Some say that they are holding back because Gadhafi's forces have left thousands of mines in the vast steppe, while others say that the rebels are trying to spare the pro-Gadhafi civilians in the next town.
There are also signs that the rebels in the west are gradually reaching the limits of their strength. Even their military leaders in Zintan admit that there are no plans to advance from the mountains in the coastal plain and hazard a march on Tripoli. Instead, they are waiting for a revolt in the capital. And on Sunday, they had to rebut another hard-fought attempt by Gadhafi's troops to take back the town.
The truth is that the uprising against Gadhafi is looking more and more like a civil war every day. At first, it seemed as if Libyans had all come together to revolt against the man who had controlled the country for the last 42 years. Much like the uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan revolt began in mid-February with peaceful protests, but this dictator refused to allow himself to be toppled and responded by waging a cruel war on the civilian population instead. This response was the reason behind the NATO mission.
But reality is more complicated than that, as evidenced in the Nafusa Mountains. The situation in Libya is made more difficult by the fact that it is a tribal society, not a nation state like its neighbors.
Most Libyans may be strongly opposed to Gadhafi, and yet there are still important tribes that largely support him, including the Warfalla, the Tarhuna and Gadhafi's own tribe, the Gadhadhfa. And despite the rebels' official claims to the contrary, this conflict is also a war among tribes.
The rebels were so successful in the mountains because most of the tribes there are hostile to Gadhafi. The Berbers in the western part of the mountains, the country's original inhabitants, have liberated their traditional areas in recent months. Under Gadhafi, they were prohibited from speaking their own language. Most of the rebels in the eastern part of the mountains are Arabs, members of the Zintan tribe and its allies.
Zintan is their key city, the center of the rebellion in the west. Most of the rebel fighters are from Zintan, as are most of the dead. It is a small city with a population of about 25,000, a maze of narrow streets where canisters of gasoline smuggled from Tunisia are sold, but where bread is hard to find these days. There are no women to be seen, but there are bearded men who show off their weapons and drive makeshift combat vehicles. The people of the town are as warmhearted as they are rough around the edges. They give food to outsiders, even though it is in short supply, and no one would think of demanding payment for accommodations.
The military council, the nominal leadership of the rebel army in the west, has its headquarters in Zintan. Last week, Omar Hariri, the military coordinator of the Transitional National Council, came to visit Zintan to talk about strategy. But many rebels from the town refuse to take direct orders from such officials. Instead, their allegiance lies with their local command center.
It is Gadhafi's army that has committed the heinous war crimes in this conflict. Nevertheless, a trip along the road that extends for 50 kilometers from Zintan to the front in Qawalish reveals that the rebels' behavior is not always exemplary.
Looting and Arson
Several towns along the route are now completely depopulated. One is Awaniya, a town of 15,000 people until the rebels captured it. The shops lining the highway in Awaniya were looted and are now littered with garbage. In some stores, even the shelves are missing. In the town itself, houses stand empty and ransacked, and some have been burned down. Other towns look similar. New houses are still burning days after the rebels took over, and trucks are removing anything that was overlooked during the initial looting: sacks of wheat as well as food and sheep.
A piece of graffiti on the wall of an empty supermarket in Awaniya berates the "Mashashiya traitors." The Mashashiya are the tribe that lived in Awaniya and two other nearby towns. Most of its members supported Gadhafi, as did the inhabitants of most of the remaining depopulated towns along the road from Zintan to the front, including Qawalish.
In a report, Human Rights Watch has sharply criticized the rebels for engaging in looting and arson. In an interview, a spokesman for the western Libyan military council admits that there have been isolated incidents of this nature, but he also insists that the rebels only set those houses on fire in which Gadhafi's troops had been holed up.
The rebels respond aggressively to anyone who tries to investigate. A SPIEGEL team was taken into custody in Awaniya, escorted to the Zintan command post and interrogated.
Gadhafi Played Off Tribes Against Each Other
To explain the hostility between the Mashashiya and the Zintan, a visit with the council of elders in Zintan is helpful. It is a group of more than a dozen old men in white robes. The men hold their meetings in an administrative building in the center of the town, sitting in a circle.
They say that the Mashashiya did not own the land they had inhabited and where they had built their houses, and that it was land that they had stolen from other tribes, including the Zintan, the Khaleifa and the Kikla. According to the Zintan elders, the Mashashiya are shepherds, as their name, which means "Walkers," signifies. They have never owned land and are not from the area. Instead, they are from southern Libya.
The elders say that the Mashashiya supported Gadhafi because he gave them the land in the region in the 1970s. They also say that Gadhafi bred discord in their valleys to play off the tribes against one another and safeguard his own power.
The men speak of old deeds of ownership from the Italian period, deeds that allegedly prove which established tribes own the land. They also mention maps drawn by the former French colonial rulers in Algeria, which show the large tribal territory of the Zintan and make no mention of the Mashashiya.
"We've known about the tricks of the Mashashiya for a long time," says one man. "Sometimes they would move into empty houses, set up gravestones nearby and claim that their ancestors were buried there. They worked as informers for the Italians during the colonial period."
'They Should Stay Out of Here'
The Mashashiya will only be allowed to return if they can prove that the land belongs to them, but it doesn't, say the Zintan elders. Many of the rebels are more direct, saying that they don't like the Mashashiya and that "they should stay out of here."
On the rebel side of the front, there are no longer any members of the tribe who could be asked about these accusations. The only remaining Mashashiya are in the Zintan prison, a former school. One of the two men interviewed admits that most members of his tribe are for Gadhafi, but the other one denies it. Both of the two men insist that they did not fight for Gadhafi. They say that they are only in prison because of their tribal affiliation.
Returning to Libya to Fight
Nevertheless, the military leaders of the western rebels still insist that all Libyans are fighting Gadhafi together and are careful not to portray the rebellion as a tribal matter. To be sure, these tribal disputes are not the basis of the rebellion against Gadhafi's dictatorship. All it takes to understand why the rebellion occurred is to look at the uneven distribution of oil wealth in the country, the poor outlook for young people, nepotism and brutal repression by the regime.
But the tribal structure is one of the key reasons why Gadhafi is still in power. He knew how to play the tribes against one another, and many derived benefits from him. This is why there is such a great risk of civil war.
Significant migrations have been taking place since the uprising began. Thousands of young men have returned to the mountains from other parts of Libya, and even from elsewhere in the world, to fight for their tribes and against Gadhafi in these dusty hills. Many rebels fighting for the Zintan are unwilling to be photographed, because they have come from Tripoli and their families are still there.
Forces Are No Armies
A 22-year-old named Ahmed Hanna says that he was working on an oil tanker and was on land in France when the war began. He returned home, as did Hani Mahlouf, a 29-year-old Berber, who had been living in Kuala Lumpur, where he was writing his dissertation on supersonic aircraft wings. He says that he couldn't stay there, and that his place is here, on the front in Qawalish.
Mahlouf explains, in a surprisingly simple sentence, what is happening in the mountains: "This is a war that is being fought between the tribes that were here originally, and the people who only arrived 50 or 60 years ago."
Many rebels say that more and more volunteers are now fighting for Gadhafi, whose army had previously consisted solely of mercenaries and soldiers. The forces facing off in the mountains are no armies. In the battle for Qawalish two weeks ago, few more than 1,000 men were fighting on the rebel side, while Gadhafi's troops were hardly any more numerous.
It is impossible to capture and hold larger pieces of territory with such a small army, which probably explains why the rebels are not advancing any farther in Qawalish. The inhabitants of the villages on the other side of the front are, in their majority, seen as Gadhafi supporters, from whom the rebels cannot expect much help.
Computer Scientist Turned Sniper
Last week only a few dozen fighters were visible at the northernmost point along the front, a cement plant near the town of Bir al-Ghanam on the northern edge of the mountain, 80 kilometers from Tripoli. They have dug themselves into the mountain, where they were attacked on the previous day and fought successfully for hours to hold their positions.
A 21-year-old rebel fighter named Mohammed, who was a computer science student before he became a sniper, says that Gadhafi has only 300 soldiers stationed below. He points to a wall in the village. "I can see two of them with my bare eyes." he says. "They're probably smoking."
He says that they sometimes fire rockets at the town, mostly out of boredom. He decides to show us how it's done. The rebels use the base of a home trainer as a firing ramp. They aim the rocket and connect the ignition wire to a car battery. Nothing happens. They try it three or four times, but still nothing happens.
