Category Archives: Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent. Referred to in medieval times as Bilad al Barbar (“Land of the Berbers”), the Horn of Africa denotes the region containing the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The failed operation which caught to thousands of Africans in Mexico

Some Africans before a module of attention to migrants, in the city of Tijuana in the north-western border of Mexico with the United States. Credit: Guillermo Arias/Enelcamino

Translated

TIJUANA, Mexico, 27 Sep 2016 (IPS) – Saturday afternoon. From the city of Tijuana, Sergio Tamai, an activist for the rights of migrants, summarizes the new crisis in that part of the border between Mexico and the United States.

“You are creating a bronconón,” says with an emphasis – and idiom – in the northern Mexicans. “The government is already exceeded by more than tried to hide it could no longer and the anger is going to explode”.

Tamai, founder of the Organization Angels without Borders, speaks of an unpublished phenomenon that surprises to this city of the north-western end of Mexico, the most populated area of the state of Baja California and created by migrants: the arrival of thousands of Africans and Haitians seeking asylum in the United States.

It is not known how many. The City Council recognizes to 350, which are in their hostels, but civil organizations say they can be up to 7,000.

Many are in Tijuana since May 2016, but others appeared in the first two weeks of September. The flow has not been stopped and it is very possible that its origin is older than the of these estimates.

But only now is visible for three reasons: the number of migrants is increasing; the first who arrived exhausted their money and took to the streets to do this. Before lived in hotels.

And the third reason is that some local media began to publish on the phenomenon, after which the Government of the United States denounced a possible sale of tickets by the National Institute of Migration (INM) to request asylum humanitarian.

Beyond the numbers there are some elements that make unpublished the phenomenon, even in this city that immigration has seen almost everything.

The newcomers, especially those who come from Africa, are part of a suspiciously ordered and silent flow, which even has the backing of the INM, denounce pro-migrant activists.

Many have resources that have enabled them to survive in Mexico for months and not only that: it has clear the way to try to seek asylum in the United States, which implies knowledge of international laws or, at least, of the bureaucratic procedures of the U.S. authorities.

It is not common in the flow of human beings that crosses by Mexico. Go, even in the centennial tradition migrant of this country toward the north.

That is why it is unpublished the phenomenon. And some as the priest Alejandro Solalinde, founder of the Hostel Brothers in the way, have clear the picture:

The migratory crisis that is brewing in Tijuana, she says, is part of a strategy of transnational mafias of trafficking in persons, capable of moving through planet not only Africans but to migrants of any other nationality.

Groups that, according to international protocols as Palermo (on organized crime) can only exist with the support, active or by omission, of the authorities.

But now something ruled that the door to this migration of free passage, considered of privilege by the high cost of travel ($20,000 on average), has been closed.

And the consequences are seen in the streets of Tijuana.

Historically by the southern border of Mexico have crossed citizens of half the world. In Tapachula, the largest city in the area, there are few who speak of Indians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Chinese and of course of Central Americans, Cubans and Haitians who at some time in the past decades walked through its streets or took refuge in a hotel.

Few were references to Africans. Until a few years ago, that his presence began to be increasingly evident.

Appeared after the wave of Cubans who have fled their country before the thawing of relations between Havana and Washington, that put at risk the migrant privileges that the Islanders remained for decades.

Many of these Africans also came directly to the offices of the INM to be delivered and ask for a profession of output, which serves as a safe conduct for a month to avoid being arrested.

The document sets out its holder is in the process of voluntary leave the country and by the same, while keep their validity, cannot be deported.

A process that has existed for decades but which often did not apply to irregular migrants newcomers to Mexico. Until a few years ago the victims were generally foreigners with several years of lie in the country who are expired their temporary stay permit, known as FM3.

The office of departure obliges leave Mexico but does not prevent their re-entry, even hours after doing so. Many use it to regularize their immigration status.

The decision to apply this measure is arbitrary, certainly, because it is common in populations as Argentineans, Spanish or Chileans (almost never Americans, by the way), but there were a few cases in which Central Americans receive this benefit.

Now they have the Africans, said Solalinde. The document has allowed them to reach Tijuana where in recent months became a time bomb.

“already exceeded to the authorities. We are proposing to make a camp to concentrate and that are not in the streets but they said no, because they were going to reach thousands in little time,” explains Tamai.

“The only thing they did was to take them out of the Board and the places where they are concentrated and now walk irrigated in the streets. Up to beaches of Tijuana arrived already”, details.

This area is located on the western shore of the city, in front of the Pacific Ocean.

The presence of thousands of Africans and Haitians in Tijuana is not free, insists Solalinde.

The trip starts in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Somalia, Eritrea or Burkina Faso, continues by Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Central America and Mexico.

It is a long journey that almost nobody does alone, and that is usually handled by transnational bands of human trafficking who had guaranteed the step toward the United States thanks to the corruption of immigration service officials of that country.

But this had since changed, said Solalinde. “four to five months ago had a regular traffic operated by the INM. Arrived regular flights for example of the southern border to Toluca with oriental, or Hindus and carried directly to Tijuana,” explains.

In little time, almost at the exit of the airport migrants arriving in the shacks migratory and crossed without problem, or used other irregular channels and more expensive.

