Arab League to Ask UN for a no-fly zone over Gaza

AFP
April 11, 2011

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa announced Sunday his intention to appeal to the UN Security Council for a no-fly zone over Gaza, where repeated Israeli air strikes have left at least 18 people dead since Thursday.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa said on Sunday the organisation will ask the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza, which Israel has pounded with air strikes in response to rocket fire.

Mussa told an emergency meeting of Arab League ambassadors that “the Arab bloc in the United Nations has been directed to ask for the convention of the Security Council to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza and impose a no-fly zone.”

Israeli and Palestinian officials were on Sunday floating a ceasefire to end fighting in the coastal strip where Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 people since Thursday.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of an even stronger response if more rockets are fired from the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

The flare-up came after an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit an Israeli school bus on Thursday, wounding two people, one of them critically.

Even if Arab representatives at the United Nations succeed in convening a Security Council meeting, the United States, a close ally of Israel, is likely to veto it.

The Arab League request for a no-fly zone over Gaza may have been inspired by a UN-sanctioned aerial blockade for Libya to halt forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi harming civilians.

Arab League backing for that no-fly zone was seen as crucially important by the United States when it pressed for a UN resolution that authorised it and other countries to keep Libyan planes grounded.

Is NATO collapsing because of Libyan attack?

German Military Forces Out of NATO

MailOnline
March 23, 2011

Deep divisions between allied forces currently bombing Libya worsened today as the German military announced it was pulling forces out of NATO over continued disagreement on who will lead the campaign.

A German military spokesman said it was recalling two frigates and AWACS surveillance plane crews from the Mediterranean, after fears they would be drawn into the conflict if NATO takes over control from the U.S.

The infighting comes as a heated meeting of NATO ambassadors yesterday failed to resolve whether the 28-nation alliance should run the operation to enforce a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, diplomats said.

Yesterday a war of words erupted between the U.S. and Britain after the U.K. government claimed Muammar Gaddafi is a legitimate target for assassination.

U.K. government officials said killing the Libyan leader would be legal if it prevented civilian deaths as laid out in a U.N. resolution.

But U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates hit back at the suggestion, saying it would be ‘unwise’ to target the Libyan leader adding cryptically that the bombing campaign should stick to the ‘U.N. mandate’.

President Barack Obama, seeking to avoid getting bogged down in a war in another Muslim country, said on Monday Washington would cede control of operations against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces within days, handing the reins over to NATO.

But Germany and European allies remain unwilling to have NATO take on a military operation that theoretically has nothing to do with the defence of Europe.

Today the German defence ministry announced Berlin had pulled out of any military operations in the Mediterranean.

A ministry spokesman said two frigates and two other ships with a crew of 550 would be reverted to German command.

Some 60 to 70 German troops participating in NATO-operated AWACS surveillance operations in the Mediterranean would also be withdrawn, according to the ministry.

Berlin isn’t participating in the operation to impose a no-fly zone in Libya and abstained on the U.N. resolution authorising it.

France, which launched the initial air strikes on Libya on Saturday, has argued against giving the U.S.-led NATO political control over an operation in an Arab country, while Turkey has called for limits to any alliance involvement.

In a bid to halt the embarrassing bickering, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe today proposed a new war committee to oversee operations.

The new body, Mr Juppe said, would bring together foreign ministers of participating states – such as Britain, France and the U.S. – as well as the Arab League.

Meanwhile the head of the Italian Senate’s defence affairs committee, Gianpiero Cantoni, said the original French anti-NATO stance was motivated by a desire to secure oil contracts with a future Libyan government.

Some allies are even questioning whether a no-fly zone is still necessary, given the damage already done by air strikes to Gaddafi’s military capabilities.

Speaking about yesterday’s hastily arranged meeting of NATO allies, one diplomat said: ‘The meeting became a little bit emotional,’ before adding that France had argued that the coalition led by Britain, the United States and France should retain political control of the mission, with NATO providing operational support, including command-and-control capabilities.

‘Others are saying NATO should have command or no role at all and that it doesn’t make sense for NATO to play a subsidiary role,’ the diplomat added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that air strikes launched after a meeting in Paris hosted by France on Saturday had gone beyond what had been sanctioned by a U.N. Security Council resolution.

‘There are U.N. decisions and these decisions clearly have a defined framework. A NATO operation which goes outside this framework cannot be legitimised,’ he told news channel CNN Turk.

Adding pressure to the already fractured alliance, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has also reiterated a warning that Italy would take back control of airbases it has authorised for use by allies for operations over Libya unless a NATO coordination structure was agreed.

