Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Planned Regime Change in Syria

Planned Regime Change in Syria

by Stephen Lendman

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria had peace and calm until Washington intervened belligerently.

Strategies and tactics vary. Objectives are consistent. They involve replacing independent regimes with pro-Western ones by any means, including war.

Three unwinnable ones rage. Nonetheless, Obama plans more. Syria's target one. For the past year, US-instigated violence ravaged parts of the country. Thousands have been killed, many others injured.

Syria's gripped by fear. Heavily armed killer gangs rage out of control, and direct foreign intervention looms. More on that below.

Assad's wrongly blamed. The blame game targets victims, not villains. As a result, ongoing conflict continues.

February 26 was potentially historic. Syrians overwhelmingly approved constitutional reform. Only the fullness of time will tell if promised change, in fact, happens. Western intervention may prevent it.

After 90% of Syrians supported draft constitutional changes, Assad issued decree No. 94 officially approving it, effective February 27.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said referendum results show Syrians support him. Moscow called on all sides to concur, stop violence, and engage in dialogue with no preconditions.

On February 27, in an article titled "Russia and the Changing World," Vladimir Putin noted similarities between Syria and Libya. He warned against foreign intervention.

He called Arab Spring changes replacement of one force for another. In other words, everything changed by stayed the same, and in countries like Egypt, got worse. He said "Moscow won't allow anyone to repeat the Libyan scenario in Syria."

Washington's hell bent on initiating it. Obama asked international leaders to protect Syrians from "abhorrent" (US instigated) violence. Calling for regime change, he said Assad('s rule) must come to an end."

Russian and Chinese Security Council vetoes thwarted his UN strategy. Hillary Clinton called doing so "despicable." She represents the worst of US lawlessness. Shamelessly attacking Russia and China shows how low America has sunk.

Security Council passage assured replicating Libyan style intervention. As a result, Obama plans circumventing UN Charter authority entirely.

Throughout the conflict, Washington's been involved in arming insurgent killer gangs. Congressional hawks call openly for doing it.

On February 25, Israel's YNet News headlined, "US to announce aerial blockade on Syria." Citing the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic international newspaper, it said Pentagon officials "call for the establishment of a buffer zone on the Turkish border, in order to receive Syrian refugees."

Buffer zones replicate no-fly ones. Military protection's needed. Doing so involves eliminating command and control sites belligerently. In stark terms, it means war. Humanitarian intervention's cover to wage it.

America doesn't give a damn about protecting civilians and never did. It cares only for unchallenged dominance. Wars become the strategy of choice. When waged, mass deaths, destruction, and human misery follow.

YNet said "intercession is to be modeled after NATO's" Yugoslavia war. It's "plan of action included prolonged aerial shelling."

In 1999, for 78 days, around 600 aircraft flew about 3,000 sorties. Thousands of tons of ordnance were dropped, as well as hundreds of ground-launched cruise missiles. Up to then, the campaign's ferocity was unprecedented.

Nearly everything was struck, causing massive destruction and disruption. Included were known or suspected military sites; power plants; factories; transportation; telecommunications facilities; vital infrastructure, including roads, bridges and rail lines; fuel depots; schools; a TV station; China's Belgrade Embassy; hospitals; government offices; churches; historic landmarks; and more in cities and villages throughout the country.

It was lawless aggression portrayed as humanitarian intervention. Around $100 billion in damage was caused. Environmental contamination was extensive. Mass deaths and injuries occurred. Many others were displaced.

Millions lost livelihoods, many others their homes, communities, and futures under military occupation. It always happens when America shows up. Washington plans it for Syria, then Iran.

Pentagon officials anticipate no Moscow or Beijing change of heart. But they expect both nations to support humanitarian aid efforts, including a ceasefire and UN monitors to determine conditions on the ground.

Doing so requires "aerial protection, which would eventually lead to an aerial blockade" and belligerence. Obama supports it saying "every available tool" will be used to end bloodshed.

Of course, calling off his dogs would do it. Instead, protracted conflict continues. Daily body count numbers increase. Civilians always suffer most.

Major Media Back Intervention

When America goes to war or plans it, major media scoundrels cheerlead supportively. Rule of law principles and human carnage aren't considered, just imperial aims.

Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter got feature New York Times op-ed space. Her "How to Halt the Butchery in Syria" commentary followed.

It shamelessly urged arming killer gangs, and called foreign military intervention "the best hope for curtailing a long, bloody and destabilizing civil war."

She also favors "no-kill zones." Pentagon officials call them "buffer zones." They assure war if established.

In addition, she supports sending in Special Forces from neighboring and Western countries. Of course, they've been there for months, supporting insurgents along with CIA and MI6 elements.

Slaughter, of course, wants Libyan style regime change and war replicated. Her name reflects her view.

Times op-ed contributor Roger Cohen also wants Syrian insurgents armed. He blames thousands of deaths on Assad, not responsible Western-backed killer gangs. He's for providing them more firepower to cause many more deaths.

Times op-ed space features reprehensible commentaries like his, Slaughter's, and many others. At the same time, responsible voices are shut out.

