Meldungen (Feeds)

Der außenpolitische Instrumentenkasten

German Foreign Policy - il y a 6 heures 45 min
(Eigener Bericht) - Berliner Regierungsberater spekulieren über mögliche offensive Schritte der russischen Außenpolitik und diskutieren Gegenmaßnahmen. Wie die Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in einer umfangreichen Studie konstatiert, habe Moskau den "Instrumentenkasten" seiner Außenpolitik "in den vergangenen Jahren immer weiter entwickelt und ausdifferenziert". Er enthalte heute "verbesserte militärische Fähigkeiten, daneben aber auch eine Vielzahl 'weicher' Werkzeuge"; die SWP führt "orchestrierte Desinformationskampagnen in traditionellen Massenmedien und sozialen Online-Netzwerken, Instrumentalisierung ethnischer Minderheiten, Nutzung zivilgesellschaftlicher Organisationen, wirtschaftliche Kooperation oder wirtschaftlichen Druck" an. Die Studie spielt in fiktiven Szenarien etwa eine Unterstützung extrem rechter Parteien in westeuropäischen Wahlkämpfen durch Moskau durch und nimmt Schritte zur Abwehr russischen Einflusses in den Blick. Bei derlei Auslandsaktivitäten, die nun auch Russland zugetraut werden, handelt es sich um Praktiken, die seit je zum Instrumentarium der NATO-Staaten gehören - insbesondere auch Deutschlands.

Twenty Years Later, Poverty Is Up, But Architects of “Welfare Reform” Have No Regrets

The Intercept - Engl. - mar, 23/08/2016 - 22:58

A gathering Monday in Washington, D.C. featured a bipartisan group of former government officials agreeing on the benefits of slashing the nation’s safety net.

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of “welfare reform,”  the 1996 law passed by Congress and administered by President Bill Clinton that strictly limited the amount of federal cash assistance that the poorest Americans can receive – transforming the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program into the more restrictive Temporary Aid for Needy Families.

One of the main impacts of the law was to help double the number of American households living in extreme poverty in America – defined as living on less than $2 a day.

The Capitol Hill event, hosted by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and the Progressive Policy Institute, which has been referred to as President Bill Clinton’s “idea mill,” celebrated the 20th anniversary of the law. Its architects said they had no regrets about its passage.

Former Michigan Republican governor John Engler, who pioneered state-level welfare cutbacks and who today serves as the head of the corporate lobbying group the Business Roundtable, recounted how Bill Clinton’s support helped make national welfare reform possible.

“It was pretty stunning in 1992 to have a Democratic candidate for president, albeit a twelve-year veteran in the Governor’s office talking about ending ‘welfare as we know it,’” he said. “That was a pretty decisive moment.”

Right-wing praise for Bill Clinton was a reoccurring theme at the event. Robert Rector, a Heritage Foundation scholar who has been dubbed the “intellectual godfather” of welfare reform, claimed that Clinton took up the same cause as Ronald Reagan, allowing him to outmaneuver George W.H.Bush. “In my perspective that’s the issue that put Clinton in the White House in ’93,” Rector said.

Thompson, who had served as another welfare reform pioneer when he was the Republican Governor of Wisconsin, was unrepentant about the impact of the welfare overhaul.

“It did work,” he said. “Poverty went down and more people are working.”

Not everyone agrees with this rosy assessment, however. Luke Shaefer, a University of Michigan Social Work professor and one of the researchers who documented the rise in extreme poverty since the passage of welfare reform, told The Intercept that the claims of reduction in poverty and increase in employment were more true up until 2000.  “Single moms did go to work, but it is unclear if welfare reform had much to do with it,” he said. The Earned Income Tax Credit “expansion is much more clearly important. And we know that the moms who left welfare were not any better off for it, and in some cases a lot worse off.”

Shaefer worked with sociologist Kathryn Edin on a book released last year that found before welfare reform, more than a million households with children were being kept out of extreme poverty thanks to federal assistance. By 2011, that had dropped to about 300,000. The researchers estimated that 1.5 million American households, including 3 million children, are today living at or below extreme poverty – double the number that it was in 1996.

The impact of welfare reform was particularly severe on women and minorities, with many female-headed families losing income and women being forced into low-wage work without benefits.

Shaefer points to research from Jim Ziliak, a prominent economist who studied the issue for the National Bureau of Economic Research. “Taken together, the results from leaver studies, demonstrations, and from national samples suggest that many women were worse off financially after welfare reform,” he writes. “Especially at the bottom of the distribution.”

Yet those deemed most vulnerable had little representation at the event. Of 19 invited speakers, just two were women.

Bruce Reed, one of Bill Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisers and the man behind the former president’s campaign pledge to “end welfare as we know it,” conceded that more remains to be done for the working poor, but told The Intercept that welfare reform was overall a “success.”

In fact, the latest numbers from the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement found that 5.5 percent of American households — 6.7 million households in all – used a food bank or some other form of food charity in 2014. That’s the highest percentage since record-keeping on the matter began in 1995.

Despite the reforms, the stigma of receiving government assistance remains –and opponents of aid to the needy continue to demonize the remaining programs, such as food stamps. Maine’s Republican Governor Paul Lepage recently claimed that food stamp recipients in his state are on a “steady diet of Mars bars and Mountain Dew.”

At the conclusion of the event, the speakers and audience were treated to a reception featuring alcoholic drinks, cheesecake squares, specialty meats, and gourmet cheese.

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Fourteen Years After First CIA Torture Session, a Rare Glimpse of Abu Zubaydah

The Intercept - Engl. - mar, 23/08/2016 - 22:14

Abu Zubaydah, 45, made his first appearance Tuesday on video from Guantanamo in a hearing before a Periodic Review Board, fourteen years after the last day of a month-long interrogation at a CIA black site in Thailand. It was the first time the “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved by the Bush administration were used on a detainee.

Back then, Abu Zubaydah still had his left eye.

Representatives from the media, non-governmental organizations and academia were permitted to view the unclassified opening portion of the hearing from a conference room at the Pentagon, but the segment does not include any statement or comments from the detainee. It was the first glimpse outside observers got of Zubaydah since a photo of his face with an eye patch was published by Wikileaks in 2011; at one point he was touted as Al Qaeda Number Three.

What observers saw Tuesday was a well-groomed, youthful 45-year old dressed in white and wearing a black eye patch around his neck; he switched between two pairs of eyeglasses to follow documents being read out loud by a translator. He was accompanied by two military “personal representatives” who spoke on his behalf, but he did not have a private attorney.

Abu Zubaydah

Photo: Department of Defense/MCT via Getty Images

Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian whose real name is Zayn al’Abd Din Mohammed, was captured in a raid of a Faisalabad, Pakistan house on March 28, 2002, suffering severe bullet wounds. The interrogation techniques used on him included stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box, and waterboarding, among others.

Most notably perhaps, he was waterboarded 83 times.

“He spent a total of 266 hours (11 days, 2 hours) in the large (coffin size) confinement box and 29 hours in a small confinement box, which had a width of 21 inches, a depth of 2.5 feet, and a height of 2.5 feet,” according to the Senate torture report. “The CIA interrogators told Abu Zubaydah that the only way he would leave the facility was in the coffin-shaped confinement box.”

The Tuesday review board hearing was first opportunity to make a case for his release. “Although he initially believed that he did not have any chance or hope to be released, because of the reputation that has been created through the use of his name, he has been willing to participate in the Periodic Review Process….,” his military representative stated, “and he has come to believe that he might have a chance to leave Guantanamo through this process.”

The government opposes Abu Zubaydah’s release, and an unnamed official reading his detainee profile at the review alleged his participation in or knowledge of the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the USS Cole bombing in 2000, and involvement in Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s plans to attack US and Coalition forces after 9/11, among other plots.

Yet the official also stated he “has shown a high level of cooperation with the staff at Guantanamo Bay and has served as a cell block leader, assuming responsibility for communication detainees’ messages and grievance to the staff and maintaining order among the detainees.”

That same cooperation is now being used to justify his continued detention. Abu Zubaydah, who has completed university coursework in computer programming, could be a threat because has used his time in Guantanamo to “hone his organizational skills, assess U.S. custodial and debriefing practices,” the official said, and that experience “would help him should he choose to reengage in terrorist activity.”

Abu Zubaydah’s chances of being approved for release are not good, and the future of the Guantanamo detainees who are designated for indefinite detention without trials is unclear.

Of the 61 detainees now held at Guantanamo, 20 are currently approved for repatriation or transfer to a third country. Seven men are in pre-trial proceedings and three have been sentenced. The review board has decided 18 require continued detention to protect against a continuing significant threat to the U.S. security. An additional thirteen are awaiting review board decisions or an upcoming hearing.

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Trump’s New Billionaire Backer Also Funds Huge Stockpile of Human Urine

The Intercept - Engl. - mar, 23/08/2016 - 20:31

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have all noticed that Robert Mercer, co-CEO of the giant hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, has emerged as a key backer of Donald Trump.

Mercer, who first spent over $10 million trying to make Ted Cruz president, just gave $2 million to a Super PAC supporting Trump. Mercer is also a top investor in the Breitbart News Network. According to the Post, Mercer’s daughter Rebekah nudged Trump to bring in Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s executive chairman, to run his campaign.

But here’s what the mainstream media won’t tell you: Robert Mercer and his daughter have also funded a gigantic stockpile of human urine in Oregon.

The urine stockpile is the project of Arthur Robinson, a chemist and founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Starting in 2005 the Mercer Family Foundation contributed at least $1.4 million to OISM, enabling Robinson to buy freezers to store his 14,000 samples of urine.

Robinson wants still more urine, as much as possible, and issues frequent appeals to the public to contribute. According to the OISM newsletter, Robinson is collecting it in order to “calibrate analytical procedures that can revolutionize the evaluation of personal chemistry – and thereby improve our health, our happiness and prosperity, and even the academic performance of our children in school.”

How exactly this will work is unknown. Robinson told Bloomberg earlier this year that “We’ve completed experiments here, which we could easily publish, but we want to wait until they are perfect.”

This might make you suspect that Robinson is a troubled crank, but on the other hand … well, there actually is no other hand. He also believes that global warming is a myth, and feels that public education is America’s “most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism.”

The key political question now is whether Robert Mercer will be able to bring together his interest in Trump and urine. There’s no way to be certain how this will play out, but here are some potential paths that could be taken by a Trump administration:

  • Out: The Strategic Petroleum Reserve. In: The Strategic Urine Reserve.
  • All American Muslims must donate urine. This will both serve as a token of good citizenship and allow analysis of whether urine can be tested for terrorism.
  • Trump and Putin meet at a summit. In gesture of goodwill reminiscent of American and Russian astronauts shaking hands in space, they are photographed exiting a bathroom together, each holding a full, warm paper cup.
  • All U.S. currency now backed by “liquid gold.”

