German warfare in the Middle East


This 27 January 2019 video is called German weapons sold to Saudi Arabia and UAE used in Yemen war | DW News.

A 6 July 2019 Deutsche Welle TV video from Germany used to say about itself:

Germany’s secret service in the arms trade | DW Documentary

Germany’s secret service, the BND, is heavily involved in the delivery of weapons to crisis areas of the world. As this documentary shows, it has – among other things – played along with arms deals made by German shipping companies.

Top secret operations are carried out silently, bypassing the federal authorities by exploiting a blind spot between the Foreign Trade and the War Weapons Control Acts. The weapons are not shipped from Germany, but via a secret port in Ukraine that does not appear on any map. The trail leads to Kyiv, where a former Ukrainian president confirms the existence of the port and the “delicate” arms deals.

For the first time, the chief of the country’s secret service acknowledges that German companies are involved in the shipping of military weapons via the Ukraine, and provides the film team with the first and only television pictures of the secret port. Research in the USA throws up more alarming indications. American satellite images show the port where heavy-lift carriers load tanks, howitzers and other military equipment. At least two German shipping companies are involved in the operation.

The plethora of secret documents points in particular to a former world market leader in the heavy-lift cargo business, the Bremen-based Beluga shipping company, which has since ceased trading. Four of its ships are explicitly named. Loading and stowage lists show that the shipping company repeatedly planned and shipped armaments – and one man, a BND officer with the code name “Klaus Hollmann”, was always involved. The German parliament only found out about the BND’s involvement in the arms deliveries through the makers of this film and is now trying to get to the bottom of the affair. Intelligence experts see this as an important step in averting further damage to German democracy.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

Germany’s Grand Coalition intensifies war policy in the Middle East

12 July 2019

The German government intends to continue the war mission of the Bundeswehr (Germany‘s Armed Forces) in Syria and deploy the Air Force in the entire region beyond October 31, contrary to the provisions of its current parliamentary mandate. This was announced by government spokesman Steffen Seibert at a press conference in Berlin earlier this week.

For years, Germany has made “a considerable and internationally recognized contribution to the anti-IS [ISIS] coalition”, explained Seibert. The Bundeswehr was “active in aerial reconnaissance, in aerial refuelling and also in the training of Iraqi units.” Now the German government “together with our allies, with the American side, is talking about how the engagement in the region should develop further.”

The deployment of German ground troops, as formally requested by the US government and its special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, for the training of Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, is allegedly not planned, according to Seibert. At the same time, he made it clear that the German government was preparing to expand its involvement in the US-led anti-IS coalition behind the back of the population.

This would involve “a whole series of both military and civilian components that could be suitable for achieving stabilization on the ground in the region.” The German approach was that “we want to continue our previous measures as far as possible.” For one thing is clear: “The challenge posed by the so-called Islamic State has by no means disappeared. The coalition has succeeded in taking over areas that ISIS previously held in Syria and Iraq. But the danger of the Islamic State continues.”

That’s the familiar propaganda. In reality, the main concern of the imperialist powers is not the struggle against ISIS, which itself is a product of the brutal war for regime change in Syria, which cost 400,000 lives and destroyed large parts of the country. The actual war aim was and is the overthrow of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the installation of a pro-Western puppet regime in Damascus.

In contrast to the attack on Iraq in 2003 and the Libyan war in 2011, Germany participated in the Syrian intervention from the very beginning. As early as 2012, the Federal Foreign Office, together with the government-linked think tank Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) and part of the Syrian opposition, launched the project “The Day after” and published a “Vision for a Post-Assad Order.”

Now that Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies are nearing a military victory and the United States is escalating its war preparations against Iran, the European powers are increasing their own military presence in the region to assert their economic and geostrategic interests.

According to media reports, France and Great Britain have responded to the US government’s request and agreed to send additional soldiers to Syria. Paris and London would increase their troops by 10 to 15 percent, a US government representative told Foreign Policy magazine on Wednesday. Italy is also on the verge of sending additional armed forces. Similarly, a number of Balkan and Baltic states are “almost certain” to send soldiers to replace US troops, the magazine writes, citing another source.

In Germany, too, leading politicians of the governing parties are pleading for the deployment of ground troops to Syria. CDU chairman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in an interview that German ground troops in Syria were “a big leap for us”. But one must “always be aware: it is also a matter of our own security in Germany, not just what the United States wants.”

The deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Johann Wadephul, told representatives of the German Press Agency that the request from Washington should not be “reflexively rejected”. After all, “this region is about our security and not American security.”

The CDU defence expert and chairman of the Bundestag’s reservist working group RAG, Patrick Sensburg, emphasized in an interview with Focus that the US demand for ground troops was by no means off the table. It was also “our obligation to ensure peace in the region” and “to assume greater responsibility.” After all, “the fight against the IS is far away from the USA and close to Europe … You can’t always say, ‘Let the Americans do it’.”

Leading social democrats, who had already strongly condemned US plans to withdraw from Syria last December, have also made it clear that they essentially support Washington’s request.

The USA had “moved away from its withdrawal plans because of international criticism, among other things. Because the IS is still a real danger in the region,” said Fritz Felgentreu, defence policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag. “Now the U.S. expects support from the same countries. That’s understandable.” One should “therefore evaluate with the other countries of the anti-IS coalition what is still necessary now and which country can take over which task.”

Even the opposition parties in the Bundestag are not fundamentally opposed to an expansion of the mission and the deployment of ground troops. However, they stress that it must serve German and European interests in the region to a greater extent.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, deputy leader of the FDP parliamentary group, told the German daily Die Welt: “As long as there is no political solution for Syria, we don’t need to talk about German ground troops.” The US inquiry, however, showed that it would not work in the medium term without a European contribution. “The condition for this must be that Europe be equally involved in the development of a new political order in Syria. It can’t continue with the previous approach.”

