Archive for the In The News Category

U.N. Unanimously Approves Iran Sanctions

Posted in In The News on December 23, 2006 by blindnation

AP | December 2006

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Saturday imposing sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, culminating two months of negotiations aimed at pressuring Tehran to clarify its nuclear ambitions.

The resolution orders all countries to ban the supply of specified materials and technology that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. It also imposes an asset freeze on key companies and people in the country’s nuclear and missile programs named on a U.N. list.

If Iran refuses to comply, the resolution warns Iran that the council will adopt further nonmilitary sanctions.

Russia and China, which both have strong commercial ties to Tehran, have pressed for a step-by-step approach to sanctions. By contrast, the United States has pushed for very tough sanctions, with Britain and France taking a slightly softer view.

Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at the peaceful production of nuclear energy, but the Americans and Europeans suspect Tehran’s ultimate goal is the production of nuclear weapons.

President defiant
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated Tuesday that possible Security Council sanctions would not stop Iran from pursuing uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel for civilian purposes or fuel for a nuclear bomb.

The resolution authorizes action under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. It allows the Security Council to impose nonmilitary sanctions such as completely or partially severing diplomatic and economic relations, transportation and communications links.

If Iran fails to comply with the resolution, the draft says the council will adopt “further appropriate measures” under Article 41.

During negotiations, a mandatory travel ban was dropped at Russia’s insistence.

Instead, the draft resolution calls on all states “to exercise vigilance” regarding the entry or transit through their territory of those on a U.N. list that names 12 top Iranians involved in the country’s nuclear and missile programs. It asks the 191 other U.N. member states to notify a Security Council committee that will be created to monitor sanctions when those Iranians show up in their country.

The resolution also says the council will review Iran’s actions in light of a report from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, requested within 60 days, on whether Iran has suspended uranium enrichment and complied with other IAEA demands.

If the IAEA verifies that Iran has suspended enrichment and reprocessing, the resolution says the sanctions will be suspended to allow for negotiations. It says sanctions will be terminated as soon as the IAEA board confirms that Iran has complied with all its obligations.

Moscow seeks to protect its work in Iran
Before the final text was circulated, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin pressed for amendments to ensure that Moscow can conduct legitimate nuclear activities in Iran.

Russia is building Iran’s first atomic power plant at Bushehr, which is expected to go on line in late 2007. A reference to Bushehr in the original draft was removed earlier — as Russia demanded.

Churkin complained that some organizations suspected of conducting proliferation-sensitive activities had been included on the list subject to financial sanctions “without even proving that is the case, and therefore you cannot do any business with that institution — and that can raise all sorts of issues.”

Jones Parry said the list of 11 organizations and 12 individuals that would be subject to having their assets frozen was not changed.

The six key parties trying to curb Iran’s nuclear program — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States — offered Tehran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June if it agreed to consider a long-term moratorium on enrichment and committed itself to a freeze on uranium enrichment before talks on its nuclear program.

With Iran refusing to comply with an Aug. 31 council deadline to stop enrichment, Britain and France circulated a draft sanctions resolution in late October, which has been revised several times since then.

To meet concerns of Russia and China that the original resolution was too broad, it was changed to specify in greater detail exactly what materials and technology would be prohibited from being supplied to Iran and to name those individuals and companies that would be affected.

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Drudge Report plays up AP photo of Bush with ‘devil horns’

Posted in In The News on December 22, 2006 by blindnation

The Raw Story | Mike Sheehan | Dec 21 2006

Photo  “BUSH ‘DEVIL HORNS’ PIC HITS WIRES…” blared the headline at the right-wing Drudge Report.

The site suggests that an Associated Press photograph of President Bush, credited to Lawrence Jackson, had intentionally been taken at an angle, or otherwise changed or cropped by the news organization, to portray the president in an evil light. Bloggers were quick to put their own spin on the charge by the Drudge Report, which follows several recent press photos that have come under fire for various forms of alteration.

A commenter at Hot Air had this to say of the “horns” shot:

It’s not the photographer. Lawrence Jackson is a good photographer with no history of this type of thing, but the cropping is obvious. Why would you crop a photo almost to his chin, and then so high above his head unless you were purposely attempting to frame in the “horns?”

