War of words erupts as John Kerry calls Beijing ‘provocative’ in South China Sea disputes

Foreign minister hits back after John Kerry calls Chinese actions in South China Sea ‘provocative’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 5:09pm

Teddy Ng and Agencies in Hanoi and Washington

Several thousand Vietnamese workers protested at Chinese-owned factories yesterday, vandalising some of them, as anger flared at Beijing’s deployment of an oil rig in the Paracel Islands. Photo: SCMP Pictures

China and the United States exchanged heated words yesterday over the recent tensions between Beijing and its neighbours about disputed territory in the South China Sea. Continue reading “War of words erupts as John Kerry calls Beijing ‘provocative’ in South China Sea disputes”

Here’s how the US could stumble into war in Ukraine

Jean MacKenzie April 25, 2014 15:48

Given Washington’s mishandling of the crisis so far, it is not out of the question.



The skeptics were right.

Just one week ago, as top diplomats in Geneva heralded an agreement on Ukraine that was supposed to defuse the crisis, many warned that tensions were too high to be easily resolved.

Now the situation has deteriorated even further, with clashes in eastern Ukraine that have left at least five people dead. Continue reading “Here’s how the US could stumble into war in Ukraine”

Ukraine Crisis Deepens as Sevastopol Votes to Join Russia

– The city, which has a separate administrative status from the rest of Crimea

Political map of Ukraine, highlighting Sevastopol
Political map of Ukraine, highlighting Sevastopol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
10:37 07/03/2014

MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s Crimean city of Sevastopol has voted to become part of Russia, mirroring an earlier vote by the region’s parliament and consolidating support for the majority ethnic Russian region to formally secede from Ukraine in an upcoming popular vote.

The Sevastopol city council voted “to join the Russian Federation as a subject,” the council said in a statement Thursday evening.

The city, which has a separate administrative status from the rest of Crimea, will still take part in a public referendum to formalize the decision, scheduled by the Crimean parliament for March 16. Continue reading “Ukraine Crisis Deepens as Sevastopol Votes to Join Russia”

Does the West need a war against Russia? Pravda

EEV: It appears they made this move, because they perceive the Western Powers as weak. They are already projecting additional scenarios for a possible violent escalation.
– The U.S. Sixth Fleet headquartered in Naples may enter the Black Sea, but it has to pass through the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, a move that Turkey that must authorize the passage of warships considers highly undesirable.
– Any decision on the land deployment of the U.S. forces or NATO near the borders of Ukraine is also hard to imagine. The West simply has neither resources nor desire to do this. All latest NATO’s military operations were air bombings.
– In Europe, Germany is generally averse to military actions, and is reluctant about getting involved even in peacekeeping operations. Paris is involved in Africa, and Francois Hollande has the lowest approval rating in the history of France
Does the West need a war against Russia?. 52315.jpeg

There have been remarkable changes in the U.S. rhetoric against Russia in the last few days. They ranged from threats to isolate the Russian Federation politically and economically to the acknowledgement that Moscow has its own interests in the Crimea, and Washington is ready to help Russia in “taming the hooligans.”

The change occurred after a telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.

On Sunday, immediately after the Council of the Federation gave Putin permission to conduct military operations on the territory of Ukraine in the event of extraordinary situations, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. and the West were “prepared to put sanctions in place, … prepared to isolate Russia economically.”

“There are visa bans, asset freezes, isolation with respect to trade, investment,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” “American businesses may well want to start thinking twice about whether they want to do business with a country that behaves like this. These are serious implications.” President Barack Obama mentioned that “there will be costs” if the troops are entered. Continue reading “Does the West need a war against Russia? Pravda”

Secret documents accidentally shown to photographers that revealed Britain would not support military action against Russia ‘do NOT reflect Government’s final decision’ says Hague

The document was revealed by deputy national security adviser Hugh Powell to photographers as he walked past No10 to attend a meeting about the crisis in Ukraine

After the blunder, No10 considers sanctions: Cameron orders ‘broad spectrum’ of possible actions against Russia to be drawn up

  • Cameron’s adviser Hugh Powell left file on display to photographers
  • Document revealed Britain will not impose sanctions against Russia
  • Will not support military action against the country either, it showed
  • Also disclosed Russian investors will not be frozen out of City of London
  • Hague and Cameron claimed today they would ‘get tough’ with Russia
  • Cameron told officials to draw up a ‘broad spectrum’ of potential sanctions

By Tim Shipman and Simon Tomlinson

UPDATED:          19:29 EST, 4 March 2014

David Cameron has today ordered plans to be drawn up for a range of possible sanctions against Russia after a No10 briefing paper was exposed to photographers

David Cameron has today ordered plans to be drawn up for a range of possible sanctions against Russia after a No10 briefing paper was exposed to photographers

David Cameron has ordered plans to be drawn up for a range of possible sanctions against Russia.

The move came as the Government sought to downplay the accidental disclosure of a briefing paper suggesting there will be no tough line against Moscow. Continue reading “Secret documents accidentally shown to photographers that revealed Britain would not support military action against Russia ‘do NOT reflect Government’s final decision’ says Hague”

Russian test-fires intercontinental ballistic missile

– The Russian defense ministry reports the test-firing of a Topol RS-12M intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday night as anti-US provocation

DEBKAfile March 4, 2014, 9:47 PM (IST)

The Russian defense ministry reports the test-firing of a Topol RS-12M intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday night as anti-US provocation. DEBKAfile: The IBMs, which normally carry multiple nuclear warheads, was fired from the Caspian Sea area and reportedly hit a target in Kazakhstan – just hours after President Vladimir Putin accused the interim government in Kiev of carrying out an unconstitutional coup d’etat against the legal the legal president and US Secretary of State John Kerry paraded support for the new leaders of Kiev and accused Russia of seeking pretexts for its aggression. The ICBM test appeared to refute reports of a calming of the tensions between Washington and Moscow. Continue reading “Russian test-fires intercontinental ballistic missile”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry: Threats of US Secretary of State against Russia unacceptable

March 03, 18:45   MOSCOW

“If Ukraine is only a territory of geopolitical games for certain Western politicians, this is the brotherly country for us,” the ministry said

ITAR-TASS/Boris Kavashkin

MOSCOW, March 03. /ITAR-TASS/. Moscow considers US Secretary of State John Kerry’s threats against Russia due to the latest events in Ukraine unacceptable, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Monday.


“By ignoring any attempts to study difficult processes in the Ukrainian society and to assess the situation, which continues to deteriorate after radicals seized power in Kiev by force the US Secretary of State uses ‘the Cold War’ clichés and proposes to punish the Russian Federation and not who committed a coup d’état,” the ministry said. Continue reading “Russia’s Foreign Ministry: Threats of US Secretary of State against Russia unacceptable”

Moscow pledges to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Russian flag raised in Crimea

– Gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles erected a sign reading “Crimea is Russia” and raised the Russian flag over the building. The gunmen wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of victory in World War II.

After armed men seized the Crimea parliament building and raised the Russian flag, the US says Russia has pledged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Kyiv’s new government has approached the IMF for help.


Russia has denied that Moscow had any hand in the takeover of the local parliament building in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital on Thursday. Gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles erected a sign reading “Crimea is Russia” and raised the Russian flag over the building. The gunmen wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of victory in World War II.

