Punishment: PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad says he can't pay December salaries

A report in YNet tonight tells us that Palestinian Authority [PA] Salaam Fayyad said today that he is unable to pay December salaries in the coming week because of Israel’s withholding of the VAT + Customs taxes it collects for the PA under the 1994 Paris Protocol [part of the Oslo Accords].

YNet doesn’t say exactly where Fayyad made these remarks, but it reported that Fayyad said that “suspension of the tax transfers ‘has both an immediate impact on the lives of all employees and their dependents, some 1 million people … (and) has a devastating indirect impact throughout the whole economy’.”

The same YNet report says that an Israeli official [unnamed] “said Sunday that Israel suspended the transfers temporarily to express its concern over the conduct of Abbas and his government, mainly his quest for recognition of Palestine”.

[n.b. – This refers mainly to the “UN bid” for full membership in the United Nations; Israel has already withheld one month of tax transfers in November because of the 31 October vote in UNESCO to admit the State of Palestine as a full member of the Paris-based agency…]

The YNet article adds that “The Israeli official said Israeli might make decision to withhold the money permanent if Abbas sets up a unity government with Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that controls Gaza. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters”.
This YNet article can be read in full here.

Another take on the Palestinian reconciliation "summit": punishment looms, as it does for "UN bid" too

The Jerusalem Post reports today that it has been told that “Palestinian unity efforts stumble” after the reconciliation summit in Cairo on Friday.

But, while there may be outstanding differences between the two largest Palestinian political factions, the real delay may be an attempt to avoid various threatened punishments, until something changes…

Khaled Abu Toameh, Arab affairs correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, writes today, here, that he has been told “that differences between the two parties remained almost the same as they were before the summit. In addition to the ongoing dispute over the make-up of the proposed unity government, Fatah and Hamas have failed to solve their differences over the reconstruction of the security forces and the release of detainees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip being held by both sides. ‘The 45-minute meeting between President Abbas and Khaled Mashaal was not as successful as it is being portrayed’, a senior Fatah official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post. ‘The most important thing was that the two leaders met and agreed to continue talking about reconciliation and unity. It will take a long time before we ever see real changes on the ground’.”

Punishment for Palestinian Unity

Well, that will be reassuring to American officials who have been worried that they might have to punish the Palestinians, if they actually achieve unity”, by withholding large sums of money that have been the opium of the people in Ramallah.

Jordan-based Palestinian Journalist Daoud Kuttab had earlier reported “rumors” following the flying visit to see Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Ramallah presidential headquarters [the Muqata’a] by Jordan’s King Abdallah II on Monday, that there were rumors that Palestinian officials told the Jordanian delegation they would not accept security aid if the U.S. withheld other forms of aid.

Kuttab developed this into two articles: one an opinion piece for the Washington Post, published here, and the second was published by the Huffington Post, here.

[See below for more…]

Punishment if Salam Fayyad is replaced as PM {?}

In his Jerusalem Post article, Abu Toameh reported punishment-related issues were a priority matter in the discussion, writing that “a senior Fatah official” told him “that Hamas’s refusal to accept current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of any future government remained a major obstacle to the implementation of the reconciliation deal … Abbas had initially considered dumping Fayyad in favor of the establishment of a unity government with Hamas. However, immense pressure from the US and some EU countries, as well as a strong warning from Jordan’s King Abdullah, who flew to Ramallah last week for emergency talks with Abbas, persuaded the PA president to hold on to Fayyad … [But] Abbas explained to Mashaal [in Cairo on Friday] that without Fayyad the Palestinians would be punished by the Americans and Europeans, the official said. ‘But this did not change Mashaal’s position. Hamas believes that in wake of the Arab Spring, Arab governments would compensate the Palestinians for any loss of Western financial aid’. On Saturday, Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, reiterated his movement’s strong opposition to the appointment of Fayyad as prime minister of a unity government”.

Abu Toameh added that “Abbas also made it clear during the summit with Mashaal that he would not be able to incorporate Hamas militiamen in the PA security forces, another Fatah official said. The official quoted Abbas as saying that merging Hamas militiamen into the PA security forces would give Israel an excuse to launch attacks on these forces under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Abbas also expressed deep concern that Israel and Fatah would vehemently oppose any attempt to bring Hamas policemen to the West Bank, the official added”.

