Hong Kong protesters set midnight ultimatum

Protesters in Hong Kong have demanded that the city’s leader meet a deadline to resign on Thursday, as China warned the United States against meddling in its “internal affairs”.

Demonstrators, who have shut down central areas of the southern Chinese city for four days, have given chief executive Leung Chun-ying until midnight to step down, or face escalated action – including the occupation of government buildings.

On Thursday morning, thousands of protesters continued to camp out in the main streets of the Chinese autonomous region, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reported from Hong Kong.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, also reporting from Hong Kong, said that some protesters had started to occupy the area next to Leung’s office on Thursday morning.

The Associated Press news agency reported that police manned barricades at a nearby intersection, with protesters camped on the other side, huddled under umbrellas.

“It’s too late for [Leung's] government to be accountable to the people, so we want a new one,” May Tang, a 21-year-old student protester, told AP: 

With the protests showing no signs of waning, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, issued the warning to the US and other foreign countries not to interfere.

Beijing’s biggest challenge

Reuters news agency, citing an official source, reported that Leung was willing to let the demonstrations go on for weeks if necessary.

Speaking in Washington, the foreign minister added that Beijing would not tolerate “illegal acts that violate public order”.

The People’s Daily newspaper, the government’s official newspaper, said in a commentary on Thursday that Beijing “fully trusts” Hong Kong’s Leung, and that it is “very satisfied with his work”.

The week-long street protests by thousands of demonstrators pressing for electoral reforms in Hong Kong are the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.

They were triggered after the Chinese government restricted who can run as the commercial hub’s next chief executive, or leader, in elections scheduled for 2017.

335

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Hong Kong protesters set midnight ultimatum

Protesters in Hong Kong have demanded that the city’s leader meet a deadline to resign on Thursday, as China warned the United States against meddling in its “internal affairs”.

Demonstrators, who have shut down central areas of the southern Chinese city for four days, have given chief executive Leung Chun-ying until midnight to step down, or face escalated action – including the occupation of government buildings.

On Thursday morning, thousands of protesters continued to camp out in the main streets of the Chinese autonomous region, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reported from Hong Kong.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, also reporting from Hong Kong, said that some protesters had started to occupy the area next to Leung’s office on Thursday morning.

The Associated Press news agency reported that police manned barricades at a nearby intersection, with protesters camped on the other side, huddled under umbrellas.

“It’s too late for [Leung's] government to be accountable to the people, so we want a new one,” May Tang, a 21-year-old student protester, told AP: 

With the protests showing no signs of waning, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, issued the warning to the US and other foreign countries not to interfere.

Beijing’s biggest challenge

Reuters news agency, citing an official source, reported that Leung was willing to let the demonstrations go on for weeks if necessary.

Speaking in Washington, the foreign minister added that Beijing would not tolerate “illegal acts that violate public order”.

The People’s Daily newspaper, the government’s official newspaper, said in a commentary on Thursday that Beijing “fully trusts” Hong Kong’s Leung, and that it is “very satisfied with his work”.

The week-long street protests by thousands of demonstrators pressing for electoral reforms in Hong Kong are the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.

They were triggered after the Chinese government restricted who can run as the commercial hub’s next chief executive, or leader, in elections scheduled for 2017.

335

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Three Assyrians Kidnapped in Syria

Three Assyrians Kidnapped in Syria

Posted 2014-10-02 04:03 GMT

(AINA) — Three Assyrian men have been kidnapped in Hasaka, Syria, according to Assyrian Human Rights Watch. The three men were kidnapped in the town of Tel Tamar, in the Khabour region of Hasaka, which is mainly populated by Assyrians. The kidnappers are believed to be affiliated with ISIS.

The three men are:

  • Dr. Samir David Hormuz from the village of Tel Nasri
  • George Barkho Khoshaba from the village of Tel Balua
  • Ninos John Isho from the village of Tel Balua

Assyrian in Syria have been targeted for terror, kidnapping and murder by Jihadists. Here is a partial list:

  • Ninar Odisho was murdered in the city of Al-Thawra (AINA 2013-09-23)
  • Two Bishops were kidnapped (AINA 2013-04-23)
  • Zohair David, an Assyrian from Tel Goran, was kidnapped and killed (AINA 2013-04-03)
  • Nina Jamil Oshana was killed in a bus attack (AINA 2013-01-31)
  • Hundreds of Assyrian families were expelled from Al_Thawra by Islamists (AINA 2013-08-02)
  • The Assyrian Quarter in Aleppo was attacked three times (AINA 2012-11-20)

Assyrian International News Agency

Asian stocks fall in line with U.S. markets overnight

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Asia shares fell Thursday, led by Tokyo in sympathy with a steep fall in global markets overnight and a selloff in the dollar.

The Nikkei 225 fell 1.5% in early trade, while Korea’s KOSPI index was also off 0.6% and Australia’s SP/ASX 200 was down 0.4%.

Among major Japanese exporters, Honda Motor Company Ltd (TOKYO:7267) was down 3.2%, while Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TOKYO:8035) was off 1.8% as the yen retraced earlier weakness, though support was mild on a central bank inflation survey.

The Bank of Japan Thursday released data on the inflation outlook measured in CPI among companies polled in its quarterly Tankan survey for September that showed an expected 1.5% rise in CPI in the coming year, unchanged from their average forecast in the previous.

The figures suggest companies are skeptical about the BoJ hitting the stable 2% inflation target during fiscal 2015 ending on March 31, 2016.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fell on concerns third-quarter earnings may disappoint, while soft U.S. data also pushed stock prices lower.

The Dow 30 fell 1.40%, the SP 500 index fell 1.32%, while the NASDAQ Composite index fell 1.59%.

Earnings season is fast approaching, and fears that soft European and Chinese economies may affect U.S. top lines sent stock prices falling on Wednesday, especially on concerns that the Federal Reserve will wind up its monthly bond-buying program later this month.

Fed stimulus tools such as asset purchases aim to suppress long-term interest rates, which makes stocks attractive while such programs are in place.

A mixed bag of economic indicators in the U.S. took its toll on stock prices as well.

The Institute of Supply Management reported earlier that its manufacturing index fell to 56.6 in September from 59.0 in August. Economists had expected the index to decline less and come in at 58.5.

The employment sub-index slowed to 54.6 from 58.1 in the previous month, while the new orders sub-index fell to 60.0 from 66.7.

At the same time, separate data revealed that U.S. construction spending fell 0.8% in August to an annual rate of $ 960.96 billion. Analysts were expecting a decline of only 0.5%, and the day’s data gave a few investors room to sell the greenback for profits.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, data showed that the U.S. private sector added more jobs than expected in September, though stocks focused on global issues.

Payrolls processor ADP reported that the U.S. private sector added 213,000 jobs last month, just ahead of expectations for jobs growth of 210,000. The economy created 202,000 jobs in August.

In other news, reports that the Ebola virus has arrived in the U.S. added to the selloff, especially by hitting airline, cruise lines and other stoicks on fears people will avoid traveling.

On Thursday, the U.S. is to publish the weekly report on initial jobless claims as well as data on factory orders.

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Facing Militants With Supplies Dwindling, Iraqi Soldiers Took to Phones

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi unit, bunkered in a village in Anbar Province, had held the militants at bay for four days. But running perilously low on ammunition, food and water, the soldiers finally took matters into their own hands.

They started making calls — to commanders, friends, members of Parliament, even a humanitarian aid organization.

“We told them we would be slaughtered if they did not provide us with ammunition,” said Cpl. Hussein Thamir, 24, a soldier in the regiment.

Even so, the chain of command never got supplies to them, and the soldiers said they had finally been forced to abandon their base and run: another rout of the Iraqi military by fighters of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

On Friday, the soldiers’ accounts of their battle this week exposed again some of the glaring weaknesses of the Iraqi Army, which has been struggling to counter the insurgents who have seized large stretches of western and northern Iraq this year.

Last weekend, Islamic State fighters stormed an army base in Saqlawiya, also in Anbar Province, capturing more than 100 soldiers. The province, which is majority Sunni, is a major transit corridor between the Syrian border and Baghdad, and it has long been a source of resistance to the Shiite-led central government.

But soldiers who were in the battle this week maintained that this latest setback was due not to a failure of mettle — an accusation leveled at some units that have evaporated in the face of the militants — but rather to chronic shortcomings in the Iraqi military’s logistics and communications capabilities.

“We wouldn’t have left the battlefield if we had been provided with ammunition,” said one of the soldiers, Cpl. Ali Ghazi Hilal, 32, an eight-year veteran of the Iraqi Army. “I have not seen such a betrayal ever.”

Spokesmen for the military command in Anbar Province and in Baghdad did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.

The unit, a regimental detachment of about 150 soldiers, deployed last month to Albu Etha, a village near Ramadi, the provincial capital, members said. Most of the village’s residents had already fled for fear of the militants.

Islamic State fighters, some in Iraqi Army Humvees, first came into view last Saturday, several soldiers said. Using loudspeakers, the militants ordered the government troops to put down their weapons.

The Iraqi soldiers were already running low on food, water and ammunition, and commanders alerted their operations headquarters that if they were expected to hold out against the insurgents, they would need more supplies.

“We were ready to fight,” Corporal Thamir said.

But late that night, before supplies could arrive, the insurgents attacked. They sent suicide bombers to breach army roadblocks, then assaulted front-line positions using mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns.

“This was not just a random battle,” Corporal Hilal said. “They planned well.”

The forward troops retreated to the village, and after several hours, the battle subsided, the soldiers said. For the next few days, fighting was limited to occasional exchanges of gunfire, and the two sides held their ground.

All the while, the soldiers continued to request ammunition and food, and were variously told that it was on the way or that it could not be delivered because the road leading from government-held territory to Albu Etha was littered with insurgent bombs, they said. The men subsisted on dates from nearby trees and on dirty river water.

“We were afraid that we would have the same fate as the soldiers in Saqlawiya,” Mr. Thamir said, referring to the defeat last weekend.

Early Thursday, the insurgents struck again, more fiercely than before, the soldiers recalled.

“It was as if there was no resistance,” Corporal Hilal said. “It was as if we were nonexistent.”

As the bullets flew, the soldiers reached for their cellphones.

In well-organized militaries, explicit protocols and a rigid chain of command govern communications on the battlefield. Most American units, for instance, will not allow soldiers to bring unauthorized telephones, radios or cameras on missions. But for the soldiers in Albu Etha, their personal phones became possible lifelines.

Throughout the morning, they called anyone who might have some influence over their situation: operations commanders, air force officers, parliamentarians, leaders of their tribes.

Another soldier, Cpl. Hussein Ali, 33, said he had been put in touch with two generals. “They said, ‘We will provide you with what you need, and we will send you the air support,’ but they did not,” he said.

When no relief came, the soldiers decided to abandon their positions. The fighting had left 15 dead and 40 wounded, they said.

They retreated on foot by an off-road route to avoid the bombs planted along the only available roadway, they said. They eventually reached a defensive position where army and police reinforcements were mustering.

“We have isolated ISIS and prevented them from progressing to Ramadi,” said Maj. Gen. Ahmed Saddag, chief of police in Anbar Province, who was with the reinforcements on Friday.

The security forces, hindered by the array of bombs along the roadway to Albu Etha, had not been able to launch a counterattack yet, General Saddag said.

In addition, his troops were hamstrung by a shortage of munitions. “We don’t have a lot of ammunition for heavy weapons,” he said. “It’s a big problem. It’s everywhere.”

Late Friday, the beleaguered men from the battle of Albu Etha were sent to a base in Ramadi to rest.

They were rattled, but said they were ready to take the fight to the insurgents. “We have the true and honest will to fight, in the event the government provides us with what we need on the battlefield,” Corporal Ali said. “But yesterday, we cried and cried.”

Ali Hamza contributed reporting from Baghdad, and an employee of The New York Times from Anbar Province.

Assyrian International News Agency

Suicide Bomber Strikes In Kabul

Three people have been killed and ten wounded in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul.

The Interior Ministry said the bomber targeted an Afghan army bus.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack that mirrored a double bombing just a day earlier.

On October 1, Taliban suicide bombers struck two buses carrying Afghan soldiers in Kabul, killing seven people and wounding 21.

That attack came a day after Afghanistan signed security deals with NATO and the United States.

The agreements will allow foreign troops to stay in the country after the end of the year, filling a campaign promise by new President Ashraf Ghani.

In claiming responsibility for the October 1 bombings, the Taliban criticized Ghani and his government for allowing foreign troops to stay after the year ends, calling it a “stooge regime.”

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Adam talks about the current situation of the budget.

Adam Montana Current situation: Budget: We are extremely close to seeing the budget passed, and in such a way that the Kurds will be happy with it. In fact, Salim Al-Jiburi (the Iraqi speaker) did meet with Yusuf Mohammed (speaker of the Kurdistan region’s parliament) just earlier today, and preliminary reports are showing that they are in agreement on how to move forward. In regards to the budget, it’s interesting to know that more than 20% of the Kurdish regions people are on Government payroll, and that actually accounts for over 70% of the public spending (the money that Baghdad sends to them)… so not only do they want to resolve this quickly, but these are the same government officials who will be pushing hard for an increase in the value because it literally goes right in their own pockets when it happens!

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Bombs Slam Into Islamic State Stronghold on Iraq-Syria Border

RABIA, Iraq – Cheers erupted as the bomb dropped.

Whistling rang out here on the Syrian border from the earthen mounds built up by Kurdish peshmerga bulldozers as everyone stared at the billowing smoke, waiting for it to clear so they could assess the damage.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) had bombed the Islamic State’s last position in the Syria-Iraq border town of Rabia: an unfinished hospital where 30 militants are holed up, Alamo-style. Surrounded by 1,500 Kurdish troops, these are the remnants of an alleged 400-man force IS had sent to Rabia.

