TBR News September 17, 2016

Sep 17 2016

The Voice of the White House    

Washington, D.C.  September 18, 2016:  “A two-week trip to Europe and visits with friends has proven to be most interesting and fruitful. The days when the United States needs, words and actions forced many countries to fall in line behind her in strict obedience are gone now and in different countries, lip service has vanished. The dominant political figure in the eyes of the Europeans is Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama. The Russian incursion into Georgia showed uncertain cantonists in eastern Europe that the United States would not confront Russia if push came to shove and Putin’s successful moves in the Crimea deprived the US the use of the then-Ukranian naval base at Sevastopol, and, most important, gained Russian control over the extensive and rich Crimean offshore oil fields. No country has openly defied the United States but a shifting attitude in Europe will eventually lead to open rebellion.”

Turks See Purge as Witch Hunt of ‘Medieval’ Darkness

September 16, 2016

by Tim Arango, Ceylan Yeginsu and Safak Timursept

New York Times

ISTANBUL — Candan Badem teaches history at a university in southern Turkey, is a socialist and does not believe in God. But he lost his job and was hauled in by the police and accused of being a loyalist to a shadowy Islamic cleric who lives in exile in Pennsylvania.

The evidence against him: A book written by the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, was found in his office.

“It was like a bad joke,” said Mr. Badem, who says he believes the real reason he was targeted was that he signed a petition opposing the government’s war with Kurdish militants in the southeast. “What kind of reason can this be, for an academic to have a book? It is like the darkness of the medieval ages.”

Two months after a failed military coup, for which officials have blamed the disciples of Mr. Gulen, a wide-scale purge led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reached witch-hunt proportions, according to a growing chorus of critics. More than 100,000 people — teachers, military officers, judges, functionaries, airline employees, even baklava salesmen — have been arrested or fired from their jobs, all on accusations of connections to Mr. Gulen, who steadfastly denies any involvement.

Mr. Gulen, 75, a moderate Islamist theologian who runs a network of schools and charities around the world, including in the United States, was once an ally of Mr. Erdogan’s before a bitter rift a few years ago. Now Mr. Erdogan calls him a terrorist.

In its early stages, the purge was supported by many of Mr. Erdogan’s opponents, who long chafed under what they called the president’s growing authoritarianism but who said that Mr. Gulen’s influence within society needed to be wiped out.

Now, though, many have turned against the president, saying that he is using the failed coup as a pretext for enhancing his own power and that he is wielding a state of emergency to target critics of all stripes, beyond the rule of law.

“After the coup, there was a moment of national unity, as Erdogan reached out to his secular opponents for reconciliation,” said Mustafa Akyol, a leading Turkish columnist who contributes opinion pieces to The New York Times and who initially supported the purges. “That was the hope. But now that spirit is increasingly fading, and there is justified worry that the purges may ultimately serve to cleanse the state of all critics, not just Gulenists who really seem to have masterminded the coup attempt.”

Alarmingly, to his critics, Mr. Erdogan has recently expanded the purge beyond even the pretense of going after Gulenists, removing Kurdish mayors and thousands of teachers in the southeast.

“He is openly purging the democratic society,” said Baskin Oran, a retired professor and prominent writer. “Anyone who opposes him. This is as clear as day.”

Mr. Oran said he lost his job in 1980, after a military coup and subsequent purge of leftists, but was eventually reinstated. “Even under martial law, I was able to go to court and get my job back,” he said. This time, under Mr. Erdogan, he said, the government wants its critics to “get out of the way for the rest of their lives.”

Turkish officials have lately acknowledged that they may have gone too far, and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said that crisis centers will be set up in every Turkish province to handle claims from those who feel they have been unfairly accused.

“If a mistake is made, if there is anything contrary to justice and the law, it will be reviewed after operations are completed and mistakes will be corrected,” he said in a televised speech.

But Mr. Erdogan and his subordinates have also been unapologetic about the severity of the purges, and they contend that most, if not all, of the people under suspicion for connections with the plot have been treated fairly.

“If anybody has any relations with this group of people who intended a coup d’état, we will never accept their excuses if we have enough evidence,” the deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmus, said in an interview with the New York Times editorial board on Sept. 7. Asked how thousands could be summarily dismissed before investigations had even begun, he said: “We obey the rule of law. The rule of law is still clear. After investigations, the courts will decide individual cases.”

In Turkey these days, there are many ways to lose your job or land in jail: holding a mortgage from the bank affiliated with Mr. Gulen; current or past enrollment in one of the cleric’s many schools; or simply owning a book or subscribing to a newspaper published by the Gulenists.

License plates with the letters FG, which might suggest an allegiance to Mr. Gulen, draw scrutiny from officials. The president has called on Turks to inform on their fellow citizens, and so the whispered word of a neighbor with a grudge could be enough to land someone in jail. So could a post on Twitter.

And if the police cannot find you, they may look for a family member. That happened in the case of Hakan Sukur, a former top soccer player who had fled to the United States, whose father was arrested. In another example, the wife of a journalist targeted by the government had her passport canceled.

Rather than focusing on people directly accused of participating in the coup plot, the purges have swept through the entire community of people who may have once been sympathetic to the ideas of Mr. Gulen.

That is no small number. A cleric who rose to prominence starting in the 1960s, Mr. Gulen has been embraced in the past by the West for espousing a vision of moderate Islam and interfaith dialogue. Gulenists have also long filled the ranks of the state — the police, judiciary and military — with the blessing of Mr. Erdogan.

While many of those who have lost their jobs, such as Mr. Badem, say they have never been sympathetic to the cleric, others readily acknowledge that they once considered themselves disciples of Mr. Gulen but say they had no role in the coup attempt.

Pelin Ozyurek, a 27-year-old schoolteacher, said she became acquainted with the Gulen movement in the same way many Turks did: by attending a private tutoring school, run by Gulenists, to prepare for her university entrance exams.

“That’s where I met the brothers and sisters of the movement,” she said in an interview. “It all started very innocently. They approached me and invited me to a picnic.”

She said that she had been persuaded in recent years to leave the movement by her husband and father, but that she still lost her job.

“I will never forget the day I was fired,” she said. “It was like someone poured boiling hot water over my head. The principal’s assistant told me by phone and made me pack up all my belongings in 20 minutes. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the children.”

Ms. Ozyurek said that Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist government was being hypocritical, given the long alliance between his Justice and Development Party and the Gulenists.

“I am no guiltier than the government,” she said. “They were also sympathetic with the movement for many years.”

Searching for historical parallels, analysts have made comparisons with Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunt in 1950s America, the Stalinist purges of the 1930s and the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s and ’70s. Mr. Erdogan’s own spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, has likened the purges to what a unified Germany did after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 in removing civil servants and military officers who had served communist East Germany.

In 1926, the discovery of a plot to assassinate Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, prompted a wide crackdown that may be the closest historical similarity to what is happening now.

“That was a real plot,” said Mr. Akyol, the columnist. “But it was also utilized to get rid of a broader circle of opposition and establish Ataturk as the unchallenged leader for the next two decades.”

In purging the Gulenists, Turkey has also seized businesses, transferring about $4 billion of wealth from the private sector to the state, evoking comparisons with the infamous wealth tax in 1942, when Turkey targeted its non-Muslim citizens, including Christians and Jews.

