Ahwazi Arabs charge Iran with 'ethnocide'
The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), seeking autonomy for the Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran's southwest, held its third annual conference in Copenhagen last week—drawing attendance this time from George Sabra, former leader of the opposition Syrian National Council. Sabra told the conference, "What unites our two nations is our joint path and destiny in the struggle to gain our freedom and human dignity." ASMLA chairman Habib Jabor charged that "the mullahs' savage regime has enforced ethnocide policies against the Ahwazi Arab people and other non-Persian peoples... Several million Ahwazi Arabs are denied equal rights by the Iranian regime under a system of apartheid, defined as a deliberate policy of racial or ethnic segregation... [T]he international community's lack of reaction concerning the state of human rights in the Ahwaz region...has given the Iranian regime and its elite a right of life and death over entire communities. Ahwazi Arabs...are victimized, robbed and plundered because of their ethnicity."
Rights groups criticize arms sale to Saudi Arabia
Human Rights Watch is calling on the Obama administration to cancel a pending arms sale to Saudi Arabia in the absence of serious investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations in Yemen. On No. 17, the Pentagon announced that the State Department had approved a sale of $1.29 billion worth of air-to-ground munitions such as laser-guided bombs and "general purpose" bombs with guidance systems. "The purchase replenishes the Royal Saudi Air Force's current weapons supplies, which are becoming depleted due to the high operational tempo in multiple counter-terrorism operations," the Pentagon statement said. But HRW's Joe Stork countered: "The US government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition's indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen since March. Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible."
Bahrain court convicts 11 of attack on police
A Bahraini court found 11 Shi'ities guilty on Feb. 26 of an attack carried out last year and sentenced three to death. The other eight defendants were sentenced to life in prison and will be stripped of their citizenship. The case centered on the country's deadliest attack since Bahraini security forces repressed Shi'ite protests in 2011. In March three police officers were killed by bombings in a Shi'ite village while breaking up groups of "rioters and vandals" on Manama's outskirts. One of the fallen officers had been a policeman from the United Arab Emirates deployed to Bahrain to assist in security measures. The defendants plan to appeal.
Europe: destroying freedom to save it
European Union government ministers met in Paris Jan. 11 to condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo. But there is an Orwellian aspect to their reaction. A joint statement (PDF) issued by twelve EU interior ministers, including Bernard Cazeneuve of France and UK Home Secretary Theresa May, included the following text: "We are concerned at the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence... With this in mind, the partnership of the major Internet providers is essential to create the conditions of a swift reporting of material that aims to incite hatred and terror and the condition of its removing, where appropriate/possible." In other words, pressure on ISPs to shut down websites deemed objectionable by EU ministries, and rat out their producers to the Euro-cops—a notion rendered especially problematic due to the elastic nature of the word "terrorism." (To provide just a few examples, see here and here and here and here and here and here and here.) The statement was signed in the presence of US Attorney General Eric Holder. (Global Guerrillas, Jan. 12; The Register, Jan. 11)
Egypt bombs Libya —again?
Amid fierece fighting in Benghazi, AP cites unnamed "officials" as saying Egyptian warplanes have bombed Islamist positions in the eastern Libyan city. In the ongoing "Operation Dignity," led by renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a tank assault is currently underway against an area of the city controlled by the 17 February Brigade, according to Libya Herald. Meanwhile in Tripoli, the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition, led by Islamist militia from Misrata, has seized government ministry buildings and now controls their websites. The website of Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni—who now sits with his cabinet in the eastern city of Bayda—shows the picture of the man the Misrata rebels have declared as prime minister, Omar al-Hasi. Libyan Dawn, now calling itself the National Salvation government, has also taken over the website of the National Oil Corp. (Reuters)
US air-strikes fueling growth of ISIS?
The Sept. 23 US air-strikes on the so-called "Khorasan Group" near Aleppo on Sept. 23 killed 50 al-Qaeda militants and eight civilians—including three children and a woman—according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Pentagon said the strikes on the Khorasan Group "were undertaken only by US assets," while strikes against ISIS elsewhere in Syria included warplanes from Arab coalition members. (Daily Star, Sept. 23) The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reports that ISIS has recruited more than 6,000 new fighters since the US air-strikes began. One of Washington's favored rebel factions, Harakat Hazm, part of the Free Syrian Army alliance and a recipient of US missiles, issued a statement on Twitter denouncing the "external intervention"—meaning the US-led bombing campaign—as "an attack on the revolution." The group is demanding "unconditional arming" of the Free Syrian Army as an alternative to the air raids. (LAT, Sept. 23; Haaretz, Sept. 19)
First US air-strikes on ISIS targets in Syria
The US carried out its first air-strikes against ISIS targets in Syria on Sept. 22. In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the US used "a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles" launched from the USS George HW Bush in the Persian Gulf. Kirby said that because these strikes are ongoing, he could not give details about where they took place. But an unnamed Pentagon official told NPR the strikes targeted positions near Raqqa, the ISIS de facto capital. Planes from five Arab countries participated in the strikes—also not named by Kirby, although FoxNews identified them as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. There was no indication that the Syrian government had been consulted on the strikes, as Damascus had demanded.
Libya: who bombed Tripoli?
Unidentified warplanes carried out air-strikes on a small arms depot and other targets controlled by Islamist militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Aug. 18. At least six were killed in the strikes. The strikes were beyond the capacity of the limited Libyan Air Force, and Libyan authorities said the planes had come from a foreign state. The US, France, Italy and Egypt all denied responsibility. Also hit in the raid were camps along the road to Tripoli's airport, which is contested by rival militias. Another target was Tripoli's Mitiga air base, also controlled by Islamists. At least 100 have been killed in fighting in Tripoli over the past month. (NYT, Xinhua, Aug. 19)
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