The name of the Super PAC that Mercer is funding to elect Trump is – this is absolutely not made up – Make America Number 1.

A cartoon from the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine newsletter illustrates how urine analysis can increase your Life Remaining.

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Militant Leader Talks About Break With Al Qaeda and Possible Syrian Rebel Merger

The Intercept - Engl. - mar, 23/08/2016 - 18:55

On August 8, a coalition of rebel groups announced that they had successfully broken the long-standing Syrian government siege of rebel-controlled east Aleppo. Among the groups taking part in the offensive was Jabhat Fath al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s local affiliate in the country. Video footage released by the group showed its contributions in key battles against regime positions around the city.

Days before the offensive to break the siege began, Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Muhammad al-Jolani appeared in an unprecedented video message announcing that his group had cut formal ties with al Qaeda and would henceforth operate under the name Jabhat Fath al-Sham. Jolani said members would “strive toward unity with all groups, in order to unify the ranks of the mujahideen and liberate the land of [Syria] from the rule of [Bashar al-Assad] and his allies.”

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri echoed Jolani’s message in a statement acknowledging that the groups had parted ways. But whether the public split reflected a true separation and cutting of organizational ties remained unclear. U.S. officials have said they continue to consider Jabhat Fath al-Sham a terrorist group, despite its new branding.

Following the successful offensive in east Aleppo, it seems that Jabhat Fath al-Sham has cemented its place in the Syrian uprising for the foreseeable future. Its success on the battlefield has fed speculation that it will try to unify rebel factions under a single banner, in preparation for a push to wrest the entire city from government control.

“So far, nothing is definitive yet, but there are increasing talks of a merger, and Jabhat Fath al-Sham has wanted to absorb the other factions under a new banner for some time,” says Hassan Hassan, a resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “The previous hurdle was the name of al Qaeda, which gave some people cold feet because they didn’t want to be associated with that group. The vagueness of the continued relationship between Jabhat Fath al-Sham and al Qaeda is what has dissuaded some groups from associating with them more closely, although they still cooperate against the regime on the ground.”

Jabhat Fath al-Sham fighters advanced on a road as they seized key positions south of Aleppo, Syria, on Aug. 6, 2016.

Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

Hassan says that a merger of the rebel groups could backfire, potentially benefiting the Syrian regime and its allies. “Jabhat Fath al-Sham are pushing to become the only armed group against Bashar al-Assad,” he says. “Although the regime might suffer tactically as a result of its enemies unifying, even potentially losing parts of Aleppo, they could win the narrative if the opposition came together under Jabhat Fath al-Sham’s banner.”

Such a merger would also make it easier for U.S. officials to justify targeting other Syrian opposition groups like Ahrar al-Sham, as it would more closely associate them with a designated terrorist organization. Along with the Syrian government and mainstream opposition groups, Jabhat Fath al-Sham has been accused by monitoring organizations of committing systematic human rights abuses over the course of Syria’s civil war, including kidnappings and extrajudicial executions.

Jabhat Fath al-Sham is eager, however, to bolster its image.

Mostafa Mahamed, also known as Abu Sulayman al-Muhair, is a 32-year-old Australian citizen and director of foreign media relations for Jabhat Fath al-Sham. He is wanted by Australian authorities and has been listed as a specially designated global terrorist by U.S. officials. Born in Egypt and raised in the suburbs of Sydney, Mahamed has been in Syria since 2012.

Mahamed agreed to respond to a series of written questions from The Intercept about Jabhat Fath al-Sham’s relations with other Syrian rebel factions, its plans regarding the battle of Aleppo, and the nature of its current relationship with al Qaeda. Given the far-reaching potential implications of this merger, responses to the questions have been included below, lightly edited, and condensed for clarity.

Why did Jabhat al-Nusra break with al Qaeda, and what does this break mean in both practical and ideological terms?

Before talking about the split from al Qaeda and the formation of Jabhat Fath al-Sham, I would like to make it absolutely clear that we believe that organizational affiliations are usually temporary. Once the goal of that affiliation can no longer be met, or a larger, more important goal cannot be achieved as a result of that affiliation, then it is time to move on. At the time, Jabhat Al-Nusrah had a relationship with al Qaeda. It served a purpose by funneling a global, Islamic support of a jihad into the local Syrian arena. It was able to support an already very popular jihad with the brand that many mujahideen identified with. By doing this, Jabhat Al-Nusrah was able to focus the efforts of the youth and channel their energies into an Islamic and justified, moral cause. The need for that no longer exists, however. The break was also required in order to fulfill our communal obligations to the Muslims in Syria. The practical implications of the split include the full independence we now enjoy, which gives us more freedom in decision-making. It also removed potential obstacles that stand in the way of a long hoped-for unification of ranks.

In short, we did this for the people who may have been deceived by the claims that strikes against Jabhat Al-Nusrah were due to its affiliation with al Qaeda. It’s a response to the people, who were thankful for the split. In terms of the ideological implications, it must be noted that there exists a common ideology between all Muslims. This cannot be ignored. Differences that set organizations or movements apart are usually methodological. People will differ in their views regarding the correct method to bring about change, and we do recognize the need to tolerate these differences and collaborate with all sincere parties working in the right direction. Leaving al Qaeda gives people more room to draw closer and allow for a freer, more comfortable environment for open discussion, without being stigmatized.

Fighters from Jabhat Fath al-Sham listen to a speech at an armament school after they recaptured two military academies and a third military position south of Aleppo, Syria, on Aug. 6, 2016.

Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

Many have claimed that this breaking of ties is intended to be purely for cosmetic purposes — to detach JFS from the scrutiny al Qaeda normally invites. What is your response to this?

It is true that al Qaeda does invite scrutiny, much of which was created by false media and government directives. However, our objective was certainly not cosmetic. We genuinely believe it is time to move on from that period and work toward a more pragmatic option that will allow accommodation of a wider audience. Seeking ways to work with a now popular jihad and accommodate the diversity within the Islamic movement is a priority for our organization. In order for success to be achieved in Syria, different groups need to put aside smaller differences and work toward the common goal that Muslims aspire to.

What is JFS’s position with regard to its future relations with al Qaeda, as well as its stance toward the United States and European powers?

After our announcement of the establishment of Jabhat Fath al-Sham, there were those waiting for some kind of “proof” that we have changed or reformed. That meant to them that we needed to publicly condemn al Qaeda, their leaders, our past and basically announce that we have retracted everything we have ever done. I believe that is not only unfair, but it was also intended to create an obstacle in our path. The very next day, people were quick to claim this was cosmetic, like you mentioned. I believe that these people knew all too well our role in Syria and that we are integral in bringing about change and a sustainable stability, and that is not in their interest. When I say it is unfair to demand proof of this “change” they are expecting, we have to remember that members of any movement are diverse in the way they think. Movements are usually born in extreme situations, and people join them because they identify with the general concept at that given stage. It does not necessarily mean that all members of any particular movement are in total agreement on all topics, and that is true for al Qaeda just as it is true for all other movements in the world, Islamic or other.

At the end of the day, we will not be constrained by the definitions, policies, and understandings of any foreign entity. We decide what our morals and values are for ourselves based on our faith. We will not be a proxy of any satellite state, nor will we give an opportunity for them to dictate to us what we should or should not do. That is the whole point of our independence as Jabhat Fath al-Sham. Relations with any nation, including the U.S. or Europe, are detailed in Islamic political relations. Islam stresses the sanctity of contracts and agreements. It also sees ceasefires and truces to be valid if the conditions are met. However, we are far off from any kind of political relationship with nations that not only watch while our people die, but insist to back the tyrants who are killing, torturing, and displacing hundreds of thousands of Muslims. Is there place in Islam for practical relations with Western states? Yes, but only when they change their foreign policy and start to respect that we will not dissolve into their system, nor will we be a client state.

What is Jabhat Fath al-Sham’s stance on ISIS, and how does Jabhat Fath al-Sham see itself as different from ISIS?

Our stance on this group is very clear. We view them as deviant in their ideology and criminal in their methodology. In Islamic jurisprudence there is a term that we believe fits their description quite well, “Khawarij” [a derogatory term for violent rejectionist groups in Islam]. From an ideological standpoint, what classifies them as “khawarij” is their excommunication of the Muslims according to their unorthodox, extreme understanding of Islam and as well their twisted view of reality. This is their basis to label all the different groups in Syria, including Jabhat Fath al-Sham, as apostates. In their eyes, they are the only legitimate authority in Syria and Iraq, and the only legitimate entity which all Muslims in the world must pledge allegiance to.

From a methodological perspective, they assume their governance through [coercion] and military dominance. They consider it legitimate to fight everyone and anyone that does not succumb to them, including Muslims, even those fighting Assad. All of this is an expected outcome of their reprobate ideology. This obviously makes them isolationists. They totally disregard all efforts of other Muslims in the world and consider themselves to be the sole bearers of any legitimate political Islamic authority. In their eyes, a world that they exist in has no space for anyone else. I think my explanation above is sufficient to outline the differences between us and them.

Fighters from al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, fly Islamist flags in Aleppo, Syria, as they head to a front line, May 26, 2015.

Photo: Fadi al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images

If Jabhat Fath al-Sham ultimately succeeded in defeating the regime, what would be its intention for the future of Syria? How does it see itself relating to the international and regional political order?

We do not hope to defeat the regime alone. We are working toward this goal with the rest of the groups on the ground. Jabhat Fath al-Sham’s hope is that a just government will be established. It should include all of the sincere parties who worked toward establishing it. We have never been hung up on governing. Our aim is that the goals are met, irrespective of who will govern. The majority of Syrians have been oppressed for the past 50 years. Restoring their rights and relieving them from their pains can only happen if the Assad regime is completely uprooted with all of its institutions. This project must see its complete successful culmination in order for us to see the fruits. Anything less would be cheating the people that entrusted us with this great responsibility.

To the second part of this question, I believe that nobody in the world is satisfied with the amount of tyranny that exists today except the tyrants themselves, their proxies and those benefiting from them. Syria is a perfect example of the “international order” you speak of, watching on while millions of Muslims are displaced or killed. We do not expect anything from them, nor do we wish for their interference. However, their outrageous stance has clearly proven to the world their corruption. We do not aim at Syria being a satellite state. That would defeat the purpose of this Jihad.

The proposed solution in Syria definitely sees the need for an Islamically legitimate, practical solution to dealing with other political entities. We understand that we do not live on this earth on our own. We have never had an isolationist mentality in Syria, and we do not believe we can exist by isolating ourselves from the world. However, we cannot propose any type of solution in this field until we achieve full independence and stability. There would obviously be a process that would include debate and discussion amongst scholars and experienced professionals and specialists in every relevant field before taking this step.

What is Jabhat Fath al-Sham’s position on Syrian minorities (Alawis, Druze, Shias, Christians)?

