The war on al-Jazeera

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Politics
  • Dima Tareq Tahboub
  • The Guardian, Friday 3 October 2003 22.02 EDT

When my husband decided to go to Baghdad, he knew that I would protest. He told me that I was exaggerating the risks; that there was nothing to be afraid of because he was a reporter, an objective witness, neither on this nor that side, and because of that was protected by world protocol. He bid us farewell, apologising for having been so busy. He promised to make it up to me and our daughter, Fatimah, when he returned.

Tareq left for al-Jazeera’s Baghdad office on April 5. He called me when he arrived – the journey was hellish, he said. He sounded exhausted, because he was sleeping only three hours a day, between shifts. Back home in Jordan, our life wasn’t any better; we could hardly sleep and sat mesmerised in front of the TV waiting for Tareq to appear in a live report so we’d know he was OK.

On the early morning of April 8, I was still awake at 6am and saw his last live report, in which he described the situation in Baghdad as being very calm and quiet. I was relieved and went to sleep, only to wake up one hour later to the sound of my mother crying and yelling.

At first, I didn’t know what had happened. I brought a chair and sat trembling in front of the TV. The house was suddenly full of people. I couldn’t see or hear anyone. I was waiting for the film to end. I was waiting for the hero to appear and end all evil. I was waiting for the story of my life to end with “and they lived happily ever after”. I couldn’t cry, I was just listening to the news, seeing again and again all through the day how the Americans bombed the al-Jazeera office and killed my husband.

I teach English translation. Once, when I was lecturing on the translation of political terminology, with reference to the UN charter and the declaration of human rights, one of the students said: “How can the US say that this war has a noble cause and a humane agenda? All the dictionary definitions of war involve bloodshed and overwhelming destruction.” Another student joined in: “Don’t tell us about charters and so-called noble missions, what we see is what we believe.” The whole class cheered; I had nothing to say.

I used to tell my students that the American dream is best described as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now I am convinced my students were right and I wrong. I learned the hard way when the Americans ruined my life, confiscated my liberty and ended my happiness.

The US bombed al-Jazeera because it was angered by reports that did not confirm its one-sided picture of the war. For the past five years, al-Jazeera and other Arab stations have been gaining credibility and fame not only in the Arab countries but also in the west, competing with international networks such as the BBC and CNN. Al-Jazeera in particular became very popular during the American war on Afghanistan. The channel aired voice recordings of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders as well as the speeches of President Bush and allied leaders. This decision to broadcast both sides was in keeping with its motto – “The opinion and the counter-opinion” – but the Americans could not allow such freedom of expression to prevail.

The US sent its first warning to al-Jazeera in November 2001, bombing its Kabul office, destroying its equipment and forcing its journalists to flee. An al-Jazeera cameraman was sent to Guantanamo Bay as a war prisoner.

In Baghdad during the war, the coverage of al-Jazeera again focused mainly on the daily suffering and loss of ordinary people; and again the Americans wanted their crimes and atrocities to pass unnoticed. The two bombs they dropped on al-Jazeera’s Baghdad office were the ones that killed my husband. Then the Americans opened fire on Abu Dhabi television, whose identity was spelled out in large blue letters on the roof. The next target was the Palestine hotel, the headquarters of world media representatives – an American tank fired a shell and two more journalists were killed. Thus the US tried to conceal evidence of its crimes from the world and kill the witnesses.

The US didn’t take responsibility for the attacks, claiming that all three were mistakes and insisting that it did not know the whereabouts of journalists, apart from those “embedded” with its troops. Later, al-Jazeera’s director confirmed that it had given the precise location of the station’s Baghdad office to the Pentagon three months before the war. My husband and the others were killed in broad daylight, in locations known to the Pentagon as media sites.