“Had narco tunnels where people also passed, was very hard but they crossed. Now they are closing. Also spent in auto with micas false and that was there in La Garita agreed, but now no longer”.

It is not known why the clandestine door to the United States was closed, but the reality is that they were stuck in the city. “Paid and someone was no longer able to respond in the last milestone as they say, but continue to arrive and are still represando”, said the priest.

Never missing the profiteers. Every day the INM gives 50 appointments to meet with a U.S. consul and raise the application for asylum.

That does not mean they will do so and in fact the majority are rejected, but remain in Tijuana for two reasons: they do not want to return to their countries, and at the same time the Mexican government cannot expel them because in many cases do not have deportation agreements with those nations.

However, a few weeks ago we learned that passes, supposedly free, in reality were sold in hundreds of dollars. Many who already have a while in the city could not buy them but the newcomers. “One day arrived as a thousand to buy them, was when the United States suspended the process”, account Tamai.

Stuck without a chance of moving, began to wander in the streets. A few hundred were to Mexicali to attempt the crossing by there, but neither did so.

“by itself La Garita, there is more girl, the saturated then and they closed the door,” recalls the activist.

Meanwhile, the social problem in the border is exacerbated each week. Municipal resources to serve the population in situation of street was already sold out, says Tamai, and the government of Baja California does not want to release money to avoid a greater concentration of migrants.

The only way out is for the federal government to unlock the resources for the care of migrants, some 300 million pesos (15.7 million), and sends them to the border to solve the problem.

Going for long, said Tamai. But it will not lay to wait. “We are going to make noise, to protest to that released the money. This is a humanitarian crisis,” says.

This article was originally published by the way, a project of journalists on foot . IPS-Inter Press Service has a special agreement with journalists on foot for the dissemination of its materials.

Reviewed by Star Gutierrez

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Ebola Czar :: President Obama Already Has An Ebola Czar. Where Is She?

By Mollie Hemingway
October 14, 2014

As the Ebola situation in West Africa continues to deteriorate, some U.S. officials are claiming that they would have been able to better deal with the public health threat if only they had more money.

Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Huffington Post, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.” Hillary Clinton also claimed that funding restrictions were to blame for inability to combat Ebola.

Conservative critics have pointed out that the federal government has spent billions upon billions of dollars on unnecessary programs promoting a political agenda rather than targeting those funds to the fight against health threats.

Other limited government types point to the Progressive utopian foolishness seen in opposing political factions, both sides of which seem to agree humanity could somehow escape calamity if only we had a properly functioning government. People who don’t want an all-powerful government shouldn’t blame it for not having competence when crisis strikes.

What’s particularly interesting about this discussion, then, is that nobody has even discussed the fact that the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.

Before the media swallow implausible claims of funding problems, perhaps they could be more skeptical of the idea that government is responsible for solving all of humanity’s problems. Barring that, perhaps the media could at least look at the roles that waste, fraud, mismanagement, and general incompetence play in the repeated failures to solve the problems the feds unrealistically claim they will address. In a world where a $12.5 billion slush fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores, perhaps we should complain more about mission creep and Progressive faith in the habitually unrealized magic of increased government funding.

Lay of the Land

Collins’ NIH is part of the Health and Human Services Department. Real spending at that agency has increased nine-fold since 1970 and now tops $900 billion. Oh, if we could all endure such “funding slides,” eh?

Whether or not Dr. Collins’ effort to get more funding for NIH will be successful—if the past is prologue, we’ll throw more money at him—the fact is that Congress passed legislation with billions of dollars in funding specifically to coordinate preparation for public health threats like Ebola not 10 years ago. And yet the results of such funding have been hard to evaluate.

See, in 2004, Congress passed The Project Bioshield Act. The text of that legislation authorized up to $5,593,000,000 in new spending by NIH for the purpose of purchasing vaccines that would be used in the event of a bioterrorist attack. A major part of the plan was to allow stockpiling and distribution of vaccines.

Just two years later, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, which created a new assistant secretary for preparedness and response to oversee medical efforts and called for a National Health Security Strategy. The Act established Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority as the focal point within HHS for medical efforts to protect the American civilian population against naturally occurring threats to public health. It specifically says this authority was established to give “an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.”

Last year, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 which keep the programs in effect for another five years.

If you look at any of the information about these pieces of legislation or the office and authorities that were created, this brand new expansion of the federal government was sold to us specifically as a means to fight public health threats like Ebola. That was the entire point of why the office and authorities were created.

In fact, when Sen. Bob Casey was asked if he agreed the U.S. needed an Ebola czar, which some legislators are demanding, he responded: “I don’t, because under the bill we have such a person in HHS already.”

The Invisible Dr. Lurie

So, we have an office for public health threat preparedness and response. And one of HHS’ eight assistant secretaries is the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, whose job it is to “lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism.”

In the video below, the woman who heads that office, Dr. Nicole Lurie, explains that the responsibilities of her office are “to help our country prepare for, respond to and recover from public health threats.” She says her major priority is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to “have the countermeasures—the medicines or vaccines that people might need to use in a public health emergency. So a large part of my office also is responsible for developing those countermeasures.”

Or, as National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.” Still another refers to her as “the highest-ranking federal official in charge of preparing the nation to face such health crises as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and pandemic influenza.”

