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Ed Webb

'How are they terrorists?': UK treatment of Kurdish YPG volunteers under fire after leg... - 1 views

  • The YPG was praised by ministers for driving the terrorist group out of northern Syria last year, but the victory was swiftly followed by a Turkish invasion. Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group and although the UK does not, several volunteers have faced terror charges for fighting or training with it.
  • Paul Newey was accused of funding terrorism by sending £150 to his son, while his 19-year-old son Sam was accused of assisting his brother.
  • “It just doesn’t add up,” he said. “They’ve been so unsuccessful with all the other prosecution, why haven’t they just given up? Nobody [in the YPG] is going to be a danger to the British public, they’re fighting for a cause they believe in to protect people. How are they terrorists?”
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  • Mr Burke’s legal team said he believed the CPS’s decision to drop the prosecution was directly linked to his application for the prosecution to disclose “information relating to diplomatic pressure placed on the UK government by Turkey to treat the Kurdish YPG as ‘terrorists’”.
  • There has been a string of failed or abandoned terror prosecutions of people who fought with the YPG, amid persistent questions over how supporting a group that was backed by the British government against Isis could be terrorism.
  • In previous cases, prosecutors have highlighted the YPG’s left-wing ideals, push for female equality and projects including a “communal lettuce garden” in evidence.
  • The link between that kind of activity and terror laws relies on the definition of terrorism in British law as violence or threats advancing “a political, religious or ideological cause”.
  • at least six people who fought with or supported the Kurdish YPG have now been charged with terror offences
  • Joshua Walker, a student who joined the YPG in 2016, was arrested on his return to Gatwick airport 18 months later. He was not prosecuted for his activities in Syria but instead charged with a terror offence for possessing a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook.
  • A jury acquitted him after hearing Mr Walker downloaded the document, which contains bomb-making instructions, for a role-playing society at the University of Aberystwyth.
  • Several other British people who joined the group have been arrested and questioned by counterterror police, with some having their passports and phones seized, but faced no further action.
Ed Webb

UAE, Egypt prepare for Haftar's exit after loss of Wattiyah air base | | Mada Masr - 1 views

  • Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, two of the principal backers of the Libyan National Army (LNA), and its commander, Khalifa Haftar, have decided to abandon the renegade general after more than a year of a failed military campaign to take Tripoli, according to Libyan and Egyptian officials.
  • The move comes as Haftar is losing internal support as well, with powerful tribes and political allies in Libya abandoning him.
  • forces affiliated with the Government of National Accord (GNA) backed by Turkish airstrikes took control of the Wattiyah air base on Monday without any significant resistance from LNA forces.
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  • he most significant setback since Haftar launched an assault on Tripoli in April 2019, with the backing of France, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Russia
  • With Turkey deploying ever-increasing numbers of ethnically Turkish Syrian troops on the ground and drones in the skies, the GNA has dealt the LNA a series of setbacks since the start of April. 
  • Wattiyah had played a key role for Haftar, whose forces seized the air base in 2014, not only because it served as a key operations center for his assault on the Libyan capital but because it was one of the few former Libyan Air Force facilities spared from airstrikes in the 2011 NATO intervention, due the fact it had stored mostly decommissioned aircraft. Haftar had since restored many of the decommissioned jets to service.
  • the LNA’s closest air base is in Jufrah, some 490 km away from Tripoli in central Libya. The city of Tarhouna, 180 km southeast of Tripoli, is the LNA’s sole remaining stronghold for the assault on the capital.
  • A high-ranking GNA military source close to Osama al-Juwaili, who hails from the western city of Zintan and led the GNA forces attack on Wattiyah yesterday, told Mada Masr yesterday that the attack was carried out in coordination with Zintani forces aligned with Haftar inside the air base. 
  • After GNA forces took the air base, they posted images online of what they claimed were captured Russian-made Pantsir air defense systems mounted on trucks as well as manuals on how to use the equipment. 
  • “The Russians are not at all amused with some of the images that have been shared of the GNA troops capturing Russian weapons,” the Egyptian official says.
  • The GNA continued to make advances on Tuesday, seizing the towns of Jawsh, Badr and Tiji — all on the outskirts of the Nafusa Mountains — from LNA control. The GNA forces remain engaged in clashes to try to take the city of Asabiah, a crucial city along the LNA’s supply line and strategic location for Haftar’s forces located near Gharyan, the site of Haftar’s former main operations center. 
  • The Libyan political source who is close to Haftar says that the UAE, after consulting with Egypt, has called on the United Kingdom to intervene to support the political roadmap put forward by Aguila Saleh, the head of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives who was once a strong supporter of Haftar but is now vying for a larger stake in the political scene himself and moving against the general.
  • “What the spring of 2020 has revealed is that the UAE doesn’t possess the military or diplomatic wherewithal to continue protecting and strengthening Haftar’s ongoing offensive on Tripoli,” Harchaoui says. “Militarily and in terms of strategic savvy, the UAE is no match to NATO member Turkey, especially knowing that the latter enjoys Washington’s tacit acquiescence these days, over a year after the White House’s initial green light to Haftar. Meanwhile, the Russian state has just never provided the strategic support it could have, if it had genuine faith in Haftar’s adventure.”
  • none of this means that the UAE will necessarily tamp down its ambitions to take control of Tripoli. “The UAE will never relent or abandon this old obsession, even if it takes another decade — Libya is just too important from a Sunni-Arab perspective,”
  • if these states do discard Haftar, it will be a way for them to freshen up their stance and restore a tiny bit of their credibility by pretending it was Haftar’s fault all along. One must note that Russia will come out of this re-adjustment stronger and more influential in eastern Libya
  • Egypt is extremely worried that GNA-affiliated troops could head further east toward Egypt’s western border with Libya
  • Despite the president’s rhetoric, multiple Egyptian officials that have spoken to Mada Masr in recent weeks say that Egypt will not engage in a direct confrontation with Turkey in Libya, as long as Turkey keeps affiliated militias far away from the Egyptian borders
  • public support for Haftar is eroding, as there are increasing talks among a popular federalist current in the east of the country to withdraw support for Haftar’s war effort
  • In urban areas, like downtown Benghazi, some militias — which are not unlike those in Tripoli — will also feel emboldened, and may be tempted to break away from the LNA, a structure that has been hyper personalized by Haftar.
  • According to the UN special mission’s acting head, 58 civilians were killed and more than 100 wounded between April 1 and May 8, a significant increase in the number of civilian victims compared to the first three months of the year. Most of these casualties, according to Williams, could be attributed to Haftar’s forces, who have been carrying out indiscriminate bombing of the capital in recent weeks. 
  • Forces affiliated with the GNA have meted out harsh reprisals in the past. In 2012, Misrata forces besieged the city of Bani Walid, a stronghold for loyalists to former ruler Muammar Qadhafi, displacing thousands of families. Similar scenes surfaced when GNA forces took the cities of Sorman and Sabratha to the west of Tripoli in mid-April, stoking concerns of further reprisals.
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Saudi Arabia rolls the dice with bid for New... - 0 views