Sitting at a cafe in Istanbul recently, Hakka Azad Akkus, 33, a recently fired teacher, pulled out his iPhone and scrolled through his photographs — evidence, he said, that he could not possibly be involved with an Islamic group.

“I drink alcohol,” he said, showing a picture of him drinking beer at a beachside cafe.

“I smoke,” he said, nodding to the cigarette in his hand.

“I sit with girls,” he continued, showing another picture. “This is my social environment. It doesn’t look Islamic, right?”

But few were holding out much hope that their dismissals would be reversed, at least not overnight.

“I believe my innocence will be proven,” Mr. Akkus said. “But how long is it going to take? Two years? Three years? What happens in between?”

Correction: September 16, 2016 

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the university professor who was dismissed and questioned over a book found in his office. He is Candan Badem, not Candem Bademci.

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.

The return of Turkey’s ‘dirty war’ against the Kurds

The mystery of Kurdish politician Hursit Kulter has renewed concern that the Turkish state is forcibly disappearing people with impunity. His case highlights an all-out assault on the Kurdish movement.

September 16, 2016


Where is Hursit Kulter? The last message the Kurdish politician sent to his family carried an ominous tone, one that has human rights organizations concerned he has joined hundreds of other people disappeared by Turkish security forces over the years.

“Forgive me with your blessings,” the 33-year-old texted to his family from the besieged city of Sirnak on May 27. “There is not much time left. Give my regards to everybody.”

As a provincial executive of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Kulter was an advocate for Kurdish rights and autonomy. He had decided to stay with his people during an open-ended curfew implemented in March in Sirnak as security forces battled Kurdish militants.

Two witnesses reported seeing Special Operations teams take him into an armored vehicle on May 27. Several days later, a Twitter account believed to be associated with Special Operations in the region shared a post saying he was being interrogated. The tweet was later deleted and the account closed.

Turkish officials deny Kulter was ever arrested and claim to not know his whereabouts.

Southeastern Turkey has witnessed a surge in violence since a two-year ceasefire and peace process between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down last year, leaving thousands of security forces and guerrillas killed and at least 300 civilians dead.

In response to PKK militants and armed youth groups occupying urban areas in the southeast and declaring autonomy, Turkish security forces used heavy-handed tactics and open-ended curfews to root out the rebels. Several towns have been heavily destroyed and nearly half a million people displaced.

Widespread abuses during months of counterterror operations in southeast Turkey have been reported.

“We have received repeated and serious allegations of ongoing violations of international law as well as human rights concerns, including civilian deaths, extrajudicial killings and massive displacement,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said earlier this week.

The Turkish state has a troubling history of forced disappearances, extrajudicial murders and torture during the height of the PKK conflict in the 1990s. During the so-called “dirty war,” thousands of people were extrajudicially killed, disappeared and tortured with impunity.

Kulter’s case raises concerns that the state is again resorting to the method of forced disappearances as it prosecutes its war against the Kurdish movement. In Sirnak alone, more than 200 people were disappeared after being arrested in the 1990s. The last case in the province was in 2001, when two Kurdish politicians disappeared.

“Fifteen years later, it raises a lot of concern that a young Kurdish politician all of a sudden disappears when only security forces are present and nobody is allowed to go out on the streets,” Sebla Arcan of the Turkish Human Rights Association’s Commission for Enforced Disappearance under Custody told DW.

All applications for state authorities to investigate have gone unanswered, human rights organizations and Kurdish politicians say. An independent investigation is also not possible due to an ongoing curfew in Sirnak, despite the government calling an end to military operations in June.

“The government should explain what happened to Hursit Kulter. If he was arrested, then why the denial? If he wasn’t arrested, then his whereabouts should be investigated. Why does the government just remain silent?” Arcan said.

Adding to the sense of growing impunity, the Turkish parliament in June passed a law granting immunity from prosecution to members of the security forces conducting counterterror operations.

Leyla Birlik, a parliamentarian from Sirnak for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is close to the DBP, said that she is blocked by security forces from entering the city and that judges, prosecutors, police and the governor ignore her calls for any investigation.

She told DW by phone from an internally displaced persons camp outside Sirnak that 70 percent of the city had been destroyed and 60,000 civilians forced out. Meanwhile, scores of wounded people were not allowed to be evacuated to a local hospital and were left to die during the curfew earlier this year. “This is in effect a form of extrajudicial execution,” she said.

Activists and social media users have sought to keep Kulter’s case active, for example, through a campaign asking #HursitKulterNerede (#WhereisHursitKulter). The Saturday Mothers, a group of families of the forcibly disappeared and human-rights activists peacefully protesting on Istanbul’s main pedestrian thoroughfare every week for nearly two decades, has also taken up his cause.

In some ways, Kulter’s case has fallen by the wayside, becoming one questionable event among many as part of the Turkish state’s vigorous effort to clamp down on the Kurdish movement.

The assault on the Kurdish movement has gained momentum with sweeping emergency powers granted in the wake of July’s failed coup attempt, as the state goes after all of its enemies with massive purges.

What last year started as a hardened military response to the PKK has since warped into military intervention in northern Syria in part to thwart Kurdish gains there and an offensive against Kurdish politicians at home, most recently this week with the replacement of 24 elected Kurdish mayors over allegations of ties to the PKK.

“The government has launched a multi-pronged assault against the PKK, its political affiliates, and sympathizers, carrying its military battle for the first time to Syria as well,” Amberin Zaman, a public policy fellow at the Wilson Center think tank, told DW.

“The aim is to weaken the Kurdish movement to the point where the government feels it can impose rather than negotiate a solution,” she said. “It is not going to work – it’s proven unsustainable in the past.”

Since 1984, nearly 40,000 people have died in fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which fights for greater political and cultural rights for Kurds.

US-led coalition bombs Syrian army positions

The US has admitted that a coalition airstrike may have killed scores of Syrian army soldiers amid a fragile ceasefire in Syria. Russia has demanded “full and detailed explanations” at the UN Security Council.

September 17, 2016


US-led coalition warplanes struck Syrian army positions on Saturday near the Deir el-Zour airport in the eastern part of the war-torn country, according to Syrian and Russian military officials, in a claim later confirmed by the United States.

The confirmation came after an earlier statement issued by the Russian army.

“Warplanes from the international anti-jihadi coalition carried out four airstrikes today against Syrian forces surrounded by the ‘Islamic State’ group in the Deir el-Zour air base,” it said in a statement. Russia said two F-16s and A-10 jets entered Syrian airspace from Iraq.

“Sixty-two Syrian soldiers were killed and a hundred others were injured in these strikes,” it added.

Britain-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 80 Syrian army soldiers had been killed in the strikes.

A statement from the Syrian army denounced the “serious and blatant attack” that had enabled the “Islamic State” (IS) group to overrun the Syrian army positions, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

US officials later admitted they may have accidently hit Syrian military positions while targeting the “Islamic State,” but halted the attack when informed by Russia that the airstrikes may have hit the Syrian army.

“Coalition forces believed they were striking a Daesh fighting position,” the Pentagon said in a statement, using another name for IS. “The coalition airstrike was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”

“Syria is a complex situation with various military forces and militias in close proximity but coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit,” the statement said.