Now, you might be wondering why the person in charge of all this is a name you’re not familiar with. Apart from a discussion of Casey’s comments on how we don’t need an Ebola czar because we already have one, a Google News search for Lurie’s name at the time of writing brings up nothing in the last hour, the last 24 hours, not even the last week! You have to get back to mid-September for a few brief mentions of her name in minor publications. Not a single one of those links is confidence building.

So why has the top official for public health threats been sidelined in the midst of the Ebola crisis? Only the not-known-for-transparency Obama administration knows for sure. But maybe taxpayers and voters should force Congress to do a better job with its oversight rather than get away with the far easier passing of legislation that grants additional funds before finding out what we got for all that money we allocated to this task over the last decade. And then maybe taxpayers should begin to puzzle out whether their really bad return on tax investment dollars is related to some sort of inherent problem with the administrative state.

The Ron Perelman Scandal

There are a few interesting things about the scandal Lurie was embroiled in years ago. You can—and should—read all about it in the Los Angeles Times‘ excellent front-page expose from November 2011, headlined: “Cost, need questioned in $433-million smallpox drug deal: A company controlled by a longtime political donor gets a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist.” This Forbes piece is also interesting.

The donor is billionaire Ron Perelman, who was controlling shareholder of Siga. He’s a huge Democratic donor but he also gets Republicans to play for his team, of course. Siga was under scrutiny even back in October 2010 when The Huffington Post reported that it had named labor leader Andy Stern to its board and “compensated him with stock options that would become dramatically more valuable if the company managed to win the contract it sought with HHS—an agency where Stern has deep connections, having helped lead the year-plus fight for health care reform as then head of the Service Employees International Union.”

The award was controversial from almost every angle—including disputes about need, efficacy, and extremely high costs. There were also complaints about awarding a company of its size and structure a small business award as well as the negotiations involved in granting the award. It was so controversial that even Democrats in tight election races were calling for investigations.

Last month, Siga filed for bankruptcy after it was found liable for breaching a licensing contract. The drug it’s been trying to develop, which was projected to have limited utility, has not really panned out—yet the feds have continued to give valuable funds to the company even though the law would permit them to recoup some of their costs or to simply stop any further funding.

The Los Angeles Times revealed that, during the fight over the grant, Lurie wrote to Siga’s chief executive, Dr. Eric A. Rose, to tell him that someone new would be taking over the negotiations with the company. She wrote, “I trust this will be satisfactory to you.” Later she denied that she’d had any contact with Rose regarding the contract, saying such contact would have been inappropriate.

The company that most fought the peculiar sole-source contract award to Siga was Chimerix, which argued that its drug had far more promise than Siga’s. And, in fact, Chimerix’s Brincidofovir is an antiviral medication being developed for treatment of smallpox but also Ebola and adenovirus. In animal trials, it’s shown some success against adenoviruses, smallpox, and herpes—and preliminary tests show some promise against Ebola. On Oct. 6, the FDA authorized its use for some Ebola patients.

It was given to Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died, and Ashoka Mukpo, who doctors said had improved. Mukpo even tweeted that he was on the road to recovery.

Back to that Budget

Consider again how The Huffington Post parroted Collins’ claims:

Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion—barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation.

Of course, between the fiscal years 2000 and 2004, NIH’s budget jumped a whopping 58 percent. HHS’s 70,000 workers will spend a total of $958 billion this year, or about $7,789 for every U.S. household. A 2012 report on federal spending including the following nuggets about how NIH spends its supposedly tight funds:

  • a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
  • $175,587 to the University of Kentucky to study the impact of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail.
  • $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
  • $592,527 to study why chimpanzees throw objects.

Last year there were news reports about a $509,840 grant from NIH to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads. There are many other shake-your-head examples of misguided spending that are easy to find.

And we’re not even getting into the problems at the CDC or the confusing mixed messages on Ebola from the administration. CDC director Tom Frieden noted: more here

Indeed. The Progressive belief that a powerful government can stop all calamity is misguided. In the last 10 years we passed multiple pieces of legislation to create funding streams, offices, and management authorities precisely for this moment. That we have nothing to show for it is not good reason to put even more faith in government without learning anything from our repeated mistakes. Responding to the missing Ebola Czar and her office’s corruption by throwing still more money, more management changes, and more bureaucratic complexity in her general direction is madness.

Why is Obama in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Dr. Essam Abdallah, an Egyptian liberal intellectual, in an article published last October in the leading liberal pan-Arab journal Elaph, refers to certain reports coming out of Washington:

These reports reveal the depth of the below-the-surface coordination between the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan. This bloc of regimes and organizations is now becoming the greatest Islamist radical lobby ever to penetrate and infiltrate the White House, Congress, the State Department and the main decision making centers of the US government. All of this is happening at a time when the US government is going through its most strategically dangerous period in modern times because of its need to confront the Iranian Mullahs regime, which is expanding in the Middle East, as well as penetrating the United States, via powerful and influential allies.

Abdallah alleged that “the popular revolts in the Arab world — and the Obama Administration’s position towards them — were determined by political battles between various pressure groups in Washington.”

He followed up with another article this month in which he asks:

[W]hy isn’t the West in general and the United States Administration in particular clearly and forcefully supporting our civil societies and particularly the secular democrats of the region? Why were the bureaucracies in Washington and in Brussels partnering with Islamists in the region and not with their natural allies the democracy promoting political forces?

Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism said of this article: “This is one of the most important articles I have read in years.”  He then made allegations of his own:

It was just revealed two days ago that FBI Director Mueller secretly met on February 8 at FBI headquarters with a coalition of groups including various Islamist and militant Arabic groups who in the past have defended Hamas and Hizballah and have also issued blatantly anti-Semitic statements. At this meeting, the FBI revealed that it had removed more than 1000 presentations and curricula on Islam from FBI offices around the country that was deemed “offensive.” The FBI did not reveal what criteria was used to determine why material was considered “offensive” but knowledgeable law enforcement sources have told the IPT that it was these radical groups who made that determination. Moreover, numerous FBI agents have confirmed that from now on, FBI headquarters has banned all FBI offices from inviting any counter-terrorist specialists who are considered “anti-Islam” by Muslim Brotherhood front groups.

This comes as no surprise to me.  In August of 2011, after making the case, I wrote, “To my mind, the alliance between the Obama administration and the Muslim Brotherhood is the cornerstone of Obama’s New Middle East policy.”

The most damning bit of evidence was reported by Herb London in his article, “U.S. Betrays Syria’s Opposition“:

In an effort to understand and placate Syrian opposition groups, Secretary Clinton invited them to a meeting in Washington. Most of those invited, however, have links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Missing from the invitations are Kurdish leaders, Sunni liberals, Assyrians and Christian spokesmen. According to various reports the State Department made a deal with Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood representatives either to share power with Assad to stabilize the government, or replace him if this effort fails. One organization, the Syrian Democracy Council (SDC), an opposition group composed of diverse ethnic and religious organizations, including Alawis, Aramaic Christians, Druze and Assyrians was conspicuously — and no coincidentally — omitted from the invitation list.

Caroline Glick wrote in August of last year:

What these observers fail to recognize is that Erdogan’s interests in a post-Assad Syria have little in common with US interests. Erdogan will seek to ensure the continued disenfranchisement of Syria’s Kurdish minority. And he will work towards the Islamification of Syria through the Muslim Brotherhood.

This week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a private meeting with these brave democrats. Why didn’t she hold a public meeting? Why hasn’t Obama welcomed them to the White House?”

Today there is a coalition of Syrian opposition figures that include all ethnic groups in Syria. Their representatives have been banging the doors of the corridors of power in Washington and beyond. Yet the same Western leaders who were so eager to recognize the Libyan opposition despite the presence of al Qaeda terrorists in the opposition tent have refused to publicly embrace Syrian regime opponents that seek a democratic, federal Syria that will live at peace with Israel and embrace liberal policies.

By refusing to embrace liberal, multi-ethnic regime opponents, the administration is all but ensuring the success of the Turkish bid to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power if Assad is overthrown.

The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC), above mentioned, is self-described thus:

The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC) is an emerging coalition of diverse Syrian organizations coming together to help bring an end to the Assad regime and promote the transformation of Syria into a secular democracy based in liberty. The coalition is founded upon a belief in the separation of religion from state and is dedicated to establishing a new constitution and transparent federal republic in Syria, based in reason that equally protects minority rights, promotes gender equality, and embraces the rights and liberties of every individual as enumerated in the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights. This growing coalition crosses all ethnic, religious and tribal lines to represent all Syrians. It currently includes members of Save Syria Now!, the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, the Union of Syrian Arab Tribes and the Syrian Christian Democratic Movement.

Sherkoh Abbas is secretary general of the Syria Democracy Council and president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria.  I first met him when he invited me to be a director of the American Kurdish Friendship League some five years ago.

Recently, he confided in me that in all his dealings with the State Department over the last two years, no interest was shown in his coalition, and instead, he was continually pressed to support the Syrian National Council (SNC), made up of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists and Arabists.  He believes that the U.S. is working with Salafi groups, and the Turkish government, to create an opposition in Syria that is strictly Islamist.  Such an opposition would serve Turkish economic interests in Syria and keep the Kurdish issue dormant in Turkey as well as in Syria.

For the last six months at least, Obama has been cultivating a relationship with PM Erdoğan of Turkey.  The budding relationship prompted Barry Rubin to ask, “Why Is an Anti-American Islamist, Obama’s Favorite ME Leader?

According to Sherkoh Abbas, one faction of the SDC had family connections in various Gulf States at the highest level and went to them for financial support.  They were turned down, as Obama had instructed them to give money only to the SNC.

Nevertheless, the SDC is gaining traction amongst the Kurds, Druze, Sunnis, Christians, and even the Alawites.  This is so because these various minorities are beginning to think of a post-Assad Syria, and they all want a region of their own.  They have expressed their willingness to be secular, democratic, and a friend of Israel and will be asked to commit to this in writing.  They don’t want Islamism or Arabism.  They prefer peace, freedom, and prosperity.  So why isn’t Obama embracing them?

The Obama administration is totally in sync with the Muslim Brotherhood.  At the renowned Herzlia Conference this year, I met Salman Shalkh, one of the speakers from Qatar.  We had a long conversation in which he kept pushing for the Saudi Plan to be embraced by Israel.  This is the plan that Obama is committed to — i.e., ’67 borders with mutually agreed-upon swaps.

