Libya denies coup bid after general’s comment

Prime minister says government safe and security under control after army official calls for parliament to be suspended.

Haftar said suspending parliament would serve as a road map to ‘rescue’ the country
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has said the government is safe and security under control, describing rumours of a coup “ridiculous”.

Zeidan’s remarks on Friday came in response to a senior army official’s call for parliament to be suspended and for the armed forces to “rescue” the country.

Major General Khalifa Haftar, a leading figure in the 2011 revolution against Muammar Gaddafi, called for a presidential committee to be formed to govern until new elections could be held in what he described as a road map for Libya.

“No military units have moved to touch any institutions.”

Ali Zeidan, Libyan Prime Minister

Nearly three years after Gaddafi’s fall, Libya has had only fragile government and armed forces unable to impose their authority on competing political factions and the brigades of former revolutionary fighters who refuse to disarm. Libya still has no new constitution.

“Libya is stable. The [General National Congress] GNC is doing its work and so is the government. The army is in its headquarters, and Khalifa Haftar has no authority,” Zeidan told Reuters. “No military units have moved to touch any institutions.”

He said legal proceedings under military law would be taken against Haftar for his statement.

Tripoli was calm, and there were no signs of any extraordinary troop movements or activity outside the parliament, the prime minister’s office or any ministries.

It was not clear how much influence Haftar has even within the small, nascent army in a country where brigades of militia groups and former rebels are more powerful.

Appearing in military uniform, Haftar, in his recorded statement provided to Reuters, called for the GNC, the interim parliament, to be suspended.

“The national command of the Libyan army is declaring a movement for the new road map,” Haftar said, adding that the armed forces were calling for Libya to be “rescued” from its upheaval.

“We will hold meetings with different parties and groups regarding implementing this road map,” he said.

Unpopular government

Libya’s army barely exists with most of its soldiers still in training or drawn from the ranks of former rebels who are often more loyal to their own regions, their commanders or their tribes than a national force.

Haftar was once a Gaddafi ally, but broke with him over the war with Chad in the 1980s. He later sought exile in the United States, but returned to become a commander of forces in the 2011 revolution.

The General National Congress is deeply split by infighting between the nationalist National Forces Alliance party and Islamists in the Justice and Construction Party, which is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Al Wafaa movement.

Since its election in 2012, the GNC has become increasingly unpopular with Libyans who see it has made little progress in the transition to democracy. Libya still has no new constitution.

But tensions have increased over its future, after its initial mandate ran out on February 7. Its members agreed to extend their term in office to allow a special committee the stability to draft the constitution.

Rival political factions and militia groups have competing views on how the country should continue, with some calling for early elections and others supporting the extension of the parliament’s mandate.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

Iran Majlis speaker urges unity among Muslims

Iran’s Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has called for more solidarity among Muslim countries, expressing concern over woes in the Islamic world.

In an address to the executive committee of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Member States in Tehran on Friday, Larijani said the meeting should contribute to more solidarity, progress and justice among Muslim nations.

He pointed to the challenges facing Muslim nations and said the Union can act as a center to pursue the demands of the member states.

“Today, waves of sowing discord in Islamic countries have led to many problems and the killing of many Muslims,” Larijani said, adding that the Islamic inter-parliamentary union can play a major role in addressing such woes and preventing rifts among Islamic nations.

Larijani also warned against the terrorist activities of extremist Takfiri groups in the region and said such moves have given rise to problems in Muslim countries.

The 9th meeting of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States, which started on Friday, is scheduled to continue until February 19.

The union is composed of the parliaments of the OIC member states.

Hossein Sheikholeslam, Larijani’s adviser on international affairs, said earlier that the participation of 47 countries in the conference had been finalized and 15 other countries had also expressed readiness to attend the event as observers.

He added that representatives from Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, the UAE, Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco and Jordan will be present in the meeting.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

Careless whispers? Man behind Syria’s Mokdad scrutinized

They may have been whispering, but unbeknownst to Faisal al-Mokdad, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, and an official at the Syrian embassy in Geneva, the microphones did not disguise their sideline conversation during a press conference on Tuesday.

The conversation sees the Syrian official, Mohammad al-Mohammad, asking Mokdad about his preferences regarding journalistic questions ahead of his press conference.

“To put it in a nutshell, you want to answer questions [from journalists], right?” Mohammad asked, appearing to think no one could hear him.

“Yes, of course,” Mokdad answered.

“From everyone or should I just pick [the journalists allowed to ask questions]?” Mohammad added.