In a shock admission, U.K. ministers have admitted the intervention in Libya could last for up to ’30 years’.

Asked for an estimate, British Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said: ‘How long is a piece of string? We don’t know how long this is going to go on.

‘We don’t know if this is going to result in a stalemate. We don’t know if his capabilities are going to be degraded quickly. Ask me again in a week.’

In the U.S., Obama has made it clear he wants no part of any leadership role in Libya.

The President has already been criticised for continuing with a tour of Latin America as the military operation over Libya began. And yesterday he insisted again that while Gaddafi must go, the U.S. is not prepared to remove him by force, but merely to enforce the no-fly zone.

Even that hesitant stance, which has already earned him the title of the Great Vacillator, left him criticised for not seeking proper approval from Congress before sending the American military in.

And after reports emerged that Gaddafi’s son had been killed in a kamikaze strike yesterday, fresh questions over what exactly the U.S. intends to achieve in Libya emerged.

With Turkey digging its heels in and the Arab League suspicious, it has been pointed out that Mr Obama has fewer coalition partners in Libya than George Bush did at the start of the Iraq war.

He was criticised by both Republicans and Democrats over his decision to commit the U.S. military before going to Congress.

Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, Barbara Lee of California, Michael Capuano of Massachusetts, Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Representative Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland all complained that Mr Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the attack without Congressional permission.

The President hit back in a two-page letter to Congress and again reiterated his claim that while Gaddafi must go, the U.S. was only in Libya to enforce the no-fly zone for the protection of civilians.

France has already taken a leading role in the conflict, with President Nicolas Sarkozy hosting a summit in Paris over the weekend and French bombers being the first to enforce the no-fly zone.

Last night Britain’s top general was embroiled in an extraordinary clash with Downing Street over the legality of a strike to kill Gaddafi.

No 10 slapped down Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards after he flatly rejected ministers’ suggestions that the Libyan dictator was a legitimate target for assassination.

Downing Street and Foreign Office officials were quick to dispute that – saying assassinating Gaddafi would be legal because it would preserve civilian lives in Libya.

Russia didn’t veto attack on Libya and now wants cease-fire

NationalJournal.com
March 22, 2011

In a stinging rebuke of U.S. policy in Libya, the Russian defense minister accused the U.S.-led coalition of killing Libyan civilians through errant air strikes and called for an immediate cease-fire on Tuesday. The comments drew a quick rebuke from visiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said the Russian criticism was based on “outright lies.”

Speaking to reporters following an hourlong meeting with Gates, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Russia continued to support the United Nations resolution authorizing the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya but made clear that Moscow was increasingly uneasy about the escalating campaign.

“Unfortunately, recent developments in the country demonstrate that it is experiencing real hostilities, destroying civilian facilities, and the killing of civilians,” Serdyukov said. “This shouldn’t have been let to happen and we informed our U.S. counterparts of our opposition.”

Gates, in his own remarks, said the coalition was going out of its way to avoid civilian deaths, noting that most of the strikes have targeted Libyan defensive systems located far away from major population centers. Gates also said he expected major combat operations over Libya to taper off markedly within the next few days; he is the first senior American official to put any sort of timetable on the ongoing offensive there.

Gates fired back at the Russians shortly after departing the Ministry of Defense. Speaking to reporters in his hotel overlooking the Kremlin, the American defense chief said he was taken aback by the ferocity of the Russian criticism of the ongoing American-led military operations.

“I’m a little curious, frankly, about the tone that has been taken,” Gates said. “It’s perfectly evident that the vast majority, if not nearly all, civilian casualties have been inflicted by Qaddafi… and it’s almost as though some people here are taking at face value Qaddafi’s claims about the number of civilian casualties, which as far as I’m concerned are just outright lies.”

Gates’s comments were an implicit rebuke to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who on Monday accused the U.S. of causing significant civilian casualties in Libya and likened the entire American-led operation there to a “crusade.”

That triggered an unusual public spat between Putin and his nominal ally and successor, President Dmitri Medvedev, about the country’s support for the U.S.-led military campaign against Libya. Medvedev fired back quickly, telling reporters was that Putin’s comments were “unacceptable.”

Russia had abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote that authorized members to take “all necessary measures,” including military force, to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by loyalists to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and enforce a no-fly zone.

American officials traveling with Gates said the two Russian leaders had probably been surprised by the scale and intensity of the allied bombing campaign inside Libya. But the U.S. officials said that, at least for the moment, they didn’t expect Russia to take steps aimed at bringing the conflict to a close.