Shalkh argued that Israel should talk to Hamas, and I countered, “What’s the point?  We have nothing to offer to them.”  Shalkh was also an apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood.  These arguments should be expected from someone from Qatar.  Unfortunately, the same arguments are being made by the White House.  It is instructive to note that Shalkh is director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, the Arab offshoot of the Brookings Institute that has so much influence with the State Department.  He told me that he was one of the people who drafted the Roadmap on behalf of the State Department.  I told him that it didn’t surprise me and suggested that he probably drafted the Saudi Peace Plan for them as well.

What is going on now in American foreign policy is not so much a product of the Islamist lobby fueled by both the Muslim Brotherhood and the gulf states as it is a product of a strategic alliance that has existed between the U.S. and the gulf states led by Saudi Arabia since before Israel declared her independence.  Unfortunately, President Obama, with his overt outreach to Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim Brotherhood, has taken it to another level.

It would appear that the ideas expressed by Mearsheimer and Walt in their book, The Israel Lobby, are being embraced by both the State Department and the White House.  These include the idea that the Israel lobby is too strong for America’s good and that Israel is a liability to America.

But the truth is otherwise, as John R. MacArthur pointed out in 2007, in “The Vast Power of the Saudi Lobby“:

Somehow, though, I can’t shake the idea that the Israel lobby, no matter how powerful, isn’t all it is cracked up to be, particularly where it concerns the Bush administrations past and present. Indeed, when I think of pernicious foreign lobbies with disproportionate sway over American politics, I can’t see past Saudi Arabia and its royal house, led by King Abdullah.

This article is a classic and should be read in full.

Obama has decidedly moved from an alliance with Israel to an alliance with the Islamists.

MK Aryeh Eldad, in a speech given in the fall in the U.S., when Israel was intending to act against Iran militarily, said word came down from the White House that “if you act alone, you will remain alone.”  Because Israel is so dependent on the U.S. for resupply of weapons and munitions in a prolonged war, this threat changed the calculus immediately.  It is true that when Mahmoud Abbas was threatening to go to the U.N. for recognition, the Obama administration lobbied around the world for negative votes.  But at the same time, Obama threatened Netanyahu that Obama would withhold his veto if Israel took punitive action against the PA by annexing some of the territories or by withholding funds.  Finally, he used the same threat to get Israel to instruct AIPAC to lobby Congress not to punish the PA by withholding U.S. funds.

Over the last six months, Israel has been warned by a succession of senior military and administration officials not to attack Iran, at this time, all in the name of giving sanctions a chance.  But who believes that sanctions will stop Iran?  And who believes that that the U.S. will in the end attack Iran to stop them?

So while Obama is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he is keeping Israel under his thumb.

Isi Leibler takes exception to all this and reminds everyone:

[T]his organization [The Muslim Brotherhood]  represents one of the most fanatical and dangerous of the radical Islamist groups in the region, with a dark record of violence and terrorism imbedded in its DNA. It is rabidly anti-Western, anti-Christian, antisemitic, committed to imposing sharia law and a global Caliphate – and willing to employ any means to further its objectives.

Many would argue that Obama is also “anti-Western, anti-Christian[, and] antisemitic.”  Judging by his policies, they would be right.

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India unease as China debates naval base in Seychelles

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China’s ministry of defence said the Seychelles would allow naval vessels to take on supplies in anti-piracy campaigns, but initiative is likely to viewed with unease in India.

Daniel Bardsley (Foreign Correspondent) and Suryatapa Bhattacharya

BEIJING // China is considering an offer from the Seychelles to set up a supply base for its naval ships, in a move to be closely watched by India.

Details of Beijing‘s tie with the Indian Ocean archipelago come as the Chinese navy holds sea trials for its first aircraft carrier and continues making double-digit defence spending increases that are strengthening the country’s naval power.

China’s naval ambitions are a concern for many of its neighbours, especially given the assertiveness Beijing has shown in recent maritime disputes with Japan in the East China Sea, and Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea.

State media quoted the defence ministry as saying that the port in the Seychelles was still under consideration, while the Chinese authorities reaffirmed the country’s policy of not stationing troops overseas.

“China’s position is clear. China has never set up military bases in other countries,” said the foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin.

China’s ministry of defence said the Seychelles would allow naval vessels to take on supplies, while Chinese ships were assigned to anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

The Chinese navy has previously taken on supplies in Oman, Yemen and Djibouti when carrying out missions against pirates from Somalia, Reuters reported yesterday.

“According to escort needs and the needs of other long-distance missions, China will consider taking supplies or recuperating at appropriate ports in the Seychelles and other countries,” said a defence ministry statement. But Joseph Cheng, a regional political analyst at the City University of Hong Kong, said it was “to be expected” that China would develop more advanced centres to support its growing navy.

He added that initially these would simply be supply bases of the kind proposed in the Seychelles but repair facilities would likely be developed later.

The issue of Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean is of particular interest to India, which has long-standing border disputes with China and is deeply suspicious of the country’s close ties with its archrival, Pakistan.

There was no official reaction from India’s government yesterday, but The Times of India said China’s initiative “was bound to create a degree of unease in New Delhi”.