Tobias Lindner, the Greens‘ spokesman on defence policy, made similar remarks according to Die Welt. “German ground troops in Syria would only be conceivable at all if there were a mandate from the UN Security Council and a credible peace perspective” ,he said.

… Dietmar Bartsch, leader of the parliamentary group of the Left Party in the Bundestag, demanded that Germany should not be a “recipient of orders from the United States.” Tobias Pflüger, the Left Party’s spokesman on defence policy, warned that the US administration was “concerned only with replacing its soldiers, so that they also have a free hand in other fields.” Germany should “not allow itself to be drawn further into the Syrian war.”

In fact, German-European military planning is not limited to Syria. On Thursday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung published a comment calling upon the German and European powers to join the anti-Iranian military coalition to secure the Strait of Hormuz that US President Donald Trump is seeking to establish. “Freedom of navigation is a great good, especially for a nation as dependent on exports as Germany. It must also be defended in crisis regions such as the Persian Gulf.”

The newspaper’s proposal: “Warships from Europe or Asia” should “secure the bottleneck from the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf”, through which “40 percent of the world’s oil exports” passes, and the Bab el-Mandab Strait, the entrance from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea.

European ships “would be less provocative for Iran than American or Saudi patrol boats” and at the same time “a further signal to Tehran that Europe wants to maintain the nuclear agreement but does not accept the aggressive regional policy of the Islamic Republic unopposed.”

The Süddeutsche Zeitung claim that another armada of warships in the powder keg of the Middle East would be “a contribution to crisis prevention” is obviously absurd. It would rather increase the danger of a direct military confrontation with Iran, which could quickly ignite the entire region and lead to a possible confrontation with the nuclear powers Russia and China and thus to a third world war.

One week after the president of Germany’s parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble, appealed for an expansion of foreign military interventions, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has followed suit: here.

International cartoon festival, Brussels, opens 27 April


International cartoon Knokke-Heist

From the organisers of the international cartoon festival, in Brussels, Belgium, today:

A year has passed since the murderous attacks in Brussels’ airport and metro. For a brief moment last March, the city seemed empty. We weren’t simply shocked by the senseless violence, but also anxious: could we still live safely here? Against this backdrop, the major international cartoon exhibition scheduled for April 2016 was cancelled.

The scars remain, but life goes on. We must continue to work towards mutual understanding, emphasizing the shared needs, hopes and values that lie hidden beneath our outward (personal and political) differences.

The festival You, the West and the Middle East offers a selection of cartoons intended to encourage reflection and dialogue on the work of living together. Out of more than 1000 submissions from around the world, we have selected 120 outstanding works. How have cartoonists engaged with developments in the Middle East? What do they reveal (or question) about the culture of the region? What is their take on the refugee issue? And what does their work teach us about the craft of living together?

The exhibition will be accompanied by diverse fora for listening, discussing, engaging and simply coming together. The festival seeks to encourage mutual understanding and respect and rejects all efforts to provoke senseless confrontation between people and cultures.

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO “DE MARKTEN” FOR THE OPENING OF THE FESTIVAL

Oude Graanmarkt 5, 1000 Brussels
Thursday, April 27th at 19.30h

Your host for the evening will be Jan Hautekiet. Ward Treunen, Rachida Aziz and Keltoum Belorf will tell you more about the festival. Jan Vromman will present “Say No.” Charles Ducal will also be there, together with Bilal Bilal, wrote a letter to us. Kamel Badarneh will provide a soundtrack for the evening. The reception starts at 20:00. Omnya will be in charge of the hors d’oeuvres, and you will be free to explore the exhibition.

With many thanks for your consideration, and in hopeful anticipation your attendance, please accept our warmest greetings,

on behalf of all the partners,

Sincerely,

Nora De Kempeneer & Ward Treunen

From the exhibition organisers:

YOU, THE WEST AND THE MIDDLE EAST is not only an international cartoon exhibition, but also a whole series of activities during the month of May on how we experience and look at the Middle East.

Every day we are seeing bombings on ou[r] TV screen, we read about radicalization, IS [ISIS], terrorist attacks, we’re watching soldiers patrolling our streets, we question the situation in the Middle East, we ask ourselves how to treat refugees humanely and we try to live a normal life under terror threats …

The current situation leaves no one untouched and needs more insight and understanding of what is happening today in the world.

How can we try to better understand this region, which we only know as a permanent war zone, where everyone seems to be fighting everyone. Should we not start discussing and imagining a possible and liveable future for the Middle East?

This project aims to promote mutual understanding, rather than getting involved in a pointless confrontation between ‘different’ cultures.

Cartoonists from around the world put together a compelling and confrontational exhibition, that will be presented in May 2017: from May 2 to May 31 in De Markten, Vieux Marché aux Grains 5 in 1000 Brussels – free access from 12:00 to 18:00 on Tue-Wed-Thu-Fri-Sat-Sun (Thursdays until 20:00).

Additionally, you can meet the cartoonists, you can watch enlightening documentaries and attend lectures and workshops.

More information can be found on this website. Do you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please let us know at info@lightintimetocome.org

This video says about itself:

Cartoonists – foot soldiers of democracy – trailer

1 August 2014

12 loveable lunatics, capturing the comic and tragic in all four corners of the earth: cartoonists who risk their lives to defend democracy, with a smile on their faces and a pencil as their only weapon. They are French, Tunisian, Russian, American, Burkinabese, Chinese, Mexican, Algerian, Ivorian, Venezuelan, Israeli and Palestinian.

This film will be shown at the Brussels festival on 2 May.

This video says about itself:

WE ARE MANY – OFFICIAL TRAILER

24 April 2015

We Are Many tells for the first time the remarkable story of the biggest protest in history, and how it changed the world.