Qaddafi-controlled media reported dozens of deaths by coalition airstrikes, while the U.S., France, and Britain reported Monday that they had no indications of civilian casualties.

“We have been very precise in our instructions to the air crews about what they may and may not do, and we are very, very conscious in… limiting civilian casualties,” said commander of the operation in Libya, Gen. Carter Ham, on Monday, adding that the missions to protect civilians will only be conducted with force “where we can safely without risk to other civilians and causing collateral damage.”

Coalition air forces from the U.S., France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and the United Kingdom flew missions to sustain the no-fly zone over Benghazi to protect civilians from attack by regime ground forces and to conduct further reconnaissance, Ham said.

Obama, Europe Charge Against Libya

Naval and air forces close in on Libya as David Cameron plans no-fly zone to protect civilians

UK Guardian
February 28, 2011

The west is edging towards a possible military confrontation with Muammar Gaddafi‘s regime, as the US deployed naval and air force units around Libya, and David Cameron ordered contingency plans for a no-fly zone.

The prime minister said he had told the Ministry of Defence and the chief of the defence staff to draw up the plans in coordination with Britain’s Nato allies and report back to him within days.

A no-fly zone would be designed principally to prevent attacks on Libyan people by the Gaddafi regime – mainly by his helicopter gun ships.

Cameron suggested the UK might even consider arming the Libyan opposition forces if Tripoli used more violence to crush demonstrations.

Officials said discussions on a range of possible military options had begun last week between British and US officials at the Pentagon. They said that the support of US and British armed forces might also be required to protect corridors to channel humanitarian relief into Libya through Tunisia and Egypt if further conflict brought about a mass displacement of the population and a collapse in the food supply.

The prime minister discussed imposing a no-fly zone over Libya in a telephone call with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. An emergency summit of all the EU’s 27 leaders is now expected to be held in Brussels nest week .

Gaddafi remained defiant. “They love me, all my people love me,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “They would die to protect me.” He again blamed al-Qaida for the rebellions. “This is al-Qaida, not my people,” Gaddafi said. “They come from outside.”

Western officials say any military intervention in the unfolding conflict would require the approval of the UN Security Council, and that is far from guaranteed. Russia and China, who both hold a veto, have voiced their opposition to any outside interference.

A diplomatic source at the UN headquarters in New York said however that more security council meetings were likely this week and the pressure for action would rise as the bloodshed and suffering continued in Libya. “We have not yet reached the high-water mark for council involvement,” the source said.

The Gaddafi regime has continued to use its air force against the opposition. Libyan air force jets bombed the rebel-held city of Ajdabiya, 160 kilometres south of Benghazi this afternoon, the furthest east that loyalist forces have attacked since both cities were sacked nine days ago.

Read Full Article…

BP committing Ecocide on Islands of the Gulf

Wayne Madsen

From environmentalists and wildlife specialists to fisherman and businessmen along the Gulf Coast the message is the same: BP is not only strangling the news of what is actually occurring in the Gulf of Mexico with the oil disaster but has co-opted key federal regulatory and oversight agencies to advance its agenda and that of its oil partners, including Halliburton, Anadarko, and Transocean.

Elmer's Island, in the Gulf Coast is becoming one of many BP's toxic dumps.

The logistics of the oil clean-up is being criticized because of the over-dependence on deepwater oil skimmer boats. No procedures are in place for using skimmers that can operate in shallower waters of 1 1/2 to 2 feet. There are a number of boats that could be used for shallow water skimming being tied up in port and not being used by BP.

Fishermen who have experience in rescuing sea turtles enmeshed in fishing nets are not being used in turtle rescue operations. In fact, they face arrest if they even touch an endangered turtle. Some 3,000 fisherman have remained idled by the oil disaster and most have not been hired by BP. Idled fishermen were told by BP that they would be called when their help was needed. However, later BP told them that many would probably never be called.

BP has hired an army of contractors and sub-contractors who are spending plenty of “flash money” to assuage some local businesses. However, WMR noticed while driving to Louisiana a large number of seafood distributors and restaurants that were shuttered.

Those hired by BP to clean up beaches and waters are not permitted to wear respirators and many are becoming sick, even coughing up blood. This editor, while driving to Venice, began to experience burning and watering eyes, a condition that lasted hours after returning to the west bank of New Orleans.

The disinformation being promulgated by BP is being accentuated by a number of local TV reporters being “embedded” with Coast Guard units in the waters off the coast and in the marshland and estuaries. Furthermore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), accused by many local environmentalists and fishermen of being complicit in the cover-up of bad news, has issued a report claiming that tests of 600 fish caught in waters “near the edge of the oil” have proven negative for chemical toxins. Fishermen interviewed by WMR said the claim is ludicrous since there are no fish in the waters in the oil zone or near it.

