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 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Illegal wildlife trade along the Burma-China border - in pictures

The Guardian

The town of Mong-La in Burma's Shan state, close to the border with China, is at the crossroads of illegal wildlife trade routes that are sucking the forests, jungles and plains of India, Burma, Laos and Thailand dry of their native animals and plants – many of them endangered

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 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:36 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Ecstasy tablets worth £120m seized in Burma

Police believe haul of 2.4m tablets is largest ever of the drug in Burma, a major producer of methamphetamine and heroin

Agence France-Presse in Rangoon
The Guardian, Monday 25 August 2014 14.22 BST      

Burma's navy has seized about 2.4m ecstasy tablets hidden in a ship, a record haul of the drug in the country.

Police said the tablets were found on board a ship intercepted last week by the navy near the town of Kawthoung at the country's southern border with Thailand.

Police Brig Gen Kyaw Win, of the home affairs ministry's drug control committee, said on Monday the haul was believed to be the largest ever of the drug in Burma, which is a major producer of both heroin and methamphetamine.

"We are surprised that the number of tablets seized is that big," he said, adding that the vessel also contained about 90 tonnes of timber that was thought to be illicit.

He said each tablet was estimated to be worth up to 80,000 kyats (£50) on the streets of Rangoon – which would make the total value nearly £120m – but that the haul was likely destined for other countries where the price could be different.

"It's important because if it wasn't seized, it will get to Malaysia then to US and other countries. It's expensive and the amount is also high. It's dangerous wherever it reaches," Kyaw Win said.

He said the largest previous haul of ecstasy was in 2005 when 50,000 tablets were seized.

Burma is the world's second largest opium producer after Afghanistan and south-east Asia's biggest synthetic drug-maker, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which has warned that criminal activity threatens the nation's stability.

Drugs production in the country's war-torn borderlands has surged in recent years, particularly the manufacture of methamphetamine tablets in hidden jungle laboratories.

To mark World Drugs Day in June, Burma burned seized drugs worth around £78m, including 1.3 tonnes of opium, 225kg of heroin and 1.2 tonnes of methamphetamine tablets.

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:36 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
India Court Pressures Modi on 'Criminal' Cabinet Ministers

by Naharnet Newsdesk
27 August 2014, 10:53

India's top court said Monday lawmakers with criminal backgrounds should not serve in government, with 13 ministers facing charges for attempted murder, rioting and other offences.

The ruling is likely to put pressure on right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who swept to power this year pledging clean governance.

The Supreme Court ruled that Modi should be left to choose his own cabinet, but said it hoped the premier would ultimately take into account public expectations and India's democratic values.

"We leave it to the wisdom of the prime minister to see whether people with criminal backgrounds are appointed as ministers," Justice Dipak Misra told the court.

"Ultimately it is expected that people with criminal backgrounds should not be part of the council of ministers," said Misra, who headed a bench of five judges.

"Ultimately it is expected that the prime minister should consider and not choose a person with a criminal background and that is the constitution's expectation."

The court was handing down its judgement on a petition seeking to bar MPs with "criminal backgrounds", including those charged but not yet convicted of crimes, from being appointed ministers in state and federal governments.

The court said it could not disqualify such MPs from cabinet. India bans those convicted of serious crimes from holding office, not those facing charges.

Modi won a landslide election in May partly on a promise to clean up government after the previous Congress-led administration was plagued by corruption and other scandals.

Thirteen of Modi's 45 ministers have been charged with criminal offences, eight of those involving serious charges, according to the Delhi-based Association of Democratic Reforms, a clean government advocacy group.

Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Uma Bharti has 13 cases pending, including two charges related to attempted murder and six charges related to rioting, the association said.

MPs say charges against them are false or trumped up or leveled by political opponents seeking to harm their reputations.

MPs convicted of crimes have traditionally continued to hold office simply by filing an appeal in India's clogged and notoriously slow courts.

But in a landmark judgement last July, the Supreme Court ruled that MPs sentenced to more than three years in jail should be disqualified, regardless of any appeal.

The previous government attempted to reverse the ruling which impacted on a long list of MPs, but stood down after facing internal dissent and a major public backlash.

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:29 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Pakistan PM Defiant amid Protest Crisis

by Naharnet Newsdesk
27 August 2014, 12:45

Pakistan's embattled prime minister said Wednesday he would not cave in to protests demanding his resignation, striking a defiant note in his first major speech since the crisis erupted two weeks ago.

Nawaz Sharif told parliament his government would not be thrown off course by the demonstrations led by former cricketer Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri.

Thousands of Khan and Qadri followers have been camped outside parliament since August 15 demanding Sharif quit, claiming the election which swept him to power last year was rigged.

The crisis has rattled Sharif's government 15 months into a five-year term and prompted rumors the army may intervene to resolve matters -- and in doing so effectively put the elected government under its thumb.

In a country that has seen three military coups, the threat of army intervention casts a shadow over virtually every moment of political crisis.

But Sharif told lawmakers his Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government would stay the course.

"We are not going to be diverted by these things," he said.