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has rolled the dice with a US$ 374 million bid to acquire storied British soccer club Newcastle United. If approved by Britain’s Premier League that nominally maintains a high bar for the qualification of aspiring club owners, Prince Mohammed would have demonstrated that he has put behind him an image tarnished by Saudi conduct of a five-year long war in Yemen, the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, systematic abuse of human rights and, more recently, the kingdom’s badly-timed oil price war with Russia.
  • the kind of financial muscle that allows it to acquire trophies that enable it to project itself in a different light and garner soft power rather than financial gain at a time of a pandemic and global economic collapse.
  • Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, was reported to be talking to banks about a US$10 billion loan to help finance its acquisition of a 70% stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC). The deal would pour money into the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.
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  • The acquisition would mimic the 2017 purchase of celebrated soccer star Neymar by Qatar-owned Paris St. Germain for US$277 million intended to demonstrate that the Gulf state was unaffected by the then several months-old Saudi-UAE-led economic and diplomatic boycott.
  • a decision by the Premier League to reject the acquisition of Newcastle would be perceived as yet another of Prince Mohammed’s self-inflicted public relations fiascos that include multiple failed attempts to position the kingdom as a powerhouse in international soccer governance
  • Prince Mohammed is betting that the Premier League at a time of economic crisis and with Britain needing to forge new trade relationships in the wake of its departure from the European Union may not want to slam the door on a wealthy investor and/or jeopardize British relations with the kingdom.
  • Saudi Arabia responded in 2018 to Canadian criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record by withdrawing its ambassador and freezing all new trade and investment transactions. German criticism of a failed Saudi attempt to force the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister led that same year to a de facto downgrading of diplomatic relations and reduced trade.
  • The League has tightened its criteria to test potential club owners on their integrity and reputation. The criteria include ensuring that a potential owner has not committed an act in a foreign jurisdiction that would be a criminal offence in Britain, even if not illegal in their own country.
  • Supporters of the acquisition argue that it bolsters Prince Mohammed’s reforms in a soccer-crazy country and reaffirms his push to break with the kingdom’s austere, inward-looking past. They reason further that it will bolster investment in Newcastle and surroundings at a time of impending economic hardship.
  • Supporters only need to look at Manchester where the United Arab Emirates’ acquisition of Manchester City more than a decade ago has benefitted not only the club but the city too.
  • supporters of Newcastle are likely to welcome the financial injection and departure of the club’s unpopular current owner, Mike Ashley, and ignore condemnation of the deal by human rights activists, including Amnesty International, as “sportswashing, plain and simple.”
Ed Webb

Saudi Arabia and the UAE Could Spoil Oman's Smooth Transition by Fomenting Regional Ins... - 0 views

  • Oman remains vulnerable to both foreign and domestic sources of instability as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seek to expand their regional influence. Potential causes of domestic unrest—including high unemployment, budget deficits, and dwindling oil reserves—lack clear-cut solutions. Sultan Haitham faces multiple challenges even without the threat of foreign meddling, yet Oman’s neighbors may view the death of Qaboos as a unique opportunity to advance their own expansionist agendas.
  • Oman resisted Saudi Arabia’s attempts to use the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a tool to serve the Saudis’ foreign-policy agenda, most visibly when Oman’s minister of state for foreign affairs publicly rejected King Abdullah’s plan to deepen the GCC into a Gulf Union in 2013, and was the only GCC state to not participate in the Saudi-led military incursion against Yemen that began in 2015.
  • Sultan Haitham comes to power at a time when the Trump administration has repeatedly signaled its support for Saudi Arabia and antipathy toward Iran. The belated naming of low-ranking U.S. officials to attend the official ceremony honoring Sultan Qaboos was widely interpreted as a slight against the Omanis; the U.K., in contrast, sent both Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pay their respects.
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  • Saudi leaders likely hope that Sultan Haitham will be more amenable to a Saudi-led Gulf, and without U.S. support, Oman may feel pressure to acquiesce or face potential repercussions. Omani officials have privately expressed concerns that Oman could be the next target of a Saudi- and Emirati-led blockade
  • Despite precipitating the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has used its military presence there to declare its intention to build a pipeline through the Mahra region and construct an oil port on the Yemeni coast. Saudi Arabia currently ships oil through the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait, whereas the proposed pipeline would allow direct access to the Indian Ocean.
  • Mahra has close links to the adjacent Dhofar region of Oman, which has long viewed the province as an informal buffer from the instability in other parts of Yemen. Sultan Qaboos offered aid as well as dual citizenship to residents of Mahra as a means of eliminating the potential for another conflict resembling the Dhofar War of 1963-1976, which drew cross-border support from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen operating from Mahra into Dhofar
  • Inhabitants of Mahra have expressed frustration with the presence of both the Saudis and Emiratis, given that these kingdoms’ alleged foes—the Houthis as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—are not present in Mahra
  • The UAE has taken control of the Yemeni island of Socotra, building a military base in a unique ecosystem nominally protected by UNESCO. The UAE is also building bases in Eritrea and Somaliland as part of a plan to develop a “string of ports” that will allow it to project power and escape possible pressure from Iran in the Persian Gulf.
  • Other Emirati ambitions include the Musandam Peninsula, an Omani enclave that forms the narrowest point in the Strait of Hormuz. The inhabitants of the peninsula have close ties to the UAE, as Musandam connects geographically to the emirates of Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, rather than Oman. Oman’s control of the strategic chokepoint reflects the sultanate’s history as an empire whose territory once stretched from southern Pakistan to Zanzibar. 
  • The border between Oman and the UAE was only formally demarcated in 2008, but Omanis see a circle of potential threats arising from Emirati activity in or possible designs on Musandam, Mahra, and Socotra.
  • the UAE may feel that Oman’s new sultan may be more receptive to alignment with Emirati objectives than his predecessor
  • Oman has failed to significantly diversify its economy
  • As in many oil-dependent economies, unemployment is high, especially among young people
  • During the popular uprising of 2011, which brought thousands of Omanis to the street for the first time, the government used its nest egg to pay for a massive expansion of the government payroll.
  • there are no available resources to try to finance a transition away from oil, and the low price of oil has further impeded the government’s efforts to meet its obligations
Ed Webb