Exhausted by the heat, they sit down again in the shade behind a large cliff. And they wait.
The actor is interesting for other reasons, not least of which is the way you say his name. It isn’t Le Mes-oor-ee-ay, as you might say if you think he’s French, but plain old (well plain-ish, old-ish) Le Measurer. Similarly I once knew a Mr Le Scelleur, who pronounced his name “Le Sailor”, to the confusion of the French, who thought he was one of them. Le Mesurier and Le Scelleur were not from France, but from Alderney and Jersey respectively, and their names are Channel Island Norman. More on this in the TLS:
The excellent London publisher Francis Boutle, which specialises in this field has sent us The Toad and the Donkey, an anthology of literature in Jèrriais and Guernésiais, - the dialects of Jersey and Guernesey – with further contributions in Sercquiais, the language of Sark, of which “a small number of speakers remain”, and Auregnais (From Alderney), said to be extinct.
Though English is now the dominant language on the Channel Islands each island of Jersey, Guernsey and Sark has its own native local French dialect, respectively Jerrias, Guernesiais and Sercquiais. These traditional spoken vernaculars of the islands are varieties of Norman French. The original Normans who came from Norway and Denmark spoke Norse and there are still a number of Norse elements in the islands' dialects. Though standard French has never been an everyday spoken language in any of the islands it has served as an official language of legislation and debate in legislative assemblies. The evacuation of the islands' children in the Second World War meant that when they returned they had become more at home with English and their families tended to speak in English too. It is only within living memory that English has replaced French as the language of legislation. http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/…
Norman is spoken in mainland Normandy in France where it has no official status, but is classed as a regional language. In the Channel Islands, the Norman language has developed separately, but not in isolation, to form what are recognised as Jèrriais (in Jersey), Guernésiais or Guernsey French (in Guernsey) and Sercquiais (or Sarkese, in Sark). Jèrriais and Guernésiais are recognised as regional languages by the British and Irish governments within the framework of the British-Irish Council. Sercquiais is in fact a descendant of the 16th century Jèrriais used by the original colonists from Jersey who settled the then uninhabited island. The last native speakers of Auregnais, the Norman language of Alderney, died during the 20th century, although some rememberers still exist. The dialect of Herm also lapsed, at an unknown date. An isogloss termed the ligne Joret separates the northern and southern dialects of the Norman language (the line is from Granville to the Belgian border). There are also dialectal differences between western and eastern dialects. Three different standardised spellings are used: continental Norman, Jèrriais, and Dgèrnésiais. These represent the different developments and particular literary histories of the varieties of Norman. Norman may therefore be described as a pluricentric language. Today, the Norman language is strongest in the less accessible areas of the former Duchy of Normandy: the Channel Islands and the Cotentin Peninsula (Cotentinais) in the west, and the Pays de Caux (Cauchois) in the east.
Here is a poem (and translation) by Geraint Jennings, one of the authors of The Toad and the Donkey, from writer and Guernsey literature lover Peter Kenny’s blog:
À ces sé
La lueu du rêsèrveux blyînque blianche au bliu du sé;
lé couochant lanche des pétales d'rose sus les côtis.
Du haut du mont jé d'vale – l'alanchie dans l'èrfliet
d'la mathe tchi m'fliatte atout eune fliotte dé caûques-souôthis.
Et j'pâsse par des fôssés endgèrrués en nièr,
entouortilyis dé veîl'yes dé r'lié et d'amèrdoux.
Les rêvacheurs d'la niet en vithevardant d'travèrs
ont voltilyi par 'chîn, par là – des vielles d'avoût.
La batt'tie d'ches néthes ailes a libéthé man tchoeu:
rôdant les c'mîns à la r'vèrdie, j'touônne en ouéthou.
Les pétales sont pouôrries et n'yées dans la nièrcheu;
les caûques-souothis ont chuchi l'rouoge d'la séthée d'v'lous.
Tout veint à fîn: un jour, un c'mîn, un tchoeu tchi bat,
les dreines lueuthes d'eune séthée, man soûffl'ye et man suffat.
The light of the reservoir blinks white in the blue of the evening;
the sunset throws rose petals on the côtils.
From the top of the hill I descend – diving into the reflection
of the pool which caresses me with a flock of bats.
And I pass by the hedgerows overgrown blackly with ivy,
entwined with field bindweed and woody nightshade.
The dreamers of the night zigzagging across my path
have fluttered here and there – summer whirlwinds.
The beating of these black wings has freed my heart:
roaming the roads at dusk, I turn into a shapeshifting spirit.
The petals are rotten and drowned in the darkness;
the bats have sucked the red from the velvet evening.
Everything comes to an end: a day, a road, a beating heart,
the last tatters of an evening, my breath and my burden.
Jèrriais must not be confused with Jerry, the language of the Bosch, who occupied the Channel Islands during WW2. Sercquiais should not be confused with sarcasm, just because they are both the language of Sark.
Eric Reeves On The Mass-Murder Of The Nuba In South Kordofan
U.S., UN refuse to speak honestly about compelling evidence of genocide in South Kordofan
The cost of this shameful dishonesty may soon be measured in many tens of thousands of Nuba lives, and the final collapse of any international commitment to a "responsibility to protect"
July 17, 2011
Evidence of mass graves in and around Kadugli, South Kordofan is now overwhelming; it includes definitive satellite photography of three large sites and reports by numerous independently interviewed civilians from the region. Evidence also comes from interviews conducted in June by human rights investigators of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS); these findings appear in an internal UN human rights report whose findings have previously been suppressed by UN/New York. They were leaked to me and others, originally by someone who was evidently quite unhappy with UN silence about the deeply disturbing contents of this report. Given the immensity of the atrocity crimes revealed in this extensively documented but still officially unreleased report ("UNMIS Report on the Human Rights Situation During the Violence in Southern Kordofan"), it is imperative that the UN make clear who knew what, and when.
These terrible incidents and the weak UN response in Kadugli have already been likened, rightly, to the ghastly failure of the UN at Srebrenica, where some 7,000 Bosnian men and boys were rounded up in July 1995 by Serbian army and paramilitary units under the command of (recently captured) Ratko Mladic---and executed while Dutch peacekeepers looked on helplessly. Indeed, two days after Srebrenica was overrun by Mladic’s forces, 4,000 - 5,000 Bosniak Muslims were expelled by the Dutch from their base---as Mladic had demanded (some 15,000 - 20,000 additional Bosniak Muslims had sought safety outside the Dutch base). The events of Srebrenica have occasioned much painful self-reflection by the Dutch over the past decade and a half, and a recent decision (July 5, 2011) by a court in The Netherlands ruled that the Dutch government was responsible for several of the deaths. And notably from the standpoint of international law, Major General Radislav Krstic was convicted of the crime of genocide for his role in the Srebrenica massacre. His conviction by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was upheld by an Appeals Chamber review of "Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic," Case No. IT-98-33-T. This lengthy and superbly argued Appeals Chamber review is a seminal document in international legal interpretation of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and has particular relevance for the situations in South Kordofan and Darfur.
Given the extremely strong evidence of genocide in South Kordofan, and the Khartoum regime’s long history of genocidal assaults on marginalized populations in Sudan, the process of assessing awareness of and response to the UNMIS human rights report needs to begin immediately---for the UN, the US and the Europeans, and the African Union.
In particular, we need to know about the credibility of the skepticism expressed by U.S. special envoy Princeton Lyman and UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos; we need a clear account of what Ban Ki-moon’s secretariat knew and how it responded to reports that made clear atrocities were being committed in Kadugli and elsewhere in South Kordofan from the very beginning of the conflict that Khartoum instigated on June 5. And we also need to know what was seen by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, particularly its Under-secretary Alain Le Roy. And finally, we need to know what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knew when she made her recent remarks about Sudan. We need to know what all these various international actors and parties knew---and when they knew it.
The task is challenging. For example, on June 28, in an interview on the PBS NewsHour, Lyman was asked, "Would you say atrocities are occurring by the North Sudanese forces against civilians there?" Lyman’s evasive and disingenuous answer speaks volumes about his character as a diplomat and the larger U.S. response to events in North Sudan:
"We certainly have reports of that. Because we don’t have a presence there, we haven’t been able to investigate it fully. There are certainly reports of targeted killings. There are some reports from the other side also. What we’ve asked for is a full investigation."
