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Archive | September, 2011

Document details Martelly plan for new Haiti army

Haiti has not had a military since it was disbanded in 1995 under President Jean-Bertrand Aristide after years of coups and human rights abuses. Some Haitians have said in recent months they welcome the creation of a new army, a reflection of patriotism but also of the expectation that it would create jobs in an impoverished country.

Human rights groups have expressed uneasiness with the idea of restoring a military that was notorious for abuses.

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Baby Steps Towards an Asian NATO

In our recent report on an Asian alliance structure for the 21st century—principally authored by my colleague Dan Blumenthal—we argued that in order to balance against China’s rising power, the United States should work towards a more tightly knit grouping of allies in Asia. We attempted to preempt the conventional counter-argument—that “the allies would never choose sides between the United States and China”—by pointing to the military modernization that is happening across the board in Asia: countries in East, Southeast, and South Asia are all fielding new, more modern capabilities in response to China’s own build-up. As we wrote, it looks to us as if “the allies have made a choice without being asked: they are balancing against China’s power.”

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Georgia again suggests to the United States the deployment of the ABM system on its territory

Georgia again suggests to the United States the deployment of the ABM system on its territory.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has again suggested to the United States the deployment of part of the ABM system on its territory. The U.S. responded with restraint to the initiative, however.

Georgia wishes to replace Turkey in the anti-ballistic-missile shield, which is being created, The Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

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Ecuador crime fears see soldiers used for police duties

La Marin is not only one of the busiest bus stations in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, but also one of the city’s crime hotspots with frequent muggings and thefts.

Angela Nunez works here every day, selling tram tickets at a makeshift stand. She has witnessed several assaults and robberies and does not feel safe handling money in such an exposed place, with thousands of people passing through every hour.

But today three soldiers in full assault gear are guarding the area, reassuring Ms Nunez.

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Coming soon: Robots in the sky that recognize and track you

Military research has been the source of a number of modern technologies, most notably the Internet.

But now, the Army just issued contracts to develop two technologies that don’t seem as fun as, say, poking someone on Facebook.

The contracts, which Wired reports are for work on surveillance projects, could make drones more adept at targeting specific individuals.

One is to develop drones with strong facial recognition that prevents the drone from losing a face in a crowd. Others are for machines that can integrate intelligence data with information from an informant to determine your intent.

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Region Watch: Storm clouds over eastern Mediterranean

Early this week, the US-based Noble Energy Company began exploratory drilling for offshore gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus. They did so with the agreement of the Nicosia authorities, in an area indisputably located within Cypriot territorial waters. Despite this, there was real concern that the drilling could face interference from Turkish navy ships on maneuvers in the area.

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Backlash: US ‘threat’ unites Pakistan

U.S. accusations that Pakistan is supporting Afghan insurgents have triggered a nationalist backlash and whipped up media fears of an American invasion, drowning out any discussion over the army’s long use of jihadi groups as deadly proxies in the region.

The reaction shows the problem facing the United States as it presses Pakistan for action: Strong statements in Washington provoke a negative public response that makes it more difficult for the army to act against the militants — even if it decided it was in the country’s interest to do so.

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Guinea police clash with tire-burning protesters

Protesters barricading roads and burning tires fought with security forces in Guinea’s capital Conakry on Wednesday in the second straight day of street violence, witnesses and a police official said.

Tensions have been rising in the West African state before parliamentary elections that the main opposition party says are being rigged in advance by President Alpha Conde. Fighting on Tuesday left three dead, hospital and police sources said.

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Russian military spy chief to resign amid controversy

The head of Russia’s military intelligence the GRU is set to resign amid a growing controversy within the ultra-secretive service over a restructuring drive, reports said on Wednesday.

Alexander Shlyakhturov, 63, a career GRU operative whose identity is so secret that not a single photograph of him exists in the public domain, has spearheaded a shake-up of the service since his appointment in 2009.

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Pakistan lobbying for defence pact with China

Pakistan seems to have been secretly lobbying in recent months for a bilateral defence pact with China. The efforts have been met with caution in Beijing, however, and officials say there is little hope for an immediate breakthrough.

Diplomatic and military officials told The Express Tribune that Pakistan made overtures to China early this year when its relationship with the US was weakened by several controversies. Islamabad used backdoor and regular diplomatic channels in an attempt to convince the Chinese leadership that the agreement was mutually beneficial

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Iran says could deploy navy near U.S. coast: Report

Iran raised the prospect on Tuesday of sending military ships close to the United States’ Atlantic coast, in what would be a major escalation of tensions between the long-standing adversaries.

“Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders,” the head of the Navy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

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Dengue fever: CIA’s bio attack on Pak suspected

Fears are growing in Pakistan that the spread of dengue fever also known as break-bone fever may have been caused by some kind of biological experiment or deliberate release of virus by foreign elements.

Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) representatives have called on security agencies to investigate fears of deliberate spread of dengue virus in Pakistan. According to a report, the PMA members and experts have demanded in-depth investigation over mysterious spread of Dengue virus in Punjab.

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EU should prepare for default, Soros warns

GREECE may be unable to avoid defaulting on its sovereign debts and Europe should prepare for that event to ease reaction in financial markets, billionaire investor George Soros said.

“Greece needs to do everything it can to avoid default, but it may not be able to,” Soros said on a panel at the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington.

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Has Egypt’s revolution become a military coup?

Just days after the departure of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, the nation’s new, self-appointed military leaders pledged, within six months, a swift transition to civilian rule.

Crowds of the same protesters that demanded Mubarak’s ouster cheered as their army said it would steer the nation toward a “free, democratic system.” Seven months later, however, many Egyptians are finding that little has changed.

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R2P is the New COIN: Slaughter on Authority and International Law

This is the second part of a series analyzing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s ideas about ”Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, based on her Stanford Journal of International Law article, “Sovereignty and Power in a Networked World Order“, to better understand and critique the assumptions on which R2P rests. The topic will be Dr. Slaughter’s uses and conceptualization of “Authority” as it relates to international law and state sovereignty.

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Belarus: Trading Political Prisoners for Loans

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is releasing political prisoners in hope of getting loans from the IMF. After the unexpected pardons over recent weeks, only about a dozen political prisoners remain in Belarusian jails. Among them are Lukashenko’s rivals in the December 2010 presidential elections, serving up to six years of hard labour.

Insiders warn that this is not a thaw, just a new step in the regime’s strategy. One of the released dissidents, Alexander Atroshchanko, has said prison authorities were openly calling the inmates “hostages” and “commodities” to be traded for loans.

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‘Iran, Russia, China mulling joint missile shield’

Unofficial sources have announced that Iran, Russia, and China are currently holding talks on a proposal to establish a joint missile defense shield as a counterweight to a NATO defense shield, according to a recent report.

The report, which was published in the Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan on Sunday, said that the sources cited two reasons why serious consultations have been held on the initiative.

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120 arrested during Bulgaria Roma clashes

Police and elite national troops patrolled the streets of Katunitsa at the weekend after several houses were set alight and cars owned by a local Roma clan leader were trashed.

The violence in Katunitsa, southeast of Bulgaria’s second-largest city of Plovdiv, ignited on Friday night when a 19-year-old man was struck and killed by a mini-bus driven by a man linked to local self-proclaimed “Gypsy Tsar” Kiril Raskov.

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Pak Army’s ‘cost benefit analysis’ reveals ‘futility of escalating tension’ with US

Pakistan’s top Army Commanders have agreed that tension should be defused between Islamabad and Washington, in a meeting held on Sunday to discuss a crisis situation that evolved following the US’ accusation that the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) is linked to the Haqqani insurgent network.

A source aware of the discussions at the conference has revealed that de-escalation efforts were discussed during the meeting.