According to Kurdish fighters, 50 IS members had been killed during the past day of fighting while the rest fled across the border to Syria or moved east towards their stronghold of Mosul. Over the past twenty-four hours, airstrikes from the US-led coalition have given cover to the Kurds as they began a push to retake a swath of land, including Rabia, snaking across the ever-important Northern Iraq-Syria border.

On the ground, however, the airstrike quickly became a source of confusion.

Not long after the dust had quite literally settled on the RAF bombing witnessed by USA Today Wednesday, Colonel Abdel Jaber Jamal, a deputy commander for one of the two infantry divisions deployed to Rabia, and Captain Dilshad Dawud, a scout for airstrike locations, disagreed over the provenance of the strike.

“It was the Americans,” insisted Col. Jamal, based on a hunch.

“It was the British,” countered Capt. Dawud, going off a rumor.

Neither had spoken directly to anyone from the coalition forces, and neither was quite sure whether what they said was true. Nor could anyone else offer much certainty. Brigadier Hamid Hashim, the lead commander of Col. Jamal’s division, for instance, claimed that, not only was this a British strike, but he had been in contact with a pilot who “had a woman’s voice.”

The building the 30 IS militants are trapped in sits in the center of town, which was rocked by the explosion. Within the next hour, a fire-fight broke out between the peshmerga – which literally means “those who confront death” and is the term used by Kurds to refer to their fighters – and what jihadis who remained in the unfinished hospital complex. Occasionally, the thud of a tank shell can be heard.

As of Wednesday evening, IS was still in control of the hospital. “They refuse to surrender,” says Col. Jamal, “They will shoot, they will fight, or they will die, those are their only options.”

Casualties have been quite high during the short 24 hr battle so far. At a peshmerga staging area near the town entrance, armored transports pull in with the injured and dying.

One man is lowered slowly out of the back with his jaw partially blown off. As he walks towards a waiting car, he keeps his left arm pressed up against his chin so as to keep the right side of his mouth in place. He stops to spit up some blood as he’s ushered into a car for a fifteen minute ride to a Red Crescent checkpoint, bleeding profusely.

Still on the transport lies a motionless body. By the count of Hashiar Esse, the head of the Red Crescent’s Dohuk office, these are just two of about 64 wounded and at least 11 deaths from the fighting in Rabia that he had tallied by late Wednesday afternoon.

This fight is “very important,” notes Lieutenant Colonel Sharkar Rashid of the 1st Artillery Division as he watches the chaotic scene of the injured. “It’s the border between Syria and Iraq. If the peshmerga doesn’t control the towns [along the border] they [IS] will go deep into Iraq again,” says one of Lt. Col. Rashid’s men, butting into the conversation.

And Rashid’s soldier isn’t wrong. Known for its history as a smuggling town, Rabia is a key border crossing that has become a major part of IS’ supply route between Syria and Iraq. If the peshmerga can finish taking the town, it’ll spell some much needed good news for the beleaguered North of Iraq.

How long IS can keep their last bit of Rabia inside the hospital is anyone’s guess. “Only God knows. And IS knows,” says Brigadier Hashim, with a hearty laugh.

Assyrian International News Agency

Fighting Intensifies Around Key Syrian Town Near Turkish Border

Fighting is reported to have intensified between Islamic State militants and Kurdish fighters near Kobani, a key Syrian town near the border with Turkey.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, IS militants are getting closer to Kobani, which sits on a strategic road linking north and northwestern Syria.

The report on October 2 comes a day after US-led forces carried out at least five air strikes against Islamic State militants besieging Kobani.

There have been fierce clashes around Kobani since mid-September, when Islamic State militants launched an assault to seize the area.

Their advance has caused more than 150,000 Kurds to flee to Turkey.

On October 1, the Britain-based Observatory said nine Kurdish fighters — including three women — captured in clashes near Kobani had been beheaded by Islamic State militants.

Based on reporting by dpa and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

US Secret Service director resigns

The head of the security agency guarding US President Barack Obama has resigned under fire after a series of security lapses came to light involving the president’s protection.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Wednesday the resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, and said Joseph Clancy, a veteran of the agency, was named acting director.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had called Pierson to express his appreciation to her for her long years of service.

He said Obama had concluded that new leadership was needed at the agency after a number of security lapses, including a White House fence-jumper who managed to enter the front door of the mansion on September 19, and get into the ceremonial East Room before off-duty agents stopped him.

It was also reported on Tuesday, that the US President had ridden a lift with an armed ex-convict, while visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the state of Georgia.

Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington DC, said that the White House only learned about the security breach in Georgia, an hour before the story was published in the Washington Post.

The Post also revealed that it took the Secret Service five days before realising a man had fired shots at the White House in 2011, while one of Obama’s daughters was inside.

On Tuesday, Pierson appeared before a Congressional hearing in the US capital, and was repeatedly criticised by members of Congress for the reported breaches.

251

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Dollar gives up gains on soft U.S. factory barometer

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The dollar cooled its recent rally against most major currencies and traded mixed on Wednesday after data revealed U.S. factory floors may not be as bustling as markets once inspected.

In U.S. trading on Wednesday, EUR/USD was down 0.15% at 1.2611.

The dollar gave back gains against the euro and other currencies after the Institute of Supply Management reported that its manufacturing index fell to 56.6 in September from 59.0 in August. Economists had expected the index to decline less and come in at 58.5.

The employment sub-index slowed to 54.6 from 58.1 in the previous month, while the new orders sub-index fell to 60.0 from 66.7.

At the same time, separate data revealed that U.S. construction spending fell 0.8% in August to an annual rate of $ 960.96 billion. Analysts were expecting a decline of only 0.5%, and the day’s data gave a few investors room to sell the greenback for profits.

The dollar has posted noteworthy gains in recent sessions on sentiments U.S. monetary policy will tighten while Europe and Japan remain loose.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, data showed that the U.S. private sector added more jobs than expected in September, which gave the greenback some support.

Payrolls processor ADP reported that the U.S. private sector added 213,000 jobs last month, just ahead of expectations for jobs growth of 210,000. The economy created 202,000 jobs in August.

The report came ahead of Friday’s government nonfarm payrolls report, which includes both public and private sector employment. The government report was expected to show that the U.S. economy added more than 200,000 jobs for a sixth successive month in August.

The euro, however, remained in negative territory due to soft inflation numbers released earlier this week.

Eurostat, the statistics arm of the European Union, reported Tuesday that the euro area’s annual inflation rate fell to a five-year low of 0.3% in September from 0.4% in August.

Core inflation, which strips out food, energy, alcohol and tobacco costs, came in at 0.7%, down from 0.9% in August.

Slumping consumer prices fueled market expectations for the European Central Bank to implement fresh stimulus measures to stave off deflationary threats after the bank unexpectedly cut rates to record lows last month.

A separate report released earlier this week revealed that the euro zone’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 11.5% in August.

The dollar was down against the yen, with USD/JPY down 0.47% at 109.13, and up against the Swiss franc, with USD/CHF up 0.19% at 0.9568.

The greenback was up against the pound, with GBP/USD down 0.23% at 1.6176.

Markit research group reported earlier that its U.K. manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 51.6 in September from a 52.2 in August, whose figure was downwardly revised from a previously estimated reading of 52.5.

Analysts had expected the index to rise to 52.5, and the disappointing figure softened demand for sterling.

The dollar was mixed against its cousins in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with USD/CAD down 0.21% at 1.1174, AUD/USD down 0.23% at 0.8728 and NZD/USD down 0.19% at 0.7794.

The dollar index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was up 0.02% at 86.05.

On Thursday, the U.S. is to publish the weekly report on initial jobless claims as well as data on factory orders.

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Airstrikes Pound ISIS Targets in Iraq, Syria

By Laura Smith-Spark, Chelsea J. Carter and Ben Wedeman

IRBIL, Iraq (CNN) — A day after Britain’s military launched its first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, the question is: Who will be next to join the U.S.-led coalition in its air campaign against the extremists who have seized a swath of Iraq and Syria?

As Turkish soldiers and tanks took up position along the border with Syria on Tuesday, Turkey’s government put a motion before its Parliament asking for authorization to take military action against ISIS — the terror group that refers to itself as the Islamic State.

Lawmakers are expected to debate the measure in a special session Thursday before voting, according to Anadolu, Turkey’s semiofficial news agency.

Australian aircraft started flying over Iraq in support of allied operations Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament in Canberra.

But the government is awaiting an invitation from Iraq before a final decision is made on whether to commit Australian forces to airstrikes, he said.

The Australian mission consists of inflight refueling and electronic surveillance in support of the United States and others.

The retired U.S. Marine general tapped to coordinate the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS said there is an opportunity for broad cooperation in the fight, even as the countries involved struggle to define their roles.

“It’s actually an important moment where so many countries from so many different backgrounds share that view (that ISIS poses a threat to the region), that this is an opportunity to create partnership across those lines of effort that would achieve real effect,” John R. Allen told CNN.

Airstrikes rain down

The United States could use the help. The airstrikes have already cost it close to $ 1 billion, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a military think tank.

That number will only rise as costly munitions are used — and could soar further if more U.S. forces are committed to the operation.

The U.S. military said Tuesday that it was the busiest day for airstrikes against ISIS since the military campaign began, with 28 total, including the two UK strikes.

More strikes were carried out Wednesday by the United States and a partner nation, the U.S. military said, including around the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria, known in Arabic as Ayn al Arab. Other strikes hit ISIS targets in Iraq northwest of Mosul, near the Haditha Dam and northwest of Baghdad.

Tuesday, British planes helped Kurdish troops who were fighting ISIS in northwestern Iraq, dropping a bomb on an ISIS heavy weapon position and shooting a missile at an armed pickup truck, the UK’s Defense Ministry said.

An initial assessment indicates both strikes were successful, according to the ministry.

Britain joins the United States and France as countries that have hit ISIS in Iraq with airstrikes, while Belgium and Denmark have also said they also will provide planes. Of those nations, only the United States — in partnership with some Arab countries — have struck ISIS positions in neighboring Syria.

When the first coalition airstrikes came in Iraq and Syria, Turkey’s absence was noted.

Turkey has said it is offering support to the U.S.-led coalition targeting ISIS, but it has stopped short of joining the 40-some countries that make up the group.

Blast hits school

In Syria, where a 3½-year-old civil war rages on between government forces and rebel groups including ISIS, twin blasts struck Wednesday near a school in the nation’s third-largest city, Homs.

The death toll has climbed to 39, with at least 30 children between the ages of 6 and 9 killed, according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The toll was confirmed by the London-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information about civilian casualties in the country.

An explosives-packed car was detonated minutes before a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the school Wednesday, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said. The blasts were timed to coincide with students leaving school, to inflict maximum casualties, it said.

The neighborhood that was attacked is predominantly Alawite, a religious minority that is a Shiite offshoot to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

It was the first such attack in months in Homs, once at the heart of the anti-Assad revolution but now firmly back under government control.

Images that aired on state-run Syrian TV showed gruesome images of the aftermath of the blasts, including body parts scattered across a neighborhood in chaos.

Ban described the attack on children as “an act of utmost depravity,” according to a statement released by his office.

Refugees flood into Turkey

Turkey’s debate over whether to step into the fray comes as the flood of refugees from Syria has escalated, with 150,000 people fleeing to Turkey in recent days. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters armed with tanks and heavy weapons advance on Kobani in northern Syria, destroying villages in their path.

Two Kurdish fighters told CNN that three airstrikes were carried out around Kobani early Wednesday, two to the east and one to the west of the town.

If ISIS takes Kobani, it will control a complete swath of land from its self-declared capital of Raqqa to the Turkish border, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. It has been fighting for months, capturing portions of northern and eastern Syria and western and northern Iraq for what it says is its new Islamic state, or caliphate.

And Sheikh Hassan, of the Syrian Kurdish National Defense committee, who is in Kobani, said fighting continues to the east, west and south of the town, with neither side having taken more ground.

Kurdish fighters and ISIS militants are also exchanging fire near the Syrian village of Siftak to the west of Kobani, south of the Turkish village of Karaca, Kurdish fighter Alan Minbic said.

Meanwhile, police officials in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, told CNN that a motorcycle rigged with explosives detonated in a village in northern Kirkuk on Wednesday. At least two people were killed and 11 injured.

Two roadside bombs exploded in a commercial area in Mahmoudiya, about 19 miles (31 kilometers) south of Baghdad, police officials in the capital said. At least three people died and 18 others were injured.

Assyrian International News Agency

Merkel Urges Putin To Press Separatists In Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia has a duty to exert influence on pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Merkel made the remark during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 1.

According to a German government spokesman, the two leaders expressed concerned that violence was still being used in Ukraine every day.

Merkel said the border between Ukraine and Russia needed to be monitored and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation had a big role to play in that.

She said Germany would continue to support the OSCE mission in Ukraine, adding it could play an important role in planned local elections in the regions around Donetsk and Luhansk.

Earlier, NATO’s new Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the cease-fire in Ukraine offers an opportunity but Russia still has the power to destabilize the country.

“The ceasefire in Ukraine offers an opportunity but Russia maintains its ability to destabilize Ukraine. Russia remains in breach of international law,” Stoltenberg told his first news conference in Brussels as NATO leader.

Stoltenberg also had conciliatory words for Russia, saying he saw no contradiction between aspiring for a constructive relationship with Moscow and being in favor of a strong NATO.

Meanwhile, reports from eastern Ukraine said some 10 people have been killed in shelling in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

Three people were reportedly killed when a shell exploded in a school playground on October 1.