In response, Russia has called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, demanding “full and detailed explanations about whether this was deliberate support of the ‘Islamic State’ or another mistake.” The meeting was set to begin at 7:30 p.m. local time (2330 UTC) on Saturday.

Fragile ceasefire

The attack would mark the first time US-led coalition warplanes are known to have hit the Syrian army in nearly two years of airstrikes against IS.

It comes on the fifth day of a fragile US-Russia brokered ceasefire between Syrian regime aligned forces and various rebel factions that has largely held despite violations on both sides.

Moscow said if the airstrikes were an error, then it was a reflection of Washington’s refusal to coordinate with Russia against terrorist groups in Syria.

Under the terms of the ceasefire, US and Russia are to coordinate strikes against IS and other terrorist groups – but only if the truce is successful and aid deliveries are to be allowed into besieged areas.

Aid deliveries have been unable to enter parts of rebel-held Aleppo, a key part of the deal for the opposition.

The Syrian army has been fighting IS since last year near Deir el-Zour. It controls the airport and pockets of the city but is otherwise surrounded by IS.

Putin: US facing problems in Syria

The airstrikes come as Russia accuses the United States of failing to control rebel groups tied to “terrorist elements,” in particular the Fatah al-Sham Front, previously known as al-Nusra Front, which was aligned with al-Qaeda.

Fatah al-Sham Front fights in the same area and cooperates with some rebel factions the US considers moderate, but have been reluctant to break with one of the strongest fighting forces on the ground.

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin questioned why the United States did not want to release a document of the ceasefire, which led to the abrupt cancelation of a UN Security Council meeting on the matter on Friday.

“This comes from the problems the US is facing on the Syrian track – they still cannot separate the so-called healthy parts of the opposition from the half-criminal and terrorist elements,” Putin said.

The United States has said moderate rebel groups must disassociate from Fatah al-Sham Front or face consequences.

 Will Trumpism, Brexit, and Geopolitical Exceptionalism Sink the Planet?

The Mounting Threat to Climate Progress

by Michael T. Klare


In a year of record-setting heat on a blistered globe, with fast-warming oceans, fast-melting ice caps, and fast-rising sea levels, ratification of the December 2015 Paris climate summit agreement — already endorsed by most nations — should be a complete no-brainer.  That it isn’t tells you a great deal about our world.  Global geopolitics and the possible rightward lurch of many countries (including a potential deal-breaking election in the United States that could put a climate denier in the White House) spell bad news for the fate of the Earth. It’s worth exploring how this might come to be.

The delegates to that 2015 climate summit were in general accord about the science of climate change and the need to cap global warming at 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius (or 2.6 to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) before a planetary catastrophe ensues.  They disagreed, however, about much else. Some key countries were in outright conflict with other states (Russia with Ukraine, for example) or deeply hostile to each other (as with India and Pakistan or the U.S. and Iran). In recognition of such tensions and schisms, the assembled countries crafted a final document that replaced legally binding commitments with the obligation of each signatory state to adopt its own unique plan, or “nationally determined contribution” (NDC), for curbing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result, the fate of the planet rests on the questionable willingness of each of those countries to abide by that obligation, however sour or bellicose its relations with other signatories may be.  As it happens, that part of the agreement has already been buffeted by geopolitical headwinds and is likely to face increasing turbulence in the years to come.

That geopolitics will play a decisive role in determining the success or failure of the Paris Agreement has become self-evident in the short time since its promulgation. While some progress has been made toward its formal adoption — the agreement will enter into force only after no fewer than 55 countries, accounting for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified it — it has also encountered unexpected political hurdles, signaling trouble to come.

On the bright side, in a stunning diplomatic coup, President Obama persuaded Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign the accord with him during a recent meeting of the G-20 group of leading economies in Hangzhou. Together, the two countries are responsible for a striking 40% of global emissions.  “Despite our differences on other issues,” Obama noted during the signing ceremony, “we hope our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire further ambition and further action around the world.”

Brazil, the planet’s seventh largest emitter, just signed on as well, and a number of states, including Japan and New Zealand, have announced their intention to ratify the agreement soon.  Many others are expected to do so before the next major U.N. climate summit in Marrakesh, Morocco, this November.

On the dark side, however, Great Britain’s astonishing Brexit vote has complicated the task of ensuring the European Union’s approval of the agreement, as European solidarity on the climate issue — a major factor in the success of the Paris negotiations — can no longer be assured. “There is a risk that this could kick EU ratification of the Paris Agreement into the long grass,” suggests Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Brexit campaign itself was spearheaded by politicians who were also major critics of climate science and strong opponents of efforts to promote a transition from carbon-based fuels to green sources of energy. For example, the chair of the Vote Leave campaign, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, is also chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank devoted to sabotaging government efforts to speed the transition to green energy. Many other top Leave campaigners, including former Conservative ministers John Redwood and Owen Paterson, were also vigorous climate deniers.

In explaining the strong link between these two camps, analysts at the Economist noted that both oppose British submission to international laws and norms: “Brexiteers dislike EU regulations and know that any effective action to tackle climate change will require some kind of global cooperation: carbon taxes or binding targets on emissions. The latter would be the EU writ large and Britain would have even less say in any global agreement, involving some 200 nations, than in an EU regime involving 28.”

Keep in mind as well that Angela Merkel and François Hollande, the leaders of the other two anchors of the European Union, Germany and France, are both embattled by right-wing anti-immigrant parties likely to be similarly unfriendly to such an agreement.  And in what could be the deal-breaker of history, this same strain of thought, combining unbridled nationalism, climate denialism, fierce hostility to immigration, and unwavering support for domestic fossil fuel production, also animates Donald Trump’s campaign for the American presidency.

In his first major speech on energy, delivered in May, Trump — who has called global warming a Chinese hoax — pledged to “cancel the Paris climate agreement” and scrap the various measures announced by President Obama to ensure U.S. compliance with its provisions. Echoing the views of his Brexit counterparts, he complained that “this agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use on our land, in our country. No way.” He also vowed to revive construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (which would bring carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast), to reverse any climate-friendly Obama administration acts, and to promote the coal industry.  “Regulations that shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and block the construction of new ones — how stupid is that?” he said, mockingly.

In Europe, ultra-nationalist parties on the right are riding a wave of Islamaphobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and disgust with the European Union. In France, for instance, former president Nicolas Sarkozy announced his intention to run for that post again, promising even more stringent controls on migrants and Muslims and a greater focus on French “identity.” Even further to the right, the rabidly anti-Muslim Marine Le Pen is also in the race at the head of her National Front Party.  Like-minded candidates have already made gains in national elections in Austria and most recently in a state election in Germany that stunned Merkel’s ruling party.  In each case, they surged by disavowing relatively timid efforts by the European Union to resettle refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries. Although climate change is not a defining issue in these contests as it is in the U.S. and Britain, the growing opposition to anything associated with the EU and its regulatory system poses an obvious threat to future continent-wide efforts to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

Elsewhere in the world, similar strands of thinking are spreading, raising serious questions about the ability of governments to ratify the Paris Agreement or, more importantly, to implement its provisions.  Take India, for example.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has indeed voiced support for the Paris accord and promised a vast expansion of solar power.  He has also made no secret of his determination to promote economic growth at any cost, including greatly increased reliance on coal-powered electricity. That spells trouble.  According to the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, India is likely to double its coal consumption over the next 25 years, making it the world’s second largest coal consumer after China. Combined with an increase in oil and natural gas consumption, such a surge in coal use could result in a tripling of India’s carbon dioxide emissions at a time when most countries (including the U.S. and China) are expected to experience a peak or decline in theirs.