The US was not content with the message it sent to al-Jazeera signed with the blood of my husband; it accused al-Jazeera and other Arab channels of anti-American bias in their coverage of the war. But how biased can a picture of dead people be? A picture of a destroyed house doesn’t need a reporter to tell its story, and the tears of children and refugees need no interpreter.

Tell me, please, what should I do when my daughter, just 20 months old, starts calling her late father’s name and looking for him all around the house? What should I do when the clock strikes five and I keep waiting for Tareq to open the door with his smiling face but he never comes in? When the only way to have some rest is to cry myself to sleep? When I see my mother-in-law vomiting four times in less than half an hour? When my daughter brings her toys to play with me, as she used to do with her father, and I can’t even hold her? When my tears fall on my daughter’s face when I give her milk, remembering how her father used to do it? When I feel ruined and desperate, with no hope in life?

How should I raise my daughter? Allow me to answer the last question. I will raise her never to forgive or forget. Never to forget her father and never to forgive those who killed him.

Six months have passed since the killing of Tareq, and those responsible for his death are still in control, claiming ethical supervision of the world, and basking in their military achievements. The attacks on al-Jazeera continue – Iraq’s US-appointed governing council has just warned the station that if it continues to “misbehave”, its licence in Iraq will be revoked. Meanwhile, an al-Jazeera correspondent, Tayssir Alouni – the only television journalist who had a live link from Taliban Kabul, and a survivor of both the Kabul and Baghdad bombings – has been accused of helping al-Qaida and the Taliban. When he went to Spain to obtain his PhD, he was arrested by the Spanish authorities, widely believed to have been at the behest of the Americans. He is now in a high-security prison awaiting trial, despite there being no concrete evidence against him.

As for me, six months have passed since my husband’s death and I can’t find anyone to help me to launch legal action against those who killed him. When I thought I had found an outlet under Belgian law, US threats and ultimatums got the law repealed and put an end to my hopes of gaining justice.

When the Muslim Association of Britain invited me to speak at last weekend’s anti-war march in London, I hesitated because of the despair I have been in. But when I saw all these people marching against the war, condemning those responsible for it, my hope and belief in the solidarity of humankind, in humanity, justice and truth was rekindled.

My life and happiness came to an end on April 8, but I still have one last dream; that my Fatimah will have a better future full of love and security, that her heart and mind as well as mine will be relieved when those who committed the cold-blooded murder of her father and my husband are brought to justice.

· Dima Tareq Tahboub is a lecturer at the Arab Open University in Amman and the widow of Tareq Ayyoub, a correspondent for al-Jazeera



Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 23, 2013.

Chinese President Xi Jinping started his first foreign tour with a three-day state visit to Russia on March 23, just nine days after he took office.

On Friday, the two countries signed a set of agreements on a further promotion and development of cooperation in the energy and banking sectors.

The documents, signed with the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Xi, are aimed at broadening cooperation in the energy sector and in the construction process of a petroleum treatment facility and a petrochemical plant in China’s Tianjin metropolitan area.

Chinese and Russian companies have also agreed to invest $2 billion in eastern Siberia to develop coal mines.

For the third year in a row in 2012, China remained Russia’s top trade partner. In 2012 alone, the volume of trade exchanges between the two countries reached $88.16 billion, up 11 percent from the year before. Besides oil and gas, China imports sophisticated arms from Russia.

China was the world’s fifth largest arms exporter in 2012, but it has shown willingness to buy Russia’s most modern weapons.

The Russian and Chinese leaders hope they would diversify their trade. They plan to raise their trade exchanges to $100 billion by 2015 and to $200 billion by 2020.

The relations between Russia and China are currently at their best. The new Chinese leader’s visit to Russia in his first foreign trip indicates the strategic significance of Beijing-Moscow relations.

This trip also carries a clear message for the United States and the European Union (EU) that China and Russia are determined to boost their influence on international developments.

Since the US foreign policy’s strategy for the coming decade is focused on further clout with Asia, China is expanding its ties with Russia and other members of the BRICS group of emerging economies — Brazil, India, and South Africa.