Several others reportedly died when a shell hit a mini-van in a nearby street.

The blasts occurred as pupils returned to school, after the start of the school year was postponed from September 1 due to fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Shelling has repeatedly been reported in Donetsk despite an September 5 cease-fire in the conflict, which has killed more than 3,000 people since April.

The Donetsk airport has been a focus of fighting since the cease-fire.

With reporting by ITAR-TASS and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Gold gains on falling stock prices, soft U.S. data

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Gold futures rose on Wednesday on demand from safe-haven investors fleeing stocks on fears of disappointing earnings, while lackluster U.S. data cut into the dollar’s recent advance and gave gold further room to rise.

Gold and the dollar tend to trade inversely with one another.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for December delivery traded at 1,215.80 a troy ounce, up 0.35%, up from a session low of $ 1,205.30 and off a high of $ 1,219.90.

The December contract settled down 0.59% at $ 1,211.60 on Tuesday.

Futures were likely to find support at $ 2,04.30 a troy ounce, Tuesday’s low, and resistance at $ 1,232.70, Friday’s high.

Earnings season is fast approaching and fears that soft European and Chinese economies may affect U.S. top lines sent stock prices falling on Wednesday, which boosted gold’s appeal as a hedge to uncertainty.

Weaker data in the U.S. boosted gold prices as well by chipping away at the dollar’s recent advance.

The Institute of Supply Management reported earlier that its manufacturing index fell to 56.6 in September from 59.0 in August. Economists had expected the index to decline less and come in at 58.5.

The employment sub-index slowed to 54.6 from 58.1 in the previous month, while the new orders sub-index fell to 60.0 from 66.7.

At the same time, separate data revealed that U.S. construction spending fell 0.8% in August to an annual rate of $ 960.96 billion. Analysts were expecting a decline of only 0.5%, and the day’s data gave a few investors room to sell the greenback for profits.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, data showed that the U.S. private sector added more jobs than expected in September, which gave the greenback support and watered down gold’s gains.

Payrolls processor ADP reported that the U.S. private sector added 213,000 jobs last month, just ahead of expectations for jobs growth of 210,000. The economy created 202,000 jobs in August.

Meanwhile, silver for December delivery was up 0.80% at $ 17.193 a troy ounce, while copper futures for December delivery were up 0.70% at $ 3.029 a pound.

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China tells US not to meddle in Hong Kong

China’s foreign minister has warned the United States and other foreign countries not to meddle in China’s “internal affairs”, as the communist state continues to grapple with the escalating protests in Hong Kong.

Wang Yi issued the statement on Wednesday, shortly before meeting US President Barack Obama who told him in a White House meeting that the US was watching the Hong Kong protests closely.

As protesters continue to occupy Hong Kong’s business district on Thursday morning, Wang first met his US counterpart John Kerry in Washington before heading to the White House.

Wang told Kerry that “all countries should respect China’s sovereignty and this is a basic principle of governing international relations.”

“I believe for any country, for any society, no one would allow those illegal acts that violate public order. That’s the situation in the United States and that’s the same situation in Hong Kong.”

Kerry repeated US calls for Chinese authorities to show restraint toward the mass protests challenging the communist government.

Later at the White House, Wang met with Obama and his National Security Adviser Susan Rice, mainly to discuss Obama’s visit to China in November, but the meeting was overshadowed by events in Hong Kong.

In a statement, the White House said; “The United States has consistently supported the open system that is essential to Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, universal suffrage, and the aspirations of the Hong Kong people.” 

Full democracy

The protesters, mostly students, are demanding full democracy and have called on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down from the top office of the former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

On Thursday morning, thousands of prosterters have continued to camp out in the main streets of the Chinese autonomous region, and have threatened to occupy government buildings if their demands are not met, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reported from Hong Kong.

The city’s streets were calm early on Thursday while police largely kept their distance from the tens of thousands of mostly young people keeping up protests, now nearly a week old.

Reuters news agency reported on Thursday that Leung is willing to let the demonstrations go on for weeks if necessary, while defying calls to resign.

The Hong Kong demonstrations were triggered after the Chinese government restricted who can run as the commercial hub’s next chief executive, or leader, in elections scheduled for 2017.

The protesters called this “fake democracy” and have two demands – that Leung steps down and that Beijing reverses its decision.

On Wednesday night, one of the student leaders organising the protests threatened to step up the action – including a possible attempt to occupy government offices.

“We need to escalate the movement,” said 23-year-old student Jason Chan. “So many people have come out every day and the government hasn’t responded to us. If we don’t take things to the next level, this movement is pointless.”

But many others were reluctant to take any action that could prompt further clashes with the police.

“I think we should keep this a peaceful revolution,” said costume designer Janice Pang. “Hong Kong people may not support us if we do something more extreme.”

536

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Adam talks about the bottom line.

Adam Montana ISIL/ISIS: There is no way the IS problem will ever be truly and completely eradicated, so the best we can realistically hope for is successful containment. With that said, there are continuing reports of IS militants being driven back, out of Iraq. …the bottom line is that IS is less and less a major concern in Iraq as they are being dealt with, the budget resolution is in motion, and HCL won’t be far behind that.

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The Rise and Fall of Great Empires

When John Kerry made a public appearance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sept. 22, he toured “From Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age,” the new exhibition about the Middle East’s ancient civilizations of the first millennium B.C. He had just delivered a speech in the nearby Temple of Dendur gallery on the danger ISIS poses to the region’s heritage. His visit and his comments merely punctuated what any visitor to the show will feel: that it has a somber contemporary resonance no curator could have anticipated. “From Assyria to Iberia” features some 260 objects, most of them ancient, from institutions as far afield as North Africa, the Caucasus and the Middle East as well as the Met’s own collection.

As the eye absorbs the resplendent beauty and ingenuity of the artworks made 3,000 or so years ago–the delicate ostrich-egg ewer, the grand statue of Ashurnasirpal II–the mind can’t help pondering the threat to other such artifacts today in the exact area where the Assyrian and Babylonian empires flourished. You look at the displays, you imagine the ancient cities, the luminous ruins–Nineveh, Nimrud, Babylon–and you are grateful for the accidents that permitted the survival of what you see. You also wonder what the precedents from antiquity can teach you about the chaos of the present: What clues do the objects hold?

According to the show’s chief organizer, Joan Aruz, “our intention was to focus on a time of transition, upheaval and globalization, how even as empires fell new entities rose, ideas spread, civilization took off in new directions which you can see in the shared motifs and aesthetics right across the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. This time also gave birth to seminal influences on Western civilization–from the Bible to Homer.” So: a region of seesawing violence and destruction–an enduring refrain–also introduced a kind of productive, outward-rippling dawn. One can only hope. Meanwhile, we have a glorious view onto a distant epochal cycle that feels, at times, uncannily close.

The show begins roughly at the end of the Bronze Age (12th to 11th centuries B.C.) and the start of the Iron Age (1000 B.C.), the period immediately following the collapse of the Hittie Empire, when its leftover fragments formed little trading states that would soon be dominated by the last and greatest Assyrian expansion. Shared cultural themes begin to pop up across the region. In the first gallery’s section entitled “The Age of Homer” we see, on a 12th-century ceramic, how the Griffin and the Sphinx have migrated as motifs to Greece from Egypt and elsewhere. Variations on these mythic figures percolate down the centuries from what is now eastern Turkey to the farthest western Mediterranean. Also in the first gallery we catch a glimpse of the Levantine Philistines of Goliath fame, who only lasted two centuries, notably through a coffin-lid with Egyptian influences. Those vectors of shared ideas, in other words, have been with us forever.

The second gallery introduces us to the Assyrians, already extant for over a millennium by the ninth century B.C., a cruel, domineering, highly literate and compulsively self-chronicling race. They found expression in the cultural selfies and YouTube videos of their time: cylinder seals, tiles, glazed ceramics and the like. That their civilization was centered for a while in what is now Mosul, Iraq, gives us pause. Many such objects would now be endangered–originating, as they do, from the famed palace of Nimrud and its environs. The familiar curly-bearded Assyrian statue style incarnates here as Ashurnasirpal ll, who made westward territorial gains that led to Assyria dominating the seafaring Phoenicians and launching its imperial fame by sea.

We forget that ancient art often featured lots of color. The show grants us tantalizing glimpses of original hues, particularly in the Assyrian tile showing a court scene from ninth-century B.C. Nimrud. In the YouTube video category would fall Assyrian bas-reliefs of war, a Pharaonic narrative style updated with greater realism and explicit violence–the kind of aesthetic innovation that lasted up to the Bayeux Tapestry and beyond.

For several galleries, the show dwells on the neo-Assyrian era (ninth to sixth centuries B.C.) and the globalized cultural epiphenomena of that time. Even conflict spread ideas. So we have a long look at the Urartu civilization based in what is now eastern Turkey around Lake Van. Also a warlike people, with a previous history of fighting the Assyrians to a standstill, Urartians left behind the most astonishing bronzeware in styles that recur far afield in Cyprus–helmets, shields, caldrons and the like. The next section on Sirro-Hittite statelets haunts the visitor on multiple levels. One particular object says it all: a large “Scorpion Bird-Man” sculpture, found near the now-troubled Turco-Syrian border and taken during the 1920s to Germany. It was hit by Allied bombing during World War ll and stayed in East Berlin in fragments until German reunification allowed its restoration through the sharing of expertise. In these galleries we also see images of the Bible’s Jezebel, the first ever coins (invented in the kingdom of Midas and Croesus), the ur-image of the monster face that evolved into Medusa, and other wonders that stir tendrils deep in our collective memory.

From Assyria’s zenith to Babylon’s rise, the Phoenicians acted as the universalizing mediators of culture via the Internet of their time: the sea. They invented the phonetic alphabet. They founded Carthage. They took their multicultural spores to Etruscan Italy and as far as Seville, Spain, thereby feeding the roots of later Roman and Western art. Along the way, repeatedly, we feel the powerful charm of gorgeous or poignant objects, such as the exquisitely inscribed large seashells that are displayed together here but were found across continents. The most striking artifacts of all, for this reviewer, turned out to be the chunky gold bracelets and royal jewelry of the Carambolo Treasure, from an ancient Phoenician city that became Seville, Spain–it is the first time they’ve been loaned out, according to Ms. Aruz.

In the last galleries, we look at Babylon’s rise in the region. We are shown, through a juxtaposing of ancient artifacts and Renaissance paintings, how enduringly it pollinated our Western historical consciousness. The brick reliefs of famous striding lions and models of the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way remind us that Babylon is still there in Iraq, for now. But for how long? Such thoughts build throughout the show. Ultimately we, too, feel on the cusp of history, and the objects seem all the more luminously crucial to our own sense of continuity.

Assyrian International News Agency

NYMEX crude holds steady off U.S. supply report, Saudi price cut news

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Crude oil prices held largely steady in early Asia Thursday with positive stocks data out of the U.S. clashing with news that Saudi Arabia lowered the official selling prices for its crude oil.

Hong Kong and China markets remain shut on Thursday. Hong Kong will re-open on Friday and mainland China on Oct. 8.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for delivery in November traded at $ 90.82 a arrel, down 0.02%, after hitting an overnight session low of $ 91.24 a barrel and a high of $ 92.96 a barrel.

Brent oil slid 0.5% to $ 94.16 a barrel, the lowest settlement since June 28.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that U.S. crude oil inventories decreased by 1.4 million barrels in the week ended September 26, compared to expectations for a gain of 0.7 million barrels.

Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 356.6 million barrels as of last week.

The report also showed that total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.8 million barrels, compared to forecasts for a decline of 0.8 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles declined by 2.9 million barrels.

Oil prices have taken a beating on fears global supply far exceeds demand, though Wednesday’s data rekindled expectations for a more robust U.S. recovery to offset slumping European and Asian economies.

Mixed data out of the U.S. contained enough positive nuggets to keep Tuesday’s buying spree going.

The Institute of Supply Management reported earlier that its manufacturing index fell to 56.6 in September from 59.0 in August.

Economists had expected the index to decline less and come in at 58.5, though oil rose anyway, as longer-term analyses of economic indicators point to a more robust U.S. economy despite potholes here and there.

The employment sub-index slowed to 54.6 from 58.1 in the previous month, while the new orders sub-index fell to 60.0 from 66.7.

At the same time, separate data revealed that U.S. construction spending fell 0.8% in August to an annual rate of $ 960.96 billion. Analysts were expecting a decline of only 0.5%.

Really supporting oil, however, was an upbeat report on the U.S. private-sector labor market.

Payrolls processor ADP reported that the U.S. private sector added 213,000 jobs last month, just ahead of expectations for jobs growth of 210,000. The economy created 202,000 jobs in August.

The report came ahead of Friday’s government nonfarm payrolls report, which includes both public and private sector employment.

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Turkish Government Plays With Kurdish Fire

Turkish Government Plays With Kurdish Fire

By Cengiz Candar

Posted 2014-10-01 22:39 GMT

Women wave banners with the portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers Party, during a protest against Islamic State (IS) militant attacks on Syrian Kurds, in Istanbul, Sept. 21, 2014 (photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer).The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, while giving the impression of “somehow protecting” the Islamic State (IS), seems to have opened a frontal attack against the axis of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — that is, against the top political representatives of Turkey’s and Syria’s Kurds, or in other words, against the Kurdish political movement.

Yesterday, Sept. 30, Diken, a new but outstanding online newspaper, reported Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s seeming criticism of IS under this headline: “Everybody is responsible but Turkey! This time Davutoglu blames HDP and PYD over IS.”

Diken carried the following excerpts from Davutoglu’s remarks, which he had made to pro-government journalists:

“The PYD took a stance against the Free Syrian Army (FSA), expelled all other Kurdish groups from the region and oppressed the Kurds.

