Russia official: WikiLeaks founder should get Nobel Prize
Comment by Kermlin source comes amid harsh U.S. criticism over the whistle-blowing site’s recent release of over 250,000 classified diplomatic cables.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been at the center of a world-wide media storm over the massive leak of U.S. diplomatic cables last week, should received the Nobel Prize, a top Russian source told country’s state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks about the United States and the human rights during a press conference at the Geneva press club in Geneva, Switzerland. Nov. 4, 2010
Photo by: AP
Last week, the whistle-blowing website went disclosed more than 250,000 classified diplomatic communiqués, covering issues such as Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s back of Hezbollah, as well as relations between the United States and its European allies.
In response to the massive disclosure, the White Hose Press Secretary issued a statement, saying that “such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.”
The White House went on to say that U.S. President Barack Obama supported “responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal.”
However, sources in the Kermlin Wednesday, referring to WikiLeaks founder Assange, told RIA Novosti that “non-governmental and governmental organizations should think of ways to help him. Perhaps he could be awarded a Nobel prize.”
The comments by the Russian official came as a British judge denied Assange bail on Tuesday after the WikiLeaks founder told a London court he would fight efforts to extradite him to Sweden to face a sex-crimes investigation.
At a hearing Tuesday afternoon in front of City of London magistrates, Assange, accompanied by officials from the Australian high commission, was refused bail — and so will remain in custody until December 14.
Assange, who gave his address as “PO Box 4080,” told the court he would fight extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for alleged sex offences, which means this is expected to be a long legal battle.
Assad blames ‘Israeli intransigence’ for failed peace talks
Syrian President Bashar Assad said ‘intransigent Israel’, not the US, was responsible for the failure of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
State Department spokesman says attempts to persuade Israel to stop settlement construction dropped because issue ‘became an end in itself rather than means to an end,’ adding that administration will ‘try to begin to make progress on core issues themselves’
Speaking to reporters in Paris after a two-hour meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday, the Syrian leader said American efforts to persuade Israel to impose another construction moratorium in the West Bank’s Jewish settlements “have not worked,” but added, “Why are we blaming the godfather? Before we blame the sponsor, we should blame the sides themselves. Again we see that Israel is not a partner for peace.”
Assad continued to say that peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians shouldn’t focus on the settlements issue. “We are against putting settlements at the center of peace talks,” he said. “If we want to talk about peace, we have to talk about legal rights, about territorial restitution and not talk about the settlements.”
Also Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that he would not engage in peace talks with Israel while it continued to build in West Bank settlements.
“Israel has brought this process into a deep crisis,” he said in Cairo, adding that there would be no secret meetings with the Israelis.
Olmert, Ayalon: Israel doesn’t need to apologize to Turkey
Official say Israel proposed paying $100,000 each to families of Turks killed during raid on Gaza-bound ship and asked Ankara ‘to do what needs to be done to address our legal concerns.’ Turkish FM: Our demand for apology has not changed
Speaking at a conference at the Foreign Ministry on EU members’ funding of NGOs which support terror on Thursday, Ayalon said,
“Negotiations and contacts between Israel’s representative and his Turkish counterpart have not yet been discontinued, so further reference to this issue will not help.”
Hurriyet quotes sources as saying further talks possible in bid to resolve crisis over Gaza flotilla raid; Israeli source says reconciliation possible if different word for ‘apology’ can be found
Israel has proposed paying compensation to relatives of the Turks who were killed during the raid, in exchange for Ankara’s help in indemnifying the Israeli navy against lawsuits, officials said on Thursday.
The offer, broached by envoys in Geneva over the weekend, included measures for patching up ties but appeared to have fallen short of Turkey’s demand that Israel formally apologize for the deaths of the nine pro-Palestinian activists in May.
Ehud Olmert criticized Israel’s willingness to compensate the Turks. Speaking at a Calcalist conference Thursday, the former prime minister said,
“Six months ago everyone said, justifiably, that no one would break the blockade on Gaza. We were very confident in our position, and now we are thinking of how to compensate and apologize.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose delegate to a UN probe of the bloodshed attended the rapprochement talks, also faces opposition to such a deal from his hawkish foreign minister and government coalition partner, Avigdor Lieberman.