“We are currently giving a very bad image [of Syria] as we are not inviting the other sides’ opinion,” Mokdad said, appearing concerned.

“You mean let’s not be selective, but…” Mohammad said, trailing off. “I know, some of them [journalists] can be annoying.”

Later, a similar incident happened when Mohammad asked Mokdad to end the press conference as the deputy Foreign
Minister was starting to lose his calm.

“Let’s leave,” Mohammad said following an angry response from Mokdad to one of the journalists, to which Mokdad whisperingly replied: “No, no, don’t worry.”

Mokdad gave the press conference during the second round of peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva.

Amid his speech, Mokdad said Tuesday was a “lost day” for the talks, accusing the opposition of denying the existence of terrorism in Syria.

The session was tense and the government was attempting to stall, a statement released by the opposition Syrian National Coalition read. In an attempt to break the deadlock, U.N. Arab Leage envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had proposed an agenda in which Tuesday would be used to discuss ending the violence and Wednesday to raise formation of a transitional governing body.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

Palestinian and Israeli Scholars Unite in Supporting Irish Boycott Pledge

 

Boycott-logo

 

More than 120 Irish academics have signed a pledge to boycott Israeli institutions until Palestinian rights are respected, Academics for Palestine said in a press release Friday.

It added, the number is expected to increase as more lecturers learn about the growing campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel – a campaign led by Palestinians that is gaining global support.

“The conflict in Palestine has now reached its ‘South African moment’ – the point at which Israeli apartheid has been recognised as such by the international community,” Prof Haim Bresheeth, a noted London-based film-maker and academic from Israel, said Friday.

Prof Bresheeth and Dr. Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian doctor of medicine, scholar and lecturer at the University of Exeter, will be in Belfast and Dublin next week to help launch a new Irish campaign to support the academic-boycott pledge, Academics for Palestine declared.

Dr. Karmi emphasised that the boycott does not target Israeli individuals but institutions. Far from being a threat to academic freedom, she said, BDS affirms its importance for Palestinians.

“Israel’s well-documented repression of Palestinian academic life and victimisation of Palestinian teachers and students is a scandal to be denounced by all those who claim to care about academic freedom,” she said.

Dr. Conor McCarthy, lecturer in English in NUI Maynooth and a long-time campaigner for Palestinian rights, welcomed the initiative.

“The recent endorsement of the boycott campaign by the 5,000-member American Studies Association in the US, along with positive moves by the Modern Language Association and the controversy over Scarlett Johansson, showed that BDS is now very much part of a mainstream international debate,” Dr McCarthy said.

Nearly a year ago the Teachers Union of Ireland, which represents lecturers at institutes of technology across the State, became one of the first academic unions in the world to endorse the boycott.

“The TUI’s historic decision was the impetus for building a broader academic-boycott campaign in Ireland,” AFP chair Jim Roche said today. Roche, who teaches architecture at DIT, was instrumental in securing passage of the TUI motion.

EU-funded research partnerships involving Israeli institutions and worth billions of euro mean that this boycott campaign is not mere posturing: many Irish researchers are involved in such projects, including ones with military/security applications. AFP will be providing detailed information about these partnerships.

“The US, EU and other states have protected Israel and financed its occupation ever since 1967, making it impossible to resolve the conflict through the UN or international diplomatic channels,” Prof Bresheeth said. “It puts a special responsibility on international civil society, and BDS is its main tool to resolve the conflict in a just and peaceful way.”

The text of the boycott pledge reads:

“In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for an academic boycott of Israel, we pledge not to engage in any professional association with Israeli academic, research and state institutions and with those representing these institutions, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”

(Source / 14.02.2014)

5 Palestinians Arrested in Jerusalem, Demolition Orders Served

Israeli forces arrested a number of youth, including children, on Wednesday, in the old city of Jerusalem, serving demolition orders to several citizens in Silwan town.

image: Al Ray

Al Ray reports that the head of Jerusalemite Prisoner Families Committee, Amjad Abu Asab, said that the soldiers carried out an extensive campaign in the old city of Jerusalem, arresting a group of young people, after confrontation in the city, and brought them before the Magistrate Court of Israel on charges of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

Abu Asab pointed out that the occupation extended the detention of Abdulrahman al-Shaloudi until next Tuesday, and Waled Edris to this morning.

Witnesses said that both Mohammed al-Ajlouni,19, and Mohammed Aljoulani from Heta gate neighborhood in Jerusalem, were arrested and beaten severely.

The occupation municipality served demolition orders in Silwan neighborhoods, in Jerusalem, under the pretext of building without a permit.