Eight years in the making, filmed in seven countries, and including interviews with John Le Carre, Damon Albarn, Brian Eno, Danny Glover, Mark Rylance, Richard Branson, Hans Blix and Ken Loach amongst others, it charts the birth and rise of the people power movements that are now sweeping the world, all through the prism of one extraordinary day.

On February 15th 2003, over 15 million people marched through the streets of 800 cities on every continent to voice their opposition to the proposed war in Iraq. This unprecedented global march was organised, against all odds, by a patchwork of peace campaigners in many countries, who reveal how they pulled of the historic demonstration, and whose legacy is only now unfolding.

For more information about the film please visit here.

This film will be shown at the Brussels festival on 10 May.

On Tuesday 23 May: a lecture by Mary Ann Wright. She is a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq war.

Qatar dictatorship and Middle East, African wars


This video from the USA is called Qatar Human Rights Official Defends Life Sentence For Poet Who Praised Arab Spring Uprisings.

By Jean Shaoul:

Qatar plays key role in US Middle East/North Africa plans

9 February 2013

Following the eruption of the mass protests that overthrew Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak two years ago, Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, has become a crucial US ally in securing its predatory interests throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Qatar is determined to ensure its own domination and that of the other ruling cliques in the Gulf, particularly its larger neighbour Saudi Arabia, on which it depends. To this end, it has sought to install Sunni Muslim regimes headed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates as a means of suppressing the working class throughout the region.

This is in line with Washington’s broader strategy of cobbling together an anti-Iran alliance and suppressing the Middle East masses in order to gain control of the region’s energy resources at the expense of its rivals, Russia and China.

Qatar, with considerable oil resources, is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). It has 14 percent of the world’s known gas reserves, the third largest after Russia and Iran, in its massive offshore North Field adjacent to Iran’s South Pars field.

LNG provides the government with 70 percent of its revenue. But high operating costs necessitate economies of scale and large markets that can only be provided by an extensive network of pipelines carrying the LNG to Europe via the Eastern Mediterranean if Qatar is to compete with Indonesia and Nigeria. Saudi Arabia has refused permission for gas pipelines across its territory, despite this being the shortest route into Europe.

This has determined Qatar’s interventionist foreign policy, particularly in Syria, which occupies a strategic position between the major producers and their key markets in Europe.

Qatar, ruled by the Al-Thani family since independence from Britain in 1971, has a per capita income of $90,000, the highest in the world, but few have benefited. All but 225,000 of the 1.7 million population are migrant workers, mainly from South and South East Asia, who work for a pittance without rights or protection. The regime has maintained its grip on power by suppressing all dissent, strikes and protests. However, it was forced to respond to social unrest with a $65 billion spending programme on housing and extensive public and social infrastructure projects, spread over five years.

Qatar has used its Sovereign Wealth Funds to reward and buy friends and influence, and championed the Muslim Brotherhood as its overseas emissaries while disbanding them at home. The Emir has sought to raise Qatar’s profile by its sponsorship of the Al Jazeera satellite TV channel as it own foreign policy arm.

Al Jazeera has cultivated the Sunni Islam cleric Yusif al-Qaradawi, of Egyptian origin, who is head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, and financed and broadcast religious education programmes. This has spawned Islamic militants, including senior Al Qaeda members whom Qatar has sheltered, such as the alleged mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He was sheltered by Qatar’s Minister of Religious Affairs and held a government job in the Ministry of Electricity and Water. His nephew, Ramzi Yousef, was convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade bombing.

Qatar’s relationship with the US took off after the first Gulf War in 1991 when the Emir allowed the coalition forces to operate from Qatar, destroyed his own US-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles bought on the black market that been the source of friction with Washington, and sent his troops to fight in the coalition against Iraq. In 1992, he signed a defence treaty that now involves joint defence exercises and three US bases.

The current ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who deposed his father in 1994, has spent more than $1 billion constructing the Al-Udeid air base south of Doha, which serves as a base hub for US operations against Iraq and Afghanistan, and its assassination by drone operations in Pakistan. The US has spent about $100 million a year constructing further facilities at Al-Udeid, Doha International Air Base and at Al-Sayliyah Army Base for US Central Command (CENTCOM) Forward Headquarters, where 5,000 US troops are stationed.

Doha, along with the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council, sent troops into neighbouring Bahrain to help crush the Shi’ite protests against the al-Khalifa dynasty.

In Tunisia, Qatar played a leading role in bringing the Ennahda party to power in the 2011 elections following Ben Ali’s overthrow, providing it with finance and favourable coverage from Al Jazeera. It has signed numerous agreements for economic aid and investment, including a $500 million loan to quadruple Tunisia’s oil refining capacity.

Qatar played a leading role in the NATO-led war against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. It exerted enormous international pressure via the Arab League and GCC and sent its air force to join NATO and its own special forces to arm, train and lead the Islamist militias, particularly those groups affiliated to the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the National Transition Council (NTC), acknowledged that success was largely due to Qatar, which he said had spent $2 billion. Jalil said, “Nobody travelled to Qatar without being given a sum of money by the government”.

With Qatar’s support, these same Libyan militia groups are now providing weaponry and volunteers in the efforts to unseat the Assad regime.

Qatar had invested $10 billion in Libya, with the Barwa Real Estate Company investing $2 billion in the construction of a beach resort near Tripoli. Doha backed various horses in the race to take Libya, signing deals worth $8 billion with the NTC, and financing Abdel Hakim Belhaj, an Islamist leader, and Sheikh Ali Salabi, a Doha-based cleric.

Prior to Mubarak’s ouster, Doha’s relations with Damascus and Tehran had warmed just like Turkey’s—largely as a result of its shared oil and gas fields with Iran—with Qatar even trying to mediate between the US and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme. This culminated early in 2011 in an agreement for a $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, with the possibility of further pipelines to Lebanon and Turkey, including one from Egypt to Lebanon, and another from Kirkuk in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region as the civil war erupted in late March 2011.

