Amnesty International: “Damning evidence” US may be complicit in Yemen war crimes

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US-made BLU-97 submunitions used by Saudi Arabia-led coallition in Saada, Yemen, on May 23 2015 clusterbombyemen1

 

Damning evidence of war crimes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which is armed by states including the USA, highlights the urgent need for independent, effective investigation of violations in Yemen and for the suspension of transfers of certain arms, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

‘Bombs fall from the sky day and night’: Civilians under fire in northern Yemen examines 13 deadly airstrikes by the coalition in Sa’da, north-eastern Yemen, which killed some 100 civilians, including 59 children. It also documents the use of internationally banned cluster bombs.

“This report uncovers yet more evidence of unlawful airstrikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes. It demonstrates in harrowing detail how crucial it is to stop arms being used to commit serious violations of this kind,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser who headed the organization’s fact-finding mission to Yemen.

“The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorize are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty International is calling for a suspension of transfers to members of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, that are participating in the military campaign, of weapons and munitions which have been used to commit violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes in Yemen: in particular, bombs from the MK (MARK) 80 series and other general purpose bombs, fighter jets, combat helicopters and their associated parts and components. […]

Read in full Yemen: Call for suspension of arms transfers to coalition and accountability for war crimes at Amnesty International

US leads ‘largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine’ – Follows Pentagon’s Advice to Conquer the World?

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Ukrainian soldiers and servicemen of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team take part in a joint military exercise called “Fearless Guardian 2015” at the military training area in Yavoriv, outside Lviv, Ukraine, May 12, 2015.Oleksandr Klymenko/Reuters

Troops from the US, UK, Germany and 14 other countries are set to conduct what officials are calling the “largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine” in the west of the country over the coming weeks.

The exercises will be conducted in Lviv region, in western Ukraine, far from the conflict zone in the east, with as many as 1,800 servicemen from 18 countries taking part from today until the end of the month.

The Saber Guardian and Rapid Trident exercises are conducted annually between the US army in Europe and European states which agree to participate. Last year they included 1,300 defence staff from 15 militaries, including Ukraine. However last year, only Rapid Trident took place on Ukrainian soil, with Saber Guardian being organised in Bulgaria.

Beside the US military and their Ukrainian hosts, personnel from other Nato allied nations joining the exercise include the UK, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Canada, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, while non-members Serbia, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan are also set to participate.

“Multinational exercises have been conducted in Ukraine since 1995, however it is safe to say that this is the largest multinational exercise held in Ukraine to date,” Don Wrenn public affairs public affairs specialist for US Army Europe, who is at the site of the exercises says.

Despite the heightening tension in eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed rebels have intensified fire towards Kiev-held positions since May, Wrenn says the exercise has no relation to the specific conflict.

“It is not anything to do with the political situation,” Wrenn says “This exercise was planned ahead of time. Countries were notified that it would occur and we can’t directly connect with the situation going on. Rapid Trident has been going for years in Ukraine.”

“Part of why this is larger this year is that there are two exercises going ahead at the same time in the same place,” Wrenn explains. The Saber Guardian exercise rotates between host nations, it just so happens that this year it was Ukraine’s turn to host it, coinciding with Rapid Trident

“The two were held together and integrated with each other,” Wrenn says. Training will begin tomorrow, after the end of today’s opening ceremony.

“We will be looking at practicing skills such as casualty evacuation and first aid, reacting to being ambushed in both an offensive posture or in defensive mode, we are conducting training in how to identify and react to improvised explosives and devices and there will be some simulated outpost operations.”

“These are all skills that are to be used either in combat or peacekeeping. Some Ukrainian armored vehicles will be included but most of the vehicles being used are just US humvees and wheeled vehicles,” he adds. Contrary to some media reports, no air operations are scheduled as part of the exercise.

Although a period of relative calm followed in the east after a ceasefire agreement was signed by the rebel leaders, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in February, clashes increase along the contact lines in May and by June the rebels launched the largest offensive since the battle for the strategic town of Debaltseve on the eve of the ceasefire deal.

Rebel leader Alexander Zaharchenko once again publically set target towns which the rebels plan to “take” in May and Reuters, Nato and the Ukrainian government have all reported an increasing military build up on the Russian side of the border.