"The journey for the supremacy of constitution and law in Pakistan will continue with full determination and God willing there will not be any interruption in it."

He said the plan to boost Pakistan's ailing economy through major development and infrastructure projects -- a key plank of the PML-N manifesto -- would continue.

Khan has alleged massive cheating in the May 2013 poll, though international observers said the vote was largely free and fair.

Shortly before Khan and Qadri began their protests with "long marches" from the eastern city of Lahore, Sharif announced a judicial commission to investigate rigging claims in some seats, but Khan rejected the offer.

The government has also set up a parliamentary committee to look at electoral reform and Sharif urged Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to support it.

"We want to bring reforms in all areas as we have to think about the future generation and find ways to take the country towards the destination of progress," he added.

The protests in Islamabad have so far been peaceful, with security forces -- deployed in huge numbers in the capital -- taking a hands-off approach to the demonstrations.

Efforts to find a negotiated end to the crisis have made little headway, with Khan sticking to his hardline demand that Sharif must quit.

On Tuesday Sharif met the powerful army chief General Raheel Sharif and issued a statement saying they had agreed to end the standoff "expeditiously".

Neither protest movement has mobilized mass support beyond their core followers, and opposition parties have shunned Khan's call to unseat the government and begin a campaign of civil disobedience.


Hard-Line Splinter Group, Galvanized by ISIS, Emerges From Pakistani Taliban

AUG. 26, 2014

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban has suffered its second major split in three months, with militant leaders this week confirming the emergence of a hard-line splinter group inspired by the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The new group, known as Jamaat-e-Ahrar, is composed of disaffected Taliban factions from four of the seven tribal districts along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, according to a video released by the group. Counterterrorism experts said the group was effectively controlled by Omar Khalid Khorasani, an ambitious Taliban commander with strong ties to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Khorasani’s faction, which is based in the Mohmand tribal agency near Peshawar, had emerged as one of the most active Taliban elements this year. It is believed to have carried out a bombing in Islamabad that sought to derail peace talks between the Taliban and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government.

The formation of Jamaat-e-Ahrar is one of the most serious internal threats to the Pakistani Taliban, officially known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, since it was formed seven years ago.

In a lengthy video statement explaining the decision to break away, Mr. Khorasani said the Taliban had become undisciplined and suffered from factional infighting. “This was devastating for our movement,” he said.

The new group also represents a challenge to the authority of the main Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who gained control of the insurgency last year after his predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in an American drone strike.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the new group, which is formally called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-e-Ahrar, said the new group had become “the real T.T.P.” and would refuse to take orders from Mr. Fazlullah.

“Now the T.T.P. is ours, not theirs,” Mr. Ehsan said in a phone interview. Mr. Fazlullah’s Taliban faction has come under heavy assault by the Pakistani military in the North Waziristan tribal district. The army said that since the start of the offensive in June, it had killed over 500 militants, although the figures could not be independently confirmed. On Aug. 15, a senior Pakistani general said that the operation was in its “final stages” and that most of the area had been cleared of militants.

The internal threat to the Taliban comes from ideological arguments and power struggles.

Mr. Khorasani has long been seen as one of the movement’s most ideological commanders, and his separation from the main Taliban branch prompted speculation among experts over an alliance with ISIS, which has captured a vast section of territory across Syria and Iraq and has declared itself the new Islamic caliphate.

Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad, said that Mr. Khorasani and Mr. Fazlullah had differed in their ambitions.

“Khorasani felt that Fazlullah had a narrow vision,” Mr. Rana said. “Khorasani wants an Islamic movement to rise from this region and believes that Fazlullah is only interested in the tribal belt.”

But Mr. Khorasani’s ambitions may be constrained by his ties to Al Qaeda, which is a sworn enemy of the Islamic State. Mr. Khorasani identified his deputy, Maulana Qasim Khorasani, as the nominal leader of Jamaat-e-Ahrar. That may be intended to keep him slightly aloof from the new group, possibly in deference to Qaeda sensitivities. Khorasani is a sort of nom de guerre, referring to the ancient territory of Khorasan. The spokesman, Mr. Ehsan, said in the phone interview that while the new group admired the Islamic State, it did not intend to formally pledge allegiance to it.

The Pakistani Taliban has always been a loose and often conflicted coalition of smaller cells. But it faced a huge public setback in May when a major segment of the Mehsud tribe broke away amid factional fighting in the mountains of Waziristan.

But in recent weeks, Mr. Fazlullah has worked to reunite with the Mehsud factions, and some Taliban representatives began signaling this week that he seemed to be making progress.

Further splits in the Taliban may be bad news for stability inside Pakistan, said Mr. Rana, the analyst. “The militant landscape remains broadly the same, and this new group could be even more brutal,” he said. “Security-wise, it may not be good news.”

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:27 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Afghan Election in Crisis as Candidate Pulls out of Audit

by Naharnet Newsdesk
27 August 2014, 09:48

Afghanistan's fraud-hit election teetered on the brink of collapse Wednesday as one of the two candidates boycotted the U.N.-supervised vote audit set up to end a prolonged dispute over the rightful winner.