Jordan plans to grab excess American weapons - 0 views

  • Jordan has obtained spare American fighter jets for an undisclosed sum and plans to upgrade large transport planes, a State Department official told Al-Monitor, as the Pentagon has moved in recent months to cultivate Middle East interest to keep production going for aging US weapons systems. The agency OK’d the provision of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan in September through the US government’s so-called Excess Defense Articles program, known as EDA. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Arab nation plans to use the planes, which the US Air Force no longer buys, to provide spare parts to its current fleet.
  • Jordan received more than $30 million in Pentagon military aid for the fiscal year that ended in September, mainly to help reinforce communications networks around the country’s border areas, as the longtime American partner has faced threats from terror groups such as the Islamic State (IS). The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimated that as many as 4,000 Jordanian fighters left to join the militant group on battlefields across the Middle East and North Africa since 2011.
  • the Pentagon has pushed US partners in the Middle East and elsewhere to invest in older American weapons systems to keep the production lines humming
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  • The United States has helped put up several barriers along sections of Jordan’s border to stop refugees and IS militants from getting into the country, where sluggish growth has failed to meet the government’s ambitious targets, leading to allies floating a $2 billion economic lifeline to Amman at a conference in March. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates as many as 672,000 Syrian refugees are currently registered in Jordan, and the US government has provided as much as $1.3 billion to offset that burden.
  • In September, then-acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi in an effort to get the UAE’s de facto leader on board with a plan to buy 10 Boeing-made Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which became nearly ubiquitous in the post-Sept. 11 war in Afghanistan. That could help offset political turmoil over defense program cuts that have deviled modernization efforts. The Army plans to significantly pare back the program in order to invest in future capabilities, a move that has generated strong protests from Congress. The United Kingdom plans to buy an additional 18 of the rotorcraft.
Ed Webb

Turkey to send back Islamic State prisoners even if citizenships revoked | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Turkey has said it will send Islamic State group (IS) prisoners back to their countries of origin, regardless of whether they have been stripped of citizenship. 
  • Turkey had nearly 1,200 foreign members of IS in custody, and had captured 287 during its recent operation in northern Syria
  • It remains unclear whether Turkey will be able to do so in practice. Western countries have often refused to accept the repatriation of citizens who left to join IS in Syria, and have stripped many of their citizenship. Britain has removed citizenship from more than 100 people for allegedly joining armed groups abroad. 
Ed Webb

PLO demands UK apology for Balfour Declaration - Middle East Monitor - 0 views

  • The umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has called on Britain to apologise for the 1917 Balfour Declaration – a document that laid the groundwork for Israel’s creation.
Ed Webb

Israelis want to know: Where has all the butter gone? - Green Prophet | Impact News for... - 0 views