Cohen supports proxy war. "Arm Syria's rebels," he says. His convoluted logic believes ending violence depends on increasing it. In other words, killing's good, the more the better, so supply insurgents with heavy firepower to reign greater terror on defenseless civilians.

Blame Assad, and unleash NATO to replicate Libyan style charnel house devastation and protracted violence without end. Cohen calls doing it "a no-brainer."

Washington Post contributor Jackson Diehl uses similar reasoning in his op-ed headlined, "Why the US should arm the Syrian opposition."

He also said America "has reason to provide material support for the Syrian opposition precisely so it can be a player in Syria if and when Assad" falls.

He knows little about America's longstanding Middle East agenda. Unchallenged dominance is planned, using war as a strategic weapon of choice.

Expect it in Syria, then Iran, no matter the potentially catastrophic consequences. Only dominance matters, not the toll.

A Final Comment

On February 27, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) convened its 19th regular session in Geneva. It runs until March 23. Syria dominated emergency Tuesday discussions. Mostly one-sided views were presented.

An Arab League/Turkey resolution will be adopted condemning "use of heavy artillery and tanks to attack residential areas....that have led to the death of thousands of innocent civilians." It accuses Assad of "widespread and systematic violations."

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov called debate counterproductive because of its "confrontational nature," adding:

"The important thing today is that we give a chance to the Syrians themselves to overcome this crisis."

"Today it is clear aims to instill democracy through force are doomed to disaster and achieve the opposite. What is important today is that we do not allow for a full scale civil war in Syria."

The 47-member body met to condemn Syria, not judge conditions on the ground impartially and fairly. Syria's Permanent HRC Representative, Fayssal Al-Hamwi, denounced its manipulative procedure and violation of procedural rules.

He said:

"We reaffirm to all those alleged friends of the Syrian people that the simple step to immediately help the Syrian people is to stop inciting sectarianism, providing arms and weapons and funding and putting the Syrian people one against the other."

"Unjust and unilateral sanctions imposed by some countries on the Syrian people are preventing access to medicines, to fuel in all forms as well as electricity, and are also impeding bank transfers to buy these materials."

''Unilateral economic sanctions are the ugliest violations of human rights, because they target foremost civilian populations including children, women and the elderly."

He added:

"We're convinced that the true goal of holding today's session is covering up the violence and murder committed by armed terrorist groups against innocent civilians which were clearly mentioned by Agence France-Presse on February 25."

Through February 9, he said armed groups attacked 18 hospitals, 48 health centers and 129 ambulances.

Before walking out in protest, Al-Hamwi announced Syria's "non-acknowledgement of the legitimacy of this session." It convened to vilify Assad, not judge him and killer gang caused conditions on the ground fairly.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Fadi Quran Victimized by Israeli State Terror

Fadi Quran Victimized by Israeli State Terror

by Stephen Lendman

On February 25, international and supportive Israelis joined 500 Palestinians protesting in Hebron's Old City.

Youths Against Settlements organized it. They're "a national Palestinian non-partisan group" against colonization, including settlements, "through nonviolent popular struggle and civil disobedience." They demanded Shuhada Street be reopened. More on its closure below.

As they approached the street, soldiers attacked them violently with tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber bullets. Ten were arrested, including a Palestinian journalist and Quran. In the process, he was assaulted, beaten, and detained for allegedly pushing an Israeli soldier.

In fact, his offense was peacefully protesting Israeli policy with others. In response, soldiers attacked him with pepper spray, smashed his face against a jeep metal bar, and arrested him with other nonviolent participants.

They were protesting closure of Hebron's Shuhada Street. It's a main thoroughfare Palestinians have been forbidden to use for many years. It links north and south city areas. It also passes by major markets, the Old City, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and Israeli settlements.

In 1994, restrictions began. Access was alternately allowed, then denied. Since October 2000, Palestinians were entirely prohibited from walking or driving on Shuhada and adjacent streets.

Doing so caused center city economic collapse. Over 300 shops and other commercial facilities closed. Israel turned Hebron's central bus station into an army base. Area properties, including homes, were closed by army order. Many residents left. A ghost town remained.

Settlers can use the street freely. They also harass Palestinians with impunity. Closing Shuhada Street reflects longstanding Israeli policy to make life so unbearable residents will give up and leave Occupied Palestine.

Some do, but most resist courageously and won't quit. It's their country, their land, and they're struggling to regain it and end decades of abusive occupation.

Quran and other activists support them. He's a Palestinian American, a US citizen/Stanford University graduate, class of 2010. He's now in Al-Maskubiyeh Prison. It's notorious for conducting abusive interrogations. Torture's freely used. US officials in Israel were told. Whether or not they'll help isn't known.

On February 27, his trial began. In military tribunals, guilt by accusation is policy. Secret evidence was presented unavailable to defense attorneys. It's standard Israeli practice when none exists. Justice is systematically denied. Expect Quran to fare no better.

His family was denied contact. His lawyer barely saw him. Whether or not charged, he faces potential months or years in prison.