He also wrote in the JPost that “On the issue of ‘political detainees’ who are being held in PA and Hamas prisons in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the two parties continued over the weekend to blame each other for failing to release their supporters. Abbas and Mashaal have announced twice this year that they would end the arrests of Hamas and Fatah supporters. Despite the announcements, PA security forces continue to arrest Hamas supporters and activists in the West Bank. Hamas, on the other hand, has also been accused of cracking down on Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip by arresting them and preventing them from travelling outside the strip. PA officials denied on Saturday that the PA was holding people in detention for ‘political reasons’. They said all the Hamas detainees in West Bank prisons were being held for allegedly violating the law, but did not give further details … [n.b. Elections are supposed to be held around May 2012, according to a reconciliation agreement initialed in Cairo this past May. But…] According to Zahar, there is no way elections would be held while Hamas supporters remain in PA-run prisons”.

Continue reading “Another take on the Palestinian reconciliation "summit": punishment looms, as it does for "UN bid" too”

Egypt to hold parliamentary elections on Monday; no date announced for Palestinian elections

The reconciliation “summit” between PLO Chairman + Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas [on the right in the photo below] and Hamas Politibureau chief Khaled Meshaal [on the left, beaming, beside Abbas] went ahead in Cairo on Thursday 24 November.

In an almost-surreal — though all too real — backdrop to this meeting, the widely-detested use of tear gas continued against groups of people identified as protestors around the country, as in Cairo, around the Ministry of Interior and Tahrir Square, the military er”}began the construction of a concrete Wall [“Security Barrider”] topped with coils of barbed wire to cordon off the demonstrators.  Some have vowed to mount the barriers on Friday, however…  And members of the currently-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] announced they would go ahead with the first phase of parliamentary elections that have been scheduled to begin on Monday 28 November.

In the Palestinian reconciliation summit, however, there were few concrete results announced — how could there be, with big economic sanctions ready to drop if there had been any announced agreement? — but it was packaged as a general overall success, the launch of a new era of cooperation.

Meshaal + Abbas meeting in Cairo on 24 November 2011

Photo provided by the Office of Khaled Meshaal and published in The Daily Star [Lebanon] here: Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
are seen together during their meeting in Cairo.
(AP Photo/Office of Khaled Meshaal) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES

An analysis of the outcome

The Associated Press reported, hours after the meeting, that “Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal talked for two hours in Cairo but did not reach agreement on touchy matters like the composition of an interim unity government and a date for elections. The meeting raised new questions about whether the rivals are serious about sharing power, or just going through the motions”. This report was published on the CBS news site, here. This is probably way too superficial, and simplistic.

The Daily Star published excerpts from an AFP interview with Meshaal afterwards. According to The Daily Star, Meshaal told AFP that “We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a programme which is common to all the factions … Every people has the right to fight against occupation in every way, with weapons or otherwise. But at the moment, we want to cooperate with the popular resistance”.

OK.

Reigning in the rocket fire from Gaza

According to the story in The Daily Star, “the two leaders approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original deal, which was signed in May, and hailed a new era of ‘partnership’ between their two factions. The document, a copy of which was seen by AFP, outlines an agreement to observe a truce in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along with ‘the adoption of popular resistance which is to be to be strengthened … This resistance will be increased and organised and there is to be an agreement on its style, on greater efficiency and the formation of a framework to direct it’, it said”.

This language seems to apply to Gaza as much as to the West Bank — though Popular Resistance is the strategy that evolved recently in the West Bank in opposition to The Wall and to expanded Israeli settlement activity, and was endorsed by Abbas in the lead-up to the Palestinian “UN bid”, filed on 23 September in New York, for full membership in the international organization.

At the end of October, UNESCO members voted in Paris to admit Palestine as a full member state — and Israel immediately imposed economic sanctions including withholding of the transfer of VAT + customs tax it collects for the Palestinian Authority under the 1994 Paris Protocol, part of the Oslo Accords. Though the US Congress also voted for sanctions, including a withholding of funding to UNESCO, the Obama Administration is trying to hold off on measures that would negatively impact the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian firing of rockets from Gaza in response to every Israeli attack is claimed as a “natural response”, but the IDF Chief of Staff has recently said that he believes an major military operation may be required to stop this. Now, smaller armed groups claim credit for these sporadic actions, but the Israeli military + government say they hold Hamas ultimately responsible, because it is in control in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas has in the past called this sporadic projectile firing “stupid”, but hasn’t spoken out too much recently, at least publicly.