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Battle for Syria’s future enters a new, more dangerous phase

Six months after the Syrian uprising began it seems clear that peaceful protests aimed at overthrowing the regime and ousting President Bashar al-Assad have failed. With no prospect of meaningful national dialogue in sight, the conflict now appears to be shifting into a new, infinitely more hazardous phase: the weaponisation of the revolution. Syria is moving inexorably from Arab spring to an ever darker, dangerous winter of discontent.

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Death before pay for CIA’s Air America

The United States Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) has again refused to recommend paying federal retirement benefits to the surviving employees of Air America, despite overwhelming evidence the legendary secret airline was created, controlled and funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during 25 years of service in Indochina.

In a long-delayed report to the US Congress in late July, the DNI said granting retirement benefits and civil service status would “undermine national security proprietaries, creating a costly precedent for granting such benefits to other proprietary employees and would not stand legal or public scrutiny”.

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US police ‘maced peaceful protesters’ in New York

The Occupy Wall Street campaign said police confined a small number of protesters before spraying them with mace. Clips of the alleged incident have appeared across social media – however, Channel 4 News cannot verify the footage independently.

The New York Police Department has so far not responded to a Channel 4 News request for its response to the allegations.

Protesters say they want to show their anger at, among other things, corporate greed and social inequality. So far, it is reported more than 100 people have been arrested.

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Thousands in Morocco demonstrate for major political reform

Thousands of protesters took out to the streets in several cities across Morocco on Sunday evening to demand political reform, unappeased by a recently-agreed package limiting the powers of King Mohammed VI.

The largest demonstrations were seen in Casablanca’s Sebata district and in the northern city of Tangiers, where an estimated 100,000 people responded to a call for demonstration by the February 20 Movement, popular Moroccan news website Hespress reported Monday.

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CIA enjoying relations with many terrorist groups: Hina

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said that Haqqani network was established by United States, adding that CIA also has relations with many terrorist groups.

She said that the US should avoid testing temperament of Pakistan, adding that Pakistan has the right to use options if US would continue blaming Pakistan and the doors of dialogue would be closed due the controversial statements of US leaders.

In an interviews with an Arab and US TV channels , she said that US cannot provide any proofs, adding that US itself established Haqqani network and leveling allegations on Pakistan for ties with Haqqani network.

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Tajikistan Invites Iranian Military To Intervene

A couple of weeks ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmahinejad visited Dushanbe, and Tajikistan’s defense minister Sherali Khairulloyev made a statement that raised some eyebrows around the region:

“Today, if necessary, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces can reach Tajikistan in two hours, and if a military presence of the Tajik side in the similar plans and programs of the Islamic Republic is necessary, the representative units of Tajikistan’s Armed Forces are also ready to travel to Iran,” Khairulloyev said…

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In Scramble for Land, Group Says, Company Pushed Ugandans Out At Gunpoint

According to the company’s proposal to join a United Nations clean-air program, the settlers living in this area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.

People here remember it quite differently.

“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”

Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.

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Senator: Consider military action against Pakistan

A Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunday that the U.S. should consider military action against Pakistan if it continues to support terrorist attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

“The sovereign nation of Pakistan is engaging in hostile acts against the United States and our ally Afghanistan that must cease, Sen. Lindsey Graham told “Fox News Sunday.”

He said if experts decided that the U.S. needs to “elevate its response,” he was confident there would be strong bipartisan support in Congress for such action.

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Cold War PsyOps Resurgence: Russian spy agency targeting western diplomats

Russia’s spy agency is waging a massive undercover campaign of harassment against British and American diplomats, as well as other targets, using deniable “psychological” techniques developed by the KGB, a new book reveals.

The federal security service (FSB’s) operation involves breaking into the private homes of western diplomats – a method the US state department describes as “home intrusions”. Typically the agents move around personal items – opening windows, or setting alarms – in an attempt to demoralise and intimidate their targets.

The FSB operation includes bugging of private apartments, widespread phone tapping, physical surveillance, and email interception.

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Kremlin hit squad ‘assassinate Chechen Islamist in Istanbul’

“Russian intelligence, which previously brutally killed Chechen commanders in Turkey, has added another chapter to the massacres with these murders carried out in the middle of Istanbul,” he said.

Turkish media said a manhunt was underway for the suspected killer, a 55-year-old Russian national it named as Alexander Zharkov.

Acting on a tip-off, Turkish Special Forces were reported to have stormed the Russian man’s hotel room three days after the killings but to have missed him by a matter of minutes. They reportedly found the murder weapon, a passport, binoculars and a night vision scope however.

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Air Force Tests Electronics-Frying Missile

Imagine a weapon sailing over an enemy city or military target and effectively paralyzing all electronics in its wake while causing almost no physical damage? Sci-fi writers and military planners have dreamed of such things for years. The problem is, the electromagnetic pulse often associated with cooking electronic systems is usually generated by the detonation of a nuclear warhead — not exactly a low-collateral damage tool.

It’s no secret that the military has been working on weapons that can knock out enemy electronics without causing physical damage for a looong time. Now the Air Force is one step closer to making such devices a reality.

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Thousands riot in south China over land grabs: report

The protests in Lufeng, a city of 1.7 million, are the latest sign of growing public anger over land grabs, generally carried out by either private or state-linked companies but with the acquiescence of local governments.

These property disputes, in a country where the government legally owns all land, have led to protests, fights with police, imprisonment and suicides, and created a headache for the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.

Witnesses in Lufeng city said the protests, in which around a dozen residents were hurt, were triggered by the seizure of hectares of land and their sale to property developer Country Garden for 1 billion yuan (101.6 million pounds), Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported.

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China Power: To Interfere, or Not to Interfere?

On stage, Chinese diplomats continue to promulgate the country’s oft-stated policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations. Yet the evolution of China’s reaction to the ongoing crisis in Libya, and its position over Sudan’s referendum, suggest that it isn’t an iron-clad rule and that other calculations may be pulling at the seams of this so-called doctrine. Iran provides an interesting case study, as there are indications that a similar shift in Chinese posturing may be in the offing.

While Chinese leaders consistently hoist Tehran up as a ‘fraternal partner’ and resist UN sanctions aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Beijing’s recent actions don’t match up with its diplomats’ congenial rhetoric. Recent reports reveal that Chinese State Owned Enterprises have put the brakes on oil and gas investment in Iran.

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Generals: Kazakhstan to join Russia-led air defence network

The Central Asian state of Kazakhstan will integrate its national airspace defences into a joint network led by Russia, senior Russian and Kazakhstan army officers said Thursday.

‘We already have bilateral systems in operation with Belarus and Armenia, and in the future there will be one with Kazakhstan as well,’ said Valery Gerasimov, vice chief of Russian army staff, according to the Interfax news agency.

Saken Zhasuzakov, Kazakhstan’s vice minister of defence, in comments reported from the Russian city of Ashuluk, said his country’s government already was purchasing late-model Russian air defence weaponry, and after the kit was fielded the two country would defend their airspace jointly.

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Russia ratifies military bases on Georgia`s occupied territories

Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev submitted to the State Duma for ratification an agreement between Moscow and Tskhinvali “on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs issues,” the Kremlin said on September 20.

The move coincided with 21st anniversary of so-called “Independence of the South Ossetian Republic,” marked in Tskhinvali on September 20 with a military parade.

In July, when President Medvedev submitted a similar treaty with breakaway Abkhazia to the State Duma for ratification, Tbilisi said the move demonstrated Moscow’s unwillingness “to constructively negotiate ” with Georgia.

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Bombings Add to Growing Unrest in Dagestan

A coordinated pair of explosions in the capital of Dagestan early Thursday killed at least one person and injured dozens more in the violence-plagued republic in Russia’s North Caucasus region, officials said.

Officials said the first blast hit a police car, wounding four officers. The second, more powerful bomb, planted in or under a car, injured police officers and rescuers who rushed to the scene.