In March 2011, Time magazine profiled him in an article headlined, "A New Palestinian Movement: Young, Networked, Nonviolent," saying:

Quran represents "the face of the new Middle East." A Palestinian American, he returned home to begin an alternative energy company and "help create a Palestinian state."

At Stanford, he was president of Stanford Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER). He's also part of Palestine's March 15 movement. A new generation of Palestinian youths, they demand unity against occupation and repression. Social networks in Arabic and English are used. They call for liberating protests.

Without leaders or names, most activists prefer anonymity to prevent arrest and abuse. Its mission statement says:

"We call on all the Palestinian factions to unite under the banner of Palestine, in order to reform the political system....based on the interests and aspirations of the Palestinian people in the homeland and the diaspora."

Thousands support them, even though one member says:

"We live in constant fear that we're being followed, that they know who we are, that we are letting slip our identities."

Another says:

"We're doing this because we want to have a future here. And tell our (children) that we did something for the future of our country."

Quran told Time magazine:

"I think about the dogs unleashed on Martin Luther King in Birmingham. I think about the beatings. That's what it took for Americans to see the justice of his cause. We will be risking our lives, but that is what it takes."

On February 27, Stanford students organized a campaign for his release. A petition drive's included. It states:

"Fadi should not be detained for an indefinite period of time on false charges. It is imperative that the Israeli government release (him) so that he may continue to speak for his people and PEACEFULLY push for basic human rights."

On its first day, over 1,000 supporters signed it. They urge others join them for justice.

On February 26, ASSU (Associated Students of Stanford University) undergraduate senators drafted a resolution calling for Provost/Acting President John Etchemendy to publicly support fair legal treatment and Quran's immediate release.

His treatment directly affects Stanford students, they said. They cited "emotionally distressing" video footage of his arrest and close association with current students. They also stressed public support and outrage following his abusive treatment.

Palestinians stage regular nonviolent protests. Israeli security forces confront them violently.

Arrests, injuries, and at times deaths, result. Palestinians are denied justice. Longstanding Israeli policy enforces occupation ruthlessness.

A Final Comment

After hunger striking for 66 days, Khader Adnan struggles to survive and regain health. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) said he's "expected to go through a long and complicated recovery process."

It included severe intestinal blockage pain. On February 28, he underwent abdominal surgery at Safed's Ziv Hospital to relieve it. Reports called his condition stable, but given his weakened state, recovery's far from certain.

On February 28, the Addameer Prisoner support group said the following:

"Last night, 27 February 2012, Khader Adnan went through surgery at Ziv Hospital, due to problems in his digestive system. PHR-Israel's volunteer doctor reached the hospital immediately to speak to Khader and his doctors before the operation."

They "reported to us today that the operation went well and that Khader's condition is currently stable." He's now in the hospital's surgical wing. During transfer to Ziv Hospital, both arms and legs were again painfully shackled despite no ability to walk.

Doing so contradicted Israel's February 23 District Court ruling. It constitutes cruel and inhumane treatment, even toward a man close to death.

Adnan's abuse reveals Israeli state terror. Palestinians endure it daily. Their liberating struggle continues. Activists like Quran and many others are committed to help.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Looting the Seas

Looting the Seas

by Stephen Lendman

This article follows a previous one on the same topic. It covers work done by the Center for Public Integrity. It involves a multi-part series titled, "Looting the Seas." The initial article discussed the overall problem globally.

On November 7, 2010, Part I covers the "black market in bluefin." It's so highly prized, it's become an endangered species. Worth up to $100,000 each, no wonder overfishing depleted up to 90% of world stocks.

Among other uses, it's a sushi delicacy featured in prominent restaurants from New York to Tokyo. In fact, Japan accounts for about 80% of global bluefin consumption.

Rules restrict catch amounts but no one follows them. Many share blame globally. Fattening tuna in coastal ranches revolutionized the trade. Dragging them live to these operations for fattening precedes shooting them in the head for shipping to Japan and other markets.

To catch offenders, nearly 50 countries (involved in trading Eastern Atlantic bluefin) agreed to create an electronic tracking database to make it harder to smuggle plundered amounts to market. Its value approximates $400 million annually.

With or without rules and electronic checking, governments across the Mediterranean colluded to profiteer. Fattening ranches make bluefin availability year-round. A multi-million dollar enterprise developed with 67 operations across the Mediterranean.

"At the same time, (they became) the epicenter of an off-the-books trade that" decimated world stocks. A flawed system facilitates plundering. Months of work by the International International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). uncovered "rampant (black market) rule-breaking."

From 1998 - 2007, it accounted for one-third of bluefin caught. Cheaters involve fishermen, ranchers, divers, traders, politicians, inspectors and scientists.

Illegal practices include:

  • under-reporting catches, amounts towed, caged and sold;

  • ranching undersized fish;

  • fake releases when caught cheating;

  • under-declaring harvests and faking data; and

  • illegal cages.

Before ranches, Mediterranean tuna operations lasted three months. Now it's year-round with over-catching. As a result, it's up to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to save a dying species. It's an intergovernmental body comprised of dozens of countries with vested interests.

