Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gatestone Institute

Translations of this item:
  • Denmark's Foreign Minister, Martin Lidegaard, did not of course address the question: If your neighbor is trying to import weapons while threatening to kill you, what are you supposed to do about that? He also did not address the similar blockade of Gaza by Egypt, which faces the same problem. The more terror tunnels Hamas members build, the more respect they get from the West.
  • As someone born and raised a Muslim in the Middle East, and still living there, I can assure Europeans officials that if they think the recognition of Hamas and Palestinian statehood would encourage Hamas to change its charter and abandon its terrorists attacks, they could not be more wrong. Why then should Hamas change its charter or tactics, or commit itself to a peaceful resolution, when its current terror tactics seem to be working so magnificently?
  • "We do not distinguish between what was occupied in the 1940s and what was occupied in the 1960s... We will continue until the very last usurper is driven out of our land." – Sheik Nizar Rayan, a Hamas leader, Gaza, 2005.
  • The EU authorities speak about "peace talks," and a "two-state solution;" Hamas does not. Hamas openly rejects them. If one compares the language these governments use with the language Hamas officials use, they would appear to live on different galaxies. To Hamas, and apparently to many countries in Europe, Israel as no right to defend itself and no right to exist. But Europe is ready to prop up, with unconditional support, racist, anti-humanitarian organizations such as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Is this really the spirit of pluralism, humanism and tolerance these "good," "moral" European governments and the Vatican support?
This month, the Vatican signed the first treaty with "the state of Palestine," which it had already recognized in 2012.

The Vatican is not the only European state to have recognized the Hamas and Abbas government as an independent state. The Vatican is just the latest member of a trend that speaks volumes about how alarmingly clueless European states are about the conflict in the region and how blind they have become to see who actually causes terrorism and killings there.

Pope Francis greets Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican, May 16, 2015. (Image source: RT video screenshot)

Sadly, last year, Europe showed that terrorism and threats to commit genocide might just be the best way to acquire national independence.

In October 2014, the Britain's House of Commons voted in favor of symbolic motion that stands as initial stage of UK recognition of a "Palestinian state."

Then Sweden's government became the first major European country officially to recognize the state of "Palestine."

Shortly after that, the lower house of Spain's parliament voted overwhelmingly to recognize "Palestine" as a state, and then the Portuguese parliament did the same.

Into the bargain, call it a bonus, Finland and Denmark (in Copenhagen, before it was hit with a terror attack -- like those with which Israel has been contending for decades -- warned Israel of EU sanctions. Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said Israel could face EU sanctions over its actions in Palestinian areas.

In September, Denmark's Foreign Minister, Martin Lidegaard, said that if Israel does not commit to end its "blockade" of Gaza and stop "illegal settlements," then tougher steps should be adopted. "If nothing happens in the peace talks this time," he said, "and if we don't see a new pattern of response from Israel's side, then we will need to discuss the possibility of taking new steps, including changes to our trade relations with Israel." He did not, of course, address the question: If your neighbor is trying to import weapons while threatening to kill you, what are you supposed to do about that? He also did not address the similar blockade of Gaza by Egypt, which faces the same problem.

Finally, as the ultimate prize, on December 17, 2014, the General Court of the European Union, the second-highest court in the bloc, declared that it had removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations: "Hamas should no longer be included on an influential list of international terrorist organizations."

Have these parliaments and courts not read Hamas's charter, especially in its Article 7, which openly calls for genocide against the Jews, not only in Israel, but all over the world? Have the not heard the saying in much of the Arab world: "First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people" -- namely, Europe's Christians?[1] Have they not seen how Islamic extremists have been targeting Christians and others not only in the Middle East but right there among them in the West?

Is this really the spirit of pluralism, humanism and tolerance these "good," "moral" European governments and the Vatican support?

The EU authorities speak about "peace talks" and "a two state solution;" Hamas does not. Not only has Hamas never cared about such niceties; it openly rejects them. The more Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel and murder of all the Jews, the more the Western governments incomprehensibly seem to interpret this as a call for peace. If one compares the language these governments use with the language Hamas officials use, they would appear to live in different galaxies.

In July 2014, Hamas once more made it clear that "peace" is not its aim. When an Arabic-language television interviewer asked Mushir Al Masri, a Hamas MP and media spokesman, "Is there a proposal of Hamas?" he responded:
"This is just the nonsense of the Zionists and a dream of theirs to live in peace and calmness for 10 years. We shall keep disturbing the Zionists until the last of the Zionists leaves our Palestinian land. Because every truce is temporary for a certain period of time. We are not talking about a long term truce. We are not talking about a peace agreement."
"'A truce' in the dictionary of the resistance means preparing for the next battle. Our resistance will keep on developing, producing and filling its arsenals and in the production of surprising elements for the next battles until the Zionist enemy leaves our land, with the help of Allah."
"In Islam peace has a different meaning," wrote the scholar Diane Weber Bederman. "And it is important that we understand that meaning when we talk about peace with Muslim leaders, especially those who represent Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, al Qaeda. Peace in Islam means submission to Allah. The ultimate meaning of Islamic peace is all of us living in Dar-al-Islam—the house of submission."

During last summer's war, started by Hamas rockets fired into Israel, the journalist Arsen Ostrovsky wrote: "In the last 24 hours alone, over 120 rockets have been fired on southern Israel. That's approximately five rockets per hour..." -- at a country the size of Vancouver Island.

At the end of that operation, Hamas once more showed that its struggle is all about destruction: hundreds of dead and wounded people -- institutionalized human sacrifice -- used as propaganda for the television cameras. To Hamas, and apparently to many countries in Europe, Israel has no right to defend itself and no right to exist. But Europe is ready to prop up with unconditional support racist, anti-humanitarian organizations such as Palestinian Authority and Hamas?

As someone born and raised a Muslim in the Middle East, and still living there, I can assure European officials that if they think that the recognition of Hamas and Palestinian statehood would encourage Hamas to change its charter and leave its terrorist attacks, they could not be more wrong. Perhaps the Europeans are just hoping that if they keep on paying diplomatic "protection money" and keep on giving terrorists what they say they want, the terrorists will see to it that nothing (more) blows up in their cities. Or maybe they are just currying favor for business contracts or Muslim votes.