Reports of the number wounded ranged from 30 to 60. Stores and residential buildings near the blast in the capital, Makhachkala, were damaged or destroyed, officials said.

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No boots on our ground: Pakistan warns U.S.

Pakistan would not tolerate any incursion on its territory by U.S. forces targeting militant groups, the country’s interior minister said on Thursday, calling for Washington to provide the intelligence Islamabad needs to take them out itself.

Rehman Malik also rejected U.S. allegations that Pakistan’s intelligence agency aids or has ties with the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network, a powerful guerrilla group that straddles the mountainous border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The Pakistan nation will not allow the boots on our ground, never.

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More cases of NYPD ethnic spying exposed

The New York Police Department put American citizens under surveillance and scrutinized where they ate, prayed and worked, not because of charges of wrongdoing but because of their ethnicity, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The documents describe in extraordinary detail a secret program intended to catalog life inside Muslim neighborhoods as people immigrated, got jobs, became citizens and started businesses. The documents undercut the NYPD’s claim that its officers only follow leads when investigating terrorism.

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Post-Modern Psyops In The Philippines

Military information support operations (formerly psyops, or psychological warfare) are enjoying some success in the southern Philippines. The first target of the American Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) was the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Yes, they are on the same side. But the AFP’s traditional methods of dealing with terrorism and insurgency were counter-productive. So the JSOTF-P convinced the AFP to stop kicking down doors and treating scared villagers like a bunch of terrorists. That’s turned out to be their easiest mission.

Mission two is to mitigate the actions of the three anti-government groups down there, the Islamic MILF and Abu Sayyaf, plus the communist NPA. A kinder and gentler AFP has created an environment where people might be willing to cooperate with the government. Money is the prime motivator through a variety of rewards programs. Methods can be simple. Boys remembering a poster pointed out IED’s targeting a joint American/AFP convoy to authorities for a $4,000 reward. The program has given away about $100,000 year to date.

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[Zbigniew Brzezinski] Toward universal political culture

A common challenge to all of us is inherent in the ongoing transformation of global politics.

Let me begin with three broad assertions, then briefly elaborate on each of them, and conclude by making a modest proposal.

― First, global peace is threatened not by utopian fanaticism, as was the case during the 20th century, but by the turbulent complexity inherent in the volatile phenomenon of global political awakening;

― Second, comprehensive and enduring social progress is more attainable by democratic participation than by authoritarian mobilization;

― Third, in our time global stability can be promoted only by larger-scale cooperation, and not through imperial domination.

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Chinese Warnings Foreshadow Tension With India Over Sea Oil

China dispatched a fishing enforcement ship to the disputed Paracel Islands, an agency under the country’s Farm Ministry said, in a move likely to fuel tension with rival claimant Vietnam, days before Dai Bingguo’s visit to Hanoi. Vietnam and China, along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim some island territories in the South China Sea. China’s claim cover the largest area and includes the Paracel area, composed of uninhabitable small islands, rich fishing grounds and thought to hold significant oil and gas deposits.

India’s foreign minister is visiting Vietnam this week, where officials are negotiating oil exploration deals in areas of the South China Sea. China lays claim to vast parts of the region, and officials in Beijing have said there can be no such exploration in territory they claim. Amid this backdrop, tensions are rising between the two emerging world powers.

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Colombian intelligence agency’s latest scandal: leaking docs to drug lord

Colombia’s scandal-ridden intelligence service, the DAS, is alleged to have passed on high value information to one of the region’s most wanted drug lords, in what is only the latest case of apparent collusion between the agency and the country’s underworld.

According to newsweekly Semana, the Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – DAS) has lost control of its own database. A collection of intelligence documents, including lists naming hundreds of undercover agents deployed across the country, was leaked to the publication, which has included censored snapshots of the “top secret” memos. They reportedly include the identity, mission, and home addresses of hundreds of detectives and informants.

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U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

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Russia and Central Asia Fight the Arab Revolutions

In other examples, Uzbekistan took control over cellular phone companies, instructing them to report on any suspicious actions by customers and on any massive distributions of text messages through their cellular lines.

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have also instituted news blackouts, while Azerbaijan too has targeted Facebook and Skype. In Russia, the FSB and Ministry of Interior reacted to the revolutions by proposing to amend the criminal code, making owners of social networks responsible for all content posted on their sites and forcing them to register with the state. The regime also has its own cadre of bloggers, like those who launched cyber-strikes against Estonia in 2007 and Georgia during the 2008 war, and is clearly prepared to use force if necessary.

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Using Social Media to Monitor Elections in Zambia

When Zambians go the polls on Sep. 20 they will have the most effective team of observers monitoring the electoral process – themselves. Citizens, through social media, will be able to report offences and irregularities during and before the general elections.

An initiative called Bantu Watch was launched on Saturday by civil society to ensure that the Southern African nation has a higher level of citizen participation in monitoring the elections.

It is a simple system. People can text anonymous reports to a local number, 3018, using their mobile phones or they can log onto the website (www.bantuwatch.org) to report incidents online.

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A future for drones: Automated killing

This successful exercise in autonomous robotics could presage the future of the American way of war: a day when drones hunt, identify and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans. Imagine aerial “Terminators,” minus beefcake and time travel.

The Fort Benning tarp “is a rather simple target, but think of it as a surrogate,” said Charles E. Pippin, a scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, which developed the software to run the demonstration. “You can imagine real-time scenarios where you have 10 of these things up in the air and something is happening on the ground and you don’t have time for a human to say, ‘I need you to do these tasks.’ It needs to happen faster than that.”

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Yemen is threatening to turn into another Somalia

The Yemeni regime’s indiscriminate machine-gunning of demonstrators in the capital, Sana’a, and the opposition’s furious reaction, suggests the country’s eight-month-old crisis may be coming to a head. But the interests of two key outside players, the US and Saudi Arabia, remain focused more on strategic security and terrorism concerns than on spreading democracy and prosperity in the Arabian peninsula.

The US stepped up pressure last week for an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, urging the regime to accept a previously formulated political transition deal within seven days. The plan, mediated by the Saudis and other members of the Gulf Co-operation Council, calls for a government of national unity, presidential elections and a new constitution.

But Saleh, holed up in Saudi Arabia after an assassination attempt in June, has so far resisted the plan’s key provision – that he step down and hand over power to his vice-president in exchange for immunity.

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R2P is the New COIN

The weirdly astrategic NATO campaign in Libya intervening on the side of ill-defined rebels against the tyrannical rule of Libyan strongman Colonel Moammar Gaddafi brought to general public attention the idea of “Responsibility to Protect” as a putative doctrine for US foreign policy and an alleged aspect of international law. The most vocal public face of R2P, an idea that has floated among liberal internationalist IL academics and NGO activists since the 90’s, was Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Policy Planning Director of the US State Department and an advisor to the Obama administration. Slaughter, writing in The Atlantic, was a passionate advocate of R2P as a “redefinition of sovereignty“ and debated her position and underlying IR theory assumptions with critics such as Dan Drezner, Joshua Foust, and Dan Trombly.

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Ethiopia Police Deny Using Anti-Terror Law to Stifle Dissent

Ethiopian police have rejected accusations that the recent detentions of several high-profile government critics were politically motivated. The arrests are coming under increasing criticism from opposition parties and international rights groups.

Deputy federal police commissioner Demesash Woldemikael says there is no truth to allegations that a new anti-terrorism law is being used to stifle political dissent. Speaking to reporters Friday, Demesash said the recent detentions of journalists and emerging leaders in opposition politics are based on hard evidence.

Demesash says the arrests of the last few days have nothing to do with a person’s politics. He says police are only concerned with whether they have evidence that can stand up in court.