The Daily Star added that “Meshaal did not go into detail about the focus on popular resistance but said he had instructed the movement’s leadership in Gaza and Damascus, to ‘adopt a political line and one with the press that doesn’t upset the conciliatory spirit and that truly reflects the atmosphere of reconciliation … I asked them to take practical and positive measures to flesh out this agreement’.”   This report is posted here.

So, one effect of this meeting appears to be that the Hamas political leadership will be able to use the highly-valued doctrine of national unity to back up a decision to stop projectile firing by smaller separate militant groups.

Palestinian political prisoners

AP also reported that “In a show of good intentions, the two leaders decided that activists of the two movements would be released from detention, said Azzam al-Ahmed, an Abbas envoy”.  This was one of  the main demands of the Palestinian “youth” protesters,  and has been announced several times this year, before and after the reconciliation agreement initialled in May.

Like the Egyptian military leadership,  the Palestinian leadership has claimed that the prisoners each side holds are held on charges of criminal activity, not their political beliefs…

AFP / Hamas Press Office

Left to right: Hamas’ Khalid Meshaal, PLO + Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, reconciliation negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad of Fatah

The pending “UN bid”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian “UN bid” is still pending, and the Hamas leadership has not opposed it. There is no indication from the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, at least for now, of what decision they will make in light of a likely failure to get enough votes to pass n the UN Security Council, which would trigger a threatened U.S. veto.

Either way, the lack of support within the UN Security Council is a “come back later” decision.

Continue reading “Egypt to hold parliamentary elections on Monday; no date announced for Palestinian elections”

Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo; will Egypt postpone Monday's elections?

To my surprise, though perfectly according to plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turned up in Cairo this morning to meet Field Marshall Tantawy, who as head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] of Egypt was handed the country when Husni Mubarak was forced to step down last February.

Abbas meeting Tantawi - photo via PalTelegraph

Abbas meeting Tantawi – photo via PalTelegraph here – presumably taken today

Apparently, Abbas arrived in Egypt Tuesday night.  He had to have travelled via Jordan — he certainly didn’t fly from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, and he didn’t drive through Gaza.

In the midst of chaos in [some, main] Egyptian streets, Abbas is supposed be on a four-day visit to Cairo, despite the chaos in the streets, and will meet Khaled Meshaal of Hamas tomorrow, after years of Egyptian negotiations to effect a “reconciliation” between Hamas and Fatah…

To go ahead with the reconciliation in the coming days, Abbas and Meshaal will have to ignore the sheer mayhem and brutality in the streets of Cairo and several other Egyptian cities, where vast quantities of what is reported to be an enhanced variety of tear gas has been mercilessly fired upon protesting citizens who are demanding a transition to civilian rule. and on uninvolved bystanders alike.

Egyptian military leaders are saying that “hidden forces” are behind the worst violence and the many civilian deaths — and not the military, which says it is responsible only for the tear gas…

One thing Abbas’ arrival in Cairo does mean is that Abbas was in Jordan on Tuesday, a day after receiving King Abdallah II in Ramallah on Monday.  [Did they meet again?]

King Abdallah’s “historical” visit was announced late on Sunday, and the whole thing is still a big mystery — more to come in a separate post.  The King flew by helicopter to Ramallah, and landed in the grounds of the Muqata’a Presidential palace.   When the King flew back to Amman, he met almost immediately with U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns — who himself had met Abbas on Sunday,  and then with Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on Monday morning, perhaps just before Abdallah arrived in Ramallah…  And, there is no way that the Jordanian monarch could have flown across the West Bank without full Israeli approval.

The link between these events is: elections.

The proposed Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is supposed to involve agreement on new Palestinian elections — perhaps by next May — to overcome the split that followed the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces, which an infuriated Mahmoud Abbas called a “military coup”, just before carrying out his own retaliatory political coup by dissolving a very short-lived National Unity government headed by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh.  Abbas then appointed Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister of an “Emergency Government” which has basically remained in power until today [despite permutations].