Prime Minister Modi is well aware that his devotion to coal has generated resentment among environmentalists in India and elsewhere who seek to slow the growth of carbon emissions. He nonetheless insists that, as a major developing nation, India should enjoy a special right to achieve economic growth in any way it can, even if this means endangering the environment. “The desire to improve one’s lot has been the primary driving force behind human progress,” his government affirmed in its emissions-reduction pledge to the Paris climate summit. “Nations that are now striving to fulfill this ‘right to grow’ of their teeming millions cannot be made to feel guilty [about] their development agenda as they attempt to fulfill this legitimate aspiration.”

Russia is similarly likely to put domestic economic needs (and the desire to remain a great power, militarily and otherwise) ahead of its global climate obligations. Although President Vladimir Putin attended the Paris summit and assured the gathered nations of Russian compliance with its outcome, he has also made it crystal clear that his country has no intention of giving up its reliance on oil and natural gas exports for a large share of its national income. According to the Energy Information Administration, Russia’s government relies on such exports for a staggering 50% of its operating revenue, a share it dare not jeopardize at a time when its economy — already buffeted by European Union and U.S. sanctions — is in deep recession. To ensure the continued flow of hydrocarbon income, in fact, Moscow has announced multibillion dollar plans to develop new oil and gas fields in Siberia and the Arctic, even if such efforts fly in the face of commitments to reduce future carbon emissions.

From Reform and Renewal to Rivalry

Such nationalistic exceptionalism could become something of the norm if Donald Trump wins in November, or other nations join those already eager to put the needs of a fossil fuel-based domestic growth agenda ahead of global climate commitments. With that in mind, consider the assessment of future energy trends that the Norwegian energy giant Statoil recently produced.  In it is a chilling scenario focused on just this sort of dystopian future.

The second-biggest producer of natural gas in Europe after Russia’s Gazprom, Statoil annually issues Energy Perspectives, a report that explores possible future energy trends. Previous editions included scenarios labeled “reform” (predicated on coordinated but gradual international efforts to shift from carbon fuels to green energy technology) and “renewal” (positing a more rapid transition). The 2016 edition, however, added a grim new twist: “rivalry.” It depicts a realistically downbeat future in which international strife and geopolitical competition discourage significant cooperation in the climate field.

According to the document, the new section is “driven” by real-world developments — by, that is, “a series of political crises, growing protectionism, and a general fragmentation of the state system, resulting in a multipolar world developing in different directions.  In this scenario, there is growing disagreement about the rules of the game and a decreasing ability to manage crises in the political, economic, and environmental arenas.”

In such a future, Statoil suggests, the major powers would prove to be far more concerned with satisfying their own economic and energy requirements than pursuing collaborative efforts aimed at slowing the pace of climate change. For many of them, this would mean maximizing the cheapest and most accessible fuel options available — often domestic supplies of fossil fuels. Under such circumstances, the report suggests, the use of coal would rise, not fall, and its share of global energy consumption would actually increase from 29% to 32%.

In such a world, forget about those “nationally determined contributions” agreed to in Paris and think instead about a planet whose environment will grow ever less friendly to life as we know it.  In its rivalry scenario, writes Statoil, “the climate issue has low priority on the regulatory agenda. While local pollution issues are attended to, large-scale international climate agreements are not the chosen way forward. As a consequence, the current NDCs are only partly implemented. Climate finance ambitions are not met, and carbon pricing to stimulate cost-efficient reductions in countries and across national borders are limited.”

Coming from a major fossil fuel company, this vision of how events might play out on an increasingly tumultuous planet makes for peculiar reading: more akin to Eaarth — Bill McKibben’s dystopian portrait of a climate-ravaged world — than the usual industry-generated visions of future world health and prosperity. And while “rivalry” is only one of several scenarios Statoil’s authors considered, they clearly found it unnervingly convincing. Hence, in a briefing on the report, the company’s chief economist Eirik Wærness indicated that Great Britain’s looming exit from the EU was exactly the sort of event that would fit the proposed model and might multiply in the future.

Climate Change in a World of Geopolitical Exceptionalism

Indeed, the future pace of climate change will be determined as much by geopolitical factors as by technological developments in the energy sector. While it is evident that immense progress is being made in bringing down the price of wind and solar power in particular — far more so than all but a few analysts anticipated until recently — the political will to turn such developments into meaningful global change and so bring carbon emissions to heel before the planet is unalterably transformed may, as the Statoil authors suggest, be dematerializing before our eyes. If so, make no mistake about it: we will be condemning Earth’s future inhabitants, our own children and grandchildren, to unmitigated disaster.

As President Obama’s largely unheralded success in Hangzhou indicates, such a fate is not etched in stone. If he could persuade the fiercely nationalistic leader of a country worried about its economic future to join him in signing the climate agreement, more such successes are possible. His ability to achieve such outcomes is, however, diminishing by the week, and few other leaders of his stature and determination appear to be waiting in the wings.

To avoid an Eaarth (as both Bill McKibben and the Statoil authors imagine it) and preserve the welcoming planet in which humanity grew and thrived, climate activists will have to devote at least as much of their energy and attention to the international political arena as to the technology sector. At this point, electing green-minded leaders, stopping climate deniers (or ignorers) from capturing high office, and opposing fossil-fueled ultra-nationalism is the only realistic path to a habitable planet.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 77

September 14, 2016


The Department of Justice has streamlined its national security classification activities over the last several years, resulting in the production of a diminishing number of secrets, according to a new report from the Department’s Inspector General.

Specifically, the IG found:

*     the Department reduced the number of Original Classification Authorities (i.e. officials who are authorized to generate newly classified information) from 64 in FY 2013 to 46 in FY 2016.

*     the Department reduced its original classification decisions (new secrets) from 4,455 in FY 2013 down to zero in FY 2015.

*     the number of derivative classification decisions (involving incorporation of previously classified information into new documents) also declined from 8.4 million in FY 2012 down to 7.7 million in FY 2015.

In short, there has been “a marked shift in classification behavior throughout DOJ,” the IG report said.

See Follow-up Audit of the DOJ’s Implementation of and Compliance with Certain Classification Requirements, second audit under the Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2010, September 2016.

(The IG report also identified some areas for improvement, including more appropriate use of the ORCON dissemination marking, and other classification practices, especially at the Drug Enforcement Administration.)

The reduced scope of national security secrecy at the Justice Department has been paralleled throughout much of the executive branch in recent years, such that the production of new secrets in the last two years is at the lowest levels reported in several decades. (“Number of New Secrets in 2015 Near Historic Low,” Secrecy News, July 29, 2016). By this measure, at least, one might even conclude that the Obama Administration is the most transparent ever.

While the systemic reduction of national security secrecy does not resolve all (or any) remaining disputes over secrecy policy, it does help to clarify them and perhaps to render them somewhat more tractable.

“There’s more work to be done here [on revising classification policy],” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last week at a forum of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. “And at some point, there will need to be, I believe, a fairly fundamental change in the classification system, not just in the I.C. but across the government.”

