Amnesty calls on US to suspend arms sales to Israel

Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel’s extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.

In a report released today, Amnesty International listed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the US president, Barack Obama, to suspend military aid to Israel.

The human rights group said those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.

The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director. “To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money.” [continued…]

Binyam Mohamed returns to Britain after Guantánamo ordeal

Binyam Mohamed, the former UK resident who has been incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay for more than four years, arrived back in Britain today.

The twin-engined chartered Gulfstream jet carrying him from the US detention base in Cuba landed at the RAF Northolt airbase near London at 1.11pm, finally ending a total of seven years in custody abroad.

Shortly beforehand, a welcoming party consisting of Mohamed’s UK lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith and Gareth Peirce, his US military attorney, Yvonne Bradley, and his sister, Zuhra, arrived at the airport to meet the flight. [continued…]

See also: Revealed: full horror of Gitmo inmate’s beatings

Binyam Mohamed statement in full

I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, “torture” was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim. It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways – all orchestrated by the United States government.

While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers. My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten. [continued…]

U.S. unit secretly in Pakistan lends ally support

More than 70 United States military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the country’s lawless tribal areas, American military officials said.

The Americans are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics, the officials said. They do not conduct combat operations, the officials added.

They make up a secret task force, overseen by the United States Central Command and Special Operations Command. It started last summer, with the support of Pakistan’s government and military, in an effort to root out Qaeda and Taliban operations that threaten American troops in Afghanistan and are increasingly destabilizing Pakistan. It is a much larger and more ambitious effort than either country has acknowledged. [continued…]

A three-pronged bet on ‘AFPAK’

In the two-front war that Washington is now calling “AFPAK,” there’s more head-scratching going on than is immediately visible. Yes, President Obama approved a Pentagon request to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. But at the same time, he has ordered a strategy review to make sure the United States isn’t marching blindly into what historians call “the graveyard of empires.”

Ordering troop deployments before deciding on strategy isn’t a great idea — as Iraq demonstrated. But the additional troops are only about half of what U.S. commanders have requested. “The decision on the 17,000 troops is not predictive of the outcome of the strategy review,” cautions a top Pentagon official. [continued…]

A ‘ticking time bomb’ goes off

After arriving here from Guantanamo Bay in November 2005, Abdallah Saleh al-Ajmi was transported by Kuwaiti security agents to a military hospital, where he was allowed to meet with his family. He was soon moved to the city’s central jail and placed in a high-security wing.

Every few days, he was taken to a small interrogation room, this time by officials of his own government who wanted to know what he had been doing in Afghanistan. Ajmi insisted that he never traveled to Afghanistan, that he never fought with the Taliban — that he had simply gone to Pakistan to study the Koran and that he was apprehended when he traveled toward the Afghan border to help refugees. He kept trying to steer the sessions toward a discussion of his nearly four years at Guantanamo and what had happened to him there.

After four months, a judge ordered him freed on $1,720 bail. He was later tried in a criminal court and acquitted of all charges. [continued…]

Iraq faces a new war as tensions rise in north

A new war is threatening Iraq just as the world believes the country is returning to peace. While violence is dropping in Baghdad and in the south of the country, Arabs and Kurds in the north are beginning to battle over territories in an arc of land stretching from Syria to Iranian border.

A renewal of the historic conflict between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, which raged through most of the second half of the 20th century, would seriously destabilise the country as it begins to recover from the US occupation and the Sunni-Shia civil war of 2005-07.

The crisis between the government of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the Kurds, who make up 20 per cent of the population, is coming to a head now because a resurgent Iraqi army is beginning to contest control of areas which Kurds captured when Saddam Hussein fell in 2003. [continued…]

Banking on the brink

Comrade Greenspan wants us to seize the economy’s commanding heights.

O.K., not exactly. What Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman — and a staunch defender of free markets — actually said was, “It may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring.” I agree.

The case for nationalization rests on three observations. [continued…]

U.S. eyes large stake in Citi

Citigroup Inc. is in talks with federal officials that could result in the U.S. government substantially expanding its ownership of the struggling bank, according to people familiar with the situation.

While the discussions could fall apart, the government could wind up holding as much as 40% of Citigroup’s common stock. Bank executives hope the stake will be closer to 25%, these people said.

Any such move would give federal officials far greater influence over one of the world’s largest financial institutions. Citigroup has proposed the plan to its regulators. The Obama administration hasn’t indicated if it supports the plan, according to people with knowledge of the talks. [continued…]

Americans would be lucky to mimic 1990s Japan

It’s time to stop debating whether the U.S. is becoming Japan.

The U.S. already is Japan with near-zero interest rates, a broken financial system and politicians who don’t seem to realize the severity of the economy’s plight. The only question is whether the U.S. will be so lucky.

Lucky? Japan? Well, yes. For all its rigidities and idiosyncrasies, Asia’s biggest economy never fully collapsed. It never got near a depression, nor did deflation get out of control the way many analysts predicted following the implosion of the 1980s bubble economy. [continued…]

Obama’s FDR moment

When President Obama addresses the nation tomorrow, he should not be distracted by Washington’s obsessions over partisanship and ideology. He needs, above all, to speak to the country’s raw fear.

In our battered industrial heartland, there is also a strong sentiment that the president should disentangle himself from Washington as much as possible, hard as that may be for a man who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. His obligation is to be the nation’s leader, not the capital’s ringmaster. It’s a message he’s already received, judging from his schedule in recent days. [continued…]

What Iran’s Jews say

I inquired how he felt about the chants of “Death to Israel” — “Marg bar Esraeel” — that punctuate life in Iran.

“Let them say ‘Death to Israel,’ ” he said. “I’ve been in this store 43 years and never had a problem. I’ve visited my relatives in Israel, but when I see something like the attack on Gaza, I demonstrate, too, as an Iranian.”

The Middle East is an uncomfortable neighborhood for minorities, people whose very existence rebukes warring labels of religious and national identity. Yet perhaps 25,000 Jews live on in Iran, the largest such community, along with Turkey’s, in the Muslim Middle East. There are more than a dozen synagogues in Tehran; here in Esfahan a handful caters to about 1,200 Jews, descendants of an almost 3,000-year-old community. [continued…]

Our friend in Tehran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the Iranian leader Washington loves to hate — has only a few more months left in his presidential term. But this is not cause for celebration. If President Barack Obama really wants to improve relations with Tehran, working with Mr. Ahmadinejad may be his best bet. In a speech earlier this month commemorating the Islamic revolution’s anniversary, an event normally reserved for anti-American rhetoric, Mr. Ahmadinejad declared Iran’s readiness to talk to the United States. The election of a new president in June could slam shut a rare window of opportunity.

Mr. Obama seems to understand this. He recently said that he will be looking for “openings” in the months ahead for face-to-face talks with Iran. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France cautioned that it would be wiser to hold off on talks until after the Iranian presidential elections. But this would be a bad idea. While it is too early to predict the elections’ outcome, Mr. Ahmadinejad is hardly guaranteed to win. Perhaps Mr. Sarkozy believes that the victory of a more moderate president, like Mohammad Khatami, would set the stage for more productive talks with Iran. In reality, Mr. Ahmadinejad may be the most capable of standing up to Tehran’s hard-liners. Mr. Khatami may not have the courage — or the clout among conservatives — to take the same kinds of risks. [continued…]

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