“When IS saw that the FSA was weakened, it turned on the PYD. Once in trouble, the PYD began to cry out. And the HDP is now manipulating the Rojava issue to put us under pressure.

“The HDP refuses to see all those problems as a universal humanitarian issue. Because of their ethnic blindness, they were the ones to cause the biggest harm to the PYD in the Rojava problem. Had they joined the Free Syrian Army at the time, IS would have failed to entrench itself there.

Read the full story here.

Assyrian International News Agency

Europe’s Human Rights Chief Concerned For Crimean Tatars

The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, says his “biggest concern” in Ukraine is the plight of Crimean Tatars who have remained in Crimea since it was annexed by Russia in March.

Muiznieks made the remarks to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on October 1.

He said security for ethnic Tatars in Crimea “has been shattered by a series of raids by armed, masked security personnel in religious institutions, schools, Tatar-owned businesses, private homes,” and the community’s assembly, the Mejlis.

Muiznieks said the raids — ostensibly “to search for weapons or so-called extremist literature” – are “completely disproportionate” for a community that has no history of violence.

He said internally displaced Ukrainians remain “vulnerable,” with receptions that differ widely depending on where they have settled.

The UN says 350,000 internally displaced Ukrainians are from the country’s east and 18,000 are from Crimea.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Tlm points out that Abadi wants his budget.

tlm724 Article: “Breaking News Parliament to resume its sessions on October 14, 2014″ Abadi wants this budget passed asap but they can’t do it UNTIL they come to a consensus with the kurds. they have to have inclusion or the country will fail and with their failure comes our failure…trust me when I say it must be done right this time, erasing the mistakes of Maliki is a huge job

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Iraqi Christians, Kurds Flee From Islamic State

IRBIL, Iraq (CNN) — For many Iraqis fleeing Islamic State fighters, a refugee camp offers a temporary haven, but it’s not a permanent solution.

Some who have lost everything still hope to return home.

They don’t have a soccer field. They don’t have proper homes, but the children in the refugee camp don’t seem to mind.

Hundreds have found temporary shelter in a public park in the Christian neighborhood of Ain Kawa.

In August, they fled their homes west of Mosul as the Islamic State pushed forward. The Christians and Kurds knew mercy would not be their lot.

“We left everything,” Lazim, a Kurd, said. “Our livestock, our chickens, money, our house, we just brought what we were wearing.”

He worries about the health of his grandchildren – living in the dust, tormented by insects.

Yaqin Habash, his wife and son quietly eat their evening meal in their tent. The loss of everything they owned leaves a bitter taste in their mouths.

“We were living like kings, said Habash, a Catholic. “Now we’re sitting on iron. They stole my son’s tractor. They stole 50 tons of barley and wheat. They stole everything in all the houses, everything I worked for my entire life gone in an instant.”

Some of the camp residents will soon be moved to vacant buildings for better shelter, but places are limited.

At the moment, the temperatures are mild, but the winter rains and the cold are just weeks away, and these people have nowhere to go.

Some are looking toward more distant destinations.

The adults here are divided between those who cling to their ancestral land and those who have given up on Iraq.

Bernard Geggi, a medic, wants to be buried in his native soil.

“I don’t want to emigrate,” he said. “I don’t want to leave my country. This is my country. It’s dear to me. I’m Iraqi, an Iraqi Christian, an authentic Iraqi. Why should I leave? Where shall I go?”

The strands of Iraq’s complex, diverse society are unravelling. Decades of war and hardship, culminating in the Islamic State’s reign of terror, have convinced Zina Mikhael it’s time to go.

“We want to emigrate,” she said. “It’s not safe here. There’s no safety, and there’s no hope. If we were to go back, in a year or two things could be even worse.”

Iraqis who have lived together generation after generation may soon part ways to the four corners of the Earth.

Assyrian International News Agency

Hong Kong protesters mass at leader’s office

Thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators have massed outside the offices of the city’s leader in a standoff with police, with calls growing for him to resign as protests grip the city.

About 200 riot police stood behind metal barricades as more than 3,000 protesters gathered outside Leung Chun Ying’s office in the early hours of Thursday.

“We’re trying to surround the government complex and wait for CY (Leung) to come back to work on Friday,” protester Thomas Choi told the AFP news agency. “We want to talk to him face to face.”

The rally outside Leung’s offices comes after three days of peaceful demonstrations where tens of thousands of people have called for Beijing to allow free elections in the semi-autonomous city.

On Wednesday night, one of the student leaders organising the protests threatened to step up the action – including a possible attempt to occupy government offices – if Leung did not resign by Thursday.

Leung has not agreed to the protesters demands.

“We will consider having different operating actions in future days, including occupying other places like important government offices,” said Agnes Chow of student movement Scholarism.

‘We need to escalate the movement’

There was a mixed response to the call for an escalation of action.

“We need to escalate the movement,” said 23-year-old student Jason Chan. “So many people have come out every day and the government hasn’t responded to us. If we don’t take things to the next level, this movement is pointless.”

But many others were reluctant to take any action that could prompt further clashes with the police.

“I think we should keep this a peaceful revolution,” said costume designer Janice Pang. “Hong Kong people may not support us if we do something more extreme.”

The protesters are angry at the central government’s refusal to allow free elections for the city’s next leader in 2017, insisting that only two or three candidates vetted by a pro-Beijing committee will be permitted to stand.

They call this “fake democracy” and have two demands – that Leung steps down and that Beijing reverses its decision.

349

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

U.S.-Led Air Strikes Continue As Iraqi Troops Battle IS Militants

WATCH: Kurdish Peshmerga forces claimed to have captured a string of villages from Islamic State fighters south of Kirkuk on September 30, aided by U.S.-led air strikes. Peshmerga Secretary-General Jabbar Yawar said Iraqi Kurds had retaken about half of the territory seized in northern Iraq by IS militants in August. (RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq)

By RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq

Heavy fighting has continued in Iraq’s Sunni-dominated Anbar Province between Islamic State (IS) militants and Iraqi government forces that are supported by U.S.-led coalition air strikes.

Near the city of Ramadi, IS militants and government troops on October 1 battled for control of rural areas to the west of the Euphrates River.

In Fallujah, militants and government forces continued to battle for control of the city with coalition air strikes and Iraqi artillery barrages targeting militants in several districts.

Pro-government tribal leaders in Anbar Province said the area around Haditha was now under complete government control. But Haditha’s western townships remain under the control of IS militants.

In northern Iraq, coalition air strikes targeted IS militants near Rabia a day after Iraqi troops recaptured the strategic town on the border with Syria.

Britain on October 1 continued a second day of air strikes against IS militants in Iraq.

In Baghdad, a suicide car bomb killed 14 people in the southeastern Shi’ite district of Al-Jadida.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Frank says disputes are settled.

Frank26 The GOI is going on vacation on Saturday, Oct 4 and will return on Thursday, Oct 9 now…when the GOI returns, IMO, they will proceed with the MR [Monetary Reform]. Abadi is working on reform of 27 laws, and these must be finished before we can see an IR [International Rate]; he has until the end of 2014 to accomplish this, but we will see when the GOI returns on Oct 9 how long he takes; some of these pertain to the Erbil agreement. The budget is being audited now, and this is why we saw Barzani run to Baghdad; is the HCL being added to the budget? The disputes between the Kurds and Baghdad are settled IMO because he believes the Kurds have seen the budget and know it is very good for them.

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US-Backed Syria Rebels Oppose Airstrikes Against Islamic State


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Assyrian International News Agency

Russian Court Chief Raises Eyebrows With Praise For Serfdom

As a top official tasked with guarding Russia’s supreme law, the head of the country’s Constitutional Court has some surprising things to say about serfdom.

In a long article on the history of legal reforms published in the government daily “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” longtime Constitutional Court head Valery Zorkin describes serfdom as the “staple” that held Russian society together.

Its abolition by Tsar Alexander II in 1861 “destroyed the already greatly weakened connection between the two basic social classes of the nation — the nobility and the peasantry,” Zorkin wrote recently.

“Despite all the liabilities of serfdom, it was precisely what formed the main staple holding together the internal unity of the nation,” he wrote. “It is not for nothing that peasants — according to historians — after the reforms told their former masters: ‘We were yours and you were ours.’”

The official proceeds to say that abolition exacerbated “social tensions” between the tsar and the peasantry by eliminating the “main shock absorber” between them: the nobility.

“This became one of the basic reasons for the growth of ‘rebellions’ and then organized revolutionary processes in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” he writes.

He later argues that abolition deprived peasants of “communal justice.”

Reactions to the article ranged from sarcastic to serious across Russian media and social-networking sites.

“It’s strange to hear an apologia for serfdom, which presupposes inequality, from the head of the Constitution Court, which in theory should defend the supremacy of the law and equality before the law,” the respected Russian business daily “Vedomosti” wrote in an editorial

Zorkin’s article was flagged in the Western media by journalist Elena Holodny, who wrote about it for “Business Insider” on September 30. 

‘Drowned Forever In The Tyrant’

Zorkin’s nostalgic tone when discussing serfdom is startling, especially considering that historians, philosophers, and towering Russian literary figures alike have condemned the institution.

While abolition was long delayed and, arguably, poorly implemented because the autocracy was keen not to undermine the foundations of its own absolute power, it’s hard to find anyone who had anything good to say about serfdom itself.

“By the time serfdom had fully developed, in the 18th century, nobleman and peasant seemed as different from each other as white and black, European and African,” historian Peter Kolchin wrote in a comparative history of American slavery and Russian serfdom.

“Russian noblemen were thus able to create the kind of social distance between themselves and their peasants necessary for the maintenance of serfdom,” Kolchin added.

Dissident 19th-century nobleman philosopher Pyotr Chaadayev called serfdom “a terrible ulcer” and asked: “Why … did the Russian people fall into slavery only after having become Christian? … Can [the Orthodox Church] explain why it did not raise its motherly voice against the repulsive violence committed by one part of the nation against the other?”

In the late 18th century, nobleman Aleksandr Radishchev was exiled to Siberia for publishing his critique of serfdom. At one point in the book, Radishchev’s stance seems at odds with Zorkin’s that it was the abolition of serfdom that produced revolutionary unrest in Russia. It was serfdom itself.

“Tremble, cruel-hearted landlord! On the brow of each of your peasants, I see your condemnation written,” Radishchev wrote.

In 1847, literary critic Vissarion Belinsky penned his famous letter to Nikolai Gogol, in which he wrote that Russia “presents the dire spectacle of a country where men traffic in men without even having the excuse so insidiously exploited by the American plantation owners who claim that the Negro is not a man.”

Russia is “a country where there are not only no guarantees for individuality, honor, and property, but even no police order, and where there is nothing but vast corporations of official thieves and robbers of various descriptions,” Belinsky wrote.

He added that the “most vital national problems in Russia today are the abolition of serfdom and corporal punishment and the strictest possible observance of at least those laws that already exist.”

Novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky was nearly executed and then exiled to Siberia for his involvement in a socialist group bent on abolishing serfdom. In his “Notes From the House of the Dead,” he wrote that tyrannical power over other humans was destroying the souls of the nobility.

“The human being, the member of society, is drowned forever in the tyrant,” he wrote. “And it is practically impossible for him to regain human dignity, repentance, and regeneration. The power given to one man to inflict corporal punishment upon another is a social sore and it will inevitably lead to the disintegration of society.”

Nineteenth-century dissident and journalist Aleksandr Gerzen wrote that “the liberty of the individual is the greatest thing of all.”

“It is on this and this alone that the true will of the people can develop,” he wrote.

In his “Gulag Archipelago,” Nobel Prize laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote “the whole raison d’etre of serfdom and the Archipelago is one and the same.”

“These are the social structures,” Solzhenitsyn wrote, “for the ruthless enforced utilization of the free-of-cost work of millions of slaves.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Will the West Defend Itself?

By Walter E. Williams

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), sometimes called ISIS or IS, is a Sunni extremist group that follows al-Qaida’s anti-West ideology and sees a holy war against the West as a religious duty. With regard to nonbelievers, the Quran commands, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.” The Quran contains many other verses that call for Muslim violence against nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.

Contrast the words of the Quran with the statements of limp-wristed Western leaders such as this by President Barack Obama: “We have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace.” While reacting to ISIL’s slaughter of British citizen David Haines, Prime Minister David Cameron said, “Islam is a religion of peace.” Then there was the U.S. secretary of state’s explanation: “The real face of Islam is a peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings.” But John Kerry and other Western politicians calling Islam a religion of peace doesn’t make it so.

A debate about whether Islam is a religion of peace or not is entirely irrelevant to the threat to the West posed by ISIL, al-Qaida and other Middle Eastern terrorist groups. I would like to gather a news conference with our Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno; Marines’ commandant, Gen. Joseph Dunford; chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert; and Gen. Mark A. Welsh, the U.S. Air Force’s chief of staff. This would be my question to them: The best intelligence puts ISIL’s size at 35,000 to 40,000 people. Do you officers think that the combined efforts of our military forces could defeat and lay waste to ISIL? Before they had a chance to answer, I’d add: Do you think the combined military forces of NATO and the U.S. could defeat and eliminate ISIL. Depending on the answers given, I’d then ask whether these forces could also eliminate Iran’s capability of making nuclear weapons. My question to my fellow Americans is: What do you think their answers would be? No beating around the bush: Does the U.S. have the power to defeat the ISIL/al-Qaida threat and stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions — yes or no?