“The basic structure [of the classification system] is of course born out of a hard copy paper era and the rules we have today really aren’t compatible with the technology and the way we conduct our business. So at some point, I think there’ll be ‐‐ have to be a fundamental change. In the meantime, I’m kind of [doing], you know, what I can within the confines of the current system,” DNI Clapper said.


For at least the past six months, and perhaps longer, the Federation of American Scientists website has been blocked by U.S. Cyber Command. This week it was unblocked.

The “block” imposed by Cyber Command meant that employees throughout the Department of Defense who attempted to access the FAS website on their government computers were unable to do so. Instead, they were presented with a notice stating: “You have attempted to access a blocked website. Access to this website has been blocked for operational reasons by the DOD Enterprise-Level Protection System.”

The basis for the Cyber Command block is unclear, and official documentation of the decision that we requested has not yet been provided. In all likelihood, it is due to the presence on the FAS website of a small number of currently classified documents that were obtained in the public domain.

The basis for the removal of the block is likewise unclear, though we know that a number of DoD employees complained about the move and advised US Cyber Command that direct access to the FAS website was needed for them to perform their job.

The record of a 2015 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on Implementing the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy was published last month.


“With few exceptions, sea levels are rising relative to the coastlines of the contiguous United States, as well as parts of the Alaskan and Hawaiian coastlines,” a new report from the Congressional Research Service observes.

“Although the extent of future sea-level rise remains uncertain, sea-level rise is anticipated to have a range of effects on U.S. coasts. It is anticipated to contribute to flood and erosion hazards, permanent or temporary land inundation, saltwater intrusion into coastal freshwaters, and changes in coastal terrestrial and estuarine ecosystems.”

The new CRS report reviews the policy choices that Congress could make to meet the challenges posed by rising sea levels. See Sea-Level Rise and U.S. Coasts: Science and Policy Considerations, September 12, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Dakota Access Pipeline: Siting Controversy, CRS Insight, September 9, 2016

Paris Agreement: United States, China Move to Become Parties to Climate Change Treaty, CRS Insight, September 12, 2016

The Microsoft Ireland Decision: U.S. Appeals Court Rules that ECPA Does Not Require Internet Service Providers To Produce Electronic Communications Stored Overseas, CRS Legal Sidebar, September 12, 2016

The Financial CHOICE Act: Policy Issues, September 12, 2016

Domestic Content Restrictions: The Buy American Act and Complementary Provisions of Federal Law, updated September 12, 2016

House of Representatives v. Burwell and Congressional Standing to Sue, September 12, 2016

Military Retirement: Background and Recent Developments, updated September 12, 2016

The Largest Prison Strike in U.S. History Enters Its Second Week

September 16, 2016,

by Alice Speri

The Intercept

The largest prison strike in U.S. history has been going on for nearly a week, but there’s a good chance you haven’t heard about it. For months, inmates at dozens of prisons across the country have been organizing through a network of smuggled cellphones, social media pages, and the support of allies on the outside. The effort culminated in a mass refusal to report to prison jobs on September 9, the anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising.

“This is a call to action against slavery in America,” organizers wrote in an announcement that for weeks circulated inside and outside prisons nationwide, and that sums up the strikers’ primary demand: an end to free prison labor. “Forty-five years after Attica, the waves of change are returning to America’s prisons. This September we hope to coordinate and generalize these protests, to build them into a single tidal shift that the American prison system cannot ignore or withstand.”

Since Friday, details on the strike’s success have trickled out of prisons with some difficulty, but organizers and supporters have no doubt the scale of the action is unprecedented, though their assessment is difficult to verify and some corrections departments denied reports of strike-related activities in their states.

Prisoners in 24 states and 40 to 50 prisons pledged to join the strike, and as of Tuesday, prisoners in at least 11 states and 20 prisons continued the protest, according to outside supporters in Alabama. Tactics and specific demands varied locally, with some prisoners reportedly staging hunger strikes, and detainees in Florida protesting and destroying prison property ahead of the planned strike date.

“There are probably 20,000 prisoners on strike right now, at least, which is the biggest prison strike in history, but the information is really sketchy and spotty,” said Ben Turk, who works on “in-reach” to prisons for the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World union helping to coordinate the inmate-led initiative from the outside.

Small rallies and demonstrations in support of the strikers were staged in dozens of U.S. cities and a couple of foreign countries, but so far the coordinated strike remains largely ignored on the outside.

“The strike has been pulled off, but we’re not quite breaking through to getting mainstream media,” Turk told The Intercept, noting that the strike was widely covered by independent media. “I talk to people who aren’t in that milieu and aren’t seeing it on their social media, and they’ll be like, ‘We didn’t hear about it, there’s nothing about it anywhere.’”

That’s bad news for the strikers, who rely on the support of outsiders to push for more radical reform but also depend on their outside visibility to mitigate retaliation by prison officials.

A week into the strike, a couple of groups were providing updates on the action, which organizers say will carry on indefinitely, as well as outside demonstrations of solidarity.

The information blackout is largely due to prison officials’ ample discretion in the details they choose to disclose. As the strikes began, reports emerged of several facilities being put on lockdown, some preemptively, but the only way for outsiders to get updates would be to call each facility and ask, usually getting no explanation about the reasons for a lockdown. Reports also emerged claiming that prison leaders in Virginia, Ohio, California, and South Carolina were put in solitary confinement as a result of the strike, according to the Alabama supporters.

The Alabama Department of Corrections did not respond to a request for comment, while corrections departments in Virginia, Ohio, and California — three of the states where strike-related disturbances were tracked by outsiders — denied that inmates in those states participated in the strike.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections said that prisons there had resumed normal operations after several hundred inmates staged protests and work stoppages at four facilities. The spokesperson added that several inmates identified in the disturbances were transferred to other regional institutions and will be disciplined “in accordance with procedure.” At the Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan, some 150 prisoners identified as “ringleaders” of the protests were also removed to other facilities after prisoners assigned to kitchen work declined to report to their jobs on September 9 and some 400 prisoners staged a peaceful protest. The situation there grew more tense a day later when prison guards went through the facility to remove suspected leaders, the Wall Street Journal reported, and the prison remains on lockdown.

Retaliation against strikers is also hard to track, but outside advocates said that several leaders were put in isolation and denied communication privileges, making it even harder for information to come out.

In one instance, at the Ohio State Penitentiary, Siddique Hasan, a well-known prison activist sentenced to death for his role in a 1993 prison uprising, was accused of plotting to “blow up buildings” on September 9. Hasan, an organizer with the Free Ohio Movement, was confined to isolation and denied access to the phone for nearly a month before the strike — a deliberate effort to prevent him from communicating with the outside about it, supporters said.

“What people have to realize is that these men and women inside prison — they expected to be retaliated against, but they sacrificed,” said Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, a former prisoner and a supporter of the Free Alabama Movement, the prisoner-led group that first called for the nationwide strike.

“People on the outside are not understanding they are being bamboozled,” he added, expressing disappointment that the strike hadn’t garnered more attention. “A lot of people are not realizing the value in what’s going on, they don’t realize that it’s slavery, that slavery still exists.”