Turkish ship that was raided by IDF
“We made a compensation offer, and asked the Turks to do what needs to be done to address our legal concerns. We also want to see them return their ambassador and allow us to appoint a new ambassador in Ankara,” an Israeli official said.
“For now, however, there are still big obstacles.”
The draft offers Turkey some $100,000 each to families of the men shot dead by Israeli marines during brawls aboard the converted cruise ship Mavi Marmara, and an Israeli expression of “regret” over the incident, Israeli diplomatic sources said.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the reports of an Israeli offer as “speculative” and said on Thursday his government’s demands had not changed.
“We don’t think it is right to cite figures, or discussions of apology or regret,” Davutoglu said during a joint news conference with the visiting Syrian foreign minister.
“The citing of figures or the matter of regret did not come onto the agenda.”
‘They must accept their guilt’
On Wednesday, Netanyahu adviser Ron Dermer said Israel and Turkey were discussing “the phrasing of a compromise that both sides can live with … (and) that will get our relations with Turkey back on track and remove the whole affair from the international agenda”.
“We must remember that there are those at the United Nations, there are forces which would like to see our personnel arrested,” Dermer told Israel Radio.
“What is important to the prime minister is to protect the marines and commanders. We have said at every discussion, at every meeting, that the troops acted in self-defense — there’s no question about it — and not out of malice.”
Rattled over private war-crimes suits filed abroad against its military brass and politicians by pro-Palestinian groups, Israel has tried to stave off any similar Turkish actions in global forums by quickly setting up two internal investigations whose findings will become its submission to the UN inquest.
Turkey has dismissed the Israeli probes as insufficient.
The rapprochement talks followed Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s dispatch of planes to help Israel battle a forest fire that raged out of control last week. Netanyahu had pledged to “find ways to express our appreciation” to the Turks.
But Erdogan, leader of the Islamist-rooted AK Party and a frequent scolder of Israel’s Palestinian policies, on Tuesday signaled no flexibility in Turkey’s terms. He even added an older demand that Hamas-ruled Gaza’s borders be opened.
“If there are those who want to start a new period, I repeat: They must accept their guilt, apologize and pay compensation. I say too that the embargoes, which have been eased but not enough, should be lifted,” he told AK lawmakers.
The Mavi Marmara led an aid-ferrying flotilla that tried to breach Israel’s Gaza blockade, imposed with the declared aim of keeping arms from Islamist Hamas cadres. A world outcry at the high seas seizure prompted Israel to allow more goods to reach Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians by land, but not by sea.
Among the most vocal champions of the blockade is Lieberman, who leads the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party in alliance with Netanyahu’s rightist Likud. Political sources say Lieberman is often excluded from Israel’s more sensitive diplomatic contacts.
Noting that several marines were injured in the Mavi Marmara raid, a Lieberman confidant told Reuters: “It’s the Turks who should be paying us compensation, and not the other way around.”
That foreshadowed a possible showdown in Netanyahu’s cabinet should the proposed rapprochement deal be brought for approval.
U.S. hurting peace chances by giving up on Israeli settlement freeze, analysts say
JERUSALEM – The Obama administration’s decision to stop seeking a new Israeli settlement freeze as a way back into talks with the Palestinians has diminished prospects of achieving a peace accord within a year and eroded U.S. credibility in the region, analysts said Wednesday.
The decision also represented a belated recognition that even if they had persuaded Israel to renew a construction moratorium in the West Bank for three months, U.S. officials would have faced an even more difficult problem after that expired.
President Obama understood “that after three months of a second settlement freeze, he would have found himself without any kind of agreement and facing repeated demands to extend the freeze again, necessitating another exhausting bargaining session with [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu,” Haaretz newspaper political commentator Akiva Eldar wrote Wednesday.
Israelis and Palestinians traded blame Wednesday over who was responsible for the U.S. decision, which has left both sides perplexed about the way forward and hoping for clarity from a speech on the Middle East that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver in Washington on Friday.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the U.S. decision would have “grave consequences in the region.”
“If you cannot have him stop settlements for a few months, what do you expect get out of him on Jerusalem or the 1967 borders,” Erekat said of Netanyahu in an interview Wednesday. “I think Mr. Netanyahu knows the consequences for the American administration’s credibility in the region.”