In 2010, Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: "Have we given up our lands occupied in 1948? We demand the liberation of the West Bank, and the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital – but without recognizing [Israel]. This is the key – without recognizing the Israeli enemy on a single inch of land....This is our plan for this stage – to liberate the West Bank and Gaza, without recognizing Israel's right to a single inch of land, and without giving up the Right of Return for a single Palestinian refugee."

Sheik Nizar Rayan, a Hamas "political" leader, said at a rally in Gaza, in 2005: "We will not rest until we liberate all our land, all our Palestine. We do not distinguish between what was occupied in the 1940s and what was occupied in the 1960s. Our Jihad continues, and we still have a long way to go. We will continue until the very last usurper is driven out of our land."
Hamas is harmful not only to Israel, but also to its own Gazan people. Hamas has reportedly carried out, with perfunctory trials at best, public executions by firing squads against alleged "collaborators" -- their own citizens who oppose Hamas terrorism -- possibly as "examples" to others in the Gaza Strip.

The engagement by Hamas in war-profiteering and financial corruption is also no secret.
"With multi-million-dollar land deals, luxury villas and black market fuel from Egypt, Gaza's rulers made billions while the rest of the population struggled with 38-percent poverty and 40-percent unemployment," wrote Doron Peskin, a Middle East expert in regional economies.
The Institute for Palestine Studies published a detailed report on Gaza's terror tunnels in the summer of 2012. Hamas used child labor to construct its underground network in Gaza, work which resulted in a large number of child deaths: "At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials," the report noted.

Hamas also openly declares that it engages in jihad against the Jews in Israel and worldwide. Do European governments call for and enforce the demilitarization of Gaza until Hamas officials change their charter and abandon terrorist attacks? No, they recognize Hamas and a "Palestinian state."

The more terror tunnels Hamas members build and the more terror attacks they carry out, the more support they get from the West. The more Jews they kill, the more they are respected.
The more they exploit their own children and use them as human shields, they more "heroic" they become in the eyes of the West.

The more cartoons they broadcast on their children's channel indoctrinating Palestinian children, telling them why they should "shoot all the Jews" or "kill the Christians and Jews – to the last one," the more recognition and "aid money" they get.

Why then should Hamas change its charter or tactics, or commit itself to non-violence and a peaceful resolution, when its terror tactics seem to be working so magnificently?

Western governments should stop projecting their own wishes onto Hamas and should see Hamas as it really is: A terrorist group with a genocidal agenda that must be demilitarized for the future of all of us.

Recognizing Hamas or a Palestinian state does not mean protecting Palestinians. Palestinians can only be protected by stopping their incitement. That can be done in one minute and with no money. Europe and the West can also insist that all future funding be linked to Palestinians educating their children for peace instead of war. The funding first needs to be linked to changes, as worked so well in the Soviet Union with the Jackson-Vannick Amendment, which predicated all grain to the Soviet Union on allowing its people to leave. The funding then needs to be paid out in installments, after the changes have been made -- and maintained. No education for peace, no funding. The only way to actually build a Palestine mature enough to have a state is by changing the expectations of Palestinians about what is acceptable -- and by staying committed to those changes over time -- in addition to the direct negotiations with Israel, to which the Palestinians are committed under international law.

The Pope was wise enough to see that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas could be -- but was not yet -- "an angel of peace." Egypt and Jordan live in peace side-by-side with Israel. The Palestinians could, too. Just not now.

[1] About the "Saturday people," Hamas's former minister of culture, Atallah Abu Al-Subh, has said: "The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth, because they have displayed hostility to Allah

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Gatestone Institute

  • Social welfare fraud of the kind perpetrated in Denmark is being repeated throughout Europe.
  • Because Anjem Choudary's welfare payments are not taxed, his income is equivalent to a £32,500 ($50,000) salary. By comparison, the average annual earnings of full-time workers in Britain was £26,936 ($41,000) in 2014.
  • A Swedish soldier deployed in Afghanistan said that he was likely to get less help when he came back to Sweden than returning jihadists were.
More than 30 Danish jihadists have collected unemployment benefits totaling 379,000 Danish krone (€51,000; $55,000) while fighting with the Islamic State in Syria, according to leaked intelligence documents.

The fraud, which was reported by Television 2 Danmark on May 18, comes less than six months after the Danish newspaper BT revealed that Denmark had paid unemployment benefits to 28 other jihadists while they were waging war in Syria.

The disclosures show that Islamists continue to exploit European social welfare systems to finance their activities both at home and abroad — costing European taxpayers potentially millions of euros each year.

According to Television 2 Danmark, the welfare fraud was discovered after the Danish intelligence agency PET began sharing data about known Danish jihadists with the Ministry of Employment to determine if any of these individuals were receiving unemployment benefits.

As a percentage of the overall population, Denmark is the second-largest European source of foreign fighters in Syria after Belgium. At least 115 Danes have become foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq since Syria's civil war broke out in March 2011, according to a recent report by the Center for Terrorism Analysis, an agency of PET. The report states:
"CTA assesses that approximately half of those who have gone abroad are now back in Denmark, while a quarter of them remain in the conflict zone. CTA assesses that two thirds of these individuals have been in the conflict zone for more than a year. The remaining travelers are located elsewhere abroad. CTA assesses that at least 19 travelers from Denmark have been killed in Syria and Iraq."
The CTA admits that, "the number may be higher" than 115. The comment is a tacit recognition that it does not know exactly how many Danes have become jihadists abroad.
In April, it emerged that the parents of Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein — a Danish-Jordanian jihadist responsible for the terror attacks in Copenhagen in February 2015 in which two people died — have been welfare recipients in Denmark for more than 20 years. Omar's parents received a total of 3.8 million krone between 1994 and 2014, amounting to roughly 500,000 euros or $560,000.

Social welfare fraud of the kind perpetrated in Denmark is being repeated throughout Europe.
In Austria, police arrested 13 jihadists in November 2014 who were allegedly collecting welfare payments to finance their trips to Syria. Among those detained was Mirsad Omerovic, 32, an extremist Islamic preacher who police say raised several hundred thousand euros for the war in Syria. A father of six who lives exclusively off the Austrian welfare state, Omerovic has benefited from additional payments for paternity leave (Väterkarenz).