All that changed with the imperialist powers’ decision to engineer a Sunni Islamist regime to replace Bashar-al-Assad. Qatar has played a key role, funding and arming armed Islamist gangs that are carrying out sectarian and terrorist attacks on the civilian population, and providing diplomatic support via the Arab League and GCC for Western intervention.

Last November, Doha brokered the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC) to replace the hopelessly split Syrian National Council.

As part of its offensive to isolate the Assad regime, Qatar forced Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to break with Syria. Assad had sponsored his office in Damascus since 1999 when he was expelled from Jordan. Meshaal moved to Doha and has sought to reengage in unity discussions with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, at Qatar’s behest.

Doha is doing its best to prop up Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Mursi, who faces massive opposition from the Egyptian working class, providing $5 billion in loans to stave off bankruptcy and $18 billion in investment funds. This includes $8 billion for major projects in Sharq al-Tafria, East Port Said, to secure its control of the Suez Canal as a transit route. The funds came after Mursi gave his full and very public support for Assad’s overthrow at the Tehran conference of non-aligned nations last summer.

Bring Tony Blair to justice


This video is about the big anti Iraq war march – London, February 2003.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Bring Blair to justice

Thursday 07 February 2013

Campaigners renewed their calls today for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes ahead of the 10th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Stop the War Coalition and CND slammed the “monumental disgrace” of the “bloody and illegal” war and demanded Mr Blair be brought to justice.

Two million people took to the streets on February 15 2003 to oppose the war in the largest protests Britain has ever seen.

The war in Iraq lasted six years and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

A decade on Britain remains bogged down in the quagmire of Afghanistan and the so-called war on terror has expanded to encompass Libya, Syria and now Mali.

Stop the War Coalition, CND and others plan to mark the coming anniversary with a series of events, the first being a major conference in London on Saturday.

Stop the War convener Lindsey German told the Star: “My feeling is that Tony Blair should be in the Hague.

“It is a matter of basic justice that the person who launched the war and who has continued to thrive should be held accountable.

“We have had cover-up after cover-up and lie and lie. Tony Blair has enriched himself since leaving office and continues to hold the position of Middle East peace envoy, whose only role has been to back up military intervention.”

She described the decision to go ahead with the invasion against the will of the people as a “terrible failing of democratic politics” and said no government should ever be allowed to do the same again.

CND general secretary Kate Hudson said the scale of the 2003 march had been “breathtaking.”

“Not only were the numbers astonishing, even to us as organisers, but the demographic was a remarkable cross-section of society, unifying against the terrible, deceitful, drumbeat of war.

“And it is a monumental disgrace that the government refused to listen to the will of the people.

“Instead they pressed ahead with a bloody and illegal war which has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and was premised on a lie.

“Tony Blair has evaded justice and eschewed responsibility for his actions.”

Saturday’s Ten Years On conference is being billed as one of the most important anti-war events of the last few years.

Among those scheduled to address the meeting at Friends House are Tony Benn, Tariq Ali, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson and, by video link, Noam Chomsky.

Next Friday, February 15, a protest will be held at 5.30pm opposite Downing Street to demand Western countries stay out of Syria and the wider Middle East and Africa.

Bahrain, Kuwait monarchies oppress opposition


This video says about itself:

Kingdoms of Loathing: Kuwait & Bahrain step up crackdown on opposition

Published on Feb 5, 2013

The Gulf kingdoms of Bahrain and Kuwait are seeing fresh public outcries against the country’s unelected rulers, who have been stepping up their crackdowns on dissent for the last 2 years. Calls for more rights and democracy are increasingly met with arrests and brutal force, as the conservative monarchs refuse to concede. While the West is accused of turning a blind eye to violations by its key Arab allies, as Lucy Kafanov reports.

Saudi Arabia birdwatching


This video is called Saudi Arabian Birds.

By Robert Tovey:

Feb 05, 2013

On Thursday, after visiting the Kararah lake area, our birding party doubled back away towards Riyadh on the Mecca road before turning off north west. This was on route 505 according to the map but route 902 according to the road sign.

This is an occupational hazard in Saudi Arabia, road sign numbers and map numbers often don’t agree.

The aim was to use a road (route 505) on the plain which ran parallel with the Tuwaiq escarpment and to come off this road from time to time to visit the foothills of the escarpment.

Desert lark

Desert lark

In the back of my mind was the possibility that we might finally see two of my nemesis birds – and hooded wheatear. Both have been reported as rare around the escarpment but not reported at all in other parts of central Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian vulture is relatively common in the west and hooded wheatear in the far north west of the country but both are very rare near Riyadh.

We chose to come off the main road and head to the escarpment at Dhurma and we found an excellent side road to do so.

100 metres before the slope we had to get out and walk down a shallow wadi because the road came to an end.

It didn’t look that promising at first, only desert lark and white crowned wheatear to see.

White crowned wheatear

White crowned wheatear

We noticed three dead camels which in retrospective were a clue to what happened later. At the time I didn’t think it was anything special because the whole frontage of the escarpment on the plain was scattered with camel herds and presumably the occasional carcass.

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

We stopped, watched and listened once we were close to the slopes. We could hear and see white spectacled bulbul (a.k.a ) and then we noticed a wave or two of birds of prey flying in various directions above the escarpment. The time was about 11 am and the air had warmed up making flying easier for these types of bird.

Adult steppe eagle

Adult

We were given an aerial display by four or five steppe eagle. A fan tailed raven also made an appearance.

Three steppe eagle of varying ages

However, I spotted a single unknown bird which returned a few minutes later as part of a group of three.