Since the start of the conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the east, Ukraine has led a series of reforms to its military in a bid to strengthen its efficiency in the short and long term. Eastern regions have obtained physical reinforcement bases and Ukraine has also pursued stronger ties with western neighbours such as the joint battalion it formed last year with Poland and Lithuania,

President Petro Poroshenko pledged yesterday to increase Ukraine’s security spending power, adding a further 5 billion hryvna (over €200m) to the defence budget, according to a statement released on his official website. Independent Russian news site Slon reported that the last Ukrainian budget allotted 90 billion hryvna to defence spending, which, together with Poroshenko’s latest pledge equals around €4bn.

However,  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s claim that the Ukraine will take over Donbass by the end of the year seems to be one more of his tricks. 

According to Forbes, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has offered Russian counterpart Vldimir Putin to ”include Donbass” in the territory of the federation. The announcement was released to Forbes magazine through an anonymous source.

It was stated that the proposal had been extended during the Normandy Four talks held in Minsk on February 11 and 12.

”Poroshenko directly told me, ”Take Donbass”, and I responded, ”Have you gone mad ? I don’t need Donbass. If you don’t need it, announce its independence”, was the statement Vladimir Putin made at his meeting with Russian industrialists and businessmen on March 19, as quoted by Forbes.

In the words of the Russian President, Poroshenko then stated that Ukrainian authorities are not able to take the step, ” Then, let Ukrainian authorities pay the pensions and social care to the population of Donbass and let them restore the banking system,” Putin allegedly insisted.

The ceasefire deal included 14 points connected to the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, release of prisoners, the providing of humanitarian aid for the severely affected regions of Ukraine, as well as establishing of special statute for the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Republics.

According to the source released information to Forbes, Putin himself is skeptical regarding the peace deal and believes that Ukrainian authorities are attempting to win the fight with rebel forces and to destroy Donbass in economic terms.

Allegedly, Putin said that EU leaders are well aware of the Ukrainian intentions, but the strengthening of the conflict is said to be in favor of US foreign polices. He also informed business leaders that the EU sanctions against Russia are unlikely to be removed in the upcoming years.

On the other hand, Poroshenko’s relations with Poland have deteriorated.

A scheduled meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with the winner of the Polish presidential elections Andrzej Duda in Warsaw will not now take place, Polish news agency PAP reported on Wednesday, with reference to its own sources close to the newly-elected head of state.

At home, Poroshenko is facing serious problems with the nationalist “Right Sector” paramilitary group.  The popular assembly is dubbed ‘Away With Traitors in Power!’

The popular assembly dubbed “Away With Traitors in Power!”organized by Ukraine’s far-right paramilitary group, Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) has started on Independence Square (Maidan).

Here’s the scene on ‘s Maidan right now. 1000+ now gathered for far-right nationalist rally:

WATCH LIVE STREAMING VIDEO  HERE

The rally follows a recent shootout involving members of ‘Right Sector’, security teams close to Ukrainian MP Mykhailo Lanyo and local police officers which took place in the town of Mukacheve in Ukraine’s western Zakarpattia region on July 11. Four people were killed and up to 14 were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

‘Right Sector’ is one of a number of militarised groups that emerged during violent protests that toppled former Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych a year ago.

The militias went on to fight alongside Ukrainian troops in the east against Russian-backed militants, but concerns have risen over whether they could pose a challenge to President Poroshenko and the government or threaten public security.

‘Right Sector’ and police have accused each other of initiating the violence in Mukacheve, but on Tuesday a spokesman for the group said two of its members had surrendered to the SBU security service. 

 

President Obama Defends His ‘Lockstep With Europe’ Approach to Sanctions on Russia

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U.S. President Barack Obama

 

Addressing a meeting of the President’s Export Council, Obama asked the US business community to support his course on keeping Europe in lockstep with Washington “as there may be some movement out of Congress for us to get ahead of Europe further.”

WASHINGTON, December 11 (Sputnik) — US President Barack Obama expressed caution on Thursday about unilaterally ratcheting up sanctions against Russia over Ukraine as the move that could split the United States and Europe.

Addressing a meeting of the President’s Export Council, Obama asked the US business community to support his course on keeping Europe in lockstep with Washington “as there may be some movement out of Congress for us to get ahead of Europe further.”

“The notion that we can simply ratchet up sanctions further and further and further and then ultimately Putin changes his mind, I think is a miscalculation,” Obama said.

“Where Putin will succeed is if it creates a rift in the Trans-Atlantic relationship. If he starts seeing Europe divided from the United States that would be his strategic victory,” Obama stressed calling for “strategic patience.”

“What will ultimately lead to Russia making a strategic decision is if they recognize that Europe is standing with us and we will be in it for the long haul and we are in fact patient,” he said.