Austrian police also arrested, in August 2014, nine other jihadists who were attempting to join the jihad in Syria. Their trip was being financed by Austrian taxpayers by way of social welfare payments.

In Belgium, 29 jihadists from the Flemish cities of Antwerp and Vilvoorde were prevented from receiving social welfare benefits from the state. The move came after an investigation found that the individuals had been accessing their Belgian bank accounts by withdrawing money from banks in Turkey, just across the Syrian border.

Per capita, Belgium is the largest European source of jihadist fighters going to the Middle East; up to 400 Belgians have become jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

In Britain, Terri Nicholson, an assistant commander at the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism command unit, told the Telegraph newspaper in November 2014 that taxpayers' money was being claimed fraudulently and used by jihadists in Iraq and Syria. "We are seeing a diverse fraud, including substantial fraud online, abuse of the benefits system, abuse of student loans, in order to fund terrorism," she said.

Nicholson added that women were increasingly being used to smuggle welfare money out of Britain to fund terrorists abroad, because they supposedly arouse less suspicion.

In November 2014, for example, Amal El-Wahabi, a British mother of two, was jailed for 28 months for trying to arrange to smuggle €20,000 to her husband, a jihadist fighting in Syria. She persuaded her friend, Nawal Msaad, to carry the cash in her underwear in return for €1,000. Msaad was stopped at Heathrow Airport. The money she was carrying is thought to have come from social welfare payments.

Anjem Choudary, a British-born radical Islamic cleric who lives off the British welfare state, has repeatedly urged his followers to quit their jobs and claim unemployment benefits so they have more time to plot holy war against non-Muslims.

Choudary believes that Muslims are entitled to welfare payments because they are a form of jizya, a tax imposed on non-Muslims in countries run by Muslims, as a reminder that non-Muslims are permanently inferior and subservient to Muslims.

In 2010, The Sun reported that Choudary takes home more than £25,000 ($39,000) a year in welfare benefits. Among other handouts, Choudary receives £15,600 a year in housing benefit to keep him in a £320,000 ($495,000) house in Leytonstone, East London. He also receives £1,820 council tax allowance, £5,200 income support and £3,120 child benefits. Because his welfare payments are not taxed, his income is equivalent to a £32,500 ($50,000) salary. By comparison, the average annual earnings of full-time workers in Britain was £26,936 ($41,000) in 2014.

Although analysts are divided over the question of how many followers Choudary actually has, no one disputes the fact that he is far from alone in exploiting the British welfare system.
British taxpayers have footed the bill for the Moroccan-born Najat Mostafa, the second wife of the Egyptian-born Islamic hate preacher Abu Hamza, who was extradited to the United States in October 2012. She has lived in a £1 million, five-bedroom house in one of London's wealthiest neighborhoods for more than 15 years, and has raised the couple's eight children there.

Abu Hamza and his family are believed to have cost British taxpayers more than £338,000 in benefits. He has also received £680,000 in legal assistance for his failed U.S. extradition battle. The cost of keeping him in a British prison since 2004 is estimated at £500,000.

Fellow extremist Islamic preacher Abu Qatada, a Palestinian, has cost British taxpayers an estimated £500,000. He has also won £390,000 in legal aid to avoid deportation to Jordan.
The Islamic preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed, a Syrian, obtained £300,000 benefits before being exiled to Lebanon. The money was provided to raise his six children, including Yasmin Fostok, a single mother who makes a living as a pole-dancer in London nightclubs.
More instances of British welfare abuse can be found here.

In France, the government in March 2015 cut welfare benefits for 290 persons identified as jihadists. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve downplayed the problem. "We shouldn't make a controversy of this subject or allow people to think no action has been taken. We're taking this seriously and will continue to do so," he said.

In Germany, an analysis of the estimated 450 German jihadists fighting in Syria found that more than 20% of them were receiving welfare benefits from the German state. In addition, the 150 jihadists who have returned to Germany are eligible to begin receiving benefits again.
The Interior Minister of Bavaria, Joachim Herrmann, said:
"It should never come to this. German taxpayers' money should never directly or indirectly finance Islamist terrorism. The benefits of such terrorist parasites should be eliminated immediately. Not working and spreading terror at the expense of the German state is not only extremely dangerous, it is also the worst provocation and disgrace!"
Separately, a study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research found that Muslim immigrants were more likely to be unemployed and living off the social welfare state than any other immigrant group in Germany.

According to the study, 55% of the immigrants from Lebanon are unemployed, as are 46% from Iraq, 37.5% from Afghanistan, 37.1% from Iran, 27.1% from Morocco and 21.5% from Turkey. In real terms, immigrants from Turkey (140,000) constitute the largest number of unemployed. The report said the root cause for the high unemployment rates was the lack of educational attainment and job training qualifications.

In the Netherlands, a Dutch jihadist named Khalid Abdurahman appeared in a YouTube video with five severed heads. Originally from Iraq, Abdurahman was living on social welfare benefits in the Netherlands for more than a decade before he joined the Islamic State in Syria. Dutch social services declared him to be unfit for work and taxpayers paid for the medication to treat him for claustrophobia and schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, city councils across the Netherlands are attempting to help rather than to prosecute returning jihadists. In the city of Delft, for example, local politicians are using taxpayer money to "reintegrate" jihadists and to help them "rebuild their lives." Dutch public television explained it this way: "The idea is that the local authorities do not want to alienate the returnees by means of a repressive approach which might lead to their further radicalization."

Separately, several Dutch-Moroccan organizations sent a letter to the Labor Party (Partij van de Arbeid, PvdA) in which they threatened to urge Dutch-Moroccans to stop supporting the party if it agreed to a proposal by its Minister of Social Affairs, Lodewijk Asscher, to cut social welfare payments to Moroccans who do not live in the Netherlands. Asscher accused the organizations of using an "improper electoral threat."

In Spain, police arrested five Muslims in the Basque Country who allegedly pocketed the social welfare payments of Redouan Bensbih, a Moroccan immigrant killed on the battlefield in Syria in March. Despite his no longer living in Spain, Bensbih continued receiving monthly payments of €836 euros ($920), which the suspects are accused of having wired to Morocco.

