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Month: February 2018

The Truth Behind the 1989 U.S. Invasion of Panama

The raid into Panama was the largest US combat operation since the Vietnam War. At the time the US trotted out various “noble justifications.”

The narrative was to overthrow the military dictator Manuel Noriega who was accused of drug trafficking and supressing democracy.

A key narrative was that Manuel endangered U.S nationals, similar to how Russia justified the invasion of Crimea and its intervention in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 – to “protect Russian speaking nationals”

But in an all too familiar fashion, this wasn’t the true story. Like Saddam, Noriega enjoyed US support and was actually recruited by the CIA before he turned into a wayward ally.

Noriega was recruited as a CIA informant while studying at a military academy in Peru. He received intelligence and counterintelligence training at the School of the Americas at Fort Gulick in Panama, in 1967. He remained on the CIA payroll until February 1988.

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The 1982 Hama Massacre – 36 Year On – Like Father, Like Son

February 2018, marks 36 years since the infamous Hama massacre of 1982 by the regime of President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. Like father, like son, both have committed grave crimes that has torn the lives of millions of Syrians.

During that bloody month nearly 30 years ago, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood members rose up in the city, killing hundreds of troops loyal to the Alawi-led regime of President Hafez al-Assad. In response, Assad conducted one of the most chilling acts of retribution in the modern Middle East: Forces under the command of his brother, Rifaat, leveled entire neighborhoods of the city, killing an estimated 20,000 people.

Hafez al-Assad’s crackdown on Hama began in the dead of night on Feb. 2, 1982, and continued over the next month until every neighborhood in the city was subdued or destroyed. While reporters stationed in Damascus were acutely aware that a bloody insurgency was underway in the city, they had little sense of its scope. On Feb. 24, the Associated Press quoted Western diplomatic sources saying that the fighting in Hama had “resulted in an estimated 2,000 casualties on both sides” — an approximation that grossly underestimated the number of people killed.

It was not until a year and a half later that reports of the Hama massacre’s true extent filtered into the international media. Amnesty International’s November 1983 report estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 people had been killed during the crackdown. The report also contained chilling details about the Assad regime’s methods of coercion. “I was stripped naked…. My wrists were then tied and I was hung up and whipped on my back and all over my body,” recounted a Syrian trader detained in 1980. “I was beaten on the toes until my nails fell out.”

Even then, Hama did not become a byword for the brutality with which Middle Eastern autocrats treated their subjects until the publication of Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem in 1989, which offered a blow-by-blow account of the massacre.

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Friedman recounted a conversation he had with a friend — a businessman who had been involved in several deals with Rifaat al-Assad — who said that the Syrian general had pushed back against some estimates of those killed as too low, not wanting to erode the fear that the Assad regime had instilled in the Syrian population. “What are you talking about, 7,000?” Rifaat reportedly said. “No, no. We killed 38,000.”

But Friedman’s and Amnesty’s reports were released long after Assad had consolidated his control, rendering their impact in Syria largely moot. At the time, reporters were not only constrained by the media blackout — they also had to contend with that old standby, fear of government retribution. On March 4, 1982, Washington Post assistant managing editor Jim Hoagland described the difficulty journalists in then Syria-occupied Beirut faced in reporting on the unfolding struggle. “One British journalist working the Middle East is convinced that some senior Syrian authorities did make a deliberate decision nearly two years ago to silence press critics,” he wrote, the result of which was the assassination of several Lebanese journalists and the shooting of a Reuters correspondent. “[T]he perception of danger has spread throughout the Beirut press corps,” Hoagland concluded.

Read original article by David Kenner on Foreign Policy here.

Read how the Guardian reported events.

In a three-week siege, Hama was razed and thousands died as Syrian security forces combed the rubble, killing surviving rebels.

SYRIA-ASSAD BROTHERS
 Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, right, with his youngest brother Rifaat at a military ceremony in Damascus. Photograph: EPA

The Syrian city of Hama was the scene of a massacre in 1982 when President Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president Bashar al-Assad, razed the city to crush a Sunni rebellion, slaughtering an estimated 20,000 of his own people.

Assad’s troops pounded Hama with artillery fire for several days and, with the city in ruins, his bulldozers moved in and flattened neighbourhoods.

The 1982 massacre is regarded as the single bloodiest assault by an Arab ruler against his own people in modern times and remains a pivotal event in Syrian history.