Abdullah Abdullah, who claims that massive fraud was committed against him in the June 14 vote, pulled out of the audit after his senior campaign officials dismissed the process for invalidating fake votes as "a joke".

The stand-off between Abdullah and his poll rival Ashraf Ghani has threatened to revive ethnic violence in Afghanistan as U.S.-led NATO troops withdraw after 13-years of fighting the Taliban insurgents.

The audit of all eight million votes was halted on Wednesday morning when Abdullah's observers refused to participate -- despite a U.S.-brokered deal in which both sides vowed to support the recount and respect its outcome.

"We will not join the process today, and maybe we will not re-join the process at all," Fazel Aqa Hussain Sancharaki, a spokesman for the Abdullah campaign, told Agence France Presse.

"Talks are ongoing with the U.N. If that reaches an agreement, we will come back. If not, that is the end of it."

With both candidates claiming victory, outgoing President Hamid Karzai has upped the stakes by insisting that his successor is inaugurated next Tuesday.

The U.N. has voiced fears of a return to the ethnic divisions of the 1990s civil war if the election dispute sets off a spiral of instability.

Any backlash against the final result could split the country, since many of Ghani's supporters are Pashtuns in the south and east, while Abdullah's loyalists are Tajiks and other northern groups.

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:26 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
U.S. Mobilizes Allies to Widen Assault on ISIS

AUG. 26, 2014

WASHINGTON — The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday.

President Obama, the officials said, was broadening his campaign against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and nearing a decision to authorize airstrikes and airdrops of food and water around the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege for more than two months by the militants.

“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick,” Mr. Obama said in a speech on Tuesday to the American Legion in Charlotte, N.C., using an alternative name for ISIS. He said that the United States was building a coalition to “take the fight to these barbaric terrorists,” and that the militants would be “no match” for a united international community.

Administration officials characterized the dangers facing the Turkmen, who are Shiite Muslims considered infidels by ISIS, as similar to the threat faced by thousands of Yazidis, who were driven to Mount Sinjar in Iraq after attacks by the militants. The United Nations special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a statement three days ago that the situation in Amerli “demands immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens.”

As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

The officials, who asked not to be named discussing sensitive internal deliberations, said they expected that Britain and Australia would be willing to join the United States in an air campaign. The officials said they also wanted help from Turkey, which has military bases that could be used to support an effort in Syria.

Turkey is a transit route for foreign fighters, including those from the United States and Europe who have traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Administration officials said they are now asking officials in Ankara to help tighten the border. The administration is also seeking intelligence and surveillance help from Jordan as well as financial help from Saudi Arabia, which bankrolls groups in Syria that are fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

On Monday the Pentagon began surveillance flights over Syria in an effort to collect information on possible ISIS targets as a precursor to airstrikes, a senior official said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization that monitors the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Syria, reported that “non-Syrian spy planes” on Monday carried out surveillance of ISIS positions in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Although America’s allies in the region have plenty of reasons to support an intensified effort against ISIS, analysts said, the United States will have to navigate tensions among them.

“One of the problems is that different countries have different clients among the fighting groups in Syria,” said Robert S. Ford, a former American ambassador to Syria. “To get them all to work together, the best thing would be for them to pick one client and funnel all the funds through that client. You’ve got to pick one command structure.”

But persuading counties to help the United States in a military campaign in Syria will require more effort, administration officials said. Turkey, for example, is in the midst of a political transition, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ascending to the presidency.

His likely successor as prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has been deeply immersed in Syria as foreign minister. The White House, meanwhile, has been unable to win Senate confirmation of a new ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, leaving the post vacant at a critical time.

Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates are important as a source of funding for the rebels, but there are strains among them. Qatar, for example, helped negotiate the release of an American hostage, Peter Theo Curtis, who was being held by a less extreme militant group, the Nusra Front. But Saudi Arabia does not talk to the Nusra Front, and the Obama administration has sought to navigate between the feuding gulf countries.

Enlisting the Sunni neighbors of Syria is crucial, experts said, because airstrikes alone will not be enough to push back ISIS. The administration, Mr. Ford said, needs to pursue a sequential strategy that begins with gathering intelligence, followed by targeted airstrikes, more robust and better coordinated support for the moderate rebels, and finally, a political reconciliation process similar to that underway in Iraq.

The White House is also debating how to satisfy a second constituency, Congress. Mr. Obama’s advisers are considering whether to seek congressional authorization for expanded military action and if so, under what legal rationale. Lawmakers had been reluctant to vote on airstrikes in Iraq, but several have begun arguing that the broader action being contemplated by Mr. Obama would demand a vote in Congress.

“I do not believe that our expanded military operations against ISIL are covered under existing authorizations from Congress,” said Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on MSNBC that Congress needed to “own” any further military action against the militants.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that seven Western countries had pledged to provide weapons and ammunition to Kurdish forces who are fighting ISIS in northern Iraq.

Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy and Britain have committed to sending arms and equipment to the Kurds, Mr. Hagel said, adding that operations would “accelerate in coming days with more nations also expected to contribute.”

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Albania and Britain had started moving supplies to the Kurds.


Betrayal of Yazidis Stokes Iraqi Fears of Return to 2006 Sectarian Horrors

AUG. 26, 2014

ZAKHO, Iraq — The afternoon before his family fled the onslaught of Sunni militants, Dakhil Habash was visited by three of his Arab neighbors. Over tea, his trusted friend Matlul Mare told him not to worry about the advancing fighters and that no harm would come to him or his Yazidi people.

The men had helped one another over the years: Mr. Mare brought supplies to Mr. Habash’s community in the years after the American invasion, when travel outside their northern enclave was too dangerous for Yazidis. Mr. Mare bought tomatoes and watermelon from Mr. Habash’s farm and sometimes borrowed money.

But his friend’s assurances did not sit right with Mr. Habash. That night, he gathered his family and fled. Soon afterward, he said, he found out that Mr. Mare had joined the militants and was helping them hunt down Yazidi families.

“Our Arab neighbors turned on all of us,” said Mr. Habash, who recounted his story from a makeshift refugee camp on the banks of a fetid stream near the city of Zakho, in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We feel betrayed. They were our friends.”

It would be the last time the men saw each other, as they were swept into different spheres of Iraq’s fracturing sectarian landscape, where militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are filling their ranks with the country’s disenfranchised Sunni Arabs.

Some Iraqis fear that the plight of the Yazidis, thousands of whom are missing or have been massacred by ISIS fighters, could be a harbinger of a return to the sectarian nightmare of 2006 and 2007, when neighbors turned against neighbors.

Many Sunni tribes have not supported ISIS’s advance. But the group has benefited from widespread bitterness among Sunni Arabs over perceived mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. When ISIS arrived, officials say, some Sunnis saw an opportunity to reclaim some of the supremacy they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein’s rule.

As ISIS has advanced, more than 400,000 Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with roots in Muslim and Zoroastrian traditions, have been forced to flee their enclaves. The humanitarian crisis helped prompt President Obama to authorize American airstrikes to halt the slaughter, a decisive step in checking the militants’ advance across northern Iraq.

“I called my closest friend after we fled, an Arab man who owned a shop in our village,” said a Yazidi man who identified himself only as Haso, declining to give his first name out of fear of reprisal. “When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was looking for Yazidis to kill.”

The friend denied Haso’s account. But he grew angry when a journalist referred to the militant group as ISIS, because the militants now prefer to be called the Islamic State.

Another Yazidi refugee, Qasim Omar, said that just before ISIS reached his village, Arab neighbors began flying the group’s black flag from their homes.

“Before ISIS came, the Arab villagers had already helped them,” said Mr. Omar, 63. “I couldn’t believe it. They were our brothers.”

The extent of the collusion is hard to map. Many Yazidi families interviewed did not have firsthand information of Arab neighbors aiding ISIS. And in some cases, Arabs risked their lives to save persecuted friends.

Why Obama Is Helping the Yazidis in Iraq

Click to watch:

With humanitarian crises around the world, a look at why President Obama decided to use military force to help the Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq.

But amid the chaos, an emotional truth has emerged: ISIS has destroyed the peaceful coexistence that many northern towns once cherished.

“We would like to go back to our village, but we will never have a relationship with the Arabs anymore,” Mr. Habash said. “It will never be the same.”

His realization began on Aug. 4, when Mr. Mare and some other neighbors who lived near his family’s farm came to his door, seemingly making the rounds of all of their Yazidi neighbors.

Over tea, the men told the family to remove their flag supporting the Kurdish Democratic Party and replace it with a white one.

“You will be safe,” Mr. Mare repeated, according to Mr. Habash and other family members who were present.

The men left at sunset and the family waited, Mr. Habash said.

A few hours later, calls began to pour in from friends as nearby villages fell to ISIS. The Kurdish pesh merga security forces were retreating. Men were being executed. Women and children were vanishing. At 2 a.m., the family fled.

But Mr. Habash’s niece stayed behind with her husband’s family.

“Her new family trusted the Arabs more than they trusted us,” said her father, Mohsin Habash, who stayed behind for his daughter.

The rest of the family raced toward the Yazidi enclaves at Mount Sinjar, but discovered that the road to the Syrian border was still open, and headed there instead. That evening, they arrived at a border checkpoint, among a caravan of trucks swollen with passengers collected along the way.

Later, they headed into Iraqi Kurdistan, where they received a call from a fellow Yazidi who had been stopped at a snap checkpoint set up by the militants. Manning the roadblock was an armed crew of ISIS fighters and local Arabs, among them Mr. Mare.

“He asked me why I was leaving, and I told him I needed to see my family members,” said Nasr Qasim Kachal, the friend.

“Then go to hell,” Mr. Kachal, reached by phone, recalled Mr. Mare saying before he was waved through.