Meanwhile, a network of more than 250 butcher shops, grocery stores and telephone call centers was accused of financing the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. The network used the so-called hawala system — defined by Interpol as money transfer without money movement — where money is transferred through an informal and virtually untraceable system.

According to the El País newspaper, "the secret hawala network in Spain is comprised of about 300 hawaladars — the majority of them Pakistanis — who run clandestine offices in Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida, Bilbao, Santander, Valencia, Madrid, Logroño, León, Jaén and Almería, and other cities with large Pakistani communities." They manage the savings of over 150,000 Muslims, many of whom are believed to be receiving social welfare payments from the Spanish state, without any legal oversight.

The network allegedly paid the salaries of Spanish jihadists in Syria: They received about $800 if they were single and $1,200 if they were married.

In February 2015, a Pakistani couple residing in the Basque capital of Vitoria was accused of falsifying identity documents to fraudulently obtain social welfare payments for ten fictitious individuals. The man was receiving six different welfare payments and his wife was receiving four. Each welfare payment was between €6,000 ($6,600) and €10,000 ($11,000) per month. Police say that over a period of three years, the couple defrauded the Basque government of more than €395,000 ($453,000).

The Basque Country is known for its liberal social welfare policies; all residents, including illegal immigrants, are eligible to receive welfare payments. In 2012, a massive wave of immigrants from Morocco and Algeria arrived in the Basque Country in order to — in the words of a local politician — "live off of welfare benefits without working."

According to local observers, more than 65% of the immigrants from Morocco and Algeria are receiving benefits. Auditors found that in 2012 alone the Basque Country made €86 million ($95 million) in dubious welfare payments.

In Sweden, the state employment agency, Arbetsformedlingen, terminated a pilot program aimed at helping immigrants find jobs. Information had emerged that Muslim employees at the agency were helping jobseekers find jobs as jihadists for the Islamic State. Operatives from the Islamic State had also allegedly bribed — and in some cases issued death threats against — agency employees in efforts to recruit fighters from Sweden.

Also in Sweden, the government said it wanted to impose a special tax to finance a jobs program for returning jihadists. The project is based on a scheme in the Swedish city of Örebro, where the city is using taxpayer money to help returning jihadists find employment. Town councilor Rasmus Persson said:
"We have discussed how we should work for these guys who have come back, to ensure that they do not return to the battlefield. They should be helped to process the traumatic experiences they have been through."
The project was challenged by a Swedish soldier deployed in Afghanistan, who said that he was likely to get less help when he came back to Sweden than returning jihadists were. Soldier Fredrik Brandberg wrote:
"It would be wonderful if I was met with a comparable program after my homecoming, after which I could feel safe in having a regular job, with monthly income and a social stable situation in the society where I wouldn't need to wonder whether I'm wanted or not."
A spokesperson for the Swedish Armed Forces said that what happens to soldiers upon their return from war was not an issue that fell under its mandate.
Mona Sahlin, Sweden's "national coordinator of the struggle against violent extremists," poses with Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan in July 2010. Sweden's government wants to impose a special tax to finance a jobs program for returning jihadists. Meanwhile, Sweden's armed forces said that what happens to soldiers upon their return from war was not an issue that fell under its mandate. (Image source: Social Democratic Party)
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.

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Nothing Out of the Ordinary for FIFA

"We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing." (pre-election)
"This gives me now the time because I was said to be responsible with what's happened. I take the responsibility and we have to build up now a better image of FIFA and I know how to do it."
"It was a very difficult congress due to the circumstances of these tragic events on Wednesday and Thursday in Zurich and what the media said around the world about FIFA."
"I was identified to be responsible for what has happened. I take the responsibility and we have to build up a better image of FIFA and I know how to do it." (post-election)
Sepp Blatter, FIFA president

"[We are] fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance and we expect the same from our partners."
Adidas, FIFA sponsor

Seven FIFA officials arrested, with charges against nine officials of FIFA along with five corporate executives, all charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies connected to 24 years of entitled corruption, in the process enriching themselves beyond imagination. Swiss prosecutors have announced that criminal proceedings are to proceed into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

The proceedings, needless to say represent "another case of illegal extraterritorial implementation of American law", according to Russia's outraged Foreign Ministry, representing a country the 2018 Cup was granted, over the U.S. bid. This brings sour grapes to a new level. Major Sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Visa and Adidas are aghast; they had no idea, NO IDEA, that their brand was involved, however innocently with corrupted malfeasance on such a grand scale.

They will rethink their sponsorship. Perhaps.

The European soccer body UEFA, had called on FIFA to postpone the Friday presidential vote since "the image of football as a whole" had been tarnished (!!surprise!!); perhaps a time-out might be useful at this juncture. They must not have realized that the inestimable Sepp Blatter at age 79, has lost none of his marbles, and certainly none of the gratitude of the South American and Asian soccer bodies whose vote for his continued presidency carried his day.

For he is the 'president of everybody', particularly those everybodies whom his generosity profited.

The fix was in, but the truth is out. The former chief of Britain's 2018 World Cup bid spoke before a parliamentary committee describing how FIFA officials demanded million-dollar payouts in exchange for votes. As for former FIFA executive Nicolas Leoz, he had all the filthy lucre he was happy to claim; what he wanted instead was a knighthood. When the English official responded it wouldn't be possible, he understood that neither would the games in 2018 be possible for Britain.

Mr. Leoz was one of the 14 FIFA men arrested in Zurich on Wednesday to answer for the American charges of racketeering and other offences. There are so many offensive offences casually overlooked as business as usual, that had it not been for the outlandishly inexplicable-but-for-bribes decision to grant the 2022 World Cup venue to Qatar, no such firestorm of 'we've-had-it' would have broken out into the world of the most popular sport going.

Qatar, a tiny country with no history of, let alone interest in football? A summer games choice in overheated Qatar? No football stadiums in Qatar ... no problem. Except for the thousands of imported slave labourers from poverty-stricken countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, labouring under intensively subpar conditions considered dangerous in any other part of the world, with reports of one death among the indentured workers every two days.