Later there were reports that similar gunmen had taken control of the airport of Crimea’s capital Simferopol. But the AFP news agency reported early on Friday that the airport was open, although a number of armed men in uniform were standing behind the exterior security fence. Continue reading “Moscow pledges to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Russian flag raised in Crimea”

Bizarre Complaint Stems From Auto-Complete




ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – The federal government is stalking a former contractor because Google auto-completed his intended search: “How do I build a radio controlled airplane?” to the unfortunate query “How do I build a radio controlled bomb?” the man claims in court.

Jeffrey Kantor, who was fired by Appian Corporation, sued a host of government officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry in Federal Court, alleging civil rights violations, disclosure of private information and retaliation.

“In October of 2009, Kantor used the search engine Google to try to find, ‘How do I build a radio-controlled airplane,'” he states in his complaint. “He ran this search a couple weeks before the birthday of his son with the thought of building one together as a birthday present. After typing, ‘how do I build a radio controlled’, Google auto-completed his search to, ‘how do I build a radio controlled bomb.'”

Kantor claims that unfortunate incident sparked the government’s bizarre campaign of harassment against him that ultimately got him fired. Continue reading “Bizarre Complaint Stems From Auto-Complete”

Iran says Obama administration LIED about details of nuke deal, claiming uranium enrichment will actually INCREASE

  • The White House published its ‘fact  sheet’ on the nuclear agreement a day before the text of the pact was officially  released
  • The Obama administration claimed the  agreement ‘halts the progress of Iran’s nuclear program’
  • Iran insists that it hasn’t given up its  right to enrich uranium
  • The Islamic republic’s chief nuclear  scientist now says enrichment will actually increase
  • Obama claimed Saturday that Iran ‘will  halt work at its plutonium reactor’
  • But Iran now says work at that facility  ‘will continue’
  • ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is  agreed,’ says a National Security Council spokeswoman

By  David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

PUBLISHED: 08:14 EST, 27  November 2013 |  UPDATED: 10:15 EST, 27 November 2013

When President Obama announced the landmark deal with Iran, he included some points that the Islamic republic says it never agreed to
When President Obama announced the landmark deal with  Iran, he included some points that the Islamic republic says it never agreed  to

Iranian officials claimed on Tuesday that the  Obama administration concocted a fact sheet on a landmark nuclear agreement that  doesn’t match what they endorsed over the weekend.

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham  said the version of the pact released by the White House ‘is a one-sided  interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and  words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action.’

At issue are several differences between the  White House’s summary of the accord and the plain text of  the agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other industrialized nations –  specifically the administration’s claim that Iran has agreed to stop enriching  uranium for the next six months.

Continue reading “Iran says Obama administration LIED about details of nuke deal, claiming uranium enrichment will actually INCREASE”

U.S. vows to defend Japan after China announces new air zone


Nov. 24, 2013 – 03:00PM JST ( 18 )

U.S. vows to defend Japan after China announces new air zone The disputed islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in ChinaAFP


The United States said Sunday it was “deeply concerned” and committed to defending Japan after China announced an air zone in the East China Sea that includes disputed islands.

In a move that U.S. ally Japan branded as “very dangerous,” China said it was setting up the “air defense identification zone” over the islands administered by Tokyo to “guard against potential air threats.”

In similar statements, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking from Geneva, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Sunday that the United States was “deeply concerned” about the moves by China, which also scrambled air force jets to carry out a patrol mission in the newly declared zone.

Continue reading “U.S. vows to defend Japan after China announces new air zone”

Spy fears: CIA, Pentagon ‘work against’ Russia building GLONASS station in US

 Boris Zyryanov, chief of division of electric and radio tests of navigating satellites, supervises the electric testing of the GLONASS-M space navigation satellite (Reuters / Ilya Naymushin)
Boris Zyryanov, chief of division of electric and radio tests of navigating satellites, supervises the 
electric testing of the GLONASS-M space navigation satellite (Reuters / Ilya Naymushin)

US intelligence and military are pressing the State Department not to license construction of monitor stations for Russia’s GLONASS navigation system on US territory, media reveals. The stations reportedly spark fears of spying opportunities.

Moscow sent a request to build monitor stations for GLONASS, a  Russian satellite system similar to GPS, on US territory in May  2012.

Continue reading “Spy fears: CIA, Pentagon ‘work against’ Russia building GLONASS station in US”

Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with US over response to conflict in Syria


  • Saudi Arabia is  an important ally to the U.S. as it provides a secure source of oil
  • Saudi diplomats  now promise a ‘major shift’ in relations with the U.S. over inaction in the  conflict in Syria
  • Secretary  of State John Kerry says he is committed to keeping a good relationship with the  Saudis

By  Reuters Reporter

PUBLISHED: 19:27 EST, 22  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 19:27 EST, 22 October 2013

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on  Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift  with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the  kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing  that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States  to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent  U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on  Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European  diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian  President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing  closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it  crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

'Major change': Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said the kingdom will make a  

‘Major change’: Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said the  kingdom will make a “major shift” in relations with the United States

‘The shift away from the U.S. is a major  one,’ the source close to Saudi policy said. ‘Saudi doesn’t want to find itself  any longer in a situation where it is dependent.’

It was not immediately clear whether the  reported statements by Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington  for 22 years, had the full backing of King Abdullah.

The growing breach between the United States  and Saudi Arabia was also on display in Washington, where another senior Saudi  prince criticized Obama’s Middle East policies, accusing him of ‘dithering’ on  Syria and Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In unusually blunt public remarks, Prince  Turki al-Faisal called Obama’s policies in Syria ‘lamentable’ and ridiculed a  U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons. He suggested it was a  ruse to let Obama avoid military action in Syria.

‘The current charade of international control  over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly  perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down  (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people,’ said  Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi  intelligence.

Inaction: The Saudis say they are getting upset by President Obama's inaction in dealing with the conflict in Syria 

Inaction: The Saudis say they are getting upset by  President Obama’s inaction in dealing with the conflict in Syria

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been  allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military  protector and Washington secure oil supplies.

The Saudi criticism came days after the 40th  anniversary of the October 1973 Arab oil embargo imposed to punish the West for  supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur war.

That was one of the low points in U.S.-Saudi  ties, which were also badly shaken by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the  United States. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Saudi Arabia gave a clear sign of its  displeasure over Obama’s foreign policy last week when it rejected a coveted  two-year term on the U.N. Security Council in a display of anger over the  failure of the international community to end the war in Syria and act on other  Middle East issues.

Prince Turki indicated that Saudi Arabia will  not reverse that decision, which he said was a result of the Security Council’s  failure to stop Assad and implement its own decision on the Israeli-Palestinian  conflict.

Picking sides: Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen here with bin Sultan, has sided with the Syrian government in the conflict 

Picking sides: Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen  here with bin Sultan, has sided with the Syrian government in the  conflict

‘There is nothing whimsical about the  decision to forego membership of the Security Council. It is based on the  ineffectual experience of that body,’ he said in a speech to the  Washington-based National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

In London, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry  said he discussed Riyadh’s concerns when he met Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal  in Paris on Monday.

Kerry said he told the Saudi minister no deal  with Iran was better than a bad deal. ‘I have great confidence that the United  States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and  allies that we have been,’ Kerry told reporters.

Prince Bandar is seen as a foreign policy  hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom’s rivalry with Shi’ite Iran,  an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle  East.

A son of the late defense minister and crown  prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favor  with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.

But he was called in from the cold last year  with a mandate to bring down Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past  year, he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian  rebels.