And to the follow-up question ("By whom [should the investigation be conducted]?") Lyman responded:
"Well, by the UN would be the best. The UN presence has not been sufficient to get out and stop this or to investigate it."
Lyman certainly knew when he offered this answer that there would be no UN investigation beyond what was being completed by the human rights personnel attached to UNMIS, which had already been confined to its base and ordered out of South Kordofan by Khartoum the day following the independence of South Sudan on July 9. Saying "the UN presence has not been sufficient to get out and stop this or to investigate it" is merely to state the obvious, not to offer any meaningful reply about how the U.S. will actually respond to the now conspicuous human catastrophe in South Kordofan. I’ll return to the question of whether an international investigation of allegations of genocide could be conducted, with or without UN sanction; but we must bear in mind that any Security Council resolution authorizing such a thorough and unfettered UN investigation will be vetoed by China, which would regard such a precedent with horror, as well as deeply threatening to its relationship with Khartoum.
But the first question is whether or not Lyman knew what UNMIS human rights personnel knew. Was the special envoy to Sudan, representing the President of the United States, unaware of what was being compiled and then assembled at the very end of June in the 20-page UNMIS report? Was he not concerned enough by these extant "reports" to request U.S. satellite surveillance of the Kadugli area? It was precisely such surveillance by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) that revealed three large mass gravesites on July 14, graves dug between June 17, when the earth on this spot was untouched, and July 4, when SSP revealed three conspicuous, capacious, and nearly identical plots of significantly turned earth. Dug in the midst of heavy military activity and following a vast number of summary executions, these mass gravesites have only one plausible explanation. Certainly if the Obama administration is skeptical it may investigate further: the U.S. has much greater satellite capacity than is available to SSP and faces no restrictions on degree of resolution (as SSP does by virtue of U.S. law).
Importantly, nearly all the eyewitness accounts in the UNMIS human rights report have been fully corroborated by subsequent accounts: from news organizations (several from the Nuba Mountains), from Nuba sources, from the Satellite Sentinel Project. (I offered an overview and synthesis of this evidence on July 14). How could Lyman so blithely profess agnosticism about these extremely alarming accounts, especially given Khartoum’s history of genocidal counterinsurgency? SSP reports the presence of irregularly shaped white bags heaped together near the mass gravesites, consistently corresponding to human dimensions. Why hasn’t Lyman requested high-resolution satellite confirmation of what these white bags are? Several eyewitnesses, independently of each other, have confirmed that they are being used for the many corpses that litter Kadugli.
What of the more than 7,000 Nuba people who were forcibly removed from UN protective custody at US headquarters in Kadugli on June 20, and who remain unaccounted for? The UNMIS report confirms what an earlier UNMIS internal situation report (sit rep) had detailed of actions by Khartoum’s Military Intelligence and security services: impersonating Red Crescent personnel, these brutal men compelled the removal of Nuba civilians from the UN protective perimeter (this was reported by Associated Press on June 23). The UNMIS human rights report declares that its authors had "verifie[d] [the allegation of forcible removal] through multiple interviews of IDPs within the UNMIS Protective Perimeter" (§53). We presently have no knowledge whatsoever of the location of these people. The UNMIS human rights report declares that by 5pm on June 20, "approximately 75 percent of the 11,000 IDPs in the vicinity of the Protective Perimeter had vacated the areas... At the time of this report, there are no IDPs in the UNMIS Protective Perimeter..." (§54). Why aren’t these UN reports sufficient to compel Lyman to ask for U.S. satellite surveillance? Can there be any reasonable doubt about the accuracy of either UN account? Is Lyman not worried that there are potentially thousands of Nuba in the large mass graves identified by SSP?
Perhaps Lyman has a plausible alternative explanation for why, between June 17 and July 4---during heavy military operations---Khartoum’s forces would be moving earth at three side-by-side and parallel sites, of nearly identical dimensions (five meters by twenty-five meters), and of a size large enough to hold many thousands of bodies, depending on the depth of the excavation. But in the absence of such an explanation, and in light of an apparent unwillingness to request U.S. satellite confirmation of what is occurring at this site, he and other Obama administration officials appear inert before the strongest evidence to date of massive ethnically targeted human destruction.
The same questions must be asked of Valerie Amos, head of UN humanitarian operations. On July 15 Amos declared in a prepared statement: "We do not know whether there is any truth to the grave allegations of extra-judicial killings, mass graves and other grave violations in South Kordofan."
"We do not know whether there is any truth to the grave allegations...”? This is preposterous skepticism, and betrays a highly defensive attitude in the face of evidence that makes all too clear that Amos has not made any serious effort to come to terms with the evidence of mass graves and the various atrocity crimes reported by the UN itself. For the UN human rights report, again focusing on the early days of military action when UNMIS still had some mobility, is a savage indictment---one that Amos certainly would not want to acknowledge having known of while saying nothing. Certainly the introduction to the report is quite unambiguous about what the UN had witnessed in the several weeks prior to the compiling of the report:
"Monitoring has also revealed that the Sudan Armed Forces, paramilitary forces and Government security apparatus have engaged in violent and unlawful acts against UNMIS, in violation of International Conventions and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) including: verified incidents of shelling in close proximity to UN property, resulting in damage; summary execution of a UN national staff member; assaults on physical integrity of UN staff; arbitrary arrest and detention of UN Staff and associated human rights violations including ill treatment amounting to torture; harassment, intimidation, and obstruction of freedom of movement; and intrusion on UN premises including the UNMIS Protective Perimeter established to protect civilians internally displaced as a result of the conflict. The international community must hold the Government of Sudan accountable for this conduct and insist that those responsible be arrested and brought to justice."
The ethnic targeting of Nuba is made explicit in the UNMIS human rights report as well:
"Interviews with witnesses and victims reveal that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and security forces have a list of Nubans wanted for being sympathetic to the SPLM/A, which supports the allegation that people in Southern Kordofan were targeted based on ethnicity. Witnesses also mentioned that persons of Nuban descent and ’other dark skinned people’ were being targeted by SAF and Arab militias." (§49)
And those contemplating a possible future UN presence in South Kordofan, including a human rights investigating team, should bear in mind just how UNMIS was treated:
"Throughout the conflict in Southern Kordofan, the SAF, Popular Defence Forces, and the Central Reserve Police Forces have treated UNMIS with gross contempt and a total disregard of its status as a UN body with the privileges and immunities set forth and contained in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Government of Sudan, as well as international conventions on the status of the UN, its staff, and assets, to which Sudan is a signatory. In addition to the killing of one UNMIS independent contractor, the SAF and PDF have intimidated UNMIS staff and subjected them to degrading and inhuman treatment, which has left as many as 45 staff held up in forced imprisonment in the UNMIS Kadugli Team Site, physically debilitated and psychologically traumatized." (§44)
Examples of this gross mistreatment of a UN-authorized force are many:
"On 7 June, an UNMIS truck was stopped at a checkpoint near the UNMIS Sector IV compound. Three of the ten IDPs who had been assisting UNMIS personnel with loading supplies for IDPs were pulled out of the truck and beaten up by SAF personnel. An UNMIS staff member who attempted to intervene was threatened at gunpoint by one of the soldiers who asked him ’do you want to stay or leave.’ The UN personnel drove off with the seven remaining IDPs. The fate of the three IDPs remains unknown." (§61)
"On 16 June, four UNMIS military observers on patrol were detained, interrogated, and subjected to cruel and degrading treatment for two hours. They were intercepted by SAF personnel near the SAF 14th Division Headquarters while en route to Kadugli town to verify reports of mass graves. The military observers were taken to the SAF-JIU 5th Division Headquarters where they were subjected to lengthy interrogation regarding the purpose of their monitoring mission, searched and forced to remove their shirts. A SAF Captain instructed the UNMOs to line up and be killed. He removed the safety of his AK-47, and just as he was about to point the weapon towards the UNMOs, a SAF Major entered the room and ordered him not to shoot [emphasis added]. Immediately following the intervention the officer with the gun shouted ’UNMIS leave Southern Kordofan, if not we will kill you if you come back here.’ The team was released and told not to return back to Kadugli town." (§62)
"On the evening of 22 June, SAF surrounded the UNMIS Team site compound in Kadugli with three heavy artillery gun-mounted vehicles pointed at the compound from three points, including the front gate. This occurred following the arrest and interrogation of six UNMIS national staff early in the day by SAF military intelligence at the Kadugli airport. These developments have left UN national staff, especially those of Nuban descent, in a state of fear, some psychologically traumatized." (§65)
There are other powerful observations made by the UN human rights report:
"With the reinforcement of SAF, Central Reserve Police and militia elements, the security situation deteriorated on 7 June, with indiscriminate shelling of Kadugli town apparently targeting densely civilian-inhabited areas. This led to the secondary displacement of thousands of IDPs who had taken refuge in churches and hospitals to the UNMIS compound where they were sheltered in an area adjacent to the compound that was set up specifically to receive IDPs and provide them security and humanitarian assistance (Protective Perimeter). The SAF took control of the Kadugli airport, including UN assets located at the airport, and closed all civilian air traffic. UNMIS Human Rights received confirmation that SAF, together with militia elements of the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), a paramilitary force established in 1989 to assist SAF in ’defending the nation,’ began going from house to house subjecting residents to identity checks." (§9)
"Eyewitnesses reported to UNMIS Human Rights looting of civilian homes, UN agencies/offices, and humanitarian warehouses, and destruction of property by PDF elements as they fought alongside the SAF. Meanwhile UN Security began the relocation of staff from UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes and INGOs to the UNMIS compound. By the evening Kadugli town, including hospitals, was emptied, as SAF checkpoints were established throughout the town." (§10)
These "checkpoints" have figured prominently in the accounts of many Nuba over the past six weeks; their clear purpose is to capture or execute all Nuba, claiming that they have "Southern sympathies." The looting and destruction of humanitarian warehouses has been repeatedly confirmed: these actions have as their goal the ending of humanitarian assistance to the Nuba Mountains, which are the ultimate focus of this growing campaign of genocide.