A foreign worker climbs scaffolding at the Al-Wakra stadium being built for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha.
A foreign worker climbs scaffolding at the Al-Wakra stadium being built for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha. Photograph: Maya Alleruzzo/AP

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hamas Terror Modus Operandi

"In the chaos of the conflict, the de facto Hamas administration granted its security forces free rein to carry out horrific abuses, including against people in its custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip."
"In one of the most shocking incidents, six men were publicly executed by Hamas forces outside al-Omari mosque ... in front of hundreds of spectators, including children."
"The hooded men were dragged along the floor to kneel by a wall facing the crowd, then each man was shot in the head individually before being sprayed with bullets fired from an AK-47."
Amnesty International report, "Strangling Necks: Abduction, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict
"These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip."
"[Hamas used the background of the war to] ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses."
Philip Luther, Amnesty International

"[The Amnesty report is] unjust and unfair. Its release in this way reveals the truth about the work of this organisation, which includes in its administration Israeli employees."
Salah Al-Bardaweel, Hamas’ official spokesman

"There were marks of torture and bullet shots on his body. His arms and legs were broken … his body was as if you’d put it in a bag and smashed it ... His body was riddled with about 30 bullets."
Brother of Atta Najjar, former Palestinian policeman, Hamas victim

Hamas militants grab a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel before being executed in Gaza City in August 2014.
Hamas militants grab a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel before being executed in Gaza City in August 2014. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters
During the spate of executions, according to Amnesty, one of the victims was identified as Atta Najjar – described as a former police officer under the Palestinian Authority who had already been tried and sentenced on accusations of collaboration in 2009. Despite his conviction, and the fact he was already serving a 15-year jail sentence, Najjar was among those executed on 22 August.

The Amnesty report goes on to describe the situation of eight other detainees who were placed on trial charged with "collaboration" with Israel at the time they were executed. Of the total of 23 who were executed, six were awaiting the outcome of appeals against death sentences imposed upon them by a Gaza military court in Gaza on similar charges, while two others had been convicted, serving prison terms when they were put to death.

Ibrahim Dabour, an insurance salesman, was yet another Palestinian slated for Hamas-style justice. As a collaborator with Israel, needless to say. The boiler-plate reason expiating Hamas from all accusations of terrorism targeting Palestinians whose only crime appears to have been that they were not members of Hamas, but for the most part members of Fatah, with which, though they are both haters of Israel, Hamas seems unable to regard a partnership.

"We were told about the execution by people around us at 1pm. There was no official notification. He was executed at 9.30am on Friday. My brother received a text message at 10.31pm that night saying: 'The judgment against Ibrahim Dabour has been carried out according to [sharia law] as per the ruling of the Revolutionary Court'", Ibrahim Dabour's brother informed Amnesty.

"Even if he had been sentenced to death, there would have been an appeals process and other alternatives. What they have done is nothing to do with justice, it’s just criminal. These are the actions of militias."

How soon do we forget. After a previous conflict between Hamas and the IDF in 2012, the world was horrified by the mercilessly gruesome atrocity committed by Hamas 'militants' when they dragged the body of a Palestinian through Gaza streets, claiming him to have been a detestable collaborator with Israel. He was charged by Hamas for helping Israel, in identifying targets for them in Gaza. In fact he was nothing of the kind.

Ribhi Badawi, 37, had been in a Hamas prison under armed guard for four years. He confessed that he had worked for Israel after having been tortured for seven months. "They burned (him) and broke his jaw and teeth", his widow, Kholoud Badawi said. "He was hanged for 45 days by his arms and legs to make him confess. He confessed because of the torture. He told me every detail of what had happened to him and he gave me a diary he was writing."

Palestinian gunmen ride a motorcycle as they drag the body of a man, who was suspected of working for Israel, in Gaza City November 20, 2012. Palestinian gunmen shot dead six alleged collaborators in the Gaza Strip who "were caught red-handed", according to a security source quoted by the Hamas Aqsa radio on Tuesday.

Palestinian gunmen ride a motorcycle as they drag the body of a man, who was suspected of working for Israel, in Gaza City, November 2012. Reuters

The Amnesty report goes on to describe other Palestinians having been abducted by Hamas and who were then subjected to torture, including severe beatings with truncheons, gun butts, hoses and wire, or having been held in tortuous stress positions. Some of the abductees were interrogated and tortured or beaten mercilessly in a disused outpatients’ clinic within the grounds of Gaza City’s main al-Shifa hospital.

At least three people arrested during the conflict and accused of collaboration died in custody. This is the government of Gaza at work. Which administers its bleak territory by sheer, unadulterated terror, awaiting the time when they feel confident their stockpile of weapons gives them the impetus they need to mount another provocation upon Israel which it once again will be unable to ignore, resulting in yet another conflict.

Perhaps next time around coordinated with Hezbollah to mount a two-pronged attack, with Iran's al-Quds Revolutionary Guards contingents moving in pincer-like to accomplish what earlier combined Arab militaries were unable to achieve.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Maintaining Global Diplomacy

"The PSI [Proliferation Security Initiative] promotes cooperation by the states best-positioned to act based on their national capacities, using a wide array of military diplomatic and law enforcement tools."
U.S. news release pre annual conference

"We would like to remind the international community that Russia, being a key partner in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and a full member of the PSI, is not seeking any favours from Canada."
"[The Government of Canada is] fanning anti-Russian hysterics for domestic political considerations; [its] narrow-minded manner [is] inappropriate and counter-productive."
"We will be sure to provide a response to these hostile actions."
"[It is] regrettable [that Canada] has acted contrary to common sense [unilaterally blocking a country from an international event] that happens to be held on its territory."
Russian Foreign Ministry

"While Canada opposes Russia's actions in Ukraine and is right to do so, it would be counterproductive to downgrade cooperation in other areas where we have common interests with Russia, including the proliferation of WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]."
Roland Paris, international relations expert, University of Ottawa
Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks past Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit Thursday Sept.5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS
A Russian delegation failed to obtain a visa to attend an international conference in Ottawa whose function is directly related to halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Two Russian officials in "an openly unfriendly move that contradicts the normal practice of multilateral events" as described by the foreign affairs ministry of Russia, were barred from entry to Canada.
The Proliferation Security Initiative, established in 2003 to respond to global concerns over the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons is holding its annual conference in Ottawa. Officials from 21 countries are expected to attend in the interests of discussing trends and efforts to cope with WMD proliferation. The three-day meeting is seen as essential in combating the spread of large-scale weapons.