‘Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans  to limit interaction with the U.S.,’ the source close to Saudi policy  said.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he's confident the U.S. will continue to have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia 

Secretary of State John Kerry says he’s confident the  U.S. will continue to have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia

This happens after the U.S. failed to take  any effective action on Syria and Palestine. Relations with the U.S. have been  deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with  Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising,” the  source said.

The source declined to provide more details  of Bandar’s talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few  days.

But he suggested that the planned change in  ties between the energy superpower and the United States would have wide-ranging  consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil  exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi  central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated  in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

‘All options are on the table now, and for  sure there will be some impact,’ the Saudi source said.

He said there would be no further  coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have  armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.

The kingdom has informed the United States of  its actions in Syria, and diplomats say it has respected U.S. requests not to  supply the groups with advanced weaponry that the West fears could fall into the  hands of al Qaeda-aligned groups.

Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal also is outraged the international community has let the war continue in Syria 

Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal also is  outraged the international community has let the war continue in Syria

Saudi anger boiled over after Washington  refrained from military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus  in August when Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons  arsenal.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, a member of  the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democratic leadership, told Reuters’  Washington Summit on Tuesday that the Saudi moves were intended to pressure  Obama to take action in Syria.

‘We know their game. They’re trying to send a  signal that we should all get involved militarily in Syria, and I think that  would be a big mistake to get in the middle of the Syrian civil war,’ Van Hollen  said.

‘And the Saudis should start by stopping  their funding of the al Qaeda-related groups in Syria. In addition to the fact  that it’s a country that doesn’t allow women to drive,’ said Van Hollen, who is  close to Obama on domestic issues in Congress but is less influential on foreign  policy.

Saudi Arabia is concerned about signs of a  tentative reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, something Riyadh fears  may lead to a ‘grand bargain’ on the Iranian nuclear program that would leave  Riyadh at a disadvantage.

Prince Turki expressed doubt that Obama would  succeed in what he called an ‘open arms approach’ to Iran, which he accused of  meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain.

‘We Saudis observe President Obama’s efforts  in this regard. The road ahead is arduous,’ he said. ‘Whether (Iranian President  Hassan) Rouhani will succeed in steering Iran toward sensible policies is  already contested in Iran. The forces of darkness in Qom and Tehran are well  entrenched.’

The U.N. Security Council has been paralyzed  over the 31-month-old Syria conflict, with permanent members Russia and China  repeatedly blocking measures to condemn Assad.

Saudi Arabia backs Assad’s mostly Sunni rebel  foes. The Syrian leader, whose Alawite sect is derived from Shi’ite Islam, has  support from Iran and the armed Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah. The Syrian  leader denounces the insurgents as al Qaeda-linked groups backed by Sunni-ruled  states.

In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a  simmering pro-democracy revolt by its Shi’ite majority has prompted calls by  some in Washington for U.S. ships to be based elsewhere.

Many U.S. economic interests in Saudi Arabia  involve government contracts in defense, other security sectors, health care,  education, information technology and construction.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2472680/Saudi-Arabia-severs-diplomatic-ties-US-response-conflict-Syria.html#ixzz2iYkqHW3b Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Kerry fails to secure deal on US ‘troop immunity’ in Afghanistan

Published time: October 13, 2013 07:51                                                                            

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gives a press conference on October 12, 2013 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.(AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini) 

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gives a press conference on October 12, 2013 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.(AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini)

Talks between the US and Afghanistan to allow 10,000 American troops to remain in the country after NATO forces’ planned withdrawal in 2014 stalled Saturday on the issue of immunity for US personnel.

A long day of negotiations between US Secretary of State John  Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai yielded little result for  the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement, which would allow  between 5,000 and 10,000 US troops to stay behind, to continue  training Afghan security forces and to fight Taliban insurgents.

It is beyond the scope of the Afghan president and his government  to decide whether to grant US military personnel immunity, Karzai  told Kerry, adding that this “issue of jurisdiction” would  be referred to the country’s loya Jirga, an assembly of elders,  leaders and other influential people.

“We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be  resolved, then unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security  agreement,” Kerry told reporters at a Kabul news conference,  stressing, however, that an agreement was otherwise essentially  in place.

Kerry said only a partial deal was reached on just how many US  troops will stay in the country after the NATO pull-out next  year. Washington wants to take the lead in running  counter-terrorism missions after 2014, as well as to keep leasing  bases around the country.

But such unilateral actions as the capture in recent days of  Taliban commander Latif Mehsud by US forces have angered Karzai.

“This is an issue that we have raised in earnest with the  United States in the past few days, as we have all previous  occasions of such arrests in which the Afghan laws were  disregarded,” Reuters reported Karzai as saying.

Karzai wants a guarantee that the US will protect Afghanistan  from a potential Al-Qaeda invasion from neighboring Pakistan. He  said that during the talks an agreement had been signed to ensure  the welfare of the Afghan people.

“There will be no arbitrary actions and operations by the US,  and a written document has been given to guarantee the protection  of lives and properties of our people,” Karzai said.

‘Geopolitical games’

Lawrence Freeman, editor of Executive Intelligence Review, told  RT that the US’s “conflicted policy” in Afghanistan was drawing  out negotiations.

Referring to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 as a   “farce,” Freeman said that the US had no clear policy for  the future of the region. He said that the US needed to introduce  a serious development program rather than continuing with what he  described as a policy governed by “geopolitical games.”

“There are some people who think we should have a military  base in Afghanistan to have some kind of containment against  Russian ambitions,” Freeman told RT, concluding that the  West’s intervention as a whole was a “failure” when it  comes to “forward-thinking, visionary policy.”



Former Libyan rebels say seized prime minister over al Qaeda capture

Source: Reuters – Thu, 10 Oct 2013 05:59 AM

Author: Reuters

TRIPOLI, Oct 10 (Reuters) – A group of former Libyan rebels said it seized Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from a Tripoli hotel on Thursday because of his government’s role in the U.S. capture of a top al Qaeda suspect in the Libyan capital.

“His arrest comes after the statement by John Kerry about the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,” a spokesman for the group, known as the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, said refering to the U.S. Secretary of State.



Time Mag hides Putin’s success from US public

EEV: So, I guess it is not a conspiracy any longer, that us U.S. citizens are being insulated from international news. Hmmm?


Monday, 16 September 2013

Time Magazine’s cover for its September 16 issue features a picture of contented-looking Russian president Vladimir Putin, complete with an ominous black background and a damning caption that declares “America’s weak and waffling, Russia’s rich and resurgent.”

But Time’s editors are shielding Americans from the demoralizing picture, putting a cheerful, sky-blue photo on the covers of magazines distributed in the United States.

“It’s time to pay college athletes,” says the chirpy, non-political U.S. cover, which shows a ball-carrying football player with arm outstretched.

The cover most Americans saw at the checkout counter safely overlooked a widely perceived fumble by President Barack Obama that left Russia to carry the ball in the Syrian war.

Putin seemingly headed off a U.S. airstrike on his Syrian ally, while Obama, after extensive public agonizing, has seemingly agreed to token compliance with a weapons inspection regime.

The foreign-policy fumble prompted anger, embarrassment and amazement among professionals in the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, who slammed it as the biggest foreign-policy flub since President Jimmy Carter.

But it also prompted derision and delight among America’s enemies in the Middle East, including Iran, which is backing Syria.

The foreign covers acknowledge Putin’s triumph over Obama, telling foreigners that Putin “doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.”

The protective covers arrive as Time’s managing editor departs for a job working for one of the architects of the Syrian debacle, Secretary of State John Kerry.