“We have been successful with sanctions precisely because we’ve been systematic about it and made sure there wasn’t a lot of daylight between us and the Europeans,” the president emphasized.

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Anti-Russia Sanctions, Counter-Measures Hurting EU Members Economies: UN

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs published the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 report, which reads that the sanctions against Russia have had a negative impact on the economies of a number of European countries.

 

UNITED NATIONS, December 11 (Sputnik) — Sanctions, imposed on Russia by the West and Moscow’s counter-measures have had a negative impact on the economies of a number of European countries, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said in a report.

“Weaker Russian import demand has already affected a number of EU economies, as the Russian market absorbs almost 5 per cent of the euro area’s exports,” DESA’s World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 report, published Wednesday, read.

According to DESA, the “slowdown in the German economy in the second quarter is partially explained by lower exports of automotive components to the Russian Federation. Moreover, the restriction on supplying deep-water drilling equipment to sanctioned Russian companies affected Germany’s producers.”

Countries such as the Baltic States and Finland will lose transit revenue due to the sanctions regime, the report read, while globally, “the tourism industry will suffer from the depreciation of the Russian currency.”

Addressing Russia’s one-year food import restrictions, DESA noted that for “some East European countries (especially the Baltic States and Poland) and also for Finland and Norway, the Russian Federation absorbs a significant share of their food exports.”

Total EU food exports to the Russian market amount to approximately $11 billion annually, the report read, and “the forgone food exports would impact the entire logistics sector.”

The need to compensate farmers” losses will put pressure on national budgets, DESA stated, and while the EU member states could file a compensation claim with the union, “full coverage of losses is not likely.”

The European Union, alongside the United States, has introduced several rounds of sanctions against Russia over its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, a claim Moscow has repeatedly denied. In August, Russia responded with a one-year ban on the import of certain food products from the countries that had imposed sanctions against it.

Moscow responded to Western sanctions with a one-year import ban on certain food products in August.

The current sanctions regime has already backfired on a number of European economies. Germany has seen an economic slowdown partially related to the export ban on deep-water drilling equipment to Russia, while countries such as the Baltic states, Poland, Finland and Norway have suffered due to Russia’s food import ban, according to a recent UN report.

 

 

Breaking News: Obama Says U.S.[HE] Underestimated the Rise of ISIS

 President Obama met last week with leaders and representatives of Arab allies carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama met last week with leaders and representatives of Arab allies carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Ten cents worth:

The broader tensions between the populations that “are the biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world,” Mr. Obama said …

Since the 1960’s the biggest cause of conflict in the world has been US military aggression. The Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars have done far more damage than tensions between middle eastern populations. Arguably, if the US were not involved militarily in the region, its populations would re-establish the equilibrium that existed before Bush/Cheney.

Failing to learn the lessons of decades of military meddling, President Obama once more leads us to “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”. And apparently US administrations are exempt from war crimes prosecutions.

Where are the Times pictures showing how many innocent civilians are being killed by the US and allies bombs?

Obama Says U.S. Underestimated the Rise of ISIS

WASHINGTON — President Obama acknowledges in an interview to be broadcast Sunday night that the United States underestimated the rise of the Islamic State militant group while placing too much trust in the Iraqi military, allowing the region to become “ground zero for jihadists around the world.”

In some of his most candid public remarks on the subject, Mr. Obama says in the interview with the CBS News program “60 Minutes” that it was “absolutely true” that the United States had erred in its assessments of both the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — and the Iraqi military.

A political solution there might help ease the broader tensions between the populations that “are the biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world,” Mr. Obama said, according to excerpts from the president’s interview with Steve Kroft on the CBS News website.

Military Buildup around Syria – Syria warns U.S. not to intervene militarily

 

 

 

Columns of smoke rise from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood in west Damascus, Syria, on Thursday.(Photo: Hassan Ammar, AP)

Columns of smoke rise from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood in west Damascus, Syria, on Thursday.(Photo: Hassan Ammar, AP)

Syrian government warned the U.S. that any military action against Damascus would set the Middle East ablaze.

 

The Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government accused rebels of using chemical weapons Saturday and warned the United States not to launch any military action against Damascus over an alleged chemical attack last week, saying such a move would set the Middle East ablaze.

The accusations by the regime of President Bashar Assad against opposition forces came as an international aid group said it has tallied 355 deaths from a purported chemical weapons attack on Wednesday in a suburb of the Syrian capital known as Ghouta.