While the most ambitious to date, the September 9 strike was hardly the first such effort by prisoners. Prison protests have been on the rise in recent years, following a 2010 strike during which thousands of prisoners in Georgia refused to work, an action that was followed by others in Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington. In 2013, California prisoners coordinated a hunger strike against the use of solitary confinement that at its peak involved 30,000 prisoners. And this year, prisoners rioted at Holman prison in Alabama — one of the facilities most actively involved in the current strike — and went on strike in Texas.

Across the country, inmates are protesting a wide range of issues: from harsh parole systems and three-strike laws to the lack of educational services, medical neglect, and overcrowding. But the issue that has unified protesters is that of prison labor — a $2 billion a year industry that employs nearly 900,000 prisoners while paying them a few cents an hour in some states, and nothing at all in others. In addition to work for private companies, prisoners also cook, clean, and work on maintenance and construction in the prisons themselves — forcing officials to pay staff to carry out those tasks in response to work stoppages. “They cannot run these facilities without us,” organizers wrote ahead of the strike. “We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.”

Prisoners on strike are calling for the repeal of an exception listed in the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which bans “involuntary servitude” in addition to slavery, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

That forced labor remains legal in prison is unknown to many Americans, and that’s something strikers hope to change with this action. But it’s also a sign of how little the general public knows about the country’s massive prison system. “A nation that imprisons 1 percent of its population has an obligation to know what’s happening to those 2.4 million people,” Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, wrote in a blog post about the tepid response to the strike. “And right now, we don’t know.”

But while information on prisons is notoriously hard to obtain, a potentially larger problem for the striking prisoners is the seemingly limited interest in their plight, which remains confined to a few activists, family members, and formerly incarcerated people, even at a time when criminal justice issues and prison reform are high on the agenda of social justice advocates and politicians alike.

Prisoners themselves have been largely excluded from the last few years’ debate on mass incarceration, but the very fact that they were able to coordinate a collective protest of this scale, with all its limitations, is testimony to their determination that the prison system needs radical change, strike organizers say.

“When you have people who are inside, locked up, who have overcome all these obstacles and barriers and have organized in 24 states, 40 to 50 prisons,” said Glasgow, “that means all of us out here need to start stepping up.”

Pipeline rupture in Alabama threatens fuel shortages across eastern US

The governors of Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina have declared states of emergency following a gasoline spill in an ecologically sensitive area

September 16, 2016

by Matthew Teague

The Guardian

An interstate gasoline pipeline has ruptured in central Alabama, spilling 338,000 gallons of fuel in an ecologically sensitive area and threatening fuel shortages across the eastern US. So far governors in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina have declared states of emergency.

The line runs from Houston to the New York harbor, and experts say the line’s owner, Colonial Pipeline, was extraordinarily lucky: the spill happened 500ft from the retention pond for a mining company, and all the fuel flowed into it. That spared the Cahaba river system, one of the most biologically diverse spots in the country, prized by scientists for its concentration of endangered species.

“Yeah,” said James Pinkney, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He gave a wry laugh. “You really couldn’t have planned it any better than this. There are no homes nearby, and it’s fully contained. It’s so fortunate.”

The fuel could have flowed all the way to Mobile Bay on the gulf coast, bringing destruction for hundreds of miles. “Along the way it would have impacted all the wildlife living in it and drinking from it,” said Myra Crawford, executive director at Cahaba Riverkeeper, an outfit that monitors the ecological integrity of the watershed. “And plants like the Cahaba lilies – this is one of the only remaining sites where they are found. It could have been so destructive.”

Instead, she said, environmental workers have only found a few animals killed by exposure to the fuel. “A few raccoons,” she said. “It’s absolutely minimal. A miracle.”

The greatest danger from the spill, and what led to the declarations of emergency, is the likelihood that fuel shortages will affect states across the eastern US, starting in the southeast. The executive orders will loosen restrictions on fuel trucks, allowing them to supply gasoline where the pipe would have normally. Truck drivers will be able to work longer shifts than usually allowed by the US Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile the tanker ship Ohio is on its way from Texas to New York with a freight of fuel to slake the need in northeastern states. By Friday afternoon it had rounded Florida and was off the coast near Savannah, Georgia.

North Carolina governor Pat McCrory wrote in his emergency declaration that “the uninterrupted supply of fuel oil, diesel oil, and gasoline, is essential for the health, safety, or economic well-being of persons or property in North Carolina, and any interruption of those fuels threatens the public welfare.”

Colonial also has opened up a second pipeline, called Line 2, that runs parallel to the burst line. It normally carries diesel and other petrol chemicals, but has now shifted to gasoline.

Even if all those measures are able to meet the need along the eastern seaboard, drivers could create shortages by making runs on gas stations. And station owners, in turn, could gouge drivers. Alabama governor Robert Bentley included a warning in his declaration: “It is unlawful for any person within the State of Alabama to impose unconscionable prices for the sale of any commodity during the period of a declared State of Emergency.”

The fuel that spilled may be useable, once it is drawn from the retention pond. On Friday Colonial had more than 500 workers at the site, trying to unearth the pipe and repair it.

“They have been amazingly transparent,” said Crawford, of Cahaba Riverkeepers. “We actually hope their response will serve as a model for future incidents.”

The job is only just beginning, though, and it is dangerous. The fumes from the spill are so volatile, Crawford said, that airspace above it has been closed, and roads in every direction are blocked.

Pinkney, the EPA spokesman, said that temporary dams have been installed downstream of the retention pond, so that if any gasoline leaks from the retention pond it can be stopped before it reaches the Cahaba river.

This article was amended on 16 September to update the estimate of the oil spill to 338,000 gallons.

EU’s biggest gas producer running out of reserves

September 16, 2016


The Netherlands is the EU’s largest producer of natural gas, and has used 80 percent of its reserves, reports the local CBS statistics office. This leaves the EU with two options: buy more gas from Russia or increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports.

The Dutch budget has been affected by caps on extraction and plummeting wholesale prices. In 2015, gas accounted for only three percent of the country’s revenue, and by 2013 the share was nine percent, the statistics office said. State income from gas dropped to €5.3 billion in 2015, when two years previously it was €15.4 billion, said the report.

The country relies heavily on the Groningen gas deposit that was discovered in 1959. With 940 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas reserves, the Netherlands produced 52 billion bcm last year. By comparison, Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipeline has a capacity of 55 bcm per year. At the current pace, the Netherlands may run out of gas in 17 years.

“In the last 10 years Europe managed to keep its imports flat with lower consumption. Now much lower Dutch production cannot be mitigated by much lower consumption – most of the drop has occurred already. That means we will need higher imports from Russia or liquefied natural gas,” said energy expert Thierry Bros in an interview with Bloomberg.

Despite low crude prices and increasing competition from the LNG, Russia’s Gazprom still intends to cement its 30 percent share of European gas imports by doubling the volume of the Nord Stream pipeline through the Baltic Sea. Russia has also made significant progress with the Turkish Stream pipeline that will deliver gas to Turkey through the Black Sea and then to Europe.

A recent outlook by Russia’s Federal Subsoil Resources Management Agency said Gazprom should significantly boost its gas exports to the Asia-Pacific, if it doesn’t want to lose global share to LNG. Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller is skeptical about the technology, saying that LNG reconstitution facilities in Europe are running at about quarter capacity, and Nord Stream was asked to transit more gas last year.

New Jersey charity race cancelled after pipe bomb blast

September 17, 2016

BBC News

A pipe bomb has exploded on the route of a road race in the US state of New Jersey, forcing the event to be cancelled but causing no injuries.