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Abkhazia between “a pig and a dog”

Back in May 2008, the Abkhaz regime was disappointed at Russia realizing that Russia would never recognize their independence. It is said in secret dispatches sent by former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft to Washington that were published on WikiLeaks.

As it becomes known from these dispatches, the special representative of UN Secretary Jean Arnault told then-Assistant U.S. Undersecretary of State Matthew Bryza that in Sukhumi understood that Russia would never recognize their independence and its representatives felt a tremendous amount of unhappiness and frustration. According to him, The Abkhaz realized that Russia would instead invite Abkhazia to become a part of
Russia, a notion they were very uncomfortable with, to gain real economic development.

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Tracking Barak Obama’s arc of instability

It’s a story that should take your breath away: the destabilization of what, in the Bush years, used to be called “the arc of instability.” It involves at least 97 countries, across the bulk of the global south, much of it coinciding with the oil heartlands of the planet. A startling number of these nations are now in turmoil, and in every single one of them — from Afghanistan and Algeria to Yemen and Zambia — Washington is militarily involved, overtly or covertly, in outright war or what passes for peace.

Garrisoning the planet is just part of it. The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence services are also running covert special forces and spy operations, launching drone attacks, building bases and secret prisons, training, arming, and funding local security forces, and engaging in a host of other militarized activities right up to full-scale war. But while you consider this, keep one fact in mind: the odds are that there is no longer a single nation in the arc of instability in which the United States is in no way militarily involved.

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Bangladesh’s Troubling Death Squad

The RAB, composed of elite members of the army and navy, was formed in March 2004 to target the armed criminal gangs and extortion rackets operating in many parts of Bangladesh. Its officers, clad in pitch-black uniforms with bandannas and mirror shades, soon became a common—and imposing—fixture on the streets of Dhaka, earning a reputation for ruthless efficiency. Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of the local human rights group Odhikar, says RAB committed its first extrajudicial killing on the fifth day of its operations in 2004. ‘Since then they are operating with impunity,’ he says.

According to a recent report by Amnesty International, the force has been responsible for the unlawful killing of ‘at least’ 700 people since its inception. Despite promises by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to halt extrajudicial killings when she came to power in early 2009, Amnesty claims at least 200 deaths have occurred on her watch.

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Syrian opposition, in Turkey, moves to garner international backing

Unlike Libya, the opposition to Assad has failed to garner international intervention. Since March, the Syrian opposition has reported the deaths of more than 3,000 people and injury of another 20,000.

Still, at the council session in Istanbul, only the governments of Canada and Japan attended. Opposition sources said other countries had pledged to send observers.

Opposition sources said activists against Assad convened in Belgium, Britain, Egypt and Turkey to decide on the council membership. They said the majority of the representatives — 40 percent of whom come from Syria — consists of secular opposition members. Most of the names on the council were withheld to prevent reprisals by Assad.

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Tumult of Arab Spring Prompts Worries in Washington

Crises like the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador in Turkey, the storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and protests outside the one in Amman, Jordan, have compounded a sense of urgency and forced the Obama administration to reassess some of this country’s fundamental assumptions, and to do so on the fly.

“The region has come unglued,” said Robert Malley, a senior analyst in Washington for the International Crisis Group. “And all the tools the United States has marshaled in the past are no longer as effective.”

The United States, as a global power and permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, still has significant ability to shape events in the region.

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US eyes Asia from secret Australian base

Deep in the silence of Australia’s Outback desert an imposing American spy post set up at the height of the Cold War is now turning its attention to Asia’s growing armies and arsenals.

Officially designated United States territory and manned by agents from some of America’s most sensitive intelligence agencies, the Pine Gap satellite station has been involved in some of the biggest conflicts in modern times.

But its role in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, and in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, had been little recognised until one of its most senior spies broke ranks recently to pen a tell-all account.

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‘Violent protests’ over China pollution

Hundreds of Chinese have mounted violent protests against a solar panel factory in eastern China over three days, accusing it of cancer-causing pollution, state media reported Sunday

Around 500 protesters gathered in Haining city, Zhejiang province, on Thursday, demanding an explanations for the death of large numbers of fish in a nearby river, the Xinhua news agency said.

Industrial contamination had caused at least 31 cases of cancer among residents of Hongxiao village, which is part of Haining, they said, including six of leukaemia.

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U.S. Keeping Mum On Military Aid To Uzbekistan

A week ago, after Human Rights Watch issued a statement criticizing the White House for seeking to ease restrictions on military aid to Uzbekistan, a State Department spokesperson promised to provide me with more information on what exactly sort of aid was being sought. After repeated inquiries, I still haven’t heard anything, so it’s safe to assume there will be no information for now. HRW suggested that the aid was to bribe Uzbekistan into greater cooperation with the Northern Distribution Network, the overland supply lines to Afghanistan that pass through Uzbekistan. The spokesperson told me that they had gotten several inquiries, but the only additional information (and it’s not much) has come from Steve LeVine, of Foreign Policy, who talked to an unnamed U.S. official:

The senior U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, argued that the U.S. is not bribing the Uzbeks, but “seeking congressional support so small amounts of non-lethal assistance can be provided so Uzbekistan can defend itself against possible retribution from militants who might attack them for supporting NDN.”

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Chain-Reaction Revolution: How Government Blunders May Trigger Mass Unrest

I may have forgotten much from my high school and college days but I do remember how a chemical chain-reaction works. The cause, effect and eventual aftermath can be reproduced not only in a science class but in our own backyards. The colour revolutions and mass Arab movements have shown that known and unknown variables can cause major shifts in any stable nation. Let’s find those root causes which bring about such turmoil. That instability sends shock waves around the world and strikes fear in the hearts of government bureaucrats and citizens alike.

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Pak lobbying to block US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014

Pakistan has begun secret diplomatic manoeuvres to forge a consensus among regional countries to thwart the United States’ plan to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan beyond the stipulated 2014 deadline, according to a news report.

Pakistan has stepped up efforts to take China, Iran, Russia and other neighbours of the war-torn country on board to “convince or force” the US to abandon the region by 2014, The Express Tribune reports.

Back-to-back trips by top Pakistani political and military leaders in recent months were all part of Islamabad’s diplomacy to seek support from countries bordering Afghanistan, the paper said, attributing to sources.

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Saudis ‘eye Pakistani nukes’ to face Iran

It is even reported to be prepared to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons if threatened by Iran. In return, it has been promised Saudi Arabian oil and treasure.

The Saudis have portrayed the roiling rivalry with the Iranians as a new, menacing chapter of the 1,300-year-old struggle between Sunni and Shiite Islam.

“The stakes are enormous,” says Bruce Riedel, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist.

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Western state-building questionable in crisis regions

Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti and lastly Afghanistan – the help usually begins with military support. It is accompanied by political measures in countries in crisis, for example with police training or helping to hold elections. These are measures which are supposed to promote more democracy – at least on paper.

So-called state-building takes many forms and is generally applied in post-war societies. Its aim is stabilizing a crisis region and western democracies serve as the role models.

But in most cases, these efforts bring disputable results, said Florian Kühn, a political scientist at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg. Kühn is very critical of state-building. He calls the artificial measures initiated from abroad “Potemkin villages.”

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Russia oligarch attacks autocratic political systemSour

“Three months ago he accepted the rules of the (political) game,” said Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister turned opposition politician. “The rules were drawn up by the Kremlin administration. But when he tried to show some independence they told him what the rules were and this is how he reacted. He obviously did not understand what he had agreed to.”

Mr Prokhorov has raised eyebrows among Russia’s political elite by suggesting that Russia should join the euro and by proposing that direct elections for regional leaders be reinstated, something that Mr Putin personally abolished.

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Violent Clashes in Chile on Coup Anniversary

People try to help a riot policeman after he was hit by demonstrators during a protest marking the 1973 military coup in Santiago September 11, 2011.