It is unknown at the present time if the AP has issued a public comment about what, if anything, was done to the picture of the president.

This latest alleged “photo manipulation” compares with a slew of press photos taken earlier in Bush’s tenure that made him appear remarkably “holier”–such as this 2003 AP photo by Charles Dharapak, in which the president’s head seems to be surrounded by a spectral halo. The “halo” is in fact a presidential seal mounted on the wall behind him, faded out in the distance–not unlike the somewhat clearer seal in the Drudge-hyped picture.

The Drudge Report has since taken the “devil horns” headline off the page, but it remains in their archives.


US Plans Last Big Push In Iraq

Posted in In The News on November 17, 2006 by blindnation

The Gaurdian | Simon Tisdall | November 16 2006

 President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make “a last big push” to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration’s internal deliberations.

Mr Bush’s refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel’s work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point “victory strategy” developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

Point one of the strategy calls for an increase rather than a decrease in overall US force levels inside Iraq, possibly by as many as 20,000 soldiers. This figure is far fewer than that called for by the Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain. But by raising troop levels, Mr Bush will draw a line in the sand and defy Democratic pressure for a swift drawdown.

The reinforcements will be used to secure Baghdad, scene of the worst sectarian and insurgent violence, and enable redeployments of US, coalition and Iraqi forces elsewhere in the country.

Point two of the plan stresses the importance of regional cooperation to the successful rehabilitation of Iraq. This could involve the convening of an international conference of neighbouring countries or more direct diplomatic, financial and economic involvement of US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“The extent to which that [regional cooperation] will include talking to Iran and Syria is still up for debate,” said Patrick Cronin, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Externally, US policy is focused on what is achievable. Some quarters believe Syria in some ways could be helpful. There are more doubts about Iran but Iran holds more cards. Some think it’s worth a try.”

Yesterday, a top state department official, David Satterfield, said America was prepared in principle to discuss with Iran its activities in Iraq.

Point three focuses on reviving the national reconciliation process between Shia, Sunni and other ethnic and religious parties. According to the sources, creating a credible political framework will be portrayed as crucial in persuading Iraqis and neighbouring countries alike that Iraq can become a fully functional state.

To the certain dismay of US neo-cons, initial post-invasion ideas about imposing fully-fledged western democratic standards will be set aside. And the report is expected to warn that de facto tripartite partition within a loose federal system, as advocated by Democratic senator Joe Biden and others would lead not to peaceful power-sharing but a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Lastly, the sources said the study group recommendations will include a call for increased resources to be allocated by Congress to support additional troop deployments and fund the training and equipment of expanded Iraqi army and police forces. It will also stress the need to counter corruption, improve local government and curtail the power of religious courts.

“You’ve got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it’s Bush still calling the shots. He believes it’s a matter of political will. That’s what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he’s going to stick with it,” a former senior administration official said. “He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he’s got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall.”

The “last push” strategy is also intended to give Mr Bush and the Republicans “political time and space” to recover from their election drubbing and prepare for the 2008 presidential campaign, the official said. “The Iraq Study Group buys time for the president to have one last go. If the Democrats are smart, they’ll play along, and I think they will. But forget about bipartisanship. It’s all about who’s going to be in best shape to win the White House.

The official added: “Bush has said ‘no’ to withdrawal, so what else do you have? The Baker report will be a set of ideas, more realistic than in the past, that can be used as political tools. What they’re going to say is: lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it.”

Addressing Congress yesterday, General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the Middle East, warned against setting a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, saying it would impede commanders in managing US and Iraqi forces. Gen Abizaid spoke as the Senate armed services committee began re-examining US policy after last week’s Democratic election victory. But Gen Abizaid argued against extra troops, saying US divisional commanders believed more pressure needed to be put on the Iraqi army to do its part.

Four-point strategy

· Increase US troop levels by up to 20,000 to secure Baghdad and allow redeployments elsewhere in Iraq

· Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

· Revive reconciliation process between Sunni, Shia and others

· Increased resources from Congress to fund training and equipment of Iraqi security forces

Charges Sought Against Rumsfeld Over Prison Abuse

Posted in In The News on November 11, 2006 by blindnation

Time.com | Adam Zagorin| November 10, 2006

A lawsuit in Germany will seek a criminal prosecution of the outgoing Defense Secretary and other U.S. officials for their alleged role in abuses at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo

Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany’s top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called “20th hijacker” and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a “special interrogation plan,” personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski — who the lawyers say will be in Germany next week to publicly address her accusations in the case — has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which says, in part: “It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld .”