So far, rules set aren't followed. Catches way exceed quotas. Even Japan's worried. Its senior ICCAT delegate Masanori Miyahara warned:

"If no set-up is in place for legally carrying out ranching, then it should be stopped for a while, and it should be cleaned up."

At risk is fishing bluefin to extinction. As a result, the world's largest consumer is worried enough perhaps to act. Japanese demand spawned the burgeoning industry. Large purse seine vessels catch 3,000 tuna at a time. Selling them to ranchers, not final buyers, increases profits.

At sea, vessels transfer catches to cages. Tugboats tow them to coastal ranches. Once in circular pens, they're fattened for months. At harvest, they're shot in the head, hauled aboard vessels, and gutted with their heads cut off.

They're then immersed in a -2 degree Celcius seawater slush. Within hours, most are frozen onboard refrigerated vessels for shipment to destination countries. Remaining quantities are packed, air freighted, and auctioned fresh in Japanese markets.

Overfishing wreaked havoc on ocean supplies. In 2002, the once rich Balearic area off Spain faced collapse. Today, the species faces extinction. Established controls don't work. "Even the Japanese, after helping finance and set up the ranching industry, are having second thoughts."

Moreover, warnings from environmentalists and scientists have impact. Top buyer Mitsubishi promised to support sustainable fishing. Japanese officials began refusing bluefin imports, citing dubious supplier paperwork. At yearend 2009, ICIJ learned Tokyo halted Tunisian imports. Ranches there harvested more than reported catches.

In March 2010, an international effort to halt bluefin trading under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) nearly succeeded. However, Japan now considers supporting a temporary moratorium on ranching operations. Whether policy follows rhetoric isn't sure given its extraordinary growing demand.

For years, Europe and Japan were complicit in looting the seas of bluefin. Doing so created a lucrative black market. In 2006, Japan and Australia uncovered massive illegal catches, including southern bluefin, a sister Atlantic area species.

The findings were so damning they were suppressed for years. Massive quantities were unreported. Many methods were used to launder catches. Finally, Japanese officials noticed. In 2009, matters came to a head.

Millions of dollars of bluefin were rejected. Whether tough policies stay intact isn't known. Mitsubishi controls 40% of the Japanese market so its agenda matters. So far, it hasn't committed either way.

However, bluefin's future depends on how it acts and whether Tokyo's serious about protecting a valued species. If that doesn't pressure policy to trump politics, what will?

Looting the Seas (Parts II and III)

Parts II and III were much more concise than Part I.

Part II discussed taxpayer funded subsidies.

An October 2, 2011 headline highlighted the problem, saying:

"Nearly $9 billion in subsidies (since 2000) fuel Spain's ravenous fleet."

Spain's the industry's biggest player. Billions of taxpayer dollars support its money-losing enterprise. They "account for almost a third of the value of the industry." At the same time, industry players flout rules "while officials overlook fraud and continue to fund offenders," according to work done by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Other countries share culpability. However, with the EU's largest fleet, Spain matters most. What it does unaccountably, so do others.

For example, Spanish/Namibian fishing magnate Jose Luis Bastos gets enormous political favors. He and other Spanish companies catch "an estimated seven of 10 Namibian hakes in what has been considered one of the world's richest fishing grounds."

Despite warnings that already depleted stocks could drop further, Namibia's government increased hake catch quotas.

It's Spain's most popular fish. The average citizen eats over nine pounds annually in a nation consuming more fish than almost all other European ones. At the same time, people don't always get what they pay for.

According to an ICIJ study, almost of 10% of fish in Spanish markets are mislabeled. In 2010, Spanish and Greek researchers at the University of Oviedo and Aristotle University of Thessalonika discovered high levels of mislabeling hake imports in both countries.

South African species were called European or South American ones. The latter two bring double the market price of South Africa's.

Spain's Europe's most important fishing nation. Researchers focused on it because regional economies and fish stocks are in shambles.

Part III explained as fisheries push their limits, giant trawlers move south toward Antarctica to catch what's left. In addition, researchers documented how Asian, European and Latin American fleets devastated southern Pacific stocks.

Once one the world's richest waters, they're vastly depleted. As a result, experts say the only solution is banning fishing entirely for five years to provide time for generating new supplies.

In Peruvian and Chilean waters, jack mackerel are severely depleted. What used to take hours to catch now takes days. Chileans call them jurel. Once, plentiful in southern Pacific waters, they going fast toward entirely disappearing based on current trends.

Rich in protein, they're also reduced to feed for aquaculture and pigs when there's not enough for humans. It takes over 11 pounds of jack mackerel to raise two pounds of farmed salmon.

In two decades, stocks dropped from an estimated 30 million metric tons to less than three million. As a result, new fishing grounds are sought. Areas around Antarctica are being exploited to secure what's left.

An ICIJ southern Pacific study showed why jack mackerel depletion foretells fishing stock fates globally. At issue is decades of unchecked plunder, government complicity, and public indifference. University of British Columbia's Daniel Pauly calls mackerel a metaphor for overall decline.

Looting the seas unchecked assures eventual demise of a valued global food source for millions.

It's one of many environmental crimes destroying planet earth for profit unless stopped.