Demonstrators have clashed with police in Chile’s capital, Santiago, leaving a 15-year-old girl seriously injured and dozens more under arrest in protests that coincided with the 38th anniversary of the country’s military coup.

Authorities say the disturbances began Saturday and continued well into Sunday and that 280 people were arrested. Forty police officers were injured. Officials say protesters also set fires. Electricity was cut to 130,000 homes.

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Flashpoints: NATO’s Offer India Can’t Refuse

In a surprise move, NATO has reportedly offered to share its ballistic missile defence (BMD) technology with India. The tentative proposal, premised on the acknowledgement of the ‘commonality of threats’ faced by NATO and India, includes the sharing of BMD technology as well as the possibility of ‘training together.’ There has yet to be any official response to this offer, but its acceptance would make India the only non-NATO ally, apart from Russia, in the alliance.

Russia’s reservations on this issue are well known, and it’s most likely that India, too, won’t be jumping at the bit. This could be attributed to at least three factors.

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US Drones to be Deployed Soon Near Korean DMZ

A U.S. military newspaper says the United States expects to soon deploy sophisticated Global Hawk drone surveillance aircraft near South Korea’s tense border with North Korea.

The Stars and Stripes newspaper quotes senior intelligence officers saying an agreement with South Korea is “very close.” Reuters news agency reported earlier this month that members of the U.S. Congress have been told the U.S. government is also negotiating to sell the spy planes to Seoul.

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U.S. Says Fighters Tied to Pakistan Spy Agency Hit Kabul Embassy

A guerrilla faction with ties to Pakistan’s military intelligence agency hit the U.S. Embassy in Kabul with a half-dozen rocket-propelled grenades, American Ambassador Ryan Crocker said.

The attackers who seized a high-rise building under construction belonged to the Jalaluddin Haqqani group, which operates largely from a sanctuary in Pakistan’s borderland with Afghanistan, Crocker said after Afghan forces ended the 20-hour siege yesterday. “The information available to us is that these attackers” are “part of the Haqqani network, they enjoy safe haven in northern Waziristan,” Crocker said in Kabul.

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Chinese troops land in frontier Kashmir region: report

Chinese troops reportedly entered into Indian territory and destroyed several unused bunkers in Chumar area of Leh last month.

This is the same area where Chinese troops had left the telltales of their incursion in 2009.

Chinese army had painted the rocks red and left some empty food cans signaling the incursion in the area.

However, one report suggest that Chinese troops came into the Chumar area in helicopters and destroyed some unused bunkers before fleeing back to their area.

Another report said the troops landed in Chinese territory and then crossed the line of actual control destroying the bunkers.

Sources said the incursion was detected by the paramilitary group which is located 40 kilometres away from the site which informed the higher-ups.

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The Berlinisation Of North Kosovo

In August 1961, the East German government began constructing the Berlin wall between East and West Germany; the stated aim of which was to provide an ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’. In reality, the wall’s main aim was to prevent freedom of movement between the two Germanys; as it did for almost thirty years, thereby becoming a symbol of the Cold War.

Kosovo – Serbia Relations

Fifty years on, the Kosovo government is now trying to build a new wall to divide Serbians on either side of the administrative line between Serbia and Kosovo. Under the declarative aim of preventing criminal activities in the north of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci – Kosovo’s prime minister, who stands accused by the Council of Europe’s special rapporteur, Dick Marty, of involvement in organized human organ trafficking – deployed ethnic Albanian Kosovo Special Forces to occupy administrative gates 1 and 31, and to impose the Kosovo government’s decision to establish an illegal embargo on products from Serbia.

The Kosovo government’s actions sparked a furious reaction from the local population, aggrieved at Pristina’s attempts to impose an artificial division between northern Kosovo and Serbia.

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Azeri Spy Drone Downed Over Disputed Region, Karabakh Army Says

Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that broke away from Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, said it shot down an unmanned Azeri drone over its territory on Sept. 12.

The unmanned aircraft was downed to prevent similar reconnaissance flights over the disputed area, which have become more frequent along the border in recent days, the Karabakh Defense Army said in a statement on its website today.

Eldar Sabiroglu, the head of the Azeri Defense Ministry’s press service, and Teymur Abdullayev, a spokesman at the ministry, didn’t answer phone calls today seeking comment.

Oil-exporting Azerbaijan is using energy income to acquire modern weaponry, including unmanned planes from Israel, with whom the Caspian Sea nation started joint production of drones, President Ilham Aliyev said in April. Today’s incident marks the first time an Azeri spy plane has ever been shot down over the majority-Armenian populated region.

The Azeri Defense Ministry has previously not denied Armenian media reports that some of the drones produced with Israel are being used to monitor Nagorno-Karabakh.

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China’s Detention And Abuse: Rights Lawyer Speaks Out

China is coming under increasing pressure from lawyers inside and outside the country to abandon plans that would allow the detention of suspects in secret locations.

The proposed change to the law, revealed last month, would mean that police aren’t obliged to advise family members where a suspect is being detainedover national security, terrorism or major corruption allegations ‘if it could hinder their inquiries.’ But such a broad drawing of the law would, in many eyes, be open to considerable abuse, especially against the backdrop of what is China’s biggest crackdown on activists in years.

Such worries will have been compounded with the revelations by a rights lawyer, who has just spoken about his time in detention.

The South China Morning Post reports that Jiang Tianyong suffered a ‘combination of physical and mental abuse, relentless brainwashing and threats’ that initially kept him from talking about his two months in detention. He was reportedly held on February 19 and severely beaten for two nights.

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What might a Greek default look like?

If I borrow £1,000 from you and then, because of spectacular bad luck cannot pay it back, but I come to you and say, “here is £750, can we call it quits?” – that is a controlled default.

If I borrow £1,000 from you and you ring me up and you get directory inquiries in the Dominican Republic – that is an uncontrolled default.

Right now, Greece’s fate hangs in the balance somewhere between these two. It has already received what economists called a “haircut”. That is a voluntary agreement from its creditors to take 79 cents in the euro and extend the loans for up to 30 years. Ninety per cent have signed up to this.

Anything more than that should trigger a “credit event” allowing those who have insured themselves against losses on Greek debt to start calling in their money. That is what politicians fear will shoot the Greek debt issue like a sabot anti-tank round straight through the hull of the global economy.

The best example we have of an uncontrolled default is Argentina in 2001.

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‘Lehman’ Event: Expect Massive Policy Response In Europe, Bank Nationalizations And TARP In Drachma

The most scathing report describing in exquisite detail the coming financial apocalypse in Europe comes not from some fringe blogger or soundbite striving politician, but from perpetual bulge bracket wannabe, Jefferies and specifically its chief market strategist David Zervos.

“The bottom line is that it looks like a Lehman like event is about to be unleashed on Europe WITHOUT an effective TARP like structure fully in place. Now maybe, just maybe, they can do what the US did and build one on the fly – wiping out a few institutions and then using an expanded EFSF/Eurobond structure to prevent systemic collapse. But politically that is increasingly feeling like a long shot. Rather it looks like we will get 17 TARPs – one for each country. That is going to require a US style socialization of each banking system – with many WAMUs, Wachovias, AIGs and IndyMacs along the way.

“The road map for Europe is still 2008 in the US, with the end game a country by country socialization of their commercial banks.

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Sign of The Times: Banks Must Produce Living Wills To Tell Regulators How To Liquidate Them

The financial crisis caught many regulators off-guard and unprepared for what would be years of clean-up. It’s a scenario they don’t want to find themselves in again.

That’s why the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp board voted today to approve rules that would force financial firms to write so-called “living wills” that map out how to liquidate them in the event of their failure. The rule stems from the chaos surrounding the Lehman Brothers failure which left its creditors scrambling to recover their money.