Israeli officials, who always were cool to extending a settlement freeze as a precursor to talks, said the Palestinians were to blame for insisting on including Jerusalem in the freeze. Still, the officials portrayed the change in American tactic as an opportunity for progress.
“That mechanism proved not to be effective and now we have to find an alternative mechanism to move this process forward,” said an Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. “As we go into this next stage of the peace process, we think the chances of it succeeding are even greater because of the close coordination with the United States.”
The administration, which in September set a one-year deadline for negotiations, expended enormous political capital over nearly two years by making a settlement freeze a priority. The effort rankled relations with Israel and inflated hopes in the Arab world that the United States could persuade Israel to halt construction in the West Bank and win further Israeli concessions down the road. Instead, the U.S. ended up spending more time haggling with Israel over a settlement freeze than negotiating between Israelis and Palestinians over the core issues that divide them, analysts said.
“Trying to get a freeze . . . was always the wrong focus,” said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator. “It forced the Obama team to either pummel the Israelis into one or bribe them. Neither worked. And now 20 months in, we have no freeze, no direct talks, no process, and no prospect of a quick agreement. Plus, our street credibility is now much diminished and our options are bad.”
After the 10-month Israeli partial moratorium expired in September, the Obama administration developed a package of incentives, including billions of dollars’ worth advanced fighter jets, to entice Israel into extending the freeze for three more months. But talks on the extension collapsed, including over whether the United States would accept Israeli construction in parts of East Jerusalem that Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
“The significance of the U.S. decision to stop pushing for a moratorium . . . is that Obama is refusing to give Netanyahu a seal of approval to build in Jerusalem,” Eldar wrote.
A Palestinian delegation, which was invited to Washington, won’t travel there before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas consults in the coming days with the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and Abbas’s Fatah Party’s central committee, Erekat said.
Erekat also said in light of the breakdown and decisions by Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay this week to unilaterally recognize Palestine as an independent state , the Palestinians would formally appeal to the U.S. to do the same.
As for West Bank construction, the Israeli official said Israel will continue to build in existing settlements in the West Bank but will not expropriate more land for new settlements.
Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday also decided to allow for expanded exports out of the Gaza Strip. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said the policy would be fleshed out in the coming days, but that in principle, exports of agricultural produce, textiles and manufactured furniture would be among the items that Palestinians in Gaza would be permitted to export abroad or to the West Bank.
Israel has limited Gaza’s exports as part of a blockade of the Gaza Strip that is designed in part to put pressure on the Hamas-led government that seized power there in 2007. The international community has pressured Israel to allow the resumption of exports.
Israel draws international rebuke over refusal to freeze settlement construction
The EU, UN and Arab League criticize Israel on its failure to renew freeze on West Bank settlement construction, which expired in late September, leading to the halt of direct Israel-PA peace talks.
The European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League have rebuked Israel after its refusal to halt settlement construction forced Washington to drop efforts to relaunch Mideast peace talks.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday stuck to his position that he won’t negotiate without a freeze of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – lands captured by Israel in the Six Day War in 1967 and sought by the Palestinians for their state. He spoke after meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
An Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
Photo by: Daniel Bar-On
“Without halt of settlements, there will be no talks,” Abbas said.
With the path to direct talks effectively blocked, it is not clear what the Obama administration will do next.
Israeli and Palestinian envoys were summoned to Washington for meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before the weekend. Clinton could provide a glimpse, at least in general terms, of a possible new U.S. approach in a speech late Friday.
Israel and the Palestinians had launched the latest round of peace talks on Sept. 2 at a White House ceremony. But less than a month later, negotiations broke down after Israel refused to extend a 10-month-old freeze on West Bank housing starts that ended at the end of September.
In recent weeks, the U.S. had tried to persuade Israel to extend a limited West Bank settlement freeze for 90 days, offering a series of security and diplomatic incentives. However, the negotiations over an extension broke down, and U.S. officials announced earlier this week they had abandoned that approach.
Washington did not cast blame. But other members of the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators, which also includes the EU, the UN and Russia, sharply criticized Israel.
