Monday, January 5, 2015

Foreign fighters flow to Syria

An estimated 15,000 militants from at least 80 nations are believed to have entered Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad according the CIA and studies by ISCR and The Soufan Group. Many of these fighters are believed to have joined units that are now part of the Islamic State. Western officals are concerned about what these individuals may do upon returning to their native countries. Related story.

Map: Flow of foreign fighters to Syria
International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ISCR), The Soufan Group, CIA. Gene Thorp, Julie Tate and Swati Sharma. Published on October 11, 2014, 6:44 p.m.

What would Happen if the Int’l Criminal Court Indicted Israel’s Netanyahu?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) —
If the International Criminal Court takes up Israeli government actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, it could well find specific officials guilty of breaches of the Rome Statute of 2002. Article 7 forbids “Crimes against Humanity,” which are systematically repeated war crimes. Among these offenses is murder, forcible deportation or transfer of members of a group, torture, persecution of Palestinians (an “identifiable group”) and “the crime of Apartheid.” 
The Israeli government murdered Palestinian political leaders (not just guerrillas) and have routinely illegally expelled Palestinians from the West Bank or from parts of the West Bank illegally incorporated into Israel. They deploy torture against imprisoned Palestinians. Their policies on the West Bank, of building squatter settlements on Palestinian land from which Palestinians are excluded, is only one example of Apartheid policies. Getting a conviction on Article VII should be child’s play for the prosecutor. And there are other articles which Israel is guilty of contravening. 
If Israeli government officials or leaders of the squatters in the Palestinian West Bank were convicted by the ICC, would there be any hope of enforcement? Israeli firms doing business in the West Bank would be exposed to billions of dollars of legal actions in European courts and would be unable to sell their goods in Europe, if they were declared fruits of crimes against humanity and apartheid. If the legal actions were brought by Palestine, Israel would be ordered to pay it massive reparations.
The ICC can only work through member states. But it could authorize those states to capture and imprison Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, for instance. While it is unlikely that this could happen, Israel’s leadership might not be able to visit most of Europe, which would isolate them and much reduce their influence. The European institutions in Brussels would take an ICC conviction seriously. 
The African Union and the Arab world decided to protect Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from the ICC verdict against him. According to the African Union, he can freely visit African countries. But he cannot visit Europe or large numbers of other countries without risking arrest. And even in Africa, al-Bashir in 2013 had to abruptly leave the Nigerian capital of Abuja after only 24 hours because a Nigerian international law association filed a court case to have him arrested.
Over a third of Israeli trade is with Europe, and technology transfers from Europe are crucial to Israel. It could be kicked out of European scientific and technological organizations, where it presently has courtesy memberships. And Israeli leaders could end up being afraid to visit European capitals lest they be arrested, Pinochet style (even if governments ran interference for them, they could not be sure to escape lawsuits by citizen groups and could not be insulated from activist judges).
The world wouldn’t end for Israeli leaders if they were convicted, as it hasn’t ended for al-Bashir. But the consequences would be real and unpleasant, and over time could have a substantial impact. 

China is Ready to Support Russia

News | 04.01.2015 | 21:56 At the most tense period of currency turbulence in Russia when its enemies were noting with satisfaction that “the country is falling uncontrollably into the abyss of economic crisis and recession”, against Western rating agencies’ statements that they were going to review Russia’s ratings to the downside and declare them …
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German vice-chancellor warns West against toughening anti-Russian sanctions

News | 04.01.2015 | 22:14
German Vice-Chancellor, Economic Affairs and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned the West against toughening sanctions against Russia and causing the country to become economically weaker.
“Those who want it provoke an even more dangerous situation for all of us in Europe,” Gabriel said in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “Those who are seeking to even more destabilize Russia from the economic and political point of view are pursuing quite different goals.”
He said there are forces in Europe and the United States who “would like to floor their superpower rival.”
This can’t be in the interests of Germany and Europe, Gabriel said.
“Besides, if Russia is no longer a partner in resolution of conflicts, this will have very dangerous consequences for the entire world,” the German vice-chancellor said.
The goal of Western sanctions is to return Moscow to the negotiating table to peacefully settle the crisis in Ukraine, he said.
The positions of Russia and Western nations and Kiev on the Ukrainian developments differ radically. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the intra-Ukrainian crisis, but the West and Kiev accuse Moscow of “annexing” Crimea and participation in clashes in Ukraine’s war-torn southeast. Western nations have subjected Russia to sanctions.
Ukraine has been in deep crisis since the end of 2013, when then-President Viktor Yanukovich suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union to study the deal more thoroughly. The move triggered mass riots that eventually led to a coup in February 2014.
The coup that brought chaos to Ukraine prompted the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with a special status to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of coup-imposed authorities, hold a referendum and secede from Ukraine to reunify with Russia in mid-March 2014 after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.
After that, mass protests erupted in Ukraine’s southeast, where local residents, apparently inspired by Crimea's example, did not recognize the coup-imposed authorities either, formed militias and started fighting for their rights.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March 2014 after the February 2014 coup.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
The West announced new, sectoral, restrictions against Russia in late July 2014, in particular, for what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s southeast.
In response, Russia imposed on August 6, 2014 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
New punitive measures against Russia were imposed in September 2014.
Russia has constantly dismissed accusations of “annexing” Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum, as well as allegations that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.
Kiev’s military operation designed to regain control over the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Ukraine’s southeast on the border with Russia, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics, conducted since mid-April 2014, has left thousands of people dead, brought destruction and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.
Businessman and politician Pyotr Poroshenko won the May 25, 2014 early presidential election in Ukraine. Poroshenko had funded anti-government protests that led to the February 2014 coup.
The parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire during talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5, 2014 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
Numerous violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day, have been reported since.
A memorandum was adopted on September 19, 2014 in Minsk by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5.
The nine-point memorandum in particular envisioned a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibers of over 100 millimeters to a distance of 15 kilometers from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions.
A "day of silence" in eastern Ukraine began at 09:00 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) on December 9 last year. It is seen as another attempt by both parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict to put an end to hostilities.
Tags: European Union Germany Russia Ukraine US