If our military tells us that we do have the capacity to defeat the terror threat, then the reason that we don’t reflects a lack of willingness. It’s that same lack of willingness that led to the deaths of 60 million people during World War II. In 1936, France alone could have stopped Adolf Hitler, but France and its allies knowingly allowed Hitler to rearm, in violation of treaties. When Europeans finally woke up to Hitler’s agenda, it was too late. Their nations were conquered. One of the most horrible acts of Nazi Germany was the Holocaust, which cost an estimated 11 million lives. Those innocents lost their lives because of the unwillingness of Europeans to protect themselves against tyranny.

Westerners getting the backbone to defend ourselves from terrorists may have to await a deadly attack on our homeland. You say, “What do you mean, Williams?” America’s liberals have given terrorists an open invitation to penetrate our country through our unprotected southern border. Terrorists can easily come in with dirty bombs to make one of our major cities uninhabitable through radiation. They could just as easily plant chemical or biological weapons in our cities. If they did any of these acts — leading to the deaths of millions of Americans — I wonder whether our liberal Democratic politicians would be able to respond or they would continue to mouth that “Islam teaches peace” and “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Unfortunately for our nation’s future and that of the world, we see giving handouts as the most important function of government rather than its most basic function: defending us from barbarians.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Assyrian International News Agency

Erdogan vows to take on ISIL fighters

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made his clearest remarks on the possibility of his military forces engaging with armed groups in Iraq and Syria, a day ahead of a parliamentary vote that may grant the government authority to do so.

Delivering a keynote speech in the opening of parliament’s new session on Wednesday, the Turkish president said: “We will fight effectively against both (Islamic State) and all other terrorist organisations within the region; this will always be our priority.”

Turkey has not yet joined the US-led coalition staging air war on fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), who have captured large areas of northern Syria and Iraq.

But with Turkish tanks stationed along borders with Syria which ISIL advances towards, Ankara seems braced to join. Parliament is due to vote on Thursday on two motions submitted by the government to allow military action by Turkish forces in war-stricken Syria and Iraq.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a strong majority in parliament, increasing the chances of the motions being approved. 

Ankara has not yet indicated what form its assistance could take although Erdogan has repeatedly called for a buffer zone on the Turkish border inside Syria, backed by a no-fly zone, to ensure security.

Long-term solutions

Erdogan, who has pushed for the ousting of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the crisis, said dropping “tons of bombs” on ISIL serves as a temporary respite for the crises in Iraq and Syria, urging the West to find long-term solutions.

“We will continue to prioritise our aim to remove the Syrian regime, to help protect the territorial integrity of Syria and to encourage a constitutional, parliamentary government system which embraces all (of its) citizens,” he said.

“One of our priorities is to have a strong and just government in Damascus. WE cannot be indecisive about the situation in the Gulf and the larger middle east. How can we remain uninterested given the crisis on two fronts on border. We will not sit idle,” Erdogan said.

Turkey has been accused of playing a role in the growth of ISIL with its past support of Islamist Syrian groups in the hope they would aid the ousting of Assad.

But Erdogan angrily lashed out at suggestions of collusion between Turkey and ISIL. “It is out of the question to tolerate or to have the slightest sympathy on our territory, region or planet for such a terrorist group,” he said. 

“Turkey has no intention of intervening in any country’s internal affairs or grabbing any other country’s land,” Erdogan told parliament. ”But peace and stability in the region means peace and stability in Turkey,” he added.

441

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Azerbaijani Journalist Fears Arrest As Part Of Continuing Crackdown

An Azerbaijani investigative journalist has been told that she faces arrest upon her return to Baku from a trip to meet with members of the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.

Khadija Ismayilova, who is known for her extensive reporting on the business interests of the family of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and who hosts a daily program for RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, said a criminal libel case has been opened against her and she has been ordered to appear in court on October 3.

“I have been warned that, upon returning from my trip, I will be facing arrest and maybe this is another way to warn me,” she told RFE/RL in a telephone interview. “I believe they want me either not to go back to Azerbaijan or to be scared and not be loud about things in Azerbaijan. They have to understand that this is not the way to deal with me.”

Ismayilova sees the case as part of a broader crackdown against civil society that has been going on in Azerbaijan since Baku took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in May. According to local rights activists, there are currently 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, including 14 independent journalists and bloggers.

The case against Ismayilova centers on a purported document that she posted on social media alleging that the Azerbaijani secret services used an explicit, illegally filmed sex tape to blackmail an opposition activist into informing on other opposition figures.

Ismayilova says she deleted the name and all references to the individual in question, but he has nonetheless filed a criminal-libel complaint against her. 

‘Disabled’ Civil Society 

She says her purpose was to expose the government’s use of this tactic.

“The Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan and the special services of Azerbaijan are notorious for using secretly filmed sexual-life tapes against their critics,” she told RFE/RL. “It has been used against me. It has been used against others. For me, this criminal case will be an opportunity to highlight this [practice] in Azerbaijan.”

“I am not avoiding prosecution,” Ismayilova said. “I am eager to go and I really look forward to having a loud discussion about the methods the special services of Azerbaijan are using against their critics.”
    
Last year, a website connected with the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party published an article under the headline “Khadija’s Armenian Mother Should Die” that included the name of the neighborhood in Baku where Ismayilova’s mother lives. It also included the address of Ismayilova’s sister, who was accused of being a “pimp” involved in “sex trafficking” in Turkey.

In 2012, an illegally obtained explicit video of her was published on the Internet.

Ismayilova says that her lawyer is among those who have been jailed during the crackdown and the Baku-based Media Rights Institute, which has been defending her, has been effectively shut down.

“Institutionally, civil society has been disabled in Azerbaijan,” she said. “There are a few individuals left, and they are trying to silence these individuals by these means.” 

She added that she traveled to Strasbourg because all the rights activists who met with European parliamentarians in previous years have either been jailed or are in hiding.

“Khadija’s role in Azerbaijani civil society cannot be overstated,” says former U.S. diplomat and independent rights activist Rebecca Vincent in an email interview. “She is a fearless investigative journalist, one of the few in the country willing to examine taboo topics such as corruption among the ruling elite.”

“Khadija’s arrest would be a major blow to the already embattled independent media and human rights community,” she added.

Ismayilova says she will not consider remaining abroad.

“I’m going back to Baku because it is my home and I will not let people kick me out of my home,” she said.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Millionday discusses the budget.

Millionday [ I gather...the budget did not get passed today?] THE BUDGET WENT TO PARLIAMENT BUT WITH NO OIL FIGURES AND THEY HAVE ASKED FOR THOSE FIGURES SO THAT PARLIAMENT WILL TAKE IT. THEY HAVE BEEN WORKING ON IT INTO THE NIGHT AND I THINK THEY WENT HOME TO COME BACK EARLY AND FINISH. [any word on ministers getting seated?] ABADI STATED THAT THE LAST TWO WOULD BE BEFORE HOLIDAY AND IS CALLING AN EMERGENCY MEETING.

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Millionday discusses the budget.

Millionday [ I gather...the budget did not get passed today?] THE BUDGET WENT TO PARLIAMENT BUT WITH NO OIL FIGURES AND THEY HAVE ASKED FOR THOSE FIGURES SO THAT PARLIAMENT WILL TAKE IT. THEY HAVE BEEN WORKING ON IT INTO THE NIGHT AND I THINK THEY WENT HOME TO COME BACK EARLY AND FINISH. [any word on ministers getting seated?] ABADI STATED THAT THE LAST TWO WOULD BE BEFORE HOLIDAY AND IS CALLING AN EMERGENCY MEETING.

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Murders and Gang Rapes: Moscow Spins OSCE Probe Into Ukraine ‘Mass Graves’

Russian state media are abuzz with accusations of murder and gang-rape levelled against government forces in eastern Ukraine by a purported Western monitor.

The charges stem from Einars Graudins, a Latvian political activist who, according to Russian media reports, is part of a team of international monitors dispatched to eastern Ukraine by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The “OSCE expert” is also widely quoted as claiming that hundreds of bodies have been exhumed from mass graves in the Donetsk region.

The problem is, Graudins has never worked for the OSCE.

“We are currently checking the identity of this person, but as far as I know at this moment he is not a member of the special monitoring mission in Ukraine,” OSCE deputy spokesperson Natacha Rajakovic told RFE/RL. “We have no record and we certainly couldn’t confirm any such statements.”

The OSCE’s chapter in Ukraine later confirmed that he has “no link whatsoever” to the OSCE.

Graudins did visit the grave sites, but only as a group of eight human rights experts from different European countries who accompanied the regular OSCE monitors.

Known for his pro-Russian and anti-American views – his Twitter account describes him as an anti-globalist and a theoretician of Marxism — Graudins makes no secret of his sympathy for the separatists rebels.

This has not prevented Russian media from misrepresenting his comments, initially published on September 30 in the “Rossiiskaya Gazeta” daily, the Russian government’s official newspaper.

The RIA Novosti agency, for instance, ran the headline “OSCE Expert: About 400 Bodies Found in Gravesites Near Donetsk.”

The Russian media has been portraying the alleged mass graves as evidence of “war crimes.”

Separatist leaders themselves have confirmed the discovery of only 9 bodies in the alleged mass graves.

A RIA Novosti report claiming that an OSCE monitor had found a mass grave with hundreds of bodies that are supposedly evidence of “war crimes” by Kyiv-backed forces.

In fact, what Graudins told “Rossiiskaya Gazeta” is that there are currently about 400 unidentified bodies in the morgues of Donetsk, without specifying their provenance, and that “their number will grow as the exhumations are conducted at the discovered graves.”

“Rossiiskaya Gazeta” itself did not balk at putting its own spin on the interview.

The 400 bodies, it said in introductory remarks, belonged to “civilians and executed insurgents.” Again, Graudins makes no such claim.

According to Graudins, the international delegation in which he was embedded visited two alleged mass graves, one in the village of Nizhnyaya Krynka, the other at a mine near the village of Kommunar.

The bodies, he is quoted as saying, “lie under a thin layer of earth.”

“You can see,” he adds, “that the bodies of those killed were hastily thrown into the pit and covered with earth.”

Graudins then appears to contradict himself by stating that the bodies were removed prior to the group’s arrival due to their “advanced stage of decomposition.”

In Nizhyaya Krynka, too, he is unable to provide any evidence that the site ever hosted a mass grave.

He only mentions the “unbearable smell,” which, he argues, is proof that “not all bodies have been taken out of the ground.”

According to him, the delegation was invited to witness the exhumation process. 

Rather implausibly for international monitors investigating allegations of mass graves, the team supposedly declined due to what Graudins describes as time constraints.

“You have to understand the situation there is difficult,” he adds. “Ukrainian snipers operate in this area.”

Graudins then launches into an emotional account of the ordeal allegedly suffered by local residents at the hands of Ukrainian troops. 

“The people of Donbas are still screaming in terror,” he says, relating reports that government troops routinely murder innocent civilians “for no reason.”

In Nizhyaya Krynka, he claims, the villagers accuse fighters from the pro-Ukrainian “Azov” and “Donbas” battalion of gang-raping every single local woman, including underage girls and elderly women.

“The grief experienced by these women have rendered me speechless,” he is quoted as saying.

In a related development illustrating what has been widely denounced as a disinformation campaign in the Russian media, BBC reported that a Russian state television channel is using photos of victims of the MH17 Malaysia Airlines disaster to illustrate its own reports on “mass graves” in eastern Ukraine.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Who Buys Islamic State’s Illegal Oil?

A report by Chris Dalby of Oilprice.com finds that the 11 oil fields that IS controls in Iraq and Syria have made it a largely independent financial machine.
Its fields in Iraq alone are thought to produce between 25,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil per day, earning it an estimated $ 1.2 million [1.4 billion Iraqi dinars] daily, while adding the Syrian fields brings this to nearly $ 3 million.
The oil is sold at a discount of anything up to 75 percent.
Luay al-Khatteeb, the director of the Iraq Energy Institute, told CNN:
“The crude is transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria’s local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally.
“Turkey has turned a blind eye to this and may continue to do so until they come under pressure from the West to close down oil black markets in the country’s south.”

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Who Buys Islamic State’s Illegal Oil?

A report by Chris Dalby of Oilprice.com finds that the 11 oil fields that IS controls in Iraq and Syria have made it a largely independent financial machine.
Its fields in Iraq alone are thought to produce between 25,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil per day, earning it an estimated $ 1.2 million [1.4 billion Iraqi dinars] daily, while adding the Syrian fields brings this to nearly $ 3 million.
The oil is sold at a discount of anything up to 75 percent.
Luay al-Khatteeb, the director of the Iraq Energy Institute, told CNN:
“The crude is transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria’s local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally.
“Turkey has turned a blind eye to this and may continue to do so until they come under pressure from the West to close down oil black markets in the country’s south.”

LINK

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Barack Obama and the Will to Fight

barack-obama-isis-war-iraq-syria-islamic-state

Barack Obama had good reasons to hesitate before intervening directly in Syria. He should have heeded them.

The Obama administration has admitted that it misjudged the extremists who set up the Islamic State in chunks of territory torn from Iraq and Syria. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, confessed that his analysts underestimated the “will to fight” of the jihadists. He also linked it to intelligence failures of the past, such as similar underestimations of the Vietnamese in the 1960s.

At the same time, critics have castigated the Obama administration for its apparent lack of a “will to fight.” According to this line of argument, the president should have armed the moderate Syrian rebels back when the civil war broke out in that country. He should have bombed the country when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his opponents. He shouldn’t have withdrawn U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Islamic State has shown a passionate devotion to struggle. The Obama administration has shown an equally passionate devotion to conflict avoidance. In making this stark contrast, U.S. hawks pay a backhand compliment to the Islamic State: at least they are fighting for what they fervently believe in.