According to Al Ray, Palestinian homes are usually demolished under the pretext of not having a building permit. Figures from Israeli NGO Bimkom show that 95 percent of Palestinian applications for a building permit are rejected.

In addition, rights groups say that the occupation implements a series of discriminatory practices in housing, planning, residency rights and budget allocation in East Jerusalem, with the aim of reducing the number of Palestinians living in the city.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

Complex double game: Iran supporting Assad AND al-Qaeda?

The United States Treasury Department in a report released this week has charged Iran for assisting al-Qaeda operatives based in the Islamic Republic. The charges have also been brought up because Tehran has allowed senior al-Qaeda members to conduct their operations from Iranian soil, according to the findings.

In addition, this Thursday’s allegations and accusations by the Treasury Department strongly indicated that some political figures in the Iranian government and its elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been covertly and tacitly backing al-Qaeda and other opposition groups in Syria’s civil war.

According to the Treasury Department, which is introducing new sanctions targeting Iranian terror links, “today the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the designation of a key Iran-based al-Qaeda facilitator who supports al-Qaeda’s vital facilitation network in Iran, that operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities.”

Transit point

The report also adds, “the network also uses Iran as a transit point for moving funding and foreign fighters through Turkey to support al-Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria, including the al-Nusra Front.”

Playing the al-Qaeda card has been one of the most effective strategies utilized by the Iranian and Syrian regimes

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov— also known as Jafar al-Uzbeki and Jafar Muidinov—is characterized by the Treasury Department as an Iran-based Islamic Jihad Union facilitator. This facilitator “operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities,” and provides funding to al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network, along with logistical support as well.

The report has caused some confusion, primarily in the West, on how it would be possible for Iran to be supporting al-Qaeda with its other commitments in Syria? Western media, some policy analysts, politicians, scholars, and even the Treasury Department have found it difficult to offer an explanation on the possible reasons that would make Iranian leaders support al-Qaeda in Syria and in Afghanistan.

Iran’s complex game

The issue with deciphering the unclear link between Iran and al-Qaeda (or other extremist al-Qaeda linked groups such as al-Nusra and the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)), is that rational, logical analysis is mainly anchored in a binary system, whereas this situation resides in a more complex gray area.

This type of thinking has prevented many from properly analyzing Middle Eastern politics, particularly Iran’s domestic and foreign policy, with all its nuances and complicated details.

Those who are perplexed with this news, make the argument that if Iran is supporting the Assad regime, and if al-Qaeda is attempting to overthrow that regime, then Tehran cannot logically back al-Qaeda because they are on opposing sides of the conflict. Another argument comes down to religious alliances, citing that the Shiite ruling clerics in Iran are not naturally politically allied to Sunni groups.

The shortcomings of such analyses and perspectives are overlook the complicated and nuanced issues regarding Iran’s politics, rather categorizing conflicts into Sunni versus Shiite, Assad against oppositions, and so forth.

Not a bewilderment

If we take a close look at Iran’s realpolitik, its struggle for tipping the balance of power in its favor, as well as the geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic interests of the Islamic Republic, the notion that al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network has been operating for a while in Iranian soil with the assistance of IRGC forces, can be viewed as totally realistic.

Iran would allow and support al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network for several reasons. First of all, for the last three years— since the uprising erupted in Syria— both Tehran and Damascus have been playing a masterful political game with the United States and other Western powers by arguing that Assad’s regime is being targeted by terrorist enemies like al-Qaeda and its affiliations.

Playing the al-Qaeda card has been one of the most effective strategies utilized by the Iranian and Syrian regimes. According to several credible reports including Telegraph and Business Insider, in order to substantiate and bolster their arguments, Assad released the extremists and Iran provided them with the required platforms to continue this complex double game.

Reportedly, the al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, have been selling oil to the Assad regime in exchange for money and recruits with the assistance of Tehran.

Powerful groups

Secondly, and more fundamentally, it is crucial to have a powerful extremist group on Iran’s side regardless of the religious affiliation of that group. From the Iranian leaders’ perspective, al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network can functions as powerful political leverage for the Islamic Republic over other countries in the region. al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network can be tacitly utilized in order to tip the balance of power in favor of Tehran.

Third, since the uprising erupted in Syria, the Islamic Republic has been considering other alternatives in case Assad’s apparatuses collapse. It is accurate to argue that Assad has been the staunchest geopolitical and geostrategic ally of Iran for decades, and it is also correct to point out that Tehran has been assisting Assad economically (with billions of dollars in credit), politically, through intelligence, advisory, and militarily.