Islam’s history is very clear about the need to provide security and civil rights to minorities living in Islamic nations. It must be noted that this region had large communities of minorities living peacefully under Islamic rule for centuries. Abdel Qadir Al-Jaza’iri [a 19th-century Algerian political leader], for example, protected the Christians of Damascus when they were attacked unjustly in 1860. There are many similar instances in our history that we are proud of.

However, it would be unjust and irrational to talk about anything but the issue at hand. That is: we are not fighting this war to target any minorities. We are defending the majority Muslim Sunni population of Syria, who are being slaughtered by a minority backed by an international coalition. Their rights, which were ripped away from them by an Alawite minority, need to be restored. The time to discuss the issue of the minorities is only after we achieve this for them. To do this, uprooting the regime and all of its institutions entirely is definitely a precondition. We see that we are heading in the right direction toward our goal, and when we do get there, this question will obviously be posed. The demographics of the country are changing dramatically, so it will be very difficult to determine what Syria will look like by that time.

Even though this matter is political, as Muslims we are not secular, we do not adhere to the secular understanding of governance that the West does, and therefore a decision on this matter cannot be made without a deep study of Islamic jurisprudence. Rulings on such matters would have to be after the establishment of all of our institutions, including a Ministry for Religious Affairs and Rulings. This ministry would be made up of the qualified scholars, that would be able to read into the complex, Islamic Sunni texts and provide an Islamically legitimate proposed policy to deal with the issue. Having said that, we believe that Islam is pragmatic in nature. By that, I mean that it is capable of dealing with any situation and any era to find solutions for any all problems we face.

When Islam entered the Indian subcontinent and ruled for about 1,000 years, scholars faced similar issues. They were, however, able to provide practical, Islamic solutions to their reality, without the use of tyranny or oppression. If you look at Islamic texts, you will find that it always provides a solution for these problems. The main problem we face, however, is the interference of foreign entities, often causing discord amongst the Muslims through backing one sect against another and allowing them to fight on their behalf, from within the society: a task that foreign invaders can never undertake on their own. The solution to this issue is to stop interfering in affairs of the Muslims.

The White Helmets, Syrian civil defense members, gather following airstrikes on the rebel-held city of Idlib, controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies, on June 12, 2016. It was not clear who carried out the raids.

Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

Many have said that Jabhat Fath al-Sham seeks to ethnically cleanse minorities from Aleppo. What is your response to this?

These claims are absurd. We have shared in the administration of the freed areas of Aleppo for many years now. We have been dealing with the Christian minorities, and we have not faced these issues. Islam does provide a fair and balanced solution for non-Muslim minorities to coexist in Muslim societies. It has been general policy since the beginning of the efforts in Syria that we only focus on those who take up arms against the population we are defending.

Why was the Aleppo offensive campaign named after Ibrahim al-Yousuf [a former Syrian army cadet who took part in a mass killing of Alawite cadets in 1979]? Is Jabhat Fath al-Sham indicating that it will target Alawite citizens of west Aleppo or elsewhere if it comes to power?

We must put all of this in context. Ibrahim al-Yousuf was a captain in the Syrian army who ignited an uprising that sought to rebel against the Alawite minority that was ruthlessly oppressing a huge majority of Sunni Muslims since the Assad family assumed power. It must be noted that immediately after assuming power, the Assad regime created a majority-Alawite armed force and intelligence agency that would later become the regime’s iron fist against the majority of Syrians. Naming the battle after him was significant because it was in Aleppo, in that very same Artillery College, that Ibrahim Al-Yousuf in 1979 ignited an uprising which continues to motivate people until today.

Ibrahim al-Yousuf did not kill civilians. All of his targets were military officers. Ibrahim al-Yousuf was killed as a result of his activism, but the Assad regime did not stop there. In 1982, Rif’at Al-Assad (the brother of late president Hafiz Al-Asad and uncle of Bashar Al-Assad) headed an offensive against the city of Hama, where the uprising gained popular support and started to become an organized movement. The offensive was referred to later as the Hama massacre. Rif’at Al-Asad himself boasted of killing 38,000 residents of the city. But Ibrahim al-Yousuf targeted military officers and not civilians. This is extremely important in order to understand the reason why we named this battle after him. Even though Bashar’s goal is the complete genocide, ethnic cleansing, or subjugation of the Sunni population, our goal is as determined by Islam: the removal of all oppression and the establishment of justice for all. This is what the battle of Ibrahim al-Yousuf stands for.

Will Jabhat Fath al-Sham and its allied factions seek to impose a siege now over west Aleppo? If Jabhat Fath al-Sham takes Aleppo in its entirety, what will be its intentions for the city? 

We do not aim to besiege civilians ever. If a siege will take place, it will be upon the regime’s armed forces and militias that have come to aid them.

In running the city, there would obviously be a very large responsibility to administer the people’s affairs, bring about security, and provide their basic needs in food, housing, water, electricity, and medical care. Even though a lot of the burden would be on our shoulders, it would be a joint effort with other sincere groups working with us.

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What’s Next for Turkey’s Exiled Cleric Fethullah Gülen?

The Intercept - Engl. - mar, 23/08/2016 - 18:39

Nearly 20 years ago, while Turkey was in the midst of a military coup, I was asked to interview a member of a secretive religious organization whose membership — and even its aims — was little understood.

I was a young reporter for a television news program, Teke Tek, and Mr. X, as we referred to him, was a member of a group led by Fethullah Gülen, known to his followers as Hocaefendi.

We spent days together, starting in the morning and sometimes talking until midnight. What he said was astonishing. Mr. X, a shy, well-behaved young man, told me about the movement’s clandestine methods to sneak into the military schools.

First, we determine the talented, brilliant, but at the same time loyal 11- to 12-year-old students to prepare them for the military school examinations. Then we separate them from the others. And we start to meet with them secretly. We never talk in public area. We don’t want to be seen with them. Because if the military knows that these students are taught by us, they don’t have a chance to get in. And once they’ve been elected, we keep communicating again carefully. Precaution is essential for us. This is Hocaefendi’s order. And if we suspect that the relationship might be uncovered, we cease to see the student. Sometimes this non-communication takes years. But one day, we remind the student ourselves. And he always responds positively. That is why we pick the most loyal ones. And that is why they obey their hierarchal level. Everyone talks to his own big brother. No one can break the hierarchy.

According to Mr. X, the mostly highly prized of the recruits were the military pilots, and particularly pilots who could fly the American-made F-16 fighters. “Without exception, Hocaefendi wants to see every F-16 pilot by himself to bless him, even though it is very rare to see him if you are not a high-level imam,” Mr. X said (senior leaders in the organization are called “imams”). Mr. X said he was tired of the secrecy and was leaving the movement and wanted people to know about its operations.

At the time, I was shocked by this description of a massive organization. The Gülenists were, according to Mr. X, recruiting in the police, the judicial system, and other government agencies. Gülen’s followers were creating a playbook for religious adherents to survive in a government dominated by a rigid secular ideology promulgated by the Kemalists.

A police officer stands next to an armored vehicle used by soldiers during the coup attempt at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 17, 2016.

Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

But after the February 28 military coup of 1997 and the resignation of the Islamist prime minister, circumstances changed. Fethullah Gülen left Turkey for the U.S. in 1999. Three years later, AKP, an Islamist political party, came to power in Turkey with the support of Gülenists, and being religious was no longer a reason to be excluded from the government.

I didn’t see Mr. X again. I had finished my interview with him and gave the notes to the anchorman, who was planning to write a book. Nothing was ever published or broadcast, however. Mr. X was never exposed, and he started a new life after leaving the movement.

Much has changed in the intervening years, most notably a break between Gülen and the AKP’s charismatic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now president of Turkey. Clashes between the two fronts erupted in 2012, and Erdogan accused the Gülen movement of creating a “parallel structure” within the state. When followers of the Gülen movement in the police and the judiciary initiated a graft probe against the Erdogan government on December 17, 2013, the hostility between Gülen and Erdogan boiled over into the public.

Then, last month, when the military initiated a thwarted coup, Erdogan pinned the blame on Gülen.

It’s unclear whether Gülen and his movement were really behind the coup, but a source I spoke to recently said the structure that Mr. X outlined for me years ago had changed. The Gülen movement was still powerful, and Gülen was now communicating directly with the middle-level imams. “Before, Hocaefendi was very strict about the rules that he set,” he told me. “A mid-level imam could never talk to him directly without his own big brother. But five to six years ago, Hocaefendi started to welcome the imam of the military, for example, without his superior. He was talking to them privately.”

The people Gülen was talking to were ambitious young men in their 30s, and older members — the “big brothers” — were upset about being excluded and concerned about what the younger members were telling Gülen. “I am sure that if these big brothers were involved with these conversations, they would raise their concerns about some of the ideas that mid-level imams suggested to Hocaefendi.”

Even though there’s no public evidence that last month’s coup attempt is linked to Gülen, Erdogan’s government responded by dismissing or detaining over 100,000 people — a reflection of how deeply Erdogan believes Gülen’s followers have penetrated official institutions. Erdogan has also requested that the U.S. extradite Gülen back to Turkey.

The U.S. government said Turkey must first present evidence of alleged complicity for action to be taken against Gülen, who has been living in Pennsylvania for the past 17 years. President Obama personally denied press reports that the U.S. either knew or assisted with the attempted coup.

“America’s governed by rules of law, and those are not ones that the president of the United States or anybody else can just set aside for the sake of expediency,” Obama said of Ankara’s extradition request during a press conference. “We’ve got to go through a legal process.”

Recently, the Turkish government has raised a new concern regarding Gülen. The Turkish justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, warned that Gülen could flee the U.S. to seek political asylum in Australia, Mexico, South Africa, Egypt, or Canada.

Of these countries, only Canada is considered a serious option by those inside Gülen’s movement. Canada, unlike the United States, does not have an extradition treaty with Turkey.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship never confirms or denies whether a person has made an asylum claim,” Nancy Caron, the agency’s spokesperson, said. She said that Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution and are unwilling or unable to return to their home country.

Fatih University in Istanbul was founded by the Gülen movement.

Photo: Monique Jaques/Corbis via Getty Images

Is that a serious option for Mr. Gülen? Is he packing for Canada?

His spokesperson Alpaslan Dogan denied these rumors. “No such plans,” he told The Intercept.

Graham E. Fuller, a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, and one of the prominent figures who helped Gülen obtain his green card eight years ago, said he doubted the U.S. would extradite Gülen or force him to leave, unless Turkey provided concrete evidence of his involvement in the attempted coup.

“I suppose if the U.S. said he should leave if he didn’t want to get extradited, I suppose he would have to consider it,” wrote Graham, who lives in Canada and is currently an adjunct professor of history at Simon Fraser University, in an email exchange.

“Would Canada accept him?” Graham asked. “Possibly, but it depends on how much Canada’s relations with Turkey matter.”