It is important to stress that the international response to the concluding recommendation of this human rights report will define any history of the present moment, particularly given the failure in Darfur to give meaning to the doctrine of a "responsibility to protect," a "responsibility" that obtains even when there are claims of national sovereignty:
"The attacks on UNMIS, its staff and assets are so egregious that condemnation is insufficient [emphasis added]. The conduct of the SAF, the PDF, the Central Reserve Police Force, and the Government Police, singularly and collectively, has frustrated and weakened the capacity of the UNMIS to implement in Southern Kordofan a mandate given to it by the UN Security Council. The conduct has also resulted in loss of life and injury of UN staff. The international community must hold the Government of Sudan accountable for its conduct and insist that it arrests and bring to justice those responsible." [emphasis added] (§74)
So, is Amos even remotely credible when she declares, "We do not know whether there is any truth to the grave allegations"? This thoroughly implausible skepticism confronts us again with the question: who within the UN system knew what and when? Is it conceivable that with such serious allegations building over more than three weeks they would not have made their way back to the UN in New York? To the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR)? To Ban Ki-moon’s Secretariat? Obviously the findings were far too sensitive to be released from within Sudan, even in Khartoum, where the UNMIS human rights team is based. This would have immediately imperiled the presence of remaining, if highly constrained UNMIS personnel in South Kordofan. But there was nothing from the UN in New York---not from UNHCHR, not from anyone in the Secretariat, not from the weak and uninspired Haile Menkerios, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for Sudan…no one said anything. Amos’s silence has been particularly galling, as Julie Flint reports in The Observer today, "causing fury among hard-pressed colleagues on the ground, who have been crying out for much stronger support from the security council, [as Amos] appeared to cast doubt on their reporting" (July 17, 2011).
History is quickly being obscured by those complicit in this cover-up, so let’s recall first what was known earlier in June, and look further at the specific findings of the UNMIS human rights report. On June 17 (one month ago), I published in the Washington Post a number of very specific accounts that had come to me and many others in the two weeks following the start of military activities (June 5). I prefaced these accounts by invoking my February 2004 warning in the Post concerning Darfur, which concluded with a prediction that was borne out with a terrible completeness:
"A credible peace forum [for Darfur] must be rapidly created. Immediate plans for humanitarian intervention should begin. The alternative is to allow tens of thousands of civilians to die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction."
Reports from the ground in South Kordofan were already numerous and in many respects just as compelling as early reports from Darfur: I referred to "disturbing accounts [that] have emerged of the African people of the Nuba being rounded up in house searches and road checkpoints, and subjected to indiscriminate aerial bombardment," and concluded by arguing that "all signs point to a new genocide." I noted out that such genocidal ambition by Khartoum was in fact not without precedent in the Nuba Mountains; in January 1992 a fatwah was issued in Khartoum, declaring---
"jihad against the peoples of the Nuba (who practice a range of religions, including Islam). Because the Nuba Mountains are not geographically contiguous with South Sudan (with which the area is militarily, politically and culturally allied), its people were largely left to fend for themselves. [The] regime imposed a total blockade of humanitarian assistance from the south. Many starving Nuba were forced into ’peace camps,’ where receiving food was conditional upon conversion to Islam. Some who refused were tortured or mutilated. Khartoum’s decade-long campaign killed and displaced hundreds of thousands."
I also reported the extensive use of aerial military aircraft against civilian and humanitarian targets, a tactic that has a very long history under this regime---in Darfur, South Sudan, the Nuba Mountains throughout the 1990s, and currently in South Kordofan. It was also clear, I insisted, that humanitarian access was extremely limited by Khartoum’s restrictions, its commandeering of the Kadugli air field, and by its relentless bombing of the Kauda airstrip in the Nuba Mountains. And I also noted that "on June 8 [the UNMIS] base was raided by Khartoum’s military intelligence, and the United Nations was effectively disabled."
This was clear more than four weeks ago. Despite Khartoum’s best efforts we have known what was going on, and so has the UN, though it has chosen not to speak out. This is beyond disgrace; and to the argument that silence about large-scale atrocity crimes was justified in New York as a means of keeping a UN presence in South Kordofan, with extremely limited reporting ability soon after hostilities began, I can only shake my head in disgust at such ghastly expedience.
Here it seems appropriate to recall that the initial UN investigation of Khartoum’s military seizure of Abyei (May 20-21) found that these actions were "tantamount to ethnic cleansing"; Ban Ki-moon and his office subsequently ensured that this phrase was excised from the final, public version of the report. This was a morally and intellectually corrupt effort to placate Khartoum, a signature feature of U.S. policy as well, even as it is likely that no decision has done more to produce the present catastrophic situation. I concluded my Post essay by noting that the UN Security Council "demanded" on June 3 that Khartoum immediately withdraw its forces from Abyei:
"The regime scoffed of course---as it has at previous council ’demands,’ including those bearing on Darfur. This is bad news for the people of Abyei and for the prospects of a just and peaceful separation of Sudan’s north and south, which is scheduled for July 9. For the Nuba people, such fecklessness spells catastrophe. Too often with Sudan, empty demands and threats signal to the regime that the world is not serious about halting atrocities. Either the international community gets serious about preventing further violence in Abyei and the adjacent region of South Kordofan, or we will again see [as I argued in February 2004 about Darfur] ’tens of thousands of civilians .?.?. die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction.’"
A month later, I would change not a word of this. And the UNMIS human rights report bears me out, underscoring as it does that the bombing campaign began in the opening days of the current military and civilian destruction campaign, and has continued throughout:
"On 6 June, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) commenced aerial bombardments and intensified ground assaults on civilian populated areas in Um Dorein and Talodi localities. Many civilians fled the towns taking up refuge in the Nuba Mountains. Civilians wounded by the bombardments flocked to hospitals in Kadugli. Civilian movement was curtailed further east in Heiban and Kauda localities, as SAF and SPLA roadblocks from the north and south prevented residents from leaving the town. In Kadugli town, residents in the largely SPLM-inhabited Kalimo area were warned by both the SAF and the SPLA to evacuate the area. In the late afternoon, SAF heavily bombarded the west of town in Al Messanie which continued until the early morning of the 7 June. Residents in the Kalimo neighborhood reported that the SAF was indiscriminately shelling homes where it suspected SPLA elements were hiding. There were also reports that the SAF was conducting house to house searches and systematically burning houses of suspected SPLM/A supporters." (§8)
In a section devoted to "Aerial bombardments" the UNMIS human rights report makes clear just how constant, destructive, and terrifying this bombing has been:
"Since the eruption of the conflict, the SAF has carried out daily aerial bombardments into the Nuba Mountains and in several towns and villages populated by Nubans [emphasis added]. The consequences of these bombardments on the Nuban people and in particular civilians, including women and children, are devastating. They have resulted in significant loss of life, destruction of properties, and massive displacement [emphasis added]. UNMIS Human Rights has received photographs of mangled and mutilated bodies of civilians, some cut into halves, including women and children." (§39)
"Starting from 5 June, the SAF has conducted daily aerial bombardments in Kadugli, Kauda, Dilling, Talodi, Um Dorein and other parts of the State populated by Nubans including Heiban, Kauda, Julud, Kudu and Kurchi. These bombardments often start from early evening at about 18:00 and last until daybreak. The bombardments have also targeted civilian facilities such as airstrips. On 14 June UNMIS personnel from the Kauda Team Site reported that the SAF launched air strikes on the airstrip and areas close to the UNMIS compound causing damage to structures inside the Team Site. The bombing rendered the airstrip unusable and impeded humanitarian organizations from re-supplying their stocks from Kadugli town or relocating/rotating staff in these areas."