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James MacManus, in a dispatch from 23 January 1982, reports that government forces are laying siege to Hama as house-to-house fighting wipes out any opposition. He recalls a series of car bomb attacks in Damascus culminating in an attack on a shopping centre in which more than 100 people died, describing the attacks as “the high point, but by no means the end, of a campaign of terror and counter terror… which President Assad now claims to have won”.

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On 11 February 1982 the paper’s foreign staff report “heavy fighting” between Syrian government forces and dissidents in Hama, noting that the city is sealed off by military units and that there are no eyewitness accounts.

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On 24 February a Guardian editorial draws attention to the “merciless carnage” taking place.

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On 27 February Harish Chandola reports from Hama after the guns have fallen silent. He sees a column of smoke rising from the old quarter, where the fighting was the worst, noting: “I was not allowed to visit it. The security forces are tightly controlling entry and exit from the city to prevent the Muslim Brothers from escaping.”

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Nearly a year after the crackdown, the Guardian’s David Hirst reports from amid the ruins in Hama, talking to residents and officials about the razing of the city’s mosques.

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End.


 

A Short History of Rohingya Muslims

A Short History of Rohingya Muslims

The Rohingya, a people of South Asian origin, dwelled in an independent kingdom in Arakan, now known as Rakhine state in modern-day Myanmar.

The Rohingya came into contact with Islam through Arab traders. Close ties were forged between Arakan and Bengal.

In 1784, The Burman King Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Bengal.

Britain captured Burma and made it a province of British India. Workers were migrated to Burma from other parts of British India for infrastructure projects.

Japan invaded Burma, pushing out the British. As the British retreated, Burmese nationalists attacked Muslim communities who were governed by British colonial rule.

Britain re-captured Burma from Japanese occupation with help of Burmese nationalists led by Aung San. Rohingyas felt betrayed as the British didn’t fulfill a promise of autonomy for Arakan.

Tensions increased between the government of newly independent Burma and the Rohingya, many of whom wanted Arakan to join Muslim-majority Pakistan.

The government retaliated by ostracizing the Rohingya, including removing Rohingya civil servants.

General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party seized power and took a hard line against the Rohingya.

The junta began Operation Nagamin, or Dragon King, which they said was aimed at screening the population for foreigners.

More than 200,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, amid allegations of army abuses. The army denied any wrongdoing.

Bangladesh struck a U.N.-brokered deal with Burma for the repatriation of refugees, under which most Rohingya returned.
A new immigration law redefined people who migrated during British rule as illegal immigrants. The government applied this to all Rohingya.

More than 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled what they said was forced labor, rape and religious persecution at the hands of the Myanmar army.

Around 230,000 Rohingya returned to Arakan, now known as Rakhine, under another repatriation agreement.

Rioting between Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists killed more than 100 people, mostly Rohingya. Tens of thousands of people were driven into Bangladesh.

Tens of thousands of people were driven into Bangladesh. Nearly 150,000 were forced into camps in Rakhine.

Scores of Rohingya flee to Bangladesh because of a military crackdown in Myanmar and Burmese extremists burning Rohingya villages.

Some of the Rohingya were shot as they tried to cross the border, while others arriving by boat were pushed away by Bangladeshi border guards.

The situation is now very intense in what has been described as a genocide and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya.

Rohingya’s have often been called the most persecuted minority in the world, unable to claim citizenship in Myanmar, or in any other country.

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The Geopolitics of Bangladesh

South Asia is a region of great significance in world politics. Geopolitically, the region plays a vital role in the world economy.

Bangladesh is surrounded by India almost entirely on three sides except for a small but significant border with Myanmar.

For India, Bangladesh’s location is a strategic wedge between mainland India and India’s North Eastern states.

Each of the seven states of the Indian Union is land-locked and has a shorter route to the sea through Bangladesh.

The navigable rivers in India’s Northeast that could connect West Bengal or Orissa ports pass through Bangladesh.

The only entry to and exit from the North-eastern region of India is the Shiliguri Corridor that is close to the Chinese border.

Bangladesh provides easy land access to Southeast Asian countries that are important for India’s Look East Policy.

 

Bangladesh has also been constantly important in China’s foreign policy since military and economic ties began in 1976.

The growing connectivity and possible land connection enhances Bangladesh’s importance to China.