Now, Hamas is reportedly still opposed to Fayyad continuing as Prime Minister, after the reconciliation — and there has been speculation that a replacement may soon be named [the most recent speculation involved Dr. Mohammed Mustafa, Economic Adviser to Abbas + head of the, um, non-governmental Palestine Investment Fund]. A new Palestinian Authority/PLO government would be composed only of “technocrats” [meaning, no one associated with Hamas, which would mean the re-imposition of strong new financial and other sanctions — that is, unless Hamas meets the “Quartet conditions: recognition of Israel, or its “right to exist”; renunciation of violence, and allegience to all previous agreements made by the PLO.

A new technocratic government would be charged with overseeing a transition to new elections.

UPDATE: It was reported from Cairo on Thursday morning, just before the Abbas-Meshaal reconciliation talks began, that the naming of a new Prime Minister would not be on the immediate agenda…]

Since the violent Hamas-Fatah break-up in June 2007, Mahmoud Abbas has, insisted on a return to the status quo ante as a prerequisite for any reconciliation with Hamas, meaning that Hamas must know its place, and not rule as a rival regime in Gaza.

By the terms of a previous reconciliation — the Cairo 2005 agreement — Hamas was supposed to be integrated into the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], in which Mahmoud Abbas has been Chairman of the Executive Committee since the death of Yasser Arafat in a hospital in Paris in November 2004.

[Abbas, like Arafat before him, has consolidated his hold on all three reins of Palestinian political power.  Abbas is also the head, by acclamation, of Fatah, which is the largest Palestinian political movement.   And he is the elected head of the Palestinian Authority, established by agreement bween the PLO + Israel under the Oslo Accords, which Hamas opposes — but Abbas’ term of office expired either in January 2009 or in January 2010, depending on which legalistic argument one backs. So, when there are new reports of Abbas resigning, the question has to be asked: from what, exactly?  The PLO, Fatah, or just the PA? In any case, Abbas has also said, previously, that he will remain in office until there are new elections.]

Hamas agreed to join the PLO — but has argued that it should have a percentage of seats in the PLO’s Palestine National Council [PNC] that would be proportional to the number of seats it won in 2006 elections for the PA’s Legislative Council [PLC] — in other words, over 60 percent.

Fatah was outraged — and Fatah officials maintained in recent years that they would never agree to Hamas having anything more than 25% of seats in the PNC.

The mandate for the 2006 PLO has also expired, without ever having many meetings, both because Israel arrested so many Hamas-affiliated parliamentarians that a quorum could not be met, but also because of the huge rift between Hamas and Fatah…

And Abbas has ruled by Presidential decree — which some fastidious Palestinian libertarians have quietly criticized.

Meanwhile, Abbas has cancelled Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections that he called for 24 January 2010, and he has also twice scheduled, and cancelled, local or municipality elections.

One of the major demands of the Palestinian “youth demonstrations”, whicht began in honor of the January 25 movement that filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square in Egypt [until Mubarak resigned in February], was an end to the Fatah-Hamas split.

Another of the demands was to hold elections — for the first time, ever — among Palestinians everywhere [and not just in the West Bank + Gaza] for the PLO’s National Council.

The reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo in May, and today’s follow-up “summit” [more than 6 months later] between Abbas + Meshall in Cairo was initially viewed as a response to the Palestinian “youth demonstrations” and to the “Arab Spring” developments in the region.  [One reason the reconciliation summit was delayed was to protect, or insulate, the “UN bid” from reprisals — which have since been imposed anyway, after the UNESCO vote to admit Palestine as a full member state nearly one month ago...]

In other, separate developments, Egyptians were supposed to begin voting on Monday 28 November in the first round of their new Parliamentary elections… though the preparations process has been rather back-room and secretive.

And tonight, Egypt’s Interior Minister called for a postponement due to the situation in the country.

UPDATE: On Thursday, a group of Egyptian political parties also called for a postponement of elections.

But, in reaction to the terrible violence over the last couple of days, the call in Tahrir Square has been, again: “Irhal” —  Go.  Just go.  Get out.

There is not a unified position on cancelling elections now.

So now, here are a few thoughts: is it just possible that a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation in Cairo tomorrow might have enough overwhelming popular appeal and regional magic to distract, and stop the bloodshed in Egypt?

By the same time tomorrow night, after all the violence and suffering and human loss in this region, will everything seem better [and not worse]?