"On 25 June, SAF air-strike dropped two bombs on Julud airstrip, just 350 meters from a school, and three kilometers from UNMIS Julud Team Site. As of 27 June, according to UNMO reports from Kadugli and other Team Sites, the SAF was intensifying aerial bombardments in Southern Kordofan. On SPLA positions. Following the SAF aerial bombardment of Shivi village, in Dilling locality on 8 June, UNMIS Julud Team Site reported two civilians were killed, one male and one female. Bombs have also been dropped very close to UNMIS Team Sites. On 19 June, UNMIS Kauda Team Site confirmed that seven bombs dropped in Kauda hitting areas south and northwest of the Team Site." (§40)
Are Lyman and Amos and other senior UN officials claiming that they did not know of these reports from the ground in Kadugli and Kauda? Are they saying they didn’t credit them? Or are they saying that they did not think them important enough to publicize, given Khartoum’s anger over such truths being told?
The UNMIS human rights report provides not only compelling eyewitness accounts of mass graves and continuous aerial bombardment of civilians, but establishes that many other war crimes and atrocities have been committed:
"On 22 June, an UNMIS independent contractor reported witnessing SAF elements fill a mass grave in Al Gardut Locality in Tillo with dead bodies. She reported that SAF elements transported the bodies to the site, dumped them in the grave and using a bulldozer to cover the grave." (emphasis added; SSP also reports the use of heavy earth-moving equipment) (§34)
"An UNMIS staff member who was detained by SAF at their military facility in Umbattah Locality reported during his detention, that he saw over an estimated 150 dead bodies of persons of Nuban descent scattered on the grounds of the military compound. Some of the bodies appeared to have bullet wounds and he reported a large quantity of blood on the ground. He reported a SAF soldier told them that they had all been shot dead." (emphasis added) (§28)
"On 8 June, an UNMIS independent contractor (IC) was pulled out of a vehicle by SAF in front of the UNMIS Kadugli Sector IV Compound in the presence of several witnesses, while UN peacekeepers could not intervene. He was taken around the corner of the compound and gunshots were heard. Later he was discovered dead by UNMIS personnel and IDPs. Several sources confirmed that the victim was an active SPLM member." (§29)
"Through house to house searches and targeted actions at checkpoints and at the Kadugli Airport, the SAF is believed to have engaged in arbitrary arrests and detentions of persons affiliated with churches or suspected of being supporters and affiliates of the SPLM/A. Thus far most of those arrested are Nubans. On 7 June a Catholic priest reported that SAF and PDF militia were engaged in house-to-house searches mainly in the Banjadid Locality west of Kadugli town causing civilians to panic...." (§43)
Several passages speak to the existence of earlier mass graves, dug even before the three very large sites discovered by SSP (which were dug sometime between June 17 and July 4):
"On 10 June, UNMIS Human Rights interviewed residents from Murta village, outside of Kadugli Town, who stated that they saw fresh mass graves located in a valley southeast of the Murta bus station near the Kadugli police training centre." (§35)
"[Two men interviewed by UNMIS] reported that, following their release from SAF custody, they saw fresh mass graves between the SAF 14th Division Headquarters and Kadugli Market. On 16 June, UN military observers, while on their way between the SAF 14th Division Headquarters and Kadugli Market in an attempt to verify the existence of these mass graves, were arrested, stripped of their clothes, and believed that they were about to be executed when a senior SAF officer intervened." (§36)
Again, these mass graves are in addition to those dug after June 17, as reported by SSP.
"National staff of international aid organizations have also come under attack. UNMIS cites the case of a young Nuba woman arrested and accused of supporting the SPLM. UNMIS human rights officers saw bruises and scars on her body consistent with her claim to have been beaten with fists, sticks, rubber hoses and electric wires. Underscoring the need for the ’independent and comprehensive investigation’ UNMIS recommends, the Observer has been told---by a hitherto impeccable source not connected to the SPLM/A---that 410 captured SPLM sympathizers were ordered executed on 10 June by Major-General Ahmad Khamis, one of four senior army officers sent to South Kordofan from Khartoum at the start of the war...."
"Khamis was one of the main implementers of a government jihad in the early 1990s that brought the Nuba people to the brink of destruction.... [In 1995] Khamis, then head of military intelligence, was repeatedly named as being responsible for torture and executions---including by his own hand."
"When fighting erupted in the South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli in early June, tens of thousands of terrified civilians flocked to a ’safe haven’ directly outside the gates of the UN Missions in Sudan (UNMIS) base. Hawa Mando, a school teacher, reached the camp for internally displaced people on 5 June with her family after fighting in the town forced her to flee her home. She witnessed government agents and irregular troops---notorious from atrocities in Darfur---known as the Popular Defence Force entering the camp hunting for people on a list of government critics."
"’They had lists of people they were looking for,’ said the mother of seven. ’Local spies would point people out and they would shoot them.’ She continued: ’In front of my eyes I saw six people shot dead. They just dragged the bodies away by their feet like slaughtered sheep. People were crying and screaming and the UN soldiers just stood and watched in their watchtowers.’"
Some of the atrocities bespeak complicity on the part of UNMIS in Kadugli, a unit dominated by the Egyptians (the UN human rights investigators were based in Khartoum):
"Eyewitnesses described to The Independent how they saw peacekeepers standing by while unarmed civilians were shot dead outside the gates of a UN base before being dragged away ’like slaughtered sheep.’ They also said that local leaders have been handed over to government forces after seeking shelter with UN officials."
(For a highly informed and devastating account of the despicable Egyptian performance in South Kordofan, see Julie Flint’s "Probe UN Neglect in South Kordofan," The Daily Star [Lebanon], July 5, 2011)
Aerial bombardment of civilians, obstruction of humanitarian assistance
Khartoum continues its virtually daily bombings attacks in the Nuba Mountains and elsewhere in South Kordofan, relentlessly targeting Nuba civilians (this is especially true of Antonov "bombers," retrofitted Russian cargo planes that have no militarily useful bombing accuracy). The regime also continues to bomb in northern Unity State (Republic of South Sudan), an extremely provocative military action. Confirmed bombing attacks occurred on June 9, June 10, June 11 (two attacks), June 13, and July 2. Bombing has also occurred in the Southern states of Northern and Western Bahr el-Ghazal and Warrab. And in Darfur such attacks are as relentless as they have been for more than eight years.
"When boys and girls started arriving at his hospital with missing arms and feet, they were the first casualties of war Dr Tom Catena had seen. ’The injuries are horrifying,’ said the mission doctor who comes from upstate New York, ’a girl with her feet blown off, another with her abdomen sliced open.’ The victims pouring in from the villages in Sudan’s Nuba mountains were being bombed by their own government, he discovered. Grass thatch villages were being turned to charnel houses as an air force dropped bombs from the back of ageing cargo planes."