The FDIC rule covers 37 banks and thrifts with more than $50 billion in assets including Bank of America,Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The largest institutions with more than $250 billion in non-bank assets will have to submit their plans in July 2012. Those with assets between $100 billion and $250 billion would file by July 2013, and all other firms must submit plans by December 2013.

FDIC Acting Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said, “The FDIC’s Interim Final Rule requiring insured depository institutions with assets over $50 billion to submit resolution plans is intended to serve as a complement to the joint rulemaking with the Federal Reserve under the Dodd-Frank Act that was also approved by the FDIC Board today.

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CIA boosts covert operations in Somalia

The clandestine U.S. campaign to counter Islamist forces in Somalia appears to be growing daily, with allegations the CIA is running covert operations from a base at Mogadishu airport.

These operations allegedly include the rendition of suspected jihadists seized in East Africa and spirited to an underground CIA interrogation center in Mogadishu and using mercenaries to train Somali assassination teams to hit al-Shabaab, the main insurgent group and which is linked to al-Qaida.

Jeremy Scahill, who specializes in security affairs, recently spent time in Somalia and reported in The Nation that the CIA operates from a heavily guarded compound at the capital’s beachside airport secured by guard towers and has its own fleet of aircraft.

The agency, he adds, has a “secret prison” under the headquarters of Somalia’s National Security Agency, an arm of the dysfunctional Western-backed Transitional Federal Government which is kept in power largely by a 9,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force known as AMSOM.

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Zimbabwe threatens to shut down newspapers over WikiLeaks

The Zimbabwe government is threatening to shut down “private and foreign” news media organizations that it says are “abusing their journalistic privileges by denouncing the country and its leadership.”

The threat comes just days after the release of new US diplomatic cables by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks revealed widening rifts within the country’s dominant party, ZANU-PF.

The warning was delivered by Media, Information, and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu, who alleged in the state-controlled media Tuesday that private and foreign press were denigrating the country’s leadership, including President Robert Mugabe and his family.

RECOMMENDED: Five world leaders disparaged by WikiLeaks

“We are not against criticism,” Mr. Shamu said, but “they are forcing us to take measures and they must stand warned.”

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Fearing a 2009 Repeat: Iran’s Instability

As Iran’s March 2012 parliamentary elections grow nearer, the Islamic Republic’s authorities are increasingly concerned that the country will experience public protests similar to those seen after the fraudulent 2009 presidential election. The regime is desperately trying to prevent intensified factional infighting—specifically between supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his hardliner challengers—fearing it would reveal the depth of factionalism among Iran’s ruling elite.

In his August 31, 2011 sermon, Iran’s head of state Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that elections should not become “a challenge to the security of the state.” In line with this rhetoric, the Islamic Republic’s authorities have established the Principalists’ Unity Committee in an attempt to minimize factional infighting among the Iranian hardliners. These attempts at unifying the hardliners, however, have been challenged by the formation of yet another political faction, known as the “Islamic Revolution Resistance Front” (IRRF).

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How Global Investors Make Money Out of Hunger

In recent years, the financial markets have discovered the huge opportunities presented by agricultural commodities. The consequences are devastating, as speculators drive up food prices and plunge millions of people into poverty. But investors care little about the effects of their deals in the real world.

The room in which the world’s food is distributed looks everything but appetizing. Bits of paper and disposable cups litter the trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Sweaty men in bright yellow, blue or red jackets walk around, seemingly oblivious of the debris beneath their feet, waving their hands, shouting and scrapping over futures contracts for soybeans, pork bellies or wheat.

Here, in the trading room of the world’s largest commodity futures exchange, decisions are made about the prices of food — and, by extension, the fates of millions of people. Those decisions affect both hunger on the planet and the wealth of individual investors.

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Armenians violate ceasefire

The OSCE is concerned over the situation on the contact line between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces, Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Center Adam Kobieracki said in an interview with the Moskovskie Novosti newspaper.

“Over 20 incidents occurred in 2011 which have resulted in death. Reports of civilian casualties have caused particular concern,” he said.

Kobieracki said during his visits to Armenia and Azerbaijan that he urged the sides to remove snipers from the contact zone.

“I regret that the parties have not yet fulfilled the agreement achieved in Sochi in 2011 regarding the investigation of incidents along the ceasefire line. I believe it is very important to keep pressure on both sides. Therefore, I welcome the Russian president’s personal participation in promoting negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” he said.

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Afghan Children Being Sold Into Forced Labor

Endemic poverty in parts of Afghanistan is forcing many poor families to sell their children in order to survive, RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

Human rights officials say dire economic conditions have forced many families in the northern Jawzjan Province — one of the most undeveloped regions in Afghanistan — to sell their kids.

The International Save the Children Alliance, an NGO dedicated to eradicating child labor worldwide, said in a 2010 report that some 28 percent of all children between the ages of 5-15 in Jawzjan have been sold by their parents or guardians.

Farid, a 4-year-old boy in Jawzjan, was sold to a relative eight months ago following the death of his father. His mother, who remarried, received 12,000 Afghanis ($280) for her son with the expectation that he would work for the relative.

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Secret Diplomatic Cables Reveal Microsoft’s “Win-Win” Deal with Tunisian Police State

Following revelations by Bloomberg Markets Magazine that a spun-off intelligence unit of German electronics giant Siemens, Trovicor, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Perusa Partners Fund 1 LP, a shadowy investment firm headquartered in Guernsey, had sold surveillance gear to Bahrain deployed against the pro-democracy movement, it has since emerged that Microsoft established an IT training program for Ministry of Justice and Interior officials in Tunisia.

A secret State Department cable published by the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks, 06TUNIS2424, “Microsoft Inks Agreement with GOT,” 22 September 2006, noted that “during the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in South Africa July 11-12, the GOT and the Microsoft Corporation signed a partnership agreement that provides for Microsoft investment in training, research, and development, but also commits the GOT to using licensed Microsoft software.”

The export of high-tech products, included software suites employed for spying on political dissidents, are said to be closely regulated under U.S. law to prevent abuse by repressive governments.

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State-sponsored spies collaborate with crimeware gang

Hackers sponsored by the Chinese government and other nations are collaborating with profit-driven malware gangs to infiltrate corporate networks storing government secrets and other sensitive data, researchers say.

In many ways, the relationship between state-sponsored actors and organized crime groups that target online bank accounts resembles the kind of mutually benefiting alliances found in nature everyday. Just as human intestines create the ideal environment for certain types of bacteria – and in turn receive crucial nutrients and digestive assistance – crimeware operators often cooperate with government-backed spies perpetrating the kinds of APTs, or advanced persistent threats, that have pillaged Google [1], RSA Security [2], and other US companies [3].

To the potential benefit of state-sponsored hackers, profit-driven malware gangs frequently have control of large numbers of infected machines belonging to government contractors [4] and Fortune 500 companies. Because most of the machines never conduct business online, they may not represent much of an asset to the criminal gangs, which often allow the infected machines to sit dormant for months or years.

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NATO-backed local police terrorising Afghans

Murder, torture, illegal taxes, theft and the gang rape of a teenage boy are among the abuses by government-backed militias, and the NATO-funded Afghan local police, documented in the 102-page report, “Just Don’t Call It a Militia.”

The groups were formed in response to Afghanistan’s downward security spiral, aiming to capitalise on a basic instinct to protect local communities — much like Iraq’s Awakening Council that helped turn the tide of the Iraq war.

But a lack of training, vetting, oversight and accountability means armed groups are adding another worry to the lives of ordinary Afghans already struggling with a war that this year has claimed a record number of civilian lives.

“Kabul and Washington need to make a clean break from supporting abusive and destabilising militias to have any hope of a viable, long-term security strategy,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Poor governance, corruption, human rights abuses, and impunity for government-affiliated forces all are drivers of the insurgency.”