In “early summer,” editor Rick Stengel was asked by Kerry, and immediately accepted, the job of running the department’s public diplomacy mission, according to Politico.

Months later, the appointment was leaked to two media outlets.

Throughout the summer, Stengel remained editor of Time while it covered U.S. politics.

Most often, the covers of Time magazine are uniform.

Periodically, Time magazine wraps its magazine in different covers for audiences in the United States, in Asia, in the South Pacific and the large “Europe, Middle East and Africa” marketplace.

Many of the different covers are non-political.

For example, the Nov. 5, 2012 U.S. cover featured the new movie about President Abraham Lincoln. The other three covers showcased the lead actor in the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis.

Time’s July 11 2012, U.S. cover featured an article about medical expenses, while the foreign editions showcased England’s soccer league.

This is not the first time the magazine has downplayed stories that might not put Stengel’s new boss — Obama — in a good light.

On July 2, 2012, the overseas covers featured China’s fast-growing manufacturing sector, while the U.S. cover was about “The History of the American Dream.”

The Dec. 5, 2011 cover featured an alarming picture of Egyptian street protests, while the U.S. cover told increasingly worried U.S. readers that “Anxiety is Good for You.”


A war the Pentagon doesn’t want

EEV: This is from the July 18th meeting. As you can easily see, Sen. McCain was already determined to go to war.

By Robert H. Scales, Published: September 5

Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general, is a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.

The tapes tell the tale. Go back and look at images of our nation’s most senior soldier, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and his body language during Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Syria. It’s pretty obvious that Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, doesn’t want this war. As Secretary of State John Kerry’s thundering voice and arm-waving redounded in rage against Bashar al-Assad’s atrocities, Dempseywas largely (and respectfully) silent.

Dempsey’s unspoken words reflect the opinions of most serving military leaders. By no means do I profess to speak on behalf of all of our men and women in uniform. But I can justifiably share the sentiments of those inside the Pentagon and elsewhere who write the plans and develop strategies for fighting our wars. After personal exchanges with dozens of active and retired soldiers in recent days, I feel confident that what follows represents the overwhelming opinion of serving professionals who have been intimate witnesses to the unfolding events that will lead the United States into its next war.

They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.They are repelled by the hypocrisy of a media blitz that warns against the return of Hitlerism but privately acknowledges that the motive for risking American lives is our “responsibility to protect” the world’s innocents. Prospective U.S. action in Syria is not about threats to American security. The U.S. military’s civilian masters privately are proud that they are motivated by guilt over slaughters in Rwanda, Sudan and Kosovo and not by any systemic threat to our country.They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about “red lines.” These acts would be for retribution and to restore the reputation of a president. Our  serving professionals make the point that killing more Syrians won’t deter Iranian resolve to confront us. The Iranians have already gotten the message.Our people lament our loneliness. Our senior soldiers take pride in their past commitments to fight alongside allies and within coalitions that shared our strategic goals. This war, however, will be ours alone.

They are tired of wannabe soldiers who remain enamored of the lure of bloodless machine warfare. “Look,” one told me, “if you want to end this decisively, send in the troops and let them defeat the Syrian army. If the nation doesn’t think Syria is worth serious commitment, then leave them alone.” But they also warn that Syria is not Libya or Serbia. Perhaps the United States has become too used to fighting third-rate armies. As the Israelis learned in 1973, the Syrians are tough and mean-spirited killers with nothing to lose.

Our military members understand and take seriously their oath to defend the constitutional authority of their civilian masters. They understand that the United States is the only liberal democracy that has never been ruled by its military. But today’s soldiers know war and resent civilian policymakers who want the military to fight a war that neither they nor their loved ones will experience firsthand.

Civilian control of the armed services doesn’t mean that civilians shouldn’t listen to those who have seen war. Our most respected soldier president, Dwight Eisenhower, possessed the gravitas and courage to say no to war eight times during his presidency. He ended the Korean War and refused to aid the French in Indochina; he said no to his former wartime friends Britain and France when they demanded U.S. participation in the capture of the Suez Canal. And he resisted liberal democrats who wanted to aid the newly formed nation of South Vietnam. We all know what happened after his successor ignored Eisenhower’s advice. My generation got to go to war.

Over the past few days, the opinions of officers confiding in me have changed to some degree. Resignation seems to be creeping into their sense of outrage. One officer told me: “To hell with them. If this guy wants this war, then let him have it. Looks like no one will get hurt anyway.”

Soon the military will salute respectfully and loose the hell of hundreds of cruise missiles in an effort that will, inevitably, kill a few of those we wish to protect. They will do it with all the professionalism and skill we expect from the world’s most proficient military. I wish Kerry would take a moment to look at the images from this week’s hearings before we go to war again.


A New Revolt of the Generals? – “embarrassed” to be associated with the White House’s bumbling of the situation

Sep 6, 2013By Paul McLearyin

Secretary of State John Kerry confers with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as they testify with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the “The Authorization of Use of Force in Syria” (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Back in the bloody Iraqi spring of 2006, a group of retired Army and Marine Corps generals including former Central Command chief Gen. Anthony Zinni and several two-star generals who had left the service after commanding troops in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, created a huge stir when they publicly demanded the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Dubbed the “Revolt of the Generals,” the episode sparked furious debate over the long-held tradition of former officers declining to publicly criticize their former civilian bosses—especially during wartime.

This morning, highly respected retired US Army Maj. Gen. Bob Scales wrote a sharp opinion piece in the Washington Post that exposes similar explosive issues within the Pentagon with regard to the possible war with Syria.

The difference here is that Scales makes his point about his displeasure with the Obama administration not as a former officer, but by using the opinions of what he claims to be “dozens” of active duty officers, all of whom he says are “embarrassed” to be associated with the White House’s bumbling of the situation:

After personal exchanges with dozens of active and retired soldiers in recent days, I feel confident that what follows represents the overwhelming opinion of serving professionals who have been intimate witnesses to the unfolding events that will lead the United States into its next war.

They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.

Twitter predictably blew up over the story this morning, but there are a few points worth hitting:

1.)    This is an an opinion piece, not a news story. Scales is offering his opinion as a private citizen, and he can therefore select his sources and use them as he sees fit to make the points he wants to make.

2.)    Scales said he spoke with “soldiers.” The Army isn’t currently being tapped to undertake any missions in Syria, and its lack of involvement is underscored by the fact that Army Chief Gen Ray Odierno is in New Zealand all next week for a Pacific summit with a few dozen allies. This doesn’t means that soldiers aren’t involved in the planning, but I would be more interested in what naval officers and pilots think.

3.)    Who did he speak with? How many are active duty, and how many retired? How many are on board with the potential strikes? How read-in to ongoing planning efforts are the officers he spoke with?

It’s no secret that chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey has pushed back against hitting Syria—his July 22 memo to the Senate laying out various military options against the Assad regime and subsequent comments have made that pretty clear.

The fact that he declined to make opening statements this week during testimony before House and Senate panels, and his terse, concise answers to direct questions further underscored his seeming discomfort with the attacks.

But like the soldiers the former general cites, Dempsey is saluting orders from his civilian bosses and planning those very same attacks. Scales says that the officers he knows are doing the same—but not before using him, as he uses them, to make their points.


Pictures emerge showing US Secretary John Kerry and President Assad dining in Syria together


Heather Saul

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Pictures have emerged showing the US Secretary of State John Kerry dining with President Bashar al-Assad, as Mr Kerry continued to push for a military strike on Syria following a suspected chemical attack.