In it’s quest for natural resources, China is known to have interest in Bangladesh’s energy sector.

China enjoys access to the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar, which is very important in the context of Sino-US-India geopolitics.

The Relationship with China also enhances Bangladesh’s strategic relationship with Myanmar.

Myanmar is seen as an important linchpin in the strategic equation in north Bay of Bengal, hotly contested by China and India.

Washington : President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hug while making statements in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. AP/PTI(AP6_27_2017_000042B)

In this context, the Indo-US relations are regarded as synergic moves by both to counter Chinese influence in South Asia.

The US attention is drawn towards Chinese incursion in the Indian Ocean that is critical in the event of East Asian conflicts.

The Decline of the British Empire

For two centuries an Island twenty miles off the European mainland had acquired an empire spanning every continent.

By 1900, it encompassed modern-day India, Pakistan, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, along with much of the African Continent.

It exerted a strong influence, sometimes equivalent to de facto control, over Latin America, the Persian Gulf, and Egypt.

The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Britain had become the “workshop of the world,” and by 1880 it accounted for almost a quarter of the world’s manufacturing output and trade.

Its investments powered global growth, and its fleets protected global trade. Niall Ferguson explained, Britain was “both policeman and banker to the world . . . the first true superpower.”

Britain thus saw itself, and expected others to see it, as number one.

But there were alarming signs by the end of the 19th century that Britain was declining relative to other powers.

In 1899, war with the Boers (descendants of Dutch settlers in what is today South Africa) broke out. Britain had not fought a well-trained adversary with modern weapons for a half century.

The numerically inferior but determined Boers inflicted a series of humiliating defeats on their more powerful enemies.

As he had done earlier in India and Sudan, Churchill rushed to join the fight, only to be captured by the Boers.

The world’s newspapers followed the tale of his subsequent escape and flight to freedom.

Britain eventually won the war, but at immense cost, shaking its imperial reputation.

The German general staff studied the Boer War carefully, concluding, as Paul Kennedy puts it, that “Britain would find it impossible to defend India against a Russian assault,” and “without a total reorganization of its military system, the empire itself would be dissolved within two decades.”

Meanwhile, a host of rivals were chipping away at the substantial head start in science and industry that had cemented Britain’s number-one position following its hard-fought victory over Napoleonic France in 1815.

After the American Civil War and Bismarck’s success in unifying Germany in 1871, Britain watched others adopt its technologies, grow their economies faster, and emerge as peer competitors.

London worried about four rivals in particular: Russia, France, the United States, and Germany.

With the biggest army in Europe, its third-greatest fleet, a rapidly growing industrial base, and the largest landmass of any nation, Russia cast quite a shadow.

New railways enabled Moscow to project power farther and faster than ever before, while its continuous expansion moved its borders steadily closer to British spheres of influence in central, western, and southern Asia.

Despite its weak industrial base, France was an imperial competitor—indeed, the world’s second-largest empire. Colonial disputes led to frequent friction with London and occasional war scares. In 1898, France was forced to back down from a confrontation over Fashoda (in the modern state of South Sudan) when it realized it had no chance of winning a naval conflict.

But maintaining the Two-Power Standard to match the combined power of the expanding French and Russian navies put increasing pressure on British budgets.

The United States, meanwhile, had emerged as a continental power that threatened British influence in the Western Hemisphere

With a population almost twice that of Britain, seemingly endless natural resources, and a hunger for growth, America would have surprised the world had it not outstripped Britain’s industrial might.

The US economy overtook Britain’s (although not its empire overall) by about 1870 and never looked back.

By 1913, Britain accounted for only 13 percent of global manufacturing output, down from 23 percent in 1880; the US, by contrast, had risen to 32 percent.

Backed by a modernizing navy, Washington had begun asserting itself ever more aggressively in the Western Hemisphere.

After London and Washington went to the brink of war over Venezuela’s borders in 1895 (see chapter 5 ), the British prime minister advised his finance minister that war with the United States “in the not distant future has become something more than a possibility: and by the light of it we must examine the estimates of the Admiralty.”

He warned that war with the US was “much more of a reality than the future Russo-French coalition.”

Another industrial phenomenon with growing naval ambitions lay much closer to home.

Since its victory over France and unification under Bismarck, Germany had become the strongest land power in Europe, with an economic dynamism to match.

German exports were now fiercely competitive with British products, making Berlin a formidable commercial rival.