A spokesperson for the Pentagon told TIME there would be no comment since the case has not yet been filed.

Along with Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Tenet, the other defendants in the case are Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee; former deputy assisant attorney general John Yoo; General Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Senior military officers named in the filing are General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq; Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo; senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter Wojdakowski; and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib.

Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides “universal jurisdiction” allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld’s spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case a “a big, big problem.” U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint.

In bringing the new case, however, the plaintiffs argue that circumstances have changed in two important ways. Rumsfeld’s resignation, they say, means that the former Defense Secretary will lose the legal immunity usually accorded high government officials. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that the German prosecutor’s reasoning for rejecting the previous case — that U.S. authorities were dealing with the issue — has been proven wrong.

“The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer,” says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held abroad in American custody going to back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a result, Ratner contends, the legal arguments underlying the German prosecutor’s previous inaction no longer hold up.

Whatever the legal merits of the case, it is the latest example of efforts in Western Europe by critics of U.S. tactics in the war on terror to call those involved to account in court. In Germany, investigations are under way in parliament concerning cooperation between the CIA and German intelligence on rendition — the kidnapping of suspected terrorists and their removal to third countries for interrogation. Other legal inquiries involving rendition are under way in both Italy and Spain.

U.S. officials have long feared that legal proceedings against “war criminals” could be used to settle political scores. In 1998, for example, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet — whose military coup was supported by the Nixon administration — was arrested in the U.K. and held for 16 months in an extradition battle led by a Spanish magistrate seeking to charge him with war crimes. He was ultimately released and returned to Chile. More recently, a Belgian court tried to bring charges against then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for alleged crimes against Palestinians.

For its part, the Bush Administration has rejected adherence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on grounds that it could be used to unjustly prosecute U.S. officials. The ICC is the first permanent tribunal established to prosecute war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Poll: Britons Warier Of Bush Than Kim Jong Il

Posted in In The News on November 3, 2006 by blindnation

MSNBC | Nov 3 2006

LONDON – The United States is seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbors and allies, with Britons saying President Bush poses a greater danger than North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, a survey found Friday.

A majority of people quizzed in three out of four countries polled also rejected the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The findings came just days before the U.S. midterm congressional elections, with a growing number of U.S. voters wanting their troops in Iraq to be brought home.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper said it carried out the survey along with Israel’s Haaretz, La Presse and Toronto Star in Canada and Mexico’s Reforma.

In Britain, which alongside Israel is traditionally a close Washington ally, 69 percent of those questioned said they felt U.S. policy had made the world less safe since 2001.

A majority of Canadians and Mexicans agreed, with 62 percent of those polled in Canada and 57 percent in Mexico saying their neighbor’s policy had made the world more dangerous.

As for Israel, just 25 percent of people asked said Bush had made the world safer, while 36 percent felt he had upped the risk of conflict and a further 30 percent said at best he had made no difference.

Little support for Iraq war
Israelis alone were in favor of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, with 59 percent for the war and 34 percent against.

The ratio was starkly different in the three other nations.

Some 89 percent of Mexicans felt the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein was unjustified, as did 73 percent of Canadians and 71 percent of Britons, the survey said.

The perceived failings of American foreign policy placed Bush alongside al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a cause of global anxiety, it said.

North Korea’s nuclear test last month drew worldwide condemnation, while Western powers are trying to force Iran to scale back atomic work they fear may be used to make bombs. Iran says its aims are purely peaceful.

Asked whether they thought the U.S. leader was a great or moderate danger to peace, 75 percent of British people said yes. Some 87 percent felt the same about bin Laden, while Kim scored 69 percent and Ahmadinejad clocked 62 percent.

Just 23 percent of Israelis said Bush he represented a serious danger, with 61 percent disagreeing.

ICM interviewed 1,010 adults from October 27-30 in Britain. Professional local opinion polling was used in the other three countries, the Guardian said. In Israel, 1,078 people were asked, 1,007 were quizzed in Canada and 1,010 in Mexico.