Syria is intertwined in alliances with Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militant groups. The country also borders its longtime foe and U.S. ally Israel, making the fallout from military action unpredictable.

Violence in Syria has already spilled over the past year to Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters have joined the combat alongside Assad’s forces.

Speaking to reporters Sunday in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel declined to say what action the U.S. might take. He said the administration is weighing many factors. These include an intelligence assessment of the attack in Syria, as well as what he called legal issues and the matter of international support for any military response.

Meanwhile, U.S. naval units are moving closer to Syria. U.S. defense officials told The Associated Press that the Navy had sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss ship movements publicly.

President Obama has emphasized that a quick intervention in the Syrian civil war was problematic, given the international considerations that should precede a military strike.

After Obama met with his national security team Saturday, the White House said U.S. intelligence officials are still trying to determine whether Assad’s government unleashed the chemical weapons attack earlier this week.

The White House statement said Obama received a detailed review of the range of options he has requested for the U.S. and the international community to respond if it is determined that Assad has engaged in deadly chemical warfare.

Obama spoke by telephone with British Prime Minister David Cameron about Syria, the White House said.

A statement from Cameron’s office at No. 10 Downing St. said the prime minister and Obama are concerned by “increasing signs” that “a significant chemical weapons attack” was carried out by the Syrian government against its people. Obama and Cameron “reiterated that significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community,” according to the statement.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi dismissed the possibility of an American attack, warning that such a move would risk triggering more violence in the region.

“The basic repercussion would be a ball of fire that would burn not only Syria but the whole Middle East,” al-Zoubi said in an interview with Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV. “An attack on Syria would be no easy trip.”

In Tehran, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Abbas Arakji, warned that an American military intervention in Syria will “complicate matters.”

“Sending warships will not solve the problems but will worsen the situation,” Arakji said in comments carried by Iran’s Arabic-language TV Al-Alam. He added that any such U.S. move does not have international backing and that Iran “rejects military solutions.”

In France, Doctors Without Borders said three hospitals it supports in the eastern Damascus region reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms” over less than three hours on Wednesday morning, when the attack in the eastern Ghouta area took place.

Of those, 355 died, the Paris-based group said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that its estimated death toll from the alleged chemical attack had reached 322, including 54 children, 82 women and dozens of fighters. It said the dead included 16 people who have not been identified.

The group said it raised its death toll from an earlier figure of 136, which had been calculated before its activists in the stricken areas met doctors, residents and saw medical reports. It said the dead “fell in the massacre committed by the Syrian regime.”

Death tolls have varied wildly over the alleged attack, with Syrian anti-government activists reporting between 322 and 1,300 killed.

Al-Zoubi blamed the rebels for the chemical attacks in Ghouta, saying that the Syrian government had proof of their responsibility but without giving details. “The rockets were fired from their positions and fell on civilians. They are responsible,” he said.

With the pressure increasing, Syria’s state media accused rebels in the contested district of Jobar near Damascus of using chemical weapons against government troops Saturday.

State TV broadcast images of plastic jugs, gas masks, vials of an unspecified medication, explosives and other items that it said were seized from rebel hideouts Saturday.

One barrel had “made in Saudi Arabia” stamped on it. The TV report also showed medicines said to be produced by a Qatari-German medical supplies company. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are strong supporters of the Syrian rebels. The report could not be immediately verified.

An army statement issued late Saturday said the discovery of the weapons “is clear evidence that these gangs are using chemical weapons against our people and soldiers with help from foreign sides.”

The claims could muddy the debate about who was responsible for Wednesday’s alleged gas attack, which spurred demands for an independent investigation and renewed talk of potential international military action if chemical weapons were used.

Just hours before the state media reports, the U.N. disarmament chief arrived in Damascus to press Assad’s regime to allow U.N. experts to investigate the alleged Wednesday attack. The regime has denied allegations it was responsible, calling them “absolutely baseless” and suggesting they are an attempt to discredit the government.

The U.S., Britain, France and Russia have urged the Assad regime and the rebels fighting to overthrow him to cooperate with the United Nations and allow a team of experts already in Syria to look into the latest purported use of chemical agents. The U.N. secretary-general dispatched Angela Kane, the high representative for disarmament affairs, to push for a speedy investigation into Wednesday’s purported attack. She did not speak to reporters upon her arrival in Damascus Saturday.

The state news agency said several government troops who took part in the Jobar offensive experienced severe trouble breathing or even “suffocation” after “armed terrorist groups used chemical weapons.” It was not clear what was meant by “suffocation,” and the report mentioned no fatalities among the troops.