Energy is the most important sector Russia and China would cooperate in. Russia sits atop huge energy reserves which can serve energy-starving China. Through energy cooperation, the two countries can counter US financial and geopolitical influence.

Putin and Xi are not expected to finalize the deal for a pipeline to carry natural gas from Russia to China so soon. However, Putin is set to take advantage of China to keep Russia’s economy running.

Xi has estimated that his country’s economy would overtake that the US during his ten-year term in office.

Over recent years, Russia and China have largely expanded their cooperation particularly within the framework of international organizations. They are now two leading members of the influential Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a counterweight to US expansionist policies in Central Asia and Eurasia.

Russia and China also share similar views on Syria, particularly in opposing Western interference in the affairs of this Arab state. Since the start of crisis in Syria in 2011, Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions drafted by other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

In Putin’s view, strategic relations between Beijing and Moscow are of great significance due to their influence on the world’s stability and security.

In their Friday meeting, Xi told Putin that his first foreign visit to Moscow showed to what extent his country lent credence to its ties with Russia.

China’s ties with US have become complicated. It has practically cut its ties with Japan while its relations with India are fraught with tensions. Amid such tumult, good and strong bonds with Russia would mean too much.

Economy is China’s top priority, but cooperation about Iran, Syria, and North Korea are also of high significance in its foreign policy. Furthermore, China expects Russia to make up for their reduced oil imports from Iran.

The head of Russia’s biggest oil consumer Rosneft, Igor Sechin, said on Friday that the company plans to increase its oil supplies to China to 45-50 million tons a year, from a current 15 million tons a year via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline.

Following his talks with Xi, Putin said the two countries have agreed to cooperate further in space technology, telecommunications and aircraft manufacturing.

The US, EU and Japan are anxiously following up on Xi’s ongoing visit to Russia.

A possible proximity between China, Russia, and India would present the world powers with new puzzles.

The Art of Survival

Image  —  Posted: March 28, 2013 in Politics

About the Author
John Mitchell is an Associate Fellow of the Energy, Environment and Resource Governance Programme at Chatham House and Research Adviser at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies. During his earlier career with BP, his posts included head of the company’s Policy Review Unit. He has published widely on energy issues, particularly oil. In 2007 he received a lifetime achievement award from King Abdullah at the 3rd OPEC Summit in Riyadh.

Rebalancing World Oil and Gas

Link  —  Posted: March 27, 2013 in Politics

Global Research, February 21, 2013

The Council of the European Union renewed its arms embargo on Syria this week by another three months, with the slight amendment to allow for “greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians.” The council further affirmed that it would “actively continue the work underway to assess and review, if necessary, the sanctions regime against Syria in order to support and help the opposition.”

This decision, seen as a compromise between EU members that are solidly against direct military involvement in Syria and those that are ambiguously in favor of it (chiefly Britain), was, like all decisions taken at the supranational level, several months out of date and risibly insufficient. But an added element of pathos in this re-upping of status quo policy can be found in a remarkable new development: Syria’s rebels are now receiving better and more copious arms from some outside actor. Moreover, the way in which those arms are being distributed, as well as to whom, strongly hints that some Western actors are finally acceding to a military option for a conflict that never had a chance for a diplomatic or political breakthrough.

In one of the most strangely neglected stories in the two-year Syria conflict, beginning on January 1, four new weapon models began appearing in large quantities in Daraa province, none used at any time by the Syrian military. The M60 recoilless gun, the M79 Osa rocket launcher, the RPG-22 rocket launcher and the Milkor MGL/RBG-6 grenade launcher hadn’t been shown in any opposition videos until the new year. Every device was used in a massive joint rebel operation against Busr al-Harir, a town previously safely in regime hands to the northeast of Daraa city. Several tanks and BMPs (armored personnel carriers) were destroyed in the ensuing battle and, as Syria analyst James Miller of EA Worldview told me, what distinguished this rebel sortie from others was that “the fighters didn’t seem concerned about preserving the ammunition for these weapons.”