Reality check: The U.S. is lobbying strongly against any reconciliation Palestinian government, which would mean a move toward new Palestinian elections [the visit of Burns to the region on Sunday + Monday was reportedly about that, and about the “UN bid” that Mahmoud Abbas filed in New York on 23 September for full UN membership]. At stake is another full-scale imposition of economic sanctions that will have a devastating impact on the situation in the West Bank, despite defiant Palestinian statements.

There is, of course, a major contradiction, at least in democracies, between supporting elections [as U.S. President George W. Bush did, prior to the 2006 Palestinian elections in which Hamas won a majority of seats in the PLC, dismissing some worry about the lack of Fatah popularity, and the possibility of Hamas gains], and then imposing sanctions because of who wins.

But, the U.S. is still calling for Egyptian elections.

Mark Toner, a U.S. State Dept spox, did so in an exchange with journalists at the daily briefing in Washington:

    “QUESTION: And you remain confident that this election will go on on time?

    MR. TONER: We continue to believe that it can go on, yeah.

    QUESTION: Are you still —

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) boycott the vote given the amount of violence and their distrust of the military?

    MR. TONER: Again, as Field Marshal Tantawi said yesterday, this is – he provided a path that talked about these elections, talked about a newly appointed civilian government, as well as a full transition to – or presidential elections by next summer. And this is the way that Egyptians can create the kind of democracy for which they’re protesting in Tahrir Square. It’s extremely important that they exercise their right to vote … He [Tantawi] did pledge to appoint a new cabinet and to hold presidential elections, as I talked – as I said, and proceed with parliamentary elections as planned. We believe that’s important. We also believe that it’s important that the SCAF ensure that free and fair elections proceed expeditiously, and that their security of these elections is ensured, and that – in an environment that’s free from any intimidation, and that

    this newly appointed civilian government be able to exercise real executive power immediately … What’s important, as I said, is that these elections be seen by the Egyptian people as credible and transparent. That’s the responsibility of the SCAF, to create that kind of atmosphere and that kind of environment, so that they’re – that these elections can be taken seriously by the Egyptian people, and again, building towards eventual presidential elections, a new constitution, et cetera, that will result in a true democracy for Egypt … And so we’re engaged with the Egyptian authorities. Again, our goal here is to provide whatever support we can so that credible, transparent elections can take place. But ultimately, this is something that the

    Egyptian people need to see done”.

The briefing transcript can be read in full here.

But, what about the Palestinian people?

Protests continue in Egypt, massive tear gas use reported

Protests — and casualties, including deaths — have continued in Egypt today, as a decision was awaited from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on demands for an immediate transition to civilian rule.

Egyptian riot police are reportedly responsible for the worst violence, but .

A “million man” march was called for 4pm to protest police and military brutality against the demonstrators. At least 100,000 people were reported in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi was expected to speak at about the same time.

But, he began a meeting with Egyptian political parties…

His remarks were finally aired on Egyptian State TV three hours later, after 7pm.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Tantawi maintained that the Armed Forces “never killed a single Egyptian”, and he insisted that the Armed Forces are the main protectors of the people. But, he added, “the ability of the Ministry of Interior is improving”…

He said that although they never took a political position, and had no political ambitions, and treated all political parties equally, the Armed Forces had an important role to play, because the “interim situation is not safe … and the Egyptian economy is receding. The Armed Forces would therefore continue to maintain the state and ensure security while “we know that differences are there, and different positions”.

He said that he [“I”] had decided to accept the resignation of the present Prime Minister and his cabinet — but had asked them to stay on in their posts until a new government could be formed…

Tantawi observed that “the closer we come to elections, the more tensions are increasing — this we cannot understand”.

Only “at the end of this process will we hand over power to an elected civilian authority”, Tantawi said in his televised address.

A first round of parliamentary elections is due to be held in less than a week — on November 28, and Tantawi said that this schedule would be maintained.

Continue reading “Protests continue in Egypt, massive tear gas use reported”

Bloody hell at Tahrir Square in Cairo + other news

Bloody hell broke out at Tahrir Square this weekend.