Mr. Habash’s niece, Ahlan Mohsin Kalo, was not as lucky. She and her family stayed for two days before deciding to flee. But on their way out of town, Mr. Mare spotted them, according to villagers and Mr. Kachal.

Her father has not heard from her since. “They didn’t have time to run,” Mohsin Habash said.

Though Mohsin Habash’s family suffered because of one Arab neighbor, he pointed out that they were saved with the help of another: a longtime friend who led a convoy of Yazidi refugees to safety at great risk.

The convoy drove through the night, passing ISIS-controlled territories undetected. Mohsin Habash believes it was because his friend knew the Arab areas better than any of the Yazidis.

Hours later, they reached Syria. From there, Mohsin Habash’s friend introduced them to another Arab man who took the group to the border with Kurdistan.

“He saved us,” Mr. Habash said.

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Ukraine crisis: Nato plans east European bases to counter Russia

Nato chief announces move in response to Ukraine crisis and says alliance is dealing with a new Russian military approach

Ian Traynor in Brussels
The Guardian, Wednesday 27 August 2014      

Nato is to deploy its forces at new bases in eastern Europe for the first time, in response to the Ukraine crisis and in an attempt to deter malignant tumor Pig Putin from causing trouble in the former Soviet Baltic republics, according to its secretary general.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the organisations's summit in Cardiff next week would overcome divisions within the alliance and agree to new deployments on Russia's borders – a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.

He also outlined moves to boost Ukraine's security, "modernise" its armed forces and help the country counter the threat from Russia.

Rasmussen said: "We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe. We have something already called the Nato response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it's our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness.

"In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters. The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible Nato presence in the east."

Poland and the three Baltic states have been alarmed at the perceived threat from Russia and have been clamouring for a stronger Nato presence in the region. They have criticised what they see as tokenism in the alliance's response so far.

But the issue of permanent Nato bases in east Europe is divisive. The French, Italians and Spanish are opposed while the Americans and British are supportive of the eastern European demands. The Germans, said a Nato official, were sitting on the fence, wary of provoking Russia.

The Cardiff summit is likely to come up with a formula, alliance sources said, which would avoid the term "permanent" for the new bases. But the impact will be to have constantly manned Nato facilities east of what used to be the iron curtain.

"It can be on a rotation basis, with a very high frequency. The point is that any potential aggressor should know that if they were to even think of an attack against a Nato ally they will meet not only soldiers from that specific country but they will meet Nato troops. This is what is important," said Rasmussen.

The only Nato headquarters east of the old cold war frontier is at Szczecin, on Poland's Baltic coast. Sources said this was likely to be the hub for the new deployments. Air and naval plans had been completed, but the issue of international land forces in the east was proving trickier to agree upon.

Asked whether there would be permanent international deployments under a Nato flag in east Europe, Rasmussen said: "The brief answer is yes. To prevent misunderstanding I use the phrase 'for as long as necessary'. Our eastern allies will be satisfied when they see what is actually in the readiness action plan."

Rasmussen said the forces could be deployed within hours.

Nato has clearly been caught napping by the Russian president's well prepared advances in Ukraine since February and is scrambling to come up with strategies for a new era in which Russia has gone from being a "strategic partner" of the alliance to a hostile actor perfecting what the alliance terms "hybrid warfare".

Rasmussen, whose term as Nato chief is coming to an end, said: "We have to face the reality that Russia does not consider Nato a partner. Russia is a nation that unfortunately for the first time since the second world war has grabbed land by force. Obviously we have to adapt to that." In an interview with the Guardian and five other European newspapers, he said: "It is safe to say that nobody had expected Russia to grab land by force. We also saw a remarkable change in the Russian military approach and capability since, for instance, the Georgian war in 2008.

"We have seen the Russians improve their ability to act swiftly. They can within a very, very, short time convert a major military exercise into an offensive military operation."

Rasmussen reiterated that the Russians had massed in their thousands on Ukraine's eastern borders, and had been firing artillery into Ukraine. His information was based on Nato's own intelligence and "multiple reports".

But Nato officials admitted that the intelligence was impaired by a lack of solid information from the ground. "We can only watch from 23 miles up," said an official.

Rasmussen said: "We have reports from multiple sources showing quite a lively Russian involvement in destabilising eastern Ukraine.

"We have seen artillery firing across the border and also inside Ukraine. We have seen a Russian military buildup along the border. Quite clearly, Russia is involved in destabilising eastern Ukraine … You see a sophisticated combination of traditional conventional warfare mixed up with information and primarily disinformation operations. It will take more than Nato to counter such hybrid warfare effectively."

If western leaders have been surprised and also impressed by the sudden display of Russian military prowess, Ukraine, by contrast, is in a pitiful condition militarily, according to Nato officials.

"If we are two steps behind the Russians, the Ukrainians are 16 steps behind," said a Nato source recently in Kiev. "Their generals just want to blow everything up. But it's not a shooting war, it's an information war."