The images, believed to have been captured in Damascus in February 2009, come in stark contrast to comments Mr Kerry recently made about the Syrian president, describing him as a “thug” and drawing comparisons between Mr Assad and Adolf Hitler over their use of chemical weapons.

Mr Kerry was visiting the region when he was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He met with Mr Assad at least six times, according to The Daily Telegraph.

During the visit, he said in a press conference: “President Barack Obama’s administration considers Syria a key player in Washington’s efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.

”Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region”.

The restaurant pictured is understood to be situated in Damascus’ Old Town, where Mr Kerry and Mr Assad were joined by their wives Teresa Heinz and Asma al-Assad, the First Lady of Syria.

Mr Kerry was also reportedly a strong supporter of the decision made by the US government to send an ambassador to Damascus in January 2011

N.Korea has everything in place for new atom test: US expert

N.Korea needs more tests to “miniaturise” bomb, an expert said. -Reuters     Wed, Jul 17, 2013  Reuters

VIENNA – North Korea has strong technical reasons to carry out another nuclear test but may be hesitating because it would anger China, a prominent US scientist who has often visited the reclusive Asian state said on Wednesday.

Stanford University’s Siegfried Hecker, who was shown a previously undetected uranium enrichment facility when he was last there three years ago, said the North had “everything in place” for what would be the fourth such explosion since 2006.

The impoverished country conducted its third nuclear test in February, prompting stiffer UN sanctions against it.

Like the United States and South Korea, China – North Korea’s sole major diplomatic ally – has urged Pyongyang to take steps to end its nuclear programme and to return to dialogue.

Hecker said North Korea “needed additional tests in my opinion to miniaturise”, referring to the effort to develop a bomb small and robust enough to fit onto a delivery vehicle such as a missile.

The outside world tries to monitor North Korea’s nuclear advances largely via satellite images.

Hecker said the North’s tunnel preparations had caused speculation that there could be two tests back in February, but this did not happen and one tunnel remained ready.

“There are strong drivers for them to test again,” said Hecker, believed to have been the last Westerner to visit North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex. “They have a tunnel that’s ready to go if they want to test again,” he told a seminar held by an international nuclear-test-ban treaty organisation in Vienna.

But China’s displeasure was an important reason “why I think they are hesitating now… The price they have to pay is mostly determined by China”, Hecker said.

China is North Korea’s most important economic and political backer, but the two are uneasy allies and tensions have grown.

Some Chinese banks have frozen out North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank amid frustration in Beijing over the North’s continued pushing of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured him that Beijing had been “very firm” with Pyongyang on its need to end its nuclear programme.

Hecker said he believed the North was weighing the benefits and costs of further testing: “The important part is to increase the cost … and the Chinese are absolutely key to that”.

North Korea said this month it would not give up its nuclear deterrent until Washington ends its “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang, but it was ready to revive international talks on its nuclear programme frozen since 2008.

Hecker, a former head of the US Los Alamos National Laboratory, said he was concerned about the possibility of cooperation between North Korea and Iran, which denies Western allegations that it is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

Any sharing of the North’s test data would be dangerous, he said, adding: “That would be very, very troublesome and indeed could give the Iranian programme a significant boost”.

An Iranian diplomat in the audience took issue with Hecker’s comment, saying Tehran “does not need any nuclear weapon”.

Hecker said he believed Iran had developed a nuclear weapon option. “Iran … has put all the things in place to be able to develop the bomb should it decide to do so,” he said.



I have watched Barack Obama transform into the security president

During his 10 years as the Observer’s correspondent in America, Paul Harris has seen a new toughness from the once fiery campaigner

Paul Harris contributor jan 2013


Paul Harris in New York

The Observer, Saturday 15 June 2013 11.11 EDT


Barack Obama 2004

Barack Obama giving the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Photograph: Ron Edmonds/AP

It is all too easy to look back on some moments in the past and claim their significance was obvious at the time. That it was clear – even as the event unfolded and you frantically scribbled details down in a notebook – that you were witnessing a historic moment.

Certainly that was the case when Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the 2004 Boston convention that anointed John Kerry as the champion of a Democratic party frantic to defeat George W Bush. Obama – then a state senator from Illinois – delivered one of the finest speeches in modern times. His oratory lit up that dull Boston shindig like 4 July fireworks.

Or at least I remember it that way. The morning after his speech, I trailed Obama through a series of events, seeking an interview. It was too late. He was already becoming a political rock star, viewable only behind a freshly minted posse of minders.

Change happens quickly in America; it is part of the genius of the nation. Four years after that night, Obama was in the White House, having ridden a wave of hope and optimism that made him a global hero and America’s first-ever black president. Four years on again, he would win a second term, defeating Mitt Romney and the Tea Party hordes at his back.

Surely that early promise of Boston had been fulfilled. Everything presaged in that remarkable 2004 speech had come true. I had indeed witnessed history in a glorious moment of its making. Sadly, I now think not.

Over the last two weeks, the world has seen an extraordinary series of revelations about the scale, size and activities of the National Security Agency under Obama’s administration. Though he came to power decrying the secret actions of Bush, Obama has embraced and extended many of the same activities. His NSA uses a secret court system to get permission for its shadowy work, hauls out “metadata” on millions of Americans’ phone calls, taps into the biggest and most powerful internet companies of the information age – Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Yahoo, Google – to monitor and snoop. Its tools have names like Prism and Boundless Informant, as if their inventors were all too aware that they resembled dystopian science fiction.

Yet Obama has flippantly dismissed the controversy. Resorting to the worst tactics of the Bush years, his message is: “Trust us. We’re the good guys.” And then Congress is briefed – in secret, of course – about the “dozens” of terrorist plots such industrial-scale espionage has stopped.

No one in that hall in Boston in 2004 could have imagined that the young, eloquent and inspiring politician would have transformed so dramatically less than a decade later. Yet the age of Obama is not one of hope and change; it is the era of the national security president. Obama has overseen increasing use of drones, in a targeted killing programme across the globe. No doubt they wipe out legitimate targets. But the drones also murder American citizens, such as Anwar al-Awlaki and his son Abdulraman in 2011, with no trial, amid a legal framework that – again – is kept largely secret. They wipe out wedding parties by accident. Any “military-aged male” in a drone strike zone is called a legitimate target, turning the innocent into the guilty to justify death from above. Then there is Guantánamo Bay, that bleeding sore on the face of American civil liberties. It is a tropical gulag of 166 men – more than half cleared for release but still kept behind bars – who are starving themselves out of desperation. Obama promised to close it  down in 2008. He failed. He promised again last month. But nothing has happened. Meanwhile, the regime inside the camp is growing more savage.

Obama has cracked down aggressively on whistleblowers, using the Espionage Act – a hangover from the first world war – more times than all his predecessors combined. He has presided over an explosion of over-classification, as millions of government documents are shuttered away from public eyes. His Department of Justice has collected the phone records of AP journalists and accessed the emails of a Fox News reporter.

It’s the stuff of conspiracy theorist fantasies. But these abuses of power are real and are playing out on the front pages of America’s papers every day. When the IRS searched for conservative groups to target for special treatment, it confirmed the worst fears of every rightwinger in America.

How on earth did we get here from Boston 2004? Bush – a cipher of a politician whose only belief was in his right to rule – surrounded himself with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and an army of whispering neocons. Obama does not have that excuse. When his staff meets to mull over the latest names in their killing programme – an event dubbed “Terror Tuesdays” – Obama himself is often present.