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Why China wants a G3 world

Of all the formulations deployed in recent years to describe the emerging world order, G2 is probably the worst and most dangerous.

Americans don’t like the idea of another rival so quickly achieving strategic parity and influence, and the Chinese are uncomfortable with such a high-level responsibility commensurate with their weight.

The US-China relationship can hardly be described as agreeable, progressive, or even productive. And yet people keep coming back to the idea of a G2 because the alternatives can seem so inefficient.

The G20 — with its unwieldy membership of irrelevant countries like Argentina and Italy — can barely tackle financial regulation, let alone climate change, failed states and nuclear proliferation. This explains the latest vogue phrasing from the commentator Ian Bremmer: the “G-Zero” world, in which there is no clear leader and no functioning system of global governance.

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SocGen ditches assets as French bank pressure rises

Société Générale SA said it would cut costs and sell assets worth €4-billion to bolster capital on Monday, but shares in French banks fell by more than 10 per cent on concerns about Greek debt and a possible cut to their credit ratings.

SocGen, BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole are heavily exposed to Greek government debt, which is under intense pressure amid worries about its euro zone membership.

French banks are braced for an imminent decision from credit rating agency Moody’s, which put them under review for possible downgrade on June 15, several sources told Reuters on Saturday.

Confidence in European lenders’ ability to fund themselves in the face of a slowing economy and the unfolding Greek debt drama has evaporated rapidly, with French banks among the hardest hit because they are seen as particularly reliant on short-term funding.

SocGen’s announcement on Monday was intended to mitigate some of the negative pressure expected from a Moody’s downgrade, said one banking analyst speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Is Israel Over?

This is no longer Israel. A profound, internal, existential crisis has arrived. It stems in part from the changing nature of the country, more right wing, more restrictive, far less liberal, and far less egalitarian. Many moderate Israelis fear the country is heading for ruin. Indeed, the country’s ruling class, including Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors Ehud Olmert (now on trial for corruption) and Ehud Barak (a former head of the Labor Party and current defense minister), live in opulence, and the feeling is that they are out of touch with reality. In Tel Aviv, where some 350,000 gathered in protest, a widespread chant, set to a popular children’s ditty, was “Bibi has three apartments, which is why we have none.”

Tent cities popped up as the demonstrators—20- to 45-year-olds, with a healthy contingent of older people—rallied against nonprogressive taxation, low wages, and the high cost of housing and consumer goods, which have made it nigh impossible for families to make ends meet. A full 20 percent of Israelis (and 15 percent of Israeli Jews) live under the poverty line, and the top decile of Israel’s population earns 31 percent of the country’s total net income. The lowest decile earns a mere 1.6 percent. Last year Israel was elected to membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of the world’s 32 most-developed countries. Among them, Israel ranks as one of the worst (alongside Mexico and the United States) in terms of wealth polarization.

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Is Default The Next Greek Tragedy?

“There is no way you can have a sovereign nation default and have it not impact confidence in the financial system,” said Bellefleur. “A country going broke is obviously a pretty serious thing.”

But will Greece default — or to take it a step further, even exit the eurozone and bring back the drachma?

It’s still unclear.

Greece is trying to prove to the so-called troika that it’s relying on for funding — the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union — that it will meet requirements to get its next round of financing (about $11 billion) as part of last year’s bailout package. Greek officials are expected to meet with members of the troika later this week.

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South Africa: Spy saga on agenda of intelligence watchdog

Reports suggesting South Africa’s intelligence agencies are in fresh turmoil are likely to be discussed by Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI) when it convenes on Wednesday.

The committee is supposed to act as a watchdog over the country’s intelligence services. Its chairman, ANC MP Cecil Burgess, confirmed on Sunday that the matter would be raised.

An official silence reigned on Sunday on allegations suggesting a major stand-off between State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and the country’s three top intelligence bosses.

Both The Sunday Independent and City Press reported that ministry spokesman Brian Dube had confirmed on Friday that Gibson Njenje, the head of the State Security Agency (SSA) – previously known as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) – had resigned “with immediate effect”.

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Youth Propagandists To Prevent A Russian Kind of “Arab Spring”

On Friday, the head of the Federal Agency on Youth Affairs Vasily Yakimenko in semi-secret meeting of students put on a mission to prevent a recurrence of the Middle East scenario in Russia. Invited to the event who sent text messages to a short number, distributed in the capital’s cafes. Internet activity is in support of the current government promised to pay Yakemenko media popularity. From bloggers to work by psychologists, and seminars, such as Friday’s, will put on a regular basis.

Curiously, for a half hour of a concert hall agitvystupleniya “Mir” Yakemenko never uttered the name of the president, and power in his speech represented exclusively by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. To be fair – “United Russia” is also not mentioned.

Gathering at the meeting with the head Rosmolodezh conducted in secrecy, as it were. Or role-playing game. Young visitors to the capital’s cafes were given a week earlier with the bill for dinner white envelopes with the words: “If everything in life is happy, tell a neighbor envelope.”

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Interview: Former US Ambassador to NATO: “There is always the possibility of destabilization – whether it is Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Ossettia, or elsewhere in the Caucasus”

Let us ask some questions about the regional developments. Just recently, the South Caucasus countries commemorated the third anniversary of the last war in the region. Today many local analysts question whether the stability in the region is strong and if there is any possibility of destabilization?

- The truth is that until these issues are finally and truly resolved, there is always the possibility of destabilization – whether it is Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Ossettia, or elsewhere in the Caucasus. That’s why it is so important for the governments of the region to stay focused on efforts to reach settlements, and to continue to press forward on domestic political reform and economic opportunity. The more successful the countries in the region are in terms of freedom and prosperity, the more easily the lingering conflicts will be resolved.

- Should the South Caucasus countries look for their stability and protection in NATO? Is there any possibility for them to integrate into it?

- Countries that join NATO need to be security contributors even more than they are security consumers. NATO’s doors are always open.

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French FM: No UN resolution on Syria a ‘scandal’

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Sunday increased pressure on Russia to support a U.N. Security Council resolution against the Syrian regime, describing the lack of such a clear statement of condemnation as a “scandal.”

Juppe said during a visit to the Australian capital Canberra that Russia and France remained divided over Syria following talks between French and Russian foreign and defense ministers in Moscow last week.

Veto-wielding Russia wants Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to halt its violence against protesters and to expedite reforms.

“We think the regime has lost its legitimacy, that it’s too late to implement a program of reform,” Juppe told reporters between meetings with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

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Egypt: Retry or Free 12,000 After Unfair Military Trials

Since it took over patrolling the streets from the police on January 28, 2011, Egypt’s military has arrested almost 12,000 civilians and brought them before military tribunals, Human Rights Watch said today. This is more than the total number of civilians who faced military trials during the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak and undermines Egypt’s move from dictatorship to democratic rule, Human Rights Watch said.

“Nearly 12,000 prosecutions since February is astounding and shows how Egypt’s military rulers are undermining the transition to democracy,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The military can end these trials today – all it takes is one order to end this travesty of justice.”

In a September 5 news conference Gen. Adel Morsy of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said that between January 28 and August 29, military tribunals tried 11,879 civilians. The tribunals convicted 8,071, including 1,836 suspended sentences; a further 1,225 convictions are awaiting ratification by the military.

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Analysis: NATO needs to remove Assad rather than Gaddafi

“The West insists on the “brutal suppression of mass protests in Syria.” Why, then, it does not notice the harsh repression of Arab revolutions in Bahrain and Yemen? Isn’t this a case of double standards?”

“Neither the U.S. nor the EU want to strengthen Iran. After all, the fall of the existing regimes in these countries will be beneficial only for Tehran. All this, of course, raises certain questions. However, in contrast to Tunisia and Egypt, the regimes in Bahrain and Yemen in particular are surprisingly strong.”

