US airstrikes in Yemen aimed at controlling resources: Analyst

A political analyst says the United States drone strikes in Yemen are aimed at terrorizing the nation in order to get the upper hand on the country’s oil resources and military bases, Press TV reports.

In an exclusive interview with Press TV on Saturday, Ralph Schoenman, author and political commentator in Berkeley, said the US airstrikes are mostly targeting civilian areas and the victims have been mostly civilians.

“…These airstrikes are on civilians and on cars that are driven by people who are in no way connected to political activity. In fact, 849 people who have been killed have been simply civilians who have no connection other than they are hostile to the United States as is most of the population,” he said.

The analyst said that the US so-called war on terror “is a war for expanding US and Israeli control of the region for provoking new wars” in the region.

Schoenman noted that Yemen sits across the strategically crucial Gulf of Aden and commands the Bab el Mandeb Strait, which controls access to the Red Sea.

“…The United States has long term plans to build three military bases in Yemen in order to strengthen America’s military presence in the country,” he said, adding: “…As the Yemen Times reported, 35 international companies are jockeying for access to 20 new oil extraction sites in the country. That is what this is really about with respect to Yemen.”

The US has launched numerous drone attacks in Yemen killing many innocent civilians over the past few years.

Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the airstrikes.

(Source / 17.08.2013)

Ex-detainees ‘can’t move freely’

NABLUS (Ma’an) – Israeli authorities have given veteran Palestinian prisoners released Tuesday maps showing the places and streets they can go to within their own cities, says a freed prisoner.

Samir Naneesh from Nablus in the northern West Bank had been detained in May 1989 and was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was convicted of killing an Israeli soldier by throwing a stone at him.

He told Ma’an Thursday that the Israelis warned him and all freed prisoners that they would be detained again if they do not adhere with certain instructions the Israelis gave them.

According to Naneesh, freed prisoners shouldn’t leave their cities or participate in any demonstrations or activities against Israel’s security. Violators will be taken back to prison, he added.

The Fatah-affiliated veteran prisoner highlighted during a reception organized by the movement in Nablus that his release was a dream he awaited impatiently.

Naneesh’s parents died while he was in custody.

“I was surprised most when I saw how my nephews and nieces have matured. Dozens of boys and girls have become men and women, and I thought they were still children.”

He added: “I have my own plans for the future. First, I would like to get married and build a family like other citizens, then I will think of next stage.”

(Source / 17.08.2013)

Red Cross concerned over hunger-striking Palestinians

JERUSALEM (AFP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Saturday it is “extremely concerned” over the health of seven hunger-striking Palestinians held by Israel.

“The ICRC is particularly worried about Imad Abdelaziz Abdallah Al Batran, who has been on hunger strike for several weeks,” the ICRC said in a statement.

Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said Batran’s life was at “immediate risk unless the detaining authorities find a prompt solution”.

The Red Cross added any solution must take into account that detainees cannot be forced to be fed or receive medical treatment.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, Batran, who was being held by Israel in administrative detention, has been refusing food since May 5.

Under what Israel calls “administrative detention,” suspects can be imprisoned without trial by order of a military court.

The order can be renewed indefinitely for six months at a time.

Club spokesman Amani Sarahna told AFP Batran had been suffering medical conditions prior to his detention that had since worsened.

Sarahna said there were currently eight Palestinians held by Israel on hunger strike, some long-term prisoners and others detainees, including one who had recently began refusing food.

He said they were being held in Israeli hospitals and not prisons.

(Source / 17.08.2013)

Here are the top 10 American corporations profiting from Egypt’s military

The US government gives Egypt $1.3 billion a year. Egypt then uses that money to buy weapons from US corporations.

The irony is thick: Obama calls on Egypt’s interim government to stop its bloody crackdown on protesters, but continues to give it $1.3 billion a year in military aid.


For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of US foreign military aid, receiving everything from F-16s to teargas grenades.

So who are the companies reaping the benefits?

The list below were the 10 biggest US Defense contracts involving direct military aid to Egypt from 2009 to 2011, according to The Institute for Southern Studies.