Neither is Obama ignorant of the law; he’s a constitutional law professor. In turning America into a national security state, the awful truth is that he knows full well what he is doing.

There are three more years of this to come. Involvement in  Syria’s war looms, and more terrorist attacks like the one that hit the Boston marathon could lurk in the future. Where will Obama take America in that time? Judging him on his past actions, I think it will be no place good.

Due to his race, Obama is often cast in the light of America’s civil rights movement and its heroic leader, Martin Luther King. Among King’s most famous words are his hopes that his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

That dream of King’s was what many believed Obama would one day fulfil. Perhaps he has, just not in the way anyone thought. In 2013 – amid drones, assassinations, mass spying, secret courts and tapping journalists’ phones – it seems that Obama’s race matters less and less, while his inner character is shining through for judgment. It is sorely wanting.



China breaking UN sanctions to support North Korea

As John Kerry arrives in Beijing, China continues to flout United Nations sanctions in order to prop up Kim Jong-un’s regime, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with China's Premier Li Keqiang during a meeting at the Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with China’s Premier Li Keqiang during a meeting at the Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing. Photo: AP

By , Dandong

8:00PM BST 13 Apr 2013

There was never any clue from the outside that a cheap apartment on the 16th floor of a tower block in the Chinese city of Dandong was in fact North Korea’s lifeline to the outside world.

But for nearly a decade, 1602 Huiyou Gardens was the Chinese office of an organisation described by American investigators as a “key financial node in North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction apparatus”.

Since it founded its Chinese branch in 2004, the Kwangson Bank, otherwise known as the Foreign Trade Bank, helped channel billions of pounds of valuable foreign currency to Pyongyang, money that was used to finance North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programmes.

So when the Chinese authorities shut down the branch office last month, 10 days after the United Nations Security Council imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea, it seemed a clear sign that Beijing had finally lost patience with Kim Jong-un’s truculent, unpredictable, and increasingly belligerent regime.

“It is a big hit for North Korea! China is implementing the UN Security Council resolution,” wrote one Chinese government-owned newspaper in Hong Kong.

Several visits last week confirmed that the branch office, conveniently close to the North Korean consulate, was indeed deserted. Neighbours professed amazement that the axis of evil had been just next door.

Meanwhile, at least two of China’s big state-owned banks were ordered to shut down their own accounts with Kwangson, whose imposing Soviet-style offices are in the heart of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, next to Kim Il-sung Square.

Dandong, a grimy city of nearly 800,000 people that is separated from North Korea by the Yalu river, is Pyongyang’s only major link to the outside world.

Full of smugglers, spies and military officers it often feels as if the normal rules do not apply in this shady border town.

Around 70 per cent of the £4 billion of annual trade between North Korea and China flows through the city, and there is, perhaps, another £6.5 billion of black-market trade.

A key oil pipeline here provides the rogue state with 80 per cent of its fuel needs, and China, which is Pyongyang’s only remaining ally, demands a high price for the privilege.

Dandong has also traditionally been the channel for the valuable foreign currency that North Korean leaders spend to acquire the imports they personally covet. Their shopping list includes luxury food and fine wine, Apple iMacs for Kim Jong-un, 30, as well as Chinese-built missile launchers and components for their nuclear arsenal.

But with tensions on the Korean peninsula at their highest for years, it is widely being suggested that the cosy relationship between China and North Korea is unravelling.

“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” said Xi Jinping, the new Chinese president, in comments seen as a sharp rebuke to Pyongyang.

If China really were to cool its relationship with its neighbour, this could dramatically change the situation on the peninsula. Indeed, without China’s support throughout its entire existence, North Korea’s regime might have collapsed long ago.

“China’s attitude towards North Korea has changed unprecedentedly since February,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, adding that a decision last week to halt Chinese tourism across the border at Dandong was another clear signal of displeasure from Beijing to Pyongyang.

Bonnie Glaser, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said: “The Chinese expected Kim Jong-un, who was brought up in the West, would come in and make some economic reforms – and, as a young man, would show some respect for his elders and for the people giving him food. But he has been nothing but defiant.”

She also said that a high-ranking Chinese military officer and the head of a major Chinese think tank had both told her last week that China was “taking action” against the North.

When Kim Jong-Un took over after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011, Beijing had expected him to follow the Chinese model of reforming the economy while keeping the political system under firm control.

But North Korean officials have fretted that embracing capitalism would not only undermine the ideology that keeps them in power, but also grant China dangerously unfettered access to their market.

In Dandong, Chinese frustration with the North’s intransigence is palpable. Billions of renminbi (or yuan, or hundreds of millions of pounds) have been poured into a joint economic zone that has now stalled.

The skeleton of what would have been a giant suspension bridge between the two countries stands forlornly at the site. Dozens of Chinese built skyscrapers, in anticipation of a boom, are empty and now, apparently, sinking into the soggy river banks.

Yet despite their frustration with Pyongyang, however, investigations in Dandong by The Sunday Telegraph last week suggest that the Chinese still prefer the devil they know. North Korea, even with its endless bluster and war threats, remains a country with which it can work, and represents a crucial buffer against what China sees as an American attempt to “encircle” it. If the regime collapsed, China would either be forced to take over the running of the country, or risk the possibility that it is subsumed into South Korea, bringing pro-western forces right to the Chinese border.

Which is why, on a single morning last week at the main branch of the Bank of Dandong, 11 people had no difficulty in transferring money from within China to the capital of North Korea despite the new UN sanctions.

While Kwangson bank may have lost its branch office, it is now possible instead to send money through this smaller local, but still state-run, bank.

Inside the branch, Wu Junhong, an assistant to the manager, held up a completed transfer slip. “Look,” she said, “We just sent across €15,000 to Pyongyang – it’s that easy.

“It takes one day, and you can send as much money as you like, there is no upper limit. And we offer five different currency options: dollars, euros, yen, Korean won and Chinese yuan.”

Ms Wu added that it was also still possible to transfer money from other banks in the city, but that the cash would be rerouted through the Bank of Dandong.

“You can use an account anywhere to send money to North Korea. It will just take you slightly longer and they will charge you for it.”

Before the raid that closed the Kwangson Bank’s office last month, account holders are said by some to have been tipped off, enabling them to come to withdraw their money in advance before it was frozen.

Wang Yuangang, a Chinese businessman in Dandong with a Kwangson account, said the closure had only been “an inconvenience”.

“I only had a tiny bit of money in the account,” he said. “Of course my business has been affected by what is going on, but not because there have been any sudden changes. It is only because the development of the economy has been very slow on the Korean side.”

Despite China’s public protestations, trade from Dandong continues to flourish. Each day, scores of lorries queue up outside the city’s customs house to transport grain, fertiliser and containers of goods into North Korea. And the city remains a magnet for rich North Koreans.

“They buy everything as soon as it is released,” said a young salesman at a store selling Apple products. “They buy the most expensive and best items. Some customers will come in and buy 40 or 50 iPhone 5s or iPads to take back with them.”

The Chinese are also accused of turning a blind eye to sanctions against what is now the North Korean economy’s only money-earning export – weapons. The country still produces ageing Soviet-era technology that finds black market buyers in some of the more bankrupt African nations, but much of it gets intercepted during routine inspections of North Korean ships.