“I note with regret that Israel has not been in a position to accept an extension of the (settlement) moratorium, as requested by the U.S., the EU and the Quartet,” Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said Thursday.
“The EU position on settlements is clear: They are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. Recent settlement-related developments, including in east Jerusalem, contradict efforts by the international community for successful negotiations,” she said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret “that Israel will not heed the united call of the international community, as reflected by the Quartet, to extend the settlement restraint policy,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
“In spite of this setback, the secretary-general believes it is more important than ever to promote a negotiated endgame for a two-state solution,” Nesirky said.
The Quartet’s Mideast envoy, Tony Blair, avoided casting blame. He only said the U.S. move to pursue a settlement freeze was a “sensible decision in light of the impasse that we reached.”
Israeli officials declined comment on the international criticism.
In a meeting with Blair on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said efforts would continue to reach a “historic peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, two states for two peoples.” However, he did not give specifics.
Netanyahu also said he would work with Blair and the Palestinians “to have concrete developments in the field.” In the past, Israel offered to remove additional West Bank checkpoints and unfreeze long-stalled development projects if the Palestinians agree to talks without a settlement freeze. It was not clear whether Netanyahu would now take such steps unconditionally, to improve the atmosphere.
However, there are now signs that Arab countries that have supported U.S. efforts are getting restless.
On Wednesday, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa said resuming direct talks under current conditions is out of the question. The Egyptian diplomat also questioned the intentions of the U.S. and Israel.
“Direct talks … means what is being sold to us is the imposition of the occupation’s condition, which is absolutely unacceptable for all of us,” he said. “It is clear that the American administration couldn’t reach a halt of settlement (activity), which makes negotiations useless.”
“This makes negotiations a facade or may be a cover to enable the occupation to go on with this policy,” he added.
The Arab League’s committee dealing with the negotiations, which gives guidance and support to the Palestinians, is to meet next week.
In wake of WikiLeaks scandal, Arab leaders are cautious on Iran censure
Arabian peninsula states have adopted a conciliatory tone on Iran a little over a week after U.S. diplomatic cables released by the watchdog site WikiLeaks appeared to show serious anxiety among Arab leaders over Tehran’s growing power, and even enthusiasm in some corners (and at certain points) for a military attack on its controversial nuclear program.
Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Atiyyah stopped short of an outright repudiation, but he described the content of the leaked cables as “guesses or analyses that can hit or miss” and that “generated misunderstandings,” according to the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper.
The council wrapped up a two-day summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, gently calling on Iran to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear program in order to end sanctions against Tehran. The closing statement also reiterated Arab support for Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program.
The council includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as member states.
Its official stance on Iran stands in sharp contrast to comments made by Arab leaders in the secret documents leaked a little over a week ago, in which the heads of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain were among those who lobbied the United States to strike at Iranian nuclear facilities.
The council did, however, declare its support for Emirati claims to the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Moussa, three disputed islands that lie between Iran and the Emirates and are currently under Iranian control.
The statement also called on Iran to promote “good neighborliness” by not interfering in Arab states’ affairs. Tehran has been accused by some Arab leaders of infiltrating national intelligence agencies, supporting Shiite opposition groups in the Arab world and using the UAE to launder money and evade sanctions.
The London-based Arabic newspaper Elaph published a rundown of Arab-Iranian relations by country (Arabic link).
According to the report:
— Tehran has dismayed Saudi Arabia with its stances on Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian issues, which exacerbated existing suspicions over the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
— Kuwait and Iran have a history of open hostilities, but recent years have seen a superficial improvement in relations, with the exchange of high-profile visits and cordial public statements. Tensions persist, however, and Kuwait continues to accuse Iran of penetrating its security and intelligence agencies.
— Bahrain comes up against Iranian “sabotage networks and security penetrations” on a “nearly daily basis,” but rarely makes public accusations for fear of escalating political tensions.
— Although Qatar has made public overtures of openness toward Iran, Tehran continues to be suspicious of Doha’s close political ties with the United States and its thriving trade with Israel.
— The UAE has little love for the Islamic Republic, despite strong trade relations between the two countries and the fact that Iranian business elite play a significant role in the Emirates’ commercial life.