Doing so requires holding corrupt politicians responsible and replacing them with honest ones. Only grassroots activism can achieve it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

NGO Monitor Denies Truth for Israel

NGO Monitor Denies Truth for Israel

by Stephen Lendman

NGO Monitor "was founded to promote accountability, and advance a vigorous discussion on the reports and activities of NGOs claiming to promote moral agendas, such as humanitarian aid and human rights."

In fact, it's a Jerusalem-based pro-Israeli front group. It disseminates propaganda, other misinformation and hate. It debases legitimate human rights organizations, independent journalism, and other truth, equity and justice advocates.

Its founder and president Gerald Steinberg teaches political science at Bar Ilan University. Students in his classes lose out. He also founded Bar Ilan's Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation. In addition, he participates in Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) workshops, and various other organizations promoting pro-Israeli issues.

On February 19, The Times of Israel published his article titled, "Israel's vibrant democracy." He called it "as robust and pluralistic as any in the world." He claims no protest or advocacy restrictions, "including very fierce and unpopular criticism of the government and military."

He said "(n)o other democracy can claim to have greater freedom of expression, despite more than six decades of war and terrorism; threats of annihilation; and (various challenges) of developing a cohesive society based on numerous divergent communities" with no democratic traditions.

Fact check

His claims read like bad fiction. Like America, free expression's dying. Dissent's an endangered species. War and state terror are official policies. Democracy's on the chopping block for elimination. Arab citizens have none. Neither do most Jews denied social justice. Israel's privileged alone have rights, no others, and conditions keep getting worse.

Like America, racing to the bottom forced mass privatizations, welfare and benefit cuts, and massive wealth shifts to corporate favorites and rich elites. Predictable poverty, hunger and homelessness followed. Growing human need's unmet.

Unaddressed social gaps divide mainly along religious, ethnic and national lines. Inequality's near the highest among developed countries.

Protests raged last summer against unaffordable housing, high food and energy prices, low wages and eroding social benefits, onerous working household taxes, lost education and adequate healthcare benefits, weak labor rights, misallocated settlement construction, the high cost of raising children, and more.

Netanyahu's government is Israel's worst ever. Racist discrimination defines it. Repressive laws deny Arab citizens fundamental rights. Occupied Palestinians are virtual prisoners, especially besieged Gazans. They're also war zone victims under frequent air, land and sea attacks.

Steinberg admits Israel's "not perfect - like other nations, we have flaws, and it is our responsibility to correct them. But aggressive campaigns greatly exaggerate these imperfections (to) delegitimize Israel."

In fact, Israel delegitimizes itself. Its policies reveal its deeply flawed character. Its credentials exclude electoral freedom. Free expression's gravely threatened. Critical NGOs face extinction. Minority rights never existed and don't now.

Steinberg says otherwise. His methodology excludes facts too patent to deny. Selective myths support his claims. He calls indisputable crimes of war and against humanity false accusations.

Numerous other civil and human rights abuses are denied. Torture as official Israeli policy's ignored. Jewish superiority's supported. Diaspora Palestinians' right of return's opposed, and Arabs are called inherently violent.

All Jerusalem should be Judaized, he believes. Palestinians have no right to their capital. Jewish history, traditions, culture, heritage, language and identity must be preserved. Arabs deserve being marginalized, maligned, and denigrated.

Israeli critics employ double standards, he says. Opposition groups are "empowered through secret funding processes, and not subject to any checks and balances....the real threat to Israeli democracy."

He uses hyperbole to make baseless claims. State policies debase democracy. Weak at best always, it's headed for elimination entirely.

Recently passed laws show how. They include:

(1) the Law to Prevent Infiltration permits imprisoning refugees and asylum seekers. It deters entering Israel to keep it ethnically/religiously pure.

(2) the Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott allows civil suits against anyone advocating boycotts of settlement products. It sanctions participating NGOs. It strips their tax exempt status.

(3) The Entry into Israel Law limits work permits given migrant workers residing in Israel. It binds them to one employer. Calling the practice illegal, Israel's High Court equated it to modern-day slavery.

(4) The Revoking Citizenship for Persons Convicted of Terrorism and Espionage lets courts strip it for persons convicted without evidence. Denying it eliminates other basic rights.

(5) the Nakba Law lets the Finance Minister reduce or prohibit funding any institution under the following conditions:

  • refusal to support Israel as a Jewish state;

  • racist, violent or terrorist incitement;

  • support for any nation, group or entity Israel calls an enemy or terrorist organization;

  • mourning Israel's Independence Day; and/or

  • committing vandalism or physical desecration dishonoring Israel's flag or symbols.

In other words, mourning Palestine's worst ever catastrophe's illegal.

(6) The Acceptance to Communities Law lets villages and communities deny individuals admittance for "fail(ing) to meet the fundamental views of the community," its social fabric, and other characteristics. In other words, for not being Jewish.

(7) the Funding from Foreign State Entities law requires foreign state NGO supporters submit quarterly financial reports. At issue is delegitimizing and curtailing legitimate activities, not legislating transparency. Human rights and other civil groups are targeted for supporting rights Israel opposes.