In further moves certain to rile the malignant tumor, Nato is to step up its aid to, and collaboration with, the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, is to attend the Cardiff summit and will be the sole non-Nato head of state to negotiate with alliance leaders. Four "trust funds" are to be established to finance Ukraine's military logistics, command and control structures, and cyber defences, and to pay the armed forces' pensions.

"Ukraine follows its own path. That will be demonstrated at the summit because we will have a Nato-Ukraine summit meeting," said Rasmussen. "It is actually what we will decide to do at the summit, to help them build the capacity of their security sector, modernise it."

The summit will also grapple with the perennial question of reduced European defence spending at a time of intense instability on the continent's eastern and southern borders as well as the growing US exasperation with Europe's reluctance to fund its own security properly.

"Since the end of the cold war we have lived in relatively good weather. Now we are faced with a profound climate change. That requires more investment," said Rasmussen. "Politicians have tried to harvest the peace dividend after the end of the cold war. That's understandable. But now we are in a completely new security situation."

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:07 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Erdogan Vows No Change Ahead of Turkey Handover

by Naharnet Newsdesk
27 August 2014, 11:27

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday pledged that the policies of his ruling party would not change as he prepared to take the presidency and hand the job of premier to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Erdogan gave a keynote farewell speech to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as it held a congress to confirm Davutoglu as the new party leader and premier when he becomes president.

The Turkish strongman rejected suggestions that Davutoglu would simply be a puppet premier and said that the AKP would never be a "one man" party.

The vast congress, which mustered some 40,000 people at an Ankara sports arena, was a key step in a tightly-choreographed process to ensure the succession goes smoothly.

Erdogan -- who has ruled Turkey as premier for over a decade with Islamic-tinted and development-focused policies -- will be sworn in as president on Thursday after his victory in the August 10 election.

In a marathon two-hour speech, Erdogan said the government's strategy would not change with the handover and said the party had "always excluded personal ambitions and arrogance".

"Names have no importance. Names change today but our essence, our mission, our spirits, our goals and ideals remain in place."

Erdogan, who has two sons and two daughters, described the party he helped found as his "fifth child" but said the "farewell time" had come.

Under Turkish law, the president should sever all ties with political parties. But Erdogan said the party was not just about one person.

"The AKP will never be a one-man party. It is a party of principles," he said.

"Our cause will not change tomorrow and it will not be abandoned in the future."

- 'Davutoglu not a caretaker' -

The congress is a largely ceremonial affair with Davutoglu the only candidate for party leader and premier after his candidacy was agreed by the party's executive committee last week.

It will make a formal show of voting on his candidacy later in the day.

Erdogan entered the congress with his wife Emine to a rock star-style welcome, throwing red carnations to the crowds and a pop song booming out with the chorus "Recep Tayyip Erdogan".

The slogan of the congress "all together for a new Turkey" emphasises Erdogan's ambition to transform the country into an economically-booming world power.

Erdogan, 60, is expected to revamp what has been until now a largely ceremonial post of president into a powerful role, with Davutoglu a loyal ally who will not pose any obstacles.

"This is not a change of mission, it is just a change of names," Erdogan said in an outdoor morning speech in Ankara before heading into the congress.

"This is not a farewell. We will continue to serve our people from Edirne to Hakkari," referring to cities at opposite ends of Turkey close to the borders with Greece and Iraq.

In his speech to the congress, Erdogan however insisted that Davutoglu would be a figure of real stature and power as prime minister.

"I would like to stress this: Davutoglu is not a caretaker. Everyone should know that."

Erdogan also said that Davutoglu, 55, will form a new cabinet by Friday, with intense speculation over who will hold the top jobs.

Press reports have tipped the head of Turkey's intelligence service Hakan Fidan as a possible new foreign minister while there is also huge attention on the future of economic pointman and market favourite Ali Babacan in the government.

Davutoglu, who became foreign minister in 2009, is a controversial figure blamed by some for pursuing an over-ambitious foreign policy that led to the rise of Islamic militants in Syria.

Erdogan boasted of the success of the AKP in turning Turkey into a fast-growing emerging market after the chaos of its 2001 economic crisis.

"When we took office, there were dark clouds over Turkey, but today we have an economy that the whole world admires," he said.


New Turkey PM Leaves Troubled Foreign Policy Legacy

by Naharnet Newsdesk
27 August 2014, 07:10

Turkey's new premier and outgoing foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu leaves his successor a troubled legacy after a bold policy to expand Turkish influence across the ex-Ottoman empire left the country painfully exposed to the Syria and Iraq crises.

Critics accuse Davutoglu of persuing ideas that backfired disastrously by backing Islamic rebels in Syria who then went on to create the brutal Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

Moderates are calling for a recalibration of Turkish foreign policy when outgoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes the presidency on Thursday to mend fences with the West and pursue more realistic goals in the Middle East.

Yet this is far from guaranteed under Erdogan, who said his election victory was not just for Turkey but the Muslim world from Sarajevo to Islamabad.

"With this approach, Turkey has increased its profile but also found itself a part of many conflicts in the region," said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Ankara.