Retired Brigadier Rumel Dahiya, the deputy director general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, said the move would go beyond a piracy-related issue.

“This is clearly a case of China trying to establish a greater base in the Indian Ocean. They are expanding their reach,” he said.

Christian Le Mière, a research fellow for naval forces and maritime security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said India may view any agreement with the Seychelles as “indicative of Chinese naval expansionism into India’s back yard”.

“It is not necessarily a direct threat to India, in much the same way that Diego Garcia [a US navy base] is not a direct threat to India currently. Arguably Chinese counter-piracy efforts are beneficial for global trade and hence for Indian interests as well,” he added.

The China Daily newspaper said the invitation from the Seychelles was issued during a visit by Liang Guanglie, the defence minister, earlier this month. It was the first time a Chinese defence minister has visited in 35 years. The Chinese navy has grown in recent years from a coastal protection force to one spanning the globe, sending ships as far as the Caribbean on goodwill missions and into the Mediterranean to escort vessels evacuating Chinese citizens from the fighting in Libya.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka said yesterday it was “true friends” with China because of the military assistance Beijing provided during the island’s bloody civil war.

China’s influence in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and other surrounding countries is also a sensitive subject with India.

Also yesterday, US officials were investigating an American military drone that crashed at an airport on the Seychelles. It is used to target Al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia.

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The Secret War: Africa ops may be just starting

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By Sean D. Naylor – Staff writer
Posted : Monday Dec 5, 2011 11:36:03 EST

There was clearly something suspicious about the two western-looking “civilians” and their interpreter who the Ethiopian security forces were questioning.

For a start, they were in Ethiopia’s bandit country — near the town of Fiq in the Ogaden region that borders Somalia. Secondly, they claimed to be working for the Red Cross, but a quick check of their persons turned up sidearms, which the Red Cross forbids its personnel from carrying. By the time the “civilians” admitted they were U.S. military personnel, the damage had been done. They were on their way to an Ethiopian jail, and an international incident was brewing.

The Ogaden incident, which occurred between March 2007 and March 2008 (sources were unable or unwilling to be more specific), infuriated not only the Ethiopian government but also U.S. intelligence, military and diplomatic leaders in the region.

The Secret War

Read all stories in the six-part series

The episode was one of several irritants in U.S.-Ethiopian relations after Ethiopia’s December 2006 invasion of Somalia. Others included revelations in the U.S. press about AC-130 gunship missions being flown out of Ethiopia and a general reluctance on the Ethiopians’ part to cooperate too closely with U.S. forces in Somalia. Nonetheless, U.S. and Ethiopian special operations forces continued to work together in very small numbers until Ethiopia withdrew from Somalia in January 2009.

The U.S. military personnel whom the Ethiopians took prisoner in the Ogaden were human intelligence soldiers working for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s intelligence directorate. They were authorized “to go out beyond the wire,” said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Timothy Ghormley, the U.S. Central Command chief of staff at the time, who had previously commanded CJTF-HOA, based in Djibouti.

They were not supposed to be undercover, according to Ghormley.

“They’re completely overt,” he said. “They’re supposed to identify themselves as U.S. service members.”

But a senior intelligence official, also familiar with the episode, used different terminology.

“It was a clandestine operation,” the official said. The troops weren’t in uniform, “but … if they were detained they would be able to say, ‘We’re members of the U.S. military,’ so somebody could get them the hell out of there.”

The soldiers’ first mistake was venturing into an area they’d been expressly forbidden from entering, Ghormley said. “They went where they’re not supposed to, they went up near Fiq, and going up into the Fiq area was probably not the brightest thing in the world to do,” he said.

“We said, ‘Don’t go into those regions until we can verify the security and safety,’” said a State Department official. “And they ignored it completely. They put themselves at risk.”

The soldiers risked capture by ethnic Somali guerrillas who “don’t like Americans,” the official said. “They would have killed them.”

But the soldiers’ biggest error was to tell Ethiopian troops who confronted them they were members of a Red Cross team, Ghormley said.

“The colossal mistake they made — the final mistake they made — was concocting a cover story,” he said. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, from what I understand.”

The pretense didn’t last long.

“The Ethiopians found pistols on them,” instantly invalidating the cover story, Ghormley said. “With that, they were determined to be hostile, and when they finally did tell the Ethiopians who they were and what they were, the Ethiopians were just kind of ticked off. So they decided they would bring them in.”

The soldiers were detained for “roughly” 10 days, the senior intelligence official said.

Ghormley disagreed.

“They were probably held 48 hours, maybe, not much longer than that,” he said.

Nevertheless, high-level diplomatic and military pressure was required to get the men released, sources said.

“It took the ambassador, it took the CENTCOM commander [Adm. William Fallon], it took the State Department to get involved,” the intelligence official said.

“An incident occurred in which a couple of guys were detained,” said Fallon, who retired in 2008. “They were using poor judgment to go to a place they shouldn’t have been, [which was] not authorized and not sanctioned and not smart.”

“The Ethiopians were good about it,” but the fiasco had long-term consequences, the intelligence official said.

The soldiers had been carrying a lot of information about U.S. intelligence operations in the region that was instantly compromised.

“All their documentation, papers, notepads, military stuff were collected [by the Ethiopians],” the State Department official said.