Griffon vulture

Almost unbelievably they were all griffon vulture. We came in search of Egyptian vulture and in return we saw the much less likely griffon vulture. Unfortunately, the pictures are poor as they flew high and fast but have nevertheless been verified by an expert.

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Griffon vulture hold wide territories but we also can’t rule out that they were all wintering birds. The map in the Helms guide for the Middle East does show them reaching the western side of the Tuwaiq escarpment in places as the eastern limit of their residential range. However, what I also know is they have been very rarely recorded around Riyadh.

I am pretty sure the dead carcasses seen and presumably others in the plain next to the escarpment are important factors in why we found the vultures.

Resting steppe eagle at "the edge of the world"

Resting steppe eagle at “the edge of the world”

The rest of the day was an anti-climax. We drove on into more desolate areas but with little reward.

It had been a speculative day that is to say one where we drive into new areas with no known previous birding and so not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be worth the eight hours of relatively low key activity for the 15 minutes of great excitement.

On the way back and near sunset we stopped off on the top of the escarpment at the place known as “the edge of the world” A lone steppe eagle was perched on a pylon to greet us.

A list of Thursday’s birds has been compiled by Lou Regensmorter:

Eurasian Griffon Vulture (new to my Saudi list and species number 261) teppe Eagle Desert Lark Common Kestrel Pale Crag Martin Laughing Dove Scrub Warbler Eurasian Collared Dove Asian Namaqua Dove Pallid Swift Hoopoe White-crowned Wheatear Little Green Bee-eater Blackstart House Sparrow Fan-tailed Raven Spanish Sparrow White-spectacled Bulbul Tawny Pipit Greater Hoopoe Lark

Rob Tovey

About Robert Tovey

Dr is a scientist by training and more recently an English teacher. His profession allows him to travel to some of the more difficult-to-get-to places and stay there for years if his inclination takes him. He is a keen bird watcher, blogger and amateur photographer. He has worked in Azerbaijan and Libya and is currently in Saudi Arabia. Rob also has a base in Bulgaria so overall is becoming a bit of birding specialist in very general terms where East meets West.

Noam Chomsky on Iraq and the USA


This video is called Noam Chomsky on Iraq War (BBC) (Part 1/2).

And here is part 2.

From The Nation in the USA:

Why It’s Legal When the US Does It

Noam Chomsky

February 4, 2013

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com. The following is adapted from “Uprisings,” a chapter in Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire, Noam Chomsky’s new interview book with David Barsamian (with thanks to the publisher, Metropolitan Books). The questions are Barsamian’s, the answers Chomsky’s.

Does the United States still have the same level of control over the energy resources of the Middle East as it once had?

The major energy-producing countries are still firmly under the control of the Western-backed dictatorships. So, actually, the progress made by the Arab Spring is limited, but it’s not insignificant. The Western-controlled dictatorial system is eroding. In fact, it’s been eroding for some time. So, for example, if you go back 50 years, the energy resources — the main concern of U.S. planners — have been mostly nationalized. There are constantly attempts to reverse that, but they have not succeeded.

Take the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example. To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it’s maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You’re not supposed to say this. It’s considered a conspiracy theory.

The United States was seriously defeated in Iraq by Iraqi nationalism — mostly by nonviolent resistance. The United States could kill the insurgents, but they couldn’t deal with half a million people demonstrating in the streets. Step by step, Iraq was able to dismantle the controls put in place by the occupying forces. By November 2007, it was becoming pretty clear that it was going to be very hard to reach U.S. goals. And at that point, interestingly, those goals were explicitly stated. So in November 2007 the Bush II administration came out with an official declaration about what any future arrangement with Iraq would have to be. It had two major requirements: one, that the United States must be free to carry out combat operations from its military bases, which it will retain; and two, “encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments.” In January 2008, Bush made this clear in one of his signing statements. A couple of months later, in the face of Iraqi resistance, the United States had to give that up. Control of Iraq is now disappearing before their eyes.

Iraq was an attempt to reinstitute by force something like the old system of control, but it was beaten back. In general, I think, U.S. policies remain constant, going back to the Second World War. But the capacity to implement them is declining.

Declining because of economic weakness?

Partly because the world is just becoming more diverse. It has more diverse power centers. At the end of the Second World War, the United States was absolutely at the peak of its power. It had half the world’s wealth and every one of its competitors was seriously damaged or destroyed. It had a position of unimaginable security and developed plans to essentially run the world — not unrealistically at the time.

This was called “Grand Area” planning?

Yes. Right after the Second World War, George Kennan, head of the U.S. State Department policy planning staff, and others sketched out the details, and then they were implemented. What’s happening now in the Middle East and North Africa, to an extent, and in South America substantially goes all the way back to the late 1940s. The first major successful resistance to U.S. hegemony was in 1949. That’s when an event took place, which, interestingly, is called “the loss of China.” It’s a very interesting phrase, never challenged. There was a lot of discussion about who is responsible for the loss of China. It became a huge domestic issue. But it’s a very interesting phrase. You can only lose something if you own it. It was just taken for granted: we possess China — and if they move toward independence, we’ve lost China. Later came concerns about “the loss of Latin America,” “the loss of the Middle East,” “the loss of” certain countries, all based on the premise that we own the world and anything that weakens our control is a loss to us and we wonder how to recover it.

Today, if you read, say, foreign policy journals or, in a farcical form, listen to the Republican debates, they’re asking, “How do we prevent further losses?”

On the other hand, the capacity to preserve control has sharply declined. By 1970, the world was already what was called tripolar economically, with a U.S.-based North American industrial center, a German-based European center, roughly comparable in size, and a Japan-based East Asian center, which was then the most dynamic growth region in the world. Since then, the global economic order has become much more diverse. So it’s harder to carry out our policies, but the underlying principles have not changed much.

