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War Council Pawns meet in Israel

By BILL van AUKEN | GLOBAL RESEARCH | MARCH 21, 2013

Starting a two-day visit to Israel on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama issued bellicose threats against both Syria and Iran. The visit, which plainly has the character of a US-Israeli war council, makes clear that ten years after the US invasion of Iraq, US imperialism is preparing even greater crimes in the Middle East.

The Democratic president threatened the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad that it would “be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists,” adding that if evidence showed that such a weapon had been used it would be a “game-changer.”

On Iran, Obama repeated his vow “to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon” and that “all options are on the table,” while recognizing Israel’s “right” to take unilateral action against Iran. There “is not a lot of daylight” between the US and Israel on Iran, he said.

Obama’s remarks came one day after the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. No speeches or ceremonies were organized by the Obama administration or the US Congress Tuesday to mark the onset of a war to which 1.5 million Americans were sent, and where nearly 4,500 died and hundreds of thousands suffered either physical or psychological wounds.

Silence, in this case, denotes guilt. Both political parties, every branch of government, the media and the US corporations were directly complicit in what unquestionably stands as the greatest war crime of the 21st century: an unprovoked war, launched on the basis of lies, against a virtually defenseless nation, claiming some one million lives and leaving an entire society in ruins.

America’s ruling elite is now pressing for even greater and more destructive conflicts, in the face of mass public opposition to war. In Orwellian fashion, familiar and discredited pretexts of “weapons of mass destruction,” terrorism and the promotion of “democracy” are being recycled, this time to justify war against Syria.

On Capitol Hill there was a drumbeat of calls for new Middle East wars. Adm. James Stavridis, the chief of the Pentagon’s European Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday on extensive planning by NATO for intervention in Syria. “We are looking at a wide range of operations, and we are prepared if called upon to be engaged as we were in Libya,” he said.

Under serious consideration, according to Stavridis, is the establishment of a “no-fly zone.” Calls for such a no-fly zone in Libya, approved by the United Nations Security Council in March 2011, led to a US-NATO bombing campaign and war for regime change.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Carl Levin, (Democrat, Michigan) led the questioning. The day before, he had spoken at the Council on Foreign Relations, calling for the establishment of “a protected zone along the Turkish-Syrian border” and the use of military force to “go after some Syrian air defenses and after some of the Syrian air power.”

Resolutions were introduced in both the House and the Senate calling for stepped-up arming and training of Western-backed “rebels” fighting to overthrow Assad.

Meanwhile, the apparent use of a chemical weapon that claimed the lives of over 30 Syrians Tuesday prompted renewed demands for direct US intervention on Capitol Hill.

The Syrian government charged that the Western-backed fighters fired the rocket carrying the chemical warhead. By all accounts, the device hit a government-controlled village outside of Aleppo. Opposition sources said that most of the victims were Syrian government soldiers, while sources in Syria described them as Alawite civilians, a population that largely supports Assad.

Lawmakers invoked Obama’s earlier threats that the use of chemical weapons in Syria represented a “red line” that would prompt US intervention. “If today’s reports are substantiated, the President’s red line has been crossed, and we would urge him to take immediate action to impose the consequences he has promised,” Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said in a joint statement.

Graham went further in an interview, calling for sending US ground troops into Syria to secure its chemical weapons, an operation that the Pentagon estimated would require 75,000 soldiers and Marines.

The twisted logic of this campaign is that the two-year-old sectarian civil war that the US and its allies in Europe, Turkey and the Persian Gulf monarchies have fomented, funded and armed has weakened the Assad regime to such an extent that its chemical weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.

However, these terrorists, such as the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist militias, are the principal shock troops of the Western-backed war for regime change.

As for the claim that Washington is promoting “democracy” in Syria, there could be no more telling refutation than the “election” Monday of the prime minister for a new “interim government” to be installed on Syrian territory seized by the so-called rebels. The winner, chosen by barely 35 members of a Syrian National Council formed under the tutelage of the US State Department, was Ghassan Hitto. A US citizen and Texas-based IT executive, he left Syria as a 17-year-old over 30 years ago.

The ideological pretexts for a US war in Syria are even less coherent than the ones used to carry out the war in Iraq a decade ago. The real driving forces are the same. What is involved is a predatory war aimed at redrawing the map of the Middle East to suit the interests of US imperialism and assure its hegemony over the region’s energy resources. War for regime change in Syria is part of a broader campaign for war with Iran and carries with it the threat of drawing in Russia and China, as well.