“It was like amateur hour, this team that got rolled up,” the intelligence official said. “There was information that they had that they should not have been carrying … It gave away techniques and procedures that we couldn’t afford to do, because we knew at that time that al-Qaida was building up its capability in Somalia and that was why we were trying damn hard to get into Somalia with really sensitive collection.”

The incident “put a spotlight on everything” U.S. intelligence was doing in the Horn, the official said. “It became a big deal and it actually hurt us, I would say, for a couple of years … around the region.”

Military intelligence operations now had to be coordinated through the CIA.

“That coordination just dried up,” the official said.

Fallon disputed that interpretation.

“It was certainly not helpful, and it caused a lot of anxiety. But at the end of the day, there was no major damage done,” he said.

(Hilary Renner, spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, and Simon Schorno, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, each declined to comment on the episode. The Ethiopian Embassy in Wash

ington, D.C., did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.)

Recent strides

Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Somalia ended neither the war in that country nor the U.S.’s role in it.

Although the Ethiopian invasion had quickly ousted the Islamic Courts Union from Mogadishu, a hard-line Islamist faction called al-Shabaab (the Youth) soon emerged to battle the Ethiopians, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and the African Union peacekeeping force that replaced the Ethiopians.

Since then, and particularly during the past six months, the pace of U.S. operations appears, if anything, to have accelerated as an increasing number of actors are drawn into the war in Somalia.

• On Sept. 14, 2009, a U.S. special operations helicopter raid killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior al-Qaida in East Africa figure.

• On April 19, 2011, the U.S. captured Somali national and al-Shabaab member Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, 25, as he crossed the Gulf of Aden on a ship to Yemen from Somalia. The U.S. held Warsame, who allegedly has links to Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, for two months on a Navy ship before flying him to the U.S.

• On June 7, TFG forces killed Harun Fazul, the most-wanted al-Qaida figure in East Africa, when he mistook their roadblock in Mogadishu for an al-Shabaab position.

• On June 23, U.S. drones struck al-Shabaab targets near Kismayo.

• On July 6, there were reports of airstrikes in Lower Juba, the southernmost region of Somalia, according to the website SomaliaReport.com.

• In early August, under increasing military pressure from the TFG forces backed up by 9,000 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, al-Shabaab announced its withdrawal from Mogadishu.

• On Sept. 15, there were more airstrikes on an al-Shabaab training camp in Taabta in Lower Juba, according to SomaliaReport.com.

• On Sept. 21, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. is building a “ring of secret drone bases” including facilities in Ethiopia, the Seychelles and “the Arabian Peninsula.”

• On Sept. 23, airstrikes hit al-Shabaab’s main camp at the Kismayo airport.

• On Oct. 4, an al-Shabaab truck bomb killed an estimated 65 people in Mogadishu.

In mid-October, Kenya’s military began a substantial incursion into southern Somalia, which has since bogged down short of the port of Kismayo. By late November, there were reports that Ethiopia had again sent forces into Somalia in support of the Kenyan invasion. The New York Times quoted U.S. officials Oct. 21 saying the Kenyan action had taken them by surprise and there were no U.S. military advisers with the Kenyan force. Even if that is the case, U.S. officials say the secret war in the Horn of Africa is by no means over.

Mixed success

Looking back, U.S. officials are divided over what they achieved in the Horn in the years following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Successes were rare in the early years of the campaign against al-Qaida in East Africa. The only al-Qaida fighters known to have been killed between 2001 and 2005 were a bodyguard who blew himself up to enable Harun Fazul to escape Kenyan security forces in 2003 and another “minor player” who died of wounds received when Kenyan police seized him, said an intelligence source with long experience in the Horn.

During that period, warlords paid by the CIA helped render “seven or eight” al-Qaida figures out of Somalia, the source said. But although the U.S. focus was on rendering, rather than killing, members of al-Qaida in East Africa, this presented its own challenges.

“The big problem was, what do you do with one of these guys” once he had been captured, a senior military official said. That was “the $100,000 question.”

The U.S. was reluctant to put its captives on trial.

“All the evidence [against the al-Qaida figures] is intelligence,” the official said. “So unless you want to give it up … we have a problem with [that] based on sources and methods.”

Normal procedure was for the warlords to capture the targets, who were then transferred to Djibouti, processed and sent on from there, according to the intelligence source. As for their ultimate destinations, “the only ones I knew were sent to the ‘Salt Pit’ in Afghanistan,” the source said. The “Salt Pit” is the name of a CIA clandestine prison — sometimes referred to as a “black site” — north of Kabul.

Most sources Army Times interviewed said Operation Black Hawk — the CIA-led campaign against al-Qaida in East Africa — had a direct impact on the terrorist network’s efforts in the Horn. Black Hawk was a success, said the intelligence source with long experience in the Horn, because the al-Qaida cell “was certainly degraded, perhaps eviscerated.” In addition, the source said, “we believed we were able to foil several [al-Qaida] operations” along the lines of another embassy bombing or a plane attack.

However, even as he focused tightly on the manhunt and the renditions, John Bennett, the CIA’s station chief in Nairobi in the 2002-03 time frame and now the head of the Agency’s National Clandestine Service, had his doubts about that approach, the intelligence source said.

“Bennett always felt that [by focusing on rendition] you weren’t getting at the larger problem,” the source said.