This failure to fight in the Levant is part of a larger critique of Obama as an agnostic. He doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism or the American economic system (no matter how many times Obama has in fact reaffirmed his faith in both). He wasn’t even born in this country, two out of five Americans still suspect, so how could he fully embrace America? And on war and peace issues, he has emerged as the ultimate betrayer of the national interest by giving ground to America’s enemies across the globe. He is a wimp, a traitor, the “coward-in-chief.”

There are two possible responses to this inaccurate picture. The first is to paint a picture of Obama as a president who judiciously uses military force. He has, for instance, been very clear about not sending ground troops into the fight against the Islamic State, even though the top brass believes that destroying IS—as opposed to simply degrading its capabilities—will eventually require “boots on the ground.” The president has also carefully assembled a coalition of international actors to provide multilateral cover in the latest escalation of the conflict in the region. Elsewhere in the world, the administration hasn’t intervened in Ukraine or gone head to head with China in the South China Sea. It has made strong statements, reassured allies, upped arms transfers, and even resorted to various covert strategies. But the president has generally avoided direct confrontation.

Combine this trajectory of restraint with the president’s statements on prioritizing diplomacy and you get the image that the administration would like to cultivate: the current government is committed to “smart power” as opposed to the blunt application of “dumb power” that previous presidents (i.e., George W. Bush) wielded. There is some truth to this picture.

But let’s consider the other alternative: President Obama is no less committed to military action than any of his predecessors. He might personally have a less gung-ho disposition than, say, George W. Bush. But Obama’s personality is only a small part of the equation. Despite the putative end of the Cold War, the United States has remained on a war footing. The national security apparatus is programmed for intervention. What we see now taking place in the skies above Syria and Iraq is not an exception to the Obama-as-pacifist rule. It is a summation of a particular evolution in U.S. militarism toward the asymmetrical warfare of dispensing death at a distance.

For those who doubt the “will to fight” in the White House today, a quick glance at a recent Congressional Research Service report—Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014—should dispel the misconception. Approximately 31 pages cover this 216-year history. The first 18 pages take the reader from the undeclared war between the United States and France in 1798 to the first deployments of the George W. Bush era. The next five pages list the military engagements of Bush’s two terms. Which leaves roughly eight pages for the as-yet-uncompleted Obama tenure.

By the end of Obama’s second term, he’ll likely be responsible for more than a quarter of all uses of the armed forces abroad in the history of the United States. It should be noted that this list also includes U.S. military participation in peacekeeping missions, earthquake relief, and the like. On the other hand, it doesn’t include the widespread use of air strikes and missile attacks, which have increasingly substituted for the deployment of U.S. armed forces.

In 2014 alone, the Obama administration sent an additional battalion to South Korea in January, several hundred U.S. personnel to pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda in March, several hundred advisors to Iraq in June to assess the threat of the Islamic State, another 130 “assessors” to Iraqi Kurdistan in August to deal with the Yazidi problem, and 600 soldiers also in August to Poland as “reassurance” in the wake of the civil war in Ukraine. The list doesn’t include the air strikes in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State and several other targets, recent drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, or the dispatch of 3,000 U.S. soldiers to Liberia to address the Ebola epidemic.

So, despite the rants of those hoping to goad the president into buying his very own piece of quagmire in the Middle East, the Obama administration has shown considerable “will to fight.” The problem with the current fight against the Islamic State is that, the adversary’s obvious barbarism notwithstanding, U.S. objectives are not entirely clear. Here are four concerns that should indeed undercut any thinking person’s “will to fight” in this particular situation:

The threat of terrorism – The Islamic State has decapitated its hostages, including American journalists, and routinely engages in atrocities against a wide variety of people. But it has no capability of launching any attacks on the United States. Indeed, the furthest it has gone has been to incite people within the countries arrayed against it to launch “lone wolf” attacks. To justify its latest strikes in Syria, the Obama administration held up “imminent” terrorist attacks devised by a shadowy organization called the Khorasan Group. But even these “imminent” attacks, in the wake of the Syria strikes, were downgraded to merely “aspirational.” It’s easier, of course, to justify a war if Americans feel directly threatened, as they did from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (though the former turned into a fight against the Taliban and the latter never materialized). IS will continue to make threats as long as they produce the result it wants: American soldiers to fight against on the battlefield and a “crusade” it can rail against to drum up more support.

The benefits for Assad – War is never an easy sell, but it’s particularly difficult if it’s against an enemy of your enemy. The Obama administration naturally has not emphasized the benefits that accrue to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad when U.S. air strikes degrade the capabilities of one of his leading opponents. But Syrian diplomats have not been shy to trumpet this self-serving interpretation.

The nature of the “moderate” Syrian forces – The air attacks against Syria are part of a larger policy that includes training Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region. The program, which will cost $ 500 million, is slated to train 5,000 rebels in the first year. The trainees are naturally expected to fight against the Islamic State. But frankly their main objective has been to topple the Assad regime, and it’s not inconceivable that at some point they might team up with the extremists if that advances their prime directive.

It doesn’t help that the United States is wading into a situation where alliances and ideologies seem to change on a daily basis. Case in point: the Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra). It’s affiliated with al-Qaeda, but it also has fought alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA). When the United States listed the Nusra Front as a target of air strikes, many FSA fighters balked. “As long as al-Nusra, whose members are mostly Syrians, did not attack the Syrian people while fighting the regime, we are against targeting it,” explained an FSA leader on the northern front. It’s a war going on over there: “moderate” is a word that juts doesn’t make sense in an increasingly brutal environment.

The slippery slope of advisors – Although the president has drawn a red line on the issue of U.S. boots on the ground in this conflict, he has fudged the issue by sending over advisors to help with the targeting. He has also warned the U.S. public that this will not be a quick mission, like the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. It’s useful to remember that U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War also began with advisors—in 1950. At that time, we were helping the French in what would be a losing effort. Later, after the partition of the country in 1954, Washington tried to keep the South Vietnamese government afloat (sound familiar?). By 1963, 16,000 U.S. advisors were in country. So, considering the complexity of the war in Syria and Iraq, we might well see a similar “advisor phase” that grows and grows until, surprise: boots on the ground.

These four caveats make the application of “smart power” by the Obama administration look increasingly dumb. There were good reasons for the president to hesitate before intervening directly in the past. He was not Hamlet seized by an existential crisis. He understood the significant trade-offs and calculated that intervention was not worth it.

But that was before domestic political pressure combined with the demands of a national security state still geared to fight a long war on terror. Obama, in the end, indeed showed that he did not have the will to fight. He was willing to stand up against the Islamic State. But he didn’t have the courage to stand up against his more hawkish opponents in Congress and the media.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Children killed in Homs double blasts

At least 10 children are among 22 people killed in a twin bombings outside a primary school in the government-controlled city of Homs in central Syria.

A Syrian pro-government channel aired on Wednesday brief footage of the aftermath, showing parents looking for their children and schoolbags and bloodstains on the ground. Flames rose from a car nearby.

Homs governor Talal Barazzi described the attack as a “terrorist act and a desperate attempt that targeted school children”.

The blasts happened as children were leaving the Ekremah al-Makhzoumi primary school, an official with the Homs governorate said who refused to be named. 

The first explosion was from a car bomb parked and detonated in front of the school, followed minutes later by a suicide bomber who drove by and detonated his explosives-laden car, said the anonymous official.

It was one of the deadliest attacks in Homs in months. At least 56 more people were wounded in the incident, the official said.

No claim of responsibility

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad have carried out such bombings during the country’s civil war.

There have been horrific attacks against civilians by all sides throughout the brutal conflict, now in its fourth year, but rarely have children appeared to be the direct target.

In May, Syrian government forces dropped a bomb in the northern city of Aleppo, hitting a complex that held a school alongside a rebel compound. At least 19 people, including 10 children were killed in that incident.

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AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Kurds Outraged as Turkey Closes Border

Kurdish activists expressed outrage as the Turkish military began preventing any young person from crossing the border to fight Islamic militants in Syria, where Kurdish forces have been fighting to save the city of Kobane.

Turkish troops were out in force in Mursitpinar, on the Turkish-Syrian border that abuts Kobane.

“Kobane’s fall means Kurdistan’s fall,” said Ferhat Encu, a 29-year-old Turkish-Kurd from Sirnak.

”We can’t sit here and just watch. I’m trying to get into Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), but the Turks have blocked the border,” said Encu, who was a frontier guard before leaving to fight for Kobane earlier this month. He returned for a break, and now cannot go back.

The Turkish government fears young Kurds returning with military and weapons skills, after fighting alongside the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG), the main protection force in Rojava. That is because of the group’s links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a 30-year war in Turkey for greater rights.

Selahattin Demirtas, a leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) crossed the border into Kobane on Tuesday in a visit of solidarity. He later called on the Turkish government to support the fight of Syrian Kurds against the IS. He said this was an opportunity to strengthen Turkey’s peace process with its own Kurdish population.

“I want to go to Kobane and fight the IS, which is right now butchering my people, but I can’t,” complained Hamo Sen, a 30-year-old Turkish-Kurd from Urfa.

Media reports say that hundreds of young Kurdish men and women from Turkey are believed to have crossed the border to fight. “Many young people want to go to Rojava to join YPG against IS,” Encu claimed.

Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, a fortnight ago urged Kurds to “mass mobilize” against IS.

“Not only the people of Rojava, but also everyone in the North (Turkey) and other parts of Kurdistan should act accordingly,” he said in a message sent through his lawyers.

The Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet recently reported that 30-year-old Serdar Macit, a former Turkish archery champion, is among those who have taken to Rojava to fight with the YPG against the militants.

“It is an honor to be a part of YPG, who are fighting against injustice,” Macit told Turkish media.

Many locals are convinced that Turkey – which has for years turned a blind eye to Islamic militants using its territory for ”jihad” in Syria — is actively supporting IS with heavy weaponry, medical care and money.

Sen accused the Turkish authorities of double standards.

“They turn a blind eye to jihadists crossing into Rojava, while we can’t go there to fight for our people,” Sen complained.

In New York last week for the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied backing the jihadis. Any support for “any terrorist group is out of the question, as Turkey is a country which has suffered heavily from terrorism in the past,” he was quoted as saying.

The US-led anti-IS coalition launched airstrikes targeting militant strongholds on the outskirts of Kobane for the first time early Saturday.

Tens of thousands have fled the IS assaults on Kobane that began about 10 days ago, many washing across the Turkish border.

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Garibashvili Reiterates Georgia’s Desire To Join NATO, EU

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has reiterated Tbilisi’s desire to join NATO and the European Union.

In his address to the nation on October 1, Garibashvili said Georgia’s “main action plan” is to implement its Association Agreement with the European Union, which Tbilisi signed in June.

Garibashvili also said Georgia’s main goals include the unification of “our common homeland through reconciliation with our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers.”

Garibashvili made the speech on the second anniversary of the victory of his Georgian Dream coalition over former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement party (ENM).

A parliamentary minority leader, the ENM’s Zurab Japaridze, told reporters on October 1 that the Georgian Dream coalition has failed to meet its promises during the last  two years.

Japaridze said: “The national budget has not been met for the second  year, unemployment is at a critical level, and the crime rate is worsening.”

Based on reporting by apsny.ge and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Here’s Everything Wrong with the White House’s War on the Islamic State

obama-war-iraq-syria-isis-islamic-state-is

(Photo: DVIDSHUB / Flickr)

If Barack Obama owes his presidency to one thing, it was the good sense he had back in 2002 to call George W. Bush’s plans to go to war in Iraq what they were: “dumb.” (The war was many other things too—illegal, cynical, not to mention disastrous—but “dumb” was pretty good for a guy running for Senate back when both parties had largely lined up behind the war.)

Since then, Obama’s had his ups and downs with the antiwar voters who delivered his 2008 nomination and subsequent election. But throughout the arguments over drones, Afghanistan, Libya, and NSA spying—among other issues—Obama could always come back to these voters and say: Hey, at least I ended the war in Iraq. What do you think the Republicans would have done?

But now, with scarcely a whisper of serious debate, Obama has become the fourth consecutive U.S. president to launch a war in Iraq—and in fact has outdone his predecessors by spreading the war to Syria as well, launching strikes not only on fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS, or ISIS) but also on the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and al-Khorasan.

This was no minor escalation. According to the Washington Post, the United States and its Arab allies dropped more explosives on Syria in their first engagement there than U.S. forces had dropped over all of Iraq in the preceding month. It was the largest single U.S. military operation since NATO’s intervention in Libya was launched back in 2011.

War planners are predicting that the latest conflict could rage for three years or longer, meaning Obama will bequeath to his successor a quagmire much like the one he inherited—the one he’d so distinguished himself by opposing and subsequently ending. That’ll make five U.S. presidents at war in Iraq and beyond in a row.

Polls show some significant public support for air strikes against IS, albeit alongside ample wariness about getting dragged in too far. Support for action against IS is easy enough to understand: Many fair-minded people otherwise weary of war in the Middle East are appalled by the brutality of IS and feel compelled to “do something” to stop them.

And we should do something. But not this.

We’ll come to regret this war, potentially long before it’s had three years to run its course. Here’s why.

This war is illegal.

So, first thing’s first: This war is unmistakably illegal.

Under international law—at least as defined by the UN Charter, to which the United States is a founding signatory—one country can only legally launch attacks inside another under one of three conditions: if the intervention is authorized by the UN Security Council; if it’s a cut-and-dry case of self-defense; or if assistance is requested by the other country’s government.

It’s true that in Iraq at least, the government requested U.S. assistance in stemming the spread of IS—an intervention promoted in Washington as part of an effort to prevent the genocide of Iraqi religious minorities like the Yazidis (remember them?). Yet the United States has continued launching strikes on IS positions in Iraq long after the crisis on Mt. Sinjar was putatively resolved.