See the table at the bottom of the page for full details of the contracts.


1. Lockheed Martin

Amount: $259 million


USAF F-16C.

In 2010, Lockheed Martin provided Egypt with 20 F-16s as well as night vision sensor systems for Apache helicopters. Lockheed Martin is the biggest beneficiary of US government defense contracts — receiving a record $36 billion in 2008.

Globally, Lockheed Martin is one of the largest defense contractors. Seventy-four percent of its revenues come from military sales.



2. DRS Technologies

Amount: $65.7 million

The US Army contracted this US-operated, Italian-owned military services company to provide vehicles, surveillance hardware and other resources to Egypt in December 2010.



3. L-3 Communication Ocean Systems

Amount: $31.3 million

L3 Communications provided the Egyptian government with a $24.7 million sonar system and military imaging equipment.



4. Deloitte Consulting

Amount: $28.1 million


Deloitte, the world’s second largest professional services firm, won a $28.1 million Navy contract to provide planning and support for Egyptian aircraft programs.


5. Boeing

Amount: $22.8 million


An Egyptian army Apache helicopter flies over a crowd of pro-military demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo on July 26, 2013.

While most people know Boeing for it’s commercial flights, it is also the second largest defense contractor in the world.

Boeing won a $22.5 million Army contract in 2010 to provide Egypt with 10 Apache helicopters. The Aerospace also received a contract to provide logistics support to Egypt.


6. Raytheon

Amount: $31.6 million


In 2010, Raytheon gave the Egyptian military 264 moths of Hawk missile systems training.

The world’s largest guided missiles provider gave Egypt and Turkey 178 STINGER missiles, missile launch systems and 264 months of technical support for the Hawk missile system.



7. AgustaWestland

Amount: $17.3 million


An Apache helicopter flies over a crowd of protesters in Cairo on July 26, 2013.

AgustaWestland — also owned by the same Italian company that operates DRS Technologies — secured a contract to provide helicopter maintenance for the Egyptian government.



8. US Motor Works

Amount: $14.5 million


An Armored Personnel Carrier stationed on a street in Cairo on July 4, 2013.

US Motor Works landed a $14.5 million contract in 2009 to provide engines and spare parts for the Egyptian Armament Authority.



9. Goodrich Corp.

Amount: $10.8 million

The US Air Force and Goodrich brokered a $10.8 million contract to obtain and distribute reconnaissance systems for the F-16 jets the Egyptian Air Force uses.


10. Columbia Group

Amount: $10.6 million


A Knox class frigate, with the flag of Egyptian Navy.

Columbia Group provides $10.6 million-worth of unmanned vehicle systems, along with technical training, to the Egyptian Navy.


uscontractorsegypt
(Source / 17.08.2013)

Brotherhood spokesperson denies justifying church attacks

Ahmed Aref, official spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood, has denied claims by presidential adviser Mostafa Hegazy that he justified assaults on Egypt’s churches.

Dozens of churches across Egypt have been attacked over the past two days, part of a severe spike in violence following the dispersals of pro-Morsy sit-ins at Cairo’s al-Nahda and Rabaa al-Adaweya squares. The attacks are widely believed to have been carried out by supporters of President Mohamed Morsy.

On his Facebook page, Aref said Hegazy had appropriated statements attributed to Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Beltagy in which he accused Jama’a al-Islamiya of burning the churches. Aref added that Hegazy also accused him of justifying assaults on churches.

Aref emphasized his rejection of violence towards Egypt’s Christian community.

“On a personal level, I am one of the people who studied my country’s ancient language [Coptic]. I also studied the Holy Bible and its theology. I have long standing ties with different church priests in Egypt and outside it. We condemn this sort of violence and do not accept it or employ it. We do not ignore it, let alone justify it. We know this is a security ploy that is plain as day.”

Hegazy held a press conference at the presidency on Saturday in which he accused Brotherhood supporters of carrying weapons in their march on 15 May Bridge.