Take the Clinton doctrine. The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.” That goes beyond anything that George W. Bush said. But it was quiet and it wasn’t arrogant and abrasive, so it didn’t cause much of an uproar. The belief in that entitlement continues right to the present. It’s also part of the intellectual culture.

Right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, amid all the cheers and applause, there were a few critical comments questioning the legality of the act. Centuries ago, there used to be something called presumption of innocence. If you apprehend a suspect, he’s a suspect until proven guilty. He should be brought to trial. It’s a core part of American law. You can trace it back to Magna Carta. So there were a couple of voices saying maybe we shouldn’t throw out the whole basis of Anglo-American law. That led to a lot of very angry and infuriated reactions, but the most interesting ones were, as usual, on the left liberal end of the spectrum. Matthew Yglesias, a well-known and highly respected left liberal commentator, wrote an article in which he ridiculed these views. He said they’re “amazingly naive,” silly. Then he expressed the reason. He said that “one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers.” Of course, he didn’t mean Norway. He meant the United States. So the principle on which the international system is based is that the United States is entitled to use force at will. To talk about the United States violating international law or something like that is amazingly naive, completely silly. Incidentally, I was the target of those remarks, and I’m happy to confess my guilt. I do think that Magna Carta and international law are worth paying some attention to.

I merely mention that to illustrate that in the intellectual culture, even at what’s called the left liberal end of the political spectrum, the core principles haven’t changed very much. But the capacity to implement them has been sharply reduced. That’s why you get all this talk about American decline. Take a look at the year-end issue of Foreign Affairs, the main establishment journal. Its big front-page cover asks, in bold face, “Is America Over?” It’s a standard complaint of those who believe they should have everything. If you believe you should have everything and anything gets away from you, it’s a tragedy, the world is collapsing. So is America over? A long time ago we “lost” China, we’ve lost Southeast Asia, we’ve lost South America. Maybe we’ll lose the Middle East and North African countries. Is America over? It’s a kind of paranoia, but it’s the paranoia of the superrich and the superpowerful. If you don’t have everything, it’s a disaster.

The New York Times describes the “defining policy quandary of the Arab Spring: how to square contradictory American impulses that include support for democratic change, a desire for stability, and wariness of Islamists who have become a potent political force.” The Times identifies three U.S. goals. What do you make of them?

Two of them are accurate. The United States is in favor of stability. But you have to remember what stability means. Stability means conformity to U.S. orders. So, for example, one of the charges against Iran, the big foreign policy threat, is that it is destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. How? By trying to expand its influence into neighboring countries. On the other hand, we “stabilize” countries when we invade them and destroy them.

I’ve occasionally quoted one of my favorite illustrations of this, which is from a well-known, very good liberal foreign policy analyst, James Chace, a former editor of Foreign Affairs. Writing about the overthrow of the Salvador Allende regime and the imposition of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1973, he said that we had to “destabilize” Chile in the interests of “stability.” That’s not perceived to be a contradiction — and it isn’t. We had to destroy the parliamentary system in order to gain stability, meaning that they do what we say. So yes, we are in favor of stability in this technical sense.

Concern about political Islam is just like concern about any independent development. Anything that’s independent you have to have concern about because it might undermine you. In fact, it’s a little ironic, because traditionally the United States and Britain have by and large strongly supported radical Islamic fundamentalism, not political Islam, as a force to block secular nationalism, the real concern. So, for example, Saudi Arabia is the most extreme fundamentalist state in the world, a radical Islamic state. It has a missionary zeal, is spreading radical Islam to Pakistan, funding terror. But it’s the bastion of U.S. and British policy. They’ve consistently supported it against the threat of secular nationalism from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt and Abd al-Karim Qasim’s Iraq, among many others. But they don’t like political Islam because it might become independent.

The first of the three points, our yearning for democracy, that’s about on the level of Joseph Stalin talking about the Russian commitment to freedom, democracy, and liberty for the world. It’s the kind of statement you laugh about when you hear it from commissars or Iranian clerics, but you nod politely and maybe even with awe when you hear it from their Western counterparts.

If you look at the record, the yearning for democracy is a bad joke. That’s even recognized by leading scholars, though they don’t put it this way. One of the major scholars on so-called democracy promotion is Thomas Carothers, who is pretty conservative and highly regarded — a neo-Reaganite, not a flaming liberal. He worked in Reagan’s State Department and has several books reviewing the course of democracy promotion, which he takes very seriously. He says, yes, this is a deep-seated American ideal, but it has a funny history. The history is that every U.S. administration is “schizophrenic.” They support democracy only if it conforms to certain strategic and economic interests. He describes this as a strange pathology, as if the United States needed psychiatric treatment or something. Of course, there’s another interpretation, but one that can’t come to mind if you’re a well-educated, properly behaved intellectual.

Within several months of the toppling of [President Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt, he was in the dock facing criminal charges and prosecution. It’s inconceivable that U.S. leaders will ever be held to account for their crimes in Iraq or beyond. Is that going to change anytime soon?

That’s basically the Yglesias principle: the very foundation of the international order is that the United States has the right to use violence at will. So how can you charge anybody?

And no one else has that right.

Of course not. Well, maybe our clients do. If Israel invades Lebanon and kills a thousand people and destroys half the country, okay, that’s all right. It’s interesting. Barack Obama was a senator before he was president. He didn’t do much as a senator, but he did a couple of things, including one he was particularly proud of. In fact, if you looked at his website before the primaries, he highlighted the fact that, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, he cosponsored a Senate resolution demanding that the United States do nothing to impede Israel’s military actions until they had achieved their objectives and censuring Iran and Syria because they were supporting resistance to Israel’s destruction of southern Lebanon, incidentally, for the fifth time in 25 years. So they inherit the right. Other clients do, too.