“The Syrian Army achieved major progress in the past days and for that reason, the terrorist groups used chemical weapons as their last card,” state TV said. The government refers to rebels fighting to topple Assad as “terrorists.”

State TV also broadcast images of a Syrian army officer, wearing a surgical mask, telling reporters wearing similar masks that soldiers were subjected to poisonous attack in Jobar. He spoke inside the depot where the alleged confiscated products were placed.

“Our troops did not suffer body wounds,” the officer said. “I believe terrorist groups used special substances that are poisonous in an attempt to affect this advance.”

Al-Mayadeen aired interviews with two soldiers hospitalized for possible chemical weapons attack. The two appeared unharmed but were undergoing tests.

“We were advancing and heard an explosion that was not very strong,” a soldier said from his bed. “Then there was a strange smell, my eyes and head ached and I struggled to breathe.” The other soldier also said he experienced trouble breathing after the explosion.

Al-Mayadeen TV, which has a reporter embedded with the troops in the area, said some 50 soldiers were rushed to Damascus hospitals for treatment and that it was not yet known what type of gas the troops were subjected too.

In Turkey, top Syrian rebel commander Salim Idris told reporters that opposition forces did not use chemical weapons on Saturday and that “the regime is lying.”

For days, the government has been trying to counter rebel allegations that the regime used chemical weapons on civilians in rebel-held areas of eastern Damascus, arguing that opposition fighters themselves were responsible for that attack.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius dismissed the Syrian government’s claims.

“All the information we have is converging to indicate there was a chemical massacre in Syria, near Damascus, and that Bashar Assad’s regime was behind it,” Fabius told reporters during a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah. He did not elaborate.

France has suggested that force could be used against Syria if Assad’s regime was proven to have used chemical arms.

The new talk of potential military action in in the country has made an independent investigation by U.N. inspectors critical to determine what exactly transpired.

The U.N. experts already in Syria are tasked with investigating three earlier purported chemical attacks in the country: one in the village of Khan al-Assal outside the northern city of Aleppo in March, as well as two other locations that have been kept secret for security reasons.

It took months of negotiations between the U.N. and Damascus before an agreement was struck to allow the 20-member team into Syria to investigate. Its mandate is limited to those three sites, however, and it is only charged with determining whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them.

Leaders of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group on Saturday vowed retaliation for the alleged chemical weapons attack.

From Istanbul, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Al-Jarba, also criticized the lack of response to the attack by the United Nations and the international community, saying the UN was discrediting itself.

“It does not reach the ethical and legal response that Syrians expect,” he said. “As a matter of fact we can describe it as a shame.”

The Associated Press

 

 

Peach protest: Spanish farmers burn EU flag in anger over Russia sanctions war (VIDEO)

Still from Ruptly video

Still from Ruptly video

A trade union representing Catalonian crop growers and cattle ranchers has staged a protest, demanding that the EU compensate them for the revenues lost as a result of the escalation of sanctions, which have closed the Russian market to them.

A group of about 30 representatives from JARC (Young Farmers and Ranchers of Catalonia), one of the biggest agricultural unions in the region, demonstratively burned crates of ripe peaches outside the Lleida municipality building.

As a throng of journalists looked on, the unionists hurled an EU flag onto the bonfire, which disintegrated in seconds.

“We will not accept any more that the EU keep telling us what to do, these people that have never set foot in a fruit field. For once you will have to listen to the producers, not the consumers,” David Borda, a union official, told Ruptly news agency.

 

 

Earlier this month, the European Union imposed sectoral sanctions on Russian banks and high-tech industries in connection with Russia’s alleged meddling in the Ukrianina crisis. Russia, which said that it had no responsibility for events in eastern Ukraine, retaliated by banning imports of agricultural produce from the EU for one year.

JARC, which also delivered a list of demands to government officials, believes that the European Union’s political standoff has harmed farmers, and says that they should be compensated through the raising of tariffs on imported fruit and vegetables from other countries, such as Turkey and Morocco.

The EU has allocated €125 million to help farmers in the immediate aftermath. Finance group ING has estimated that the annual losses as a result of the blocking of the Russian market will amount to €6.7 billion a year, and could result in the loss of 130,000 jobs.

Similar farmers protests have taken place across Spain, though producers have targeted both, the EU and also Russia, whose consulate in Seville was picketed earlier this week.

Still from Ruptly video

Still from Ruptly video