Gone from the waters of the Gulf off Louisiana are grouper, snapper, amberjack, tuna, and even the small colorful blenny, which normally feeds at oil rig pylons in the Gulf and is found only in the Amazon basin, in addition to the Louisiana Gulf waters. The Gulf waters are slowly being turned into a hydrocarbon soup of dispersed oil bubbles that is translucent black in color.

Fishing boat owners whose boats have been used for clean-up efforts are suffering fiberglass hull damage from hydrocarbon penetration and BP has informed the owners that their boats will have to be destroyed afterwards and their hulls ground up. However, even boats not being used for clean-up will be destroyed with no assurance that BP will compensate the owners.

NOAA is also reportedly sitting on bathymetric maps of the Gulf sea floor that shows a massive fissure on the sea floor that is located 7 miles from the Deepwater Horizon site. The fissure is leaking 120,000 gallons of crude a day, along with methane gas. The Corexit-dispersed oil has seeped under booms set up to protect Lake Ponchartrain, which lies north of New Orleans. Dead fish and tar balls have now turned up in the lake.

Further out in the Gulf and along sensitive refuges like Elmer’s Island, massive fish kills are being reported by local residents. The Coast Guard and BP have established a no-fly zone over Elmer’s Island, a major bird sanctuary.

In addition, local fishermen said that nurseries in the Gulf, responsible for producing 40 percent of America’s seafood, are being destroyed by the oil and the chemical soup created by the mixing of oil dispersant Corexit 9500. Corexit is breaking down the crude oil into small oil bubbles and a watery oil mixture that is seeping under the booms set up to protect sensitive fish nurseries, oyster beds, and other pristine areas. Many Atlantic fish species also spawn in the Gulf and they are also threatened by the oil disaster. Even barnacles, one of the most resistant sea creatures to extreme situations, are dying in vast numbers, along with sponges and coral.

Near Venice, Louisiana in Plaquemines Parish, is the old Civil War fort of Fort Jackson. A national historical site and park, Fort Jackson has been turned into a major base for joint BP-Coast Guard dumping of Corexit on oil in the Gulf. WMR witnessed five helicopters carrying suspended white bags of Corexit out over Gulf waters.

Hastily-erected signs at the entrances to Fort Jackson warn that the site is closed to visitors because of “construction.” Fort Jackson actually serves as a major base of operations for BP and Coast Guard activities. The Obama administration, which has stated its commitment to “open government,” is engaged in what amounts to semi-covert BP-Coast Guard operations in the Gulf.

WMR has also been informed by a reputable source that BP has been engaged in night time spraying of a bleaching agent on Louisiana beaches to make it appear that the beaches are being cleaned up. The planes, which fly at night, disregard flight regulations by flying with their lights out. The operations have been approved by the Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Also coming in for criticism is the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has remained silent as federal incident commanders have ordered home wildlife rescue workers from Texas and other states. One group that was told to pack its bags was the non-profit Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Inc. from Texas, which has 20 years of experience in handling animal rescues from oil spills. BP hired the O’Brien Group, a subsidiary of SEACOR Holdings of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as its wildlife rescue coordinator. Local environmentalists view O’Brien as a shill for BP.

The EPA is also remaining mute on air quality reports from Venice that show that on May 7 hydrogen sulfide in the air was measured at 1192 parts per billion. Five parts per billion is considered hazardous to human health. In addition, the May 7 reports show that benzene levels in the air were measured at 5000 parts per billion, again in the health danger zone. Propylene glycol, a major component in Corexit 9500, is being measured in Gulf waters at 150 times its lethal concentration.

BP has hired the same firm that performed air quality monitoring in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina’s Murphy oil spill in Chalmette to perform monitoring for the current oil disaster. The firm has been called a “proven liar” in both incidents by environmentalists and emergency planners.

BP clean-up workers have also been found dumping tar balls from the water and beaches in land-fills in Mississippi and St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. The oil from the sludge is seeping into the local water tables.

The corporate news media, particularly the local New Orleans television stations, are embedding their reporters with Coast Guard and BP teams in the Gulf. The corporate media reports essentially serve as public relations outreeach for BP. A number of New Orleans and Louisiana groups are trying to get the actual news about the disaster out but face limited resources.

To call the Gulf oil disaster the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States is an understatement. And with the connivance of the Obama White House, the Gulf of Mexico is being turned into the Gulf of Death.