Before 1900, however, the British Empire saw it more as an economic than a strategic threat. Indeed, a number of senior British politicians favored a German alliance, and some tried to broker one.

By 1914, London’s calculations had changed completely. Britain found itself fighting alongside its former rivals Russia and France (and later the US) to prevent Germany from gaining strategic mastery in Europe.

In Britain’s case, that fear was concentrated by a growing German fleet that could only be intended for use against the Royal Navy.

Extract from the book “Destined for War” by Graham Allison. If you are interested in purchasing this book, buying it using the link below will generate KJ Vids a small commission towards our venture which would be very helpful. Thank you.

Muslim groups hit back at Ofsted claims of fundamentalism at UK schools

Amanda Spielman, chief of Ofsted, claimed that some community leaders had been attempting to inculcate ‘extremist ideology’

Armed British Transport Police officers patrol the Eurostar platforms at St Pancras railway station (AFP)

Muslims groups criticised a warning by the head of England’s school inspection body for saying that religious fundamentalist groups were attempting to inflitrate schools and “pervert education”.

Amanda Spielman, chief of Ofsted, warned that some community leaders had been attempting to inculcate “extremist ideology”.

“Rather than adopting a passive liberalism that says anything goes, for fear of causing offence, schools leaders should be promoting a muscular liberalism,” Spielman told a conference held by the Church of England in London.

“That sort of liberalism holds no truck for ideologies that seek to close minds or narrow opportunity. Occasionally that will mean taking uncomfortable decisions or having tough conversations.

“It means not assuming that the most conservative voices in a particular faith speak for everyone.”

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), described the conference as “appalling”, citing a lack of consultation.

“Not again by Ofsted: no consultation, no empathy with Muslim children/parents, disproportionate focus on Muslim children, falling into the trap of ‘muscular liberalism’ & at venue at Church of England schools conference. Appalling,” he tweeted.

Spielman’s comments came off the back of a controversy in east London where a head teacher tried to stop girls under the age of eight from wearing a headscarf in the classroom.

Zubaida Haque, of the Runnymede Trust, told BBC News that there was a disturbing lack of consultation with local communities in east London where children attended the school.

She added that in most cases young girls wore the headscarf because they wanted to emulate their mothers.

View image on Twitter

Neena Lall, of St Stephen’s state primary in east London, was subjected to abuse after trying to get young girls to stop wearing the headscarf. She also attempted to get some children to stop fasting during Ramadan.

Spielman told the conference that she would be defending the rights of head teachers to dictate uniform policy in their schools.

“It is a matter of deep regret that this outstanding school has been subject to a campaign of abuse by some elements within the community,” she said.

“I want to be absolutely clear – Ofsted will always back heads who take tough decisions in the interests of their pupils.”One of Britain’s leading counterterrorism officers has warned of the threat of children trained by the Islamic State group returning to the UK.

Danger of returning Islamic State children

The news comes as Commander Dean Haydon, the head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command, told the London Evening Standard that police needed to safeguard children returning from Iraq and Syria – but warned that they also posed a “risk” as well.

“Some terror groups are training children to commit atrocities,” he said.

“We need to not just understand the risk the mother poses but the risk that any child poses as well. We look at them on a case-by-case basis and they may be arrested.”

He said that police were carrying out DNA tests on children who had been born in IS-controlled territories so as to establish their identity and right to live in the UK.

[UK terror threat level] currently stands at severe, which means an attack is highly likely

– Dean Haydon, Metropolitan Police

“If a mother turns up with a stateless child, born in Syria, we need to be satisfied that that child actually belongs to that mother because we have had instances of kids trying to be smuggled back into the UK but not actually belonging to that parent,” said Haydon.

Less than five potentially stateless children are thought to have returned to the UK with British mothers who had gone to Syria and married IS militants.

Haydon said police had identified all of the 850 or so British citizens who travelled to Syria in the past three years. Around 50 percent have returned and 15 percent were killed in fighting.

He said there was a “a plan in place for every single person” and that fewer than 10 people returned from Iraq and Syria last year, primarily women and children.

According to the Evening Standard, officials are also monitoring 3,000 “subjects of interest” and 20,000 individuals are still “potentially a concern” in the UK.

“I cannot give a timeline when I think the threat will come down,” said Haydon.

“It currently stands at severe, which means an attack is highly likely.”

 

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