So what about Mr. X, the young man I interviewed nearly two decades ago? I was told that he had returned to the Gülen movement and had moved to Canada.

“It has been years,” I said, when Mr. X picked up the phone. “Hope you are doing well.”

He didn’t say anything for a few seconds. And then he replied, “I was waiting your call.”

“Did you rejoin the movement?” I asked.

He didn’t want to answer.

I explained to him that these many years later, I wanted to use the notes from our interviews.

“Can we talk?” I asked.

“I don’t want to talk,” he said, and hung up the phone.

Top photo: A Turkish protester holds a banner depicting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, right, during an anti-government demonstration on Dec. 30, 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Com pelo menos 92 baleados durante as Olimpíadas, Rio de Janeiro ganha medalha de chumbo

The Intercept - Engl. - mar, 23/08/2016 - 15:58

Balas cortavam os ares da Cidade de Deus na hora em que Rafaela Silva subia ao pódio para receber a primeira medalha de ouro do Brasil. Ela viveu no bairro até os oito anos, e seus familiares continuam morando lá,  a apenas 8 km do Parque Olímpico da Barra da Tijuca, onde acontecia a competição. No dia seguinte, mais tiros. E no dia 12, também. A poucas horas da carreata em homenagem à campeã, mais uma vez foram registrados tiroteios na região.

A situação não é exceção. Desde o início dos Jogos, no dia 3 de agosto, foram contabilizados na região metropolitana do Rio de Janeiro, segundo notícias e ocorrências da Polícia Militar do Rio de Janeiro, 107 tiroteios/disparos de arma de fogo, deixando 34 vítimas fatais e 58 feridos. Do total, 28 eram agentes de segurança, seis deles morreram.

Arte: Erick Dau

Em período equivalente no mês anterior (3 a 21 de julho), foram 90 tiroteios/disparos de arma de fogo, com 23 vítimas fatais e 53 feridos. Do total, 21 eram agentes de segurança – quatro deles morreram e 17 ficaram feridos.

No período olímpico, o site da PMERJ (Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro) registrou 71 ocorrências gerais, 12 delas com trocas de tiros. O número destoa do levantamento feito pelo aplicativo Fogo Cruzado*, da Anistia Internacional, que soma informações da Polícia Militar e da imprensa e registrou um total de 107 tiroteios no Grande Rio no mesmo período. The Intercept Brasil solicitou as estatísticas referentes ao período, mas os relatórios oficiais da PM são atualizados somente ao final de cada mês.

Somos um Rio. De sangue.

Essa metáfora se tornou realidade no último dia 11 de agosto, na favela Bandeira 2, em Del Castilho. A Polícia Militar afirmou que o Batalhão de Choque foi recebido a tiros na comunidade, enquanto os agentes checavam uma denúncia no local. De acordo com moradores, a polícia esteve mais cedo na favela e voltou à noite, quando as pessoas foram mortas e feridas. Nenhuma das duas ações da polícia na área constam nas ocorrências da PM disponíveis no site da instituição.

Manhã seguinte à operação da Polícia Militar na Favela Bandeira 2, Del Castilho. Três pessoas morreram e duas ficaram feridas.

Foto: Carlos Cout/Coletivo Papo Reto

“A rua estava cheia. Deu para ver mães correndo com crianças no colo, pessoas abandonando motos no chão para se proteger. Os tiros que resultaram nas mortes não duraram nem cinco minutos. Foi uma ação rápida. Por isso acho que eles entraram já com a missão de matar e sair da favela”, explica ao The Intercept Brasil um morador que, para sua segurança, preferiu não se identificar. Foram mortos César Soares dos Santos, 14 anos; Matheus Amâncio de Aragão, 15, e Ricardo Rodrigues de Araújo, 22.

No dia anterior, uma viatura da Força Nacional tinha sido atacada a tiros na Vila do João, no Complexo da Maré. Um agente foi morto e outros dois ficaram feridos. O ministro-chefe do GSI (Gabinete de Segurança Institucional) da presidência da República, general Sérgio Etchegoyen, disse que a morte do agente da Força Nacional Helio Vieira foi uma “fatalidade”. A “fatalidade” gerou uma reação, e a Maré foi ocupada no mesmo dia e passou por operações policiais nos dias seguintes. O saldo subsequente: quatro mortes, cinco baleados e três presos, todos acusados de associação ao tráfico de drogas – nenhum, porém, tinha mandado de prisão emitido pela Justiça por participação na emboscada aos agentes da Força.

Militares adentram residência no Complexo da Maré, sem autorização de moradores.

Foto: Divulgação/Coletivo Maré Vive

Durante as buscas aos culpados, foi narrada uma série de violações de direitos, como o uso de chave mestra para a entrada em residências sem mandado de busca e sem a permissão dos moradores. Apesar das flagrantes ilegalidades, o Ministro da Defesa, Raul Jungmann, afirmou que as operações ocorriam dentro da lei.

“A Constituição assegura a inviolabilidade do domicílio, que só cede diante de decisão judicial fundamentada ou hipótese de flagrante delito. Choca, porém, a naturalidade com que essa garantia constitucional é violada no Brasil, em especial quando as vítimas são pobres”, explica o juiz do Tribunal de Justiça do Rio de Janeiro, Rubens Casara. “Estamos adentrando na era da pós-democracia, em que a ação do Estado não respeita limites éticos ou jurídicos, na qual os direitos e garantias fundamentais podem ser afastados de acordo com a vontade dos detentores do poder político”, acrescentou.

“Sensação de Segurança”

Às vésperas da abertura da Rio 2016, a Polícia Militar realizou a Operação Germânia no Complexo do Alemão, Zona Norte da Cidade, com o objetivo de prender integrantes do tráfico na região. A operação envolveu 450 policiais, deixou um deles ferido e duas outras pessoas mortas. Diante os Jogos, a região ficou sob uma clima de guerra. O aplicativo Fogo Cruzado registrou 12 tiroteios na região neste mês.

Para o titular da Delegacia da área (45ª), Fábio Asty, ações como Operação Germânia contribuem para o clima de segurança na cidade. “Não acredito que isso amedronte quem estiver aqui pelo evento. Muito pelo contrário, traz uma maior sensação de segurança. Tudo que fizemos e estamos fazendo é bem planejado e visa somente à segurança e ao bem-estar da nossa população, acima de tudo”, disse à época.

Ao longo das Olimpíadas, onze pessoas foram baleadas, quatro delas morreram no Complexo do Alemão. Desse total, cinco dos feridos e um dos mortos eram policias. Estas informações foram coletadas via imprensa, uma vez que a PMERJ não contabilizou nenhum destes fatos em seu site e as informações do Instituto de Segurança Pública do Rio de Janeiro (ISP) só são divulgadas no fim do mês seguinte ao das ocorrências. O último balanço de indicadores das Unidades de Polícia Pacificadoras abrange dados entre 2007 e 2014.

Do outro lado da cidade, a estratégia de segurança acabou tendo o impacto desejado. Pesquisa feita pelo Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos do Turismo do Rio de Janeiro (Ipetur-RJ) e pela Fundação Cesgranrio deixam clara esta dicotomia de segurança na cidade olímpica: para 90% dos turistas estrangeiros a segurança foi avaliada entre boa e excelente.

*Cecília Olliveira é co-realizadora do aplicativo Fogo Cruzado, da Anistia Internacional

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Bundeswehr-Werbeoffensive zur Olympiade

Bildung ohne Bundeswehr Hamburg - mar, 23/08/2016 - 10:06

Die Bundeswehr bei Olympia: Fakten zur Spitzensportförderung durch die Bundeswehr


Wusstet ihr schon?

Dass fast ein Drittel (127 von 423) Sportlerinnen und Sportlern des deutschen Teams bei der Olympiade in Rio 2016 Soldaten/ SoldatInnen waren?

Dass in der BRD die Hochleistungs- bzw. Spitzensportförderung von öffentlichem und nationalem Interesse ist?

Dass die Bundeswehr einer der größten Förderer des Hochleistungssports in Deutschland ist?

Dass die Bundeswehr mit einem Personalansatz von 827 Dienstposten den deutschen Spitzensport fördert?

Dass die Kosten, die in Zusammenhang mit der Spitzensportförderung der Bundeswehr zu sehen sind, z.Zt. rd. 32 Mio. € pro Jahr betragen?

Dass die Spitzensportlerinnen und Spitzensportler grundsätzlich als freiwillig Wehrdienstleistende (FWDL) für 12 Monate eingestellt werden?

Dass die SportsoldatInnen eine bedarfsgerechte Aus-, Fort- und Weiterbildung (militärischer Dienst), die den Erhalt der militärischen Grundfertigkeiten sicherstellen soll, durchlaufen?

Dass zudem das Einverständnis der Sportlerinnen bzw. Sportler vorausgesetzt wird, an der Ausbildung zum Feldwebel-Truppendienst teilzunehmen?

Dass die Spitzensportlerinnen und Spitzensportler auch in das Dienstverhältnis eines Soldaten auf Zeit berufen werden können?

Dass wenn die Spitzensportlerinnen bzw. Spitzensportler die Voraussetzungen für den Verbleib in der Spitzensportförderung der Bundeswehr nicht mehr erfüllen (z.B. Aberkennung des Bundeskaderstatus), sie in die Truppe versetzt und dort entsprechend ihrer militärischen Ausbildung und ihres Dienstgrades eingesetzt werden?

Dass die Spitzensportförderung der Bundeswehr auch in Zukunft ein wichtiger Garant dafür ist, dass die BRD eine führende Stellung im Weltsport beibehalten kann?

Die Begründung/ Grundlage für die Förderung durch die Bundeswehr sieht wie folgt aus:
Nach außen repräsentieren die SpitzensportlerInnen der Bundeswehr die Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Schließlich wird das Bild Deutschlands in der Welt auch durch das Auftreten seiner Athleten bei internationalen Wettkämpfen geprägt.
Die Bundesregierung wurde bereits im Mai 1968 durch Beschluss des Deutschen Bundestages aufgefordert, „zur Förderung von Spitzensportlern bei der Bundeswehr Fördergruppen einzurichten, die soweit wie möglich an Leistungszentren der Sportverbände angelehnt werden sollten“. Auf dieser Grundlage wurden durch das Bundesministerium der Verteidigung nach gemeinsamen Beratungen mit dem damaligen Deutschen Sportbund und dem Bundesministerium des Innern (BMI) in 1971 erstmalig „Regelungen für die Spitzensportförderung in der Bundeswehr“ herausgegeben.

Quellen:
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Bundeswehr abschaffen – Mach was wirklich zählt!

Consultant Raised Cash for Hillary Clinton, Used Access for Meeting with Coal Giant, Emails Reveal

The Intercept - Engl. - mar, 23/08/2016 - 00:23

In 2009, when St. Louis-based coal company Peabody Energy was aiming for rapid expansion into Mongolia, China, and other international markets, it sought an audience with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss its global vision.