But the rights really reside in Washington. That’s what it means to own the world. It’s like the air you breathe. You can’t question it. The main founder of contemporary IR [international relations] theory, Hans Morgenthau, was really quite a decent person, one of the very few political scientists and international affairs specialists to criticize the Vietnam War on moral, not tactical, grounds. Very rare. He wrote a book called The Purpose of American Politics. You already know what’s coming. Other countries don’t have purposes. The purpose of America, on the other hand, is “transcendent”: to bring freedom and justice to the rest of the world. But he’s a good scholar, like Carothers. So he went through the record. He said, when you study the record, it looks as if the United States hasn’t lived up to its transcendent purpose. But then he says, to criticize our transcendent purpose “is to fall into the error of atheism, which denies the validity of religion on similar grounds” — which is a good comparison. It’s a deeply entrenched religious belief. It’s so deep that it’s going to be hard to disentangle it. And if anyone questions that, it leads to near hysteria and often to charges of anti-Americanism or “hating America” — interesting concepts that don’t exist in democratic societies, only in totalitarian societies and here, where they’re just taken for granted.

About the Author

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky, a legendary linguist, scholar and activist, is the author of numerous bestselling political works.

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Bahrain dictatorship on film


This video from Bahrain is called Free Nabeel Rajab now.

By Alastair Lewis:

Bahrain: The Forbidden Country

January 18th, 2013

On a dusty football pitch in Bahrain, a convoy – or rather, a pack – of police 4x4s screeched into the crowd that had gathered there, scattering panicking protesters. As they circled at high speed, passing through the crowd, it was not clear if they were actively trying to hit the protesters, or just to scatter them, but what was clear was that it didn’t seem to matter if they did.

This footage was captured by French film-maker and journalist Stéphanie Lamorré, who travelled to the tiny Gulf Kingdom on a tourist visa, before ‘disappearing’ for a month, to live undercover and film the pro-democracy protest movement in its battle against the authorities.

Related article: Bahrain: little chance since ‘brutal crackdown’ as Formula 1 begins

To avoid the restrictions placed on journalists, the raw film had then to be smuggled across the border and ‘Fedexed to France’, according to producer Luc Hermann who introduced a special screening at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday night.

In the resulting film, Bahrain: The Forbidden Country, Lamorré shows through interviews with three women that Bahrain’s protest movement, out of sight and, for most, out of mind since 2011, has not disappeared.  And her interviewees are difficult to dismiss as simply unthinking trouble-makers.

Zainab, daughter of the Bahraini-Danish human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja whose 110 day hunger strike brought international attention to the Bahraini struggle, spends her days meeting protesters and their families, hearing their stories and tweeting them from her ever-present Blackberry. Her nights are spent at protests.

On the day Lamorré filmed her, she spoke to the family of a 50-year-old mother who had immolated herself in desperation at continuous police raids on her family. Her blog, Angry Arabiya, contains many similar stories.

Related article: Sandhurst took £3m Bahrain gift after regime’s crackdown

Perhaps the most striking story shown in the film is that of Nada, 38, a doctor and mother of two young children who was arrested, imprisoned and claims to have been tortured for the crime of giving medical aid to protestors. An earlier shot had shown other doctors and nurses begging police to be allowed to enter their hospital to treat the wounded. Instead of being treated, the injured were arrested.

At the time of the film Nada was awaiting trial.

The death toll in Bahrain has been small  – as David Cameron says, ‘Bahrain is not Syria‘ – but, as this film graphically shows, protesters are still targeted with tear gas, rubber bullets, buck shot, and, in some cases, live ammunition. It is these protesters – who cannot go to hospital for fear of arrest – that Ouahida treats. Although not a doctor or nurse, she learned first aid, and began to travel under cover of night to treat wounds and pick out buckshot.

Related article: The inside track: how lobbyists have helped launder Bahrain’s reputation

At the end of the screening it is revealed that, just months after filming, Ouahida was seriously injured in a car crash fleeing from the police.

Bahrain, with its population of under one and a half million, its stable monarchy, and its high-income economy, rarely makes the news here.

Lamorré’s film is a welcome break to this silence.

It is available for international distribution from Premieres Lignes Television and is being shown at various film festivals. The film was part of the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Film Week.

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NATO war in Syria?


This video is called Turkish people say no to NATO missiles.

By Chris Marsden:

The Middle East in 2013

12 January 2013

The workers and oppressed of the Middle East face the prospect of bloody sectarian warfare, state repression and a continued descent into grinding poverty. Everything depends upon renewing the revolutionary upsurge that began in 2011, but this time based upon a programme that articulates the independent political interests of the working class.

Two years on, the naïve illusions that accompanied the “Arab Spring”—the belief that all classes in the Middle East shared a desire for democracy that was backed by the major powers—have been dashed.

2013 began with the despatch of six batteries of Patriot missiles to the Turkish-Syrian border. This is the clearest indication yet that the world is on the brink of a military intervention by the United States and its NATO allies into the sectarian civil war they have deliberately engineered.

The missiles are accompanied by close to 1,200 troops, complementing the tens of thousands already stationed in Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, as well as the Special Forces and intelligence operatives on the ground in Syria. Seventeen warships from the US, Britain and France are now in the waters off Syria. Western military forces are there to back up any intervention by Turkey and the Gulf monarchies through which Washington is working.

Even without overt military aggression, the Western powers have committed an appalling crime by sponsoring a Sunni insurgency encompassing the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda-style movements such as Jabhat al-Nusra. The price paid for this imperialist scheming has been tens of thousands dead and wounded and the destruction of Syria’s economy and infrastructure.

The United Nations has been forced to acknowledge the reality of a sectarian civil war threatening entire communities with Yugoslav-style ethnic cleansing at the risk of death. But this admission will only be used as an argument for intervention. The mainstream media functions as little more than a sounding board for war propaganda, ignoring the US alliance with Al Qaeda and following the zigzag path of first accusing the Assad regime of preparing to use chemical and ballistic weapons and then warning of the dangers posed by opposition forces seizing these weapons.