Rebels tend to hoard the bullets of their Kalashnikovs, so the fact that they’d promiscuously expend the ammo of more powerful and newer-made arms is noteworthy. And there was another major oddity: Unlike most recent attacks against regime installations, the Busr al-Harir fight was waged mainly by secular or moderate units of the Free Syrian Army, with the normally ever-present Jabhat al-Nusra, the US-blacklisted Syrian branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq, conspicuously absent.

Busr al-Harir was by no means a one-off. Rebels continued to penetrate the southern province where the anti-regime protest movement took off in earnest in March 2011. More tanks and BMPs have gone up in flames in Zeizun, northwest of Daraa city, and others have been captured by the FSA. Rebels are approaching the city from the east and north, though also hitting within its limits from the south. On Valentine’s Day, they laid siege to El Sahoah, east of the city, eliminating an entire military convoy and sacking an air base and making off with at least one BMP. Four days later, they captured a checkpoint on Dam Road, affording them a new southeastern point of ingress into Daraa city. If this provincial capital were to be ring-fenced or taken by the opposition, Miller writes, it’d mark a significant setback for the regime because it would allow the rebels a direct supply line from Jordan straight into Damascus, where rebel operations are also taking place in the outlying suburbs and in the capital itself.

From Daraa, these munitions began popping up in other provinces. According to Eliot Higgins, who blogs obsessively about Syrian warfare as “Brown Moses” and who first uncovered the new hardware in Syria, the RPG-22 and M60 have since turned up in Idlib; the RPG-22, M79 and RBG-6 in Hama; the RPG-22 and M79 in Aleppo; and all four have appeared in Damascus. In an email, Higgins said that markings from M79 rocket pods suggest a manufacture date of 1990-1991, although the rocket launcher itself was first manufactured in 1979. Yet clearly this is still an improvement on the more commonly used RPG-7.

In one video, rebels demonstrate how the M79 works to a relevant figure: Colonel Abdul-Jabbar Mohammed Ogaidi, the FSA representative of the Northern Front of the Supreme Military Council. He also, intriguingly, serves on the Front’s Armament Committee. (Ogaidi was a main point man for Future Movement MP Okab Sakr, who previously ran consignments of light weapons into Syria.)

Higgins further happened upon a revealing training video showing the al-Farouq Brigade giving a lesson in how to handle some of this Balkan hardware to the Dawn of Islam Brigade. This exercise was coordinated under the auspices of the Free Damascenes Movement, a newish coalition of rebels seeking to unify all Islamic units in the insurgency under one heading, excepting (again) Jabhat al-Nusra. “That process,” Miller wrote in a blog post on EA Worldview, “appears to have started in late November and came to fruition in late December, approximately the same time we started to see the surge in foreign arms. This effort appears to have started in the south, in Daraa Province, with the eventual goal of liberating Damascus.” Both Miller and Higgins suspect that Jordan and Turkey are the entry points for the new weapons, given their proliferation in the north and south of Syria.

That sophisticated anti-tank and anti-infantry munitions are now being funneled exclusively to non-extremist rebel units, who themselves are committed to isolating al-Qaeda, suggests either a staggering coincidence or some degree of external facilitation. Now here’s another interesting fact. The M60, the M79, the RBG-6 and the RPG-22 are all currently in use by the Croatian Army.

Croatia, which, along with a host of European and Middle Eastern powers, recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people, is not yet a member state of the European Union (it is set to accede in July of this year) and so, technically, it is not beholden to the EU arms embargo. It is, however, a member of the Friends of Syria umbrella group: Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić attended the second conference in Istanbul in 2012, and she’s previously expressed concern about Croatia’s oil and gas fields, which sanctions and deteriorating security have rendered useless. (About a year ago, Croatia instructed all of its businesses to withdraw from Syria, an act that left INA, the national oil company, operating at a loss of “hundreds of millions of euros.”)  A pro-EU Balkan state not yet subject to EU jurisdiction would also have a nice geopolitical motive to help undermine a proxy of Russia.