Always interested in getting at how al-Qaida was targeting U.S. interests in the region, Bennett wanted to go after al-Qaida’s network and finances, the source added. (Bennett declined an interview request.)

“We rarely stepped back to ask, ‘What does this thing really look like, and so what?’” the source said. “Not because we didn’t think about it but because we went after what we knew.”

Combat complications

U.S. efforts were complicated by the fact that there were “two proponent agencies” for the war on al-Qaida in the Horn — U.S. Special Operations Command (higher headquarters for Joint Special Operations Command, whose elite operators were heavily involved in the Horn) and the CIA — according to the intelligence source. This created friction between the CIA and JSOC during the early years of the campaign, the source said. The Horn was what the source described as “a Title 50 environment,” meaning it was not considered a combat theater. (Title 50 is the section of the U.S. Code dealing with covert intelligence issues, while Title 10 deals with the armed services, including clandestine military operations.)

Operating out of a sovereign nation — Kenya — in a Title 50 environment meant “we had to let the Kenyans in on anything short of a covert operation,” leaving some JSOC “shooters” eager for more aggressive action “very frustrated,” the source said.

“Nairobi is a good example of JSOC wanting to come in and conduct operations — let’s say a Little Bird [helicopter] strike against a target in the tri-border area of Somalia-Ethiopia-Kenya,” the source said. “More than one [JSOC] O-6 came through Nairobi and said, ‘We can do whatever we damn please.’” The source noted that “at the time SOCOM and JSOC were accustomed to working in Title 10 environments” such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where the rules governing combat action were much looser.

Assessing the threat

No U.S. military personnel have died in combat in the Horn since 9/11, which the senior intelligence official described as “amazing.” But despite the low cost in American blood, some special operators question whether the U.S. effort there has been worth the risk.

“I never thought any of the African targets were important,” said a special operations officer. “They don’t show a direct threat to the homeland. They don’t have the ability to project.”

He dismissed the argument that Somali immigrants to the U.S. who have returned to fight for al-Shabaab represent a threat to the homeland.

“Can you show me intelligence that shows that that network is posing a direct threat to the United States or its allies?” he asked, emphasizing that he was referring to a current threat, not past attacks such as al-Qaida’s 1998 bomb attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

The senior intelligence official’s take was very different.

“The scale of the problem in Somalia was huge,” the official said. “We’re talking a large number of al-Qaida, a couple of training camps over the years that have trained, in the case of two examples, a couple of hundred people who are now out there. Some probably left the continent and returned to Europe, some may have returned to Afghanistan and some may have returned to Iraq, and some may just still be in Somalia fighting.”

Although there are terrorist training camps in Somalia, the special ops officer acknowledged, “there are training camps all over the place. But what was the threat tied to our homeland or our allies?”

“Somalia definitely has a cell [of al-Qaida] but the connectivity to the rest of al-Qaida is really specious, it’s very frail,” said a special mission unit veteran.

The diaries of senior Arab al-Qaida members such as Ramzy Binalshib and Abu Zubaydah express clear racism toward black people that would complicate any attempt at close cooperation between the Arab-dominated group and its African franchise, he said.

“What they [i.e. the targets in Africa] did enable us to do was see the network, because they had to communicate, so that’s always good,” the special ops officer said. “It made us understand the network, that’s the biggest success story. And it’s another example of how we can work quietly with others.”

“We managed to strengthen bilateral relations in the region with numerous countries,” agreed the intel source with long experience in the Horn.

But the recent flurry of airstrikes in Somalia, combined with senior leader comments, suggests that there is much work yet to do.

In a March 1 hearing, Marine Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “…we see [al-Qaida] links going down into Somalia with al-Shabaab.”

“There’s been a lot of very challenging things done there and, sadly, we’re going to have to do,” said the senior intelligence official. But although the CIA and JSOC continue to be active in Somalia — a recent article in The Nation outlined close links between CIA and the TFG’s intelligence agency — the military has no permanent presence in the country, the intelligence official said.

After expanding for most of the past seven years, JSOC’s presence in the Horn “is steady — it’s definitely plateaued,” the senior intelligence official said. In fact, the official said, it’s probably dropped a bit” because a couple of “the key targets” have been killed.

There are no JSOC personnel in Somaliland, Sudan or Eritrea and only a very small intelligence team in Ethiopia, the official said. “On a given day in Kenya, you probably have a couple of dozen guys — that’s about it,” the official said. “Enough to do, if required … a high-value capture-or-kill mission. And then we certainly have the ability to move guys pretty damn quickly to there.”

But despite JSOC’s acute interest in Somalia, there is a limit to what the command can achieve there, said a Defense Department official. “JSOC is not going to be the deciding force in whatever happens in Somalia,” the official said. “They can’t kill them all. They can’t capture them all.”

When it comes to Somalia and Yemen, “we’d like to be doing much more in both those places,” the senior military official said. “The State Department came down hard and said we don’t want a third front in an Islamic [country] … Our State Department doesn’t want us to have campaign plans in these two countries.

“It’s a tale of frustration, tears and woe — of what we wanted to do and what we thought we’d be allowed to versus what we’ve been able to do.”

In the meantime, said the senior intelligence official, “Somalia remains a huge problem.”

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