The identity of Turkey's new top diplomat is yet to be revealed but reports it could be the head of Turkey's secret service Hakan Fidan, an Erdogan loyalist, hardly suggest a sharp about-turn in policy.

Davutoglu's unassuming and smiley demeanor belied his reputation as a steely idealogue who was the architect of Turkish foreign policy for most of the past decade.

His thinking is based on his 2001 book "Strategic Depth", where he argues that Turkey should embrace its Ottoman past and use its unique geo-strategic position to restore its influence throughout the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East.

But initial successes in asserting Turkey's power were cancelled out after the Arab Spring uprising when interventionist Turkish policies only brought more strife. 

- 'Crazy and irresponsible' -

Turkey stands accused of arming radical groups fighting against the Syrian regime, in the hope that it would quickly bring down President Bashar Assad.

"Incapable of convincing its former ally Assad to engage in reforms, Turkey took the crazy and irresponsible decision to support -- directly or indirectly -- the jihadists," said Bayram Balci of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He said Turkey's ambiguous relations with the jihadists contributed to their growth in Syria and Iraq.

In a huge personal embarrassment for Davutoglu, IS militants are now holding 49 Turks hostage, including diplomats and children, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul on June 12.

Critics have expressed bewilderment that despite such failures, Davutoglu has been promoted.

"You, yourself, handed over the hostages to IS. You have moulded IS into its current shape," said the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

"It's amazing how he has been rewarded," he said.

As the world takes on IS, Ankara has remained silent in order not to endanger the lives of the hostages who are believed to be kept as human shields.

A Western diplomat said it was Davutoglu's unrealistic assumptions about Turkey's power that pushed the country to become a part of the problem.

"Turkey cannot pursue an ambitious foreign policy in the region anymore because it has so many security concerns right now. It can only do damage control and try to minimize the losses that can occur from the crisis on its doorstep," he told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity. 

NATO member Turkey's relations with Israel have eroded almost to breaking point, in the wake of Erdogan's blistering attacks on the Jewish state. 

- EU, US relations soured -

Meanwhile, Erdogan's periodic clampdowns on social media and anti-government protests have also soured relations with the United States and the European Union.

"Improving relations with the U.S. and the EU will take improving democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law in Turkey," said Unluhisarcikli.

Political scientist Behlul Ozkan -- who has analysed academic articles Davutoglu penned in the 1990s -- describes him as "a pan-Islamist who uses Islam to achieve his foreign policy goals".

"He (Davutoglu) believes that the nation-states that were formed in 1918 were artificial... He wants to go back in time to an order based on Islamic unity," Ozkan told the Taraf newspaper.

Still, his policies remain hugely popular among the AKP's pious voters, who hail Davutoglu for raising the country's international profile.

"Davutoglu has opened a new chapter in foreign policy thinking by positioning Turkey as a country of the center" Ibrahim Kalin, one of Erdogan's advisers, wrote in the pro-government Sabah newspaper.

"He has refused to confine Turkey just to the East or to the West."

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
IMF Chief Threatened by French Court Case

by Naharnet Newsdesk
27 August 2014, 12:54

Christine Lagarde smashed the glass ceiling at one of the world's preeminent institutions when she was named three years ago to lead the International Monetary Fund, capping a shooting-star career.

She then led the IMF's tentatively successful efforts to halt the implosion of the eurozone and helped the Fund get past the embarrassing sex scandal left by her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

But one key event when she was French finance minister in 2007-2008 -- a huge state payout to controversial tycoon Bernard Tapie -- threatens to mar that record and possibly cut short her career on the global stage.

After four rounds of gruelling questioning, a French court this week charged her with "negligence" over the multi-million graft case.

She told Agence France Presse Wednesday she had been placed "under formal investigation".

In France, being placed under formal investigation is the nearest equivalent to being charged, and happens when an examining magistrate has decided there is a case to be answered.

It does not, however, always lead to a trial and she stressed she was not stepping down as head of the IMF.

A steady career climb to the top of global finance has long made the deep-tanned, silver-haired Lagarde a French stand-out.

Now 58, she was born in Paris to academic parents and brought up in the port city of Le Havre.

As a teenager she was a synchronised swimming champion and learned to speak nearly flawless English.

After earning a law degree, she skipped a French establishment career and instead joined the Paris office of prestigious U.S. legal consulting giant Baker and McKenzie.

Over 18 years she pushed her way up to become chairwoman of the company's global executive committee in 1999, a first for the firm, and then of its global strategy committee in 2004.

She then embraced politics, joining the government of president Jacques Chirac as trade minister in June 2005.

Two years later Chirac's successor Nicolas Sarkozy named her agriculture minister, and shortly after switched her to the finance portfolio.

Though no economist, she proved deft at dealing with the erupting financial crisis that would threaten eurozone unity.

- 'I must have been a dolphin' -

In 2011, with France in charge of the G20 group of the world's largest economies, she became the go-to person on efforts to combat the effects of the crisis and reform the global financial system.

That record underpinned her being chosen ahead of strong emerging economy rivals to be IMF managing director after Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign in May 2011.