The downfall of the Assad regime would bring no respite. It would be replaced by a brutal government that would pursue a vendetta against Alawites, Christians and other minorities, which could end in the breakup of the state into ethnic cantons. Libya is a warning, with Prime Minister Ali Zeidan threatening this week to “use force to protect the state” in the face of conflicts between rival cliques over control of vital oil supplies.

Assad’s downfall is a key element in longstanding US efforts to secure hegemony in the Middle East that were dramatically stepped up in response to the overturn in 2011 of its key regional allies Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. US policy combines aggressive military intervention such as that carried out in Libya with securing an alliance of Sunni Arab regimes and movements against the Shiite theocracy in Iran and its allies. The goal is to secure regime-change in Damascus and Tehran, sow divisions throughout the region to prevent common action by the working class, and to build up the authority of the Islamists as a bulwark against social revolution.

To this end, Washington champions the democratic credentials of the Syrian opposition while backing the suppression of opposition to its allies in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, et al. In the process, Washington ensures that these regimes become politically and militarily dependent on the US, ready to act as a block to the regional ambitions of Tehran, Moscow and Beijing.

To this end, the Obama administration is currently supplying Egypt with 200 M1A1 Abrams battle tanks and 20 F-16 fighter jets in a contract agreed under Mubarak. This month it provided Lebanon with 200 additional M113 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), boosting the army’s total to 1,200 APCs, with the stated aim of strengthening the armed forces’ ability to “protect borders and internal stability.”

Iran is presently the target of sanctions that are having a crippling and destabilising impact—leading to a 55 percent fall in crucial oil imports and a collapse in the value of its currency. But a military strike has been repeatedly threatened by Israel.

There is no country in the Middle East where despotic regimes do not face growing popular opposition. But there is nowhere that the working class has been able to assert its political will, rather than being trapped behind groupings representing contending factions of the ruling elite—Islamist, nationalist or liberal. If this is not challenged, the sectarian nightmare that has been created in Syria can and will be repeated in Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon and Turkey.

The basic impulse for the overthrow of Mubarak came from the working class. It was when millions of workers moved into struggle to redress decades of social and political oppression that Mubarak was ditched by the regime. But today, nearly 25 percent of Egypt’s 80 million population is in desperate poverty, as inflation skyrockets and President Morsi is set to impose savage cuts under instructions from the International Monetary Fund.

None of this concerns the bourgeois liberal opposition, whose aim is to secure their own position in the new political and economic setup alongside the Brotherhood and the military. The same basic impulse animates every bourgeois oppositional current in the Middle East—to secure their own right to exploit workers and their own connections with the Western powers and the transnational corporations and banks.

The central political task before the region’s workers and young people is to forge a unified socialist movement against the ruling regimes, as well as their bourgeois rivals and the imperialist powers funding them both. …

Workers in the United States and Europe must do all in their power to oppose the predatory aims of their governments and ruling elites in the Middle East. For this, a new antiwar movement must be built, in direct opposition to the various petty-bourgeois pseudo-left parties affiliated to the United Secretariat and the International Socialists that now act as advocates of imperialist-inspired regime-change led by CIA assets, ex-regime figures and Islamists backed by NATO firepower.

Denunciations of “knee-jerk anti-imperialism” have become de rigueur in these circles, with opponents of military intervention denounced by one Pham Binh for being “at odds with the interests and explicit demands of first the Libyan and now the Syrian revolutionary peoples,” who, in the words of the US International Socialist Organisation, “will take whatever help they can get.”

Kim Kardashian, Bahrain torture, and cigarettes


This video is called Al-Khalifah’s Bahrain: shooting and torturing women and children.

By Sara Lepley in the USA:

December 4, 2012

Kardashian makes controversial visit to Bahrain

Kim Kardashian’s gushing tweets that all Americans should visit the Kingdom of Bahrain is akin to celebrities endorsing cigarettes.

Just as celebrities are not excused when promoting a cancer-causing product because they are unaware of the harmful effects of smoking, Kardashian’s ignorance cannot excuse her from promoting a country that teargases and tortures its own people.

Yet, during her recent visit to the country, she tweeted that she is “in love with the Kingdom of Bahrain,” despite news concerning the country’s crimes against humanity.

According to the Washington Post, Bahrain has ceaselessly sought “international approval and the appearance of normality.” The country has been under keen scrutiny for maliciously trespassing on basic human rights. Not only has the regime teargased any protestors calling for human rights and democracy, but it has also tortured doctors attempting to treat these victims. In fact, during Kardashian’s trip alone, fifty protestors whose signs simply read, “God is great” were teargased by the government.

Media reports describe these fifty protesters as orthodox (Sunni) Muslims. Hard-line ultra-pious Muslims, similar to the Saudi state religion, are a minority in Bahrain, often supporting the monarchy. However, the regime bans all protests, not only against its own dictatorial rule; or against the recent Gaza war; but also of fifty people exercising their right of free speech against Ms Kardashian’s choice of clothes.

Kardashian’s visit and clear approval allots Bahrain a refreshed image, portraying it as beautiful,

In Bahrain, birds, the human rights movement, and other things are beautiful. The torturing dictatorial government is not.

ignoring its violations against human rights. This not only counters international attempts to expose the true Bahrain, but also completely undermines the severe offenses against its people.

All is not lost, however. The media and the American government can use the coverage as a way to reestablish the atrocities and generate aid to the people of Bahrain.

If that would happen, then it would be an improvement indeed. But it would be against what the United States government has done so far: selling weapons to the Bahraini absolute monarchy. And against what much of the (corporate) media has done so far: taking hush money from the Bahraini regime.