The two diplomats working in the Russian Foreign Ministry's non-proliferation and arms control section were refused visas for the purpose of attending the conference, according to the Russian Embassy in Ottawa. Ottawa's frigid relations with Moscow has seen it set aside most issues, diplomatic and otherwise, in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

When a Russian delegation was given permission to visit Iqaluit in April to attend a high-level international summit on the Arctic, Leona Aglukaq, Canada's Environment Minister, scolded her Russian counterpart over the recent actions by the Kremlin in Ukraine where Russian soldiers and Russian arms were conspiring with ethnic Russian-Ukraines to tear Ukraine apart.

On a strictly nation-to-nation basis, let alone the occasion of international conferences, it would seem far more useful for countries to engage with one another, however frostily, to ensure that communication remains possible, even when one of the parties is behaving in an untenable, dangerous manner threatening to destabilize global security.

Contact with a sane administration might conceivably stabilize the lunacy of an over-reaching imperialist in the Russian presidency.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Power Plays, Upstart Empire

"If the United States' bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a U.S.-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea."
The Global Times tabloid newspaper, Communist Party of China

"From the perspective of sovereignty, there is absolutely no difference [treating China's policies in the South China Sea as a domestic issue]. Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs."
Yang Yujun, spokesman, Chinese Defence Ministry

"I think the concern has to be that China misjudges the situation. Neither party [China or the U.S.] wants a war if it can be avoided, but there are red lines for both sides. I worry that Beijing considers the U.S. to be a declining power and assumes that Washington will back down if it shoots down a U.S. observation aircraft."
Robert Dujaric, director, Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University, Japan
Dredgers deposit sand on the northern rim of the Mischief Reef, located 216 km (135 miles) west of the Philippine island of Palawan, in this Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative satellite image taken on February 1, 2015...
Reuters/CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/Digital Globe/Handout

In the news last month alarms over satellite imagery revealing that China had come close to completion of an air strip on Fiery Cross, a reef in international and disputed waters, just as Beijing has begun building two lighthouses on reefs in the Spratly Islands, outcrops claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as China. Mischief Reef is being transformed into full island status through land reclamation.

The People's Liberation Army is set on instructions from Beijing, to "project power" beyond its borders at sea and in the air in a more assertive manner. For the goal, to safeguard its maritime possessions is vital to the country's future, according to a new policy document. The tradition of "offshore waters defence" is being replaced with "open seas protection" for the Chinese navy and air force.
Airstrip construction on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea is pictured in this April 2, 2015 handout satellite image obtained by Reuters on April 16, 2015.
Reuters/CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe/Handout via Reuters

This is required, according to the Chinese state council and cabinet because China faces a "grave and complex array of security threats". And here all its neighbours were under the impression that it was they and not China, under duress, with China threatening them and their territorial holdings; that they were facing that 'grave and complex array of security threats'.

Tension over disputed islands in the South China Sea and other places in the Pacific has the United States informing China's neighbours that it has their backs. An American aircraft last week snubbed repeated warning from the Chinese military to avoid flying reconnaissance missions over the disputed islands. In response, The Global Times claimed China might "accept" that conflict could erupt with the United States.

Washington had decided to "de-escalate" a major crisis in April of 2011 when a Chinese fighter plane collided with a U.S. Navy Intelligence-Gathering aircraft off Hainan Island. According to Mr. Dujarric, the response could be vastly dissimilar if another incident were to occur in international air space over the South China Sea.

The president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, calls for the different nations with claims to the South China Sea to carry out joint development of natural resources. Even while the Global Times speaks of the construction of runways, harbour facilities and buildings on the disputed Spratly Islands as China's "most important bottom line".

China's most important "bottom line" used to be its economic advance on steroids. But after the 2008 global recession with its traditional clients' capacity to import Chinese goods hugely straitened by their own stuttering economic renewals, China's economy has stalled. And so it is turning to other areas of growth and since it has an insatiable need for resources, it casts all caution to the winds by claiming as its own what others have always assumed to be theirs.

Its campaign to grow its economic and geographic base would proceed far more to its expectations if the United States had the uncommon good sense to inform its Asian allies that it's up to them alone to work out a stratagem for 'sharing' between their claims and those of the Chinese, even if the outcome is a forgone conclusion.

Analysts, however, feel that neither Washington nor Beijing seem of the opinion that it would be in both their interests to take a step backward. Leaving a serious risk of a minor incident occurring around the islands that could conceivably escalate rapidly to a juncture where pulling back is simply not an option, and all hell breaks loose, each side determined to make their point.

In that sense relations between China and the U.S. are not entirely unlike those between Iran and the United States. Where Ayatollah Khamenei speaks of "a series of other issues" beyond the nuclear program that vexingly remain to be settled with "the West, America, and the Zionists", inclusive of the issue of "human rights".

Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s top adviser for international affairs had much in common to discuss when he visited Beijing this week, in his comments during a meeting with officials of China’s Strategic Studies Center. According to Mr. Velayati, "the Islamic Republic of Iran has tried to resolve issues through negotiations, but it will stand up to the excessive demands of some Western countries."

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saudi lists two Hezbollah officials as terrorists

Hezbollah supporters wave their group flags during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the death of Hezbollah leaders, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, on Feb. 16, 2015. (AP)
Saudi Arabia blacklisted two senior officials of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as “terrorists” for their involvement in spreading “chaos and instability” across the Middle East, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Wednesday.

SPA identified one as Khalil Youssef Harb and described him as the military commander in charge of Hezbollah’s operations in the Middle East. The state-run agency said he was also responsible for the group’s activities in Yemen.

The second listed Hezbollah official was Mohammed Qabalan, which SPA said had been convicted by an Egyptian court in absentia in 2010 for heading a terrorist cell that targeted tourist destinations in Egypt.