There have been so many deaths and injuries — including a shocking number of protesters injured by rubber bullets in eyes, many of whom have reportedly lost their eyes as a result — that the figures are unreliable, and the tallies by various volunteers and news organizations keep mounting. One observer Tweeted that the soldiers/police were blinded themselves by the fast quantities of strong tear gas that was shot around, and as a result they fired wildly [hitting so many protesters exactly in the eyes???]. A group of three Egyptian men — one photojournalist [Ahmed Fatah, in the middle/background], + 2 well-known activists [Malek Mostafa and on the left, Ahmad Hararah] — with almost identical injuries are shown in this photo here.

At a certain point, the Muslim Brotherhood turned out. Then left. A few politicians showed up, then left.

A new terminology had to be learned: who are the ULTRAs? [It seems they are the almost-mythical “football fans” who have been on both sides of this revolution, but who now appear to be against the present military rule and therefore now on the side of the Tahrir activists…]

The situation is still evolving, three days later.

UPDATE: Al-Jazeera Arabic reported Monday night that the entire Egyptian Cabinet tendered its resignation — but the Supreme Military Council has not yet accepted the resignation.

Continue reading “Bloody hell at Tahrir Square in Cairo + other news”

Beefy, sneering guys in Blue use pepper spray on peaceful UCDavis protesters at close range

What is shown in this video — posted by TIME Magazine, here — is a very, very grave mistake, and an abuse of power and authority of the first degree. It is causing outrage locally, nationally and internationally.

Peaceful protesters are shown here being pepper sprayed at very close range by big beefy guys (and at least one little lady) in blue — official California police officers.

It happened at the end of last week on the campus of the University of California at Davis. The students were allowed to camp overnight, though there was a policy against it, then told to remove their tents by 3pm or face arrest. They decided to hold a sit-in. They were then pepper-sprayed with premeditation.

The video can also be watched on Youtube, here:

Then, these big beefy guys get nervous — two of them, at least, have their fingers on the triggers of big black automatic weapons that they are pointing at the crowd — as, outnumbered but not out-armed, they walk backward in a phalanx position to protect…themselves.

“Shame on you!”, the students chant.

Then, “You can go!”

An eyewitness description is posted in an interview published here.

Also from the same website, another view of UCDavis students being pepper-sprayed:

Photo from Boingboing.net

And, here are the guns, ready for use on an American university campus:

Another photo posted on Boingboing.net

UPDATE: An AP story on the outcry that followed circulation of this video reports that “The protest was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were jabbed by police with batons on Nov. 9. Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a ‘compliance tool’ that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters. ‘When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them’, Kelly said. ‘Bodies don’t have handles on them’. After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of ‘active resistance’ from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques. ‘What I’m looking at is fairly standard police procedure’, Kelly said. Images of police actions have served to galvanize support during the Occupy Wall Street movement … Some of the most notorious instances went viral online, including the use of pepper spray on an 84-year-old activist in Seattle and a group of women in New York. Seattle’s mayor apologized to the activist, and the New York Police Department official shown using pepper spray on the group of women lost 10 vacation days after an internal review. In the video of the UC Davis protest, the officer, a member of the university police force, displays a bottle before spraying its contents on the seated protesters in a sweeping motion while walking back and forth. Most of the protesters have their heads down, but several were hit directly in the face” This is published here.

Don’t they ever learn?

The same AP story also reported that “University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a statement Saturday she was forming a task force to investigate the police action and the video images she said were ‘chilling’ … As the images were circulated widely on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter on Saturday, the university’s faculty association called on Katehi to resign, saying in a letter there had been a ‘gross failure of leadership’. At a news conference, Katehi said what the video shows is, ‘sad and really very inappropriate’ but defended her leadership and said she had no plans to resign”.

An open letter of protest to UCDavis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, written on 18 November by Asst Professor Nathan Brown, is posted here. This letter holds Katehi responsible and demands her resignation.

Continue reading “Beefy, sneering guys in Blue use pepper spray on peaceful UCDavis protesters at close range”

IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot

The IAEA has passed what appears to be a mild resolution in response to its toughest report yet about Iran’s nuclear program.

The IAEA report suggested that there was no way to understand parts of Iran’s nuclear research other than to believe there was an aim to study how a nuclear weapon might be developed.

The IAEA 35-member Board of Governors adopted the resolution — which expressed “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions” — on Friday 18 November.

The resolution also expressed the Board’s “continuing support for a diplomatic solution”. It called on Iran to implement an additional IAEA inspection protocol which is purely voluntary for other countries — Iran has been ordered to do so by a series of resolutions in the UN Security Council.