While the American ruling establishment may want to bury the memory of the Iraq war, working people have drawn their own conclusions, with poll after poll showing the overwhelming view that it should never have been fought.

The attempt to foist a new war on the American people, using the same warmed-over lies, comes together with a deepening assault on jobs and living standards and continuous revelations of the criminality of the financial aristocracy, in whose interests these wars are fought. Such a volatile mixture is a recipe for social explosions within the United States and the development of a mass political movement against imperialist wars in Iraq, Syria and beyond.

 

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Centers for Disease Control warns about threat posed by new, unknown virus

By JULIE STEENHUYSEN | REUTERS | MARCH 8, 2013

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday warned state and local health officials about potential infections from a deadly virus previously unseen in humans that has now sickened 14 people and killed 8.

Most of the infections have occurred in the Middle East, but a new analysis of three confirmed infections in Britain suggests the virus can pass from person to person rather than from animal to humans, the CDC said in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report on Thursday.

The virus is a coronavirus, part of the same family of viruses as the common cold and the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that first emerged in Asia in 2003. The new virus is not the same as SARS, but like the SARS virus, it is similar to those found in bats.

So far, no cases have been reported in the United States.

According to the CDC’s analysis, the infections in Britain started with a 60-year-old man who had recently traveled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and developed a respiratory illness on January 24, 2013. Samples from the man showed he was infected with both the new virus and with H1N1, or swine flu.

This man subsequently passed the infection to two members of his household: a male with an underlying illness who became ill on February 6 and subsequently died; and a healthy adult female in his household who developed a respiratory illness on February 5, but who did not need to be hospitalized and has recovered.

The CDC said people who develop a severe acute lower respiratory illness within 10 days of returning from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries should continue to be evaluated according to current guidelines.

The health agency said doctors should be watchful of patients who develop an unexplained respiratory infection within 10 days of traveling from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries. The CDC has set up a special website with updates on the infections at http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ncv/ .

Symptoms of infection with this new virus include severe acute respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Neither the CDC nor the World Health Organization has issued travel restrictions related to the virus.

Assad says Great Britain wants to further militarize conflict in Syria

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 4, 2013

Since the civil war began in Syria, the public has head president Bashar al-Assad talk about the role of the rebel terrorists in the multiple attacks against civilians, hospitals and other infrastructure. Outside Syria, everyone knows that the rebels are being armed by the United States and a short list of European nations who want Assad dead or out of Syria. But this is the first time since the conflict began that President Assad explicitly blames a western sponsor for the escalation of the conflict.

Assad has accused Britain of “militarizing” the crisis in his country, given recent British government efforts to convince other countries of the European Union to authorize shipment of arms to the rebels. The shipment of weapons has been going on for at least two years, but no western government has officially recognized their secret support to the terrorists. “Don’t expect me to act as a pyromaniac firefighter,” said Assad in an interview with the British newspaper The Sunday Times.

“To be honest, Britain has had a famously unhelpful role in our region, in different cases, over many decades,” said Assad. “The problem with the government now is its superficial and immature rhetoric, which only highlights the tradition of bullying and hegemony.” At a meeting on Thursday in Rome, the Friends of Syria met with Western powers, including the U.S. and the EU, to clarify the reach of their support to the different factions of terrorists that work under the umbrella of the Syrian opposition.

Publicly, Western nations aiding the terrorists in Syria have naively expressed their concern about the possibility that some weapons fall into the hands of jihadi militias that have infiltrated the opposition and that the West claims are legitimate. In his interview, Assad spoke of those fears, saying that he would be willing to talk with the rebels if they lay down their arms, “but not with terrorists who are willing to use weapons to terrorize the population, kill civilians and attack public spaces and destroy the country. ”

“The British government wants to send military aid to the moderate groups in Syria, even though it is well-known that these groups are not moderate,” said Assad. “We all know now that our fight is against Al Qaeda, the Al Nusra Front, an arm of Al Qaeda, and other groups of people indoctrinated with extremist ideologies.” According to Assad, Israeli intelligence actually fears that these terrorists will carry the radical groups around the Middle East to destabilize the region.

“We have an opposition that is part of the political institutions and armed terrorists there. We are ready to dialogue with the opposition but not with terrorists. We fight against terrorists,” said Assad, adding that, despite international pressure, he will not leave power.

The two-year civil war in Syria has resulted in the death of more than 70,000 people, according to United Nations. The number of refugees has also seen an upward spike and will soon exceed one million people.