The officials were also blamed for activities including supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and recruiting fighters to engage in the bloody conflict, SPA added.
The U.S. treasury department hailed the latest move by Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The kingdom’s decision imposes financial sanctions on the two commanders, including freezing their assets and banning Saudis from any dealings with them.

“As long as Hezballah spreads instability, conducts terrorist attacks and engages in criminal and illicit activities around the world, we will continue to designate Hezballah’s operatives, leaders and businesses and impose sanctions as a result of designation,” the SPA statement said.

Saudi’s interior ministry in March last year designated several Islamist organizations based in the kingdom and abroad, including the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, as terrorist groups.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of Arab states in air strikes on Houthis in Yemen, as part of a campaign to restore President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to power.

The kingdom is also a leading supporter of moderate rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Hezbollah fighters are helping to shore up his forces against groups they deem as terrorists.

Hezbollah has repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia over both its military operations in Yemen and its support for rebels in Syria.
(With Reuters)

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Saudi FM: Terrorism divides Muslim world

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is convening over 50 foreign ministers from the Muslim world to form Islamic-world strategy on combatting terrorism. (File photo: Organization of Islamic Cooperation)
Acts of terrorism and the practice of Islamic extremism aim to divide Muslim world, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Wednesday at a meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries (OIC) in Kuwait.

“We have been committed in confronting the challenges of extremism and violence,” Jubeir said in one of the meeting’s opening statements.

“Terrorism, extremism and sectarianism aim to divide the Muslim world,” he added, citing the current conflict in Yemen as a “reflection of the suffering of the global Muslim community.”

Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen who are fighting to seize parts of the country and overthrow Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi.

In his opening statements, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said the Arab coalition had “responded to the Yemeni president's request to restore legitimacy.”

On the Syrian crisis, Sheikh Sabah said the four-year-long war could “only be solved through diplomatic channels” as the humanitarian crisis escalates.

The OIC is convening over 50 foreign ministers from the Muslim world to form Islamic-world strategy on combatting terrorism, violent extremism and hate speech in a meeting set to run from May 27-28 in Kuwait.

Entitled “Shared Vision in Promoting Tolerance and Denouncing Terrorism,” it marks the 42nd OIC Foreign Ministers Meeting.

The first day of the session also included a speech by OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani.
Issues to be discussed include engaging civil society across the Islamic world as a counterweight to extremism, exploring the unique role the Muslim world can play in discrediting extremist ideology, establishing counter-measures against the rising wave of Islamophobia and empowering demographic groups most vulnerable to radicalization including youth.

According to a press release, OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani said: “Terrorism has posed daunting challenges to the security and stability of OIC Member States and the global community alike. Vicious groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Al-Qaeda and the Taleban operate in violation of Islamic principles and even threaten the survival of some Member States.

“But we must look beyond just the security paradigm in our efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. Sustainable long-term solutions require stronger civil society engagement, the need to utilize religiously sound counter-messaging and to address socio-economic challenges like unemployment that extremist recruiters exploit.”

He also added: “We must also address the extremist narratives and vitriolic hate speech that inspire both anti-Muslim aggression in countries like Myanmar and the targeting of religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.”

Ministerial level meetings on the Mali peace process, the situation in Somalia and the humanitarian plight of the Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims will be held.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Extravagant Iraqi-Iranian Hyperbole

"I am sure he [Mr Carter] was fed with the wrong information".
"They [Iraqi soldiers] have the will to fight but when they are faced with an onslaught by [IS] from nowhere... with armoured trucks packed with explosives, the effect of them [being blown up] is like a small nuclear bomb - it gives a very, very bad effect on our forces. t makes my heart bleed because we lost Ramadi, but I can assure you we can bring it back soon."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi
Iraqi troops near Baghdad. Photo: 24 May 2015
Iraqi soldiers vastly outnumbered the IS militants in Ramadi, but still withdrew
"There is no military solution without a political solution. In September, we linked the coalition's support to political commitments by the new Iraqi government, what we call an inclusive policy."
"This contract [that Baghdad represent the interests of all Iraqi groups] is what justified our military engagement and I say clearly here that it must be better respected."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius 

 "[The operation to regain control of Anbar would be called] "Labayk ya Hussein" ("At your service, O Hussein") - [a revered Shia imam]."
"[The operation would] not last for a long time [new weapons would be used in the battle to] surprise the enemy."
Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman, Popular Mobilisation (al-Hashid al-Shaabi), (comprising dozens of Shia militias)
Shia militiamen fight Islamic State militants outside the Baiji oil refinery (25 May 2015)
The Iraqi government had until now resisted sending Shia militiamen to Anbar province

In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stated with confidence that Ramadi could be recaptured "within days". As for the 1,500 Iraqi soldiers stationed in Ramadi who had fled rather than face the assault imminent by as few as 150 Islamic State jihadis, it represented a normal enough human reaction to the prospect of being blown to smithereens by dedicated suicidists, he assured any who might question the courage of Iraqi's military.

For their part, Iraqis and their Iranian supporters have been castigating the United States for not doing enough to prevent Islamic State from capturing Ramadi. The scornful remarks of Ashton Carter, the American secretary of defence that Baghdad's military had allowed itself to be routed by a far smaller force because they lack motivation, hit home, causing both Iraqi and Iranian authorities to lash out with rage.

Vice-President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday to thank him for "the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces", giving reassurance of American support to the Iraqi government. Now isn't that a contemptible first, assuaging the sanctimonious anger of a head of state whose own military remains uncommitted to the protection of its citizens, while giving them ample praise for surrendering U.S.-provided munitions and war machines to the enemy. As an example of 'enormous sacrifice and bravery', quite outstanding.

So Mr. Biden congratulated the Iraqi decision to mobilize additional troops to "prepare for counter-attack operations", pledging full American support to "these and other Iraqi efforts to liberate territory from ISIL". Placatorily congratulating a country that has surrendered its self-defence capabilities to a neighbour's intervention, and the assistance of another country far removed geographically but committed to aiding Iraq to rescue itself from complete annihilation as a country.

That the Iraqi military hadn't the resolve and the capacity to mount a counter-defence against an offensive by a relatively small group of terrorists speaks to the sense of personal responsibility inherent in the Iraqi psyche. Mr. Carter's remarks including that "we [the U.S.] have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves" was frank, and frankly needed. It should have had the effect of shaming Iraq into defending itself, instead the result was a counter-accusation.