— Oman is the only Arabian peninsula country that continues to maintain friendly relations with Iran, despite tensions between Tehran and Oman’s Arab neighbors.
Iranian movie on U.S. in Iraq entered for Oscars
TEHRAN – A movie depicting a nervous U.S. soldier accidentally shooting a little girl during a night raid on her home in Iraq might not be every American’s idea of a possible Oscar winner.
The fact that it was written and directed by an Iranian makes “Farewell Baghdad”, the gritty story of Americans in Iraq, even more controversial.
Despite, or perhaps because of that, it is Iran’s official entry for the 2011 Academy Awards, something its 37-year-old director says is the subject of “misunderstanding”.
“There are people who think I have been paid a lot of money to make this movie for the Iranian government. It’s clear to me that those people have not watched the film,” Mehdi Naderi said.
Far from being state propaganda, Naderi says his film, which explores the motivation and doubts of both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi insurgents, was made in the face of unhelpful pressure from the authorities and on a shoestring budget.
“The budget for Farewell Baghdad can be compared to what Sean Penn spends on his cigarettes or what Nicole Kidman spends for a small part of her make-up,” he told Reuters in an interview in a Tehran coffee shop.
The movie follows Polish-American Daniel, a failed boxer who signs up to the army and finds himself on tense foot patrols in Iraq. After a comrade accidentally shoots a little girl in her home, both men leave their base and take off into the desert.
Daniel’s life is eventually saved by Saleh, a would-be suicide bomber who hates Americans but reluctantly feels compelled to help another lost soul.
Given Iran’s 30-year enmity with the United States, which is often referred to as the “Great Satan”, a movie from here about Washington’s long and painful engagement in neighbouring Iraq might be assumed to portray Americans as the villains, oppressing a fellow Muslim nation.
But Farewell Baghdad does not paint a simplistic picture of Americans as the bad guys. Daniel is shown as a regular guy struggling to come to terms with the violent, alien environment in which he finds himself.
“I don’t want my film to be seen as a tool of soft war against the West,” Naderi said, urging viewers to look beyond the politics and see the human story where both sides, Iraqis and Americans, can learn to be friends, even in extreme circumstances.
Filmmaking is a tricky business in Iran where the government keeps a close eye on political content and checks to ensure Islamic norms, such as women’s dress code, are respected.
The state has increased its pressure on filmmakers since last year’s disputed presidential election which was followed by the biggest street protests since the 1979 revolution which ushered in the world’s first Islamic Republic.
“It took six years to get the permission to make this film and we changed the script about 18 times to satisfy officials,” Naderi said. “I want to show how an Iranian filmmaker can make a movie without any financial support in less than two months from a country with lots of rules and censorships”.
One Iranian movie industry official said Farewell Baghdad’s “anti-American content” might help its chances of winning an Oscar.
“The Oscars set a new policy every year and usually other countries are not aware of these policies,” Shafi Agha Mohammadian, head of a state body which promotes documentaries, said in an interview with Mardomsalari newspaper.
“We believe there is currently a policy of opposing the deployment of U.S. military forces around the world — a sentiment also shared by Hollywood.” JAIL
Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s best known directors and winner of several international awards, is standing trial for making a film without government permission.
“My case is a perfect example of being punished before committing a crime. You are putting me on trial for making a film that, at the time of our arrest, was only 30 per cent shot,” he said in a statement to the court, which he released publicly.
Panahi’s supporters believe his sympathies for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election rival, opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, drew the ire of the hardline authorities. He was arrested in March and spent 88 days in jail, during which he went on hunger strike.
Panahi’s case received wide international coverage after he was blocked from leaving Iran to attend the Venice film festival in September. U.S. director Steven Spielberg and French actress Juliette Binoche were among the movie luminaries who spoke up for him.
Naderi’s film is unlikely to garner so much attention in Hollywood.
Prior to Farewell Baghdad, another Iranian movie about Iraq, “Turtles can Fly” was entered as Iran’s candidate for the 2004 Foreign Language Oscar. It focused on Kurdish victims of the Saddam Hussein regime and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. It was not shortlisted.
The Islamic Republic has entered more than a dozen films for the Oscars since 1994 when it first started participating, including Panahi’s acclaimed “The White Balloon”. But among all the entries, only “Children of Heaven” by Majid Majidi was nominated, in 1998.