"The government in Khartoum insists it is targeting armed rebels but the Antonovs it is using are non-military aircraft and are randomly destructive. ’The worst injuries are from the Antonovs,’ said Dr Catena. ’This is my first experience of war and you don’t understand the human toll until you see it. These people are being destroyed for nothing.’ The only qualified doctor in an area with hundreds of thousands people, the mission hospital has about 400 patients. The doctor who arrived recently from mission work in Kenya said he was nervous at first about speaking out as hospitals were targets. ’Why hold back?’ he asked. ’We should show what’s happening, this is the reality.’" (emphasis added)
"Yussef Abdullahi Kuwa reached the hospital in the north of the Kauda Valley on Sunday. The 15-year-old was playing when the bomb hit. He was unable to take cover fast enough and now half his face is missing where hot metal sliced through it. He cannot speak. ’My boy has done nothing to this government, ’ said his father, who took three days to get him to a doctor. ’We are powerless.’ Children with stumps where their hands or feet should be wander around in the hospital. Sixteen-year-old Jakumo lost his left arm after helping his sister with the washing. The children had been told to lie flat when they heard planes but Jakumo forgot. ’I tried to hide behind a tree instead,’ he said. ’But it hit me.’" ("Children With Horrific Wounds Pay Price of Sudan’s Bloody War," [dateline: Nuba Mountains], July 13)
"Thousands of people are sheltering in the clefts and caves of the granite slopes of the Nuba Mountains, where Sudan’s government claims it is fighting a counter-insurgency campaign against armed rebels. Iqbal al-Nur perches on a wooden cot with a baby pressed to her breast in the shadow of an immense stone. ’We took what we could carry and came here to escape the planes,’ she says, pointing to the sky where bombers have been launching an aerial assault across the mountains. ’As long as the bombing continues, we will stay.’"
"Ms Nur, who has four children, fled with the rest of her village to the safety of the mountains. She gave birth to Ambu, who is now one week old, under a rock soon after arriving. A friend who had a child three days later had to be taken hundreds of kilometers away to the nearest doctor after the infant fell ill. ’I am scared Ambu is going to get sick here with the rain and wind,’ says Ms Nur, who admits she is also frightened of snakes. ’I hate it here but we have no way out.’"
"The towns and villages beneath the mountains are deserted. In Tonguli, a thatched roof is splayed on the cratered floor where it was thrown by the blast. A nearby hut has been reduced to a pile of blackened bricks. Others had their walls shredded by shrapnel. One man here was killed when a bomb ripped through his home as he slept last week. The long civil war’s end, which brought independence last week for South Sudan, has meant little in the Nuba Mountains...."
"But in the Tonguli mountains, Hussein al-Amin, the chief of a nearby village, reacts with rage at what was said: ’We have no roads, no schools, no hospitals; this government gave us nothing. Now they bomb us and they keep bombing us even as we run away from our homes.’ He says that refugees from the bombing campaign have come from all over the northern Nuba Mountains and more are arriving every day. Residents from two towns and at least seven villages are living among the rocks. He is concerned about disease and asks if people outside Sudan can ’stop the bombing.’" (emphasis added)
"Like many of the displaced people, Moussa Zeber Ismail comes from the nearest big town, Dalami. The town has witnessed some of the worst fighting since clashes broke out in South Kordofan last month when government forces launched a campaign against Nuban rebels. The town initially fell to the rebels but has since been retaken by forces loyal to Khartoum. ’Everything has been destroyed, you can’t find a school, a shop, a house, anything,’ Ismail, who is a farmer, says. ’They sent Antonovs [bombers] during the day while the fighting was going on. They just threw bombs everywhere, hitting everything, everyone.’ The 54-year-old fled into the bush after seeing a friend sliced in half by shrapnel. ’We hid for 18 days in the bush and then walked here. Up to now, I still don’t know who has been killed and where everyone is,’ he says."
On July 12 Associated Press reported that "the United Nations says staff in Sudan have reported heavy aerial bombardment in South Kordofan State in recent days." What has gone insufficiently remarked is that these attacks serve as a powerful recruiting tool for the SPLM/A North, which has already more than held its own against SAF forces in ground combat, and this augurs a long war. Agence France-Presse reports from the Nuba Mountains (July 17):
"But despite the army’s relentless bombing campaign over the past six weeks, the insurgency shows no sign of weakening, with the SPLA claiming to control much of the ethnically divided state and the new recruits swelling its ranks. Some are young, but many are older, like Abdullah, a middle-aged travel agent from Kadugli who volunteered after fleeing the heavy fighting in the state capital last month, along with 10 friends, four of whom were killed along the way."
"’I lost so many in Kadugli. First, one of us was gunned down by a Dushka (anti-aircraft machine gun). Then, when we were carrying him, two more were killed by an aerial bomb. Another was killed on the way here,’ he says. Others tell similar stories. Aut Maliga was a farmer in the Nuba town of Kurchi, southeast of Kadugli, where five bombs were dropped on a market on 26 June. ’I joined the SPLA because I lost so many friends in the bombing, my best friends,’ he says. Numerous local sources have confirmed that the air strikes on Kurchi destroyed the market and killed at least 16 civilians, including eight women and children. Another 32 people were hospitalized."
The extent and sustained nature of the bombing campaign, like so many of the actions reported here, bespeak significant advance planning: it is simply not possible to conclude that what is occurring is anything but a well-organized campaign that has as its animating ambition the destruction of the Nuba people and all support for the SPLM/A, North and South. The fact of such advance planning has critical implications in assessing the legal character of these atrocity crimes.
South Kordofan "De-coupled"?
What, then, are we to make of the tepid and wholly ineffective response by the Obama administration to what all evidence suggests is genocide in South Kordofan? Have senior officials silently decided that in continuing negotiations with Khartoum, Abyei and the Nuba Mountains will be "de-coupled,” as Darfur was "de-coupled" last November in the putative interest of securing peace for South Sudan? Of course there is a deeply false premise implicit in such thinking, to say nothing of its moral obscenity. As most informed observers realize, the broader center-periphery conflicts that are so variously ramified throughout Sudan have too often provided Khartoum with diplomatic leverage: narrow international focus on one problem (whether South Sudan, Darfur, or again South Sudan) gives a green light to Khartoum for abusing and assaulting the marginalized areas not the focus of negotiations. This is the diplomatic complement to the regime’s well-tested policies of dividing and weakening politically (and ultimately militarily) opposition to its tyranny. Abyei and South Kordofan are fully intelligible only if this dynamic is borne in mind.
But if such "de-coupling" has indeed been decided on, we are not likely to hear it explicitly acknowledged publicly, as a senior administration official did last November in speaking about Darfur. And so far, one must concede this earlier "de-coupling" has been managed deftly, so much so that it has gone unnoticed by even many presumably informed commentators. The New York Times, for example, recently concluded its editorial on the new Republic of South Sudan by declaring:
"The Obama administration, correctly, is not taking Sudan off its terrorism list and normalizing relations until Khartoum fulfills the peace deal and ends the conflict in Darfur."
But this is simply inaccurate. Last November a senior administration official explicitly and publicly "de-coupled" the genocide in Darfur (Obama’s ongoing characterization) and the issue of Khartoum’s longstanding place on the US State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring nations. This official (identified in the State Department transcript only as "Senior Administration Official Two") declared:
"One [of two new elements in U.S. Sudan policy] was to indicate that the U.S. was prepared to accelerate the removal of Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list if the Government of Sudan did two things. One is to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and two, to live up to all of the legal conditions required under law for Sudan to be taken off the state sponsors list. By doing this, we would also be decoupling the state sponsor of terrorism from Darfur and from the Darfur issue." [emphasis added]
The New York Times missed this and ended up by making a key claim that is simply wrong, an error that I pointed out to the Times but which they chose not to acknowledge, either by printing my (or another) letter or offering a correction to its readers. To be sure, the Times has a long tradition of weak editorials on Sudan, with a strong penchant for dodging difficult questions. But this is outright error, and reflects how badly too much of American journalism has followed Sudan’s complexities and the details of U.S. policy.
More broadly, the Obama administration seems not to appreciate the scale of ongoing human suffering and ongoing destruction in Darfur, much of it directly consequent upon Khartoum’s construal of just what was meant by the Obama administration decision to "de-couple" Darfur and its people. This occurred even as the agony of Darfuris continues relentlessly. (Those interested in understanding just how terrible conditions are for civilians, especially the more than 2 million displaced civilians in camps, can do no better than to read the daily accounts that come from Radio Dabanga. A substantial compendium of recent reports from Radio Dabanga can be found here).