Free Speech Online ‘Under Threat’

Posted in In The News on October 30, 2006 by blindnation

BBC News | Oct 27 2006

Mouse and keyboard, Eyewire  Bloggers are being asked to show their support for freedom of expression by Amnesty International.

The human rights group also wants web log writers to highlight the plight of fellow bloggers jailed for what they wrote in their online journals.

The organisation said fundamental rights such as free speech faced graver threats than ever before.

The campaign coincides with the start of a week-long UN-organised conference that will debate the future of the net.

Watching words

“Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending,” said Steve Ballinger of Amnesty International. “We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government.”

Mr Ballinger said the case of Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari was just one example of the dangers that some online writers can face. Mr Sanjari was arrested in early October following his blogging about conflicts between the Iranian police and the supporters of Shia cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

Amnesty wanted bloggers to publicise cases such as this, said Mr Ballinger, and to declare their backing for the right to free speech online.

Watching words

“Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending,” said Steve Ballinger of Amnesty International. “We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government.”

Mr Ballinger said the case of Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari was just one example of the dangers that some online writers can face. Mr Sanjari was arrested in early October following his blogging about conflicts between the Iranian police and the supporters of Shia cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

Amnesty wanted bloggers to publicise cases such as this, said Mr Ballinger, and to declare their backing for the right to free speech online.

The human rights group is also taking its campaign to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – a group set up by the UN to act as a debating body for national net policies. The first big meeting of the IGF takes place in Athens from 30 October to 2 November.

“The Internet Governance Forum needs to know that the online community is concerned about free expression online and willing to stand up for it,” said Mr Ballinger.

Many governments were using technology to suppress the free flow of information among their citizens, said Mr Ballinger.

“People have been locked up just for expressing their views in an email or a website,” he said. “Sites and blogs have been shut down and firewalls built to prevent access to information.”

Hi-tech firms such as Yahoo and Google have been criticised for the help they have given to nations such as China which works hard to monitor online discussion.

In May 2006, Amnesty International started a campaign that aimed to expose the ways that governments use the net to quash dissent. Co-ordinated via the Irrepressible.info website, the campaign asks websites to use an icon displaying text from censored sites.

Pledges gathered from those backing this campaign will be presented at the IGF.

Laura Bush: My Husband Never Misled About Iraq

Posted in In The News on October 27, 2006 by blindnation

Ed Henry | CNN Washington | Oct 26 2006

  story.lbush.jpg WASHINGTON (CNN) — In her first public comments about Bob Woodward’s explosive book “State of Denial,” first lady Laura Bush sharply denied claims in the book that her husband has misled the public about the level of violence in Iraq.

“Absolutely I think that is wrong,” Bush said in an exclusive interview with CNN Wednesday. “Of course, the president has been frank from the very very first speech he gave to the country after the September 11 attacks, talking about this is a long war, this is a very difficult war.

“It’s a different war than our country has ever faced. The enemy can make a big show on television like they did for the bloody last month we had in Iraq by blowing themselves up a lot of times along with other people. But our success is not so easy to see. But the fact is that we are succeeding.”

The first lady also bristled when asked about Woodward’s suggestion that she privately supported an effort by then-White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to push out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

“Andy Card also went onto television and said that’s not true,” she said. “And let me just say the one thing about that book. Those ‘quotes’ of mine are in quotes and the author didn’t call me and fact check, and it just didn’t happen.”

Pressed again on whether she supported the effort to remove Rumsfeld, she told an interviewer, “Are you just trying to continue to give the quotes that I said I didn’t say?” Bush added that suggestions she wanted Rumsfeld to be fired are “absolutely not true.”

Bush made her comments in an interview between campaign stops in Minnesota and Indiana. With her favorability rating at 68 percent in the latest CNN poll — a full 22 points ahead of the president’s rating — the first lady has become one of the Republican Party’s most potent weapons in swing states during the final two weeks of the critical midterm elections.

The first lady is treated like a rock star on the campaign trail — with local Republicans lining up for photographs and autographs — as she criss-crosses the country to help candidates. She will be visiting Florida this Friday, followed by stops in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania on Saturday.