“Farewell Baghdad” is one of 65 films entered for the award this year. Only five of them will receive an official nomination for the golden statuette.
But, with or without a prize, Naderi is proud to have completed his film which he says is a plea for peace, something sorely lacking in the Middle East.
“If Marco Polo were to begin his world tour in the present epoch, he would not have succeeded as he would probably be killed before arriving in Baghdad.”
US: Decision to halt freeze talks recognition of reality
State Department spokesman says attempts to persuade Israel to stop settlement construction dropped because issue ‘became an end in itself rather than means to an end,’ adding that administration will ‘try to begin to make progress on core issues themselves’
US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell will head back to the region next week after Obama administration officials vowed on Wednesday to continue the push for peace despite a breakdown in direct negotiations.
“Senator Mitchell will go back to the region next week to consult,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.
US diplomacy would continue despite Tuesday’s decision to give up efforts to halt Jewish settlements, effectively ending a bid to revive direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, he said.
Crowley said the US believed that direct negotiations will still be necessary to resolve the Mideast conflict, and would discuss with both sides what the best way might be to bring them to the table.
“I would describe this as a change in tactics, not a change in strategy,” Crowley said.
US officials said on Tuesday they had dropped efforts to persuade Israel to stop settlement construction on captured land that Palestinians seek for a state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said this was crucial for direct talks to resume.
The decision was a setback for President Barack Obama, who launched direct talks between the two in September, who saw them quickly run aground over the settlement issue.
Crowley said the US decision on settlements marked a recognition of reality.
“We thought that this had in a sense become an end in itself rather than become a means to an end,” Crowley said.
“We’re going to focus on the substance and try to begin to make progress on the core issues themselves, and we think that will create the kind of momentum that we need to see to get to sustained negotiations.”
Crowley had no immediate details on Mitchell’s itinerary, which appeared to signal a return to the indirect “shuttle” diplomacy that has long marked the Mideast peace process.
“I’m not anticipating that we would have Israelis and Palestinians in the same room at this time,” Crowley said.
Crowley said the US continued to view further Israeli settlement activity as illegitimate. He said the impasse over settlements had also halted separate US discussions of a possible security package for Israel which Washington had hoped might help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sell a settlement deal politically.
“At this time we are not pursuing a settlement moratorium and we’re not pursuing that kind of discussion with the Israelis,” Crowley said.
US officials said on Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would visit Washington next week for further consultations, and Crowley said these may take place in parallel with Mitchell’s talks in the region.
“We expect to have discussions with senior representatives on both sides, we are still working to set those up,” Crowley said.
Mullah Omar Confirms: Aim Is to Keep US Fighting
Taliban Chief Says Escalation Only Resulting in More Deaths
by Jason Ditz,
In a rare moment of frankness, Taliban leader Mullah Omar has issued a public message saying that keeping the United States in “the arduous war” in Afghanistan is a specific goal for his insurgency, and in that regard he seems to be having no small amount of success, as US officials openly discuss staying in the nation through 2015 and beyond.
Omar added that the Obama Administration’s December 2009 escalation has only increased the number of troops being killed in Afghanistan. It is hard to dispute this fact either, as the 2010 death toll is by far the worst of the war.
At the same time, Mullah Omar’s strategy shows a decided lack of an end game, as he seems every bit as contented to keep fighting the NATO occupation as NATO does to keep occupying the nation.
And Mullah Omar, like US officials before him, has claimed the other side’s willingness to give lip-service to peace talks proves his side is really winning. But it seems neither side is all that sincere in this willingness, and a peace deal seems as far off as ever. For the Afghans stuck in the middle of this endless war, it means yet more disastrous fighting.
Gates Insists Afghan War Going Really Well
Endorsement Will Keep Strategy From Changing
by Jason Ditz,
Record death tolls and a really pessimistic Pentagon report delivered to Congress just days ago are old news, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who insisted that the war in Afghanistan is going really well and indeed “exceeded my expectations.”
Those expectations have been pretty high, as officials are constantly insisting that a major momentum shift is just about to happen, but the proclamation is particularly convenient now as it will keep the current strategy going through the official “review” of the war.