(Source / 17.08.2013)

Demolition in the desert: Israel destroys Bedouin village for 54th time

Bedouin women from al-Turi family sit next to their destroyed homes in the village of al-Akarib in the Negev Desert (AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)

Bedouin women from al-Turi family sit next to their destroyed homes in the village of al-Akarib in the Negev Desert

Israeli authorities destroyed the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib for the 54th time in the last three years on Thursday, as the country struggles to relocate Bedouins in the Negev desert to specially built towns.

Forces arrived at Al-Araqib carrying arms and batons as bulldozers tore down homes, resident Aziz al-Turi told Palistinain news agency Ma’an.

Another resident, Maher Abu Qreinat, said that homes and other structures were pulled down in the Negev village of Abu Qreinat on the same day.

The Israeli government approved the Prawer-Begin Bill in January, calling for the relocation 30,000-40,000 Bedouins and the demolition of about 40 villages which the Jewish state considers to be illegal.

The bill was approved by the country’s parliament, the Knesset, during its first reading in June. Two additional votes are expected to take place.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously said that the move would “put an end to the spread of illegal building by Negev Bedouin and lead to the better integration of the Bedouin into Israeli society.”

The Bedouins refuse to be relocated, saying they purchased their land in the Negev desert before the establishment of the state of Israel. However, they say the agreements were verbal ones – and there is no way to prove their ownership of the territory.

 

Protesters confront Israeli's riots police during a demonstration against Israeli government's plans to resettle Bedouins in the Negev desert on August 1, 2013 in the Arab Israeli city of Ar'Ara, north of Israel (AFP Photo / Jack Guez)Protesters confront Israeli’s riots police during a demonstration against Israeli government’s plans to resettle Bedouins in the Negev desert on August 1, 2013 in the Arab Israeli city of Ar’Ara, north of Israel

Amnesty International called on Israel to stop “demolitions of Arab Bedouin homes” after Israeli forces performed a previous raid on Al-Araqib in July.

“The Israeli government’s Prawer-Begin plan would lead to the forced eviction of tens of thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel,” Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said. “The plan is inherently discriminatory, flies in the face of Israel’s international obligations and cannot be accepted in any circumstances.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also slammed the bill in July, urging Israel to reconsider its plans to relocate the Bedouin to officially recognized towns such as Rahat, Khura, and Ksayfe.

“If this bill becomes law, it will accelerate the demolition of entire Bedouin communities, forcing them to give up their homes, denying them their rights to land ownership, and decimating their traditional cultural and social life in the name of development,” he said.

There are around 210,000 Bedouins in Israel, most of whom live in and around the Negev desert in the southern part of the country. More than half of them reside in unrecognized villages which lack basic infrastructure. Many Bedouins also live in extreme poverty.

The Israeli government said it would grant legal status “as much as possible” to the currently unrecognized Negev villages if they meet minimum population criteria – but those requirements were never revealed.

(Source / 17.08.2013)

Thousands rally for Morsi in Nazareth

NAZARETH, Israel (AFP) — Thousands of Palestinian supporters of the Islamic Movement in Israel demonstrated on Saturday in support of Egypt’s ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, an AFP correspondent said.

Around 4,000 people led by firebrand preacher Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, took part in the protest in the northern city of Nazareth, the correspondent said.

The demonstrators marched holding Egyptian flags as well as pictures of Morsi and chanting against Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who led the overthrow of Morsi, claiming he was “taking orders from the US.”

A police spokeswoman said the demonstration passed without event.

Pro-Morsi rallies took place on Friday in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank city of Hebron, attended mostly by supporters of Hamas.

Some of the participants in the Friday rallies accused Sisi of collaborating with Israel, where officials have refrained from commenting on the events in Egypt.

(Source / 17.08.2013)

Israel retaliates after Syria shells hit Golan Heights

The Israeli army fired into Syria after shells from the neighboring country hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights on Saturday, a military spokesman said.

The Israeli army fired into Syria after shells from the neighboring country hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights on Saturday, a military spokesman said.

“Today, several shells fired from Syria landed in the central Golan heights, adjacent to the Israel-Syria border,” he told AFP.

Israeli military “forces carried out a pinpoint strike, targeting the source of the shooting. A hit was confirmed.”