  • “The fact that Israel’s largest food company is owned by the Chinese government will lead to a situation where the company implements policies that serve the interests of China [and not Israel],” he said in an interview with Ynet. “For China, Tnuva isn’t just a food company,” Halevi added. “China is doing everything it can to involve itself in Israeli research and development. The Chinese are very creative and flexible. If we do not wake up in time we will find that they will take over not only our food, but our academia. We must organize in order to defend Israeli assets, which are part of our national security conception.”
  • “A Tnuva spokesperson said that the only cause for the butter shortage is a shortage in milk-derived fat, due to the limited milk production quota set by the government.  Tnuva’s stock of milk fat, which it uses for butter and cream production, began running out in December last year, which could explain its decision to cut butter production in early 2019. In order to meet the demand for butter, Israel must increase milk quotas, several people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity told Calcalist. The industry requested 60 million liters of milk a year be added to its quota to allow it to extract more fat to use for butter production, the people said.”
  • Until recently, imported butter bore a heavy tax (from 126-140% for table butter and 144-160% for industrial butter), which importers were reluctant to pay because the government forbade selling it for more than the regulation price of NIS 3.94 per 100 grams.  Many importers simply declined to bring butter in.
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  • there are currently hundreds of containers of imported foods, and butter among them, sitting in Haifa and Ashdod ports. Due to the High Holidays that occurred in September and October, the containers have not been inspected by the Ministry of Health, and so have not been released
  • The Economy and Industry ministries recommend getting rid of  tariffs on imported butter and opening the Israeli market to competition. But under Israel’s current interim government,  policy changes are unlikely to be made any time soon. In the meantime, the Agriculture and Economy ministries cite unequal distribution of import quotas and blame each other for it.  
  • why not allow Israeli farmers to increase milk production, thus allowing Tnuva to obtain the milk fat needed to make it?
Ed Webb

Whistle-blower hopes new film will redress Bush-Blair legacy | News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • A British woman responsible for a dramatic intelligence leak in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq has said she hopes a new film about her efforts will refocus attention on the flawed evidence that led to war.
  • Katharine Gun, a former employee of the United Kingdom intelligence agency GCHQ, believes that the film, called Official Secrets, could cause a reassessment of the partially-repaired reputations of the UK and US leaders behind the military action
  • She and some of the film's creators hope it will highlight once again that the invasion of Iraq was carried out on the false premise that the country had illegal weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). "There's no rehabilitating two leaders who have had to admit that the whole WMD thing was an absolute fabrication and a manipulation and a lie," director Gavin Hood told AFP. 
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  • The UK government eventually opted not to prosecute Gun after she pleaded not guilty as it would have been forced to disclose key documents and decision-making related to the war.
  • Gun said she was initially hesitant to get involved in the film after numerous attempts to make a movie about the events had failed. But after spending several days recounting it all to Hood, a South African-born director known for politically-driven films Tsotsi and Eye in the Sky, both were convinced of the importance of telling the story. "I think it raises interesting questions about loyalty ... to what and to whom do we owe our loyalty?," Hood said
  • sees a link between this and the prevailing political culture in the UK and US, whose leaders are frequently accused of dishonesty. "If they see that other people haven't been held to account, it sets an extremely bad example,"
Ed Webb