In April of that year, an official with Peabody reached out to the State Department to request a formal meeting. The request was denied, so Peabody leaned on its lobbying team to intervene on the issue. In June, two months after Peabody’s formal request, Joyce Aboussie, a political consultant working for Peabody, wrote to Clinton aide Huma Abedin to ask that Clinton meet with Peabody executives as a personal favor.

“Huma, I need your help now to intervene please. We need this meeting with Secretary Clinton, who has been there now for nearly six months,” Aboussie wrote. “It should go without saying that the Peabody folks came to Dick and I because of our relationship with the Clinton’s,” she added.

Aboussie was referring to Dick Gephardt, the former House Democratic Leader who became a lobbyist after leaving public office, taking on Peabody as a client. Aboussie, a former Democratic staffer, has served as a fundraiser for Clinton’s campaigns, raising at least $100,000 for Clinton’s 2008 campaign and at least $100,000 for Clinton’s current bid for the White House. Aboussie also donated between $100,000 – $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

“We are working on it and I hope we can make something work,” Abedin replied, noting “we have to work through the beauracracy [sic] here.”

The emails were released by Judiciary Watch, which published 725 pages of new State Department documents from email accounts associated with Clinton’s private server. The emails provide a window into several exchanges that appear to show Clinton donors seeking meetings and other forms of favorable treatment. For instance, one newly disclosed email chain reveals that Doug Band, a Bill Clinton adviser who played a major role in establishing the Clinton Foundation, worked to set up a meeting between then Secretary Clinton and the Crown Prince Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain after a formal request was denied.

Band, the Washington Examiner notes, wrote to Abedin to stress that Salman was a “good friend of ours.” The Clinton Foundation notably received a donation worth up to $100,000 from the Bahrain government.

Previously released emails suggest that Gephardt also lobbied the State Department to set up meetings with business associates. Gephardt, a so-called “superdelegate,” endorsed Clinton early during the 2016 Democratic primary.

Peabody, the largest coal company in the world, declared bankruptcy in April of this year. The bankruptcy documents from the firm revealed the the company, in addition to funding a number of lobbyists and political consultants, financed a network of groups working to spread doubt about the dangers of global warming.

Top photo: The Peabody Energy Corp. Somerville Central coal mine, Oakland City, Indiana, April 5, 2016.

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Zivile Kriegsvorbereitung

German Foreign Policy - mar, 23/08/2016 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - Die Bundesregierung unternimmt neue Schritte zur Vorbereitung der deutschen Bevölkerung auf Angriffe feindlicher Kombattanten im Inland. Geplant ist unter anderem eine neue "Konzeption Zivile Verteidigung", die voraussichtlich am Mittwoch vom Kabinett verabschiedet wird. Danach sollen sich die Einwohner der Bundesrepublik auf eine "existenzbedrohende Entwicklung" einstellen, indem sie etwa Reserven an Nahrungsmitteln, Medikamenten und Trinkwasser vorhalten. Auch die "zivile Unterstützung" der Bundeswehr und das Inkraftsetzen einer "Notstandsverfassung" ist Presseberichten zufolge Teil des Konzepts. Erst unlängst hat Bundesinnenminister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) darauf verwiesen, dass Repressionskräfte und Militär bereits seit etlichen Jahren regelmäßig "Terrorszenarien mit konventionellen, chemischen und biologischen Wirkmitteln" durchspielen. Gleichzeitig kündigte er an, die Videoüberwachung des öffentlichen Raums drastisch auszuweiten und die "Spezialkräfte" der Bundespolizei einer zentralen Leitung zu unterstellen. Parallel dazu nehmen die Planungen für gemeinsame Manöver von Polizei und Streitkräften konkrete Gestalt an. Die deutschen "Sicherheitsbehörden" müssten "das Unmögliche denken und sich darauf vorbereiten", erklärt der baden-württembergische Innenminister Thomas Strobl (CDU) zur Begründung. Explizites Ziel der avisierten Maßnahmen ist die Erhöhung der "gesellschaftlichen Widerstandsfähigkeit" gegen Attacken aller Art, die auf das sich "deutlich steigernde außen- und sicherheitspolitische Engagement Deutschlands" in aller Welt zurückgeführt werden.

Verhandlungen in Oslo: „Geisel im Friedensprozess “

Hintergrund.de - lun, 22/08/2016 - 22:41

Alan Jazmines (69) zählt zu jenen Beratern des philippinischen Linksbündnisses der Nationalen Demokratischen Front (NDFP) (1), die der seit dem 30. Juni amtierende Präsident Rodrigo R. Duterte in der vergangenen Woche gegen Kaution freiließ. Langjährig in einem Hochsicherheitstrakt weggesperrt und landesweit einer von etwa 550 politischen Gefangenen – „political detainees“, kurz „poldet“ genannt – (2), nimmt Alan Jazmines vom 22. bis zum 27. August als NDFP-Berater an den formell wieder aufgenommenen Friedensverhandlungen zwischen seiner Organisation und der Regierung in Manila im norwegischen Oslo teil. (3)

Von RAINER WERNING, 22. August 2016 -

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Recorde de medalhas é bolha especulativa: Resultado deste ano não coloca Brasil na elite olímpica

The Intercept - Engl. - lun, 22/08/2016 - 21:04

Acabou a festa. O Brasil conquistou um número recorde de medalhas – 19 – e chegou a um ponto inédito no pódio olímpico –13º lugar. E agora? Manteremos o desempenho nos próximos jogos? Provavelmente, não. E o motivo da resposta negativa é a forma como os investimentos em esporte foram geridos para tentar garantir o top 10 em casa: em vez de investir em uma estrutura esportiva nacional, o dinheiro foi direcionado a atletas específicos escolhidos a dedo pelo Comitê Olímpico Brasileiro (COB).

Investindo em atletas específicos assegura-se um desempenho melhor nesta edição dos Jogos, mas não se garante um legado esportivo ao longo prazo. “Um atleta só não fortalece um esporte como um todo, porque ele dura de dois a três ciclos olímpicos”, explica o professor da USP José Renato de Campos Araújo, que tem o trabalho focado em Gestão de Políticas Públicas.A lógica que guiou a gestão dos recursos foi a mesma de quem compra ações da bolsa: quanto maiores as chances de retorno, maior o investimento.

“Foram criados programas oportunistas, que visavam apenas a conquista das medalhas e apenas nesses jogos”, avalia Katia Rubio, autora de 12 livros acadêmicos na área de Psicologia do Esporte e Estudos Olímpicos. Segundo a especialista, “é uma pena, a oportunidade perdida”.

Agatha Bednarczuk, da dupla Agatha/Barbara, durante jogo contra a dupla Larissa/Talita no Rio Open de vôlei de praia, com patrocínio do Banco do Brasil, em Copacabana, em setembro de 2015.

Foto: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Os programas aos quais Rubio se refere são os financiamentos oferecidos pelo Ministério do Esporte, o Ministério da Defesa, o COB e empresas estatais patrocinadoras, como Caixa EconômicaPetrobras, Correios e BNDES. Entre eles, o destaque está no Plano Brasil Medalhas, criado em 2012 com o objetivo de colocar o país na 10ª posição do ranking olímpico deste ano.

A lógica que guiou a gestão dos recursos foi a mesma de quem compra ações da bolsa: quanto maiores as chances de retorno, maior o investimento. Apenas o Plano Brasil Medalha injetou R$1 bilhão em esportistas nacionais. As Forças Nacionais investiram, em média, R$18 milhões por ano.

Para entrar no top 10 é preciso mais que isso, os países que figuram na elite olímpica possuem redes bem estruturadas de recrutamento e desenvolvimento de talentos a partir do esporte escolar. Basta observar a nação que alcançou justamente a 10ª posição: a Austrália.

Foi traçado um plano estratégico em 1989, “The Australian Sports Kit” com o objetivo de aumentar a participação esportiva da população. Envolveu um aumento de 79% no financiamento para esportes e lazer, focando principalmente centros esportivos comunitários. O aumento no número de pessoas praticando esportes permitiu um segundo passo na estratégia, em 1992: “Maintain the Momentum”. Potenciais olímpicos eram localizados e enviados para treinar em centros de referência regionais. Não por acaso, em 1993 Sydney venceu a disputa pela sede dos Jogos de 2000.

O time australiano que recebeu medalha de prata no 4×100 da natação (da esquerda para a direita): Emily Seebohm, Taylor McKeown, Emma McKeon e Cate Campbell. Com 29 medalhas, das quais 10 vieram das piscinas, o país chegou ao 10º lugar no ranking geral.

Foto: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

Todo esse plano foi traçado a partir de um relatório feito pelo Comitê de Finanças e Políticas Administrativas, em 1989, chamado “Going for Gold” e faz parte de uma política pública de esportes que o governo explica detalhadamente em seu website. Após receber os jogos, em 2000, a estratégia seguiu focada em incentivo a uma melhor qualidade de vida dos cidadãos através do esporte, paralelamente com objetivos ainda mais altos para o esporte de elite. O plano “Play. Sport. Australia.” foca em esporte de base e recreativo enquanto o “Winning Edge” foca no objetivo de entrar para o top 5 do ranking olímpico até 2020.

Nações que sediam as Olimpíadas registram aumento no número de medalhas ao jogar em casa. O desafio é manter o ritmo depois.

O problema não reside no fato de o governo investir em atletas de alto rendimento. Mas, ao mirar apenas em profissionais formados, deixa o esporte de base de lado num país onde seis em cada dez escolas públicas sequer possui quadra esportiva. Os investimentos programados para o período pós-jogos também foram cortados.

Diversos países desenvolvem planos estratégicos de investimento em esporte de elite, principalmente com o objetivo de aumentar o número de medalhas no ano em que sediam os jogos. Exatamente por isso, é comum haver um pico no número de medalhas no ano em que se sedia os Jogos, seguido de uma ligeira queda (confira no gráfico abaixo). O verdadeiro desafio olímpico é manter um patamar elevado em relação ao anterior em longo prazo.

O Reino Unido traçou um plano para o pós-olímpico de Londres e colocou em prática: foi feito um investimento recorde de £347 milhões ( o equivalente a aproximadamente R$1,5 bilhão) com a meta de ganhar 66 medalhas, uma a mais em comparação a 2012. O objetivo foi ultrapassado no Rio, onde permaneceu no top 3 da tabela, em 2º lugar, com 67 medalhas. China, Espanha e Austrália também são exemplos de nações que conseguiram subir de patamar nos rankings das edições seguintes às que sediaram. Já a Grécia não conseguiu reverter os investimentos em fortalecimento do sistema esportivo nacional e caiu da 15ª para a 59ª logo após sediar os jogos.