The spokesman said at least three shells were confirmed to have hit Israel. He could not say whether the army considered the incidents cases of stray fire spilling over from the conflict in Syria.

Army radio reported the Israeli attack demolished a Syrian military position.

A defense source told AFP the Israeli response took place after the Jewish state filed a complaint to the UN Disengagement Observer Force, which monitors the 1974 ceasefire line between Israel and Syria.

The Golan has been tense since the beginning of the conflict in Syria more than two years ago, but so far there have only been minor flare-ups as Syrian small arms fire or mortar rounds hit the Israeli side, prompting an occasional Israeli response.

Israel, which is technically at war with Syria, seized 1,200 square kilometers of the strategic plateau during the 1967 Six-Day War, which it later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.

Also on Saturday, seven wounded Syrians were taken into Israel for medical care, the military spokesman said.

Dozens of Syrians, including women and children, have been treated in hospitals in northern Israel since the beginning of the uprising in their country.

(Source / 17.08.2013)

How American Hopes for a Deal in Egypt Were Undercut

 

Mohamed El-Shahed/Agence France-Presse

An army officer pointed his weapon at the crowd as he helped a man to leave Cairo’s Fateh Mosque on Saturday.

CAIRO — For a moment, at least, American and European diplomats trying to defuse the volatile standoff in Egypt thought they had a breakthrough.

The Lede is following events in Egypt on Saturday, where Islamist protesters have taken to the streets again to demonstrate against the military-backed government that killed hundreds this week.

As thousands of Islamist supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, braced for a crackdown by the military-imposed government, a senior European diplomat, Bernardino León, told the Islamists of “indications” from the leadership that within hours they would free two imprisoned opposition leaders. In turn, the Islamists had agreed to reduce the size of two protest camps by about half.

An hour passed and nothing happened. Another hour passed, and still no one had been released.

The Americans heightened the pressure. Two senators visiting Cairo, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, met with Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the officer who ousted Mr. Morsi and appointed the new government, and the interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, and pushed for the release of the two prisoners. But the Egyptians brushed them off.

“You could tell people were itching for a fight,” Mr. Graham recalled in an interview. “The prime minister was a disaster. He kept preaching to me, ‘You can’t negotiate with these people, they’ve got to get out of the streets and respect the rule of law.’ I said: ‘Mr. Prime Minister, it’s pretty hard for you to lecture anyone on the rule of law. How many votes did you get? Oh yeah, you didn’t have an election.’ ”

General Sisi, Mr. Graham said, seemed “a little bit intoxicated by power.”

The senators walked out that day, Aug. 6, gloomy and convinced that a violent showdown was looming. But the diplomats still held out hope, believing they had persuaded Egypt’s government at least not to declare the talks a failure.

The next morning, the government issued a statement declaring that diplomatic efforts had been exhausted and blaming the Islamists for any casualties from the coming crackdown. A week later, Egyptian forces opened a ferocious assault that so far has killed more than 900 protesters.

All of the efforts of the United States government, all the cajoling, the veiled threats, the high-level envoys from Washington and the 17 personal phone calls by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, all failed to forestall the worst political bloodletting in modern Egyptian history. The generals in Cairo felt free to ignore the Americans first on the prisoner release and then on the statement, in a cold-eyed calculation that they would not pay a significant cost — a conclusion bolstered when President Obama responded by canceling a joint military exercise but not $1.5 billion in annual aid.

For Mr. Obama, the violent crackdown has left him in a no-win position: risk a partnership that has been the bedrock of Middle East peace for 35 years, or stand by while longtime allies try to hold on to power by mowing down opponents. From one side, he has been lobbied by the Israelis, Saudis and other Arab allies to go easy on the generals in the interest of thwarting what they see as the larger and more insidious Islamist threat. From the other, he has been urged by an unusual mix of conservatives and liberals to stand more forcefully against the sort of autocracy that has been a staple of Egyptian life for decades.