Dismal failure of Saudi defences may entangle US just where Iran wants it | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant was a surprise – and that was itself surprising in view of all the Western defensive hardware, let alone the major US and British naval presence, very close by. The Saudis were initially reluctant to give many details, save blaming the Iranians rather than the Yemenis. Quite a lot more information has now seeped out, however: it suggests that the political consequences of the Abqaiq attack may last long after the oil plant is repaired.
  • It appears that Saudi air defences failed to intercept any missile or drone: the intruders may not even have been tracked en route to their targets, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.
  • US officials say that all the drones and missiles were launched from south-western Iran on a flight path that would have taken them across the tip of Kuwait. In response the Kuwaiti authorities have launched an inquiry into the possible violation of airspace – which suggests that they did not detect the missiles either.
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  • none of this should have happened, given the extensive and hugely expensive air defences that the Saudis have installed to safeguard Abqaiq and other facilities from Iranian and Houthi missiles
  • US troops left the kingdom in 2004 after the start of the 2003 Iraq war, even if many Americans stayed on in civilian guise. With that withdrawal, one of the biggest US bases, a large part of the Royal Saudi Air Force’s Prince Sultan Air Force Base, was closed down, leaving the Saudis as the sole occupants. That was until July this year when, according to Air Force Col. David Jackson, commander of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, told last week that teams from his wing were sent to Prince Sultan, about 50 miles southeast of the capital of Riyadh, to prepare the airfield for renewed operations.
  • Iranian cruise missiles have a range of about 700 km, armed drones of 1,200 km, and the nearest Iranian territory to Abqaiq is far less than that
  • an apparently minor decision taken three months ago that scarcely registered with Western politicians: the return of uniformed US troops to the kingdom
  • The Iranian success was a disaster for Saudi Arabia and an embarrassment for US, French, German and Swiss arms suppliers. Given that Saudi Arabia has many oil and gas fields and processing plants, not to mention a series of huge desalination plants on which the kingdom depends for half of its drinking water, it is easy to see the extreme concern behind the scenes in Riyadh.
  • Prince Sultan base now looks highly likely to be the main staging post for around 500 uniformed US military to be deployed to the kingdom to boost its own inadequate air defences. Given the state of tension with Iran it is safe to assume that this initial deployment will be the start of something substantially bigger.
  • a perfect gift for extreme Islamist movements who can point once again to the weakness of the House of Saud: in their view the Guardian of the Two Holy Cities is anything but
  • wise to assume that, all along, one of Iran’s aims has been to draw Saudi Arabia and the Pentagon closer and closer together, causing dissent in the kingdom and continuing embarrassment for the royal house
Ed Webb

Yemen: War Profiteers | Yemen | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • According to the United Nations, Yemen today is the world's worst humanitarian crisis. In 2018, the UN appointed a panel of experts to examine the coalition blockade on Yemen and the impact of the thousands of airstrikes launched against civilians there. It concluded that these practices could qualify as war crimes. It pointed not only at Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also at the parties supplying the coalition with weapons, based on a multilateral treaty regulating arms sales that has been in force since 2014. Saudi Arabia buys its weapons from the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as from a number of European arms manufacturers, led by French and German companies.
  • The European parliament has called for a suspension of arms sales to Saudi. Although five EU member states have stopped selling war weapons to the kingdom, its five biggest suppliers, led by the UK, have not. 
  • In this film, we reveal details of the shadowy world of the so-called legal arms trade, the double-discourse of our democracies, and the shortcomings of European governments. And we pose a fundamental question: by pursuing trade with Saudi Arabia, are European countries complicit in war crimes?
Ed Webb

Britons opt for non-EU holidays in face of Brexit impasse: Thomas Cook - Reuters - 0 views

  • Turkey and Tunisia are among the biggest beneficiaries from the trend towards non-EU bookings, the firm said in a report, with demand for both recovering after security concerns curbed bookings in recent years.
  • Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel company, said it was “clear that the prolonged uncertainty around the manner and timing of Britain’s exit from the European Union has led many to delay their decision on when and where they book for their summer holidays.”
Ed Webb

Syria Liable in Killing of Journalist Marie Colvin, Court Rules - The New York Times - 0 views