And the IAEA Board resolution also called on Iran “to engage seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting the legitimate right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with the NPT”.

According to a report in the New York Times, “the global powers meeting in Vienna criticized Tehran on Friday over suspicions that it is building a nuclear weapon. The rebuke, however, fell far short of threatening further pressure or actions to curb Iran’s contentious uranium enrichment program”. This was attributed in part to objections from Russia and China. The NYTimes article can be read in full here.

The NYTimes report added that the Iranian representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, “accused the nuclear agency of endangering the lives of Iranian scientists by releasing their names in an annex to last week’s report about the suspicions of nuclear weapons work. ‘The release of the names of the Iranian nuclear scientists by the agency has made them targets for assassination by terrorist groups as well as the Israeli regime and the U.S. intelligence services’, he said in a letter to the body’s director general, Yukiya Amano. Parts of the letter were published by Iran’s state-financed Press TV satellite broadcaster, which noted that several Iranian nuclear scientists had been killed in episodes attributed by Iran to Israeli, British and American intelligence services. Mr. Soltanieh contended that disclosing the names of Iranian experts represented a violation of the agency’s rules and said Tehran reserved the right to seek damages from the agency for any harm to its personnel or property as a result of the report — a possible reference to Tehran’s frequently voiced fears of an Israeli military strike on its nuclear facilities”….

In a separate, but possibly related, matter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is due to meet Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Canada on the sidelines of a larger meeting.

Apparently, Ambassador Soltanieh said that as a result of today’s vote, Iran had decided not to attend an upcoming IAEA meeting on establishing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East.

The publication of the IAEA report [which was leaked to the press within minutes of its distribution to the Board of Governors] has also been criticized by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, whose remarks are reported in an interview published by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, here. The Bulletin describes Mousavian as “a lecturer and research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is the highest-ranking member of Iran’s political elite living in the United States”. Here is an excerpt of the Q+A:

    Q [Ali Vaez]:…Back in 2008, Iran addressed most of these allegations in a 117-page response to the IAEA. Wouldn’t publication of this response be a more constructive move than taking umbrage at the IAEA?

    Mousavian: The IAEA has, unfortunately, broken the rules of the game. Iran does not want to commit the same mistake. The issues between the agency and member states should remain confidential. Iran respects the rules and does not disclose its communications with the agency. Yet, the content of the IAEA reports on Iran are leaked to the media ahead of their distribution among the agency’s member states. This is highly unprofessional and against the statute of the agency. Such behavior is highly damaging to the credibility of the IAEA, as an impartial international body. It also clearly demonstrates that the information is dictated to the agency from somewhere else in order to make the case for ratcheting up pressure on Iran. The publication of these allegations was a significant step backward.

    Continue reading “IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot”

IAEA Report on Iran –

The latest and much-anticipated IAEA report on Iran was distributed to members of the Board of Governors in Vienna — and almost immediately leaked to the press.

What does it say?

It can be read in full here: here.

It starts right out with this statement, rebuffing Iran’s efforts to negotiate or wheedle an arrangement [it’s been called “buying time”] to get a better deal, rather than a new [this would be the 7th] round of sanctions either through the UN Security Council, or enacted unilaterally by those states who feel the strongest about this matter:
“The Security Council has affirmed that the steps required by the Board of Governors in its resolutions are binding on Iran. The relevant provisions of the aforementioned Security Council resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and are mandatory, in accordance with the terms of those resolutions”.

Here’s the immediate diplomatic deal — all of this is spelled right up front in the IAEA report”
“In a letter dated 26 May 2011, H.E. Dr Fereydoun Abbasi, Vice President of Iran and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), informed the Director General that Iran would be prepared to receive relevant questions from the Agency on its nuclear activities after a declaration by the Agency that the work plan (INFCIRC/711) had been fully implemented and that the Agency would thereafter implement safeguards in Iran in a routine manner. In his reply of 3 June 2011, the Director General
informed Dr Abbasi that the Agency was neither in a position to make such a declaration, nor to conduct safeguards in Iran in a routine manner, in light of concerns about the existence in Iran of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. On 19 September 2011, the Director General met Dr Abbasi in Vienna, and discussed issues related to the implementation of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement and other relevant obligations. In a letter dated 30 September 2011, the Agency reiterated its invitation to Iran to reengage with the Agency on the outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme and the actions required of Iran to resolve those issues. In a letter dated 30 October 2011, Dr Abbasi referred to his previous discussions with the Director General and expressed the will of Iran ‘to remove ambiguities, if any‘, suggesting that the Deputy Director General for Safeguards (DDG-SG), should visit Iran for discussions. In his reply, dated 2 November 2011, the Director General indicated his preparedness to send the DDG-SG to ‘discuss the issues identified’ in his forthcoming report to the Board“…