For now the administration has decided to keep the close relationship with the Egyptian military fundamentally unchanged. But the death toll is climbing, the streets are descending into chaos and the government and the Islamists are vowing to escalate. It is unclear if the military’s new government can reimpose a version of the old order now that the public believes street protests have toppled two leaders in less than three years, or if, after winning democratic elections, the Islamists will ever again compliantly retreat.

As Mr. Obama acknowledged in a statement on Thursday, the American response turns not only on humanitarian values but also on national interests. A country consumed by civil strife may no longer function as a stabilizing ally in a volatile region.

An Enduring Headache

Mr. Obama has found Egypt’s tumultuous political transition a headache for more than two years. Accused of sticking for too long by President Hosni Mubarak, the longtime ruler in Egypt who was ousted by a popular uprising in 2011, and then criticized when he later abandoned him, Mr. Obama gambled on Mr. Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader elected a year ago. He found Mr. Morsi a useful and pragmatic partner in handling issues like a violent flare-up in Gaza. But Mr. Obama became convinced that the Egyptian was not being inclusive enough at home to stabilize his own country.

When Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo last spring, he urged Mr. Morsi to reach out to his opposition. If not, Mr. Kerry warned, Mr. Morsi would set the stage for another uprising, this time against himself. But the implied threat only hardened Mr. Morsi’s resolve not to bend, his aides said.

Mr. Morsi’s failure to incorporate other factions, his habit of demonizing his critics as part of a treasonous conspiracy and a near-calamitous economic crisis combined to fire up opposition to the Islamists, which spilled out in street protests. Hard-liners with the military and intelligence services who always despised the Muslim Brotherhood saw that the group’s experiment in power might have left it more vulnerable than at any time in its eight decades underground.

The Obama administration warned the military against stepping in, noting that a coup would require an aid cutoff under American law. But on July 3 the military moved in, detaining Mr. Morsi at an undisclosed location and rounding up scores of his allies.

Mr. Obama made no public comments, opting instead for tempered written statements. He skirted the aid law by refusing to determine whether Mr. Morsi’s ouster constituted a coup, while Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel pressed the military to restore civilian governance as soon as possible.

Western governments took a wait-and-see approach even after the military committed its first mass killing, shooting more than 60 supporters of Mr. Morsi at a sit-in on July 8. Western diplomats did not engage in earnest until July 24, when General Sisi, in dark sunglasses and military regalia, delivered a fiery speech asking the public to turn out for demonstrations giving him a “mandate” to take on the Islamists. Security forces killed 80 more Morsi supporters in their second mass shooting on the day of the demonstration.

The next morning, Morsi aides and Brotherhood leaders say, their phones began ringing with American and European diplomats fearing an imminent blood bath.

The administration enlisted players on opposite sides of the contest playing out in Egypt. Diplomats from Qatar, a regional patron of the Muslim Brotherhood, agreed to influence the Islamists. The United Arab Emirates, determined opponents of the Islamists, were brought in to help reach out to the new authorities.

But while the Qataris and Emiratis talked about “reconciliation” in front of the Americans, Western diplomats here said they believed the Emiratis were privately urging the Egyptian security forces to crack down.

Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Emirati foreign minister, came to Washington last month and urged the Americans not to cut off aid. The emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, had swiftly supported the military takeover with a pledge of billions of dollars, undermining Western threats to cut off critical loans or aid.

The Israelis, whose military had close ties to General Sisi from his former post as head of military intelligence, were supporting the takeover as well. Western diplomats say that General Sisi and his circle appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and the diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid.

When Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, proposed an amendment halting military aid to Egypt, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to senators on July 31 opposing it, saying it “could increase instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.” Statements from influential lawmakers echoed the letter, and the Senate defeated the measure, 86 to 13, later that day.

Mr. Obama agreed not to restrict the aid, but did postpone the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets. At the time, officials also discussed pulling out of joint military exercises called Bright Star scheduled for September, but the White House opted to wait to see if the generals would follow through on their threat to clear out pro-Morsi protesters.

Building Connections

Mr. Hagel tried to forge a connection with General Sisi, the defense minister who has become the country’s de facto leader. Mr. Hagel, a 66-year-old decorated Vietnam veteran, felt he and General Sisi, a 58-year-old graduate of the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania, “clicked right away” when they met in April, an American official said.