But what matters for Tehran are power, geopolitics, its interests, regional hegemonic ambitions and the balance of power. Tehran will support Assad as long as it thinks that Assad can retain his power.

The moment that the regime collapses, Iran is likely to shift its political position and support any group that seems to come to power. From Iranian perspectives, the most powerful group among the oppositions in Syria are currently the al-Qaeda linked groups. As a result, having close ties with al-Qaeda is paramount for Iran in case Assad is overthrown. For now, keeping a relationship and supporting both al-Qaeda and Assad is political opportunism for Tehran.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

Israeli forces injure 13 Palestinians in Gaza Strip

At least 13 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip one day after a 26-year-old man was killed by Israeli gunfire.

The incident occurred on Friday when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of Palestinian youths in the northern town of Jabalia, a few kilometers north of Gaza City.

The latest in the string of Israeli shootings against Gaza residents came as Palestinians laid to rest Ibrahim Suleiman Mansur, 26, who was killed by Israeli forces on Thursday.

Ibrahim and another Palestinian man were collecting gravel and scrap metal when they came under attack.

He was shot in the head and died on impact. His companion was injured in the leg.

Israel’s shootings against Palestinians can be seen as a common occurrence in Gaza, and the shooters are rarely prosecuted for their crime.

Israel established a so-called buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip in 2008 for alleged security reasons, damaging a large portion of Palestinian farmland.

The zone officially extends 300 meters into Gaza territory, but reports indicate that the Israeli regime is in effect forcing a much larger no-go zone.

Israeli troops target Palestinian civilians, including children wandering close to the border fence, farmers, and scrap metal collectors trying to make ends meet.

Gaza remains under a crippling blockade which has been in place for over seven years. The closure – which in effect cuts off the populated sliver from the rest of the world – has caused a decline in the standards of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

JTA, Jerusalem Post fall for hoax BDS campaign aimed at Rolling Stones

A fake boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign disseminated by pro-Israel media appears aimed to discredit Palestine solidarity activists.

On 13 February, several blogs and publications reported that the BDS movement has called on The Rolling Stones to cancel their recently announced performance at the National Stadium at Ramat Gan in present-day Israel.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)The Jerusalem Post and Algemeiner all cite an anonymous Facebook page called “Rolling Stones: Boycott Israel” as their only source.

The Jewish Daily Forward picked up and tweeted JTA’s report:

However, the Facebook page is by all indications a deceptive hoax, including its false claim that it has been endorsed by The Electronic Intifada.

Attempt to discredit activists?

The perpetrators of the hoax may aim to discredit Palestine solidarity activists by making it appear as if BDS activists disseminate false information and post anti-Semitic and racist content.

Instead, the hoax exposes the low journalistic standards of the publications which reported it as truth.

False attribution and plagiarized content

Soon after the publication of the JTA report, a post was added to the Facebook page that is actually a near exact copy of a 2007 letter from the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to The Rolling Stones.

However, instead of the 350 signatories on the original 2007 letter, the perpetrators of the hoax attribute the letter to three signatories: “Electronic Intifada,” “Rolling Stones: Boycott Israel” and “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.”

The Electronic Intifada’s executive director Ali Abunimah told me:

We did not sign this letter or have anything to do with it whatsoever. While The Electronic Intifada reports on the BDS movement and individuals who write for it – including me – may support BDS, we do not sign letters like this or endorse specific campaigns in the name of the publication. It should, moreover, be obvious to any serious journalist that the appearance of our name is suspect because the letter was not published on our website, nor did we disseminate it on our own Facebook page or Twitter accounts. The Electronic Intifada has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the “Rolling Stones: Boycott Israel” Facebook page.

The BDS Movement Facebook page and website also make no reference to this alleged campaign targeting The Rolling Stones.

Creators unknown

The “Rolling Stones: Boycott Israel” Facebook page was created on 10 February by people whose identity is unknown. Its logo is lifted from the bdsmovement.net web site.

Some of the content can be found on other sites and is not original to the Facebook page.

No apparent effort was made by the publications who reported on the supposed campaign to contact any known activists to verify the content on the Facebook page. None of the stories mention any attempt to contact the maintainers of the hoax campaign page, either.

So far, there has been no call by any known BDS activists for The Rolling Stones to cancel their show.

The statements on the Facebook page, some of which were reported to be anti-Semitic, are made anonymously and cannot be attributed to known BDS activists or groups with established records.

Anti-BDS page participants

The first posts on the page are stacked with hostile comments from people attacking the alleged BDS campaign.