Segundo o professor da USP José Renato de Campos Araújo, a principal oportunidade perdida foi a falta de profissionalização do esporte brasileiro, exatamente o mesmo o erro grego:

“É um problema de gestão. Por anos o Estado brasileiro investiu nos atletas e deu dinheiro para as confederações esportivas. É delas que temos de cobrar, porque são elas que mantém as equipes de seleção. O Estado deveria ter incentivado as confederações para se profissionalizarem e passarem a ser geridas como empresas de fato, e não como feudos familiares que são”. A dificuldade em cobrar contas das confederações é que elas são empresas particulares e, por isso, não existe uma agência reguladora que fiscalize seu desempenho.

Enquanto, em conjunto, os atletas da delegação brasileira terminam os jogos com resultados históricos, na vida prática, voltam a uma realidade triste. 

Jaqueline Carvalho, da seleção feminina de vôlei de quadra, após derrota para a China. Atletas de elite como ela estão perdendo espaço nos clubes brasileiros com cortes de verbas.

Foto: David Ramos/Getty Images

Enquanto, em conjunto, os atletas da delegação brasileira terminam os jogos com resultados históricos, na vida prática, voltam a uma realidade triste. A equipe feminina de vôlei, por exemplo, não atendeu às expectativas do COB. Pudera, os clubes estão freando investimentos e cortando justamente nomes que compõem a seleção.

Jaqueline Carvalho, estrela da equipe, perdeu o emprego a poucos meses das Olimpíadas. É que o Sesi-SP, time onde trabalhava, resolveu fazer um corte de custos e mudou a estratégia para a equipe de vôlei, alterando o perfil do time de profissional para sub 23.

Outros clubes que já tiveram histórico forte em esportes olímpicos, agora, focam apenas no futebol masculino. É o caso do carioca Vasco da Gama: seu parque aquático, que já foi casa do medalhista Gustavo Borges, hoje está abandonado.

É importante ressaltar que, enquanto o futebol masculino está sob os holofotes na grande maioria os clubes, a Confederação Brasileira discute a extinção da seleção permanente de futebol feminino. Faria algum sentido extinguir a seleção permanente se o país tivesse desenvolvido um sistema amplo e variado de times que possibilitassem a seleção feminina a funcionar como a masculina, que só é escalada nas vésperas de um evento. Mas este não é o caso.

Da esquerda para a direita: O prefeito do Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes, o então governador Sergio Cabral, o presidente do Comitê Rio 2016 e do COB, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, o ex-presidente Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva e o então ministro dos esportes, Orlando Silva comemorando a escolha do Rio para sediar os jogos de 2016.

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

O ano é 2009, na Dinamarca, o então presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva levanta a mão com o punho cerrado em comemoração à escolha do Rio de Janeiro como sede dos Jogos Olímpicos de 2016. A partir da escolha do Comitê Olímpico Internacional, um plano foi traçado. Era preciso fazer bonito não apenas na organização e nas festas, mas nas provas também. E assim foi criado o “livro preto” do COB.

“A gente fez um livro para cada uma das modalidades traçando o perfil do medalhista. Pegamos os medalhistas de Pequim, Londres e Atenas e destrinchamos a vida deles, perfil biológico, tudo. Vimos o que cada um tinha ganhado nos quatro anos anteriores, como era carreira desde pequeno. Foi em 2009 que a gente começou a fazer. Em 2010, ele virou papel e, em 2012, já teve resultado”, explica Marcus Vinícius Freire, diretor executivo de Esportes do COB. Ele conta que inúmeros especialistas em cada uma das modalidades, em medicina esportiva e estatística participaram da criação do livro e, na reta final, a equipe contava com “apenas” 50 pessoas.

“A gente conseguiu alinhar que todo mundo apostasse nos mesmos possíveis resultados ou medalhistas possíveis.” 

Das 30 confederações que compõem o comitê, 18 foram consideradas estratégicas, estas comandam os 21 esportes apontados no Plano Brasil Medalha. Os atletas foram divididos em três grupos –“vital”, “potencial” e “legado”– que indicavam a possibilidade de pódio. No primeiro, estavam aqueles com grandes chances, o terceiro reunia os atletas que só estariam “maduros” para os Jogos de Tóquio, em 2020. A organização era dinâmica, os nomes podiam subir ou descer de categoria de acordo com seu desempenho em competições internacionais. Assim se montou o Time Brasil.

Uma vez selecionados os nomes, os investimentos eram feitos em conjunto. “Essa conjunção só foi possível porque todo mundo entendeu que esse era o mapa”, lembra o diretor executivo do COB: “A gente conseguiu alinhar que todo mundo apostasse nos mesmos possíveis resultados ou medalhistas possíveis. Todo mundo, eu quero dizer o COB, as confederações, o Ministério dos Esportes e o Ministério da Defesa, que incorporou os caras que nós pedimos. Tanto que, se você pegar hoje, muitos são da Marinha, do Exército, da Aeronáutica”.

O desafio será transformar esses novos ídolos que estão nascendo em inspiração para uma nova geração de atletas. 

Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos recebendo sua primeira medalha, de bronze.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Deste plano surgiu o que, para alguns brasileiros foi “uma surpresa”: Isaquias Queiroz. O hoje multimedalhista na canoagem de velocidade podia ser desconhecido para a torcida brasileira ou para os organizadores do álbum de figurinhas dos atletas olímpicos antes da cerimônia de abertura, mas o COB o acompanha de perto desde 2011, quando foi campeão mundial junior.

O desafio será transformar esses novos ídolos que estão nascendo em inspiração para uma nova geração de atletas e dar aos jovens condições de treino para popularizar esportes não tradicionais, mas com potencial. Com Gustavo Kuerten, atleta do tênis que se tornou fenômeno nacional, a confederação perdeu o timing e o esporte continua sendo um hobby de elite.

Já a ginástica olímpica colhe hoje os louros plantados há mais de uma década. “Esses atletas que estão se destacando na ginástica não são de agora, são resultado de um longo investimento. Mas é um dos poucos esportes em que conseguimos construir algo sólido ao longo dos anos. E agora eles têm uma boa estrutura, quem vai administrar e manter isso?”, provoca o professor Araújo.

O Estádio Olímpico do Engenhão, onde Usain Bolt correu, foi construído para os Jogos Panamericanos, em 2007, e fechado seis anos após a inauguração por falhas estruturais. Precisou de reformas milionárias para receber as Olimpíadas. A única medalha do atletismo brasileiro foi o ouro de Thiago Braz, do salto com vara. Ele mora e treina na Itália desde 2014 como parte da estratégia de preparação olímpica. Ou seja, foi preciso enviá-lo para outro país justamente pela falta de estrutura no Brasil.

Usain Bolt beija a pista de atletismo do Engenhão após vencer prova.

Foto: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Único local para treinamento de atletismo no Rio antes dos Jogos, o estádio Célio de Barros fazia parte do complexo esportivo do Maracanã. Foi destruído em 2013 para dar espaço às construções temporárias de escritórios de televisão e transmissão dos Jogos e cerimônias olímpicas e da Copa do Mundo de 2014. Desde então sua reconstrução é debatida pela secretaria de esporte do Governo Estadual, sem garantia de realização.

O Parque Aquático Maria Lenk seguia subutilizado e também passou por reformas. Ainda assim, sofreu críticas durante sua utilização nas Olimpíadas. A consequência da falta de locais apropriados para treino é a falta de medalhas do Brasil. A natação é justamente o tipo de esporte onde o investimento tem altas chances de retorno, pela quantidade de medalhas distribuídas. Foram das piscinas que saíram 33 das 121 medalhas dos Estados Unidos nos Jogos do Rio. E graças, também, às 10 medalhas conquistadas na natação, a Austrália alcançou o posto que era almejado pelo Brasil. Mostrando, mais uma vez, como fazer direito o dever de casa.

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The post Recorde de medalhas é bolha especulativa: Resultado deste ano não coloca Brasil na elite olímpica appeared first on The Intercept.

Kindersoldaten und Nachwuchswerbung der Bundeswehr auf der Gamescom

RIB/DAKS - lun, 22/08/2016 - 19:10

was haben China, Saudi-Arabien, der Iran, Pakistan und Deutschland gemeinsam? Genau – der Dienst an der Waffe ist ab 17 Jahren möglich. Insbesondere der Anteil der ganz jungen Rekruten steigt seit Jahren kontinuierlich an. Lag die Zahl der unter 18-jährigen Soldatinnen und Soldaten im Jahr 2011 noch bei 689, waren 2015 bereits über sieben Prozent des Jahrganges, nämlich 1515 der 21.092 neuen Soldatinnen und Soldaten unter 18 Jahre alt.

Die Bundeswehr argumentiert es sei völkerrechtlich nicht zu beanstanden wenn Jugendliche ab dem 17. Geburtstag einstellt würden, wenn die Eltern dem zustimmen.

Nach internationalen Standards handelt es sich allerdings bei den Minderjährigen Bundeswehrrekruten um Kindersoldaten. Zulässigkeit hin oder her, ein Staat wie die Bundesrepublik, dem Außenpolitik und internationales Recht in vielerlei Hinsicht wichtig ist, wäre prädestiniert dafür, mit einem leuchtenden Beispiel voranzugehen, und die Rekrutierung von Minderjährigen zu beenden. Wie soll man sonst international glaubhaft gegen Kindersoldaten argumentieren?

Marco Krüger vom Internationalen Zentrum für Ethik in den Wissenschaften der Universität Tübingen sagte zur Rekrutierung Minderjähriger in einer Expertenanhörung des Deutschen Bundestages das bereits der Kampagnentitel „Mach, was wirklich zählt“ den Soldatenberuf als zentrale und sinnstiftende gesellschaftliche Aufgabe präsentiere, dadurch würden zivile Berufsfelder implizit abgewertet und militärische Gewalt als Mittel der Konfliktlösung als Normalfall dargestellt.

Vor diesem Hintergrund ist die Bewerbung der Bundeswehr als Arbeitgeber auf der Gamescom in Köln eine bedenkliche Entwicklung.

In einer Erklärung der Bundeswehr heißt es dazu “ Wir treten hier personalwerblich auf. Mittlerweile ist es nun mal so, dass der Kontakt zu der jungen Bevölkerung durch das Aussetzten der Wehrpflicht erschwert worden ist. Wir geben hier zukunftsorientierten, technikbegeisterten, jungen Erwachsenen einen Einblick in die Bundeswehr. Im Klartext: Gamer mit Technik locken, die konsequenzen zeigen sich in den Abbruchszahlen die wir hier bereits thematisiert haben. Hier gibt es auf Flickr unsere weiteren eindrücke der größten Spielemesse aus Köln.

A Congressman Campaigns to “Stop the Madness” of U.S. Support for Saudi Bombing in Yemen

The Intercept - Engl. - lun, 22/08/2016 - 17:56

For months, a California congressman has been trying to get Obama administration officials to reconsider U.S. backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. And for months, he has been given the runaround.