Given the pronounced tendency to expediency that has been evident for more than two years in the Sudan policy of the Obama administration, particularly on the part of former special envoy Scott Gration, it seems more than reasonable to ask whether in celebrating the independence of South Sudan, and engaging only narrowly on outstanding issues between North and South, Obama officials have done and said all they intend to, at least with a seriousness that could change attitudes in Khartoum. Abyei is already lost to the South; even with temporary deployment of an Ethiopian brigade (notably, and unusually, without a human rights mandate), Khartoum retains de facto military control of the region, and there are no prospects for more than 120,000 Dinka Ngok to return to their homeland. Khartoum has already threatened war if South Sudan does anything to reclaim Abyei, or even the self-determination referendum guaranteed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, now an agreement the Obama administration is prepared to see selectively implemented.
South Kordofan stands on the precipice, and there seems little to prevent its tipping over. And looming as the next crisis point in Sudan is Blue Nile, also in North Sudan, where war, if it comes, simply won’t be contained. It is not clear that anyone in the Obama administration is thinking seriously about the acute threat posed by recent military developments in this remote region, even as SPLM member and governor of Blue Nile Malik Agar has warned that war becomes increasingly likely as fighting in South Kordofan continues.
The UN in South Kordofan
The first recommendation of the UNMIS human rights report is the only one that matters: if it is not followed, the others will be meaningless, given Khartoum’s insistence that UNMIS remove all personnel from the North, including South Kordofan (remaining personnel have, UN officials in New York have declared, no continuing mandate---even to protect civilians killed before their very eyes):
"[The authors of this UN human rights report recommend] that the UN Security Council mandates the establishment of a commission of inquiry or other appropriate investigative authority, including the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the violence in Southern Kordofan and violations of human rights and humanitarian laws and to identify the perpetrators or those who bear the greatest responsibility, with the view to bringing them to justice." (§75.1)
This recommendation that a "commission of inquiry" be established will receive broad international support, largely because it does not have a chance of being authorized by the Security Council, given the certainty of a Chinese veto. Indeed, we should recall Beijing’s recent comment on North Sudan’s place in the world. Reuters reports (July 13):
"The world should recognize the efforts made by Sudan in bringing peace to its southern region, now an independent state, and normalize relations with Khartoum, state media on Thursday quoted a senior Chinese diplomat as saying." (dateline: Beijing)
This does not sound like a warm-up for authorizing a non-consensual human rights investigation, even if the issue is accelerating genocide, with indisputable evidence of large mass graves capable of holding many thousands of bodies, and a great many thousands of Nuba unaccounted for.
But instead of focusing on the enormously challenging task of how to obtain on-the-ground confirmation of what has been so substantially and variously reported by many authoritative sources, UN officials and other international actors indulge in rhetorical posturing with no real entailments:
"Ban Ki-moon [while in Khartoum] urged the Sudanese Government to put place mechanisms to ensure that humanitarian operations can continue in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and added that UN personnel need unfettered access." (UN News Center, July 15, 2011)
More to the point would have been an urging that Khartoum halt its war on humanitarian operations---in Darfur and South Kordofan. The notion that the regime conducting this terrible war of attrition will "put in place mechanisms to ensure humanitarian operations can continue" is simply a means to avoid speaking about the real nature of the crisis. In fact, the regime has recently threatened to expel all humanitarian workers and operations, from both South Kordofan and Darfur:
"[A]n official in Khartoum’s ruling party, Gudbi-Al Mahadi, has accused aid agencies of giving logistical support to the rebels, the pro-government Sudanese Media Centre (SMC) reports. He warned the agencies that they risked ’legal penalties’ and expulsion, SMC said." (BBC News Africa, July 13)
"North Sudan’s secretary for the political sector threatened Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) operating in Kordofan and Darfur with penalties or expulsion on Monday. Gudbi-Al Mahadi of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is reported by the pro-Khartoum Sudanese Media Centre as threatening NGOs with ’legal penalties’ and ’halting of activities’ as some were ’found providing logistical support to insurgents.’ No evidence was provided to support the allegations against the NGOs. But officials from the ruling party said they do not want a repeat in South Kordofan of the large humanitarian presence and the creation of camps for the displaced civilians, as has happened in Darfur." ("Khartoum threatens NGOs in South Kordofan and Darfur with expulsion," Sudan Tribune, July 11)
The Observer also reports today on a second confidential UN human rights report, which I have not seen but which seems to comport with the one more widely leaked. It speaks specifically to the issue of Khartoum’s obstruction of relief aid:
"A second report details how ’active obstruction by state authorities (in South Kordofan) has completely undermined the ability of the peacekeeping force, UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), to fulfill the most basic requirements of its mandate’ in the Nuba region. The report says the humanitarian assistance and protection provided by UNMIS have become ’inconsequential’ as it prepares to leave Sudan, at Khartoum’s insistence, by 31 July." (July 16, 2011)
Given the terrible precedent of Khartoum’s expulsion of thirteen of the world’s most distinguished humanitarian organizations in March 2009, it would be foolish not to see the strong possibility of linkage between international action on South Kordofan and the fate of the vast humanitarian operation in Darfur on which more than 3 million people depend. Khartoum is in effect threatening relief efforts in Darfur if the regime is pressed too hard on South Kordofan; the regime counts on the international community accepting such a quid pro quo, as it has on so many other occasions.
Members of the Security Council are equally facile and irrelevant, "call[ing] on the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s northern sector to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities" in South Kordofan (emphasis added). No mention is made in this "call" of the fact that al-Bashir and his security cabal have withdrawn from the "framework agreement" they signed in Addis Ababa on June 28, in which a cessation of hostilities agreement was indeed the primary agenda item:
"Al-Bashir’s decision yesterday [July 6] to quit negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to end clashes in the north’s only oil producing state, Southern Kordofan, dashed chances of a quick cease-fire. The fighting in Southern Kordofan, which borders Southern Sudan, started when Sudanese troops tried to disarm members of the Nuba ethnic group who fought alongside the southern army during the civil war, according to Southern Sudan’s ruling party. Al-Bashir and his governor in Southern Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, are wanted by the International Criminal Court over allegations they were involved in war crimes in Darfur."
"Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir quit talks in Ethiopia to end clashes in the northern oil- producing state of Southern Kordofan, two days before South Sudan becomes independent. ’There will be no more negotiations outside Sudan,’ Al- Bashir told a rally today in White Nile state in a speech televised live on the state Sudan TV station." (Bloomberg News, July 7)
"Bashir warned the north would hold no more foreign talks on solving internal conflicts such as violence in the northern border state of South Kordofan where the army is fighting armed groups allied to the south. Leaders of north and south had agreed on Monday in Ethiopia to continue talks on a series of issues both sides need yet to solve such as ending tensions in South Kordofan. ’After the betrayal in South Kordofan [the SPLM/North] come and want to hold talks.... But we will not hold any talks in Addis Ababa or elsewhere with those who take up arms,’ he said. North Sudan would not sign any more international agreements after it wrapped up a peace accord later this month with a small group in the western region of Darfur...." (emphasis added; Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 7, 2011)
Does anyone at the UN understand the meaning of the word "intransigence"? This seems an important question since it is Khartoum’s signature negotiating posture. No one seems willing to speak the truth about why there is nothing happening in Addis, even as nothing is gained by pretending the regime is anything but what is has repeatedly demonstrated itself to be.
A last chance for the "responsibility to protect"
UNMIS has been terribly ineffective over the past six and a half years, as has UNAMID in Darfur since it officially took up is mandate on January 1, 2008. At a cost of more than $2 billion per year, the international community has had a right to expect a great deal more from these two operations and from the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The humanitarian side of the UN in Sudan is just as bad in its leadership, especially Valerie Amos and the head of UN humanitarian operations in Sudan, Georg Charpentier. Both have contributed significantly to the invisibility of Darfur’s ongoing agony. But ultimately the real power to act effectively, or not, lies with the UN Security Council, and herein lies the obvious rub. The U.S. and other member states know that any resolution authorizing an intrusive or nonconsensual human rights investigation will be vetoed by China. The question, then, is what can be done in the face of such an obviously broken mechanism for responding to international crises, including incipient genocide?
First, the U.S. that must decide---with as much help as possible from the Europeans, the Canadians, from Latin American countries, and from any African allies that can be found---that is will bring a resolution authorizing a robust and urgent UN human rights investigation, and thus compel China to veto it (something Beijing much prefers to threaten than actually exercise, for self-serving reasons). And then the resolution should be brought again, modified as necessary to secure a second Security Council debate (Germany is President of the Security Council this month, and we should assume the Germans will strongly support efforts to investigate widespread and compelling evidence of genocide). China will be forced to veto this second resolution, bringing an important clarity to the diplomatic and political situation.