(8) The Extending Arrest of Persons Suspected of Security Offenses permits arresting suspects in security related cases for longer periods without judicial oversight. Extending arrests without their presence is also authorized.

(9) the Pardoning Protesters of Gaza Disengagement distinguishes between political and ideological activists. Instead of general principles, the political agenda of Israel's elected majority's promoted.

(10) the Abu Basma Bill on Regional Council Elections lets the Interior Minister postpone democratic regional council elections indefinitely.

In January, Israel's High Court rejected a challenge to Israel's Israel's Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law.

It denies citizenship rights to Palestinians with Israeli spouses. Enacted in 2003 as temporary legislation, it was extended twice after its initial expiration date.

The law lets the interior minister grant citizenship only if affected Palestinians identify strongly and cooperate with Israel. They must also contribute to national security. As a result, few qualify.

In addition, potential eligibility's limited to Palestinian husbands 36 or older and Palestinian wives at least 26.

A Qara village attorney called the decision a "declaration of war on Israeli Arabs." A mixed couple said the decision "will lead to the expulsion of thousands of families from the country."

Proposed bills include:

  • prohibiting the word Nazi and Third Reich symbols;

  • authorizing libel without proof of damages;

  • restricting support from foreign state entities;

  • depriving human rights NGOs getting foreign state funding of their tax exempt status and taxes them at a punitively high rate;

  • permitting libel suits and criminal prosecutions of anyone slandering Israel and/or its official bodies;

  • extending preferential civil service treatment for persons with military service;

  • requiring foreigners seeking Israeli citizenship pledge allegiance to the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic, Zionist state and serve a term of military or national service;

  • imprisoning persons publishing a call that denies the existence of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state;

  • establishing a tribunal for non-Jewish foreigners seeking legal status in Israel;

  • prohibiting organizations deemed harmful to Israel from operating;

  • requiring anyone receiving an ID card, passport, driver's license, or other official document declare loyalty to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state;

  • declaring Israel "the national home of the Jewish people," no longer permitting Arabic as an official language;

  • prohibiting entry into Israel of anyone involved in boycotts, suing the government or military, or denying the holocaust; and

  • requiring civil servants and council members swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, among other proposed measures.

Other anti-democratic laws also passed. Israel's a rogue pariah state, not a democratic one. Arabs never had rights, but increasingly Jews are denied social justice and fundamental freedoms in a nation eroding them entirely.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Syrians Overwhelmingly Approve New Constitution

Syrians Overwhelmingly Approve New Constitution

by Stephen Lendman

Major media scoundrels can't bear reporting good news they'd rather suppress, so they downplay and disparage it best they can. More on that below.

On Sunday, Syria's state TV showed huge pro-Assad crowds in Damascus' Saba Bahrat Square. By national referendum, they were eager to support constitutional reforms. They also backed state security force efforts against Western-backed killer gangs.

Russian Eurasian Institution head Alexander Doglen also endorsed draft constitutional changes. Islamic scholar Abdul-Rahman Ali al-Dalaa said they boost human dignity and religious freedom.

On February 27, Syria's Interior Ministry announced Sunday's impressive results. From 7AM, 14,185 polling centers opened across Syria's governorates, as well as at border crossings, airports, mobile desert areas, and other locations.

Syrians are enthusiastic for change. Despite opposition boycotts, threats, anti-Assad media campaigns, and turnout hampered in violence-torn areas, 89.4% of eligible voters approved it. Another 9% opposed, and 1.2% of ballots were invalid.

Overall, 57.4% of Syrians participated. The total was impressive, given the risks voters took to show up.

Raw numbers included 8,376,447 voting among 14,589,954 eligible. Those for totaled 7,490,319 compared to 753,208 against.

The Constitution includes 157 articles. From its initial draft, 14 are new, 37 were amended, and another 34 reformulated. Among other reforms, political pluralism was established for the first time, as well as presidential term limits, and press freedom.

Reporting it, The New York Times headlined, "Syrians Said to Approve New Charter as Battles Continue," saying:

Fighting keeps raging. Critics called it "too little too late, and Western leaders labeled (it) a farce."

"Even before the result was announced, after a morning of new shelling in the beleaguered city of Homs and elsewhere, some Western leaders had disparaged the vote as having no credibility."

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said it "fooled nobody. To open polling stations but continue to open fire on the civilians of the country has no credibility in the eyes of the world."

In fact, Western-backed insurgents bear most responsibility for violence and instability to impose regime change most Syrians oppose. Their impressive turnout showed it.

Huge crowds voted in Damascus and other less violent areas. Voting continued until 7PM, and in high turnout areas until 10PM. Only then were centers closed.

Downplaying an impressive day, The Times said "(s)ome polling places appeared deserted, and at others, the opinions were divided."

Hillary Clinton called Sunday's vote an empty gesture, saying:

"It's a phony referendum that is going to be used by Assad to justify what he is doing to other Syrians. So it's a cynical ploy to say the least."