In a series of phone calls, Mr. Hagel pressed General Sisi for a transition back to civilian rule. They talked nearly every other day, usually for an hour or an hour and a half, lengthened by the use of interpreters. But General Sisi complained that the Obama administration did not fully appreciate that the Islamists posed an existential threat to Egypt and its army. The general asked Mr. Hagel to convey the danger to Mr. Obama, American officials said.

“Their whole sales pitch to us is that the Muslim Brotherhood is a group of terrorists,” said one American officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the dialogue.

American and European diplomats hoped to reinforce the very few officials in Egypt’s interim cabinet who favored an inclusive approach, led by Mohamed ElBaradei, the vice president and Nobel Peace Prize-winning former diplomat. After the second massacre, on July 26, Mr. ElBaradei wanted to resign, but Mr. Kerry talked him out of it, arguing that he was the most potent voice for restraint, if not the only one, inside the government.

But General Sisi never trusted Mr. ElBaradei, and on the other side was a small core of military officers close to the general who saw a chance to finally rid Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood. Among them were Gen. Mohammed al-Tohami, a mentor and father figure to General Sisi and now head of the intelligence service, and Gen. Mahmoud Hegazy, the general’s protégé and chosen successor as head of military intelligence. And with no serious reprisals against Egypt after two mass killings, many analysts here argue that the hard-liners could only feel emboldened.

Mr. Kerry sent his deputy, William J. Burns, to Cairo, who with a European Union counterpart scrambled to de-escalate the crisis.

Under a plan they worked out, the Muslim Brotherhood would limit demonstrations to two squares, thin out crowds and publicly condemn violence. The government would issue a similar statement, commit to an inclusive political process allowing any party to compete in elections and, as a sign of good faith, release Saad al-Katatni, the Muslim Brotherhood speaker of the dissolved Parliament, and Aboul-Ela Maadi, founder of a more moderate Islamist party. Both faced implausible charges of instigating violence, and Western diplomats felt that in the prelude to the takeover, Mr. Katatni in particular had proven himself a pragmatic voice for compromise.

But on Aug. 4, the interim government surprised the diplomats by bringing charges for incitement to murder against the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, who was in hiding, and Khairat el-Shater, its most influential leader, who had been detained.

Adding to the shock of the new charges, they came just hours before Mr. Burns and his European partner, Mr. León, were allowed to see Mr. Shater. Mr. Shater embraced the need for dialogue but did not endorse the proposals.

Still, the diplomats grew hopeful they had gotten through to the government. On the morning of Aug. 6, Brotherhood leaders and diplomats said, Mr. León called Amr Darrag,an adviser to Mr. Morsi and top negotiator for the Islamist coalition, and told him to expect Mr. Katatni and Mr. Maadi to be released within hours. When nothing happened, Mr. Darrag called Mr. León back, the Brotherhood officials said. Do not worry, Mr. León said, arguing that the new government must have put the release off by a day to avoid the appearance of bowing to American pressure.

Heightened Tensions

Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham arrived in Cairo amid increasing tensions. They went first to see Ambassador Anne W. Patterson. “You could see it on her face, that nobody’s listening,” Mr. Graham said. He said administration officials asked them to press for the release of the two Islamists and to push the Brotherhood to pull people off the street.

When the senators asked government officials to release the Islamist leaders, one woman on the Egyptian side stormed out. The senators warned that the United States would ultimately cut off aid if the military did not set elections and amend the Constitution.

Mr. Graham recalled arguing with General Sisi. “If Morsi had to stand for re-election anytime soon, he’d lose badly,” the senator remembered saying. “Do you agree?”

“Oh, absolutely,” the general answered.

“Then what you’re doing now is making him a martyr,” Mr. Graham said. “It’s no longer about how badly they ruled the country and how they marginalized the democratic institutions. It’s now about you.”

The meeting with the prime minister was even tenser. As they walked out, Mr. Graham said he told Mr. McCain, “If this guy’s voice is indicative of the attitude, there’s no pulling out of this thing.”