The utter futility of Security Council action would then be the backdrop for a nonconsensual investigation of atrocity crimes in South Kordofan, one without UN auspices. If genocide or crimes against humanity are found, as they quickly will be, the entire world will again face the same question that was before it in April 1994, when Roméo Dallaire made his well-known plea for 5,000 men to give the UN enough leverage to end the Rwandan genocide. But we are not looking at 100 days of slaughter; rather, the real concern must be for how to stop Khartoum’s grim extermination by starvation and denial of humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains, coupled with aerial bombing that is destroying the current agricultural cycle. The killing of Nuba in Kadugli is winding down: people are already dead or have fled to the countryside or to the South.
Those nations and organizations that have in the past supported the idea of a "responsibility to protect" endangered civilians, unprotected or attacked by their own government, must decide whether this much-touted ideal really means something, and if so, what it entails in circumstances like those presently threatening the Nuba people in South Kordofan. Darfur is a recent and defining example of the failure of the "responsibility to protect": the conflict and genocidal destruction began well before the UN World Summit Outcome Document was issued in September 2005---and continues 6 years after all member states of the UN declared that they were…
"...prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case by case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law." (UN World Summit "outcome document" on "the responsibility to protect," Paragraph 139)
Darfur would seem to have sounded the death knell for any meaningful commitment to the "responsibility to protect," but South Kordofan offers one last opportunity. Real hope, however, seems entirely unwarranted.
*Eric Reeves has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide.
US military chief also points to US efforts to create missile defense architecture in Eastern Europe to defend against Iranian capabilities.
WASHINGTON – The outgoing head of America’s armed forces warned Monday about the growing ties between Iran and Venezuela and said the US is monitoring the burgeoning relationship.
Referring to criticism in Congress leveled at Venezuela recently because of its relationship with Iran, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “I certainly share their concern in terms of Venezuela’s links to Iran, which have been there for a significant amount of time and are growing.”
Noting that the US has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terror, Mullen added, “We pay a lot of attention to what they’re doing around the world.”
In his briefing with the foreign press, Mullen also pointed to US efforts to create a missile defense architecture in Eastern Europe to defend against Iranian capabilities, which he said Tehran has invested in increasing.
Mullen recently stopped in Israel while returning from a trip to the region, and he said Monday that he came away from that visit reassured that Israel is working assiduously to overcome the recent tensions with Turkey so that the military coordination between the two countries can continue.
“I was reassured by the Israeli leadership that they’re working to strengthen the ties with Turkey.
That’s a significant relationship that is long-standing,” he said.
Relations between the two countries, including between the two militaries, have deteriorated since the Islamic AK Party has come to power and were then intensified by the efforts of a Turkish-flagged flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza last year, which left nine Turks dead at the hands of the IDF.
Mullen said that despite recent developments, the relations between the two countries endure.
“I don’t see anything that would indicate that they don’t exist or wouldn’t in the future [at least] to some degree,” he said.
America, too, faces a fraught relationship with a long-time ally in the region – Pakistan – and Mullen, who has invested a tremendous amount of personal and professional attention to nurturing ties with the country, acknowledged the US has a challenge in working with Islamabad.
“We’re in a very difficult time right now with respect to our military to military relationship,” he said.
But he continued, “I don’t believe we’re close to severing it and we shouldn’t do that. I think sustaining that relationship is critical. We’ve been through difficult times with them in the past. We should see this difficult time through.”
As With So Many Things, When It Comes To The Natural Environment Those In Charge Not Up To The Task At Hand
The Faustian bargain – while we debate the numbers, the planet suffers
Speaking on the ABC, Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate science advisor of the German Government, made a point even the least-informed should be able to understand. “Our body temperature is about 37 degrees. If you increase it by two degrees, 39, you have fever. If you add four degrees…
“Our body temperature is about 37 degrees. If you increase it by two degrees, 39, you have fever. If you add four degrees, it is 41 – you are dead, more or less."
When in the early 80s “economic rationalism” assumed an overarching value in western societies, a rhetoric question arose: what is the price of the Earth?
The question is no longer rhetoric. The spectacle of people haggling over dollars vis-à-vis the future of the Earth’s atmosphere-ocean system is a Faustian bargain not dreamt by science fiction writers. It hardly conceals the increasing extraction of every available carbon source from the ground, including coal, oil, oil shale, tar sand, gas and coal seam gas.
Global emission reduction targets, ranging from 40% relative to 1990 by Germany, to 5% relative to 2000 in Australia, would still allow mean global temperatures to rise by three or four degrees Celsius later in the century.
This will drive a major shift in climate zones, disrupt river flow, raise sea levels on the scale of meters and lead to heat waves, fires and storms.
Climate science focuses on the non-linear nature of climate change where, once critical temperature thresholds are crossed, warming is amplified by feedbacks from melting ice, opening water surfaces, release of methane from permafrost and from polar sediments, leading to tipping points.
According to NASA’s projections, “Goals to limit human-made warming to two degrees Celsius and COâ‚‚ to 450 parts per million are not sufficient – they are prescriptions for disaster”
“Rapid reduction of fossil fuel emissions is required for humanity to succeed in preserving a planet resembling the one on which civilization developed.”
The disruption of the carbon and oxygen cycles, which act as the “lungs of the biosphere” is raising COâ‚‚ and other greenhouse gases to levels close to that of 16 million years ago and is increasing at a rate unprecedented in geological history (with the exception of global volcanic and asteroid impact events which led to mass extinction of species).
A fundamental change in the global climate regime ensues in a permanent state of El-Niño, such as existed before three million years ago. At that stage the decline of polar-sourced cold currents resulted in a stable equatorial warm pool and the demise of the La-Niña phase. An intensification of the hydrological cycle leads to extreme weather events, increasing around the world.
An acceleration in the rate of sea level rise is projected by an increase in the melt rate of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
According to lead IPCC authors, the “climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1000 years after emissions stop.”
A dumbing down of the political and media discussion to the dollar price of carbon reflects years of cover-up on the scientific measurements and direct observations of climate change around the world.
An irrelevant discourse ensues between those willing to undertake symbolic action and those who deny the science altogether.
Had the science been afforded a correct publicity in the Australian media, the current political and economic fury would be seen in their true perspective and the real meaning of a world three to four degrees warmer would be understood.
[According to Schellnhuber],(http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/aug/06/environment.climatechange) “We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet."
What is required is what has never been done before in human history – a plan for the future.
The window of opportunity to turn the climate trend around will close unless a coordinated global effort is made to reduce emissions and a technological breakthrough is made to draw down atmospheric COâ‚‚.
Sweet Wine Drinkers Might Not Wear Panties, New Research on Tasters' Preferences Shows
July 8, 2011
Surveys of wine drinkers carried out by Cornell professor Virginia Utermohlen, M.D, and Master of Wine Tim Hanni, indicate that people with very sensitive palates are also more sensitive to light, sound, taste and touch. The touch aspect can be significant in their clothing, as the manufacturers' tags irritate their skin and cause them to wear underclothing inside out, or in many cases, none at all. "When I do my tasting panels, this subject gets the most attention, but it is similar to asking if the groups prefer black coffee or with cream and sugar."
"People often argue about the characteristics they perceive in a wine," Hanni says. "It's as though they're not tasting the same thing -- even experts tasting from the same bottle. These variables are evident in a spectrum of attitudes and behaviors -- from the volume on television, temperature in a room, use of spices or the sheets in the bed."
Utermohlen and Hanni have conducted hundreds of Taste Sensitivity Quotient studies, interviewing wine groups concerning their palatal sensitivity. "People who love sweet or delicate wines are typically what we call Sweet or Hypersensitive tasters. They live with vivid sensations that people at the other end of the spectrum cannot imagine and will often prefer Moscato wines. Those more tolerant tasters would prefer wines with more tannins, for example."
Hanni asserts that he is more convinced than ever that the way to globally expand wine sales and promote a greater diversity of wine styles will come from the wine community learning to celebrate the diversity of wine consumer tastes and deepen our understanding of individual consumer preferences.
"The industry may not be prepared to accept these findings," Hanni added, "it could put their panties in a twist!"