But in Syria, not a single one of these conditions applies.

In a letter to the United Nations explaining its strikes on Syria, the Obama administration claimed that it had the right to attack IS positions that the Syrian regime was “unable or unwilling” to eradicate itself. IS, the administration argues, has used its strategic depth in Syria—where no U.S. intervention has been formally invited by the still-sovereign Assad regime—to attack Iraq, which has requested U.S. assistance.

Here it almost seems like the U.S. and Iraqi governments are taking a page from IS itself and attempting to erase the Iraqi-Syrian border. It’s true that IS is a big problem on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, but the government of Iraq simply has no legal authority to direct a third country to attack Syria. (Imagine a hypothetical scenario in which Russia attacks the United States because Syria requested help in warding off foreign intervention in its territory. This won’t happen, but it shows the inane implications of the administration’s rationale.)

Additionally, any claims the White House makes about “self-defense” at this stage are spurious, since U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed that IS presently poses no threat to the U.S. homeland. This makes sense—after all, who has time for international terrorism when you’re also trying to conquer and govern new territory? No need to attack the “far enemy” when your objectives are achievable where you’re already fighting. (Unless, of course, the far enemy suddenly starts bombing you.)

Domestically, congressional authorization (if not a formal declaration of war) is required to launch sustained new military operations. Here the Obama administration is on even weaker ground. It claims that Congress’ 2002 war authorization in Iraq gives it some standing. But again, while the Middle East’s post-World War I borders may be arbitrary and problematic for a host of reasons, IS is currently the only party attempting to seriously argue that Syria and Iraq are not two different countries.

The administration is also leaning on the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorized using the military to track down the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. This has been quite liberally interpreted to authorize strikes against “al-Qaeda and its associated forces”—a reading of the law the Obama administration has used to justify drone strikes from Somalia to the Philippines—but even these legal gymnastics don’t seem to cover a group like IS, which split very publicly from al-Qaeda earlier this year.

That may be why the initial strikes targeted not only IS but also the al-Nusra Front and a group called al-Khorasan, which do appear to be linked to al-Qaeda. But while the White House has claimed that Khorasan—a previously unknown group—was in the “execution phase” of some planned attack against the United States or Europe, the legal rationale for such “pre-emptive” strikes was thoroughly discredited by the last Iraq War. Moreover, U.S. counterterrorism officials have cast doubt on the administration’s claim that Khorasan posed an imminent threat to the United States. (And journalist Glenn Greenwald doesn’t believe the group exists at all.)

So why attack these other groups now? A likely explanation is that the White House is using these al-Qaeda-linked groups as a fig leaf to justify attacking IS—and getting involved in Syria more generally—under the previously passed AUMF. But getting mired down in Syria’s civil war—a war that began more than a decade after 9/11, and for entirely unrelated reasons—is a far, far cry from tracking down the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

This plan won’t work.

It should bother you that this war is illegal and constitutional. But even if you’re fed up with the legal niceties of the UN Security Council and the U.S. Congress, there’s simply no reason to believe that might is going to make right here.

Obama says the plan is to hammer IS targets from the air while bolstering partners on the ground—including the Iraqi Army, Kurdish fighters in Iraq, and “moderate” Syrian rebel groups—in a bid to roll back the advance of IS throughout Iraq and Syria without putting U.S. “boots on the ground” (never mind those 1,600 troops and advisers that have already been sent to Iraq, along with a likely undisclosed number of special forces).

As my colleague Phyllis Bennis is fond of saying, you can’t bomb extremism out of existence. She’s right.

For one thing, bombs cause civilian casualties, which are inherently radicalizing. “The U.S. bombs do not fall on ‘extremism,’” Bennis has written of the strikes on IS’ capital in Syria. “They are falling on Raqqa, a 2,000 year-old Syrian city with a population of more than a quarter of a million people—men, women, and children who had no say in the takeover of their city by ISIS. The Pentagon is bombing targets like the post office and the governor’s compound, and the likelihood of large number of civilian casualties, as well as devastation of the ancient city, is almost certain.”

A protracted air campaign is likely to cause a raft of unintended consequences. In Yemen and Pakistan, for example—the targets of the vast majority of U.S. drone strikes on alleged al-Qaeda “militants”—civilian populations have grappled with severe trauma and stress from living under the constant hovering drones. Terrorist recruiters have repeatedly sought to exploit this trauma—especially among the thousands of Yemenis and Pakistanis who have lost innocent loved ones. The best that can be said of these years-long campaigns from a national security perspective is that they’re holding actions. Al-Qaeda has certainly not been destroyed in either country, and it’s entirely possible that the drones themselves are providing a continued rationale for the group’s survival. It’s unclear why the Obama administration seems to think it can effect a different outcome in the vastly more complicated theater of Iraq and Syria.

Then there’s the problem of what comes after the bombs. If IS falls back under the weight of U.S. airstrikes, who moves in to secure the territory on the ground?

In Iraq, there are a few possibilities at this stage: the Iraqi Army, one of a number of Shiite paramilitary groups, or, in the north, Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

We saw the limitations of the Iraqi Army most dramatically earlier this summer in Mosul, where, after firing scarcely a shot, some 30,000 Iraqi soldiers turned the city—and millions of dollars worth of U.S.-supplied military equipment—over to just 800 attacking IS soldiers. In the years leading up to its capture of the city, IS had freely operated a lucrative protection racket among Mosul’s private businesses and cut deals with corrupt local leaders and members of Iraq’s security forces. So despite the Iraqi Army’s heavy footprint in Mosul—including a burdensome and much loathed system of traffic checkpoints—IS had been consolidating power there long before formally taking over.

The Iraqi Army turned Mosul over without a fight, but the result is often even worse when it decides to dig in its heels. While thousands of civilians fled Mosul fearing religious persecution by IS, thousands of others fled because they feared indiscriminate reprisal attacks by the Iraqi Army. These fears were well-founded—the Iraqi Army’s fondness for internationally banned barrel bombs was on full display in its failed efforts to retake Fallujah from Islamic militants earlier this year. The fact that so many Iraqis are more afraid of the Iraqi Army than IS says worlds about the political conditions that enabled IS to flourish in the first place.

Shiite militias, many of them backed by Iran and deeply implicated in Iraq’s post-invasion sectarian bloodletting, may prove more willing to fight than their counterparts in the military. Thousands of Shiite volunteers heeded a call by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani over the summer to help the Iraqi government protect Baghdad and Shiite holy places. But unleashing these irregular fighters amid a period of heightened sectarian tensions is a fraught proposition, particularly with IS deliberately baiting them by wantonly murdering Shiites and other non-Sunni Muslims. If these militias launch reprisal attacks against Sunnis—and scattered reports suggest that a few of them have—Iraq could descend back into full-blown sectarian war just when Iraq’s government needs to be courting Sunnis more aggressively than ever. Meanwhile, Shiite militias like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kata’ib Hezbollah,  and the Badr Corps—some of which cut their teeth fighting U.S. occupation forces—are happy to fight IS but have refused to cooperate with American forces.

Finally, Kurdish fighters may prove more professional than their Shiite counterparts, but they also have a different set of goals. Kurdish groups have fought IS forces for years in northern Syria, and, with help from U.S. airstrikes, peshmerga fighters in Iraq (and their PKK allies from Turkey) have fiercely resisted IS’ efforts to push into Iraqi Kurdistan. But these fighters are ultimately most concerned about consolidating Kurdish territory—for example, they used the chaos of IS’ initial advance to seize control of the disputed (and oil-rich) Arab-Kurdish city of Kirkuk—and it remains to be seen how willing they’ll prove to risk their lives on behalf of Iraq’s central government, with whom the Kurds have a fraught relationship. Masoud Barzani, the president of the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, has suggested he will push for a referendum on Kurdish independence as soon as it’s practicable, even if he’s working with the new Iraqi government for now.

In Syria, the options are even worse.

Outside IS itself, the most competent and cohesive fighting force in the country is probably the Syrian Army, which fights on behalf of a regime the Obama administration has refused to cooperate with and whose human rights abuses have been well documented. Though the Syrian government never formally consented to the strikes against IS on its territory, its evident pleasure at the development was hard to miss. After all, here was a coalition of Syria’s enemies abroad, scarcely a year removed from threatening to topple the Assad regime itself, now bombing its most formidable enemies at home.

Instead of dealing with the Syrian regime, the White House is betting it can vet, arm, and transform a gaggle of “moderate” Syrian rebels into a suitable counterweight to both Assad and IS. This has been a pipe dream of Washington’s war hawks for years, but it’s so fraught with problems it’s hard to know where to begin.

First, it’s extremely unlikely that the rebel forces considered acceptable by the Obama administration are suitably strong at this point to seriously contest either IS or Assad, much less both of them. The most effective rebel forces for the bulk of this conflict have been radical Islamists hardened by battle against U.S. forces in Iraq or the Russians in Chechnya, and amply funded by governments and private donors from the Gulf (and in IS’ case, a huge network of protection rackets, stolen bank assets, and oil sales).

Despite Congress’ approval of $ 500 million in new funds to train and arm other Syrian rebels, the CIA—which has been already been conducting a smaller-scale program in Jordan to do just that—is reportedly deeply skeptical about the plausibility of this plan, with one member of Congress reporting that CIA sources had described it as a “fool’s errand.” Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University, has argued that, given the diversity of rebel groups jockeying for influence in Syria, funneling more arms into the conflict is likely to complicate and prolong it, not help resolve it. And the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole has pointed out that even “moderate” groups forge tactical battlefield alliances with groups like IS and Nusra when the need arises, leading to a virtual certainty that arms supplied by the United States could be traded to or seized by IS. This happened even with the Iraqi Army, so it’s a good bet that it would happen with Syrian rebel groups too (and indeed, some reports suggest it already has.)

If IS falls back, the United States is going to be responsible for the actions of whoever takes its place. And while many of these groups currently seem preferable to IS, we should not be enamored of our choices. In entering an extraordinarily complex conflict that has harvested hundreds of thousands of lives, the Obama administration stands to make hundreds of thousands of new enemies, whichever side it takes. And if anyone in Washington still remembers funding Osama bin Laden’s crusade against the Soviets in Afghanistan, they’ll know that even friends are fickle.

Finally, what if IS doesn’t fall back? What if it hides from U.S. airstrikes, harvests recruits from the families of slain civilians, or appropriates the weapons shipments sent to its putative rivals? Alternately, what if, bolstered by U.S. airpower, the Assad regime emerges triumphant in Syria? The Obama administration has defined both of these outcomes as unacceptable, but the White House has not outlined a contingency plan in either case. It’s an open secret in Washington that many of Obama’s generals are eager to send ground troops. That could lead to a major escalation of a war whose current scope has hardly been debated at all.

In a way, we’re still fighting the blowback from the first U.S. intervention in Afghanistan back in 1979, when the United States launched an ambitious campaign to support anticommunist jihadists in their fight against the Soviets—an effort that helped produce groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban. How long will this new war echo, and through what yet unforeseen corridors?

obama-war-iraq-syria-isis-islamic-state-is-

(Photo: William Allen / Flickr)

There are other options.

War, in short, is a terrible option.

But the fact remains that IS is a determined and brutal threat to millions of people on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border (and beyond, if you believe the ambitions in some of its more fanciful maps). And given IS’ origins in al-Qaeda in Iraq—a group born and nourished in the chaotic years following the U.S. invasion—the United States bears no small share of responsibility for the current state of affairs. That means Washington should shoulder some of the responsibility for fixing it.

There’s plenty that the United States can do to weaken IS on the more technocratic front. To start, it can freeze the bank accounts of IS’ funders, negotiate partnerships with villages where oil pipelines run to cut IS’ oil revenues, and work with partners in Europe and Turkey to stem the flow of Western fighters into the conflict. The U.S. should also dramatically increase its support for the United Nations’ badly underfunded humanitarian assistance programs in Syria, and send support to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey that have absorbed millions of refugees.

More fundamentally, the White House must recognize that IS flourishes not simply because of its resources—and much less on account of its ideological appeal—but because of political breakdown on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

In Syria, a grinding civil war has been exacerbated by fits of sectarian bloodletting and the absence of competent administration in rebel-held areas. In Iraq, a Shiite government has ruthlessly repressed the country’s minority Sunnis, turning a blind eye to roving death squads, arresting and torturing nonviolent Sunni activists, and discriminating against Sunnis in the public sector (especially in western Iraq, where jobs and patronage promised to the tribes who had previously turned on al-Qaeda, at great risk to themselves, withered on the vine). One wonders if the Obama administration saw the New York Times feature, published on the eve of its expansion of the war into Syria, which reported that six weeks of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq had failed to peel away IS’ support among the Sunni tribes still deeply suspicious of the Iraqi government, despite a recent change of personnel in Baghdad.

The answer, then, is political. But the current campaign of airstrikes and arms peddling threatens to deepen the political crises in Iraq and Syria, not resolve them. Instead, the Obama administration should work to ameliorate political conditions on each side of the border.

In Syria, it should convene rebel groups, the regime, civil society activists, and regional players like Turkey, Iran, Russia, and the Gulf States to restart negotiations for a political solution to the war. If there’s a silver lining to these latest airstrikes, it’s that the administration can use them as leverage to get Assad and the rebels to the table.

In Iraq, it should condition all further assistance on the development of a more inclusive political order that protects the country’s minorities—not just smaller groups threatened by IS like Christians, Turkmen, and Yazidis, but also the country’s millions of Sunnis. The administration could also link its nuclear negotiations with Iran to the political crisis in Iraq—quietly exploring, for example, an agreement to allow Iran to enrich more uranium for peaceful nuclear power generation in exchange for a pledge from Tehran to rein in the Iranian-backed militias most likely to sow sectarian discord in Iraq.