The bomb had been placed in a rubbish bin along the route of the 5km Semper Five run in Seaside Park.

The participants would have been in the area but the race had been delayed because of an unattended bag.

The charity race, in its third year, is in aid of Marines and sailors and this year attracted thousands of runners.

‘Serious act of violence’

The blast occurred at about 09:30 local time (13:30 GMT) on a boardwalk area, which authorities sealed off.

State and federal law enforcement agencies are investigating the explosion.

NBC reported that a second device had been found. Ocean County sheriffs said that 30 homes near the site of the explosion were evacuated.

New Jersey State Police later said that no further explosive devices had been found, although officers “rendered safe” items in another rubbish bin, without giving further details.

Attorney General Christopher Porrino said: “We are grateful that nobody was injured, but this is a serious act of violence against the people of New Jersey. We will not rest until we find the person or persons responsible.”

Three people were killed and 260 injured when bombs exploded at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon in 2013.

Israeli Invasion of Lebanon, 2006: Fact and Fiction

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Subject: Causes of the attack

Both the State of Israel and the United States viewed Syria as a potentially dangerous enemy. Joint intelligence indicated that Syria was a strong supporter of the Hezbollah Shiite paramilitary group. Israel had planned a punitive military operation into Lebanon both to clip Hezbollah?s wings and send a strong message to Syria to cease and desist supplying arms and money to the anti-Israel group. Because of its involvement in Iraq, the United States indicated it would be unable to supply any ground troops but would certainly supply any kind of weapon, to include bombs, cluster bombs and ammunition for this projected operation.

A casus belli was created by the Israeli Mossad’s assassination of Rafik Haarri, a popular Lebanese politician and subsequent disinformation promulgated and instigated by both Israel and the United States blamed Syria for the killing.

The IDF was being supplied faulty and misleading intelligence information, apparently originating from Russian sources, that gave misinformation about Hezbollah positions and strengths and therefore the initial planning was badly flawed.

In full concert with the American president, the IDF launched its brutal and murderous attack on July 12, 2006 and continued unabated until the Hexbollah inflicted so many serious casualties on the Israeli forces and also on the civilian population of Israel, that their government frantically demanded that the White House force a cease fire through the United Nations. This was done for Israel on August 14, 2007 and the last act of this murderous and unprovoked assault was when Israel removed their naval blockade of Lebanese ports.

The contrived incident that launched the Israeli attack was an alleged attack by Hezbollah into Israeli territory where they were alleged to have “kidnapped” two Israeli soldiers and subsequently launched a rocket attack to cover their retreat.

The conflict killed over six thousand people, most of whom were Lebanese, severely damaged Lebanese infrastructure, displaced 700,000-915,000 Lebanese, and 300,000-500,000 Israelis, and disrupted normal life across all of Lebanon and northern Israel. Even after the ceasefire, much of Southern Lebanon remained uninhabitable due to unexploded cluster bombs. As of 1 December 2006, an estimated 200,000 Lebanese remained internally displaced or refugees

During the campaign Israel’s Air Force flew more than 12,000 combat missions, its Navy fired 2,500 shells, and its Army fired over 100,000 shells. Large parts of the Lebanese civilian infrastructure were destroyed, including 400 miles of roads, 73 bridges, and 31 other targets such as Beirut International Airport, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities, 25 fuel stations, 900 commercial structures, up to 350 schools and two hospitals, and 15,000 homes. Some 130,000 more homes were damaged.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered commanders to prepare civil defense plans. One million Israelis had to stay near or in bomb shelters or security rooms, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating the north and relocating to other areas of the country.

On 26 July 2006 Israeli forces attacked and destroyed an UN observer post. Described as a nondeliberate attack by Israel, the post was shelled for hours before being bombed. UN forces made repeated calls to alert Israeli forces of the danger to the UN observers, all four of whom were killed. Rescuers were shelled as they attempted to reach the post. According to an e-mail sent earlier by one of the UN observers killed in the attack, there had been numerous occasions on a daily basis where the post had come under fire from both Israeli artillery and bombing. The UN observer reportedly wrote that previous Israeli bombing near the post had not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to “tactical necessity,” military jargon which retired Canadian Major General Lewis MacKenzie later interpreted as indicating that Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets extremely close to the post.

On 27 July 2006 Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli forces in Bint Jbeil and killed eighteen soldiers. Israel claimed, after this event, that it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.

On 28 July 2006 Israeli paratroopers killed 5 of Hezbollah’s commando elite in Bint Jbeil. In total, the IDF claimed that 80 fighters were killed in the battles at Bint Jbeil. Hezbollah sources, coupled with International Red Cross figures place the Hexbollah total at 7 dead and 129 non-combatant Lebanese civilian deaths.

On 30 July 2006 Israeli air strikes hit an apartment building in Qana, killing at least 65 civilians, of which 28 were children, with 25 more missing. The air strike was widely condemned.

On 31 July 2006 the Israeli military and Hezbollah forces engaged Hezbollah in the Battle of Ayta ash-Shab.

On 1 August 2006 Israeli commandos launched Operation Sharp and Smooth and landed in Baalbek and captured five civilians including one bearing the same name as Hezbollah’s leader, “Hassan Nasrallah”. All of the civilians were released after the ceasefire. Troops landed near Dar al-Himkeh hospital west of Baalbeck as part of a widescale operation in the area.

On 4 August 2006 the IAF attacked a building in the area of al-Qaa around 10 kilometers (six miles) from Hermel in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Sixty two  farm workers, mostly Syrian and Lebanese Kurds, were killed during the airstrike.

On 5 August 2006 Israeli commandos carried out a nighttime raid in Tyre, blowing up a water treatment plant, a small clinic and killing 187 civilians before withdrawing.

On 7 August 2006 the IAF attacked the Shiyyah suburb in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, destroying three apartment buildings in the suburb, killing at least 120 people.

On 11 August 2006 the IAF attacked a convoy of approximately 750 vehicles containing Lebanese police, army, civilians, and one Associated Press journalist, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 39.

On 12 August 2006 the IDF established its hold in South Lebanon. Over the weekend Israeli forces in southern Lebanon nearly tripled in size. and were ordered to advance towards the Litani River.

On 14 August 2006 the Israeli Air Force reported that they had killed the head of Hezbollah?s Special Forces, whom they identified as Sajed Dewayer,but this claim was never proven.. 80 minutes before the cessation of hostilities, the IDF targeted a Palestinian faction in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, killing a UNRWA staff member. Sixty two refugees had been killed in an attack on this camp six days prior to the incident.

During the campaign Hezbollah fired between 3,970 and 4,228 rockets. About 95% of these were 122 mm (4.8 in) Katyusha artillery rockets, which carried warheads up to 30 kg (66 lb) and had a range of up to 30 km (19 mi). An estimated 23% of these rockets hit built-up areas, primarily civilian in nature.

Cities hit included Haifa, Hadera, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, Afula, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an, Karmiel, and Maalot, and dozens of Kibbutzim, Moshavim, and Druze and Arab villages, as well as the northern West Bank. Hezbollah also engaged in guerrilla warfare with the IDF, attacking from well-fortified positions. These attacks by small, well-armed units caused serious problems for the IDF, especially through the use hundreds of sophisticated Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Hezbollah destroyed 38 Israeli Merkava main battle tanks and damaged 82. Fifteen  tanks were destroyed by anti-tank mines. Hezbollah caused  an additional 65 casualties using ATGMs to collapse buildings onto Israeli troops sheltering inside.