And even though bombings are on the rise and by all accounts the war is getting worse, not better, it is a very good time to make false claims of progress, as snowfall will soon make Afghanistan virtually impassable for several months, keeping the lies from being obvious for quite awhile.
At the same time one can’t help but wish the US was spinning the false claims of progress the way British Prime Minister David Cameron is, as an excuse to get out of Afghanistan soon. For the US claims of progress seem to be as good a reason to stay this year as lack of progress has been for the last nine years.
Leaks and Leakers
by Philip Giraldi,
December 09, 2010
Call me Saul on the road to Damascus. I have seen the light. As a former intelligence officer, I was initially appalled at the leak of a quarter of a million classified documents by someone who had responsibility for protecting them. I was highly skeptical of the entire WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning saga but following the leaks has convinced me that there is a lot of material that deserves a public airing to demonstrate to the American people how Washington is pursuing a senseless policy almost everywhere in the world. I have been particularly mortified in reading the accounts of meetings of US Ambassadors and Undersecretaries of State with their foreign counterparts, encounters revealing an unbelievable arrogance derived from the Bush Administration dictum “you are either with us or against us.” Persian King of Kings Darius addressing his satraps could not do it any better.
The WikiLeaks plus Manning story has truly revealed that the US government will do anything necessary to silence its critics, legally or illegally. The way in which it is orchestrating a highly questionable international effort against both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange is despicable. There exists a sharp divide between those who believe government secrets should always be protected at all costs and those who believe that secrecy in government exists only to conceal official misbehavior. Obviously there is a middle ground hidden somewhere between the two, but those who favor the narrative that accepts that there is a nefarious government in Washington ruthlessly manipulating a world empire have pretty much gotten it right. The documents and the Obama Administration behavior together tell the tale.
There is an enormous amount of hypocrisy in those who are defending the government’s right to over-classify and deny access to the information that has been used to justify going to war, among other crimes. Insiders in government have no qualms about abusing classified information as long as it suits their purposes. Dick Cheney used insider secret information to “out” CIA officer Valerie Plame to punish her husband. The White House leaked intelligence that turned out to be bogus to Judith Miller at the New York Times to make the case for going to war against Iraq. George Tenet, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote a book called In the Eye of the Storm, which earned him in excess of $4 million. He worked in a SCIF (which stands for sensitive compartmented information facility) run by the defense and intelligence contractor SAIC and had access to all of his classified “papers” to help him write the book. Bear in mind that he was retired, with no official status at the time, was writing something for profit, and was using freely provided government resources to turn a buck. There was apparently no problem in his using classified material.
Unauthorized release of classified information and what becomes of it was also the focus in the trial that was terminated in May 2009 of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, AIPAC employees who passed sensitive intelligence to Israeli government officials and to Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. The very same people at the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard who are now calling on the federal government to declare war on WikiLeaks and to summarily execute Julian Assange were at that time complaining about the fact that Rosen and Weissman had been charged with a crime because “everyone” passes around classified information in Washington. Particularly to Israel, which is okay because it is an ally (which, in fact, it is not). Apparently the talking heads at the Wall Street Journal believe it is all right to trust classified information to the kleptocrats in Tel Aviv but not to the American public, which has been footing the outrageous bill for the bloated and ineffective intelligence and diplomatic communities during the past ten years. Newt Gingrich meanwhile is calling Assange, who has threatened no one, a “terrorist.” By that standard what should he call former officials like Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz who started a war that has killed hundreds of thousands?
Specialist Manning is undeniably a whistleblower, though the government will try to portray him as someone engaged in espionage. Whistleblowers should be encouraged as a check on irresponsible government and should be protected by law when they reveal something that is either illegal or unconstitutional. Government is intrinsically opposed to such transparency, recently and increasingly using the states secret privilege to deny whistleblowers their day in court. Daniel Ellsberg did the right thing when he published the Pentagon Papers about Vietnam. Sibel Edmonds did likewise when she revealed details of foreign espionage and influence buying in the United States. Stories about CIA torture, renditions, and secret prisons as well as accounts of Army thrill killings and the goings on at Abu Ghraib all originated as leaks and were needed to reveal the war crimes being committed by the US government in its hideous “global war on terror.”
