Focal Points Blog

Al Nusra’s Plan to Frame the Assad Regime Backfired

Chemical weapon in Syria

At Truthout, in a piece titled New Data Raise Further Doubt on Official View of August 21 Gas Attack in Syria, Gareth Porter writes about the August 2013 sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

What is now known about the attack makes it highly questionable that only the government side had the capability to carry out the August 21 attack. The exaggerated numbers of sarin patients admitted by hospitals, the dubious data on symptoms from those supposedly most affected, and the new evidence that the attack was much less lethal than believed at first are all consistent with a sarin attack that a determined rebel group such as Al Nusra could have carried out.

Read the article to find out the eye-opening details of the three points mentioned in the second sentence. It’s becoming apparent that Al Nusra’s attempt to frame the Assad regime and lure the West into attacking it has backfired. Seems like what began as the definitive justification to launch an attack on Syria ― the Assad regime’s savagery ― turned into an embodiment of the reason against military intervention: that it would benefit Al Nusra, which has demonstrated the same propensity for war crimes as Assad.

Haqqanistan

The Haqqanis, son and father

The Haqqanis, son and father

Yesterday Truthout posted a new article by Anand Gopal titled The Unreported Story of How the Haqqani Network Became America’s Greatest Enemy. Before reading and digesting with the intent to post about it, it might be useful to revisit a post of mine from September 2011 titled Escaping Haqqanistan:

Brutal Haqqani Crime Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan is the unusually colorful title of a New York Times article by Mark Mazzetti, Scott Shane, and Alissa J. Rubin. They write that the Haqqani network — separate from, but affiliated with, the Taliban — is “the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan” according to “American intelligence and military officials.” It’s effectively a crime syndicate — “the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war” according to Mazzetti, et al. Yet it’s as brutal as a serial killer: this year alone, for instance, the Haqqanis are responsible for the attacks in Kabul on the Intercontinental Hotel and the U.S. embassy.
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From Democracy to Veto-cracy: Destabilizing World Politics

Egyptian protests

When certain eligible voters, be they representing the majority or the minority, cannot afford to wait for the next election to remove the incumbent leaders or have no trust in plebiscite at all, and betake themselves to mobilize crowds to throttle a policy, to paralyze the administration, or to topple the legitimately elected government boldly, it is not just a threat to this democratic state’s internal stability but may also destabilize the world order if such a “veto-cracy” is becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

The recent emergence of vetocracy in many democratic states is rooted in the long-time irreversible minority position held by certain ethnic, religious, regional or economic interest groups there. When one or more of these groups have realized that it is difficult or almost impossible to access to governmental authority or undo a policy which is not in their favor, they resort to mass rallies or street protests to have their demands heard.
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Israel Projects Its Own Nuclear Behavior on to Iran

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel

In a story that seems to have gone unremarked upon by other journalist, on March 31 at Inter Press Service, Gareth Porter reported:

The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement.

In fact, though, the Obama administration had “seemed to suggest that some kind of Iranian admission to past nuclear weapons work is a condition for a final agreement.” But, its “rhetoric on resolving IAEA claims of a nuclear weapons programme appears to be less about forcing Iran to confess than responding to pressures from Israel and its supporters in the United States.” 
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Roma Youth Organize in Slovakia

Roma Youth

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

It wasn’t easy to find Kecerovce. I missed the turnoff on the road leading out of Kosice, the main city in eastern Slovakia. One of the clerks at the gas station where I stopped for directions had never heard of the place, and the other one didn’t know how to get there. I eventually retraced my steps, found the right exit, and drove deep into the Slovak countryside.

Kecerovce is a village of more than 3,000 people, but there isn’t much of a downtown. At the central crossroads, I parked my car in front of the municipal building. Across the road on one side was a pub. On the other side was a small grocery and general store. I did a little exploring and found another pub and a couple churches.

The Slovak government has had a plan on the books for a couple decades to build a nuclear power plant near Kecerovce. Otherwise, the prospects for economic development in the area are bleak. The village is more than 90 percent Roma.
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Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the U.S. Ever Backed

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Image Wikimedia Commons

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Image Wikimedia Commons

In yet another definitive piece for the New Yorker titled What We Left Behind, Dexter Filkins writes about Iraq today, especially Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who the United States helped install. Many Americans blame Iraqis for killing their fellow citizens simply because they’re of a different sect of Islam. But we need to remember: besides perpetrating a huge amount of the violence ourselves, by invading Iraq the United States effectively freed an evil genie ― excuse any cultural insensitivity the metaphor may conjure up ― out of its bottle. When it subsequently rampaged across the land wreaking death and destruction, the United States took little responsibility for catching it and stuffing it back in.

The best that can be said for the United States is that when it left Iraq, the murderous sectarian strife between the Sunnis and Shiites had lowered in intensity. But Shiites have been protesting against Maliki’s Shiite government and he has responded with a heavy hand that has sparked violence on a scale that harkens back to the worst of when the U.S. was still there.
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Five Ways the Myth That Iran Was Developing Nuclear Weapons Was Hyped

Arak nuclear reactor in Iran

Arak nuclear reactor in Iran

More and more men and women are either born with a talent for, or are developing skill in, technical matters, especially computer hardware and software. With those capabilities now widespread, it’s odd that more people don’t take the time to acquaint themselves with the technical issues surrounding Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program. While the issues may be somewhat daunting to non-technical types such as this author ― though certainly not beyond our capacity to understand with a little effort ― they’re easy for the technically gifted. True, they’re on the dry side, but it can’t be any more tedious than trying to figure out how to draw more clicks to an ad.
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From Grozny to Crimea: Russia Learns to Finesse Military Intervention

ukraine

“Western experts,” reports Michael Gordon in the New York Times on April 21, see Russia’s military, “disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union,” now “skillfully employing 21st-century tactics” in East Ukraine “that combine cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops to seize the initiative from the West.”

Many were initially caught off-guard when “the Russians used a so-called snap military exercise to distract attention and hide their preparations. … specially trained troops, without identifying patches, moved quickly to secure key installations. 
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U.S. and Saudi Arabia: A Loveless Marriage

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Obama

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Obama

Cross-posted from OtherWords.

Among the would-be therapists of the foreign policy world, the alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia is a textbook case of a “loveless marriage.”

Though the values of the two states are at odds, or so the thinking goes, the great democracy and the absolute monarchy are bound together by mutual interest in the stability of the Persian Gulf, home to almost half of the world’s proven oil and natural gas reserves.

Defenders of this coupling argue that Saudi transgressions—human rights violations, sectarian rhetoric, funding of radical Islamist groups — should be forgiven for the sake of long-term happiness. This strategy amounts to a “never go to bed angry” diplomacy theory.
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German Activism: Bridging the East-West Divide

Eva Quistorp

Eva Quistorp

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the West European peace and environmental movement reached out, tentatively at first and then more vigorously, to the dissident groups in Eastern Europe. Nowhere was this more evident than in West Germany. The Green Party, established in 1979, integrated the peace and environmental agendas and cultivated links with the emerging independent peace movement in East Germany. Much later, in 1993, the German Greens and the East German citizens movements created a political alliance that continues today. Alliance 90/The Greens currently occupy 10 percent of the seats in the Bundestag.

Eva Quistorp, a co-founder of the German Greens, was a driving force behind the east-west dialogue. She visited Prague in 1968 and later worked with members of Charter 77 and Solidarity. In 1980, she co-founded Women for Peace, which had chapters on both side of the east-west divide. She also co-founded European Nuclear Disarmament (END), which aspired to be pan-European and rid both sides of the continent of nuclear weapons.
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