But even assuming that Zagreb isn’t directly or indirectly supplying these arms to Syria, might a hitherto unknown arms dealer – Croatian or otherwise, state or non-state – now be working directly with a regional intermediary who is supplying them? If so, how is it that this arms dealer has managed to negotiate relatively smooth supply routes through both Jordan and Turkey?

One plausible scenario would be that these weapons were all coming from Libya, which was one of the initial arms-runners to the Syrian opposition. The former Yugoslavia, which manufactured the M60 and M79, formerly enjoyed warm ties with Muammar Qaddafi, as did Croatia prior to the Libyan revolt and subsequent NATO intervention (former Croatian President Stipe Mesić seemed to want those ties to continue regardless).

So it is possible that the M60s, M79s, RPG-22s and RBG-6s were all sold to Libya a long time ago and were only just emptied from warehouses by the National Transition Council for urgent use in another country – although this then raises the question of why it took the new Libyan government a year to send the heavy-duty materiel to the Syrians when it previously trafficked in only light arms and ammunition. Nor does this explain why the NTC suddenly decided to empower the moderates over the jihadists in a highly organized fashion that, superficially, accords with Western preconditions for supporting the armed opposition.

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve tried repeatedly, by phone and email, to query both the press officer and military advisor at the Croatian mission in New York to see if they might account for the provenance of four weapon models that, taken together, are exclusive to their country’s arsenal. I received no reply.

One Washington-based source close to the Syrian rebels suggested that Croatia “might be involved” but thought the Libya clearinghouse theory was more persuasive, particularly as new stockpiles of Libyan weapons have been appearing and disappearing from Mali. That said, the source believes that classroom training seminars bespeak “total formalization,” and because “the people getting these weapons are not Salafis or Nusra, that suggests a Western power” orchestrating or overseeing the entire effort.

In its reports on the EU arms embargo renewal, the Washington Post cited diplomats in Brussels and London who alleged that Whitehall was indeed intent on arming vetted and responsible rebels. While British Foreign Secretary William Hague denied such claims, saying his government merely wanted to “give assistance and advice that we’d been restricted in giving before,” he nevertheless left the door open a crack for further action. “We would have gone further,” Hague said.

From the looks of it, someone already has.

Global Research, February 21, 2013

Aside  —  Posted: February 21, 2013 in Politics

Sixteen Civilians Martyred, 208 Others Injured so far in Terrorist Bombing in al-Thawra Street in Damascus

Feb 21, 2013


DAMASCUS,(SANA)- Over 16 civilians were martyred and 208 others were injured so far in a terrorist bombing which took place on Thursday morning in al-Thawra Street in the surrounding of al-Mazraa neighborhood in Damascus.

SANA reporter said that the bombing, which took place in a densely populated area near a crossroad of main streets, killed and injured a large number of civilians, including children.

He added that huge material damage was caused to the houses of citizens in the area surrounding the bombing in addition to a huge fire in a large number of cars, noting that the victims are mostly passersby, school students and people driving their cars.

SANA reporter pointed out that the blast also caused huge damage to al-Hayat Hospital and Abdullah Bin al-Zubir school in the area as well as to the minibuses in a bus station nearby.

Sources at the Red Crescent and Damascus Hospitals said the bodies of tens of martyrs and injured people were admitted to the hospitals.

Car Loaded with Explosives Seized in the Bombing Site

In the same context, SANA reporter mentioned that the authorities seized a car loaded with cylinder-shaped bath water heaters filled with explosives in the site of the bombing in al-Thawra Street.

The suicide terrorist who was driving the car was arrested, the reporter noted.