Contrary to the message emanating from the chattering media, WikiLeaks has embarrassed many but it has neither killed nor endangered anyone. Washington’s relationships with most foreign nations are based on mutual interests and they will continue in spite of concerns expressed by Hillary Clinton and others. And the positive far outweighs any potential negatives. When WikiLeaks revealed how US helicopter crews had recklessly targeted and killed civilians in Iraq, a story originating with Manning, it was a good leak, showing just how dirty and amoral the American initiated war in Iraq had become. Likewise, its release of bundles of documents relating to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan served a good purpose in revealing that the US government was lying about both wars and ignoring its own intelligence analysis to continue to blunder around like a blind elephant in a small room. As the documents continue to appear they tell a tale of how the American empire is run and how, like an iceberg, most of it is concealed beneath the surface, hidden from public view. Manning took it upon himself to release the hundreds of thousands of secret papers, reportedly because of his belief that the diplomatic documents expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.” He was right to do so. The American juggernaut must be stopped and the transparency provided by Manning and other whistleblowers is the best weapon to accomplish that.
My only remaining concern continues to be the possibility that WikiLeaks itself has an agenda beyond exposing the machinations of an essentially duplicitous government. If it does that will presumably emerge eventually, but for the present WikiLeaks is providing a necessary service. I do not know if Julian Assange is working for any intelligence service, as has been alleged in some circles. It does seem to me that the release of documents so far has been selective, but perhaps as more of them surface that impression will vanish. I have heard that the newly formed US cyber command aided by the Israelis is behind the hacking campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its servers, particularly ironic as President Barack Obama has several times extolled the freedom of the internet. Apparently that is only true if it is hosting criticism of Iran or China.
The United States should not be mounting a huge international campaign to silence WikiLeaks, nor will it be successful. Nor should it attempt to “regulate” the internet, which is the inevitable next step. And the attempts to personally punish Assange, which might succeed, are a measure of how low America and its allies in Europe and Australia have sunk. He has broken no law even in an age of Patriot Acts and Military Commissions and the charges against him in Sweden appear to be a set-up. Once upon a time there was a rule of law in the United States and a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but no longer. Ultimately WikiLeaks will rise and fall based on its credibility and its ability to tell stories that are being suppressed elsewhere and that the public believes should be heard. WikiLeaks must be allowed to speak.
Egypt: World should push toward establishment of Palestinian state
Egyptian FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit says discussions should shift to an ‘endgame’ for Palestinian settlement due to the failure of U.S.-brokered talks.
Major powers should push Israel and the Palestinians to agree a deadline for establishing an independent Palestinian state before a two-state solution becomes impossible to achieve, Egypt said on Wednesday.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit
Photo by: AP
Israelis and Palestinians held three rounds of U.S.-backed talks in September. Palestinians pulled out when a 10-month freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem ended on Sept. 26.
In some of Egypt’s strongest language since the talks ended, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said discussions should shift to an “end-game for a Palestinian settlement” after Washington had failed to push Israel to halt building work.
“The Americans have been informing all of us that their efforts did not succeed. They wanted to reach a moratorium on settlement activities with Israel. That came to an end now.”
He said Egypt’s concern was that “we continue haggling without (making) any breakthrough, then in few years there would not be a possibility of two states living side by side.”
The Palestinians on Wednesday said “Israeli obstinacy” made Washington give up on efforts to freeze Jewish settlements and questioned whether the United States could ever help them attain independence.
Egypt became the first Arab state to reach peace with Israel when it signed a deal in 1979.
“You have a bi-national state or you have occupation or apartheid. The … option which we are all preferring is to have two states instead of one state based on apartheid,” Aboul Gheit said at a briefing during a visit to Bulgaria.
He said the quartet of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russian Federation should devise a framework agreement that fixes a Palestinian state’s borders and the status of East Jerusalem while ensuring Israel’s security.
“If there would be an exchange of territories it has to be minimal,” the minister said.
He said the agreement “can be drafted by the Americans, by the quartet, by a group of experts, two or three pages of a grand understanding to be offered by the international community to both parties” with a specific time for a deal to be reached.
BUSTED – WIKILEAKS WORKING FOR ISRAEL