As ISIL advanced, those responsible for the defence of Ramadi fled, leaving the way open for Islamic State fighters to kill hundreds of Iraqi police and to take possession of weapons and vehicles as their spoils of war, which they were. Months of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and the deployment of technical military advisers reforming and training Iraqi security forces have led to naught in the face of ISIL's guerrilla tactics of terrorizing intimidation.

An Iraqi military commander in Anbar Province spoke of the comments by Mr. Carter as "a provocation to the Iraqi army and Iraqi people designed to make people lose their trust in the army", as though the lack of performance by the army didn't achieve that end on its very own. Do these people hear themselves? Their arrogant entitlement to blame any others who come to their defence for their own lack of commitment and performance is staggering.

About equal to the statement by the seasoned Iranian al-Quds commander General Qassem Soleimani, head of an elite unit in Iran's Revolutionary Guard who stated dismissively that the United States did not perform "a damn thing" to stop ISIL from its seizure of Ramadi. Without stating one damn thing that the Iraqi troops, let alone his own group did to apprehend the fall of Ramadi. His formidable reputation as a strategist and fighter cowering in the black shade of antagonism.

So to make the attempt to secure what has been lost, Iranian-linked Shiite militias have been called in to relieve local Sunni tribes which have suffered heavy losses of their own against Islamic State. It is estimated that around 40,000 civilians fled Ramadi. Husayba, east of Ramadi is reported to have been the venue of heavy fighting, with the claims that the Shiite militias have retaken the city.

"Today, there is nobody in confrontation with [ISIL] except the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as nations who are next to Iran or supported by Iran", boasted General Soleimani. While a former British general mirrored Mr. Carter's comments with the comment that rebuilding Iraq's army could take a generation; sending in greater numbers of international troops to aid its fight against the jihadists would do nothing to solve its lack of "will power".


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The Uneasy Baltics

"It's a great idea ["very high readiness" force of 5,000 ready to deploy in 48 hours] but [if 48 hours advance is all it [NATO offers] it is probably, in terms of the realities, just too late."
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves

"Putin cannot risk shooting down a British plane."
"He does not want a war with NATO."
Estonian commentator

And nor would NATO particularly look forward to a war with Russia. Vladimir Putin, after all, didn't hesitate to bring up the matter of Russia's nuclear stockpile when he was discussing Moscow's disagreements with Kyiv; how much more thinly veiled a threat than that one? Leaving the Baltic States in an atmosphere of concern over how much NATO countries would be willing to sacrifice to protect their newer members in view of the risk of a nuclear war.

Eurofighter Typhoon’s role in NATO BALTIC AIR POLICING
They are relieved on the other hand, to have NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission in evidence over their skies. Eurofighter jets which make several low passes over Tallinn in Estonia are welcome sights and sounds. They are there to make it evident that NATO is fully cognizant of the fact that it is obliged to look after the sovereignty of any of its members. Should any NATO country be threatened by invasion or conflict, all NATO member states are obligated to come to their defence.

During the days of the Soviet Union stranglehold on Estonia, for example, hundreds of thousands of Russians were encouraged to move to Estonia. The result is that at the present time Estonia is comprised of 24 percent ethnic Russians, many of whom remain the holders of Russian passports. Vladimir Putin has stated more than once how obligated Russia is to the welfare of its people, wherever they happen to live. Speaking darkly of how threatened they are by their countries of residence neglect and other poor treatment.
A view of the Russian navy Frigate "Pytlivyy" docked in the port of Sevastopol, where a Ukrainian navy base is located, on March 6, 2014.
A view of the Russian navy Frigate 'Pytlivyy' docked in the port of Sevastopol. Photograph: Filippo Monteforte /AFP /Getty Images
It is one of the contentions that underpin Russia's support for and encouragement of Ukraine's ethnic Russian rebels in their determination to eviscerate Ukraine and which is exemplified by Moscow's sudden self-entitlement to take possession of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Another barely masked threat was directed to the Baltic States when Mr. Putin stressed how responsible Moscow felt itself to be for the welfare of oppressed ethnic Russians living in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Like China dispatching Han Chinese to become residents of Tibet to support its insistence that Tibet is Chinese territory, Moscow sees the Baltic States as once again joining "Greater Russia"; the Russian Federation expanding once again, to incorporate shuddering satellites who hoped they could escape the grasp of their giant, militant neighbour. So, once Estonia had its independence and joined the EU and NATO, it sighed with relief.

Since Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty assures that each NATO member must defend any other member, subject to an attack. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, get especial treatment, however. In 1997 NATO signed an agreement with Russia prohibiting permanent deployment of "substantial combat forces" in the Baltic states. A breach of the commitment could prod Russia to object and intervene.

If the agreed-upon limits to troop deployment in the three Baltic States were to be exceeded, Moscow could be handed a reason to embark on further belligerent adventures, and NATO's hands would be half-tied, in theory. But NATO is nothing if not practical. While NATO limits its presence in Estonia to a temporary deployment of six British jets, 150 American ground troops and joint military exercises, it seeks compensation for its limited presence through "very high readiness".

A force of five thousand soldiers capable of deploying into Baltic states within 48 hours is one solution. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania announced recently their intention to request that a full brigade of NATO troops be based in the Baltic states. With battalions of 700 to 800 soldiers rotating through the three countries leading to a technical avoidance of a breach of the 1997 agreement with Russia.

The three Baltic states have understandably longer memories of Russian duplicity and imperial penchants to conquer, absorb and control than does Western Europe. They remain uneasy and alert to the potential of Russian saber-rattling and invasion. While Britain has permitted its gas supplier Centrica to sign an agreement for purchase of over 4 billion cubic metres of natural gas yearly from Russia's Gazprom. So much for the meaning and practicality of sanctions as deterrents.

As for the United States, even in the face of ongoing Russian aerial manoeuvres geared to set alarms ringing and sending counter-air-defence units scrambling into the air around Europe, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Vladimir Putin in Sochi last week  to discuss Washington-Moscow cooperation in the slight matters of Iran, Syria and the Islamic State.

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