The IAEA has expressed somewhat more concern than before — but they’re not hysterical with worry. They gave greater details about some of the allegations contained in earlier IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear program up to 2003 [when the U.S. invaded neighboring Iraq], at which point Iran was believed to have largely stopped it. But, Iran has apparently maintained some kind of program to continue to monitor the results of its earlier research.

The report says “Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information”.

It also says that “While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs [locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used + a footnote tells us that “All of the LOFs are situated within hospitals”.] declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. The Agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the Agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information also indicates that prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured programme, and that some activities may still be ongoing. Given the concerns identified above, Iran is requested to engage substantively with the Agency
without delay for the purpose of providing clarifications regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme as identified in the Annex to this report.

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The IAEA report complains that “The Agency is still awaiting a substantive response from Iran to Agency requests for further
information in relation to announcements made by Iran concerning the construction of ten new uranium enrichment facilities, the sites for five of which, according to Iran, have been decided, and the construction of one of which was to have begun by the end of the last Iranian year (20 March 2011) or the start of this Iranian year. In August 2011, Dr Abbasi was reported as having said that Iran did not need to build new enrichment facilities during the next two years.25 Iran has not provided information, as requested by the Agency in its letter of 18 August 2010, in connection with its announcement on 7 February 2010 that it possessed laser enrichment technology”.

It also complains that “Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not
suspended work on all heavy water related projects, including the construction of the heavy water moderated research reactor, the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40 Reactor), which is subject to Agency safeguards”.

[A footnote tell us that: “The United Nations Security Council has adopted the following resolutions on Iran: 1696 (2006); 1737 (2006); 1747 (2007); 1803 (2008); 1835 (2008); and 1929 (2010)”.]

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An important annex discusses “Possible Military Dimensions to Iran’s Nuclear Program” … which we will look at in another post.

And in another world…a world away

An annual event at the pastoral tranquility of the UN office in Geneva — or, as it is known locally, the Palais des Nations, which is former home and site of the sad story of the League of Nations — the sheep-grazing of the lawns in October-November.

The photo below was taken by the dashing Jean-Marc Ferre, one of the world’s best photographers.

Photo by Jean-Marc Ferre for UN

A series of Jean-Marc’s shots of this annual sheep-grazing moment, in the lovely autumnal scenery [more suited to landscape painters than to anyone or anything else]  is now posted on Flikr here.

The UN photo caption describes this as an “environmentally-friendly way to mow the lawns” — but it’s more than that. It also fertilizes the lawns. And, on top of all that, it’s an income-earning activity, as the sheep-owners pay for this privilege.

Another shot of the sheep grazing the lawn at the Palais des Nations in Geneva - by Jean Marc Ferre

But – wait a minute — are these photos also timed to coincide with the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, which starts Sunday early morning? [And in which pious Muslims slaughter sheep to commemorate Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac…  though it could be argued that the Divine intervention would be better commemorated by abstaining from sacrificing lambs today…]

Leaving that thought aside, and moving to another, here’s one more of Jean-Marc Ferre’s shots of the sheep on the lawn on the palatial grounds of the UN Office in Geneva … where the Palais des Nations was built in the 1920s, after the First World War, to house the headquarters of the League of Nations which became deadlocked and moribund in the mid-1930s, in the lead-up to the Second World War…

Sheep on lawn in front of Palais des Nations - UN photo by Jean Marc Ferre

I could say something about the sheep in the park, and the sheep inside the buildings who have done so many dishonorable and disgraceful things … but I’ll refrain for the moment — in honor of the [very very few] good memories of the rather bad place I had the misfortune of working for some 14 years [it is impossible to overstate the harm that was done here], and in honor of these lovely photos taken on a beautiful fall day, and above all in honor of the photographer, Jean-Marc Ferre.