At the IMF, she played a crucial role in renegotiating the second Greek bailout and worked hard to contain the fallout from rescues in Portugal, Ireland, and Cyprus.

Both a tough negotiator and a determined consensus-builder, she didn't hesitate to cross swords with the very officials she was working closely with in her previous job, even criticising her successor as finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, of being asleep during one Cyprus crisis meeting.

"There are many instances of Ms. Lagarde's courageous truth-telling," said economist Desmond Lachman, a former IMF official.

At the same time, she has skillfully managed the shifting currents of power in the Fund, where emerging giants like China are challenging the Europe-U.S.-dominated status quo.

She has also fashioned herself as an icon to talented women fighting male dominance in large organisations like the IMF.

But the mother-of-two-sons keeps her feelings and personal life hidden beneath a hard shell.

Though a smooth talker, she at times has drawn accusations of aloofness. While a minister, she told French complaining about high fuel prices to ride their bicycles.

The healthy-living vegetarian still pushes herself hard in the pool, once telling the Wall Street Journal: "I think in a previous life I must have been a dolphin."

 on: Aug 27, 2014, 06:00 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks

AUG. 26, 2014

Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report.

Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human-produced emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control.

The world may already be nearing a temperature at which the loss of the vast ice sheet covering Greenland would become inevitable, the report said. The actual melting would then take centuries, but it would be unstoppable and could result in a sea level rise of 23 feet, with additional increases from other sources like melting Antarctic ice, potentially flooding the world’s major cities.

“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reduction in snow and ice, and in global mean-sea-level rise; and it is extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the draft report said. “The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”

The report was drafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists and other experts appointed by the United Nations that periodically reviews and summarizes climate research. It is not final and could change substantially before release.

The report, intended to summarize and restate a string of earlier reports about climate change released over the past year, is to be unveiled in early November, after an intensive editing session in Copenhagen. A late draft was sent to the world’s governments for review this week, and a copy of that version was obtained by The New York Times.

Using blunter, more forceful language than the reports that underpin it, the new draft highlights the urgency of the risks that are likely to be intensified by continued emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

The report found that companies and governments had identified reserves of these fuels at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level.

That means if society wants to limit the risks to future generations, it must find the discipline to leave a vast majority of these valuable fuels in the ground, the report said.

It cited rising political efforts around the world on climate change, including efforts to limit emissions as well as to adapt to changes that have become inevitable. But the report found that these efforts were being overwhelmed by construction of facilities like new coal-burning power plants that will lock in high emissions for decades.

From 1970 to 2000, global emissions of greenhouse gases grew at 1.3 percent a year. But from 2000 to 2010, that rate jumped to 2.2 percent a year, the report found, and the pace seems to be accelerating further in this decade.

A major part of the jump was caused by industrialization in China, which now accounts for half the world’s coal use. Those emissions are being incurred in large part to produce goods for consumption in the West.

Emissions are now falling in nearly all Western countries because of an increased focus on efficiency and the spread of lower-emitting sources of electricity. But the declines are not yet sufficient to offset rising emissions in developing countries, many of whose governments are focused on pulling their people out of poverty.

The new report found that it was still technically possible to limit global warming to an internationally agreed upper bound of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, above the preindustrial level. But continued political delays for another decade or two will make that unachievable without severe economic disruption, the report said.

The draft report comes a month before a summit meeting of world leaders in New York that is meant to set the stage for a potential global agreement on emissions that would be completed next year. However, concern is growing among climate experts that the leaders may not offer ambitious commitments in their speeches on Sept. 23, a potential continuation of the political inaction that has marked the climate issue for decades.

The draft report did find that efforts to counter climate change are gathering force at the regional and local level in many countries. This is especially clear in the United States, where Congress is paralyzed and the national government has effectively ceded leadership on climate to states like California, Massachusetts and New York.

President Obama, using his executive authority under the Clean Air Act, is seeking to impose national limits on emissions of greenhouse gases, but he faces profound legal and political challenges as he seeks to put his policy into effect before leaving office in early 2017.

The draft report found that past emissions, and the failure to heed scientific warnings about the risks, have made large-scale climatic shifts inevitable. But lowering emissions would still slow the expected pace of change, the report said, providing critical decades for human society and the natural world to adapt.

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the report said.

The earth has so far warmed by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the level that prevailed before the Industrial Revolution, the report found, and that seemingly modest increase is causing the effects already being seen around the world. A continued rapid growth of emissions in coming decades could conceivably lead to a global warming exceeding 8 degrees Fahrenheit, the report found. The warming would be higher over land areas, and higher still at the poles.

Warming that substantial would almost certainly have catastrophic effects, including a mass extinction of plants and animals, huge shortfalls in food production, extreme coastal flooding and many other problems, the report found.

The report noted that severe weather events, some of them linked to human-produced emissions, had disrupted the food supply in recent years, leading to several spikes in the prices of staple grains and destabilizing some governments in poorer countries.

Continued warming, the report found, is likely to “slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing poverty traps and create new ones, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger.”

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