  • A federal court has held Syria’s government liable for the targeting and killing of an American journalist as she reported on the shelling of a rebellious area of Homs in 2012. The decision could help ease the way for war-crimes prosecutions arising from the Syria conflict.
  • awarded $302.5 million to relatives of the journalist, Marie Colvin. Of that sum, $300 million is punitive damages for what Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in her ruling, called “Syria’s longstanding policy of violence” that aimed “to intimidate journalists” and “suppress dissent.”
  • The large size of the award sends a message, he said, that “the rule of law is still a force to be reckoned with,” even amid a global trend toward authoritarianism and the killing of journalists like Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian slain in his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
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  • Syria did not respond in court to the lawsuit, and Mr. Assad has publicly blamed Ms. Colvin for her own death, saying she had been “working with terrorists.”
  • the first court decision drawing on a pool of smuggled Syrian government documents that are being used in criminal prosecutions of Syrian officials by courts in Germany, France and elsewhere.
  • While the standard of proof is higher in criminal cases, war crimes lawyers welcomed the success of the Colvin lawsuit as an indication that the archive contains convincing evidence.
  • The plaintiffs detailed, through government records and defectors’ and other witnesses’ accounts, how the Syrian government had made a policy of cracking down on journalists and their assistants; how security officials tracked Ms. Colvin through informants and intercepted communications; how Syrian forces killed Ms. Colvin, hours after her last broadcast from Homs, by shelling the makeshift media center where she was staying; and how officials celebrated her death.
  • Ms. Colvin, a Long Island native who was 56 when she was killed, was a star of the British press, known for dedication and pushing the limits of risk to tell the stories of civilians affected by war. She was less of a household name in the United States, but the court’s decision comes amid a wave of new attention to her life and death.She was played by Rosamund Pike in the recent feature film “A Private War,” and was the subject of a biography by a fellow journalist, Lindsey Hilsum, and a documentary by Paul Conroy, the photojournalist who was her longtime reporting partner. He was seriously wounded in the attack that killed Ms. Colvin and Remi Ochlik, a French photojournalist.
Ed Webb

Frankie Boyle's review of 2018: 'Let's forget Brexit and enjoy our last Christmas with ... - 0 views

  • Consider again the plight of the children starving in Yemen. It’s a hard thing to consider. It’s OK to admit that, I think – that it’s hard to empathise: you don’t know much about it, you have your own plight, and it’s a difficult thing to think about. To consider that, in a world that has pub lunches, wristwatches, golden retrievers, the novels of Donna Tartt, the music of Kendrick Lamar, flumes and The Amazing Spider-Man, there is still a plight where you starve to death, as a child, for no reason. I mean, there is a reason, that I suppose has somehow made itself too obvious to mention. The reason is that some people are addicted to money and power, many of them pathologically so, and we let them do what they like. In our name, and with our taxes, we let them kill who they like in the service of their bored, baroque perversity, because we don’t care enough to stop them. We cannot seem to rouse ourselves, even as they move to turn the world into a consuming flame. We are running out of time to save the children of Yemen, and ourselves – and yet we could still, in theory, be redeemed. Consider the plight of the satirist.
Ed Webb

Follow the petrodollars: Why Gulf wealth matters to Britain is a question everyone shou... - 0 views

  • “The strategic value of the Gulf Arab monarchies to British capitalism and the British state,” Wearing writes, “has meant that securing and defending those monarchies from the threat posed by their own populations has long been a priority for London.” 
  • “the data show that the British government’s response to the new wave of demands for democracy region-wide was to continue a sharp increase in arms supplies to its key authoritarian allies”
  • Without doubt, Britain’s impressively violent imperial history also raises all manner of “moral questions”. And as Wearing makes clear, it was during this very period of empire - comprising a century and a half of British dominance in the Gulf - that the foundations for contemporary interdependence were established.
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  • While British arms exports to the Gulf “help the UK to maintain the military-industrial capacity required as the basis for global power projection” in the neo-imperial era, Gulf petrodollars recycled through trade and investment deals also “play an important role in addressing the key macroeconomic challenges facing the British economy and in maintaining Britain’s status as a leading capitalist nation”.
  • Though Britain has of course long been surpassed by the US in terms of superpowerdom, it maintains an “active commitment to the continuation of US hegemony … with its own state and capitalist interests seen as best pursued within that overall framework”. Given that dominance of the Gulf is crucial to the maintenance of hegemony, Wearing argues, British dealings in the region “should be understood as complementing and reinforcing US efforts to entrench a conservative regional order oriented towards Western power”.
Ed Webb

Briton imprisoned in UAE since May 'on suspicion of spying' | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • a PhD student accused of being a spy
  • The man is a Durham university PhD student named Matthew Hedges, according to the Times. The 31-year-old has been held in solitary confinement since he was detained at Dubai airport in May as he tried to leave the country following a research trip
  • was studying Emirati security policies after the Arab spring and was aware of the risks as he had lived in Dubai when he was younger.
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