These are tall orders, and they’re unlikely to see quick results even if pursued aggressively. But given the horrendous legacy of U.S. wars in the region—and not to mention America’s failure to destroy even a single terrorist group after over a decade of continuous military mobilization—diplomacy is a much better option than the guaranteed failure we’re currently embarked on.

It’s not too late to change course.

Obama and his military planners have announced that they expect this new war to last for years. But that’s assuming Congress authorizes it.

Support for some kind action is quite broad in Congress, especially among party leaders. But as Frank Rich has observed, this support is about “an inch deep.” Few members are willing to vote on a protracted new war before a contested midterm election. They may take the issue up after the election if the war doesn’t look too disastrous yet, but that gives opponents of the conflict plenty of time to organize against it before a vote is held.

Arguing that some kind of authorization is inevitable, groups like the Congressional Progressive Caucus have focused their efforts on pushing a resolution that restricts the scope of the conflict while still permitting strikes on IS. Others, like Just Foreign Policy, have organized petitions urging a firm “no” vote on any kind of authorization whatsoever.

Personally I favor the latter approach—I don’t think this poorly considered war deserves a congressional vote of confidence, much less domestic legal authorization.  If the last time the U.S. was on the edge of the abyss in Syria—when public opinion was much more resolutely opposed to intervention than it is now—is any indication, a vote could potentially be avoided altogether if it looks doomed to fail. Last year, the Obama administration resigned itself to jettisoning its war plans and pursuing a diplomatic track to dispose of Assad’s declared chemical weapons arsenal, illustrating the power of organizing to avert a war even when it enjoys widespread elite support.

It’s not yet too late to educate your friends, neighbors, and lawmakers about the pitfalls of this new war and the availability of alternatives—you can send them this article, or one of many others like it, and find local groups in your community organizing against military intervention.

Maybe you’ll launch the career of the next rising star to recognize a “dumb war” before it’s fashionable.

Peter Certo is the editor of Foreign Policy In Focus.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Ghani Orders Reopening Of Kabul Bank Fraud Investigation

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has ordered fresh investigations into a $ 850-million fraud case that nearly brought about the collapse of the country’s largest commercial bank in 2010.

Ghani, who was inaugurated on September 29, ordered Afghanistan’s Supreme Court on October 1 to reopen the Kabul Bank case, saying: “The time for action has come, and as we had pledged, the fight against corruption will be done in a thorough and systematic way.”

Afghanistan’s  courts were criticized for imposing light sentences against those convicted in the case and for allegedly failing to bring to justice the masterminds of a scheme that diverted $ 850 million of fraudulent loans to bank insiders.

Kabul Bank had handled about one-third of Afghanistan’s banking and most of the government payroll — including salaries for the army and security forces.

It was renamed New Kabul Bank after a government bailout.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Forex

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The euro fell to session lows against the dollar on Wednesday, re-approaching a two-year trough after data showed that factory activity in the euro area slowed to a 14-month low in September.

EUR/USD touched lows of 1.2585, not far from Tuesday’s two year trough of 1.2570, and was last down 0.22% to 1.2603.

The drop in the euro came after research group Markit reported that the final reading of the euro zone’s manufacturing purchasing managers index ticked down to 50.3 from 50.5 in August.

Economists had expected an unchanged reading.

The report said new orders fell for the first time since June 2013, while lower input and output prices added to concerns over a slowdown in inflation.

The German manufacturing PMI slid to 49.9 from 50.3 previously, falling below the 50 level that separates growth from contraction for the first time in 15 months.

The report came a day after data showed that the annual rate of euro area inflation fell to a five year low of 0.3% in September.

The European Central Bank targets an inflation rate of close to but just below 2%.

The weak data added to pressure on the ECB to implement additional stimulus measures to stave off the threat of deflation in the region, ahead of its monthly meeting on Thursday.

The ECB unexpectedly cut rates to record lows last month in a bid to shore up growth in the region.

The dollar has rallied against the euro and the yen in recent months, amid expectations that the Federal Reserve is growing closer to raising interest rates.

The dollar shrugged off data on Tuesday showed that U.S. consumer confidence fell in September and another report showing that house prices rose less-than-expected in July.

Investors were looking ahead to Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report amid expectations that it would show the U.S. economy added more than 200,000 jobs for a sixth successive month in August.

Elsewhere, the euro was steady against the pound, with EUR/GBP at 0.7788, not far from Tuesday’s two year lows of 0.7765.

In the U.K., data on Wednesday showed that output in the U.K. manufacturing sector slowed to a 17 month low in September.

The U.K. manufacturing PMI fell to 51.6 last month from 52.2 in August. Economists had expected the index to tick up to 52.5.

New orders slowed to near-stagnation the report said, while new export demand also declined, which Markit said was due to weakness in the euro area economy and the appreciation of sterling against the single currency.

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Moscow Blames U.S. On Exchange Program, Says Gay Couple Became Guardians

Russia’s child-protection ombudsman says a gay American couple established guardianship over a Russian high school student who was in the United States on an exchange program.

Pavel Astakhov said the alleged incident was one reason for Russia’s decision to scrap the 21-year-old Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX).

Astakhov said on Twitter on October 1 that the U.S. side had violated its obligation to return Russian students to their country when  “a Russian teen stayed behind in the United States.”

He later told state news agency TASS that “a U.S. homosexual couple” had illegally established “guardianship” over a boy whose mother is in Russia.

On September 30, U.S. Ambassador John Tefft expressed regret over Russia’s decision to withdraw from next year’s FLEX program.

President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian children by American families in 2012, as tension with Washington mounted in his third term.

Based on reports by TASS and Interfax

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

More US strikes as ISIL advance on Syria town

US-led forces have carried out at least five air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) outside  Kobane, a monitoring group has said, after the group’s fighters pushed to within two kilometres of the Syrian-Kurdish town.

The strikes on Wednesday hit ISIL fronts south and southeast of the town, also known as Ain al-Arab , which the group has been battling to take for more than two weeks, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

ISIL had continued closing in on the town near the Turkish border, despite multiple US air strikes on Tuesday, as the US defence department cautioned it “cannot bomb the militants into obscurity”.

US warplanes had also bombed ISIL targets in neighbouring Iraq on Tuesday, as Kurdish forces launched attacks on three fronts in a bid to recapture ground lost to the group last month.

ISIL fighters have captured large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic “caliphate” that has not been widely recognised and committing a wide range of atrocities.

The Pentagon, appealing for patience, warned that there would by no quick and easy end to the fighting.

No one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate air strikes,” the department’s spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, told reporters. “We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity.”

A long-term effort will be needed to train and arm Syrian rebel forces and strengthen Iraq’s army, he said.

British bombs

Tuesday’s advance was the closest ISIL had come to Kobane since it began an advance nearly two weeks ago, sending tens of thousands of mostly Kurdish refugees fleeing across the border.

NATO member Turkey, after months of caution in the fight against ISIL, has decided to harden its policy, and the government asked parliament on Tuesday to authorise military action against them in Iraq and Syria.

Polticians are due to debate a motion Thursday that Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said would “meet all the demands and eliminate the risks and threats”.

Turkey has remained tight-lipped about what its intervention will entail, but Arinc indicated the parliamentary mandate will be kept as broad as possible to allow the government freedom to decide.

In a separte development, three car bombs killed at least 13 people and wounded 41 in Shia-dominated neighbourhoods of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Tuesday, police and hospital sources said.

British fighter jets fired on ISIL positions west of Baghdad overnight, the UK defence ministry said on Wednesday, in their second strikes in as many days in Iraq.

Two Royal Air Force Tornados based in Cyprus fired four Brimstone missiles at two ISIL vehicles, including an armed pick-up truck, the ministry said in a statement.

458

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Six Iranian Filmmakers Launch Campaign Urging Deal Over Nuclear Crisis

Six prominent Iranian movie directors have launched an Internet campaign saying “there is no deal that is worse than no deal” in an effort to end the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Among those leading the campaign at no2nodeal.com are Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, who won the award for best screenplay for her film “Tales” at this year’s Venice Film Festival, and Asghar Farhadi, who won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012 for “A Separation.”

The website for the campaign, which is in English, says international sanctions have hurt the Iranian people without harming Iran’s nuclear program and urges Tehran and world powers to “address the issues, not special interests.”

The other four well-known film directors supporting the No2NoDeal campaign are Mohammad Mehdi Asgarpour, Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidi, and Reza Mirkarimi. 

There is a lot of support among Iran’s artistic community for President Hassan Rohani, who scored an overwhelming election victory in June last year partly on promises to engage with the West diplomatically in order to resolve the nuclear dispute. 

Rohani’s government has acknowledged the artists’ support, and this has included allowing the reopening of a prominent center for filmmakers and artists in September that had been closed under the presidency of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. 

Iran and six world powers have given themselves a deadline of November 24 for striking an accord or giving up negotiations. The six world powers are the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany. 

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told media in Tehran on September 29 that the negotiations would resume in Vienna or Geneva within two weeks.

He also said recent talks in New York had not made “substantive progress” and that Iran was not interested in extending the deadline.

Western countries have long suspected Iran of secretly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian atomic program. 

Iran denies such allegations and insists its nuclear program is entirely devoted to peaceful purposes like power generation and medical isotopes.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Factionalism and Totalitarianism Are the Scylla and Charybdis of the Arab World

Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, does Arab unity no favors. (Photo: Olivier Pacteau / Flickr)

Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, does Arab unity no favors. (Photo: Olivier Pacteau / Flickr)

At Asia Times Online, Ramzy Barzoud writes about the lack of what he calls Arab gallantry.

… millions protested for Gaza across the world in a collective global action unprecedented since the US war in Iraq in 2003. South American countries led the way, with some governments turning words into unparalleled action, not fearing Western media slander or US government reprisals. Few Arab countries even came close to what the majority Christian Latin American countries like Ecuador have done to show solidarity with Gaza.

. . . But the lack of reactions on Arab streets (perhaps Arab societies are too consumed fighting for their own honor and dignity?) and the near complete silence by many Arab governments as Israel savaged Gaza civilians, forces one to question present Arab gallantry altogether.

. . . Hardly shocking, although certainly dishonorable, some Arab journalists who stayed largely quiet as the Palestinian death toll in Gaza grew rapidly, went on a well-organized crusade. While they shed crocodile tears for Gaza’s children, they insisted that Gaza lost, strengthening Netanyahu’s desperate narrative that his war had achieved its objectives. The Gaza-didn’t-win line was repeated by many well-paid journalists and commentators as to defeat the prevailing notion that resistance was not futile. For them, it seems that Palestinians need to accept their role in the ongoing Arab drama of being perpetual victims, and nothing more.

Why would they do that?

A strong Palestinian, practically and conceptually, is the antithesis to the dominant line of the current Arab political script that is predicated on strong rulers and weak nations. Since the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), the Palestinian is only idealized as a hero in poetry and official text, but an eternal casualty in everyday life.

It’s not just commentators and other Arab states.

Just days following the ceasefire, the leaders of the Ramallah political class unleashed verbal attacks against the former Hamas government over money, salary and phony coup attempts. For Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, per the leaked protocol of his meeting with Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal in Doha, the war in Gaza seemed a secondary matter, as the 80-year-old was overwhelmed by some paranoia that everyone was conspiring against him. His Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who behaved as if his “premiership” didn’t include Gaza during the war, returned to action as soon as the ceasefire announcement was made. His government didn’t feel any particular urgency to pay salaries of Gaza employees who were hired by the previous Gaza government.

Then, writes Barzoud, “As if things couldn’t get any worse”

… a leaked letter provided to French lawyers by the deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) showed that Abbas’ government actually blocked a Palestinian application to the ICC that is aimed at trying Israeli government and military leaders for alleged war crimes. …  The shameful factionalism has reached a point where Fatah officials are accusing the former Gaza government for being responsible for the loss of lives among Gaza refugees as they make desperate attempts to escape the strip towards Europe atop crowded boats.

Ironically

Embattled Netanyahu is getting a badly needed break as Palestinian officials in Ramallah and some Arab media commentators are circuitously blaming Gaza for Israel’s own wars and war crimes.

In short

While Palestinians continue to gaze at the rubble of their destroyed lives in Gaza, they receive little support and solidarity from their Arab neighbors, or from their “brethren” in Ramallah.

In an explosive article titled Barbarians Within Our Gates in Politico Magazine, Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya of Al-Arabiya provides some context for this kind of ceaseless factionalism and the general disunity of the Arab world.

Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone. The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism—the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition—than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Every hope of modern Arab history has been betrayed. The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays—all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic forms. With the dubious exception of the antiquated monarchies and emirates of the Gulf—which for the moment are holding out against the tide of chaos—and possibly Tunisia, there is no recognizable legitimacy left in the Arab world.

Is it any surprise that, like the vermin that take over a ruined city, the heirs to this self-destroyed civilization should be the nihilistic thugs of the Islamic State? And that there is no one else who can clean up the vast mess we Arabs have made of our world but the Americans and Western countries?

That last sentence might be better amended to read: “And that there is no one else who can use the pretext of cleaning up the vast mess we Arabs have made of our world to impose their own agenda but the Americans and Western countries?” Nevertheless, while this article might have been considered racist or anti-Islamic if written by a Westerner, from an Arab, it’s a clarion call to the Arab world to rise above factionalism and pull together lest it condemn itself to eternal strife. It’s ironic that a region that, for the last century, has been a source of energy resources to the world is now a drain on the financial and, however much its problems were created by the West, political resources of the rest of the world.

Foreign Policy In Focus