JTA and The Jerusalem Post should have been suspicious that Zionists were the very first to be informed about the existence of the campaign while Palestine solidarity activists and BDS movement sources were completely in the dark about it.

False claim of victory

At 22:30 UTC on 13 February, the hoax Facebook page posted a message claiming victory:

Our sources with The Rolling Stones confirm that there will be no announcement about a tour. The Zionists jumped the gun on their announcement and it looks like the whole thing is falling true. Thank you to the good people on staff that realize that playing in Israel is like supporting Apartheid South Africa. To those who already bought fake tickets from other Zionists ripping you off. You deserved it!

In the past, JTA has accused BDS activists of misrepresenting victories, so it will be interesting to see how they report this hoax campaign’s hoax victory.

The Jerusalem PostAlgemeiner and JTA should retract their false and misleading stories.

They should also stop following leads from right-wing Zionist propaganda blogs who were the first to promote the hoax campaign outside Facebook.

In light of this transparent hoax, serious readers should consider whether The Jerusalem Post and the JTA (and the publications that syndicate it like The Jewish Daily Forward andThe Times of Israel) are reliable sources on Palestine solidarity activism.

Update

Following the publication of this post, JTA has now reported on the campaign as an “apparent hoax.”

“A Facebook page claiming victory in getting the Rolling Stones to boycott Israel is an apparent hoax,” they report. They have asked the maintainers of the hoax campaign page to “explain” themselves.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

Syria and the world’s responsibility

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

All are negotiating in Geneva without enthusiasm and hope. The regime’s delegation arrived with sole objective of sabotaging the conference that was aimed at ousting President Bashar al-Assad and establishing a transitional governing body.

Negotiations will eventually fail because there is no real pressure exerted on the Damascus government to accept the political solution, and at the same time, there is no military support to defeat the government if it did not accept a solution.

The failure of the international community – and particularly the United States – to deal seriously with the Syrian crisis has turned the country into a hell that threatens to be almost worse than Afghanistan. I have seen countless images of children and young people being trained by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra militant groups in areas under their control; all this, along with thousands of fighters who were recruited by Syrians and foreigners who could not tolerate the terrible injustice in the country. What has triggered all this was the lack of a solution in Syria – giving terrorists the much-needed time and space over the last three years.

Almost impossible

Iran and Hezbollah have succeeded in sabotaging Syria and turning it into a ruined country that will be almost impossible to rebuild. They have provoked terrible injustices against the majority of Syrians, who have suffered years of killing, displacement, intimidation and starvation. After all this inequality, are we still surprised to see young people join al-Qaeda?

Those who believe that Syria is just a useless nation because it does not produce oil should be worried. The war-torn country has become a haven for terrorism in the world, and threatens to turn this region and the world into a living hell during the few coming years. The Iranian and Syrian regimes have steered al-Qaeda to sabotage the situation in Syria and threaten the West about the risks of replacing Assad’s regime, and they actually succeeded in that. The result is a devastated country and an international terrorist training camp.

Important solution

The Geneva negotiations are an important solution for all; they will guide the toppling of Assad and establish a transitional governing body that would include some of the current regime’s institutions along with some of its men who are not involved in the bloodshed of the Syrian people. The negotiations will also provide the protection for the country’s minorities and the needed support for the new regime. Without taking advantage of the U.N.-backed Geneva negotiations, the war will linger and chaos will expand to reach Iraq, Lebanon and possibly Turkey.

(Source / 14.02.2014)

Palestinian footballers shot by Israeli forces never to play again

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Two young Palestinian football players shot by Israeli forces last month have learned that they will never be able to play sports again due to their injuries, according to doctors.

Doctors at Ramallah governmental hospital said the pair will need six months of treatment before they can evaluate if the two will even be able to ever walk again, at best.

Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were shot by Israeli soldiers as they were walking home from a training session in the Faisal Hussein Stadium in al-Ram in the central West Bank on Jan. 31.

Israeli forces opened fire in their direction without warning as they were walking near a checkpoint.

Police dogs were subsequently unleashed on them before Israeli soldiers dragged them across the ground and beat them.

The pair was subsequently were taken to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, where they underwent a number of operations to remove the bullets.

Medical reports said that Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot.

The two were taken to Ramallah governmental hospital before being transferred to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman.

Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril al-Rajoub condemned the shooting and said that “Israeli brutality against them emphasizes the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport.”

Rajoub called for imposing penalties on the Israeli football association, and demanded its removal from the FIFA as it should not accept racist organizations that do not adhere to international law.

(Source / 14.02.2014)