When Egyptian state news media leaked reports of an imminent government statement that diplomacy had failed, the diplomats were stunned, and scrambled to hold it off.

The next day, Mr. León, the European envoy, assured the Islamists that although the prisoner release had fallen through, at least the Egyptians had agreed to pull back the statement, Brotherhood leaders said.

A half-hour later, it was issued nonetheless. “The phase of diplomatic efforts has ended,” it declared, calling the sit-ins “nonpeaceful” and obliquely blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for any coming violence.

The Americans and Europeans were furious, feeling deceived and manipulated. “They were used to justify the violence,” Mr. Darrag said in an interview. “They were just brought in so that the coup government could claim that the negotiations failed, and in fact, there were no negotiations.”

Mr. Burns left Cairo with a sense of foreboding. Western diplomats in Cairo said that, despite their public statements at the time to the contrary, it was then that they, too, gave up hope.

Mr. Hagel made a last stab at holding off violence. He called General Sisi late on the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 9, and they talked for 90 minutes. “Secretary Hagel was strongly urging restraint,” said an American official briefed on the conversation. The secretary recited the same talking points he had been delivering for weeks: avoid violence, respect freedom of assembly and move toward an inclusive political transition.

But within the Egyptian government, the only real debate was about tactics and blame. Mohamed Ibrahim, the interior minister under Mr. Morsi who had kept his job by refusing to protect the Islamists, was convinced that brute force was the only way to break up sit-ins by tens of thousands of Morsi supporters. But diplomats and Egyptian officials familiar with the debate said Mr. Ibrahim was worried that if the assaults went badly he might be held up as a scapegoat.

Last Sunday, Interior Ministry officials told journalists that the police would move in at dawn to choke off the sit-ins, cutting off food and water and gradually escalating nonlethal force. But overnight, diplomats said, Mr. Ibrahim reconsidered, worried that a gradual approach would expose the police to Brotherhood retaliation, for which he could be blamed.

Two days later, Mr. Ibrahim and the government told Mr. ElBaradei they had a new plan to minimize casualties: maximum force to get it over with quickly, the Western diplomats said. And the military had agreed to support the police. But the attack the next morning left more than 600 dead, according to official figures that soon grew. By midday, Mr. ElBaradei resigned.

As images of Egyptian security forces opening fire flickered across television screens in Washington, Mr. Hagel called General Sisi again and warned him that the violence had put “important elements of our longstanding defense cooperation at risk,” as he put it in a statement afterward. Mr. Kerry made the same points in tandem to the interim foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy.

Mr. Obama announced the cancellation of Bright Star exercises without saying anything about the aid. As of Friday, American officials were still working phone lines to Cairo. Mr. Kerry talked with his Egyptian counterpart, urging the government to appoint an envoy to negotiate directly with the Islamists, United States officials said. But the diplomats and military officers in the two countries seemed to be talking past each other.

“The million-dollar question now,” said one American military officer, “is where is the threshold of violence for cutting ties?”

(Source / 17.08.2013)

Israel’s White Phosphorous Smokescreen?

Israel had repeatedly used White Phosphorus against civilians in Gaza. (Photo: via Aljazeera/file)

Israel had repeatedly used White Phosphorus against civilians in Gaza.

On 26th April 2013, the BBC reported on its website that Israel was going to stop using white phosphorous in its shells and replace it with a gas.  This important declaration was largely ignored by the British media as the timing of Israel’s announcement came whilst they and the public were fixated on the conflicting reports concerning the authenticity of the ‘evidence’ that Syria had been using illegal weapons. The British newspaper, The Telegraph in fact presented this news as the introduction into an article reporting on the shooting down of a drone by Israel that had been flying over Lebanon.

Israel’s position on accusations that it had used white phosphorous in its shells has considerably shifted over the years, in a similar pattern of denials to that used by the USA. Israel initially denied that white phosphorous had been used at all, to eventually admitting that, yes they had used white phosphorous but only to create a smokescreen. Israel’s welcome April 2013 declaration that shells containing white phosphorous were going to be  ‘removed from active duty soon’ is not apparently due to its illegality or because of the terrible injuries it inflicts but because, ‘according to a senior officer, white phosphorous “does not look good, as we saw in Operation Cast Lead.”