Ted Lieu, a Democrat representing Los Angeles County, served in the Air Force and is a colonel in the Air Force Reserves. The brutal bombing of civilian areas with U.S.-supplied planes and weapons has led him to act when most of his colleagues have stayed silent.

“I taught the law of war when I was on active duty,” he told The Intercept. “You can’t kill children, newlyweds, doctors and patients — those are exempt targets under the law of war, and the coalition has been repeatedly striking civilians,” he said. “So it is very disturbing to me. It is even worse that the U.S. is aiding this coalition.”

But he and a very few other lawmakers who have tried to take bipartisan action to stop U.S. support for the campaign are a lonely bunch. “Many in Congress have been hesitant to criticize the Saudis’ operational conduct in Yemen,” Lieu said. He didn’t say more about that.

The matter has gotten ever more urgent since August 7, when the Saudi-led coalition relaunched an aggressive campaign of attacks after Houthi rebels in Yemen rejected a one-sided peace deal.

More than 60 Yemeni civilians have been killed in at least five attacks on civilian areas since the new bombing campaign began. On August 13, the coalition bombed a school in Haydan, Yemen, killing at least 10 children and injuring 28 more.

Lieu released a statement two days later, harshly condemning the attack. “The indiscriminate civilian killings by Saudi Arabia look like war crimes to me. In this case, children as young as 8 were killed by Saudi Arabian air strikes,” he wrote.

“By assisting Saudi Arabia, the United States is aiding and abetting what appears to be war crimes in Yemen,” Lieu added. “The administration must stop enabling this madness now.”

Then, mere minutes after his office sent out the statement about the August 13 attack, another tragedy started making headlines: The coalition had just bombed a hospital operated by the international medical humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF), killing 19.

That was the fourth MSF medical facility that the Saudi-led coalition — which has received weapons, intelligence and support from the U.S. and U.K. — has bombed in the past year in Yemen.

By a conservative estimate, more than 6,500 Yemenis have been killed since the war began in March 2015. The violence has pushed Yemen – which was already the poorest country in the Middle East, suffering from widespread hunger and destitution — into what the U.N. has called for well over a year now a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Lieu has been repeatedly raising concerns about Yemen since last fall.

In September, Lieu sent a letter to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, requesting that the U.S. “cease aiding coalition airstrikes in Yemen until the coalition demonstrates that they will institute proper safeguards to prevent civilian deaths.”

In October, Lieu and a dozen other members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama, raising concerns about war crimes committed by the coalition. The Saudi-led coalition had just bombed two weddings, killing more than 150 Yemenis.

In March, Lieu sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, calling for the government to “provide an assessment as to whether the indiscriminate nature of the coalition’s operations and the targeting of civilians have significantly changed since October 2015.”

“No progress has been made, tragically,” Lieu said. “A year after we first began seeing reports of widespread Saudi-led coalition bombings on civilians, the coalition is still bombing schools and hospitals.”

Lieu initially scheduled a phone conversation with officers from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Then I opted to focus on the real decision-makers for U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Yemen: the State Department and Defense Department,” he explained.

The State Department never responded to his requests. Lieu’s office did however receive a response from the Pentagon on July 20. In a two-page letter, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon assured Lieu that “The United States Government shares your deep concern over civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure in Yemen.”

But in the very next line, McKeon underscored the fact that “The United States supports the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts to restore the legitimate government of Yemen.” That is a reference to the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, which was overthrown by the Houthi rebels. President Hadi fled to the Saudi capital of Riyadh when the bombing campaign was launched.

McKeon also noted that “United States military officers meet regularly with senior coalition military leaders and provide recommendations to support their efforts to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict and to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.”

“We believe Saudi Arabia has sought to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict,” McKeon wrote.

For months, rights groups have said otherwise. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented a slew of war crimes committed by the coalition. Both released reports on incidents in which the coalition bombed civilian areas with cluster bombs that were manufactured in the U.S., U.K. and Brazil. Those munitions are banned by an international treaty signed by 119 countries. (The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are not signatories.)

A report released by a U.N. panel of experts in February offered a more detailed glimpse into the sheer horror. It documented “that the coalition had conducted air strikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”

In June, Lieu, who serves on the House’s oversight and budget committee, joined Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican representing Florida, in introducing H.J. Res. 90, a bill that would bar the transfer of air-to-ground munitions from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have also been critical of U.S. support for the bombing, and introduced the Senate companion to the legislation, S.J. Res. 32.

Both of the bills were referred to their respective chambers’ foreign affairs committees, where they still sit.

On Aug. 8, the U.S. State Department announced to Congress that it had approved a $1.15 billion sale of up to 153 tanks, hundreds of machine guns and more to the kingdom – on top of the approximately $110 billion in arms deals the Obama administration has done in the past. Lieu applauded Paul for pressuring fellow lawmakers to vote against the deal.

Lieu plans “to continue working with a bipartisan group of members to raise the alarm in light of continued Saudi airstrikes on civilians and the newly announced U.S. arms sales,” he said. “We should not be selling Saudi Arabia even more weapons as a result of the carnage that is happening in Yemen.”

“The fact that the administration is even proposing another arms sale suggests to me that the administration is, at best, callously indifferent to the mass amount of civilians dying as a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing.”

With the resurgent violence, a war that has been largely ignored in the U.S. for nearly a year and a half is becoming much harder to overlook. The State Department delivered a rare rebuke to the Saudis after the latest hospital bombing. The editorial board of the New York Times on Tuesday argued that “The United States is complicit in this carnage. It has enabled the coalition in many ways.” It added, crucially: “Experts say the coalition would be grounded if Washington withheld its support.”

Lieu told The Intercept the “editorial was spot on”: “The U.S. is complicit in these bombings,” he said. “It’s not as if there was just one or two instances of civilians being targeted. We now have more than 30 instances of civilians being killed by the Saudi-led air coalition. The U.S. can no longer avert its eyes to what is happening in Yemen.”

And Lieu warned the U.S. support could backfire. “By aiding a coalition that is killing civilians, the U.S. is going to create another generation of people who hate the U.S. and who are going to want to do very bad things to us,” he said.

Indeed, if anyone has benefitted from Yemen being pounded to rubble, it has been extremist groups. Secretary of Defense Carter and other U.S. government officials warned as early as April 2015 that, in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had “seized the opportunity of the disorder there and the collapse of the central government.”

A year later, Reuters released a detailed report showing “How Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has made al-Qaeda stronger — and richer.” The Pentagon even sent a small number of U.S. ground troops into Yemen in April and May, it says to help fight AQAP.

ISIS has also exploited the chaos in Yemen (as it has in Libya, in the wake of the 2011 NATO regime change). Extreme violence, grinding poverty and increasing desperation has pushed Yemenis into the arms of extremists.

Lieu said he worries that the adverse effects of this conflict could be felt for years to come. “It’s actually creating more terrorists by killing all these civilians,” he said.

Top photo: Rep.Ted Lieu addresses delegates at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016

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The post A Congressman Campaigns to “Stop the Madness” of U.S. Support for Saudi Bombing in Yemen appeared first on The Intercept.

Coast Guard Fired at Migrant Boats, European Border Agency Documents Show

The Intercept - Engl. - lun, 22/08/2016 - 16:24

On a smuggler’s boat from Turkey two years ago, 19-year-old Rawan watched the passengers start to panic as a Greek coast guard vessel approached them head on, circling twice. Rawan heard two gunshots ring out from the Greek patrol. Fearing arrest, the driver of Rawan’s boat, a Turkish fisherman, turned the vehicle around to flee back to Turkey. Then Rawan heard more shots.

When the bullet hit her in the lower back, at first she felt nothing. Then, Rawan says, it felt like fire.

Rawan’s husband had made it to Germany a year earlier; both were fleeing their home in Damascus, Syria. Rawan and 12 other Syrians were headed for the Greek island of Chios on a small fiberglass boat, much faster than the inflatable dinghies that many refugees use for the 5-mile crossing.

Before the shots, Rawan heard “stop” blare over a loudspeaker on the coast guard vessel. She and four others were in the forward compartment of the boat, and more people were sitting in the back near the outboard engine. Rawan’s father-in-law, Adnan Akil, was also shot in the lower back, and Amjad A., another Syrian refugee who asked that only his first name and last initial be used, was shot in the shoulder.

Akil says he clearly remembers the chain of events leading up to the shooting. One officer had a pistol, the other had a submachine gun. Akil, Rawan, and other witnesses say they heard one officer shoot in automatic bursts. “We were shouting and screaming for the driver to stop,” remembers Braa Abosaleh, another Syrian refugee who was on the boat that day.

When the driver didn’t stop, the coast guard rammed their boat from the back right side. Akil and Rawan remember the driver stopping the boat, pretending he was going to surrender. As the officers put down their weapons and approached, the driver fired up the engine again and turned back toward Turkey. This time, the coast guard shot directly at the fleeing boat.

Finally, after the second round of shots, the driver stopped. From just outside the front compartment, Abosaleh watched a coast guard officer board their boat and scuffle with the driver. Abosaleh says the officer beat the driver with the butt of his pistol before handcuffing him, an account confirmed by Rawan. The wounded were transported to the hospital and the rest of the refugees were taken to a hotel in Chios city for interrogation.

An unredacted Frontex incident report showing the coast guard firing on a refugee boat.

Frontex data.

A report of damages from the March 2014 incident would later document a total of 16 bullet holes in the boat, centering on the front compartment.

Sitting on a couch in her apartment in northern Germany last month, Rawan nervously rolls one cigarette after another. She walks with a limp from the shooting. She insists on only publishing her first name; her family in Syria still doesn’t know she was shot. Rawan says the coast guard officers threw her and the others wounded into their boat “like animals.”

After the shooting, one of the coast guard officers involved was arrested. According to court reports, he admitted finishing a clip of 30 bullets and reloading before continuing to shoot. In court, the two other officers aboard blamed him, saying he acted on his own and not on orders from his superior. The shooting was treated as an isolated event.

Less than a month later, a Greek court ruled that the coast guard officers, including the one arrested, did nothing wrong; they were shooting to stop a suspected smuggler.

Yet a collection of incident reports from Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, obtained by The Intercept, reveals a broader Greek and European tactic of using weapons to stop boats driven by suspected smugglers — and injuring or killing refugees in the process. (In the Greek islands, Frontex operates alongside the coast guard, patrolling the sea border with Turkey. In many cases, the information in these documents was reported to Frontex by the Greek coast guard as part of their joint operations.)

The documents, which were meant to be redacted to shield operational details but were inadvertently released by Frontex in full, reveal multiple cases of firearms use against boats carrying refugees (The Intercept has elected to publish the unredacted versions to demonstrate how refugees’ lives were endangered during these incidents). The reports span a 20-month period from May 2014, two months after the Chios shooting, to December 2015. Each case of firearms use — even if it resulted in someone being wounded — was described as part of the standard rules of engagement for stopping boats at sea.