During one interception in South African port of Durban in 2010, however, officials discovered North Korean tank parts and other military equipment, apparently bound for the Congo, that had been loaded behind sacks of rice in the port of Dalian in north-east China. Diplomats said it was suspicious that the parts were not spotted by Chinese customs agents – and believe that such illicit trade may still be going on.

“One of the main effects of the UN sanctions regime has been to authorise weapons seizures, but that will remain a largely ineffective measure until the Chinese implement it,” said a former Western diplomat.

And although the newest round of United Nations sanctions specifically ban the sale to North Koreans of luxury items including jewellery, gemstones, and pearls, the shops that line Qi Jing street in Dandong reported a brisk trade with customers from across the nearby border.

“We sell them necklaces like this one,” said a saleswoman at China Gold, pointing to a delicate floral filigree, studded with gems and priced at the equivalent of £3,600. “The North Koreans who come here are usually government officials or businessmen and they are really rich.”

Indeed, while few people have even heard of the sanctions in Dandong, even fewer seem to care about them.

At the Bank of Dandong, Mrs Wu laughed at the suggestion that the sanctions might have stopped the flow of money. “How is that possible?” she asked.

“Business is still going on. We have lots of people every day.”

Additional reporting: Colin Freeman

North Korea blocks access to key joint industrial zone

  • Apr 3, 2013
    • Online: Apr 03, 2013
    • Print: Apr 04, 2013
    • Last Modfied: Apr 03, 2013
SEOUL – Pyongyang told Seoul on Wednesday that it was banning access to their Kaesong joint industrial park, but said South Koreans in the complex would be allowed to leave, officials said.“The North this morning notified us that it will only allow returning trips from Kaesong and will ban trips to the complex,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung Suk told reporters.Kim said the North had not specified how long the ban would remain in effect.Describing the North’s move as “very regrettable,” Kim said his government’s first priority was the safety of the estimated 861 of its citizens currently in Kaesong.“We expect our people currently in the North to return safely,” he said.

The industrial complex, which lies 10 km inside the North, was established in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation.

The Kaesong industrial complex is a crucial source of hard currency for the regime in Pyongyang and seen as a bellwether of inter-Korean relations, beyond all the military rhetoric that regularly flies across the border.

The latest North Korean move fitted into a cycle of escalating tensions that prompted U.N. chief Ban Ki Moon to warn Tuesday that the situation had “gone too far” as the U.S. vowed to defend itself and regional ally South Korea.

The last time the border crossing was blocked was March 2009 in protest at a major U.S.-South Korean military exercise. It reopened a day later.

Tensions have been soaring on the Korean Peninsula since February since the North conducted its third nuclear test, having launched a long-range rocket in December.

In a rare show of force in the region, Washington has deployed nuclear-capable B-52s, B-2 stealth bombers and two destroyers to South Korean air and sea space.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, standing side-by-side with his South Korean counterpart,  Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, denounced Tuesday an “extraordinary amount of unacceptable rhetoric” from North Korea in recent days.

“Let me be perfectly clear here today: The United States will defend and protect ourselves and our treaty ally, the Republic of Korea,” Kerry said.

He was speaking after the North triggered renewed alarm by warning it would reopen its mothballed Yongbyon reactor — its source of weapons-grade plutonium.

The recent posturing by new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “dangerous and reckless,” Kerry said.

Earlier, Ban had warned the situation was veering out of control and stressed that “nuclear threats are not a game.”

“The current crisis has already gone too far. . . . Things must begin to calm down,” the former South Korean foreign minister said, adding that negotiations were the only viable way forward.

The North shut down the Yongbyon reactor in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord, and destroyed its cooling tower a year later.

Experts say it would take six months to get the reactor back up and running, after which it would be able to produce one bomb’s worth of weapons-grade plutonium a year.

North Korea revealed it was enriching uranium at Yongbyon in 2010 when it allowed foreign experts to visit the centrifuge facility there, but insisted it was low-level enrichment for energy purposes.

The North has substantial uranium ore deposits which provide a quick route to boosting reserves of fissile material, while plutonium has the advantage of being easier to miniaturize into a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Many observers believe the North has been producing highly enriched uranium in secret facilities for years, and that the third nuclear test it conducted in February may have been of a uranium bomb.

Its previous tests in 2006 and 2009 were both of plutonium devices.


Egyptian opposition refuses to meet with Kerry: Tells Kerry ” democracy is not just slogans but rules for all “

Sabbahi compares U.S. support for FJP to that of Mubarak

01 March, 19:27

    (ANSAmed) – CAIRO, MARCH 1 – Two leaders of Egypt’s opposition National Salvation Front (NSF), Hamdeen Sabbahi and Mohamed ElBaradei, will not be attending the meeting with U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry. The head of U.S. foreign policy will be arriving in Cairo on Saturday evening for a two-day visit.     The announcement was made by Sabbahi, former presidential candidate and leader of the Nasserist left, in an interview with the television network ONTV. ”We will make our decisions with our own minds, and Kerry must understand that our decision to boycott the elections is exceptional, since democracy is not just slogans but rules for all.” Sabbahi said Kerry should address ”the unjust power that barricades itself behind an unbalanced constitution and young people exposed to bullets”.
He urged the U.S., which ”supports democracy, to address the totalitarian regime and not the opposition”. ”Washington is satisfied as far as its interests go with the Muslim Brotherhood in power, since there is no difference between the power of Mubarak and that of Morsi,” he stressed.
During his visit, Kerry will meet with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, Defence Minister Abdel Fatah Sisi, Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby and representatives of Egyptian civil society. (ANSamed).

John Kerry: Americans have the right to be stupid

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

‘In America, you have a right to be stupid, if you want to be… and we tolerate that,’ Kerry said to a packed Internet cafe in Berlin. Kerry stopped in Berlin as part of his nine-country trip abroad – his first trip as secretary of state.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recalled for young Germans Tuesday when he snuck out of the American embassy in divided postwar Berlin at age 12 for a clandestine bicycle ride into the Soviet-controlled eastern part of the city.

‘I saw the difference between east and west,’ said Kerry, who had lived in Berlin in 1954 with his family and American diplomat father. ‘I saw the people wearing darker clothing. There were fewer cars. I didn’t feel the energy or the movement.’


When he returned home, his father was livid, he said.

He ‘got very upset with me and said: “You could have created an international incident. I could have lost my job.” So I lost my passport, and I was grounded and I never made another trip like that,’ Kerry said.

Today, Kerry said: ‘I never forgot and now it’s vanished. Now, so many other countries have followed with this spirit of giving life to people’s individual hopes and aspirations.’


Kerry addressed a town hall meeting Tuesday in a packed Internet cafe during a nine-country dash through Europe and the Middle East. The trip is Kerry’s first as secretary of state.
At the town hall, Kerry urged Germans to be tolerant, noting that in America, ‘you have a right to be stupid.’

‘In America, you have a right to be stupid, if you want to be,’ he said. ‘And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be. And we tolerate that – we somehow make it through that.



Clinton won’t testify on Benghazi due to illness

Posted By Josh Rogin      Saturday, December 15, 2012 – 7:55 PM


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won’t testify to Congress next week on Benghazi, after fainting and suffering a concussion Saturday and due to her ongoing stomach ailment.

“While suffering from a stomach virus, Secretary Clinton became dehydrated and fainted, sustaining a concussion,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines said in a statement. “She has been recovering at home and will continue to be monitored regularly by her doctors. At their recommendation, she will continue to work from home next week, staying in regular contact with Department and other officials. She is looking forward to being back in the office soon.”