“Does the West understand what kind of the opposition it is supporting and who is to replace Bashar Assad? Why do they not notice what the leaders of the Syrian “opposition” are like, for example, Sheikh Arura, whose motto is “Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut?”

“The problem is that not everyone in the West really understands the threat posed by these movements, and the degree of their extremism. Of course, the Islamists have not gone away, and they are preparing to use the fruits of the overthrow of the dictatorial regimes in their own way.

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Syria death toll tops 3,000: rights group

he death toll in Syria from the crackdown on anti-regime protests has topped 3,000, most of them civilians, the head of a US-based rights group said in Tunis Saturday.

The United Nations said on August 22 that more than 2,200 people had been killed in attempts by the army and other security forces to suppress almost daily protests across Syria since mid-March.

“More than 3,000 people have been killed, the majority of them civilians, have been killed in 112 Syrian towns and cities,” Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Washington-based Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in Syria, said.

They included 123 aged under 18, he added.

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Counter Blow: Israel may offer military aid to PKK to punish Turkey

Israel’s hawkish foreign minister is planning a series of measures to retaliate against Turkey in an apology row, including military aid to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a news report said on Friday.

Other planned measures are cooperation with the Armenian lobby in the US in its efforts to win recognition for Armenian claims that 1.5 million Armenians were victims of a genocide campaign in the late Ottoman Empire during the First World War years and to issue a travel warning urging all Israeli military veterans to refrain from traveling to Turkey, according to the report in Yedioth Ahranoth. The travel advisory will also urge Israelis to refrain from boarding connections in Turkey, the report said.

The planned measures apparently came out of a meeting attended by senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials on Thursday, which the report said was held in preparation for a meeting on Saturday that will be attended by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a harsh critic of efforts to restore relations with Turkey after Ankara announced a set of sanctions against Israel for its refusal to apologize for the killing of eight Turks and one Turkish American on an aid ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza on May 31, 2010.

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Dutch PM Calls For EU Budget Tsar With Powers To Kick Countries Out Of Eurozone For Non-Compliance

The Dutch government wants to create an European institution that would have the powers to scrutinise as well as control budgets of eurozone countries, the centre –right Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager has argued in a joint article for the Financial Times.

The Dutch government has called for an “EU Budgetary Commissioner” who would have sweeping powers as part of closer cooperation among eurozone members on economic and fiscal policies. This new office would have the powers to impose penalties on those countries that flout EU rules and in extreme circumstances would have the authority to evict member states from the single currency.

Under proposals published by Mr. Rutte and his government, eurozone countries would be required to present their budgets to the “EU Budgetary Commissioner” before they are presented to the national Parliament. The Commissioner would have the right to veto measures that would lead to the country flouting EU deficit and other fiscal rules.

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Could Turkey and Israel Go to War?

The Arab Spring and recent dramatic deterioration of Turkish-Israeli ties present Israel with a uniquely threatening security environment. Since 1949, Israel has always had the comfort of having Turkey, one of the two major Levantine powers, as its friend. This is no longer the case. In fact, conflict seems to be looming between Turkey and Israel.

In the aftermath of the 2010 Flotilla Incident, Ankara attempted to intimidate Israel by saying its warships would escort missions to Gaza. Now Turkey and Israel are at dangerously opposing ends of Levantine politics. Not only is Ankara no longer a trusted friend of Israel, but it has also begun to emerge as the key regional actor opposing Israel.

When Turkey became the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel in 1949, Israel took comfort in the fact that it had the backing of one of the Middle East’s most influential players. The strength of the Turkish military allowed it to become and remain a friend of Israel despite Islamist opposition to it.

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The bloody war for Thailand’s Deep South

Each morning, Buddhist monks wrap themselves in saffron-colored robes and silently stroll, collecting alms in Thailand’s three southern provinces while a phalanx of troops armed with assault rifles walk alongside, protecting them from Islamist assassins.

Buddhist and anti-separatist Muslim teachers suffer a similar deadly fate in the south, despite military escorts to and from campus, armed soldiers posted inside classrooms, and official permission for every teacher to carry a gun. In the grim struggle, which escalated in 2004, more than 4,700 people on all sides — Buddhists and Muslims — have been killed plus 9,000 injured.

On Sept. 6, suspected Islamist guerrillas shot dead a school teacher, poured gasoline on his body and set him on fire in Yala province, Police Lt. Col. Krisanapong Paetsith said after shocked villagers discovered the corpse in flames on the side of a road. The teacher had been executed with a bullet to the head. He had been riding his motorcycle, which lay abandoned nearby, after helping students in an academic contest.

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Funding Regime Change?: G8 Says Banks should help Arab Spring nations

The Group of Eight industrialised and developing nations is set to call on multilateral development banks and regional funds to broaden the scope of their cooperation to help Arab Spring countries make the transition to democracy and weather short-term economic instability, a draft statement of the G8 said.

G8 finance ministers, who are meeting in Marseilles in southern France today, will also review the $20bn support pledge made in May at a meeting in Deauville, a resort town in northern France, the draft statement, which was seen by Dow Jones Newswires, said.
At a meeting in Deauville at the end of May, the G8 pledged a $20bn package for Egypt and Tunisia to be channeled through funding from international financial institutions, and formed a partnership with North African states to help support democratic aspirations borne out of Arab Spring revolutions.

Since the Deauville gathering, the partnership has been extended to Jordan and Tunisia with Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE joining the framework “in supporting the countries engaged in political and economic transformation,” according to the draft statement.

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Blowback in Somalia

The notorious Somali paramilitary warlord who goes by the nom de guerre Indha Adde, or White Eyes, walks alongside trenches on the outskirts of Mogadishu’s Bakara Market once occupied by fighters from the Shabab, the Islamic militant group that has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda. In one of the trenches, the foot of a corpse pokes out from a makeshift grave consisting of some sand dumped loosely over the body. One of Indha Adde’s militiamen says the body is that of a foreigner who fought alongside the Shabab. “We bury their dead, and we also capture them alive,” says Indha Adde in a low, raspy voice. “We take care of them if they are Somali, but if we capture a foreigner we execute them so that others will see we have no mercy.”

Despite such thug talk, Indha Adde is not simply a warlord, at least not officially, anymore. Nowadays, he is addressed as Gen. Yusuf Mohamed Siad, and he wears a Somali military uniform, complete with red beret and three stars on his shoulder. His weapons and his newfound legitimacy were bestowed upon him by the US-sponsored African Union force, known as AMISOM, that currently occupies large swaths of Mogadishu.

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Tony Blair calls for regime change in Iran and Syria

Tony Blair calls for regime change in Iran and Syria as he blames Tehran for prolonging the conflict in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

In an interview to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the former prime minister warns that the Middle East would be “very, very badly” destabilised if Iran acquired nuclear weapons.

Blair, who is the Middle East peace envoy, tells the Times: “Regime change in Tehran would immediately make me significantly more optimistic about the whole of the region. If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability it would destabilise the region very, very badly.

“They continue to support groups that are engaged with terrorism and the forces of reaction. In Iraq one of the main problems has been the continued intervention of Iran and likewise in Afghanistan.”

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Libya: SA ‘Intervention Force’ Planned in Libya – Report

Documents showing plans for a 136-strong South African-led “rapid intervention force” being deployed in Libya have been leaked to the media.

According to a Media24 report, the documents include an invoice from what appears to be a South African security company for “specialist training” in the country.

It also says that arms shipments from Chinese companies, via South Africa, were being considered.

The documents were discovered by a foreign correspondent for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper on a street corner in Tripoli.

“The documents were sitting on the side of the curb where someone had abandoned them.

“It would seem they were dumped in a hurry,” he told Media24.

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