Anti-Assad Syrian National Council (SNC) member Bassma Kodmani said:

"It is not going to work because the repression is continuing. They are caught up in this cycle, and it is simply to late."

AP buried referendum results paragraphs into an article headlined, "Red Cross delivers aid to Syrian city of Hama." It stressed violence and opposition boycotts over impressive results downplayed dismissively.

At the same time, EU nations imposed new Syrian sanctions. They include freezing central bank assets and those of certain government officials. Importing precious metals, diamonds, and minerals were also banned. Moreover, cargo flights may no longer land in EU countries.

New measures build on last September's oil embargo and other multiple rounds. They're effective after publishing them in the EU's Official Journal. It's usually within 24 hours of imposition.

A joint EU foreign ministers statement said:

"The EU underlines that those responsible for the violence across Syria will be held responsible for their actions. The EU supports the Syrian opposition in its struggle for freedom, dignity, and democracy."

In fact, rogue EU states, like America, won't tolerate democracy at home or abroad. They wage wars to prevent it.

For his part, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned about intervening against Syria and/or Iran "under cover of humanitarian slogans." In fact, "tragic events (are) driven not by concern for human rights, but a desire by some (nations for regime change and) to redistribute markets."

Russian news agencies quoted him saying nations need to "decide their own fate independently." He added that Western nations backed Arab Spring revolts to advance their own regional interests.

They very much want Syria and Iran regime change to assure them there against majorities in both countries.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for March 1, 3, and 4, 2012

The Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for March 1, 3 and 4, 2012

Thursday, March 1 at 10AM US Central time: Matthew Witt

Witt's a University of La Verne, CA Associate Professor of Public Administration. His published work with others shows shadow governing entities and state crimes against democracy undermine America's legitimacy and founding doctrine.

His work appears in Administration & Society, American Behavioral Scientist, and Public Integrity.

Sunday, March 3 at noon US Central time: Finian Cunningham

Cunningham is a musician, writer and activist based in Northern Ireland when he's not on site elsewhere doing research.

Earlier he spent months in Bahrain, writing about brutal Al-Khalifa monarchy repression.

Currently, he's on the Horn of Africa covering struggles in that strategic part of the world, but not ignoring other vital issues.

Key ones will be discussed.

Sunday, March 4 at noon US Central time: William Cook

Cook is a writer, author, and Professor of English at the University of La Verne, CA, where he served earlier as Vice President for Academic Affairs for 13 years.

His books include "Cultural Expressions of Evil and Wickedness," "Psalms for the 21st Century," and his edited one, "The Plight of the Palestinians."

World issues will be discussed.

Debunking the Spurious Iranian Nuclear Threat

Debunking the Spurious Iranian Nuclear Threat

by Stephen Lendman

Previous articles debunked claims of Iran's alleged nuclear threat. For months, major media scoundrels regurgitated official lies.

Yet at least since 2007, America's annual intelligence assessment found none. Media reports ignored it. Suddenly old news is new news.

Quelle surprise! It's now headlined. More on that below, and a review of past intelligence assessments. Previous articles explained them.

Why the change? Iran faces frequent false accusations. In recent months alone, they include the fake US Saudi assassination plot, being the world's leading sponsor of terror, targeting Israeli officials in India, Georgia and Thailand, and, of course, claims about a nonexistent nuclear weapons program. They all fail the smell test.

Defusing Iran's nuclear issue relates directly to Washington designating Syria target one. The road to Tehran runs through Damascus. Both countries are targeted for regime change.

Confronting enemies works best one at a time. If a pro-Western regime replaces Assad, Iran loses its key regional ally. Isolated, it's more vulnerable.

Attacking both countries simultaneously means war on two fronts against militaries far from pushovers. Though no match for Washington or Israel's nuclear arsenal, both can hit back hard enough to raise concerns in high places.

As a result, downplaying Iran's nuclear issue for now plays into likely planned war on Syria. Daily events suggest it. So-called Friends of Syria urge it. Heated rhetoric practically demands it. Calls grow for involving foreign troops.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal openly called killing Syrians a "great idea." Riyadh's been actively involved in doing it for months along with Qatar, Turkey, Israel, and other rogue regional states.

Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the Russian Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defense) magazine told Russia Today:

"The armed opposition which rejects dialogue is responsible for escalating violence in Syria," falsely blamed on Assad. He added that UK and other foreign forces in Syria are directly aiding insurgents. Yet "despite all these developments," he said, "Damascus is still open for dialogue with the opposition."

He also explained that unrest is mainly in small parts of the country, contrary to Western media reports. In fact, most Syrians support Assad, but spurious accounts suggest otherwise.

America's Media Discover No Iranian Nuclear Threat

On February 24, The New York Times headlined, "US Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb," saying:

America's intelligence assessment finds "no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb." The CIA and 15 other US intelligence agencies concur: Iran has no known military related program. All along, Tehran denied one.

Repeatedly, Iranian leaders and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied Iran seeks nuclear weapons. Most recently Khamenei called them "useless, harmful and dangerous."

Western powers know "we are not seeking nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic of Iran considers possession of nuclear weapons a sin. (Iran) wants to prove to the world that possessing (them) does not bring power...."