Deputy Secretaries of State Bill Burns and Tom Nides will both testify in Clinton’s place, according to the office of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA).

“Secretary Clinton’s team contacted Senator Kerry this morning to inform them of the Secretary’s concussion. Senator Kerry was relieved to hear that the Secretary is on the mend, but he insisted that given her condition, she could not and should not appear on Thursday as previously planned, and that the nation’s best interests are served by the report and hearings proceeding as scheduled with senior officials appearing in her place,” said Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth in a statement.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) had already announced that Clinton would appear to talk about the result of the State Department’s own internal review of the events leading up to and during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. That review is being completed now by an Accountability Review Board (ARB) led by former Undersecretary of State Tom Pickering and including former Joint Chiefs Chairman ret. Adm. Mike Mullen.

But Dec. 13, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made it clear that Clinton could not yet confirm her attendance at the Dec. 20 hearing because the ARB was not yet completed. Moreover, the State Department is not agreeing to share the ARB’s report with Congress, only to be “transparent” about Clinton’s conclusions regarding the report.

Kerry is seen as the frontrunner to replace Clinton following U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s withdrawal from contention Dec. 13.




Benghazi documents available to senators only today and tomorrow, when most senators are not in Washington

Benghazi documents available to senators only when they are out of town

   Posted By Josh RoginThursday, November 8, 2012 – 12:16 PM Share

Under pressure from senators, the State Department is allowing some lawmakers to look at cables and other documents related to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, but only today and tomorrow, when most senators are not in Washington.

Congress is gearing up for a full week of Benghazi-related hearings next week, including a Nov. 13 hearing behind closed doors of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Chairman John Kerry (D-MA). Kerry has written two letters to the State Department requesting congressional access to information and documents related to the circumstances leading up to and during the attack that killed AmbassadorChris Stevens. Several sensitive documents have already been leaked to congressional offices and the media, so the State Department has decided to let some senators view Benghazi documents but not take them home.

“We are currently in the process of gathering and reviewing record responsive to Congressional requests. Our efforts have already identified a large volume of potentially responsive records that address the security situation leading up to the attack,” State Department Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs David Adams wrote to Kerry on Nov. 2 in a letter obtained by The Cable.

“To facilitate your committee’s work, we want to offer you and other members of the committee the opportunity to review these cables and memoranda. This set of material contains classified and other sensitive information… Mindful of these concerns, the Department is prepared to make copies of these documents available for the committee’s in camera review.”

One senior GOP Senate staffer told The Cable that State is only making the documents available for senators and committee staff to view today and tomorrow, which won’t actually allow the members to prepare for the hearing. Staffers for committee members are also not allowed to see the material.

“Funny since no member is in town,” the aide said. “The timing and limited access clearly demonstrates the administration cares more about playing politics with the tragedy than accepting responsibility.”

Committee members Bob Corker (R-TN) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent Clinton a letter Nov. 2 asking that the documents be sent to the committee, not just made available for viewing on a limited basis.

“Over the past several weeks, cables, emails and other communications regarding the security situation in Benghazi prior to and since the attack on our consulate have been leaked to some Congressional offices and media outlets, resulting in conflicting reports in the press. We have also called for the official transmittal of these documents and are still awaiting your response,” Corker and Isakson wrote. “On September 25, 2012 and again on October 3, 2012, we sent you letters requesting that all communications between the diplomatic mission in Libya and the State Department related to the security situation be transmitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without delay. We respectfully ask for an update on the status of our requests for these documents.”

UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) annouced the witness list for the Nov. 15 Benhgazi closed hearing at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The witnesses will be Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce,Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy,andNational Counterterrorism Center DirectorMatthew Olsen.

UPDATE #2: A spokesperson for Corker told The Cable that after Corker spoke directly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department agreed to allow staffers for Sens. James Risch (R-ID) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) view the documents while their bosses are out of town. Corker will be in Washington Friday and will view them himself as well, the spokesperson said.



Now even Democrats demand that Barack Obama comes clean over al-Qaeda and Middle East attacks

By Toby Harnden In Washington

PUBLISHED:14:39 EST, 28  September 2012| UPDATED:17:03 EST, 28 September 2012

Democrats, including Senator John Kerry, a  possible Secretary of State if Barack Obama wins a second term, have joined  Republicans in demanding answers as to why terrorists were able to murder the  U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The new Democratic demands as it emerged  that  no threat assessment was conducted before Chris Stevens, the  late U.S. Ambassador, and his team began ‘taking up residence’ at the  Benghazi compound.

A source told Fox news that the security  lapses were a ‘total failure’ and there was no proper security equipment  installed in the compound’s buildings apart from a small number of video  cameras.


The source said that on a scale of 1 to 10,  with 10 being the worst, the security lapses were a 10.


Kerry, the chairman, and all 18 other members  of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have written to the State Department  calling for information about violence in Libya and elsewhere across the Middle  East around the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The involvement of Democrats in raising  pointed questions about the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis, and  particularly the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens, could hand Mitt  Romney a fresh political opportunity.

After initially denying that terrorism was  involved – to much public scepticism from Republicans – the  Obama administration later changed its story, saying that operatives linked  to al-Qaeda were responsible for the attack that killed Stevens and three other  Americans in Benghazi.


The White House’s insistence that the attacks  were a spontaneous reaction to a crude anti-Islam film made in California, has  been widely ridiculed and debunked.

Foremost among the officials insisting the  attacks were not terrorism was Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United  Nations, who went on five Sunday talk  shows to deliver the now-discredited talking points.

On September 16th, Rice told NBC’s ‘Meet The  Press’: ‘First of all, there’s an FBI  investigation which is ongoing and we look to that investigation to give us the  definitive word as to what transpired.

But putting together the best information that  we have available to us today, our current assessment is what happened in  Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just  transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against  our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video.’

Rice is a rival to Kerry for the position of  Secretary of State in succession to Hillary Clinton, who has said she will step  down in January.

With Rice’s reputation severely battered,  Kerry’s case for taking over at the State Department – a position that needs  Senate approval – has been bolstered.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told  reporters on September 14th: ‘These protests were in reaction to a video  that had spread to the region. We have no information to suggest it was a  pre-planned attack.’

As recently late as last week, Obama said:  ‘What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage  over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also  directly harm U.S. interests.’

It recently emerged, however, that  intelligence officials knew within 24 hours that al-Qaeda was linked to the  attacks in Benghazi – prompting Republican accusations of lies and  cover-ups.

In the letter, the Senators posed a number of  questions, asking: ‘Please expand the accounting of the attacks against U.S.  missions in Egypt, Libya and Yemen beginning on September 11 2012, to include  attacks that took place at any U.S. missions from September 11-13  2012.


The letter, obtained by Foreign Policy  magazine’s The Cable blog, also referred to attacks on the U.S. embassies in  Sudan, Tunisia, and Pakistan and elsewhere.

Most pointedly, they ask ‘whether the U.S. or  the host governments had intelligence prior to the attacks on Egypt, Libya or  Yemen’ and whether any intelligence was shared with security  personnel.

Republicans have accused  the White  House of playing down the possibility of terrorism because in an election year  Obama wants voters to believe that al-Qaeda has been routed and is not resurgent  in any way.

ABC News has reported that intelligence  officials in Libya immediately suspected that the attack was not tied to the  movie.

They said the attackers knew where to get  Stevens after he fled to a safe house and used insurgent mortars to hit the  building, indicating a trained and experienced force.

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