After the initial Israeli response, Hezbollah declared an all-out military alert. Hezbollah was estimated to have 13,000 missiles at the beginning of the conflict. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described Hezbollah as a trained, skilled, well-organized, and highly motivated infantry that was equipped with the cream of modern weaponry from the arsenals of Syria, Iran, Russia, and China. Lebanese satellite TV station Al-Manar reported that the attacks had included a Fajr-3 and a Ra’ad 1, both liquid-fuel missiles developed by Iran.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defended the attacks, saying that Hezbollah had “started to act calmly, we focused on Israel[i] military bases and we didn?t attack any settlement, however, since the first day, the enemy attacked Lebanese towns and murdered civilians  Hezbollah militants had destroyed military bases, while the Israelis killed civilians and targeted Lebanon’s infrastructure.” Hezbollah apologized for shedding Muslim blood, and called on the Arabs of the Israeli city of Haifa to flee.

On 13 July 2006 in response to Israel’s retaliatory attacks in which 43  civilians were killed, Hezbollah launched rockets at Haifa for the first time, hitting a cable car station along with a few other buildings

On 14 July 2006 Hezbollah attacked the INS Hanit, an Israeli Sa’ar 5-class missile boat enforcing the naval blockade, with  what was believed to be a radar guided C-802 anti-ship missile. 24 sailors were killed and the warship was severely damaged and towed back to port.

On 17 July 2006 Hezbollah hit a railroad repair depot, killing twenty-two workers. Hezbollah claimed that this attack was aimed at a large Israeli fuel storage plant adjacent to the railway facility. Haifa is home to many strategically valuable facilities such as shipyards and oil refineries.

On 18 July 2006 Hezbollah hit a hospital in Safed in northern Galilee, wounding twenty three.

On 27 July 2006 Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli forces in Bint Jbeil and killed forty one soldiers, and destroyed 12 IDF vehicles and destroyed three armored vehicles and seriously damaged eight more. Israel claimed it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.

On 3 August 2006 Nasrallah warned Israel against hitting Beirut and promised retaliation against Tel Aviv in this case. He also stated that Hezbollah would stop its rocket campaign if Israel ceased aerial and artillery strikes of Lebanese towns and villages.

On 4 August 2006 Israel targeted the southern outskirts of Beirut, and later in the day, Hezbollah launched rockets at the Hadera region.

On 9 August 2006 twenty three Israeli soldiers were killed when the building they were taking cover in was struck by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile and collapsed.

On 12 August 2006 24 Israeli soldiers were killed; the worst Israeli loss in a single day. Out of those 24, five soldiers were killed when Hezbollah shot down an Israeli helicopter, a first for the militia. Hezbollah claimed the helicopter had been attacked with a Wa’ad missile.

One of the most controversial aspects of the conflict has been the high number of civilian deaths. The actual proportion of civilian deaths and the responsibility of it is hotly disputed.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch blamed Israel for systematically failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, which may constitute a war crime, and accused Hezbollah of committing war crimes by the deliberate and indiscriminate killing of civilians by firing rockets into populated areas

On 24 July 2006, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said Israel’s response violated international humanitarian law, but also criticized Hezbollah for knowingly putting civilians in harm’s way by “cowardly blending…among women and children”.

During the war, Israeli jets distributed leaflets calling on civilian residents to evacuate or move north.

In response to some of this criticism, Israel has stated that it did, wherever possible, attempt to distinguish between protected persons and combatants, but that due to Hezbollah militants being in civilian clothing

Direct attacks on civilian objects are prohibited under international humanitarian law. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) initially estimated about 35,000 homes and businesses in Lebanon were destroyed by Israel in the conflict, while a quarter of the country’s road bridges or overpasses were damaged. Jean Fabre, a UNDP spokesman, estimated that overall economic losses for Lebanon from the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah totaled “at least $15 billion, if not more.”] Before and throughout the war, Hezbollah launched over 4000 unguided rockets against Israeli population centers, seeking to terrorize the Israeli population. This was in direct response to Israel’s attack on residential sections and the deliberate targeting of civilians

Amnesty International published a report stating that “the deliberate widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population,” and called for an international investigation of violations of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict.

Israel defended itself from such allegations on the grounds that Hezbollah’s use of roads and bridges for military purposes made them legitimate targets. However, Amnesty International stated that “the military advantage anticipated from destroying [civilian infrastructure] must be measured against the likely effect on civilians.”

Human Rights Watch strongly criticized Israel for using cluster bombs too close to civilians because of their inaccuracy and unreliability, suggesting that they may have gone as far as deliberately targeting civilian areas with such munitions. Hezbollah was also criticized by Human Rights Watch for filling its rockets with ball bearings, which “suggests a desire to maximize harm to civilians”; the U.N has criticized Israel for its use of cluster munitions and disproportionate attacks.

Amnesty International stated that the IDF used white phosphorus shells in Lebanon. Israel later admitted to the use of white phosphorus, but stated that it only used the incendiary against militants. However, several foreign media outlets reported observing and photographing a large number of Lebanese civilians with burns characteristic of white phosphorus attacks during the conflict.

Hezbollah casualty figures are difficult to ascertain, with claims and estimates by different groups and individuals ranging from 43 to 1,000. Hezbollah’s leadership claims that 43 of their fighters were killed in the conflict, while Israel estimated that its forces had killed 600 Hezbollah fighters. In addition, Israel claimed to have the names of 532 dead Hezbollah fighters but when challenged by Hezbollah to release the list, the Israelis dropped the issue. A UN official estimated that 50 Hezbollah fighters had been killed, and Lebanese government officials estimated that up to 49 had been killed.

The Lebanese civilian death toll is difficult to pinpoint as most published figures do not distinguish between civilians and militants, including those released by the Lebanese government. In addition, Hezbollah fighters can be difficult to identify as many do not wear military uniforms. However, it has been widely reported that the majority of the Lebanese killed were civilians, and UNICEF estimated that 30% of those killed were children under the age of 13

The death toll estimates do not include Lebanese killed since the end of fighting by land mines or unexploded US/Israeli cluster bombs. According to the National Demining Office, 297 people have been killed and 867 wounded in such blasts.

Official Israeli figures for the Israel Defense Forces troops killed range from 116 to 120. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives two different figures 117 and 119 the latter of which contains two IDF fatalities that occurred after the ceasefire went into effect. In September 2006, two local Israeli newspapers released insider information ensuring that the Israeli military death toll might climbed to around 540 soldiers. Israel refuses any outside agency access to its lists of the dead and wounded but an examination of all the accurate information available as of January 1, 2007 indicates that Israeli Defense Forces lost a total of 2300 killed with 600 of these dying in militatary hospital facilities subsequent to the conclusion of the fighting and an additional 700 very seriously wounded.

Hezbollah rockets killed 43 Israeli civilians during the conflict, including four who died of heart attacks during rocket attacks. In addition, 4,262 civilians were injured ? 33 seriously, 68 moderately, 1,388 lightly, and 2,773 were treated for shock and anxiety





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