US Intelligence Confirms It

On February 16, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the US Intelligence Community's Worldwide Threat Assessment.

He found no evidence of an Iranian terror threat. He called "a mass attack by foreign terrorist groups involving a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapon in the United State unlikely in the next year.”

He discussed potential Iranian WMD threats, saying:

"We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," but no evidence suggests an ongoing program. "We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons." (It's) technically feasible, but unlikely."

At the same Senate meeting, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, CIA director General David Petraeus, and Joint Chiefs head General Martin Dempsey concurred with Clapper. The alleged Iranian threat is entirely bogus.

Other high US, European and Israeli officials also believe Iran poses no threat, has no ongoing military nuclear program, and has no likely intention to initiate one. Claiming otherwise is spurious and inflammatory.

Experts have known it for years. So have major media scoundrels, but until now said otherwise, while at the same time, trying to have it both ways.

Another February 24 Times article headlined, "Atomic Agency Says Iran Is Making Fuel at Protected Site," saying:

IAEA "inspectors reported on Friday that Iran was moving more rapidly to produce nuclear fuel than many outsiders expected, at a deep underground (Fordo) site....The report is likely to inflame the debate over whether Iran is nearing what Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, calls entering a 'zone of immunity.' "

According to National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor:

"....Iran's actions demonstrate why (it) has failed to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful."

Fordo's enriching uranium to 20% purity. Previous reports called it crossing the line toward developing nuclear weapons.

In fact, Iran uses a small reactor to produce medical isotopes that require 20% enrichment. On site IAEA cameras monitor operations. So do agency inspections. No evidence suggests diverting uranium for military purposes. Yet the canard's frequently raised.

In its February 24 report, The Times agreed, saying the "claim appears to be true, at least in part." In other words, the alleged full truth remains elusive.

"The fact that Iran is increasing production further has heightened suspicions in the West that it wants to stockpile the fuel in case it decides, in the future, to produce bomb-grade material. It would take relatively little additional work to get that fuel to the 90 percent purity needed for weapon fuel."

Nothing, in fact, suggests it. Reporting it keeps the nuclear threat alive, when it has no credibility whatever based on years of intensive intelligence.

At the same time, multiple rounds of stiff sanctions remain in place, including an attempted oil embargo effective July 1. It affects crude oil, petroleum and petrochemical products, oil related business, equipment and technology, selling Tehran refined products, new investments, and dealing with its central bank.

A previous article said Europe's shooting itself in foot by going along with Washington. The Obama administration's done the same thing, based on how major purchasers reacted.

Important ones, wholly or in part, dismissed the sanctions, including Russia, China, India, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and others. For its part, Iran can play the same game, and did by demanding complicit EU nations sign long-term agreements and guarantee payments. If not, Tehran won't wait for July 1. It may immediately cut them off entirely.

At the same time, it's no longer shipping oil to Britain and France, Europe's two main bullies. They're partnered with Washington's worst crimes, including likely war on Syria.

Given world tensions, oil prices and Iran's revenue keep rising. On Friday, Brent crude topped $125 a barrel and and US WTI approaches $110. As long as current conditions are uncertain, the trend remains up. For Iran, it's not only pure profit, but as Progressive Radio News Hour regular Bob Chapman explains:

Iranian oil sanctions haven't worked. The embargo's "ridiculous. This has to be one of the most ill thought through schemes ever....Talk about shooting oneself in the foot. This has been a case of the Illuminists' shooting themselves in both feet."

Iranian crude buyers won't bow to Washington, including on how they make payments. They'll circumvent Tehran's central bank sanctions by using multiple currencies, barter and gold. As a result, "Iran is breaking the hold on the petrodollar," and weakening America in the process.

"Keeping Iran out of Swift Code for bank transfers is dumb." Alternatives are easily found via China, Russia or India. Dollar strength will weaken more. Whoever dreamed up this scheme should be fired. Iran's beating Washington at its own game. The longer it practices rogue politics, the more friends it finds won't go along.

Iran's Nuclear Program

Accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons is cover for planned regime change. February 24 major media headlines exposed the false charge, at least in part. A previous article explained the following:

In December 2007, America's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) said:

"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; (perhaps it never existed); we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons..."

The NIE also said:

"We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop (them)."

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop (them) than we have been judging since 2005."

In February 2010, America's Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said:

"We do not know....if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons." No evidence of an ongoing program exists.

In March 2011, the US Intelligence Community Worldwide Threat Assessment for the Senate Armed Services Committee said precisely the same thing. No evidence suggests an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

In other words, years of sophisticated satellite, covert, and other intelligence showed nothing.

For the moment, baseless accusations yielded partially to grudging truths, but for how long. If Washington replaces Assad, Iran becomes target one. As a result, expect old baseless accusations revived along with new ones to heighten fear levels enough to justify intervention.

America wants total regional dominance. Achieving it requires replacing all independent regimes with client ones by any means, including war.

It's happened enough previous times to imagine what's coming, and with it potentially catastrophic consequences. Given America's preemptive nuclear strike policy, the threat is terrifyingly real.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.