Assad warned the U.S. and Europe from what, in his view, can happen if the regime falls and jihadist groups take over. “Europe, the U.S. and others will pay direly for the price of instability in the region.” Well, that is exactly what the Western instigators want: chaos and death to bring about ‘order’ by their own means. Assad added that his departure from power would not solve the conflict: “It is absurd, and recent precedents in Libya, Yemen and Egypt attest to this.”

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SARS-like virus kills British Patient

AP |  FEBRUARY 19, 2013

A patient being treated for a mysterious SARS-like virus has died, a British hospital said Tuesday.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central England, said the coronavirus victim was also being treated for “a long-term, complex unrelated health problem” and already had a compromised immune system.

A total of 12 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the disease, six of whom have died.

The virus was first identified last year in the Middle East. Most of those infected had traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan, but the person who just died is believed to have caught it from a relative in Britain, where there have been four confirmed cases.

The new coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that cause ailments including the common cold and SARS. In 2003, a global outbreak of SARS killed about 800 people worldwide.

Health experts still aren’t sure exactly how humans are being infected. The new coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus and scientists are considering whether bats or other animals like goats or camels are a possible source of infection.

Britain’s Health Protection Agency has said while it appears the virus can spread from person to person, “the risk of infection in contacts in most circumstances is still considered to be low.”

Officials at the World Health Organization said the new virus has probably already spread between humans in some instances. In Saudi Arabia last year, four members of the same family fell ill and two died. And in a cluster of about a dozen people in Jordan, the virus may have spread at a hospital’s intensive care unit.

 

Arab Spring in Egypt: Mission Accomplished by Western instigators

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | FEBRUARY 12, 2013

The efforts to destabilize the Middle East paid off rapidly for the Western instigators who supported and financed it from afar. Egypt, Libya and Syria exploded into street fights that ended up with the fall of their respective governments. After that, the Western instigators did what they know best: let the locals light their nations on fire until the time comes to offer humanitarian assistance, as they’ve done in Mali, which is followed by the arrival military force.

This week, the Egyptian opposition organized two marches that will take place today in Cairo to mark the second anniversary of the fall of the regime of Hosni Mubarak and to call for the resignation of the current president, Mohamed Morsi.

In a statement, the main opposition groups announced today that the marches will leave the Fatah Mosque at 17.00 local time (15.00 GMT) in Ramsis Square, and from Sayeda Zeinab in the direction of Tahrir Square.

The Islamist opposition said that the demonstrations are intended to vindicate “the fall of the regime (of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood) and to demand justice for the martyrs”, after the recent riots that have left more than fifty dead in Egypt.

“It’s the second anniversary of the resignation of the dictator (Mubarak), and it’s the right time for the revolutionary forces to achieve their demands for freedom and social justice and to join in a single front to lead the revolution to victory”, said the note issued by the opposition.

Among the groups signing the text are the Constitution Party of Nobel Peace Prize Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt Popular Current Party, from leftist presidential candidate Hamdin Sabahi,  Free Egyptians Party such as Al Wafd, and opposition movements like Kefaya.

Opponents recalled that two years have past since that day when “all people in Tahrir Square waited breathlessly for the speech which announced the resignation of the dictator Hosni Mubarak.”

On 11 February 2011, the Egyptian people celebrated the end of “thirty years of repression, corruption and sabotage,” said the statement, which criticized the movement led by Morsi since June.

The organizers of the march will stress that Morsi “has broken the confidence for telling lies and breaking promises” and during his tenure has become the cause for the  “shed the blood of the Egyptians.”

As for the recent unrest and complaints against the police for the way they attacked demonstrators, the text said that “the new system has created new forms of torture, kidnapping and repression.”

In the past two weeks, more than fifty people have been killed in Egypt and a thousand were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces that began on Jan. 25 during the commemoration of the second anniversary of the revolution that overthrew Mubarak.

Yesterday, a group of protesters blocked access to a government building known as Mugama, in Tahrir, according to local media. Government opponents said they will not let the building open until the Mugama brings about justice for the recent “martyrs” who died in protests, forms a national salvation government and amends the Constitution.

After cheating the people in Egypt, Libya and Syria into believing that the west intended to help overthrow their dictators, now the leaders of western instigators are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for three nations to collapse on themselves to extract every single resource possible, install a new puppet dictator, as it has happened in Egypt, and declare Mission Accomplished.

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