The United Nations ‘Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects’ considers the usage of incendiary weapons to be illegal. Putting aside the irony of Israel being part of a coalition of nations concerned about Assad’s alleged use of illegal weapons, of the 115 state parties, 106 are signatories to the protocol. Israel, along with the Republic of Korea, Uganda and 6 other countries are not. Incendiary weapons do not however include:  ‘Munitions which may have incidental incendiary effects, such as illuminants, tracers, smoke or signaling systems’.

Whilst white phosphorous is an element that can be used in smoke shells and thus not covered by the above convention, it is used in incendiary devices, mortar and artillery shells which are.  White phosphorous burns fiercely and can inflict third degree burns and destroy bone. The Federation of American Scientist’s note that ‘White Phosphorous particles can burn combustible items upon contact until it has completed its reaction with oxygen, which can last up to 15 minutes depending on the munitions’.

Both the US administration, in the aftermath of their extensive usage of white phosphorous in Fallujah (operations nicknamed by their own soldiers as “shake and bake”) and Israel have tried to put their own spin as to how their own use of white phosphorous is acceptable. However, in a detailed 71 page report by Human Rights Watch, it was concluded that “Israel’s repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its 2009 military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes.” But at least, Israel have broadcast to the world their intention to stop using it, however, that could prove to be yet another smokescreen.

On 9th July 2013, the High Court of Justice in Israel heard a petition filed byAdvocates Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer on behalf of 117 petitioners to demand that the Israeli military cease all use of white phosphorous in civilian areas. The Court dismissed the petition after the state attorney announced that it would not use white phosphorous in populated areas ‘ “for the time being,”  but with two “very narrow exceptions” that it would not make public for unspecified security reasons.’ In addition, it was claimed that there were no legal impediments to the continued use of white phosphorous.

Obviously one can only surmise at which ‘built up areas’ Israel believes that the continued use of white phosphorous is not only permissible in law but is an actual military necessity. It would not be disingenuous to suggest that Gaza is one of them, even though as The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories NGO  B’Tselem points out, “under international humanitarian law the use of white phosphorous in the present setting of the Gaza Strip is unlawful”.

B’Tselem’s contention that the use of white phosphorous is indeed illegal is inadvertently supported by a representative of Israel itself. In 2012, two shells were allegedly fired from Gaza landed in Southern Israel apparently without causing any injuries but were alleged to contain white phosphorous. As a consequence the chairman of Eshkol regional council in Israel, Haim Jelin wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon.  “The Israel Defense Forces, charged with protecting the residents of the State of Israel, are criticized and judged due to their being the military of a U.N. member state. In contrast, Hamas, the ‘neighborhood bully,’ is not subject to international laws, and feels free to use illegal weaponry against an innocent civilian population — without being judged or criticized by any international body. I call upon you to put an end to this hypocrisy!” Quite!

The vocabulary of the ‘assurances’ given to the court by the state attorney on behalf of the military is worthy of some examination. Given the announcement in April that white phosphorous will be phased from use ‘soon’, promises that the Israeli military won’t use them ‘for the time being’ seems to be a strange turn of phrase.  Why ratify at court the possible future use of a weapon that should soon be obsolete?  Will these ‘very narrow ‘and secret exceptions also be exempt from the announcement made in April?

B’Tselem rightly identifies the very real concerns that “The current situation, whereby prohibition of use of the substance exists only as a pledge to the court, and is not backed by formal military orders, is unwelcome and leaves open a possibility of further use” vis à vis the Gaza Strip.  Yet a Court agreement, even one couched in vague terms with elements not known to the wider public, is binding, is it not? Certainly more so than a press release to the world’s media and perhaps as such this could help explain the obfuscation of the assurances given.

Unfortunately, it may yet transpire that the limited pledges quietly given to the Israeli court in July could carry far more weight than the apparently unambiguous promise given to the world by the Israeli military in April.

(Source / 17.08.2013)