A woman wakes up in the port of Chios, where refugees and migrants who left a detention center were camping out on April 5, 2016.

Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

Chios is a small, sleepy island of 50,000 people just 5 miles from the Turkish coast. The island has long been one of the key points for refugees crossing to Greece from Turkey. At the beginning of 2015, when the most recent surge in crossings began, the city’s main park was used for improvised refugee housing, and many residents came to volunteer and offer food. Now, one of the island’s three established refugee camps is located next to that park, in the center of the city.

Members of the coast guard here describe being overwhelmed by refugee arrivals, while coping with a lack of resources and proper training. According to U.N. statistics, over 100,000 refugees passed through Chios in 2015 — twice the local population of the island.

“It’s very difficult to stop a [fast boat],” explains one active coast guard captain currently working in the Greek islands. He spoke on the condition of anonymity about the protocol for intercepting smuggler boats coming from Turkey.

“You go near the boat, you say stop with your hands or with an air horn,” he says. If they don’t stop, “sometimes we shoot the engines.” He adds that the shooting only happens “when it is safe to do so.”

“If it’s not safe,” he says, “we let them go.”

There are two types of boats that refugees typically use to get from Turkey to the Greek islands. The most common are slow inflatable dinghies that are overloaded, often with more than 50 people. These boats putter across the Aegean, barely above water, with small, strained engines that often break down before reaching shore. The inflatable boats do not usually have a smuggler on board; rather, smugglers give one refugee a free ride across in return for piloting.

The faster boats, like the one that carried Rawan, are made of wood or fiberglass and are often driven by local fisherman who work with smuggling networks and make multiple trips in a day. According to the accounts of refugees in Chios, Lesbos, and on the Greek mainland, as well as the Frontex incident reports, these boats, if confronted by the coast guard in Greek waters, will typically try to flee back to Turkey. This is when the shootings happen.

Footage of the Greek coast guard intercepting a boat smuggling refugees.

Frontex officers must abide by the same rules of engagement as police in the host country where they are operating. Greek law divides weapon use into four categories: shooting for intimidation, shooting against objects, shooting to immobilize, and shooting to kill. According to the rules of engagement for Greek coast guard officers, as well as Frontex officers working in Greece, shooting to disable a vehicle is legal if it is done to prevent someone from illegally entering or exiting a country, if they have a firearm.

The coast guard captain refuses to speak about specific cases. But every time the coast guard stops a boat, he says, officers are in direct communication with their command centers on land. If officers are in pursuit of a fast boat, the orders to shoot come from their superiors. And in extreme cases, he says, officers are connected directly with the operational center in Piraeus, Greece’s largest port and the headquarters of the coast guard.

Later on the day that Rawan and the two other refugees were shot, the mayor of Chios city issued a press release commending the coast guard for its work. When asked about the shooting by journalists, the Chios coast guard justified the use of weapons, saying that the boat’s driver had shot at officers first.

There is no evidence that the driver shot at the coast guard, however. He was arrested for smuggling and was not charged with attacking police or possession of a weapon. While the four witnesses interviewed about the shooting are critical of the driver for not stopping sooner, they all say that he never had a gun nor fired at the coast guard.

After an investigation, the national coast guard headquarters in Pireaus also determined that the driver had not shot at the coast guard. Three days after the shooting, coast guard Rear Adm. Vasilis Siettos told journalists that “only the port authorities used weapons.”

Weeks later, the case was closed when the court concluded that the officers had correctly followed protocol.

A Norwegian rescue boat conducts a Frontex Aegean Sea patrol on the northern shores of the Greek island of Lesbos on Feb. 29, 2016.

Photo: Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images

After the shooting, Rawan, Amjad, and Akil were taken to the general hospital in Chios to be treated, where they stayed for two weeks. Doctors’ reports from Germany and Sweden, where the three were eventually given asylum, as well as from the hospital in Chios, confirm that the injured refugees were released from the hospital in Chios with bullets still in their bodies. All three victims speculate that the hospital responded to pressure from the coast guard, who, they say, didn’t want evidence of the shooting in Greece.

Neither press officers nor the director of the Chios general hospital would comment on the case or clarify why the decision was made not to remove the bullets. The German doctor who eventually saw Rawan can only speak for her case but says that she should have been treated in Chios, including removal of the projectile.

Investigator Despina Piranyan visiting refugees in the hospital, accompanied by a coast guard shooter.

A coast guard investigator, Despina Piranyan, visited the wounded refugees multiple times at the hospital. Once, she came with Vasilis Eleftheriou, one of the coast guard shooters, who was not charged. The three refugees say Eleftheriou came to apologize for the shooting.

Amjad and Akil say the investigator pushed them to state that the driver of their boat had a gun and shot first. Braa Abosaleh recalls a similar conversation with the investigator in the hotel where the other refugees were being interrogated.

“She was trying to make us believe that [the driver] had guns,” Abosaleh remembers. Abosaleh describes the driver as just “a poor old man” trying to make some money. “We didn’t have any weapons on the boat.”

Reached by phone, Piranyan acknowledged the case and confirmed visiting the victims in the hospital but would not comment further. The Greek coast guard refused to discuss its rules of engagement, the practice of shooting engines, or this specific case. Regarding the shooting in Chios, a press officer said the case was “under judicial investigation.” The officer would not clarify what, exactly, the coast guard was investigating after two years.

Giorgios Pagoudis, a journalist in Chios who has written about this incident and others like it, says that while these types of shootings don’t happen every week, they are not uncommon.

“Normally they shoot out the engine,” he explains, “but there were many refugees next to the engine.”

A Frontex incident report describing the shooting of a refugee boat.

Frontex data

In Chios, the coast guard stated that the refugees’ boat rammed its vehicle multiple times, not the other way around. Here, it’s the word of refugees against the word of police. Reports in local media show photos of both boats, neither clear enough to distinguish evidence of ramming from either side.

Six months after the Chios shooting, a similar event took place near the island of Pserimos. According to the Frontex report describing the event, the driver was about to drop off a boat full of people. When the coast guard came, the driver attempted to flee back to Turkey.

Locations where the incidents occurred.

Map: The Intercept

The report says that the coast guard first fired warning shots and then shot at the boat’s engine to immobilize it. The official write-up describes two injured migrants on board but does not mention that they had been shot by the coast guard. One of the men was shot in the head, near his right temple.

The man, Belal Tello, was also a refugee from Syria. Abdulrahman Tello, Belal’s brother, cared for him after he was shot. For a year after the shooting, Belal was unable to speak or move but was slightly responsive. According to his brother, the bullet caused Tello substantial brain damage. Belal slipped into a coma and died last December.

Coast guard reports following the event also stated that 12 refugees aboard were hidden from view when the officers shot. Like the case in Chios, a Greek court later declared that the coast guard officers involved were following the rules of engagement.

Izzat, another refugee from Syria, who only gave his first name, was below deck in a compartment with four others when the coast guard started shooting. The other eight people were lying down on the boat’s deck. At first, Izzat says, it was impossible to tell if the coast guard was shooting in the air or at the boat. Then he realized two people in the compartment had been hit, and that he was covered in blood.

“The sound of the bullets was so near,” Izzat says, “and the strange thing is that the bullets were being shot at the boat’s compartment, not at the front of the boat or the bottom.”

Izzat yelled for help when he realized that people had been hit. Bilal Tello, he says, wasn’t moving. When the coast guard officers boarded his boat, they transported Bilal and the other injured man for medical care.

As with the Chios shooting, Izzat says the driver of his boat never rammed the coast guard. “There was never any contact between the two boats,” he says.

Michael Bakas, a local politician in Lesbos, a neighboring Greek island, blames the ongoing injuries and deaths on a coast guard that is overwhelmed, underfunded, and badly trained. Despite that, he also says the frequency of incidents has decreased since the Greek government switched from conservative to left in the 2014 elections.

“A lot changed when the old government switched over in January 2015,” Bakas says. “Before then, they were using a policy from 10 years ago, when the shipping minister, who controls the coast guard, openly admitted to summary deportations and the abuse of asylum seekers.”

Still, Bakas says, management of the sea border is fundamentally different than a land border. According to international law, anybody can present themselves at a border to apply for asylum. Because those applications can’t be processed on the water, he says, the asylum seekers must be taken back to land and given the chance to apply. “For me, they shouldn’t stop anyone. But if people are talking about closing borders, they must take care of them,” he says. “Especially if they are in an overloaded boat.”

The only options, Bakas says, are to take asylum seekers to Greece, or return them to Turkey, which would contravene international and European law. “There is no legal way to stop them from crossing that respects their human rights,” he adds.

A Norwegian rescue boat conducts a Frontex sea patrol off the northern shores of the Greek island of Lesbos on Feb. 29, 2016.

Photo: Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images

Frontex, through its press office, acknowledges that these shootings have, in multiple cases, caused the injury and death of refugees aboard smuggler boats, though it would not provide information on the number of such cases. Nor would it clarify who on board a Frontex ship makes the decision to shoot.

The agency maintains that the purpose of shooting is not to prevent boats from crossing the sea border, but to stop the smugglers. The effect, however, appears to be the same.

This month, the European Parliament voted to expand Frontex’s mandate, using the agency as a foundation of the European Border and Coast Guard, an EU-wide border police with partial sovereignty over Europe’s national border police. Now, Frontex will be able to enter a European country to manage its borders as the agency or European Council deem necessary, including without the permission of that country. Agency press officers refused to answer whether the practice of using firearms to stop boats would continue as Frontex expands its operations.

Many residents of Chios quietly acknowledge these shootings, but either justify them as a necessary evil or say nothing for fear of retribution from the coast guard. Few are willing talk about the shootings on the record.

A nurse at the Chios city hospital who was on duty when Rawan and other refugees received treatment agreed to speak about the incident, but only if not identified by name. “The woman shot near her kidney was a very serious case,” he says, referring to Rawan. “She was almost paralyzed.”

All of the refugees in the Chios case were granted asylum in Europe, and perhaps as a result, are willing to talk about what happened. Others in more precarious situations were not willing to share their experiences. Rawan, now in a small industrial city in northeast Germany, points out the irony of refugees fleeing war in Syria and then getting shot by Europeans. Still, she and the others say they are lucky to have made it to Europe alive.

Outside the hospital, on the edge of the island that faces Turkey and half a mile down the street from another one of Chios’s refugee camps, the nurse says that the coast guard in Chios was also lucky. Because had refugees been killed, he says, “there would have actually been an investigation.”

Even then, however, he doubted such an investigation would lead to anything more than a conclusion that the coast guard acted properly.

These are not new problems on Chios; the nurse said that before 2015, the shootings, abuse, and summary deportations were even more common. “It’s a small island. We’ve got years of testimonies from refugees, and some port police have acknowledged these practices, quietly,” he said. “Everyone here knows this happens.”

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